Sunday the 19th of January 1986 was a quiet day in Batticaloa, especially at
Iruthayapuram, Jayanthipuram and Karuveppankerai all within the limits of Batticaloa
Municipality. The night was unusually quiet. All the people were fast asleep as that was
the only day of rest in a week for the poor peasants of the area.
The calm that prevailed that night never cast even a shadow of doubt as to the
impending storm that was to strike them unawares like a bolt from the blue. The police and
the S.T.F (Special Task Force) had silently moved into these three suburban areas at about
8.30 am, cordoned off the whole area and were waiting in ambush, lying down on the ground
inside the compounds of the houses of the residents.
The much publicised Battle of Batticaloa that never took place
At about 5.00 am the sound of an explosion was heard followed by a volley of gun shots.
It was later learnt that a hand grenade had been flung at two police personnel who died on
the spot. Sub Inspector Tharmasiri and P.C. Karunananda. However it was revealed at the
postmortem, that S.I. Tharmasiri had bullet wounds on his back and constable Karunananda
had similar wounds on his chest.
What happened exactly no one seems to know. It may be that the same person who threw
the grenade had seized the weapons of the Police Officers and had shot them. These weapons
were later claimed to have been recovered by the security forces. The person who had
either thrown a grenade or shot the two police officers, had subsequently taken cyanide
and committed suicide.
This incident took place at one end of the area cordoned off for search operations,
beginning from the State Timber Corporation Depot. This was the one and only act of
violence directed against the security forces that day. "The Big Battle of
Batticaloa", much publicised in the Colombo newspapers is a calculated, mischievous
canard to mislead the Sinhala masses, and to justify the horrible atrocities perpetrated
by the security forces thereafter.
Hell let loose on innocent civilians
Consequent to the death of their two colleagues the armed forces in and around the
area went berserk. Their wrath knew no bounds. At once they shot and killed the three
watchers at the Timber Corporation. Then they smashed all the valuable articles in all the
houses in the area where their colleagues died; all the males between the age 14 to 30
were pulled, forced and driven out of their houses.
These young men dazed and half asleep as it was just the break of day, were brutally
hit on their faces with the butt ends of their heavy guns and were herded into the front
yard of the Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at Iruthayapuram, amidst the
wailing, weeping, and screaming of the women and children who could not bear the suffering
that their near and dear ones were being subjected to.
The church of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus is dear to the parishioners of the Church,
more than anything else in the world, because it was built by their sweat toil and
contribution, after the old Church was destroyed during the cyclone in 1978. The church
was consecrated just only ten months ago. Little did these poor peasant parishioners know
that this Sacred precinct was going to be their own torture chamber a few months later.
All the men herded and driven into the church compound were tightly tied in pairs and
were ordered to lie down on the gound face down. The Parish Priest who was there at the
time witnessing these atrocities was ordered into his Mission House and a sentry was
placed to prevent him from coming out to plead an behalf of his parishioners. The Priest
past his middle age was a helpless witness to the whole tragedy.
The security forces started working on the innocent civilians lying on the ground.
They surrounded the victims and started to thrash, beat and kick them mercilessly. Some of
the victims were picked up by their legs and were dashed on other victims lying down. The
heart rending cries and screaming of the women and children who saw their sons, husbands,
brothers or fathers being tortured filled the whole atmosphere. Some of them fell
This brutality exceeded by far, even the torture of the Nazis. For they - the Nazi's -
dared not execute their torture rituals publicly. But here it was not only done publicly
in broad day light, but also in the holy precincts of a consecrated church.
While these horrible doings were going on in the church premises gun shots were heard
in the other parts of the surrounding areas and innocent civilians who had not been
brought to the church were being hunted out and shot at. Armoured cars were firing heavy
weapons and empty shells were found in the area.
Bullets from one of the shells entered through the window of the house of Mr
Thambirajah pierced through the chest of his youngest son Xavier who was crouching
terrified in a settee, and got lodged two inches deep into the opposite wall. The boy, a
student of St Michael's College died instantaneously. When his sister started screaming at
this bloody sight, some police men 'came into the house, dragged the dead boy's body and
threw it on to the road.
The beating thrashing and kicking of the tied up innocent civilians in the church
compound continued unabated. As the day advanced, and the heat of the sun became intense,
the guardians of the law, found it uncomfortable for them to continue their notorious
wickedness to their full satisfaction. So they kicked open the doors of the Church and
pushed in all those tortured victims into the Church. It was a pathetic sight to behold,
bruised faces and broken limbs staggered into the Sacred House of God.
Inside the Church the armed forces saw the Catechist Sahayanathan, Sacristan George
Anton and Gnanadas , a young man preparing for Theological studies. These three were
summarily ordered to run and were mowed down with bullets. The sacrilegeous act alone is
ample proof of the savagery and brutality of the security forces. These three young men
were in the service of the Lord. They were in charge of preparing the Altar and making
various other arrangements for the celebration of the holy mass on Sunday morning. That is
why they were in the Church. They had to sacrifice their life like their Lord and Master -
who was killed by murderers.
One of the all important Doctrines the Catholics believe is the real presence of Jesus
Christ in the Holy Eucharist or the Blessed Sacrament which is enshrined in the Tabernacle
in all the Catholic Parish Churches always for the worship and adoration of the faithful.
Because therein, is Jesus in His Divine and Human Nature. Hence a Catholic is in the
presence of God when he enters a Catholic Church.
It can now be understood to what extent the Religious susceptibilities of the
Catholics have been wounded by the of desecration of their Church by the diabolical
behaviour of the armed forces on that Black Sunday. There is a saying in Tamil "The
king hastens to chastise, but the Lord waits till the Day of Reckoning"
In the meantime an American Missionary went to see the Parish Priest who was forced to
remain in his room. Both the Priests then came out on to the verandah and were watching
the horrible show the security men were putting up. The Parish Priest Very Rev Fr
Dekoning, the Vicar General of the Trincomalee Diocese, had neither breakfast nor lunch.
It is note worthy to point out here that the Parish Priest is a Burgher and about 50% of
his Parishioners who underwent this terrible ordeal that day, also belong to the Burgher
Episode at the Camp
Around 2.00 pm about 20 - 24 vehicles were brought into the Church 'compound and all
those arrested and those who were given the "Mas-Kada" (Butcher's) treatment in.
the Church compound were ordered to get into the trucks. Many were too weak even to move
because of the brutality of the assault. One person both of whose legs had been broken was
dragged outside and shot and the body thrown into the truck. One by one all the trucks
started leaving the compound.
The next day some members of the Citizens' Committee met the C.O. (Co ordinating
Officer) regarding the release of the dead bodies and arrested persons. Normally the body
of a person shot dead by the forces is handed over to the mortuary of the General Hospital
where a postmortem is held. But in this case all the dead bodies were kept in an open
truck exposed to the elements in a highly decomposing state at the S.T.F Camp, Kallady.
How the bodies could have decomposed beyond recognition is a mystery. It was rumoured that
the dead bodies are sprayed with some chemical substance to obliterate the identity of the
The C.O. lamented that so far nobody had turned up to identify or claim the bodies. It
is surprising that the C.0 expected the people to go to the camp which has been declared a
security zone. The people of Batticaloa are aware of the fate that awaits anyone who dare
stray near the camp. Perhaps the C.O. does not know his own men.
However, the C.O promised that the bodies could be handed over if the identity cards
of those shot dead could be produced. Now, how this could ever be done, only God Knows.
Can we ask the dead people for their identity cards which are nowadays more important than
even one's life ? Are the dead bodies expected to speak revealing the location of their
identity cards ?
Incredible though it may seem, ONE CORPSE DID REALLY SPEAK! We shall come to that
later. Everyone carries his or her identity card whenever he or she is out of the house.
The fact that the identity cards of the dead persons were not with them proves that they
were not militants out to fight the security forces, but innocent civilians sleeping at
However, the Citizens' Committee managed to find twelve relatives who had the documents
required by the authorities and took them to the Camp. There the bodies were found in a
highly decomposed state. "According to the report of the J.M.O. (Judicial Medical
Officer)" said the C.O., "twelve people died by taking cyanide and the other
nine died of gun shot injury". It was further reported that all those killed had been
Beware all ye who wear under-pants...
The reasons given, for considering the dead persons as terrorists by the security
forces was that they were all wearing under-pants beneath their sarongs or a pair of
shorts. According to the security authorities, all those who are found wearing under-pants
early in the mornings, are terrorists. In other words those who do not wear under-pants
are innocent civilians. Beware therefore gentlemen! If you are in your under-pants in the
mornings, woe be unto you; you are a hard core terrorist and can be shot dead then and
there and your body will not be handed over to your relatives for burial.
What is the rationale' behind such silly arguments? The security forces arbitrarily and
authoritatively came to the conclusion that since all those dead bodies were those of the
terrorists, they could not be released. The members of the Citizens' Committee pleaded in
Are they men or beasts?
As there were hundreds of arrested civilians and a large number of dead bodies in the
camp, there was a large crowd of women and elderly men outside the camp. They had come
there to. find out what happened to. the arrested persons and to remove the dead bodies
for burial. After much ado, the authorities agreed to allow one relative of each dead
person to enter the camp and identify the bodies.
Accordingly twelve (12) people who had the required identity documents entered the
camp. Among them there were only two men, the others were women. So these two men got into
the truck wherein the dead bodies were heaped up, and started to identify the bodies. When
they came to the 9th body a faint voice was heard crying "Aiyahl Thannee!! Thannee !
(Sir! Water!! Water!.!.)" Everyone was shocked. All looked around to find who was
calling. or where the voice came from.
Then to the bewilderment of everyone present there, it became known that the faint
voice came from the "9th Corpse". Trying to get up - he said pathetically that
he was a fisherman, thirty years old with three children. A commando, watching near by,
shouted "Ado! inga vaa" (come here you rascal) and pulled him and pushed him
into the camp.Whether he was given medical treatment no one knows. Whether he is still
alive is not known either. All this while the women inside the camp were weeping and
wailing. Could the women help crying at what they saw and at what had happened to their
The eighth wonder of the world
What is most astonishing is how a corpse, after having been pronounced dead at a
postmortem as affirmed by the C.O. could have got up and walked? Did the postmortem really
take place? How is it that a person shot dead 24 hours earlier was able to survive after
having been pronounced dead at. a postmortem by a qualified J.M.O. ? Was the J.M.'O.
really present at the so called postmortem? These are the billion rupee questions that
must be answered. This is imperative.
Who is being duped and to what extent the country is being duped must be found out and
the whole fraud must be exposed. According to the security authority, all the 21 people
died either by swallowing cyanide or by gun shot injuries, and all the 21 deaths were
confirmed at a postmortem by the J.M.O. We must believe the security authorities, for they
are all honourable men. Therefore, is not it true that a terrorist who had been shot dead
by the security forces, and confirmed dead by the C.O and the J.M.0 has risen from the
dead? Let us therefore proclaim this unique event as the "EIGHTH WONDER OF THE
Although at one stage, the C.0 promised to hand over the bodies to their relatives if
their identity cards were produced, yet the C.0 later went back on his promise and refused
to hand over the bodies. According to the security authorities, the 21 persons shot dead
were terrorists, simply because they were wearing under-pants in the early hours of the
morning. What wonderful wisdom What logical reasoning!
Sufferance and Suffering
Eight hours of appeal, begging and pleading by the members of the Citizen's
Committee and by the relatives of the dead and arrested, proved futile. No one was
released; not a single body was handed over for burial. The bereaved family members from
Iruthayapuram, Jayanthipuram and Karuvappankerny who had gone to the camp returned home
overwhelmed by sorrow and despair.
Sufferance and suffering have become the badge of our race, the forsaken innocent
Tamils of the East and the North. But we sincerely and solemnly affirm that our firm
belief in sufferance and suffering will bring us Freedom, Life and Victory.
VICTIMS OF THE IRUTHAYAPURAM MASSACRE (19 January 1986)
- 1 Arokiyanathan Xavier Selvarajah - Age: 17 years. Student of Koodamunai Maha
Vidiyalayam. Killed while he was at home.
- 2 Michael Gnanadas - Age: 21 years. Voluntary teacher of St Michael College and an
ardent Church worker. Taken out of the Church of Sacred Heart of Jesus while arranging for
the Sunday Mass and killed in front of the Church.
- 3 Thambiappah Sahyanathan - Age: 23 years. A trained Catechist, attached to the
Iruthayapuram Parish. Taken out of the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, while
arranging for Sunday Mass and killed in the Church premises.
- 4 George Anthony -age: 23 years,, Attached to the Forest Department, an ardent Church
worker. Taken out of the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, while arranging for Sunday
Mass and killed in front of the Church.
WATCHERS OF KALLIANKADDU TIMBER DEPOT
- 5 Muthulingam Navaretnam killed Age: 29 years - killed while on duty.
- 6 Ku maraperumal Ravindrakumar Age: 29 years killed while on duty.
- 7 S Suriyakumar - Age 24 years- killed while on duty.
EMPLOYEE OF THE PETROLEUM CORPORATION
- 8 Vyramuthu Jeyakumar - Age: 21 years. Resident-of the Petroleum Corp. quarters. Taken
out of the quarters and killed in front of his quarters.
POST OFFICE EMPLOYEES
- 9 Masillamani Arulraj Age: 22 years.
- 10 Sellathamby Thangarajah - Age: 54 years. Married, with five children. Taken out of
the house and killed at the gate. He was a mason by profession.
- 11 Kandiah Kethatam - Age: 33- years-municipal council employee
- 12 Muthuvel Mohanathas - Age: 19 years
- 13 Ragupathi K Piyadasa - Age: 20 years- fishmonger
- 14 Ambrose Raju @ge: 18 years
- 15 Dominic Dasan Age: 24 years
- 16 Arumugam illangeswaran Age: 24 years
- 17 Anthony - Age: 24 years Labourer of Bala Bakery
- 18 Amarasingam Kandasmy - Age:32 years -Tabourer
- 19 Murugupillai Vincent - Age: 22 years-cultivator
- 20 Selvrasa Thayalan - Age 24 years-labourer
- 21 Vallipuram ' Sivanesan Age: 24 years labourer. Married with one child.
- 22 Muthuvel Mohanathas Age 19 years -Tabourer.
- 23 Antihony Sahayarasa Age ;19 years -student
- 24 Devathas Jayaraj Age 21 years -student