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INDICTMENT AGAINST SRI LANKA

MASSACRE & TORTURE AT
IRUTHAYAPURAM - JANUARY 1986

An eye witness account

" 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"


The Round-up

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 unconscious.

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 Sacrilege

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 Community.

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 bodies.

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 home.

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 terrorists.

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 vain.

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 beloved ones

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 WORLD".

Broken promise

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
 
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