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INDICTMENT AGAINST SRI LANKA

Kannapuram
Massacre, 14 July 1990

TamilNet of 16 July 2003 on the Kannapuram Massacre of 14 July 1990:

"Kannapuram was one of the most prosperous and rich agricultural villages on Sri Lanka’s east coast before it was ransacked and destroyed by the Sri Lanka army (SLA) thirteen years ago. Hundreds of refugees who are returning today to reclaim their homes and paddy fields from the stubborn clutches of the island’s tropical forests face an uncertain future - a military camp is firmly entrenched in the midst of the village and no funds have been granted so far by Colombo to help them resettle.

Kannapuram was established as the 35th Colony in the Gal Oya Irrigation Scheme around 1956. Tamils, mostly from Thuraineelavanai, a village on an arid promontory in the lagoon 35 kilometres south of Batticaloa, settled here. Tamil farmers from Thuraineelavanai and other villages in the southern parts of Batticaloa also settled in the adjacent 37th, 38th, 39th and 40th colonies. Singhalese were settled in the 34th and 36th colonies. Each settler was granted three acres of paddy land and half an acre of high land for building homesteads.

Tamil politicians have charged that the Sinhala colonies were established on lands which traditionally belonged to the people of Batticaloa as pasture for their large cattle and buffalo herds and as virgin forest in which they had carried on slash and burn agriculture from ancient times.They argued that the colonized hinterland was ecologically vital for the long-term sustenance of agriculture and inland fisheries on which most of the Batticaloa district’s population was dependent for its survival.

“During the day, on 14 July 1990, we heard that the army was moving into our village. We were having our meal. I did not have time to even wash my hand as my family dragged me and ran for its life, fearing certain death at the hands of the invading soldiers. I was six years old then”, Ms. Surejini Narayanamoorthy, 19, who survived the destruction in Kannapuram thirteen years ago, told TamilNet.

Ms. Surejini is a widow. She has a child. The girl was in Kannapuram Tuesday with her father to clear the dense undergrowth in what was once their farm and homestead.

“Some people came back a few days after the army invasion to retrieve whatever belongings that may have been spared by the marauding soldiers. They saw the bodies of those who stayed behind, chopped up and thrown in our water wells. Some old men and women were burnt inside the houses in which they had decided to stay, braving the army”, said Ms. Komalathevi Ranjan, 36, mother of five.

She too had come to Kannapuram to clear the undergrowth in her property. “The Sri Lanka army troops and the Singhalese who came with them ransacked our homes and took away all our belongings. We left everything behind as we ran for our lives that day. They demolished our houses and took away even rafters, roof tiles, doors, door and window frames”, Mr. Kaalimuththu Wimalanathan, 40, a farmer who has returned to cultivate his paddy field.


Remains of Village School in 2003

The Sri Lanka army was pulled out from the area in early 1991. The STF has been in charge of controlling the area since then.

Wimalanathan lives as a refugee in Paalaiyadivettai, a village 3 kilometres east of Kannapuram. The Special Task Force (STF), the elite counter insurgency arm of the Sri Lankan armed, is encamped in properties adjacent to his home in Kannapuram.

“We are unable to go back to our home because our property is too close the camp,” he laments. The STF occupies seven homesteads in Kannapuram. All homes here, except one, were razed to the ground by the Sri Lanka army, which first set up a camp here in 1991. The surviving home is the camp’s headquarters now.

More than fifteen displaced families will not be able to resettle in their homes until the STF permanently vacates the camp in the midst of Kannapuram.


               Derelict Kannapuram Dispensary in 2003

The village’s school, dispensary and co-operative society building are in ruins, their remains fast falling prey to the rising tide of the jungle. Only the bombed out walls of the large facilities for storing the big bi-annual rice harvests in the area are visible today amid the foliage.

The temple of Kannapuram and its bell tower, built by a picturesque hillock, stand derelict. “The army took away the assistant priest who came to re-open the temple after the military operations were believed to be over. He disappeared. We think he was tortured and killed by the soldiers”, said Mr. Kandaiah Balasundaram, treasurer of the local Rural Development Society (RDS). The area’s prosperity derives largely from the minor rivers that skirt it, being the effluence of the Navakkiri Reservoir, northwest of Kannapuram, closer to the Sinhala border. The causeway over these rivers was blasted by the SLA thirteen years ago and is yet to be repaired.

“The STF was encamped at the Vattavithanai Junction, another key point in the village. The place was dismantled in 1996 but lethal mines were left behind the STF there. Two persons who visited their home at this junction were killed in a booby trap explosion. The devise was left behind by the STF when it vacated that home”, Mr. Wimalanathan said.

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