"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
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Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
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INDICTMENT AGAINST SRI LANKA

180 TAMIL CIVILIANS BUTCHERED
AT SATHTHURUKKONDAN
ARMY CAMP - SEPTEMBER 1990

14 Years Later in 2004- Batticaloa remembers 1990 September massacres
7 Years later  in 1997 - And No Action to Punish the Perpetrators

 

On 9th and 10th September 1990, over 180 Tamil civilians were butchered by the Sri Lanka army at the Saththurukondan Army Camp in the Batticaloa District.

At an inquiry into the massacre, the Officer-in-Charge of the camp, Captain. Gamini Varnakula Sooriya said "On that day no search or arrest was conducted by us". He also reiterated that none of his men even ventured out of the camp on the day of the massacre. The sole survivor of the massacre, Kanthasamy Krishnakumar aged 27, however recounted the chilling facts:

"On the night of 9 September 1990, Tamil civilians from Batticaloa, Saththurukkondan, Panichchaiyady, Kokkuvil, Pillaiyarady were taken to the Army camp for interrogation. I was the only survivor of the185 civilians taken there. We were stabbed with sharp knives including a one and a half year old child, children and women.

" On this day at around five thirty in the evening Army men both in civil and military clothing came and told that the officer in charge of the Camp wanted us to come to the camp for enquiry and so they took us."

" Elderly, Women, children and even babies were taken to the Saththrukkondan Army camp. After that four of us were taken to the back side of the camp and blindfolded and our mouth was stuffed with a cloth as well. Later they laid us on a wood brick and suddenly they started stabbing us with sharp knives. I laid there as if I was dead. I head voices of agony and pain I can't even describe, all around me.

After every thing was all over I slowly opened my eyes and saw butchered bodies all around me. I then crawled my way through the dead bodies and hid myself among small shrubs. It was around three clock in the morning at that time. After exiting from that hell I came to the village and I was admitted to the hospital for treatment. The army was at this point in time was in search of me after having heard of my escape. I was handed over to the Rev. Miller for protection by the Batticaloa Peace Committee. I lost my whole family in this incident. I am the only survivor."

Some of the other witnesses to the events of that day have recounted the horrifying details of the massacre:

" I am the principal at the Kathaiyakkan Thivu school. On that day at around 11 in the morning a man wearing a red half sleeved T- shirt was going in a bicycle. He was new to the village and had a knife on the handle of the cycle. I immediately sensed that something was wrong and took my wife and children in a cycle to the Saththurukkondan colony. At that time, I saw Armed personnel both in civil and military clothing taking many civilians including women, children and elderly. We stayed the day at the Saththurukkondan colony. The army camp was situated a thousand meters from my house. I heard cries of distress, shouts for help of women and children trough out the night. We also heard gun shots being fired and also saw a huge fire as well... Next day morning I went to my uncle's house. I couldn't see my uncle, aunt, nephew, niece or any of the children. All I saw was some splattered small shoes of the children. In this massacre one and a half year old Subhosini, three year old Thulasi, seven years old Sulochana were lost. I heard that all of them were taken to the Army camp and were butchered. Even the bodies have been burnt. Some kids who had gone near the camp later for rearing the cattle have said that they had seen many skulls and bones." (Kanthiah Sivakkolunthu 37)

" On that day I had taken shelter in the jungle fearing the military. Since I thought that the Army won't harm children I had left my siblings, Sothivadivel (7), Sharmila (9) at our house. They are also missing since the day of the massacre.I heard a lot of cries for help and mercy and a lot of shots being fired all through out the night on that day. (Vairamuththu Ariyavadivel 22)

" My two son-in-laws were killed by the army only two months before the Saththurukkondan massacre. After that in the Saththurukkondan massacre I lost my wife, three daughters and seven grand children including a one year old one. I lost my whole family, eleven members all together to the army." (Ganapathippillai Arunachalam 73)

"'Our grandson, Vijayakumar (8) was staying with us and had gone to play outside on that day. As he was missing for some time we went in search of him and we saw many people being taken by the Army and among them was my grandson. Sensing the situation me and my wife hid ourselves... Among the crowd, 19 of my own close relatives were there. After coming to know those who were taken had not returned I along with my wife went near the camp searching them. It was around seven in the evening. We heard the women crying, pleading for mercy and children shouting and crying in distress and pain. We could not hear those voices after that and so we came back... (The ICRC) were not allowed to see. Later the Bishop talked to the Brigadier and went there with the members of the Citizen's committee, Sebamalai Geevaratnam and Singarasa to see what happened. Sivarasa later told that he saw his wife's slippers and that of many children's and babies'. (Retired Electricity Foreman Augustinepillai Phillippillai 73)

" 16 of my family members were taken on that day to the camp by the Army. On that day when the Army came, only women and children were mostly at home. The men had taken refuge in the forest. At around 5.30 Army took all those who were at home. After some time a lot of voices of distress and pain were heard from the Army camp.(Kanthasamy Nagaratnam 39)

" My wife told me that if the Army came they will only take the men therefore you hide your self. I will stay in the house, they won't take women. But I lost my wife who had saved me as they had taken her to the camp. After the Army left I went near the camp in search of her but I only heard people crying." (E.Vairamuththu 62)

"On the day of the massacre about 60 Army personnel came at around 5.30 armed with guns and butcher knives. I took refuge in a small palmarah plant. The Army then took my mother, father and three children. I was thinking that they would be released after interrogation but even after eight they were not and so I went in search of them near the camp. I heard a lot of people crying in pain and agony that I got scared and returned home.(Rasaiyah Ratnaiya 45, of Panichchaiyadi)

"After coming to know of this incident we recorded the testimony of the sole survivor KANDASAMY KRISHNAKUMAR. We still have the audio recording. Later we brought this atrocity to the attention of the Batticaloa Brigadier SENAVIRATNA. But he refused even to see us. Rest of the higher ranking Army officers also refused to talk to us about this incident." (Batticaloa's Peace committee President and retired Government Agent S. Arunagirinathan)

 
Report by Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Involuntary Removal or Disappearances of Persons in the Northern and eastern Provinces, September 1997  [TamilNet, September 09, 2003 16:32 GMT]

The President Ms Chandrika Kumaratunge appointed a three member-Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Involuntary Removal or Disappearances of Persons in the Northern and eastern Provinces. The Chairman of the Commissioner was Justice Krishnapillai Palakidner and the President signed the warrant on 30th November 1994. The other two Commissioners were Mr.L.W.R.R.Widyaratne and Dr.W.N.Wilson. The Commission released its final report on September 1997.

Regarding the arrest and subsequent disappearances from the Vantharumoolai Eastern University Refugee Camp the final report said:

“ The arrests from the Vantharumoolai Eastern University refugee camp were the biggest group arrest of the Batticaloa district. The arrests took place on 5th September and 23rd September 1990. 158 persons were arrested on the first day, while 16 were taken into custody on the second day. A list containing the names of 158 persons who were reported to have disappeared was produced before this Commission and 83 witnesses testified to the disappearances of 92 persons, out of the 158 reported above. Also evidence was given regarding 10 of the 16 persons who disappeared on the subsequent arrest.

“ According to the evidence, nearly 45,000 people had taken refuge since July 19990, following the outbreak of violence in the vicinity of the said University. Professor Mano Sabaratnam administered the refugee camp. Dr.Thangamuthu Jeyasingham and Mr.Velupody Sivalingam and supported the non-governmental organizastions during this period.

“ On 5th September 1990, by about 6 o’clock in the morning Army men from Kommathurai army camp along with personnel from some other camps as well came in a SLTB bus and entered the premises of the Eastern University. This was followed by an announcement by an amplifier fitted to a white colored van asking the refugees to form into three different queues- persons of the age group of 12 to 25 in the first row, persons of the age group of 26 to 40 in the second row and persons over 40 years of age in the third row. People in three queues were asked to pass through a point where five persons in masks clad in army uniform were seated in chairs along with seven Muslims standing those in masks.

“ Whenever the persons in masks gave a signal, the people who were in the queues were taken away from the queue to a side. When this operation was completed, 158 persons who were pulled out from the queues were taken away by the Army despite the protests by their kith and kin. There was evidence to show that the arrests were done by the Kommathurai army camp with the assistance of personnel from other army camps as well and that the following army officers were directing the operations; Captain Munas, Captain Palitha, Captain Gunaratna, Major Majeed and Major Monan.

“ There was also evidence to show that Gerry de Silva had visited the refugee camp on 8th September, 1990 and had told the officers responsible for the administration of the refugee camp that all the 158 persons who were taken into custody on 5th September were found guilty. However he had declined to say what had happened to them after they found guilty.

“ There was further evidence to say that one of the officers who were in charge of refugee camp made a request to the army personnel in charge of the operation, to give a list of persons arrested for which there was no response.

“ It also transpired in evidence that Mr.Thalayasingham Arunakirinathan, the Chairman of the Peace Committee had received a letter in October 1990 from Mr.A.W.Fernando, Air Chief Marshall, who was then the Secretary to the Hon Minister of State for Defence wherein it was stated that on 5th September, `990 only 32 persons were taken into custody from the Eastern University refugee camp and that a; had been released within 24 hours of arrest. The letter contained a list of 32 names who were alleged to have been released. However the Commission was informed that none of those who were arrested had returned wither to the said refugee camp or to their homes but still remaining missing,” stated in the final report of the Commission of Inquiry into the involuntary removal or disappearance of persons in the northern and eastern provinces on the arrest and subsequent disappearances from the Vantharumoolai Eastern University Refugee Camp.

On the arrests and subsequent disappearances from the village of Sathurukondan and other villages the final report the Presidential Commission of Inquiry said;

“ The group arrest that took place at Sathurukondan village on 9th September, 1990 needs special mention here.

“ On this day 184 persons had been taken into custody in this village. Regarding the above group arrest the Commission listened to the testimony of 63 complaints relating to the disappearances of 72 persons. Most of the persons who disappeared during the incident were from the villages of Sathurukondan, Pillaiayradi, Panichchaiyady and Kokuvil.

“ According to the evidence given by the complainants, army soldiers attached to the Sathurukondan Boys Town Army Camp entered the villages of Sathurukondan, Pillaiayradi, Panichchaiyady and Kokuvil by about 6 p.m. on 9th September, 1990 and ordered the people to come to the army camp. The male members of the household fearing arrest hid themselves leaving the children and females in their houses thinking that the army will not harass them. However the army ordered all those who were in their houses irrespective of the fact whether they were infants, children, females aged or disabled to come out of their houses and when they had assembled outside their houses marched them along the road into the army camp.

“ The only surviving witness Kandasamy Krishna Kumar gave evidence before the Commission. Ms Patricia Lawrence of Denver Law School in USA in her letter to Commission stated that in May, 1994 the people living in Thannamunai had observed that soldiers were seen removing bones from the main ditch at the site of the massacre and burning these bones for the second time,” the final report of the presidential Commission said.
 


14 Years Later in 2004 - Batticaloa remembers 1990 September massacres [TamilNet, September 05, 2004 09:48 GMT]

A general shut down (Hartal) was observed in Batticaloa Sunday (5 September 2004) to mark the massacre of hundreds of civilians, including pregnant women, infants and children, by Sri Lanka army and paramilitaries working with it on 5 September, 1990. Roads were mostly deserted and shops closed in response to a call by leading civil society groups and MPs of the Tamil National Alliance to observe 5 September as a Black Day.
On 5 September Sri Lanka army units assisted by the dreaded paramilitary leader 'PLOTE Mohan' arrested 158 Tamil civilians who sought shelter in the temporary refugee camp inside the premises of the Eastern University during military operations in the area.

All of of them were tortured and killed, according to a one man commission that investigated the massacre three years later. Although the commission named several perpetrators of the massacre, including PLOTE Mohan and his handler Capt. Richard Dias, the Sri Lankan government took no action to investigate or bring them to book.

Four days later on 9 September 184 Tamils from Sathurukondan and its surroundings, on the northern outskirts of Batticaloa town, were arrested and hacked to death in the local SLA camp. Again Colombo took no action despite damning evidence by a youth who escaped the mass murder with machete wounds.

Human rights activists and Tamil civil society leaders say more than six thousand Tamils were murdered by Sri Lanka army and its paramilitaries between August and December 1990 in the Batticaloa-Amparai districts


7 Years later in 1997 - And No Action to Punish the Perpetrators [TamilNet, December 10, 1997 23:59 GMT]

"The soldiers set upon the pregnant woman. As one of them stripped her naked, she screamed. The second sliced her belly with a sword. She fell down, blood spurting out. They cut her breasts and finally her throat. She rolled into the pit. Then came the turn of the second woman, also pregnant".  "I closed my eyes" said K. Krishnakumar, 35, the only person who escaped when the Sri Lankan army arrested and massacred 181 people, including 35 children below the age of 10, in Sathurukkondan, Kokkuvil, Panichchayadi and Pillaiyarady, a cluster of Tamil villages three miles north of the Batticaloa town, on the night of September 9, 1990.

Krishnakumar has related what he saw that night to the ICRC, the Human Right Task Force, the Batticaloa Peace Committee and the Presidential Commission to Inquire into Disappearances in the East.

But more than seven years have gone by and the Sri Lankan government is yet to take action against the soldiers and officers of the Sri Lankan army camp at Sathurukkondan who raped, hacked and killed innocents on that September night.

TamilNet's Batticaloa correspondent met Krishnakumar and others who lost kith and kin in Kokkuvil, Sathurukkondan Panichchayadi and Pillaiyarady.

Many children who lost either of their parents live in poverty, their growth stunted by severe malnutrition. Krishnakumar is frequently stung by severe pain from the knife wound he received during the massacre. The doctors have told him he has to go through another operation. Krishnakumar now ekes out a living as an assistant to the butcher at a mutton stall in the Batticaloa market. He is paid 80 rupees (1. 35 USD) per day. He said that he has lost hope that justice will be done.

He had no objection to his picture being taken. He said he has undergone so much that he no more worries about his role in the search for justice for the victims of the Sathurukkondan massacre.

He related to the correspondent what he saw of the massacre.

"The villages were cordoned off by the Army around 10 a.m. It was almost 7 p.m. by the time the villagers - including infants, women, pregnant mothers and the old - were herded to the Sathurukkondan camp and locked inside. "Four masked men walked into the hall and selected me, T. Kumar, C. Sinnaththamby, and K. Jeevaratnam. Our shirts were removed and our hands behind our back with them. Then we were taken to the camp's back yard. We were dragged about fifty meters further, where we saw a pit about 20 ft by 5ft. There was a Cashew tree by the pit and well which was about 10 meters from it.

"In the dim light I saw 25 soldiers armed with long swords and cudgels standing round the pit and the well.

I was hit with a cudgel and I fell face downward. When the other three screamed the soldiers stripped them and stuffed cloth into their mouths. One by one they were taken to the edge of the pit and hacked with swords and were pushed in.

"A soldier came up to me and slammed me against the Cashew tree, pulled out a long kris knife, and stabbed me through the chest. He then pushed me into the pit. He stabbed me again on my back. Though I was bleeding, I didn't lose consciousness.

"Four more men were brought there, hacked to death and were pushed in to the pit. The soldiers went again and brought two pregnant women. They were stripped naked and their breasts were sliced off. The soldiers then cut open the stomachs of these women with their swords and pushed them into the pit.

"Later they brought many girls stark naked. Sand was stuffed in the girls' mouths and all were raped repeatedly. Then the soldiers cut off their breasts with the swords. Three of these girls were pushed into the well. "As the area was dark, I was able to slowly crawl out while they were busy raping, killing and pushing bodies into the pit. When the soldiers left, I crawled towards the camp fence and hid in shrub jungle behind the camp. Later the soldiers brought tires and set fire to the bodies in the pit. The fires burned till 3 about a.m. in the morning. Once the pyre died out, the pit was filled with sand.

With the help of a passerby I went to the hospital.

Our correspondent also spoke to Thambi Ayya Kirubaratnam who lost his wife in the incident.

"My wife was also taken by the army. The next day I informed the ICRC. They contacted the brigadier and we went to the Sathurukkondan camp.

The Brigadier denied any knowledge whatsoever regarding my wife being taken by the soldiers."

"In the back yard of the camp I found my wife's clothes and the pair of Bata slippers she was wearing when she was taken away by the soldiers. The brigadier was silent. He had nothing to say."

"I also testified to the Presidential Commission on the incident, but nothing has happened so far" he lamented.

The Sri Lankan government first denied that the massacre ever took place. The Divisional Secretary of the area submitted a report to the government on the incident soon after. But the government at that time stood by the local brigadier who insisted that no untoward incident took place in the area. Later the Human Rights Task Force which was appointed by President Ranasinghe Premadasa recorded evidence and mentioned the Sathurukkondan -Kokkuvil massacre in its report published in April 1994.

In early 1997 the Special Presidential Commission to Inquire into Disappearances in the East under Justice K. Palakidnar also recorded evidence about the Sathurukkondan -Kokkuvil massacre.

The Sri Lankan government is dragging it feet on many other atrocities as well. The judicial proceeding on the massacres of Tamil civilians at Mayilanthanai, Kumarapuram and the fourth Colony are stagnating in courts due to inaction. Witnesses in these cases have been threatened and intimidated by Sri Lankan security forces personnel who were involved in the massacres.]

For Krishnakumar's people and scores of others like them Human Rights remain a luxury they cannot afford.

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