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
"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
" 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
"'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'.
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
" 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
“ 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
“ 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
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
7 Years later in 1997 - And No Action to Punish the
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,
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
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
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.