An Appraisal of New Trends in Jaffna & Concern Over Detainees

Information Bulletin No.13
Date of release : 27th  December  1996

An Appraisal of New Trends in Jaffna & Concern Over Detainees


This report focuses on detainees being held by the security forces in Jaffna,
a topic which is largely lacking in detailed documentation.  The majority
of arrests and detentions remain unacknowledged and more than often
are flatly denied.  Specifically, numerous cases of arbitrary arrest, beatings
and death due to torture continue to be denied by the Army.  The
interrogation process is brutal and inefficient, with  those
suffering the worst harm, both physically and mentally, often being those
with no LTTE connections who remain honest in their refusal to submit.
Cases of disappearance after arrest remain significant.

Contrasting to this is a marked improvement among many members of
the security forces in their conduct towards civilians.  Despite LTTE
provocation and indiscriminate attacks in public places, there have been
no reprisals by the Army.  Since the suicide bomb explosion in Jaffna on
July 4th, where significant casualties in death and injury resulted from
firing by the Army, it seems that the security forces have learnt their
lesson and now ask civilians to take cover before taking action.
Furthermore, certain commanders have been viewed refreshingly in a
positive light.

The country had been shocked by the tragedies centred around  two young
girls who were victims of gang rape  and murder by soldiers. These two
incidents may not have been uncovered had government censorship
remained in place and organised protest, specifically in Colombo,  had not
taken place.  If timely attention had been paid to well documented earlier
cases of rape and murder, these lives may have been spared.  It is argued in
this report that if security forces in any armed conflict are allowed in the
name of security  to commit  violations of human rights involving
arbitrary detention and torture,  then, rape, secret executions and
disappearances are  bound to follow.

The LTTE continues to attack the security forces in public places, bringing
death and destruction to civilians while failing in their campaign to spark
reprisals by the Army.  In these cases, grenade attacks are the most
common, often being thrown at known meeting places of civilians at the
busiest of times.  Gun battles in crowded areas and LTTE land mines have
also killed a number of  civilians.  The rationale behind such attacks is
similar to the thinking behind aerial bombing and shelling by the security
forces, but these recent incidents bring out the hollowness of  the LTTE's
concerns regarding the  injustices of government shelling and bombing in
international propaganda efforts.

Besides gross violations by the security forces and the LTTE, the situation
in Jaffna today remains one of immense uncertainty and difficulty for the
people.  Common complaints include harassment at check-points, limited
access to education, employment and the outside world, and prolonged
difficulty in obtaining travel passes to Colombo.  Movement of goods into
Jaffna continue to be held up by bottlenecks at the port of KKS and the
continuance of such barriers has encouraged a large black market in
essential items.  The promised establishment of a Human Rights Task
Force (HRTF) office in Jaffna by the Government, after a long  delay , is yet
to materialise.  In addition, even with the lifting of censorship, it is
impossible for journalists to enter Jaffna without prior approval from the

If the Government wishes to claim any sense of "normality" in Jaffna or to
differentiate the conduct of the security forces from that of the LTTE, it must
itself accountable for all cases of rape, murder and disappearances involving
security forces.  The Government has failed to allow public access to lists of
detainees and incidents of death due to torture remain undocumented.
This only works to the detriment of the Government and plays  into the
hands of the LTTE which wants violations to continue and has proven
time and again that it will stop at nothing to provoke such abuses.
Though relations between the Army and civilians in Jaffna have seen a
more positive development recently, it cannot be denied that violence has
been institutionalised at the highest levels of command and such a
repressive system will continue to be reinforced if there remains a refusal
to investigate and end human rights violations.


An Appraisal of New Trends in Jaffna & Concern Over Detainees

The main purpose of this bulletin is to focus concern on the plight of
those detained by the security forces in Jaffna. The situation with regard to
the detainees remains qualitatively unchanged since the issue of our
Report No.7 last August even if the frequency and the chances of dying
under torture may be lower now. To begin with, most of the detentions
remain unacknowledged. At the time of writing no moves had been made
to enforce the issue of receipts and other conditions agreed to by the
government. The Covenant Against Torture which has been signed by the
present government is being flagrantly disregarded with at least passive
complicity from the higher reaches of the government. This aspect by itself
threatens to sully several other developments which must be regarded as
real improvements in the Army's management of the affairs of Jaffna
since the take over by the army a year ago. For example, there have been
no reprisals by the army despite severe and repeated provocations by the
LTTE to force one. When there is an attack or a grenade throwing incident,
civilians are routinely asked to lie down before the Army opens fire. This
is an achievement for any army in the world. The LTTE for its part has
been indiscriminate in its attacks on the security forces in public places,
causing death and a large number of injuries among civilians.
Other developments are the revival of agricultural production with
government help, the availability of essentials at lower prices, public
transport , although minimal, at affordable cost despite crowded buses and
delays at check points, and the functioning of schools and the university
despite severe drawbacks. According to Jaffna hospital sources levels of
malnutrition have dropped sharply.  Uthayan, the only newspaper in
Jaffna, judging by its contents, is freer than papers have been in Jaffna in
the last dozen  years. The revival of policing and the judicial process even
against certain offences by the Army is not entirely lacking in credibility.
This may have inherent limitations and is arguably not more than what
the LTTE was working towards during their control of Jaffna, where the
legal process during the latter years had a facade of legitimacy. The revival
under government control may  be dated to the aftermath of the two
sensational cases of rape and murder which occurred in September. Up to
that time the Government had been denying that there were violations in
the North. The Deputy Minister for Defence had maintained that there
was not a single incident of rape in the North. But once these two
incidents became publicised and activist groups launched public protests
in the South, the Government was forced to respond. If the Government
wishes to make a decisive qualitative difference from the LTTE, it will
have to respond to the scores of well attested cases involving one or more
of rape, murder and disappearance attributed to the armed forces. We had
detailed several of these in Special Report No.7. Although these received
publicity abroad, the  then prevailing censorship had helped the
Government to cover these up. Since then several other cases have been
reported by members of parliament and by other groups. There has been
no acknowledgement or action on most of these. This points to a deeper
malaise and gives a hint of the inherent limitations for legal redress.
Some of these matters will be discussed in greater depth in the sequel.
The situation of detainees
The following cases show that the absence of accountability and the
arbitrariness with which physical harm could be inflicted, provide a clear
continuity with those cases reported last August in Special Report No.7.
The following general description was given at the end of September by an
observer who had shown a strong concern for detainees under the LTTE
regime. He said about the current situation: "---stripping naked the
prisoners after a session of torture hanged from the toes from beams, after
an inhalation of petrol fumes in a plastic bag. A few may die after extreme
sessions, their shame exposed--- at times even to those of the opposite sex.
There have been cases of females who have committed suicide out of
shame after release - mental or physical rape?--- mothers suffer most
because of the pain of disappearances and the constant threat of rearrest.
We have to struggle against hopelessness, towards dignity---".

The following concrete case gives some idea of the dangers confronting
detainees randomly picked up,  and having no connection with the LTTE
but who cannot speak Sinhalese. The person concerned is a minister in a
registered church with international connections that is based in Colombo.
On 14th October he was going to the Chavakacheri market at 8.30 am to do
his family shopping. He stopped at a cycle shop to pump his bicycle tyres
when a soldier asked for his identity card. He gave both his national
identity card and the credential issued by his church bearing his
photograph. The soldier who knew only Sinhalese could not understand
what this person was. He was taken to the army camp on Dutch road close
to the rear entrance of the Chavakacheri government hospital. He was
taken to a small room where his shirt, vest and purse were removed, his
hands tied behind his back and  he was blindfolded with a very tight cloth
band. His explanations were of no avail. He was continually abused in foul
language, made to sit down and was kicked with boots on his chest, head
and shoulder.
On hearing about her husband's arrest his wife rushed to the camp where
a soldier showed her husband's credential issued by the church and asked
if that was her husband. When she assented, the soldier went in but never
returned. Later when other soldiers came she told them that her husband
had been detained and that it was his bicycle which was parked in the
compound. The soldiers insisted that he was not arrested by them and
asked her to go away. She later got word to another person who could
speak Sinhalese and  express himself authoritatively.
This friend came to the camp and asked for the minister's release. Again
there was a total denial. All this time the minister had been continually
assaulted by each new group of soldiers passing that way, who popped into
the room and had what they considered fun. The friend then went to the
military police office next to Drieberg College and demanded immediate
action. He told the Military Police that his friend the minister had been
arrested and faced an uncertain fate, and threatened to raise the matter
with higher authorities if the arrest was not formally acknowledged and
his safety assured. The military police officials consulted with one another
and told him that the minister would be released within ten minutes and
asked him to go home. Two military policemen were sent immediately on
a motorcycle. The friend going towards the camp met the military
policemen returning. The latter stopped him and told him not to go to the
camp as the soldiers would be angry. But he proceeded to the camp to tell
the wife to get in touch with him if her husband was not released and
went home. Inside the camp the minister suddenly found his hands and
eyes being untied. He was asked to dress up, his purse and ID's were
returned and he was asked to check his belongings. The soldiers then
asked him if they had assaulted him. The minister said `yes'. The soldiers
replied `no'. This went on a few times before he was sent out.
The following day his senior minister came from Jaffna and took him to
the same army camp and asked the camp officials for an explanation. The
camp officials denied that there was either arrest or harassment and asked
the minister if there had been. The minister stood his ground and said yes,
there had been. After some time the officials admitted that there had been
such a thing, that it was normal for anyone brought in to be treated in
such a manner and gave the minister an unsolicited assurance that he had
no problem, nothing to worry about and could go about without any fear!
For weeks thereafter the minister experienced a swollen shoulder with
slight oozing of blood, with a loss of feeling and numbness in parts of his
body. This "normal" practice gives one a frightening feeling of what could
happen to detainees who have no connections and who spend several
days in an army camp being treated in this manner. The next case deals
with a fatality and the following one where a fatality is strongly suspected.
What emerges is that the interrogation process is brutal and  not
sophisticated and those who survive the sessions better are those who had
an LTTE connection and admit it during the course of interrogation while
those who had no LTTE links and persist in telling the truth suffer for
their denial of an LTTE connection by prolonged beating and other forms
of torture.
25 September 96:Thavarasa Muralitharan(23) was cycling near
Kuncharkadai, Karanavai, Vadamaratchi, between 10 am and 12 noon,
when he was detained along with three others and taken to Vigneswara
College, Karaveddy. In the evening Muralitharan was hung upside down
from his toes and was beaten by four soldiers with poles who kept asking
him whether he belonged to the LTTE. Blood was seen coming out of his
mouth and nose by fellow detainees. Muralitharan was heard screaming
aloud while he was beaten. Later he was let down and the soldiers were
seen trampling on him. The fellow detainees noted that no sound came
from him. Later when it was dinner time the soldiers turned him and the
face was obviously that of a dead man. Several soldiers came in and had a
discussion. The four other detainees were moved out to another place.
The following morning the other detainees were told that Muralitharan
had been flown to Colombo for further interrogation, warned not to talk
about him and later released to their families on 1st October.
Muralitharan had been in charge of a sales outlet for the Palmyrah
Products Society. When his wife Selvaranee(19) heard about her
husband's arrest in the afternoon she alerted other officials in the Society.
These officials later told her that they had contacted Colonel Wijeratne,
the Brigade Commander for Vadamaratchi, who told them that
Muralitharan had been released. The wife then went to several camps in
the area only to receive denials of Muralitharan's arrest. More than two
weeks later she made contact with three detainees who told her that
Muralitharan was assaulted but they had not seen him subsequently.
Selvaranee then went personally to Colonel Wijeratne who asked her to
make a complaint to the police, which she did on 14th October. On the
29th October she was taken by the police to the army camp at Vinayagar
Vidyalayam(School) which was close to Vigneswara College and an L
shaped former LTTE bunker was opened up under the supervision of
Inquirer Into Sudden Deaths, Mr.V.Nadarajah and Dr.C.Kathravetpillai,
District Medical Officer, Point Pedro Base Hospital at Manthikai. The body
was not found but there was a nauseating stench and the soil was wet with
some sticky matter. Dr.Kathiravetpillai collected some of this matter and
sent it to Colombo to test for human remains.
Much of this information transpired at the magistrate's hearings. It is to be
remarked that one of the witnesses who was detained along with
Muralitharan and testified at the hearings is Sunderalingam Subadas who
had been in the LTTE from 1991 to 1994. Apparently he did not suffer
much after he had admitted this, while Muralitharan does not seem to
have had any LTTE connection. A detailed account of the magistrate's
proceedings was published in "Uthayan".
23rd July 1996: Aravindan(26), son of Poopathy owner of Radiospathy:
Aravindan was not a normal boy and did not shine out at school. He had
some peculiarities such as large feet and some boils on the body. He did
not continue his schooling to receive a basic educational qualification and
did not have the ability to do steady work. His daily routine was to
accompany his father to his shop in the morning, have lunch with him
and then cycle home to Kattapirai (between Kalviyankadu and Irupalai on
the Point Pedro road). On the day in question he was returning home
between 12 noon and 1 pm passing at Ariyakulam junction at the edge of
the commercial centre of Jaffna city. Soldiers in a jeep stopped him. Two
soldiers left his bike in a shop and said that the boy would come back and
collect it. The boy was taken away in the jeep. All this was witnessed. The
boy's uncle who is quite senior in the local administration made inquiries
at several army camps, but the arrest was denied. About 4 days later
Aravindan's identity card was found on the road near Irupalai junction,
not far from home. His family heard later from some others who had been
detained and released that Aravindan had been with them and upon
being beaten by soldiers had said that he had been in the LTTE. According
to his family, because of his mental deficiency Aravindan was capable of
assenting to any suggestion made, even contradictory ones. There is grave
anxiety about what might have befallen him.
The three cases given above show a pattern that has persisted at least from
July. There appears to be no control or supervision to ensure that
detainees are not subject to random violence. What follows are more cases
of missing persons that have been brought to our notice.
14th July 1996: Balakrishnan(24), labourer, Jaffna Municipal Council:
While going with a rice parcel about 3 pm he was taken in at Thundi
junction, Colombogam by the Army who have a check point there. When
witnesses informed his family, his family members went to the  Army
camp and inquired. The soldiers admitted the arrest and said that he had
been sent to some other camp. When the family inquired at other camps
they were told that they did not have Balakrishnan. The family, where the
father too is a labourer in the Jaffna Municipal Council, used to live in
Maniamthottam, that is in an uncleared area outside town limits, and had
recently shifted to Beach Road, Gurunagar. A month later his brother also
went missing.
26th July 1996: Thevathas Antony Jeslyn(21, born 20/5/75): At 11.30 pm
Antony who is a student of St.John's College, Jaffna, due to sit for his A
Levels Commerce, was removed by the Army from his home at 5/3, First
Lane, Eechamottai, Chundikuli. Over the following days his father
Samuel Thevathas made inquiries at several army camps without
receiving any admission of his custody.
13th September 1996: At 5 am as part of a round up the Army from
Thenmaratchi surrounded the village of Kaputhoo, Vadamaratchy, in the
uncleared area, about mid-way on the Chavakacheri-Point Pedro road.
Sivagurunathan Arutchelvam(20) who was in the field was taken by the
Army and his whereabouts are not known. Many men from the village,
including Subramaniam, the Hindu priest, were assaulted by soldiers. The
village is one where the Army is seldom seen whereas the Tigers frequent
the place.
16th September 1996: Thanankilappu, Thenmaratchi: Seven men came
from Vanni crossing the Jaffna lagoon and landed at Thanankilappu. They
were displaced persons returning home. About 12 noon they were
surrounded by the Army and were questioned and beaten. Six of them
were released. The seventh, Sinnathurai Kathiravetpillai(20) was detained
and his whereabouts cannot be traced. Veluppillai Mahesan of Karanavai
South and Paramesan of Kaputhoo, Karaveddy were among those who
witnessed the arrest.
15th October 1996: The Government's Amnesty Offer:   Sathasivam
Ramesh(19years) of "Mangalavasa" Paththalai, Alvai East, Alvai, was a
student at Hartley College, Point Pedro, who sat for his O Levels in 1993.
He joined the LTTE in 1995. The family was at Pooneryn where his
mother Mrs. Kamaladevi Sathasivam was the Sub-Post Mistress. In
August 1996 Ramesh left the Movement and joined his mother at
Pooneryn. The mother was reluctant to keep him there out of fear that he
might re-join the LTTE. Then the Government made an amnesty offer
over the radio promising that LTTE members who surrender, far from
suffering the normal penalties would be rehabilitated and be allowed to
live normal lives. The mother was desperate to take the offer. On 14th
October Ramesh, his mother, the mother's younger sister with her two
very young children negotiated with fishermen in the Pooneryn area and
paid them Rs 9000/= for transportation to the peninsula. The fishermen
landed them at Thanankilappu from where the party proceeded to
Chavakacheri. About 1 pm. the party met the army who took them by
truck to a camp. Ramesh was detained while the rest were issued passes to
cross the bund into the cleared area and proceed to Chavakacheri. The
mother told the Army about the amnesty offer and her son's past and was
reluctant to leave the son and proceed. She was given an assurance that
nothing would happen to her son and was asked to come back after two
days and collect him. The mother went to Chavakacheri where she spent
the night at Drieberg College and then to stay with relatives at Meesalai.
She went to the army camp at Thanankilappu at the appointed time to be
told that her son had been taken to Jaffna and to make inquiries there.
Since that time she had gone about making  inquiries at several army
camps without getting any information about her son.

The situation in Jaffna

The main complaints of the people usually centre around the
inconvenience resulting from check points and round ups, the fear of
being caught up in a security incident, limitation of opportunities
pertaining to education and employment, a dormant economy and their
virtual cut off from the outside world. The situation contrasts sharply
with the optimism during the years leading up to the communal violence
of July 1983. There was then a sign of movement with Jaffna having
perhaps the best staffed university in the island and the mood of
optimism was such that money was constantly being brought in by young
men returning after a few years in the Middle-East who were hoping to
start small industries. Except with those who take a special interest in
human rights matters, disappearances, for example, do not feature in
conversations with most people. There is still, in general, some
appreciation of  Army's  difficult role, especially the role of some of the
commanders, is seen as being quite positive. Among the better officers are
Colonel Lucky Wijeratne in Vadamaratchi and General Janaka Perera in
the area that includes Jaffna town. In Vadamaratchi, in particular, the
Army is generally spoken of highly, so much so that the press report on
the magistrate's hearing over the disappearance of Muralitharan came as a
severe jolt to the people of Vadamaratchi.

Some of the imaginative measures taken by Colonel Wijeratne have gone
down well. Among these are four buses a day to Jaffna town where army
personnel travelling in the bus check people as they get in. Those
travelling in these buses are spared the trouble of alighting at the ten check
points. The time of the journey has thus been halved to about an hour
and fifteen minutes. Some of the main drawbacks in Jaffna are
administrative in nature. There are disparities in the organisation of check
points. The check point for entry to Jaffna along Palaly road at Kondavil is
among the best organised, resulting in minimum delay. There are also
others where the delays are irritatingly long. The treatment of civilians at
check-points is found to be more harassing in the Thenmaratchi area.
Thenmaratchy remains relatively an insecure area especially for the
people, and the Army is less  mindful about the welfare of the civilians.
Another area with considerable shortcomings is the hassle of getting
passes to travel to Colombo. This involves people coming into town,
which is difficult enough, and spending a good part of the day in long
queues. It takes 3 to 4 months for ordinary people to obtain pass to come to
Colombo. For official and urgent cases it is possible to get passes within a
short period. It only involves some administrative reorganisation to make
the system work more smoothly, but nothing has been done so far.

The movement of goods into Jaffna has been considerably slowed by bottle
necks at KKS harbour. A ship at the entrance to the harbour which was
blown up by LTTE suicide bombers during July '95 still rests on the bottom
with part of the ship visible above water. This has made it difficult for the
larger ships to dock at KKS. Waduwa, which is among the bigger ships
with a capacity of 5000 tons cannot enter the harbour. It anchors outside
and needs to be unloaded by navvies going out in barges. Owing to
supposed security considerations these men have been brought from the
South. During  the days of the LTTE's control, the ships used to anchor off
Point Pedro harbour where again the goods were unloaded into barges.
The navvies who were local men had a reputation for very hard work
that was enhanced by a sense of serving the community. The ships were
then unloaded in record time. The same does not hold for the unloading
done at KKS. Recently a few shiploads chartered by private traders have
been unloaded at Pt Pedro.

The bottlenecks at KKS in turn encourage a thriving black market in some
essential items. For example cement is in great demand. When a
shipment reaches the Building Materials Corporation (BMC), it is
distributed at the normal price of Rs 495/- per bag strictly according to
allocations made by the GA. At this point private traders bring down their
price of cement sharply and jack it up back to Rs 1000/- once the BMC runs
out of stock.

Since the Army began moving into the uncleared areas, particularly in
Valikamam West, the LTTE presence has been significantly reduced. New
camps have been established at Sandilipay, Manipay, Navaly and Uduvil.
In several areas the bund (the improvised wall separating cleared and
uncleared areas) has been shifted, expanding the cleared area. Foot patrols
regularly go out from the newly established camps. In a new move small
groups of soldiers go into uncleared areas under cover of darkness, and
camp in a house for a few days observing the surroundings. Temporary
check points are also established without notice in uncleared areas. All
this has meant that things are more difficult for the LTTE whose presence
is largely felt in desperate grenade attacks often harming civilians more
than the security forces.

Attacks by the LTTE

Attacks by the LTTE have been very regular and in the majority of these
incidents it is the civilians who have mostly been harmed. In some of
these such as the Deepavali attack on Salu Sala, all the victims were
civilians. The same pattern established earlier has been continued. Some
of these are:

29 September'96: 6 Tamil civilians killed and at least 10 wounded in a gun
battle between troops and LTTE infiltrators in Muhamalai, Thenmaratchi,
at 1.20 am.

23 September: The KKS-Point Pedro bus bringing returning refugees from
KKS harbour was caught in a claymore mine blast west of Puloly, killing
two civilians and one soldier. The same day two soldiers were wounded in
a grenade attack outside Jaffna Technical College.

25 September: In about the worst incident of its kind 15 soldiers were
killed and four were wounded at Kaithady when an army vehicle went
over a claymore mine. Here again there were no reprisals. Immediately
after the incident the area was searched and a large number of soldiers
went into the nearby Faculty of Siddha Medicine. No harm was done to
any among the staff, students and others present.

On 17th September a young woman travelling on a bicycle was killed by an
LTTE landmine. On 9th October during an LTTE attack at Kaladdy
junction a student, Rajadurai Sivanandan of Manipay, was killed. During
October a grenade attack in town caused injury to 11 civilians of whom 8
were admitted to hospital. On 2nd November a grenade attack on Hospital
Road injured two soldiers and 11 civilians, one of them badly. On 8th
November one officer was killed and two soldiers were injured in an RPG
attack by the LTTE near Manipay. A grenade attack at the Salu Sala outlet
killed one lady and injured 12 civilians. A grenade attack on 15th
November next to the Thinnaveli market resulted in 5 civilians being
injured. A few days later a youth who had been standing near the Jaffna
Hospital entrance cycle park threw a grenade at the hospital police post
which is the former LTTE run Patients Welfare Society (a parallel
administration), near the OPD. A policeman and about 8 civilians in the
hospital premises were injured. We describe below in more detail two
among the recent incidents.

2nd November, Manipay Junction: Ratnakumar was a newly married
technician who was involved in setting up new machinery for the
Palmyra Development Board at Chankanai. He had been under immense
pressure to leave the country, but stayed on out of a sense of loyalty.
During the lunch hour he was standing outside Sudarshan, an electrical
store at Manipay junction, to make some purchases. This was also the
period  when the area was being gradually cleared. An army truck came
that way when the LTTE from hiding launched  an RPG at the truck which
bounced off a back tyre  and  exploded a few feet behind,  not causing any
harm to the army. Ratnakumar and 8 other civilians were injured by
shrapnel. Ratnakumar fainted and was later taken to Jaffna Hospital. He
was given blood transfusion and two main injuries were sewn up. When
he came round, he had lost his memory. He was placed in a normal ward
rather than being monitored in an emergency unit. He passed away at 3.00
a.m the following day. His life could have been saved had there been
qualified and experienced medical personnel.

9th November: New Market, Jaffna: The area was bristling with last
minute shoppers who were to celebrate Deepavali the next day. The Salu
Sala sales outlet was crowded by people purchasing cloth materials. About
11 am a grenade was thrown from outside  at the sales counter. This broke
the glass pane at the counter but failed to explode. The shoppers panicked
and a section of them ran outside while the others ran further inside.
Then a second grenade fell in the shopping area and exploded, claiming
the life of Miss.Sunderambal Ragunathan(22), a sales assistant. A further
12 persons were injured, most of whom were females from the ages of 6 to
40. Two of them were employees. In reporting the incident the "Uthayan"
was unusually severe. It stated: "[The victims were] innocent civilians
including a little girl who had come to town glowing with happiness to
make purchases of cloth to celebrate Deepavali. It brought enormous grief
to see them being taken to hospital with blood dripping from their bodies.
The fact that grenades were thrown at a meeting place of common people
at a time when it was most likely to be crowded was viewed with  'great
dissatisfaction' by the common people. This mood was very much in
evidence in Jaffna." The report added, "Military sources claimed that it
was the LTTE that threw the grenades". The "Uthayan" also pointed out
that several more would have been killed had the first grenade exploded.
But instead of exploding it caused a panic that resulted in a considerable
thinning of the crowd thus reducing the casualties from the second

Given the cynicism, that is  around, various stories and theories were
floated among the civilians regarding the identity of the perpetrators of
these incidents.  The grenade throwing incidents at the Jaffna Hospital and
Salu Sala were regarded by many with scepticism. Knowing  the ground
reality, observers who follow these incidents closely are convinced that
they were the work of  LTTE.  There is again the familiar pattern of
rumour mongers at work on the ground, accompanied by a remarkable
official  silence on these incidents by the LTTE's  global network.

The developing pattern of these attacks evinces a greater tendency to
indiscriminateness. The rationale seems to be that they would attack
anywhere, where a couple of soldiers are present, irrespective of the fact
that there were civilians in greater numbers. There is also evidently a
hope that if a couple of soldiers were killed in an area with a large civilian
presence, more civilians would suffer if there were a reprisal attack. Some
of the thinking is very similar to that going into the aerial bombing and
shelling by the government forces. This has been strongly condemned by
concerned people all round the world. Such practices by the Sri Lankan
forces have also been used effectively by the LTTE in its propaganda
campaign against the Government. But the LTTE's recent attacks on
civilian targets has shown that it has no moral right to talk about aerial
bombing and shelling by the Government. A common theory among the
civilians is that these attacks were conducted by small groups of the LTTE
who had lost contact with the leadership and were feeling frustrated. It
might also be remarked that no further attacks of this nature have been
reported during the three weeks leading upto the time of writing in late-

Rape Cases

The two cases of murder and rape that received much publicity after the
lifting of censorship as mentioned before, were those of Krishanthy
Kumarasamy and of Rajini Velayuthapillai. Here, we have  just pointed
out some salient features, the role of censorship will be discussed in the
sequel. The first public notice of Krishanthy Kumarasamy's matter
appeared in the Sunday Island of 15th September quoting Joseph
Pararajasingham, MP (TULF). He put it in the form of a parliamentary
question stating that the girl was missing after being detained at the check
point in Chemmani while going home after answering an A Level
examination. Her mother Mrs.Kumarasamy, a deputy principal,
Krishanthy's brother and a family friend who went to that camp to inquire
about Krishanthy that afternoon were also subsequently missing. In this
form the item was not subject to censorship. The Deputy Minister for
Defence promised to inquire into the matter and come up with an answer
shortly. About 10th October, the Hindu correspondent asked the Deputy
Minister at a routine press conference about his answer to the MP's
question. The Deputy Minister skirted the question by suggesting that the
MP is welcome to join him in going to Jaffna and see for himself the good
work the Government is doing there. He also continued to maintain that
there were no violations in Jaffna.

In the meantime the matter was also being taken up with the military
authority by the Jaffna Citizens Committee. By all accounts Major General
Janaka Perera commanding the 51st brigade division responsible for the
cleared area in Valikamam and  based in Achchelu, was very keen to get to
the bottom of the matter. Being dissatisfied with the lack of information
from the officer in charge of the camp, he is said to have responded, "In
that case we will have to pack up and go home". During mid-October  the
mutilated bodies of all four missing persons were located in graves in the
abandoned Chemmani saltern. At the end of October the matter was
receiving a great deal of publicity in Colombo. The interrogation of
suspects (5 soldiers & 2 policemen) revealed that Krishanthy had been
gang raped.

Rajani Velayuthapillai (16) was detained on her way home at a check post
at Kondavil on the evening of 30th September while returning home to
Urumpirai. The family had first thought that she had stayed overnight
with relatives she had gone to visit. Failing to locate her the following day,
their suspicion fell on this particular check post. This suspicion was
further strengthened upon hearing that soldiers at the check point had on
that same evening tried to stop other young women  ostensibly for
checking. These women on seeing that there were no women security
personnel present as should be the case when women are checked, ignored
the calls to stop and had moved on.

A week later on 7th September, the elders in the area were summoned by
well-wishers for a public meeting, that was presided over by Rajani's
father Mr.Velayuthapillai. A petition was drawn up, signed and jointly
presented to the main Army camp  in Kondavil. It was immediately
transmitted to General Janaka Perera in Acchelu. Military policemen were
immediately sent to the area to whom civilians who had passed that way
on that fatal evening testified individually and confidentially. Based on
this testimony four soldiers were arrested that same evening. On 12th
October a police dog brought to the area located Rajani's body, her clothes,
her jewellery and her dismantled bicycle that had been buried separately.
Mr.Velayuthapillai then received a condolence message from the General,
acknowledging his first letter of 4th October and containing the following:
"Being myself a father, I fully appreciate your unbounded grief at the loss
of your daughter. No consoling words from me can soothe your grief, as I
fully understand. I will use every means at my command to ensure that
those responsible for this cruel act would be punished severely. I have
taken measures to ensure such a tragedy would not befall other parents".
(This account dealing with Rajani is a summary of the fuller report
published in the Veerakesari of 26th November, contributed by
Sunderampillai of Pallayoor)

Atchuveli: In an another incident it had been claimed that a 10 year old
school girl had been raped by the soldiers at Puttur sentry point. A
complaint to this effect was made to the President by a Tamil politician in
Colombo. However the facts regarding the incident are not clear and it
may be now too late to clarify what exactly had happened. Following the
alleged incident the principal and the teachers closed the sessions at Puttur
Somaskanda Vidyalayam where this girl was studying in standard five.
Later however, the father of the girl as well as the people of the area
tended to deny that anything of significance had happened.  When a
complaint reached the military authorities, in the course of investigations,
the girl was questioned by a Tamil speaking female military officer. The
girl said that she had been travelling by bus and at the check-point she had
been urged to go to the military post by a lady seated next to her in the bus.
The girl claimed that she had been questioned and she was frightened, but
nothing indecent had happened. She also said that she had not
complained to any of the teachers or to the principal that anything
indecent had taken place. The father too said that the matter had been
thoughtlessly raised by some causing him and his daughter great pain in
the heart.

People in the area considered  the Army Commander of the area to be a
reasonable man. Moreover  they had good relations with the Army and
were anxious to play down the incident. Many in the area felt that nothing
untoward had taken place. Several others opined that some form of
molestation might have  taken place but not rape. Unfortunately the
nature of the inquiry conducted by the Army leaves room for doubts to
persist. In a case like this the first thing that should have been done is to
send the girl for a medical examination, which was not done.

The first two cases described above are fairly recent ones which probably
would have been covered up in the normal course of events had the
censorship prevailed and some active interest had not been taken by
concerned groups in Colombo. Although there is a commendable trend in
the manner in which investigations had been carried out and the culprits
arrested, there is also good reason to believe that these incidents would
not have taken place and lives would have been spared had the
Government and the Army responded to well documented earlier cases of
rape, disappearance and murder, some of which were published in our
Special Report No 7 of August. We shall argue below that once an army is
empowered arbitrarily to detain people, torture and kill for reasons of
security, rape comes in the normal course of events. It is also significant
that the Government had neither openly acknowledged nor responded to
the cases documented earlier, suggesting a good measure of complicity and

We list some of the  former cases below:
1st May 1996: Kachchai: S. Karunathiran (25), cultivator, and his wife
Pushpanayagi (22), who had gone to give him breakfast were hacked to

17th May 1996: Manthuvil West,Thenmaratchy: 3 women raped by
soldiers including Thangaraja Puveneswary (36) and three males and a
child were there chopped to death. Those killed were  K.Sivaguru (52),
S.Nagalingam (57), K.Nagalingam (17) and P.Thabiththan (3years).

4th August 1996: Kerudavil: Soldiers entering a house in the night killed
the father Karthikesan (67) and his daughter Balaeswary (22) was killed
after being raped.

We also gave the case of Sivatharmsundram Mayooran of Meesalai
North, Thenmaratchy,  who was assaulted and knifed by soldiers at a
sentry point near his home, left for dead and dumped into a nearby
lavatory pit, but narrowly escaped because his moans were heard by a
woman who insisted on a thorough search. It would have been very easy
to investigate the matter and apprehend the culprits. But nothing was
done. This happened at the end of July.

Further Incidents

5th October 1996: Eluthumattuvaal, Thenmaratchi: On 17th November, in
the presence of N.Tharmendran, Inquirer Into Sudden Deaths,
Chavakachcheri, the police excavated two shallow graves and recovered
several bodies in a decomposed state. Relatives identified the bodies by the
clothes, identity cards, slippers and food stamps on their persons. Each
grave had three bodies. The victims were Thaamu Manikkam  (42), a
father of five from Eluthumattuvaal; Thiagarajah (40) of Kilali, father of
four; Ponnu Alagaratnam (28) of Viluvalai, Eluthumattuvaal, father of
three and a railway employee; Kandasamy Pulendrarajah (16) of
Soranpattu, a student; and Periyathamby Thavarajah (40), a father of three.
A sixth corpse was said to belong to a coconut merchant from Uddupiddy,

These persons went missing on 5th October, 43 days earlier. Five of them
were taking goods to the market and the student was going for tuition.
The previous day the LTTE had attacked a military post in that area. The
locations of the bodies were pointed out by four soldiers who had been
detained in connection with this incident. The bodies were then taken to
Palaly Army Base for a post-mortem examination by the JMO Kandy who
had been flown in for that purpose. It was decided that 2nd Lieutenant
Jayaweera and 3 other soldiers would be produced before the District Judge,
Colombo, once the forensic report is available.

This is one of the four judicial inquiries conducted in connection with
violations in Jaffna of which a large number remain to be addressed.
These inquiries are perhaps one of the after-effects of the publicity received
by the Krishanthy Kumarasamy case. We give below two more cases that
appeared in LTTE bulletins regularly faxed from London. These incidents
if correctly reported, had taken place in uncleared areas. Our own inquiries
into these reports have so far not borne fruit. We put these down as
incidents which require further investigation as they  conform  to the
general pattern of violations at that time (our Sp.Rep.No. 7).

LTTE bulletin of 15th of August: The bodies of 3 young girls and five
young men were discovered bound up in a shallow grave in
Thenmaratchy. The bulletin appears to connect this with the round up by
the Army on 4th August where it is said that 9 persons were detained in
Kachchai and 2 in Thanankilappu. [ Note the similarity of circumstances
and area to the case above (5th October ) that is now being judicially
followed up.]

LTTE bulletin of 30th August: It is claimed that the following five
fishermen named,  from Savatkadu, were killed by the Sri Lankan Navy.
They are Selvaratnam Rajasingham (30) father of five; Sebaratnam
Ratnakumar (28), father of two; Thiventhiram Senathiraja (36), father of
five; Thavarasa Ithayarasa father of one; and  Rasiah Thiruchelvam (50),
father of 9. These persons it is said were arrested on 27nd July, (a few days
after a naval vessel was blown up by Black Sea Tigers off Mullaithivu).
The bodies of the five are said to have been washed shore on the Araly
coast  on 29th August. We have in our Special Report No. 7 recorded
several cases of violations against civilians during the aftermath of the
Mullaitivu disaster.
The role of the local media in Jaffna

At present the only Colombo papers available in Jaffna are the ones
published by the government controlled Lake House group,. These are
only available at a few outlets in a limited quantity. Only one paper is
published in Jaffna which is the "Uthayan", that has been in print from
15th July. It is the one that is universally read by people who want to be
kept informed, particularly of local developments. Its role therefore is
important. One is also impressed by the fact that it provides a very useful
window into developments in Jaffna. Given the circumstances the paper
evinces a remarkable measure of independence that also speaks well for
the political foresight of the military authorities in Jaffna. Violations by
the armed forces are regularly reported where there is a judicial process
involved. As regards missing persons "Uthayan" of 15/11/96 reported that
The People's Committee for Peace and Goodwill submitted to Major
General Janaka Perera a list of 230 missing persons, many of whom are
said to have been detained by the Army. Of this number 35 are students, 12
of whom were prevented from sitting the G.C.E. A Levels. 5 are university
students, one had gained admission to the university, one  is a technical
student, and the remaining 16 are G.C.E. O Level students. The Committee
demanded that the inquiries concerning these students should be
completed speedily so that they could resume their education. The paper
also carried a feature on the overrunning of the Mullaitivu army camp
which ran into 10 parts. The LTTE leader's National Heroes Day message
of 26th November was also carried. LTTE statements and news of
expatriate pro-LTTE activities are also featured in the paper. In reporting
violations by the LTTE the paper is understandably cautious but shows a
greater degree of openness than what has been seen in the last 10 years
after the LTTE began its crack-down on fellow militant groups. We have
quoted the report on the bomb throwing incident at Salu Sala where the
protest though muted, was clearly in evidence.

The "Uthayan" of 29th October reported a boycott of classes  by school
students in protest against the rape and killing associated with the
Krishanthy Kumarasamy case. The protest was organised by an
amorphous group calling itself the Jaffna District Students Union. The
boycott was effective only in the Valikamam sector. In a statement sent to
the "Uthayan" the group claimed that the purpose was to focus
international publicity on violations against students.

In what may be seen as a new departure, an "Uthayan" reporter asked
some of the leaders, "The LTTE too disrupts the education of students by
taking away students for military service in their cause; students are also
adversely affected by some of their actions! But you do not seem to have
protested against these?" An un-named student replied: "We can do
nothing about those who voluntarily join the LTTE. Just because the
students are affected by the actions of the Tigers, we cannot ignore students
becoming victims to violations by of the armed forces. The Tigers are a
militant group. But the armed forces are a legally constituted arm of the
government. They are therefore constrained to observe the law and
respect human rights..."

The paper also carried editorials and feature articles on matters that have
been the general concern of Tamils. Some of these, such as pertaining to
colonisation and the current land problem in Trincomalee, had been
taken from journals published in Colombo. The editorial on 29th October
commented on belated moves to establish an office of the Human Rights
Task Force in Jaffna. It observed the urgent need for an organisation with
authority that would monitor the local human rights situation and added:
"When Jaffna was under the control of the LTTE, it was made obligatory
that all functions of the government in Jaffna should be subject to
clearance by the Defence Ministry. But why is this earlier practice being
continued when Jaffna is under government control with the civil
administration established and the area under the protection of the
government forces? Is it right that Defence Ministry clearance should be
required even for the purpose of establishing a branch of the Human
Rights Task Force in Jaffna?''

The editorial of 16th November commented on the severe disabilities to
which the Tamils, especially the young, have become subject and of
civilians fleeing Vanni into Vavuniya being confined by the Government
in camps in the manner of being held in prison. It observed, " It has
become deeply entrenched in the hearts and minds of officialdom to think
that Tamils could be made subject to any disability, any suffering and any
kind of restriction. These injustices are enforced under the stamp of
national security..... These measures are driving Tamils towards feeling
that the present government, though having committed itself to higher
ideals, in its oppressiveness of its  conduct, is no different from previous
governments. The gap of division between the communities is ever
widening. This is far from desirable".

The Army acting in such a manner as to allow the paper to be seen to be
independent and representative of Tamil opinion, has also enabled it to
appeal quite successfully to the Tamil public through its pages. The
'Uthayan' of 20th November carried a statement from the Army listing
attacks by the LTTE in which those affected were nearly all civilians. The
statement went on to observe, "The inner character of these incidents
reveals that the Tigers who called  themselves the liberators of the Tamil
people have absolutely no concern or feeling for the Tamil people". In a
clear reference to violations by the armed forces that had recently received
publicity the statement continued, "We need to examine why those who
campaign for international publicity to be given to small acts of
indiscipline by the armed forces observe absolute silence over these
violations [by the LTTE]. It is after all the army that conducted an
investigation into the murder of Krishanthy and of Rajani
Velayuthapillai, and produced those guilty before courts of law. It is
moreover the Army that publicised what had transpired in these crimes.
After the Army had done all this, it needs to be asked why condemnation
and demonstrations should follow at this particular point.... Is silence
being observed on crimes by the LTTE because people have taken it for
granted that murders and abductions are the normal functions of the

"A branch of the Human Rights Task Force has now been instituted in
Jaffna to safeguard the human rights of the people in the peninsula. It will
impartially investigate and act on all violations. The people can therefore
obtain redress by taking their complaints to the officials of this

The 'Uthayan' of 23rd November carried an appeal by Major General
Janaka Perera:
 "The LTTE cannot continue to function without being vampires sucking
the blood of the people. The armed forces understand this fully well. In
grenade attacks around the city of Jaffna during the past month, 39
civilians were injured, while one was killed. During the week gone by, the
army recovered 900 hand grenades within the city limits alone. There is
no doubt that the Liberation Tigers had hoped to use these grenades to
celebrate their National Heroes Week. Had they done so a large number of
civilians would have been injured.

" It is with the co-operation of the public that we were able to recover these
grenades. Yet a few who suspect our motives are reluctant in giving us
their co-operation. But the manner in which we are performing our duties
will speak for itself. 'Please change your hearts and co-operate with us'
remains our message. The future belongs to you and to your families... It
was not to the liking of the Liberation Tigers that you should live in
freedom. They began to lay their hands on the civil administration that
came to function with a degree of normality after several years... The
Liberation Tigers are using the people as shields to attack soldiers
manning check points at the entrance to the city....The Tigers are trying to
perform a sacrifice with the lives of the common people in order to
celebrate their Leader's birthday. They had informed the people in
Annaikoddai, Manipay, Uduvil and other places [all uncleared areas] of
their plans. It is with the intention of preventing unnecessary loss of life
that we in the armed forces undertook new operations in the Valikamam
sector. We must say that the people in those parts greatly welcomed our
actions. During the course of these operations, we neutralised more than
12 LTTE cadre and recovered 25 automatic weapons, suicide kits and a
large quantity of explosives, and most importantly a large quantity of
medicines". The statement claimed that these medicines which were for
the use of the common people  had been stolen from Manipay hospital
causing civilians the inconvenience of going to Jaffna town even for
simple medical remedies. The statement concluded by kindly requesting
the co-operation of the people in the coming days to eliminate the menace
of  "vampires".

It was quite evident that these statements which displayed considerable
political astuteness were proving effective. Many of the sentiments are
what a large number of  people would like to express openly, but lack the
ability to do so. It did not matter so much to them that they should come
from a general in a Sri Lankan army. Janaka Perera may as well have been
a pseudonym. Indeed the student protest did have a certain legitimacy. But
these statements accompanied  by an army that was seemed to be much
better disciplined appeared to take the wind out of this protest.

The Role of censorship and the Government's responsibility.
During the months following the suicide bomb blast in Jaffna town on 4th
July, the Government's commitment to human rights had fallen far
below what it had pledged to uphold, and indeed what it was obliged to
respect in view of its international commitments and covenants it had
signed, such as the Covenant Against Torture. Compounding the abuses
by a routine failure to issue receipts upon arrest, non-disclosure of places
of detention, practising systematic deception on  family members, and
sending them from to place to place in search of detainees, merely to tire
them out, knowing very well that no answer would be forthcoming,
amounts to  a flagrant violation of basic humanity even in a time of war.
In this matter the Government's conduct was far from being blameless. It
had been told, given well authenticated reports and knew well what was
going on. But in its public statements, it kept on denying that there were
any violations. Further the setting up of an HRTF branch in Jaffna was
delayed by several months. Moreover, when criticisms were made, annoyed
military spokesmen came out with some unbalanced statements rather
than responding  to the very real grave problems. The Army Commander
for example is quoted as having said that the disappearances were really of
persons who had joined the LTTE and of parents blaming it on the Army
to hide the truth. It only shows that the defence establishment  is yet very
much governed by its past approach of denying all charges and avoiding
any open re-evaluation.

Again the censorship that was in force until the 8th of October also needs
to be examined in the light of what was actually suppressed. Once the
censorship was lifted nothing new of significance was revealed in the
Colombo press about military events. Nearly everything about the disaster
had appeared in some form. The Mid-Week Mirror had even defied the
censorship to reveal the extent of the Mullaitivu disaster. The arguments
appearing in the Southern press against censorship at that time are also
revealing. One of the key arguments put forward was that censorship and
the absence of independent reporting had deprived the Government of
what was to be gained from fully exploiting the success of its military
operation to capture Killinochi. Hardly anything was said about the
consequences of using censorship to suppress what the Tamil civilians
were suffering at the hands of the armed forces.

We had always opposed the use of censorship to hide the suffering of the
people. Even now it is impossible for journalists to go to Jaffna without
the Government making the arrangements. Since there are now regular
flights, it should not be difficult for journalists to visit Jaffna on their
if the Government gives a green light. It will allow the ordinary people in
the South to understand  developments in the North as well as keep the
Army accountable. Of course, the latter can happen only if the media are
keen on reporting the suffering of the ordinary people, and  are prepared
to see things with an open mind. But unfortunately the institutionalised
nature of bias in the mainline press along ethnic lines hampers openness.
Further the covering up of  the Army's misdoings is treated as a patriotic
duty by most  journalists. This pervasive character of tribalism, passing off
as patriotism , has destroyed both communities, further enhancing the

Perhaps the only significant revelations after the lifting of the censorship
had to do with alleged irregularities in the use of the huge defence budget
to make purchases. These included a royal chandelier for a naval mess.
Another item concerned some apparent rivalry between the navy and the
airforce which on 9th May resulted in an LTTE arms ship unloading its
cargo off the Mullaitivu coast and getting away. We earlier referred to
some freak circumstances which combined to publicise the Krishanthy
Kumarasamy case in a manner that never had happened before in the case
of a Tamil. One important circumstance is that there were a few groups in
the South that were concerned, which took up the matter and organised
public demonstrations. They were also helped by some sympathetic
individuals in the press.

Another factor is the contribution to media diversity occasioned by the
coming of the Weekend Express, now a barely a year old. A lady journalist
published a strong report which appeared in the Weekend Express of 28th
October, which followed the publication in full, in an earlier issue, of an
appeal to the President  by the elder sister of Krishanthy  who was left the
sole surviving member of the family. The protest, together with this letter
and report, aroused enough publicity that could not be ignored. The
following Sunday, 3rd November, all four main Sunday English papers
had stern pieces on the case written mostly by regular columnists. The
Government too was constrained to take some serious action.

In the sequel, substantial measures were initiated to improve the human
rights situation in Jaffna. The fact that there are magistrate's proceedings
where at least complaints against certain types of violations by the armed
forces could be heard, as indicated in the reports above, is a definite
improvement. Earlier there had been a situation where people lived in
terror and thought it utterly pointless to talk about or complain to the
authorities regarding violations by the armed forces. That a former
member of the LTTE felt safe enough to testify against the Army at the
disappearance hearing in Pt Pedro reported above, though on isolated case,
is an encouraging sign. The real test would be how safe people feel to
complain about misconduct by soldiers in the remote parts of
Thenmaratchy and the newly cleared areas. A necessary further step is
strictly to enforce tangible redress concerning missing persons within a
short period.

It must also be mentioned that there are several matters in which the
Army has learnt its lessons  and has changed for the better. It will be
recalled that following the suicide bomb explosion on 4th July, a number
of deaths and injuries resulted from firing by the Army. Since then the
Army has held its fire whenever a grenade attack  had taken place in a
public area and had asked the civilians to lie down, or take cover before
themselves taking action. The Army is now said to be more circumspect in
dealing with civilians. There appears to be  a determination to see that
tragedies like Krishanthy's and Rajani's are not repeated again.

The Dangers During the Coming Year
An important legacy bequeathed to Tamil society by more than 10 years of
fascist politics is the ruin inflicted on its moral fabric. People are no
in a position to make firm judgements about others they meet every so
often. Such a society is very prone to manipulation. Thus when an Army
of outsiders with the power to inflict physical harm is brought in to
maintain security and make judgements about individuals who are total
strangers, that even insiders are hardly able to do, it becomes a situation
ripe for violations. In the meantime the LTTE wants violations to take
place and does everything in its power to provoke them. Bringing some
order into this situation also requires political leadership among the
Tamils that could  confront both the armed forces and the LTTE, and take
responsibility on behalf of the people. The student protests that were
reported have so far been handled carefully by the Army without recourse
to overt repressive measures. These protests may also prove the thin end
of the wedge, if the human rights and political questions are not resolved.

It seems clear that the Government has so far failed to make public a list of
persons detained because some of them  have died under conditions of
torture. By not dealing with it early enough a situation has been allowed
to continue where the number of deaths under torture increased. But the
Government cannot delay this forever. When the truth comes out many
questions are going to be asked and even the measure of goodwill earned
by the Army is going to be put under severe strain. It was a rising
incidence of disappearance under torture that gave a boost to youth
activism and the militant movement in the early 80s. If such a situation is
allowed to occur again, it would be very damaging to Tamil society as well
as for the State. It is also notable that the current student activism has its
base in leading schools around Jaffna town. This partly owes to the fact
that the rape and murder victim Krishanthy Kumarasamy was herself
from one such school. The LTTE will all the time be looking for
opportunities to provoke and challenge these students into doing
something rash.  Such an occurrence is more likely if the human rights
question is not dealt with.

We saw it happening in the early months of the UTHR (Jaffna). During
the Indian army's presence in mid-1989 there was  a situation of mounting
violations by both sides. A leading student at St. John's College, Jaffna, was
killed by a Tamil militant group allied to the Indian army. It turned out
that this student was a popular school prefect enjoying a high opinion
among both students and staff. But he had also been pushed into a
situation where he was using LTTE letter-head paper to send threatening
letters to the school authorities and other members of the school in aid of
the LTTE's programme of disruption. This revelation which came later
was a shock even for people who had known him well, again illustrating
how in the context of this politics it becomes difficult even for insiders to
judge others. Such matters bring  us to the question of how far the Army
can go in acting firmly against violations. It is clear that routine torture
has been sanctioned from the highest levels in the name of security.

General Janaka Perera whose role in Jaffna has been positive, with many
civilians commending him enthusiastically as an able and approachable
officer, also has hearings pending against him in the South concerning
serious violations during the JVP era. During 1989, Brig. Perera addressing
a meeting of local people in the Nikaweratiya area threatened to sacrifice
ten of them for each soldier killed. Subsequently about 20 Sinhalese
youths taken into custody were tortured, assaulted with iron bars and
killed at Nikaweratiya army camp (report of Magistrate's court hearings,
Daily News 20-01-96). This is one among many cases that show the
horrendous level of institutionalised violence within the armed forces.
Apart from the concerted human rights pressure launched world-wide,
the present Government too deserves credit for the present happier state
of affairs in the armed forces. No doubt credit is also due to Janaka Perera
for his ability to play a far more humane role despite his past.

The question is however how serious can the Government and the Army
be about investigating offences and punishing offenders? The tendency to
cover up and the painfully slow judicial hearings of earlier cases in the
South give a pessimistic picture. The Government has shown itself unable
to  implement its  own directives to the security services  in many areas of
day to day activity. In this context unless the armed forces are themselves
convinced and  consciously take a decision to change their tactics and
methods, recent improvements may not last for long. In some cases
civilians who complained to top ranking military officials were not given
denials. They were instead given statistics of weapons and ammunition
recovered. How does one punish men for following the example of
officers who, despite serious charges against them, have even recently
been promoted and decorated by the President? The Government cannot
be very serious unless there is strong public pressure.

There are again many issues outside Jaffna on the basis of which Tamil
people would decide to what extent the Government and the Army are
capable of playing a benign role. A matter highlighted in the press is the
plight of Tamil civilians from the North now being confined to camps in
Vavuniya and Kalpitiya. Individual tragedies have been widely reported
in the press both locally and abroad. The Defence Ministry has claimed in a
statement in response to adverse publicity abroad that freedom of
movement of citizens cannot be stretched to apply to a situation where
there are pressing security concerns. But this is only part of the story.

In their anger following the fall of Mullaitivu, the armed forces shelled
KIllinochchi not sparing the hospital, bombed even places of civilian
refuge and drastically curtained medical supplies to the Vanni. No serious
provision was made for civilians to remain in the Vanni or in safe areas
in Killinochi as the Army moved in. What emerges from the plight of
confined refugees is an impression of gross discrimination. Even after
many complaints  little action is taken to ease the situation  in the camps
in  Vavuniya.  Recently  the state owned Rupavahini showed homely
pictures of  refugees watching TV in Vavuniya's  refugee camps when
some ministers visited these camps.  The  TV sets had been installed in
the morning and the refugees were  seeing on  TV recent activities of
urgent cleaning of the camps. After the visit of  ministers  the TV sets
were  withdrawn and everything returned to "normal".

The other issue which has been  raised recently is  the very sensitive land
question. On this issue the Tamils have seen  the Army as an instrument
of oppression. The latest to come into the news is Linganagar in
Trincomalee. A part of the land was occupied by persons holding Land
Development Ordinance (LDO) permits and the rest was designated for a
housing scheme to relocate sanitary labourers and their families now in
overcrowded slums in Anna Nagar close to Trincomalee hospital. In 1992
the all-powerful Army under Bridadier Siri Pieris laid claim to the land
supposedly for a firing range  in the most unsuitable sub-urban setting.
[See ch 5 of our Report No. 12 of Nov 1993]. The matter has been totally
misrepresented in the Colombo press. The Government now appears to be
getting pushed into a position of partiality.

A  great deal would finally depend on whether the Army could
successfully transform itself from being the conscious instrument of a
populist ethno-nationalism that is synonymous with indiscipline, into a
truly national army. The outcome would be inseparable from the quality
and nature of the political solution envisaged.

Footnote 1
The University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) (UTHR(J)) was
formed in 1988 at the University of Jaffna, as part of the national
organisation University Teachers for Human Rights. Its public activities as
a constituent part of university life came to a standstill following the
murder of Dr. Rajani Thiranagama,  a key founding member, on 21st
September 1989. During the course of 1990 the others who identified
openly with the UTHR(J) were forced  to leave Jaffna. It continues to
function as an organisation upholding the founding spirit of the UTHR(J)
with it original aims:

To challenge the external and internal terror engulfing the Tamil
community as a whole through making the perpetrators accountable, and
to create space for humanising the social & political spheres relating to the
life of our community. The UTHR(J) is not at present functioning in the
University of Jaffna in the manner it did in its early life for reasons well
understood. The work of UTHR(J) receives support from the European
Human Rights Foundation among others.