Bishop's report on disappearances

[TamilNet, Sunday, 14 June 1998, 23:59 GMT]
The Bishop of Mannar has written a detailed report of the disappearance of 4 civilians on 26 May 98, and the subsequent discovery of their bodies in a remote area. All 4 had been shot, and evidence indicating Sri Lankan soldiers may have been involved was found, says the report.

Below are extracts from Rt. Rev. Dr.Rayappu Joseph's report.

The four civilians were S.Palaniyandy (30), Sellathurai Selvaratnam (32), Marimuthu Selvakumar (22) and Muniayandy Ramaiah (23).

All were originally from Chettiarkattaiadampan village in Mannar, but had been displaced by a Sri Lanka Army operation to capture a nearby road. They were temporarily living in near the Murunkan SLA camp.

On Tuesday 26 May, they had set out at 9 a.m. for the Madhu area (north of their village), on bicycles via a jungle road. They were carrying a few provisions, including drumsticks (a local name for a type of long, thin fruit with a tough, stiff skin).

As they had failed to return to the village by 4 p.m., which was when they usually come home, their relatives became frightened.

Some of the relatives had come to the SLA at Murunkan point the same evening and had asked whether the 4 had been arrested. Since the Army's reply was in the negative they had gone back to the village.

On the following day, Wednesday, at about 9 a.m. a business man coming to the village from Madhu area told the villagers that he had seen some bicycles abandoned on the way.

At 2 p.m. on the same day 18 villagers walked to the place where the abandoned cycles were found and they identified them as belonging to the missing persons.

The things that were taken by the 4 were found strewn around (except 15 pieces of soap). Splintered and broken drumstick fruits were scattered about, as if they had been used to beat the men.

The villagers also found several boot marks around the location and concluded that there had been over 50 persons in boots at the spot. As it was getting dark, the searchers returned to their village.

On Thursday, some villagers went to the Murunkan SLA and requested permission to go into the jungles to search for the missing 4 persons. The army told them that they could do so.

On Friday, 22 villagers went to the spot where the cycles were found and from there started to follow the boot-marks, which led them towards the East, where the SLA's 214 Brigade is situated.

They walked about 4 to 5 km and all along the route they found various items such as empty dry-ration packets (rice packets ) used by the SLA, empty cigarette packets, empty food tins, half eaten biscuit packets all freshly used, and also a few items typically worn by some SLA troops.

As the searches went along, they began to get a smell of dead carcass and when they walked towards that direction, they found three human bodies in a decomposed state. All had been shot through mouth, and their skulls had been blasted off.

The searchers identified the bodies first as those of Ramaiah, Selvakumar and Palaniyandy.

After 15 minutes or so the panic stricken villages returned to the village, reaching home at 4.30 p.m. On the same day, SLA troops from the Murunkan camp had come the village and stayed on there till 6 p.m. at the house of the Grama Sevaka Officer of the village.

The searchers had given the SLA, one of the items worn by army, from those they had picked, along with an empty dry ration packet. The villagers had kept the rest of the items.

On Saturday, hearing of the disappearance of the 4 civilians, the Bishop of Mannar, Very Rev. Fr. A.Xavier Croos, the Vicar General and the President of the Mannar Citizens' Committee and Rev. Fr. Emilianuspillai, the Director of Social Services went to Murunkan and with the permission of the SLA army, visited the village at 10.30 a.m.

In Murunkan, they had come to know that 3 of the missing persons were found dead in the jungle. After speaking with the villagers they had taken the parents and partners of the victims along with them. They also took 4 of those who had seen the 3 decomposed bodies in the jungle.

They went to meet the officers of the SLA's 214 Brigade and were told at the gate that the 214 Brigade Commander and another officer would meet them at the Madhu Road Kattaiadampan church.

The two SLA officers came to the church at 12.30 p.m. and spoke to the Bishop, the relatives of the 4 missing and the others.

Having informed the Brigade Commander of 214 Brigade, the Bishop took the relatives of the 4 to the Murunkan Police station and their statements were recorded.

In the meantime, the Officer In Charge of the Murunkan Police Station was summoned by the SSP (Senior Superintendent of Police) and had been instructed to carry out the necessary procedures in this matter.

The Grama Sevaka Officer (GSO) of this village was instructed by the AGA of the area to visit the scene and report on the incident to the Murunkan Police.

On Sunday, about 30 villagers went from the village along with the GSO of the village to the place where the 3 bodies were found. It was then known that the first searchers had misidentified the body of Selavratnam for that of Palaniyandy.

Thus, Palaniyandy was found to be still missing. The GSO identified the 3 bodies.

After a short Hindu religious rite the three bodies namely those of Selvaratnam, Selvakumar and Ramaiah were buried at the same place.

On Tuesday, 2 June 98, with the permission of the 214 Brigade, 25 villagers, the Parish Priest, Rev. Fr. Victor Sosai and the GSO started the search for the last missing person in the same jungle.

They set off from the FDL (Forward Defence Line) of 15 G.R at Madhu Road-Kattaiadampan and walked towards the North and after a half an hour walk, found the missing body around 25 meters away from the spot where the other 3 bodies were located.

The GSO of the village identified this body as that of Palaniyandy. The body was found to have sustained several gun shots on the legs, arms, thighs and finally on the head.

Palani yandy was buried at the same place in the jungle.

The area where the incident had taken place is called Kumariottupallam, within one mile of the 214 Brigades FDL at Thampanaikulam.

Concluding his report, Rt. Rev. Dr.Rayappu Joseph, asks whether the public and the country can expect the perpetrators of this crime to be prosecuted?


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