Police deny SLMM access to sole survivor – paper

[TamilNet, Thursday, 21 September 2006, 06:37 GMT]
A day after Sri Lankan police claimed the lone survivor of a massacre of 10 Muslim youths had blamed the Liberation Tigers for the attack, press reports Thursday said international truce monitors have been refused access to the man – because his throat was damaged and he was incapable of speaking for two weeks. Meanwhile the government’s Defence Spokesman, Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, rejected calls for independent investigations and, according to The Island newspaper, said those organizing hartals (general shutdowns) against the massacre are “supporting the LTTE.”

On Wednesday Muslim residents - who blame the elite counter-insurgency Special Task Force (STF) for Monday’s killings in Pottuvil - clashed with STF troopers. 14 people were wounded by gunfire.

A curfew was clamped down, even as a hartal called by outraged residents continued for the second day.

On Monday, within hours of ten Muslim youths being hacked to death near Rattal Kulam in Pottuvil, Sri Lanka’s government blamed the LTTE for the attacks.

But numerous correspondents who visited Pottuvil Monday quoted angry residents blaming STF commandos for the massacre.

Tensions between the security forces and residents remain high with many wanting the STF, which has a training base in the area, to be transferred out.

Responding to their charges that the STF was to blame, Sri Lanka’s police chief, Inspector General Chandra Fernando, told incensed residents Monday that “it was too early” for them accuse anyone.

Yet a police investigation team was quoted by press reports Wednesday as saying the sole survivor of the massacre, Mr. Meera Mohideen, 55, had blamed the LTTE for the attack.

But also on Wednesday the international monitors of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) were denied access to Mr. Mohideen by police - who said he would not be in a condition to speak for at least two more weeks.

“Our monitors tried to see the victim yesterday but police at the hospital said the monitors won’t be allowed to see him as the victim had injuries on his throat and is not in a position to speak for at least two weeks,” an SLMM official told the Daily Mirror.

The SLMM said it would continue to seek permission to at least have a look at the victim to identify his health condition which was initially reported as being serious upon his admission to hospital.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s police chief, Inspector General Chandra Fernando, in a bid to defuse growing tensions, has transferred the local STF commander to Colombo.

“OIC Gunaratne who was transferred after the residents agitated for his removal would be temporarily attached to the STF headquarters in Colombo,” the paper said.

Meanwhile the Muslim community in Amparai staged a hartal (general shutdown) against the killing.

Muslim leaders have called for an independent investigation.

The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) leader Rauff Hakeem was quoted Monday night as saying that “we need an independent international probe through UN agencies.”

Speaking to the Daily Mirror, Mr. Hakeem said: “I cannot come to the conclusion that the LTTE did this. People of the area whom I spoke to said there was no way the LTTE could have carried out this act and instead they had their own conclusions and are demanding UN investigations. So I will be meeting the UN envoy in Colombo today (Tuesday) to ask for assistance.”

But Defence Spokesman Minister Keheliya Rambukwella denied all allegations and on Wednesday said that there was no need to involve foreign experts in the investigation, The Island newspaper reported.

The paper also quoted Minister Rambukwella as saying if anyone believed that the STF was responsible for the killings the matter could have been sorted out through discussions and by producing available evidence, not by staging hartals.

Those who lead these Hartals are supporting the LTTE, The Island quoted Minister Rambukwella as saying.


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