JDS condemns silence of Colombo media over terror campaign in North

[TamilNet, Saturday, 08 January 2011, 08:27 GMT]
Detailing the recent killings, abductions and other atrocities in the SL military occupied North, the Journalists For Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS), an exiled organisation of journalists, on Friday condemned the silence of Sinhala and English media in Colombo over the terror campaign. Instead, these media highlight only the explanations from the side of the SL government, the report said. The JDS statement exposed the latest twist of portrayal of the situation by SL media minister and government spokesperson Keheliya Rambukwella, who wanted to pass the blame on "elements seeking tarnish the image of Colombo government internationally". The JDS statement, with details of earlier unreported crimes, noted that human rights violations not being exposed is high in Vanni as journalists and aid workers were barred from entering Ki'linochchi and Mullaiththeevu districts.

“We are terrified by the incidents. We get back home early and literally remain indoors, leaving our safety in the hands of the almighty,” a Jaffna resident told JDS.

Full text of the statement by the JDS follows:

The resurgence of widespread extra-judicial killings, abductions and burglaries in the northern Jaffna and Kilinochchi districts during the past two months despite a heavy military presence, have created a panic wave among the people in the area.

Reports from Jaffna, the cultural nerve-centre of the Sri Lankan Tamils, reveal that at least five people, including a Hindu priest and an education officer, have been killed, while over a dozen has been abducted by masked-men arriving in vehicles without number plates within the past few weeks.

The latest victim of the current series of killings was a 27-year old youth Kandasamy Iruthayan, who was recently released from the government’s internally displaced (IDP) camp and was residing in Thirunelveli, near Jaffna town. A group of five masked men entered his house around 10 pm on Wednesday (Jan 5, 2011) and stabbed him several times to death before fleeing the area.


This followed by the dreadful killings of 56-year old Nithyananda Sharma, chief priest of Chankanai Murugan temple, 52-year-old Markandu Sivalingam, deputy director of Education, Valikamam Zone, 29-year old Mahendran Thiruvarudchelvan, a vehicle trader in Thenmaradchchi (his decapitated body was found nine days after his abduction) and 31-year old Ketheeswaran Thevarajah, a postal worker and environmentalist in Vadamaradchchi.

According to latest reports, the deputy director of Education for Valikaamam Zone was shot dead in a close-range by a masked man with a pistol at his home in Urumpirai around 10.30 pm on December 26, in the very presence of his 13-year old daughter.

In an another related incident, police recovered the dead body of 19-year old Ariyanayagam Thulasi, who was missing for two weeks from her home in Puloly, Point-Pedro. The post-mortem report has revealed that she had been sexually abused before her death.

These killings are in addition to the abduction and burglaries. The recent abductions in the Jaffna peninsula include a 30-year old Shanmuganathan Vignesvaran, a teacher from Urumpirai, 35-year old Mahalingam Amirtharajah, a worker from Yogapuram in Urumpirai, a 48-year old widow from Alvai and Sobinathan Gopinath, a 27-year-old driver of a auto trishaw, disappearing from Urumpirai to name a few.

Rising abductions

Worst among them were the abduction of 30 school boys by an armed group from the Kilinochchi district, which was formerly the politico-military headquarters of the LTTE. Of the 30 boys abducted, 28 boys were later dropped at the Omanthai military checkpoint. The fate of the other two is not known. The story has now been twisted as a trip to Vavuniya at their own will.

Danger of such human rights violations not being exposed is high in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts than in the Jaffna peninsula as journalists and aid workers are barred from entering the former rebel heartland. Even the opposition parliamentarians have no access to these areas. The former rebel-held districts virtually remain as military garrisons with the military now building permanent military structures and infrastructure facilities.

The modus-operandi of some of the killings has similarities in nature. The perpetrators have carried out the killing while pretending to be burglars.

Such violence were the daily events when the government troops were locked in fierce war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), but the re-emergence of the dark era even after the military defeat of the LTTE has raised a million dollar question on the motive of such organised crime.

"We are terrified"

Let whatever be the motives, the latest trend of violence has deeply instilled fear and shock among the people.

“We are terrified by the incidents. We get back home early and literally remain indoors, leaving our safety in the hands of the almighty,” a Jaffna resident told JDS.

“These criminal activities have either been carried out by government troops or the groups that have got the unreserved backing of the government and its military. The situation is likely to go on unabatedly with the local government elections scheduled to be held in March,” another resident said on condition of anonymity.

No arrests

The police have not taken any effort to arrest the situation and none has been arrested in this regard to date. Instead, a senior police official for the north has blamed the media and the local politicians for playing up the “not so serious incidents” to gain political mileage.

Jaffna peninsula is heavily guarded by over 40,000 armed military and police personal even after the defeat of the LTTE. Although there is a civil government agent for the north (chief administrating officer) to look after the administration of the former war-zone, it is the military that is running the daily administration there with a recently retired military General serving as the Governor of North.

The Tamil parliamentarians representing the people in the north on Thursday brought the issue to the notice of parliament. Submitting a list of 15 such incidents that occurred in the northern peninsula, the Tamil lawmakers called for explanations from the government as to how such incidents could take place at ease despite a heavy military presence.

Unable to provide satisfactory explanations, the government’s parliamentary group leader, Minister Nimal Sripala de Silva wanted an extra day to respond. This clearly sheds some light as to who could be the perpetrators.

Colombo media keeps mum

Commenting on the incidents, government spokesman and media minister Keheliya Rambukwella has told a news conference in Colombo on Thursday that “the elements that are seeking to tarnish the image of the Colombo government internationally were behind such extra-judicial killings and abductions”.

Refusing to name such evil elements, Minister Rambukwella has said that President Mahinda Rajapaksa has ordered a quick and impartial inquiry into the incidents.

Meanwhile, media sources in Colombo have pointed out that none of the English and Sinhala language national newspapers have reported any of these incidents or the debate in parliament. They, however, were spontaneous enough to publish the denials of the military in this regard.

With the military now being ordered by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is also the defence minister and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, to purchase vegetables from the farmers in the north and to sell them at a concessionary rate in Colombo, the perpetrators are likely go scot-free.


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External Links:
JDS: Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka


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