SLA humiliates civilians in Batticaloa

[TamilNet, Thursday, 07 September 2000, 15:37 GMT]
A man was forced to climb and sit atop a tree for more than an hour by a Sri Lanka army soldier in the heart of Batticaloa town today while four boys were forced by soldiers in another part of the town centre this noon to carry their bicycles on their shoulders. The man was allowed to climb down after the local MP intervened in the matter. The boys were humiliated because they had left their bicycles by the pavement when a military convoy was passing by, sources said.

Ponnan Kopalappillai, 45, a farmer in Muthalaikkudah, a village in Batticaloa's western hinterland, had brought a relative who is a poverty alleviation program officer on his bicycle to the district secretariat in the town this morning. Ponnan had waited near the Batticaloa public Library for his relative who had gone into the secretariat. Only civilians who have official work at the secretariat are allowed beyond the Public Library by the SLA. The Batticaloa district secretariat which is situated in the 17th century Dutch fort lies within high security zone of the SLA's 23-3 brigade headquarters.

A soldier who had observed Ponnan by the library called him up to the sentry point and checked the farmer's national identity card. When the soldier saw in the identity card that Ponnan was from the village of Muthalaikkudah he (the soldier) assaulted him and ordered the farmer to climb and stay atop the tree near the sentry point.

Passers-by who saw the farmer's plight brought the matter to the attention of former Batticaloa MP, Mr. Joseph Pararajasingham, who got in touch with the local SLA brigade headquarters and obtained Ponnan's release.

Civilians in Batticaloa's western hinterland have been viewed with suspicion by the Sri Lankan security forces from the early years of conflict. Soldiers still tend to consider people from the general area of Kokkaddicholai as a population supportive of the separatist war and as one providing a large number of recruits to the Liberation Tigers.

Forty six civilians working in a prawn farm near Kokkaddicholai were massacred by commandos of the Special Task Force (STF) in 1985. (The STF is an elite arm of the Sri Lankan security forces)

The Sri Lankan government virtually ignored the matter despite concern expressed at the time by human rights groups and Tamil politicians.

Again, on 12 June, 1991, sixty seven civilians, including women and children, were massacred by Sri Lanka army soldiers near Muthalaikkudah in the general area of Kokkaddicholai. Hundred and sixty houses in the area were torched by the marauding soldiers.

The Sri Lankan government appointed a commission under a retired judge to inquire into the massacre under pressure from western donor countries. The judge identified the SLA officer who had ordered the massacre of the civilians and other soldiers who perpetrated it.

None of the SLA personnel identified by the commission of inquiry were brought to book. Instead, the Sri Lankan government granted the officer who the commission said was responsible for the murders, a senior position in a public corporation.

 

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