Trincomalee hartal killing inquest begins

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 23 October 2002, 17:25 GMT]
The inquest into the killing of three Tamil civilians on October 11 at Abeyapura in the east port town in a gun and grenade attack commenced Wednesday before the Trincomalee Magistrate Mr.S.Thiagendran.

Two of the injured Tamil civilians said in evidence that grenade was thrown on the Tamil crowd together with stones on the day of incident. They said that they were taken to Trincomalee hospital by sea, as the crowd did not allow them to be taken by road. The Assistant Superintendent of the Police who was at the scene on the day of incident said that the only instruction he issued to the Police was to use tear gas to quell the disturbances to bring the situation under control.

The Assistant Superintendent of Police Mr. Selliah Suthesanathan said in evidence, "I received a message on the morning of October 11 that Tamils in Trincomalee have decided to stage a hartal (general shut down) expressing sympathy to those killed at Kanchirankuda earlier. Immediately I issued instruction to the officers in charge of Kuchchaveli and Uppuveli police stations to strengthen the security of their areas.

"I received a message from the OIC, Uppuveli Police that tyres were burning at Anuradhapura junction around 3 a.m. on the day of incident. I was told that there were 10 to 15 persons at the scene. On the instruction of the Senior Superintendent of Police I went to the Uppuveli Police station around seven in the morning on the day of incident.

"As there were roadblocks at third milepost I went through Abeyapura. On my way I saw a large number of Sinhala people were standing in front of their houses. I told them not to panic. As I proceeded towards Anuradhapura junction I saw tyres burning near Down Town Hotel. About 700 to 1000 people were standing between Anuradhapura junction and the Downtown Hotel area. Most of them were youths. I told them not to obstruct vehicular and people movements.

"I immediately took steps to strengthen the security in the area by deploying more police personnel including six officers, four sergeants and fourteen constables as I felt that the situation could go out of control. Then I saw a crowd advancing from Anuradhapura junction towards Abeyapura junction burning tyres on the road. Likewise I observed another crowd advancing towards Anuradhapura junction from Abeyapura.

"I instructed the OIC, Uppuveli Police to form a human shield preventing the advancing crowds from both ends and to remove them from the middle of the road in order to allow vehicular movement without any obstruction. I was successful in my effort. Around 9.30 a.m. I saw some disturbances on the side of Abeyapura. At the same time I observed several youths from Downtown hotel area were rushing to Abeyapura area with stones, bottles and clubs. Youths from Abeyapura also were seen rushing to the Downtown with stones, bottles and clubs. Both groups were facing each other started throwing stones, bottles and clubs. The distance between the two groups was about 150 feet.

" Normally the Police could have used weapons in such circumstances. But I instructed the Police to clear the crowd without using force. When the Police tried to disperse the crowd in a peaceful manner, the rival groups continued to move towards eachother. Thereafter I instructed the police officer in charge to use teargas to avoid violent clashes between rival groups.

"Four teargas canisters were fired, two each on rival groups. Immediately both groups withdrew from their advancing positions. However they continued throwing stones and bottles at their rivals.

"When I was looking towards Abeyapura area, a stone hit me from behind. I sustained injuries on the back of my head. Though I was conscious I felt my eyesight had been affected slightly. Immediately my two security officers came to my rescue and took me to a house at Palaiootu. Then I heard an explosion. Later I was taken to navy hospital where my head was x-rayed.

"Though I was asked to take rest, I returned to the spot and commenced inquiry into incidents on the instruction of the Senior Superintendent of Police. When I returned to Abeyapura I came to know that three persons had been killed and about twenty five injured," said the ASP Mr. Suthesanathan.

Nallathamby Punyamoorthy, a labourer from Poompuhar of Palaiootu said in evidence that a grenade was thrown by the group from Abeyapura side where Sinhalese youths were standing. They should have thrown grenade with stones on the Tamil crowd standing on the other side.

"On the day of incident I went to the scene where I saw a crowd of about one thousand persons. I saw tyres burning on the road. Sinhalese and Tamils were seen throwing stones and bottles at each other. At around 10 a.m. a grenade was thrown to the side where Tamils were standing. I sustained several injuries following the explosion of the grenade. As Sinhalese youths at the scene did not allow me to go to hospital by van, I was taken in a three-wheeler by some persons through another alternate route, first to a refugee camp at Alles Garden and then by boat to Trincomalee general hospital," witness Punyamoorthy said.

Another witness Baskaran Pirbakaran (25), a mason by profession said, " I saw a large number of people standing near Downtown hotel area. Tamils on one side and Sinhalese opposite side facing each other. At that time some one told me that Sinhalese had abducted two Tamils. I did not know who had been abducted. Thereafter I heard a sound of explosion. I did not know from which side the bomb was thrown. With the explosion I received injuries. Then I saw some persons fallen on the ground. Some unidentified persons took me in a three-wheeler, first to a refugee camp at third milepost and then to Trincomalee hospital by sea in a boat. At the hospital I was told that Police had thrown grenade. Shrapnel of bomb were removed from my body at the hospital," witness said.

At that stage further hearing was put off for October 29.

The Assistant Superintendent of Police Ajith Rohana with Inspector Nanthithasa, OIC, Crimes, and Trincomalee Police Headquarters led the evidence at the inquest.


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