'Involuntary Removal or Disappearances in the Northeast'

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 09 September 2003, 16:32 GMT]
The President Ms Chandrika Kumaratunge appointed a three member-Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Involuntary Removal or Disappearances of Persons in the Northern and eastern Provinces. The Chairman of the Commissioner was Justice Krishnapillai Palakidner and the President signed the warrant on 30th November 1994. The other two Commissioners were Mr.L.W.R.R.Widyaratne and Dr.W.N.Wilson.

The Commission released its final report on September 1997.

Regarding the arrest and subsequent disappearances from the Vantharumoolai Eastern University Refugee Camp the final report said:

“ The arrests from the Vantharumoolai Eastern University refugee camp were the biggest group arrest of the Batticaloa district. The arrests took place on 5th September and 23rd September 1990. 158 persons were arrested on the first day, while 16 were taken into custody on the second day. A list containing the names of 158 persons who were reported to have disappeared was produced before this Commission and 83 witnesses testified to the disappearances of 92 persons, out of the 158 reported above. Also evidence was given regarding 10 of the 16 persons who disappeared on the subsequent arrest.

“ According to the evidence, nearly 45,000 people had taken refuge since July 19990, following the outbreak of violence in the vicinity of the said University. Professor Mano Sabaratnam administered the refugee camp. Dr.Thangamuthu Jeyasingham and Mr.Velupody Sivalingam and supported the non-governmental organizastions during this period.

“ On 5th September 1990, by about 6 o’clock in the morning Army men from Kommathurai army camp along with personnel from some other camps as well came in a SLTB bus and entered the premises of the Eastern University. This was followed by an announcement by an amplifier fitted to a white colored van asking the refugees to form into three different queues- persons of the age group of 12 to 25 in the first row, persons of the age group of 26 to 40 in the second row and persons over 40 years of age in the third row. People in three queues were asked to pass through a point where five persons in masks clad in army uniform were seated in chairs along with seven Muslims standing those in masks.

“ Whenever the persons in masks gave a signal, the people who were in the queues were taken away from the queue to a side. When this operation was completed, 158 persons who were pulled out from the queues were taken away by the Army despite the protests by their kith and kin. There was evidence to show that the arrests were done by the Kommathurai army camp with the assistance of personnel from other army camps as well and that the following army officers were directing the operations; Captain Munas, Captain Palitha, Captain Gunaratna, Major Majeed and Major Monan.

“ There was also evidence to show that Gerry de Silva had visited the refugee camp on 8th September, 1990 and had told the officers responsible for the administration of the refugee camp that all the 158 persons who were taken into custody on 5th September were found guilty. However he had declined to say what had happened to them after they found guilty.

“ There was further evidence to say that one of the officers who were in charge of refugee camp made a request to the army personnel in charge of the operation, to give a list of persons arrested for which there was no response.

“ It also transpired in evidence that Mr.Thalayasingham Arunakirinathan, the Chairman of the Peace Committee had received a letter in October 1990 from Mr.A.W.Fernando, Air Chief Marshall, who was then the Secretary to the Hon Minister of State for Defence wherein it was stated that on 5th September, `990 only 32 persons were taken into custody from the Eastern University refugee camp and that a; had been released within 24 hours of arrest. The letter contained a list of 32 names who were alleged to have been released. However the Commission was informed that none of those who were arrested had returned wither to the said refugee camp or to their homes but still remaining missing,” stated in the final report of the Commission of Inquiry into the involuntary removal or disappearance of persons in the northern and eastern provinces on the arrest and subsequent disappearances from the Vantharumoolai Eastern University Refugee Camp.

On the arrests and subsequent disappearances from the village of Sathurukondan and other villages the final report the Presidential Commission of Inquiry said;

“ The group arrest that took place at Sathurukondan village on 9th September, 1990 needs special mention here.

“ On this day 184 persons had been taken into custody in this village. Regarding the above group arrest the Commission listened to the testimony of 63 complaints relating to the disappearances of 72 persons. Most of the persons who disappeared during the incident were from the villages of Sathurukondan, Pillaiayradi, Panichchaiyady and Kokuvil.

“ According to the evidence given by the complainants, army soldiers attached to the Sathurukondan Boys Town Army Camp entered the villages of Sathurukondan, Pillaiayradi, Panichchaiyady and Kokuvil by about 6 p.m. on 9th September, 1990 and ordered the people to come to the army camp. The male members of the household fearing arrest hid themselves leaving the children and females in their houses thinking that the army will not harass them. However the army ordered all those who were in their houses irrespective of the fact whether they were infants, children, females aged or disabled to come out of their houses and when they had assembled outside their houses marched them along the road into the army camp.

“ The only surviving witness Kandasamy Krishna Kumar gave evidence before the Commission. Ms Patricia Lawrence of Denver Law School in USA in her letter to Commission stated that in May, 1994 the people living in Thannamunai had observed that soldiers were seen removing bones from the main ditch at the site of the massacre and burning these bones for the second time,” the final report of the presidential Commission said.


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