Nation Special


Slippery slope to doom

While Sri Lanka is taking a nose dive on almost every internationally accepted indicator, ranging from media freedom to the quality of life, in the ‘Failed Sates Index’ the country seems to be making steady progress. A ‘failed state’ is defined as a state that can no longer perform its basic security and development functions, and that has no effective control over its territory and borders. Many proud Sri Lankans may desist the thought that we have reached that dubious level on par with countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, but there is little denying that this state is moving fast in the direction of anarchy, where the arms of the state that are meant to protect its citizenry are failing in their cause. Here, The Nation lists some cases of blatant human rights violations where the culprits remain at large and the relevant authorities seem to be in a blissful somber. This is to remind the powers that be that the people of this country are awaiting to see action and not mere words, while reminding ourselves, the people of Sri Lanka that we deserve a better deal from those who rule over us.

By Rathindra Kuruwita
* January 2, 2006 Trincomalee: Five students were killed
Five young men, all from middle class families in Trincomalee were killed while they were at the beach. Newspaper reports the next day claimed that the security forces had killed five terrorists when they attempted to lodge a grenade at them. A report by the Special Rapporteur to the Human Rights Commission, the former High Court Judge T. Suntheralingam carried out an initial investigation, which found inconsistencies with the security forces’ version of the event. However, his findings were not officially acknowledged. A special STF team, which was sent to the eastern town on the advice of a defence advisor and retired police officer, were accused of the crime.
Status of the investigation: Although a committee was appointed by the President, no one has been arrested due to the lack of evidence.

* April 27, 2006 Avissawella: Headless bodies were found
Five headless male corpses were found in Puwakpitiya and Dehiowita in Avissawella police division. The estate workers in the area, who informed the police, spotted the headless bodies. The bodies were only partially clothed, belonged to males, and had serious cut injuries to the bodies.
Status of the investigation: Two bodies were identified as Tamils from Colombo, but the other three bodies were beyond identification. No one has been arrested up to date. The Civil Monitoring Commission lead by parliamentarian Mano Ganesan has demanded DNA testing to identify the victims.

* May 13, 2006 Kytes: Killing of civilians
Thirteen civilians were killed in Allaipiddy in the Kytes Island in Jaffna. On May 13 gunmen opened fire killing several civilians, including a four month old baby, a four year old toddler, and their parents on the spot. Three persons with serious wounds were rushed to Jaffna hospital. The navy claimed that they were attacked in Mandaithivu on the night of the incident with grenades and they opened fire at the attackers. Sri Lanka Navy troopers from Mandaithivu were accused of carrying out the crime.
Status of the investigation: Allegations and counter allegations have been traded but there have been no arrests made and the investigation has gone cold.

* May 29, 2006 Walikanda: Massacre of farmers
A group of irrigation workers were killed in Omadiyamadu off Welikanda. The 12 workers who were gunned down had their hands tied up behind their backs before being lined up for shooting. Police investigators suggested that that the killings had been part of LTTE training for their child recruits. Though the LTTE was the obvious suspect, the breakaway Karuna faction was active in this area at the time of the massacre.
Status of the investigation: No progress in the investigation

* June 8, 2006 Mannar: Hanging of a family of five
A family of four including two children were massacred in the village of Vankalai in the island of Mannar by unknown people. The mother of the children was reportedly raped before being killed. The bodies of the deceased, including the children, were hung from the ceiling of their house. The army was accused of the crime.
Status of the investigation: There has been no independent investigation into the deaths. A court case is pending in the Mannar local court.

* June 17, 2006 Pesalai: Massacre of civilians
Four fishermen were killed on the beach and another person died when a hand grenade was hauled into a church. Civilians in Pesalai, Mannar had taken refuge in the Church of Lady of Victory to avoid a confrontation between the navy and the LTTE. After the confrontation, navy personnel allegedly went on a rampage shooting at the civilians who were taking refuge at the church, and remain accused of the atrocities committed that day.
Status of the investigation: Four of these killed were fishermen found shot, execution style, still clutching their identification cards. The government denies the allegations and accuses the local Roman Catholic Bishop Rayappu Joseph of pro-LTTE bias, as he has refuted the government version of events. No arrests have been made so far.

* July 1, 2006: Killing of Lakmal Smapath
A defence correspondent at the Sinhala newspaper Sathdina, Lakmal Sampath was killed by an unidentified gunman. He was found dead on Vijaya Road in Dehiwela, 10 km away from his residence. There was media speculation at the time of the killing that Sampath was killed by military intelligence because he was about to reveal sensitive information regarding disappearances, which had happened earlier in the year, specially the five headless bodies that were found in Avissawella. Another twist to the speculation was that Sampath was a double agent extorting money from the LTTE, as well as the military. Whatever the truth maybe, his death demands an explanation. It would rather be from the state than the gossip mongers. Intelligence unit of the army is one of the parties accused of the killings.
Status of the investigation: The Dehiwela police detained a military intelligence officer who was later released after questioning. The officers have not been named.

* August 4, 2006 Muttur: Killing of 17 aid workers
In the midst of the chaos that prevailed in Muttur from August 2, when the LTTE launched simultaneous attacks on military installations in Muttur, 17 aid workers were killed, execution style on August 4. The government military spokesman earlier claimed that the Muttur town was never overrun by the LTTE during their attack, but gleefully changed his story latter, to declare that on the morning of August 4, when the massacre took place the town was in fact in the hands of the Tigers. Despite the media spotlight on the case and the continuous international criticism, the government still has no answers as to who killed the 16 Tamil and one Muslim aid workers. The Sri Lanka military was accused by the SLMM of carrying out the massacre, while some have speculated that Muslim paramilitary units working with the military was involved.

Status of the investigation: The case has been taken up by the Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry as one of the 16 high profile cases. International Committee of Jurists has accused that evidence had been tampered with. The bullets that had been kept as evidence been replaced by bullets of another calibre (size) according to the ICJ. The bullets that were replaced were the variety used by Special Forces. The government recently questioned the credibility of the experts who provided this opinion.

* August 20, 2006: Fr. Jim Brown disappeared
Fr. Jim Brown, then Roman Catholic parish priest of St. Philip Church, Allaipiddy, Jaffna has not been sighted since he was apprehended at a check point on the August 20, 2006. Though a body found in the island of Punkudathivu in March 2007 was assumed to be that of the father, forensic DNA tests proved that it was not the case. Therefore, the priest still remains missing, while the navy is accused of the abduction.
Status of the investigation: What happened to Fr. Jim Brown and his assistant Wenceslaus Vincent Vimalan still remains a mystery.

* September 11, 2006 Pottuvil: massacre of civilians
A group of Muslim labourers working at an irrigation site in the jungles off Pottuvil were brutally hacked to death by unknown assailants. Out of a group of 11 only one survived to tell the story of the gruesome deed. Tensions have been building up with the local population and the Officer in Charge of the Sasthrawela STF camp over an issue of illegal logging. The resulting mayhem in Pottuvil was quelled when the then IGP transferred the STF officer in the midst of the controversy – an action which resulted in the Commadant of the STF threatening to pull his men out of Pottuvil. The STF stood accused of the massacre by the local population and until now not proven otherwise.
Status of the investigation : The government and the LTTE keeps blaming each other for the killings. Although Minister Rauff Hakeem demanded an international inquiry to look into the massacre, the request was denied and there has been little progress in the investigation.

* December 15, 2006 Colombo: Abduction of Eastern University Vice Chancellor
The Eastern University Vice-Chancellor was abducted, while attending a conference of the Sri Lankan Association for the Advancement of Science on December 15, 2006. Professor Sivasubramanium Raveendranath, a 55 year old heart patient and a father of two, was in an area tightly controlled by the military. Three months previously, on September 20, 2006, his colleague, Eastern University Arts Faculty Dean Dr. Bala Sugamar was abducted by gunmen. There were conflicting reports that the academic was killed by his captors and that he died due to a heart condition, while in captivity. However, his family is confident that Prof. Raveendranath is still alive. The Karuna faction is widely believed to have carried out the abduction.
Status of the investigation: The driver of the Professor was questioned regarding the incident. The report forwarded to the President by Justice Mahanama Thilakeratne states that the incident was not considered for investigation, as the family of the professor had not made a complaint.

* March 02, 2007 Muthurajawela: Bodies were found
Bodies of five persons were recovered from Muthurajawela marsh land in Kandana police division, north of Colombo. Some of the bodies were found blindfolded and were in highly decomposed state. It was suspected that these bodies had been brought and dumped in the marsh after being executed in other areas. Their identities have been established as citizens of Batticaloa. Karuna faction and the LTTE traded accusations over the killings.
Status of the investigation: Investigation has stalled. Government claims the atrocity was carried out by the LTTE.

* March 6, 2007 Anuradhapura: Bodies were discovered
Just a few days after bodies were found in the Muthurajawela mash, five more mutilated corpses were discovered at Thirappane area in the Anuradhapura District. The upper parts of the bodies had been burnt in a pyre of tyres, according to Thirappane Police, who recovered the bodies. All victims were identified as males. Karuna faction and the LTTE traded accusations over the killings.

Status of the investigation: Investigation has stalled. Government claims the atrocity was carried out by the LTTE
n June 8, 2007 Dumaladeniya: Nine decomposing bodies
Police found nine highly decomposed bodies in a garbage dump at Dumaladeniya in Wennappuwa. The bodies were badly charred and in an unidentifiable condition. The persons were killed in an execution style with their hands tied behind their backs and blindfolded.
Status of the investigation: Although magisterial inquiries were carried out no suspect has been apprehended for the time being.