JAFFNA: BRUTAL ASSAULT OF CIVILIANS IN NAVANTHURAI

Around 100 young men from Navanthurai, a village in the Jaffna District, were detained in an operation conducted by the Sri Lanka Army around 1.15am on 23rd August 2011. The villagers were severely beaten by the army and dragged to the main road near the Navanthurai Army Detachment located around 300 meters from the village. The men were loaded onto buses and handed over to the Jaffna police around 4 am and taken to the Jaffna courts by 10 am and produced before the Jaffna District Judge at around 1 pm the same day (23rd August).

Despite their injuries, the men were held without treatment for over 8 hours. 20 of the most seriously injured were admitted to the Jaffna General Hospital after 10 am, on orders by the District Judge. The rest were denied treatment until around 7.30 pm when we received information that all detainees had been admitted for treatment to the Jaffna Hospital. According to media reports, around 100 people have been admitted for treatment to the Jaffna Hospital on 23rd August[i].

Grease Devils in Navanthurai – Confrontation between Military and Villagers

At around 8 pm on 22nd August, villagers spotted five “grease men” in the Navanthurai area. Three men were seen inside the Navanthurai church and two others on trees.  When the villagers surrounded and tried to capture the men, they ran into the Navanthurai Army Detachment.

The villagers gathered at the entrance to the Army camp and demanded that the Army produce the grease devils who had run into the camp. The Army refused. A short while later, the villagers saw the grease men being driven out of the camp in an army jeep. They had changed into military uniform[ii] and one man even brandished a knife at the villagers from inside the jeep. Agitated by the protection given by the military to the grease devils the villagers threw stones at the jeep. They head shots being fired by the Army and the crowd was dispersed by around 9.30 pm.

Army operation in Navanthurai

At around 1.15 am on 23rd August, the army entered Navanthurai and detained between 100 – 120 young men from the village[iii].  According to eye witnesses including two Catholic nuns, between 6-12 Army officers entered each house in the village and dragged out men who were sleeping with their families and children. The men were brutally and indiscriminately beaten with rifle butts and iron rods and dragged along the road towards the Army detachment located around 300 meters from the village. Women and children were also beaten in the attack.

When we visited the village that evening, we saw bullet holes in the walls of houses where shots had been fired. Doors and windows had been broken in several houses and villagers said that the army had destroyed furniture and goods inside each house.  Many said that valuables including jewelry, phones and money had been taken by the military during the operation[iv].

We saw the bloodied shirt and banyan of a boy who is said to have been beaten inside his home and taken away.  We saw blood stains on the road near houses where people were attacked. We also saw a jeep belonging to a villager, the jeep had at least three bullet holes and it appeared that shots had been fired from inside the vehicle.  The owner of the jeep who is disabled was also badly beaten.

One villager who is a local businessman said that the army came to his house four times that night and each time they severely beat the men who were inside the house. His 16 year old son was beaten and dragged on to the street by the Army. The men and young boys of school going age were beaten inside their houses and again on the street while being dragged up to the Army Camp. A group of people who had gathered in the village for a funeral vigil, were also beaten, detained or witnessed the attacks.

According to one woman, a man who was carrying a young child was pulled out of his house by the Army. The child he was carrying was flung to aside and the man beaten and dragged away.

The villagers were unable to tell the exact number of officers who entered the village but state that it was well over a 100 officers.  There are still conflicting estimates of the exact number of persons detained in the operation.  The men were believed to have been held near the Army Camp till around 4 am when they were taken away in buses and handed over to the Jaffna police.

Magistrates Court Jaffna on 23rd August

Around 100 men were produced by the police in the District Court Jaffna.  The men were brought to court in their injured state at around 10 am. They were not given access to their relatives until the District Judge intervened and ordered the police to allow one family member to visit the detainees. Several catholic priests, nuns and local civil society activists were also present at the Court. According to those present, the men had visible injuries and showed signs of being severely beaten. The District Judge ordered 18 of those seriously injured to be admitted to hospital and for the medical certificates to be produced in Court. The men were produced before the District Judge Premashankar in batches after lunch at around 1 pm. We were informed that the rest of the detainees were admitted to hospital only at around 7.30 pm based on the order of the District Judge.

Lawyers for the villagers submitted that the villagers had chased the grease men from their village who had entered the Army camp. The people grew agitated by the Army refusing to produce the men and this was the reason for the confrontation between the military and the villagers. In response, the military had entered the village early morning on 23rd August and mercilessly beaten the villagers[v].

The ASP Jaffna Police, in his submission to Court, accused the villagers of unlawful gathering, disturbing the peace, destruction of public property, attacking the police, injuring a policeman and damaging police vehicles

In the evening on 23rd August, the Jaffna District Court Judge ordered all 95 persons who were arrested by police in Navanthurai, to be remanded till August 26. The Judge also ordered all detainees to be admitted to hospital for treatment and for the medical certificates to be produced in Court. 24 lawyers will appear for the detainees on August 26.

Jaffna General Hospital

At around 5 pm, we visited the Jaffna hospital with two Catholic priests and a Buddhist monk from the inter-religious council in Jaffna.  In total 20 persons had been admitted to hospital by Court Order.

We met around 7 of the men injured in the attack and their families. Many were still being brought back to the ward from surgery. All the men we spoke to had suffered fractured bones in their arms and legs, some had head injuries and all showed signs of torture or severe beating.

Each person we spoke to had been sleeping inside their homes or in a vehicle when they were pulled out and beaten by the Army. We also met a young woman who was visiting relatives in Jaffna with her husband, who had also been injured in the attack.

We were told that several more were still held at the Jaffna court without treatment. At around 7 pm we received information that a further 35 persons had been admitted to hospital for treatment. The rest are believed to have been brought to hospital for treatment at around 7.30 pm.

Increased Military Presence in Navanthurai Village

According to Jaffna area commander, Major General Hathurusinghe, the military has ‘increased troops and were conducting foot and mobile patrols in the area to assist the police’. When we visited the village at around 5.30 pm, there was an increased military presence around the village.  We also saw several women and children with bags leaving their homes. We were told that almost all the men in the village had been taken away by the military or were in hiding and the women were worried about staying at home alone in the night with Army officers still patrolling the village.

The people expressed fear and insecurity due to the heavy military presence and specifically asked for police protection to be given to the village and for Tamil speaking policemen sent to the village. The Buddhist monk spoke to the ASP Jaffna and special police officers were stationed in the village on 23rd night to look after the security of the people.

Statements by Government officials, MPs, Military and the Police

Speaking to a gathering of Muslim Representatives from Ampara, Batticaloa and Puttalam on August 23rd, Defence Secretary, Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapakse said that, ‘the Government will not tolerate those who disturb the peace and law of the country… Severe action will be taken against those who try to take the law into their hands’. Mr. Rajapakse also said that ‘the Government is trying to build a weaponless society and any person who tries to disturb that will be severely dealt with’. ‘Severe action will be taken against people who have attacked the military and army camps and that the Government will not hesitate to treat those who enter the military camp as terrorists’ (translated from Tamil).[vi]

Mr. Rajapakse denied the existence of the grease man and said that these were all constructed in an attempt to discredit the Government.  Responding to allegations that the Government was instigating these incidents in order to extend Emergency Regulations he said that this was not their intention and the president has all power to extend or cancel emergency. Extending or withdrawing Emergency will not be influenced by external pressure from India, the US or the UK and not by the Grease man’.

Major General Hathurisinghe, Area Commander for Jaffna said that, this incident was an attempt by politicians and people to disturb the harmony between the military and the people. He said that the military could not tolerate or sit by while people took the law into their hands.  There is no such thing as a grease man and these are fabricated stories and no complaints have been made in the police stations. When the police tried to control the situation, people threw bottles and attacked the officers with chains, batons, tube lights and iron bars. People also damaged a police vehicle. As a result the police asked the military to help. Despite this the people attacked the military and we have arrested 100 persons. This is a well planned incident and the people came ready to attack the military and the police[vii].

Major General Hathurusinghe also said that the people will not succeed in removing the military through protests and attacks. This is a matter to be decided by the Defence Ministry and the people have no say in this.

Minister Douglas Devananda said that those caught disturbing the peace will be punished regardless of who they are. He went on to say that village level vigilance committees will be set up to maintain the peace.

TNA MP Mr. Sreedaran stated in parliament on 23rd August that the people had clear proof that the grease men were really the military officers who were attacking the villagers. He said that in Jaffna Navanthurai, Vadamarachchi, Polikanty, and Vathurai and in Killnochchi, Bharathipuram, in the night people have entered their houses and disturbed them. When the villagers  tried to catch them they have entered the military camps. In Killnochchi, Barathipuram, when two people entered the house, people tried to catch them but the military helped them to escape. In Jaffna, Navanthurai, the people tried to catch the man, while the military entered their houses and beaten people indiscriminately and arrested 118 people[viii].

 

Note: The report is based on interviews with 7 men and 1 woman receiving treatment at the Jaffna Hospital and their families; discussions with villagers at the Navanthurai village on 23rd August and Reports in the Uthayan, Thinakural and Valampari newspapers on 24th August.



[i] Thinakural Newspaper, 24th August p.1 – District Judge ordered 100 persons to be admitted to hospital and for medical certificates to be submitted to Court; Valampari Newspaper, 24th August p.1 – District Judge orders 100 people including 18 seriously injured to be admitted to hospital; Uthayan Newspaper, 24th August p.1 – judge ordered 100 persons to be admitted to hospital. 18 persons seriously injured admitted to hospital after 10 am (Translated from Tamil)

[ii] Thinakural, 24th August p.1, ‘Unannounced Curfew in Navanthurai: People in Fear’ – the villagers submitted to court that the grease men ran into the army camp. They asked the army to produce the grease men but the Army refused. While this was going on they saw that the man had changed his clothes into military uniform. During this time the army brought a lot of military reinforcement s and they heard the sound of shots being fired (translation from Tamil)

[iii] The villagers we spoke to on 23rd August believed that around 150 men may have been detained and that many are still not accounted for. Thinakural on 24th August quotes TNA MP Sreedharan that 118 persons were detained in the military operation; Daily Mirror online on 24th August states that 95 persons were produced in court; Thinakural and Valampuri state that the Jaffna District Court ordered 100 persons to be admitted to hospital on August 23rd.

[iv] This was also mentioned in Thinakural, 24th August, p.1 ‘Jewels stolen during the conflict in Navanthurai’.

[v] Thinakural, 24th August p.1, ‘Unannounced Curfew in Navanthurai: People in Fear’ – report on proceedings in court.

[vi] Thinakural, 24th August ‘Gotabhaya Rajapakse says ‘don’t play with the military and the police’’, p.1.

[vii] Valampari, 24th August, ‘Navanthurai Incident a fabrication’; Uthayan, 24th August, ‘People cant get rid of the military through protests’

[viii] Thinakural, 24th August, Sreedaran MP says that people have clear witnesses to prove that the military are the grease men

 

  • http://srilankalandoftheblind.blogspot.com/ PresiDunce Bean

    “Mr. Rajapakse also said that ‘the Government is trying to build a weaponless society and any person who tries to disturb that will be severely dealt with’.”….Oh my God this should be the understatement of the century…all that anyone with with two functioning eyes needs to do,is walk around Sri Lanka to observe this “weaponless society.”

    The funny part is there are people who actually believe what people like this say…

    • http://-- A concerned citizen

      The government has not yet learnt from the lessons of the past. The high handed actions of the military in different parts of the North and East would invariably lead to the formation of another terrorist movement in the country. God forbid. The reconciliation which the government has been speaking about so loudly is getting further and further away.

      The need of the hour is a leader for Sri Lanka who is genuinely interested in restoring the law and order with a sincere desire to bring about a reconciliation among the people. In the absence of such a leader the whole country is doomed.

  • justitia

    The President is “trying to build” a weaponless society………
    There are 50,000 army deserters many of whom left the army with weapons which have not been recovered.Some of these persons are in the underworld and commit crimes.
    It is reported that an armyman arrested inside a convent in jaffna with a rifle and ammunition,was trying to desert, according to the lawyer retained by the army.
    http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=34347
    Has State Terrorism replaced LTTE Terrorism?
    Will the armymen who brutally assaulted sleeping villagers, be ever charged in courts? So far, only the victims have been charged and remanded.

  • silva

    Bottomline – don’t let Tamils raise their heads.

  • Rita

    http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=34351

    SLA-assaulted Tamil civilian dies at Puththa’lam hospital
    [TamilNet, Friday, 26 August 2011, 15:07 GMT]
    A 33-year-old Tamil civilian, suffering from heart ailment died last Sunday at hospital after being assaulted by Sri Lanka Army soldiers in Narakkalli village in Puththa’lam, medical sources told TamilNet. The victim, Mr. P. Sivakumar, was the first one to alert the villagers of suspected ‘grease devils’ believed to be Sinhala soldiers.

    The villagers chased the ‘grease devils’ on Sunday but failed to capture them.

    On the next day, Mr. Sivakumar was severely beaten by a group of Sri Lanka Army soldiers the next day and was rushed to Puththa’lam hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

    Family members claim that he was assaulted for alarming the villagers.

  • Rita

    http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=34356

    SL military assault vigilant committee members in Batticaloa
    [TamilNet, Saturday, 27 August 2011, 03:56 GMT]
    Youths who provide security to their villages as members of vigilant committees against the movement of suspected ‘grease devils” are summoned to Sri Lanka Amy camps in Batticaloa district and severely assaulted by intelligence men of the Sri Lanka Police, according to affected youths. The fate of two such youths summoned to army camp at Mu’rakkoddaagn-cheanai in Batticaloa district two days ago is not known, according to village residents.

    Residents say it was the law enforcement authorities have advised them to form vigilant committees in every village are harassing its members at the request of paramilitary groups led by Karuna and Pillaiyan.

    The occupying SL Army and SL Police have been conducting search in every house during nights targeting young women under the guise of monitoring the movement of mysterious persons named as ‘grease devils.’

    Members of vigilant committees are patrolling their villages day and night with poles and iron rods against such harassment.

    Members of such vigilant committees are frequently summoned to local army camps and are severely assaulted by CID personnel. The SLA soldiers then release them with stern warning that they will be shot if they make the incidents public.

  • http://www.pattapalboru.blogspot.com Patta Pal

    I am merely basing my assessment on the article here being true. If that is so, this Government has nothing but contempt for the people they are obliged to protect, namely the citizens of this country from other citizens who happen to be causing mischief. The latter appears to be military people bent on causing civilian commotion to further their own ends.

    The uttering of the Military Chief entrusted with the security of the Northern areas beggars belief. I was under the impression he was the best of the bad bunch so if that is what he purports God help the people from the rest of those under his command.

    It is important that everyone in Sri Lanka feels safe from intimidation anywhere in the Country, and these kinds of mind games, or created incidents by the law enforcement authorities does not point to good relations, and needs to be thoroughly investigated and the trouble makers fired. That is the example of a leader in Control. It now seems that the leader is NOT in control and is trying to shift the blame of his incompetence into the innocent civilians. I do not think one can do it for too long.

  • Rita

    http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=34352
    HRCSL refuses to register complaints against ‘grease devil’ attacks
    [TamilNet, Friday, 26 August 2011, 15:19 GMT]
    The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) refuses to entertain complaints against the harassment by alleged Sri Lankan armed forces personnel posing as “greased devils” in Batticaloa district. Instead the HRCSL asks the complainants to lodge same with the emergency service unit of the Sri Lanka Police, according to affected persons in the district.

    The Batticaloa Regional Office of the HRCSL has sent back several persons affected by ‘grease devil’ episode without entertaining their complaints.

    Batticaloa Teaching Hospital authorities have been issuing medical reports for women who are alleged to have been attacked by suspected ‘grease devil” stating that they are suffering from depression, snake bite and family dispute.

    Persons affected by ‘grease devil ‘scare in villages Ka’luvangkea’ni, Oo’rani and Vaazhaichcheanai are issued with medical reports that they suffer from self-inflicted injuries. Hence the affected persons rush to make complaints to HRCS regional offices in the East.

    The Sri Lankan Police is said to have directed hospital authorities not to entertain complaints from women with the history of being attacked by ‘grease devil’. Now the HRCSL also come under the pressure of the SL law enforcement authority not to entertain such complaints, informed sources in the district told TamilNet Friday.

  • Rita

    http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=34356
    SL military assault vigilant committee members in Batticaloa
    [TamilNet, Saturday, 27 August 2011, 03:56 GMT]
    Youths who provide security to their villages as members of vigilant committees against the movement of suspected ‘grease devils” are summoned to Sri Lanka Amy camps in Batticaloa district and severely assaulted by intelligence men of the Sri Lanka Police, according to affected youths. The fate of two such youths summoned to army camp at Mu’rakkoddaagn-cheanai in Batticaloa district two days ago is not known, according to village residents.

    Residents say it was the law enforcement authorities have advised them to form vigilant committees in every village are harassing its members at the request of paramilitary groups led by Karuna and Pillaiyan.

    The occupying SL Army and SL Police have been conducting search in every house during nights targeting young women under the guise of monitoring the movement of mysterious persons named as ‘grease devils.’

    Members of vigilant committees are patrolling their villages day and night with poles and iron rods against such harassment.

    Members of such vigilant committees are frequently summoned to local army camps and are severely assaulted by CID personnel. The SLA soldiers then release them with stern warning that they will be shot if they make the incidents public.

  • luxmy

    http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=34352
    HRCSL refuses to register complaints against ‘grease devil’ attacks, 26 August 2011

    http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=34356
    SL military assault vigilant committee members in Batticaloa, 27 August 2011

  • http://srilankalandoftheblind.blogspot.com/ PresiDunce Bean

    More about Grease Devils as reported by the BBC.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-14673586

  • justitia

    It was reported that the jaffna district judge who had remanded the victims of assault at Navanturai, but also ordered admission of the injured to hoepital – more than 100 had been hospitalised – had also instructed that ‘medical certificates’ on those admitted to hospital be forwarded to him.
    By now (1st September) the JMO whose duty is to record the history as given by victims and his assessment of injuries on each,including the probable cause(s) of same,should have done so.
    I await the judge’s inquiry into the causation of the injuries on those hospitalised.
    The judge had not inquired from the police who had brought the injured in batches to court,about the probable causes of injuries on them.
    Hence the victims are now in remand jail (after discharge from hospital) but the perpetraters of these injuries are ‘at large’.

  • http://-- A concerned citizen

    Has the Government replaced terrorism by the LTTE with State terrorism ? Isn’t that what appears to be the situation in the country ? The President is silent about the incidents that are happening these days. This clearly indicates that the incidents concerned are happening with the blessings of the State. I repeat there is State terrorism prevailing in the country today. Will it or will it not eventually lead to counter terrorism in the country ?

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