Post-war, is the Sri Lankan Army going on a rampage in the North?


The Sri Lankan Army: Humane or heinous? Photo from Now Public

[Editors note: Also read JAFFNA: BRUTAL ASSAULT OF CIVILIANS IN NAVANTHURAI and The attack on TNA Parliamentarians in Jaffna: A timeline of outrageous denials (Updated)]

These days, the Sri Lankan Army appears to be somewhat bored. Despite increasing post-war forays into urban development, vegetable transportation and tourism – wonderfully captured in this cartoon – the Army appears to, unsurprisingly, seek more exciting peacetime pursuits. Fortunately, this appears to be quite easy in post-war Sri Lanka, where there are plenty of Tamils to expend excess testosterone on, who as an added bonus, are eternally grateful to the Army for eradicating terrorism and very unlikely to raise too much of a ruckus.

A detailed report of the violence in Navanthurai was posted on this site a few days ago. Tamil media now report even more heinous violence from the North, framed by growing fear on the ground over the ‘grease devil’ phenomenon. As T. Aruna notes in You Can’t Catch A Bogeyman,

“The reactions to the ‘Grease Yaka/Mystery Man’ by communities and the State have largely led to increased violence and tension. Vigilance groups have assaulted suspects, damaged property and taken lives. The armed forces have responded with lethal force against protesting mobs, but also have beaten scared villagers and threatened community leaders in their attempts to quell fears – with quite the opposite effect.”

The report that follows is translated from a front page lead story that ran in the Virakesari on 2 September 2011. It is difficult to grasp the level of violence with impunity noted here, which lays waste to pronouncements of glib government officials who suggest Sri Lanka is well on its way towards reconciliation.

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The Grease Devil comes to Kokuvil: Damage to a bus, Army attacks the public, two grievously hurt

Virakesari, 2 September, Front page lead story

A bus going to Jaffna from the South was attacked by the public after two persons, suspected to be ‘grease devils’, got on to it. Army personnel who arrived on the scene rounded up the men from surrounding houses and severely beat them up suggest reports coming from Kokuvil. This incident occurred around 7.30pm on 31st August. Two of the most seriously injured were left behind and 26 were arrested and handed over to the Police.

Further details are as follows.

The area around the Kalvari Kovil, adjacent to the Kokuvil main road that extends to the Kokuvil Train Station, was in turmoil after women had raised concern over two individuals (‘grease devils’) after whom the residents of the area had given chase. The two suspect ‘grease devils’ had got on to a stationary bus parked on the Kokuvil Road. Seeing them get in, the crowd giving chase had attacked the driver asking him to take the bus away from the location. The bus summarily left towards Jaffna and the residents went back to their homes.

Around three hours after this incident, the Army who arrived with the Police broke down the doors of houses and dragged out the men. They had then taken the men to the Kalvari Kovil main road and beaten them up severely with wooden poles, questioning them at the same time on who damaged the windows of the bus.

Two men, selected from the group who were beaten up, were taken away, their t-shirts removed and Army helmets put on them. They were then laid on the road. Four army personnel per man held them down. Their faces were then kicked. Their knees and their legs were attacked by baton poles. Worried that they had killed the two men, the Army abandoned them near a thicket close by and left.

The 26 taken to the Police had been beaten up again without clothes. Only afterwards had statements been taken from them. They had been beaten up from around 11pm, the time they were taken, to around 3am the day after. After keeping two behind to ostensibly produce in front of the Courts, the rest were released around 8am. Ganapathi Pillay Subashkaran (24) one of whom were beaten up by the Police can no longer walk on account of the trauma suffered at the hands of the Police. He had only recently returned to Sri Lanka. Subashkaran had been taken to the Jaffna hospital for further treatment in chains and with Police guard. The Police had pressed him to say that his injuries had been sustained on account of a fight with a ‘grease devil’.

The two individuals who had been abandoned by the Army in the thicket near the Kalvari Kovil were admitted to the Jaffna hospital around 2am. The bones of one person’s leg were broken. Both suffer grave chest and hand injuries, hospital sources say.
As this group was being attacked, a Policeman had noted that this was done on orders given to take revenge on the incident that occurred a few days ago in Navanthurai.

In addition to this, the Thinnakkural newspaper on the 2nd noted that the Army had threatened Tamil people that if Sinhalese from the South were attacked, they would retaliate by attacking the Tamils in Colombo.

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Scan of the Thinakkural newspaper story

Download larger version here.

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Original story in Virakesari

  • dinu

    Yes, indeed the army is bored and so is the police! As in Jaffna, in Colombo 7 I find that women drivers are constantly stopped and ogled at check points by policemen and military – young males looking for a diversion. What to do with such a large armed force and police force of young men frustrated and bored watching people all day – is a big problem for us civilians – particularly for women. The armed forces which should have been downsized and prevented from becoming a public neusance in the post-war context given that there are no more terrorist, are actually maintained by the Rajapakse regime aka grease yakkas to provide it protection against a future war crimes trial and the fate that befell Gaddafi – one of Rajhapakse’s good friends!
    By the way why have the women’s NGO’s been so silent about the Grease Yakka phenomenon? Women and Media Collective are you folks asleep.

    • Groundviews

      Dinu, you obviously failed to notice our coverage of WMC’s press conference on the matter. Consider this your wake-up call.

    • Sadun

      Dear Dinu,

      “in Colombo 7 I find that women drivers are constantly stopped and ogled at check points by policemen and military – young males looking for a diversion. ”

      1. did the policemen and military had allowed you observation status near the checkpoints for you to determine this tendancy of them?

      2. do you have freckles?

      regards

  • Hikz

    People killed by “grease devils”: 0
    People killed by “victims” of “grease devils”: not sure, what’s the latest body count again?

    • ananda mayadunne

      I rather like Hikz’ comment which resorts to the logic of comparative numbers. While social violence is certainly far more than the mere ensuing casualties. But just a consideration of the scale of the casualties can be helpful – as Hikz argues. Hikz’ reduction of the ‘Grease Yakka’ social violence syndrome to just the numbers of people actually killed on either side is, in my view, a useful comparative exercise long overdue for our country. After all, we have lived through three major insurgencies beginning with the 1971 JVP Uprising – followed by the Second JVP Uprising of 1987-91 and the Tamil uprising 1975-2009. So let us extend Hikz’ numbers logic to these major epeisodes of social violence:-

      No. Killed or suspected killed or disappeared:-

      BY INITIATING FORCES BY COUNTERING FORCES

      Grease Yakkas = 0 Civilian protesters= 03 ?
      JVP 1971 = less than 300 State forces= 1,800+
      JVP 1987-91= 8,000 ? State forces/death squads= 80,000 ?
      Tamil Insurgency 1975- State forces/para-militaries= 100,000?
      2009 = 20,000 ?

      These figures are admittedly, vague, but the sheer contrast in the perpetration of killing must be acknowledged. Even in the time of Second JVP insurgency, the sheer scale of killings by suspected State forces and pro-State death squads was so great that none other than Opposition Parliamentarian Mahinda Rajapakse thought fit to make use of INGO and NGO funding and go before the UN Human Rights body in Geneva to accuse the Govt of SL. What the accumulated numbers indicate are that the Sri Lankan State is the biggest killer by far on this ‘Paradise Isle’ of ours. The real ‘terrorist’ in my view is the Sri Lankan State – the official maintainer of Sri Lanka civilisation and sovereignty.

      • ananda mayadunne

        my comment on Hikz has come out somewhat garbled in the upload.
        Let me try a different presentation of the data:-

        No. Killed or suspected killed or disappeared:-
        BY INITIATING FORCES
        2011 Grease episode: by Grease Yakkas = 0
        1971 insurgency: by JVP = less than 300
        1987-91 insurgency: by JVP = 8,000 ?
        Tamil Insurgency 1975-2009: by Tamil groups = 25,000 ?

        No. Killed or suspected killed or disappeared:-
        BY COUNTERING FORCES
        2011 Grease Yakka episode: by Civilian protesters = 03 ?
        1971 insurgency: by State forces = 1,800+
        1987-1991 insurgency: by State forces/death squads = 80,000 ?
        1975-2009 Tamil insurgency: by State forces/para-militaries = 100,000 ?

        These figures are admittedly, vague, but the sheer contrast in the perpetration of killing must be acknowledged. Even in the time of Second JVP insurgency, the sheer scale of killings by suspected State forces and pro-State death squads was so great that none other than Opposition Parliamentarian Mahinda Rajapakse thought fit to make use of INGO and NGO funding and go before the UN Human Rights body in Geneva to accuse the Govt of SL. What the accumulated numbers indicate are that the Sri Lankan State is the biggest killer by far on this ‘Paradise Isle’ of ours. The real ‘terrorist’ in my view is the Sri Lankan State – the official maintainer of Sri Lanka civilisation and sovereignty.

      • Sadun

        Dear Ground View,

        “the Army appears to, unsurprisingly, seek more exciting peacetime pursuits. Fortunately, this appears to be quite easy in post-war Sri Lanka, where there are plenty of Tamils to expend excess testosterone on, who as an added bonus, are eternally grateful to the Army for eradicating terrorism and very unlikely to raise too much of a ruckus.

        Now going by the same theory of Mr. Mayadunne’s numbers

        appearance of Grease Yakkas = assume 30
        number of army personnel = may be over 200,000

        So Ground view for you to implicate the whole army, for arguments sake assuming this whole gang of grease yakkas etc are from the army (0.015%), is it correct or r u in a different agenda?

        regards

      • Hikz

        So in this comparison of yours, the “grease yaka victims” are occupying the same position as the Sri Lankan state; being “the biggest killer”, “the real terrorist”. Okey doke, glad we’ve cleared that one up I guess.

  • Myil Selvan

    “In addition to this, the Thinnakkural newspaper on the 2nd noted that the Army had threatened Tamil people that if Sinhalese from the South were attacked, they would retaliate by attacking the Tamils in Colombo.”

    this quote from the army shows the sad reality of racism and state (sinhala)terrorism in Sri Lanka, which some like to hide with LTTE terrorism.

    Ask what is terrorism? Then try to eradicate it.

  • Johnny Be Good

    We have to scrutinize the visiting Tamil diaspora.
    They are the people putting the make ups and get ups for creating troubles for us sri lankans as Grease devils. The west is behind this conspiracy. It funds the Tamil diaspora, coaching with actors’ coaches give them Hollywood state of art special effects and make up sets.

    • Ravana

      JBG,
      “We have to scrutinize the visiting Tamil diaspora.
      They are the people putting the make ups and get ups for creating troubles for us sri lankans as Grease devils. The west is behind this conspiracy. It funds the Tamil diaspora, coaching with actors’ coaches give them Hollywood state of art special effects and make up sets.”

      Hee Hee Hee,Hooo Hooo Hooo, Haaa Haaa Haaa
      Please, you’re killing me!

  • Ravana

    ‘Army appears to, unsurprisingly, seek more exciting peacetime pursuits. Fortunately, this appears to be quite easy in post-war Sri Lanka, where there are plenty of Tamils to expend excess testosterone on, who as an added bonus, are eternally grateful to the Army for eradicating terrorism and very unlikely to raise too much of a ruckus.”

    Hik Hik Hik. I know this is not that funny to my Tamil friends. But humour sometimes gets you through. Ask the American Slaves. Is there are tamil version of “Yaas Baas”? Be patient my friends.