WE REMEMBER after 21 years…

No. 1, Jesuit Street,
Batticaloa,
September 24, 2011.

The Editor,
Groundviews.

21st Year Commemoration

Dear Sir,

At the last general meeting of the Batticaloa Peace Committee our talks led us to the conviction that we should speak out. We commemorated then the grouping of tragic events in our vicinity 21 years ago that proclaimed the vast gap between the aspirations of the Tamil people and the blindness of national leaders. With this short list of violent events, the die was cast, setting the nation on a continuous confrontation that ended only with the annihilation of any hope of equality of status for Sinhalese and Tamil people of the country.

Our civil war has now been fought, and both sides, in fact, all sides have lost lives uncountable and decades of years. There have been no winners. All have been losers. Far more lives were lost than we can enumerate. The tragic cases we choose now to highlight were the trend setters. More ceasefires would be proclaimed in search of an end process. And yet hostilities would be resumed. Those hundreds we here commemorate would rise to multi-thousands.

While “ceasefires” reign, violence still rules around us. Peace is elusive. We have nothing to offer beyond our message. Voices like ours will not be heard.

Signed:
B. H. Miller, S.J
President
The Batticaloa Peace Committee

###

We remember again now in 2011 the story of June 11, 1990, the massacre of some 600 police officers at stations south of Batticaloa. This was a violent attack by the LTTE in a fight to take control of east Sri Lanka, as well as the North, in independence for Sri Lankan Tamils.

On 3rd August 2011, Muslims of Kattankudy have commemorated the tragedy that befell their community on 3rd August, 1990, 21 years ago. Some 30 heavily armed Tigers crossed the lagoon and entered the town of Kattankudy, a predominantly Muslim town. Kattankudy recalled: “As worshippers knelt in prayer in several mosques, the Tigers attacked them, spraying automatic fire and hurling hand grenades at them. Most of the victims were shot in the back or side. The Tigers fled to their boats in the lagoon as Sri Lankan soldiers, hearing of the ongoing massacre, arrived on the scene. The final death toll was 147 men and young boys.” We remember all this with them this year.

This was followed days later by a daylight LTTE attack on the streets of the Muslim town of Eravur, where up to 200 were shot dead before the LTTE again took to their boats across the lagoon. With this, the co-existent Tamil town of Chenkalady was abandoned as its residents fled, as they feared retaliation, to a refugee camp in the grounds of the Eastern University. We went there, still in 1990. We too remember.

Then on 5th September, 1990, the head of the Sri Lanka army camp at Saththurukondan took away 156 young Tamil men from that Refugee Camp of the Eastern University Campus “for questioning”. Their names were listed by refugee camp officials. They never returned from that questioning. We went there. We asked, but got no answers. Even protest in parliament did not secure their return or an explanation.

Further, on 9th September, 1990, the army arrested all the members they could find of the four villages in the area of the same army camp, Saththurukondan, Pulliaradi, Kokkuvil and Pannichaiadi, ranging in age from 70 years to 2 months, a total of 184 persons. None of these persons have been seen by anyone after that day. A young escapee, the only one, gave us his account of that night. We of the Batticaloa Peace Committee adopt his account as our own. It was 21 years ago.

All these events we recalled in September 2011, after 21 years. All perpetrators went unpunished. There was no resolution arrived at for any of them.

But WE REMEMBER. They must not be forgotten.

  • http://---- A Concerned Citizen

    Let us also remember the nearly 60,000 youth from the South who went missing following the operations of the police and the security forces to get rid of the Sinhala youth who took up arms in protest against unemployment and economic deprivation of that time.

    In addition to what Rev. Fr. B.H. Miller has stated in this article should be added the list of 7000 persons who went missing from the East during the military operations against the LTTE in the East, which the Citizen’s Committee of Batticaloa led by him had diligently documented. Let us also remember the 600 youth who went missing from the Jaffna district following the Reviresa Operations which restored Jaffna from the LTTE in 1996. Such incidents continued unabated under one pretext or the other till the allegations of 40,000 being killed during the war in 2009 ended the war against the so-called terrorists. Yet disappearances of persons and extra-judicial killings continue and perpetrators often called unknown persons or otherwise carry on regardless with impunity. Now gang warfare has come into vogue.

    In other words, the people of Sri Lanka need to remember that our beloved country which has the blessings of the triple gems which has a majority leading a Buddhist way of life, is tarnished with the blood of all these people who had either disappeared or were killed then and now. Sadly the perpetrators have gone unpunished and there appears to be no end to such incidents.

    • justitia

      There are less well known massacres which were documented by Rev Fr. X.Karunairatnam, head of the North East Secretarial for Human Rights.
      He too was killed.
      http://nesohr.org/files/Lest_We_Forget.pdf
      http://nesohr.org/hrr/?show=all
      These killings commenced just a few years after independence.
      It was these killings culminating in the 1983 pogrom, more than anything else,gave birth to tamil militancy culminting in the birth of the LTTE.
      Rest is history.
      But, the killings (and daily harassments – new features making tamils’ life hell)are not over.
      Sumanthiran MP, detailed them in parliament.
      http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/2759
      http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=34045

    • http://yahoo Sandy

      Concerned Citizen is correct when stating that “our beautiful land is tarnished with the blood of these people”.
      When Cain, the first murderer in history, killed his own brother, Almighty God asked him- “Where is Abel your brother?”
      His arrogant reply was ” Am I my brother’s keeper?”
      Then the Creator said, “Your brother’s blood cries to me from the ground..”
      Are the Sinhalese in a stupor about what’s been happening/is happening
      to our Tamil brothers and sisters? should we not be ashamed of ourselves for be silent? would we want to be treated in the shabby fashion they are being treated?
      This land should be ‘beautified’ for everyone- not just a privileged few.

  • samuthra

    This is accountability. If we as a nation can’t account and bring justice to all those suffered, we will never have peace and reconciliation. This is not about retribution, but all the people who have suffered over the years, need answers to what happened to their loved ones. That is the 1st step in preventing these happening again. Accountability is not about conspiracy against the state or any section, it is necessity if we want to put our past behind us and look for the future. Without this there is no future and we should not forget these and many others, just because it is uncomfortable for few in power and their cronies

    • MV

      What is this accountability thing you are talking? Now everybody only looking up to developing this country and nothing else and are thankful for eradicating terrorism off the soil. Now what problems are the Tamils and Muslims having that Sinhalese have not? We are a sovereign nation and no body should meddle with our internal affairs.

  • Lanka Muslim, UK

    Let us also not forget the hundreds of innocent youths in the South killed during the Premadasa regime under the guise of eradicating the JVP. The culture of Sri Lanka’s politics and the the hands of its leaders are blood-stained beginning with the killing of the Govt. Factory worker, Kandasamy, on 15th June 1947 and killing continued and continue unabated. There is no accountability for these killings. Who can put an end to this. It is the people who can do it. People should think as human beings.

  • rohanroamer

    thank you for reminding us dear Rev Fr. for we must not forget and ensure that justice must prevail some day for victims as otherwise, the wounds will never heal and will be passed on through generations.
    Political will and affirmative action is needed to ensure justice and to avoid a repetition of the past for it is in our self interest to do so.Sadly, the victims are voiceless at present except for a few like you with courage and good will to express your concerns.