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.


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.


Scan of the Thinakkural newspaper story

Download larger version here.


Original story in Virakesari