For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
PRESS RELEASE | 04 January 2011
Sri Lanka: 2011 dawns with killings and abductions
As the killers of five Tamil students in Trincomalee go unpunished for the fifth year, the number of killings and abductions in the government controlled north of Sri Lanka is alarmingly on the rise.
Manoharan Ragihar, Yogarajah Hemachchandra, Logitharajah Rohan, Thangathurai Sivanantha and Shanmugarajah Gajendran were all shot dead on the second of January 2006 in a High Security Zone in Sri Lanka’s eastern town of Trincomalee. The families, local journalists and international organisations had evidence that the crime was committed by the state armed forces. The government failing to find the perpetrators and punish them is clear proof to that evidence.
Three weeks later, Sudaroli Journalist Subramaniyam Sugirdharajan whose photographs exposed that the students were killed at point-blank range was shot dead near the Governor’s Secretariat.
The new year dawned in Jaffna with Sobinathan Gopinath, a 27-year-old driver of a three wheeler taxi, disappearing from Urumpirai, where, within the duration of three days, a teacher was abducted and an education officer shot dead.
The latest of abductions were reported from Kilinochchi on the 3rd of January. 28 out of 30 boys who were abducted by an armed group were later dropped at the Omanthai military checkpoint. The fate of the other two is not known.
Tamils in Jaffna and Kilinochchi are terrified by this latest wave of forced disappearances and killings. Within the last two weeks of 2010 the following violence against northern Tamils were reported from a region with a disproportionate military presence where independent media and voluntary organisations are barred.
· The chief priest of Changkaanai Murukamoorthy temple, 56 year old Nithiyananda Sharma, died from gunshot wounds received at the temple early December.
· The decapitated body of Mahendran Thiruvarudchelvam, who had been displaced from the Vanni was found in Jaffna on the 20th of December, nine days after his disappearance.
· On the 27th of December Armed men who arrived on a motorbike, shot and killed the Deputy Director of Education for the Valikaamam Zone, Markandu Sivalingam.
· Gunmen killed environmentalist Ketheeswaran Thevarajah, in Jaffna on the 31st of December.
· 30-year-old teacher, Shanmuganathan Vignesvaran of Urumpiraay West had been abducted on 30th December at Urumpiraay, Jaffna.
Government ministers from the Tamil region, Vinayagamurthi Muralitharan and Douglas Devananda have already accepted in public that the abductions and killings have not been investigated to a conclusion. The commander for the Sri Lankan military in Jaffna, Major General Mahinda Hathurusinghe speaking to journalists has ruled out the involvement of the Tamil Tigers. However, he has told the BBC that the killing of the priest earlier in December was the work of two former Tamil Tiger fighters working in cooperation with a government army corporal and that all these individuals had been arrested.
The government of Sri Lanka denied the allegations made against it and claimed that there was a political motive to discredit the government by associating it with some of the killings. It explicitly denied that the education official had been killed for condemning the singing of the national anthem in Sinhala, rather than Tamil, at a state function. However, it has failed to find the culprits or establish a motive.
The climate of terror in Jaffna in particular and in the north in general continues even twenty months after the Sri Lankan government proclaimed its military victory over Tamil Tigers. However, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has declared that the state led by him will not stop operations. Addressing novice cadet officers of the Diyatalawa Sri Lanka Military Academy on the 21st of December, President Rajapaksa said that the operation ‘will not cease until all bitter past memories of terrorism and secessionist intentions are completely wiped out’.
Journalist for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS) strongly believes that the escalation of violence against Tamils following the president’s declaration is of serious concern in a land where Tamils are faced with loss of life, land, cultural identity and freedom.
While vehemently condemning these atrocities against the Tamil people, JDS warns that Sri Lanka will end up being at the mercy of an autocratic, fundamentalist state unless the freedom loving people within and without the country act immediately to stop this recurring violence.
Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka
04 January 2011