Prologue - concerted attacks on Tamils in Trincomalee commencing 3 June 1983

On 10 April 1983, a young Tamil from Trincomalee died in police custody after having been held without charge for two weeks. At the post mortem 25 external injuries and 10 internal injuries were found. At the judicial inquest into his death on 31 May, the Jaffna Magistrate returned a verdict of homicide. Three days later, on 3 June 1983, a new Emergency Regulation was brought into effect permitting the police to bury or cremate bodies without a post mortem or an inquest.

On 9 June 1983, Amnesty International cabled President Jayawardene expressing concern that such a Regulation could give rise to the gravest violations of human rights and appealed to him to rescind it. But the Regulation was not rescinded.

On the contrary, on 3 June 1983, the day that the new Emergency Regulation was brought into effect, the attacks on the Tamils in Trincomalee commenced in earnest.

R.Sampanthan, M.P. for Trincomalee wrote on the Ethnic Violence in Trincomalee in June/July 1983 in a Tamil United Liberation Front publication in 1984 titled 'Genocide in Sri Lanka -

"Attack on properties of Tamil people commenced on 3rd June and continued till the end of July.

Mobs of Sinhala people went from village to village to various parts of the town, and the suburbs, and set fire to Tamil houses and shops. A particular modus operandi was observed in most of these attacks. A part of heavily armed service personnel would enter a Tamil area and carry out a search alleging that according to information received explosions and dangerous weapons were hidden in that area. Invariably nothing would be recovered, sometimes the service personnel would remove axes, knives and such implements that would normally be available in any house. Sometimes Tamil youths would be arrested on "suspicion" and taken for questioning.

The manner of the search, the demeanour of the service personnel and the threats and intimidatory language uttered was such that the entire locality would be terrified into utter submission. No sooner the search was completed a band of Sinhala thugs enter the locality and set fire to the Houses of Tamil People; if the house contained valuables it would first be looted. This has happened in broad day light and by night even during curfew hours. Frequently the houses of Tamils were burnt by Sinhala mobs in the immediate presence of the security forces who conducted the search, making it obvious that the purpose of the search was to remove any weapons with which the Tamils may be able to defend, themselves and to terrify the Tamil people particularly the Tamil youth, so that the Sinhala mobs would be assured that no harm would befall them. Frequently Service Personnel encouraged, incited and aided Sinhala mobs to set fire to Tamil Houses.

The first attack in Trincomalee was on this pattern.

On the night of 3rd June, an army vehicle pulled up in front of Mansion Hotel along Main Street, Trincomalee, a property owned by the previous Member of Parliament the late Mr.B. Neminathan and wanted to do a search of the premises. No sooner the army completed the search discovering nothing, the army left the place to another premises very close by, also removing the Police who were on duty in front of the Hotel. No sooner the search was completed an unruly Sinhala mob from the Market Square invaded the Mansion Hotel and attacked it. It was partly damaged. The Naval Personnel during the course of their attack of the town on 26th July completely gutted the place.

In certain areas it was well known that Sinhala service personnel had themselves set fire to Tamil houses and business establishments. Every single Tamil shop in the Anuradhapura Junction, a developing area was gutted by fire. Sinhala mobs were aided by Air Force Personnel who themselves actively participated. Over twenty five shops of Tamil people were completely burnt in this area.

The officers attached to the Uppuveli police Station are reported to have actively participated in several acts of arson. The conduct of the Officer-In-Charge of the Uppuveli Police Station has been seriously called in question. He is alleged to have even participated in attacks on Tamil people outside his area of authority.

Every single Tamil Village within the area of authority of this police station along the Trincomalee-Anuradhapura Road was attacked for a distance of almost 25 miles and several hundreds of houses burnt. There were several murders in this area, double murders, triple murders, not merely were the houses burnt even the people who lived in the house were murdered. Many police officers attached to various stations were found seriously wanting.

There has been a pattern in these attacks. The attacks have been motivated by a desire to dislodge Tamil people and drive them out of these villages.

The victims were Tamils who were citizens by descent, Tamils of Indian Origin who were registered citizens, and Tamils of Indian Origin who though not granted citizenship had applied for citizenship and whose applications were yet pending. There were also some Tamils of Indian Origin who fell into the stateless category, in respect of whose status and future a decision is yet to be made.

More than 50% of the persons attacked were in occupation of state land which had been alienated to them on state permits or on private land. They had developed these lands. Of the balance 50% atleast 25% had been in occupation of the said lands for long periods of time, for as long as seven, ten to fifteen years and who had developed these lands. They would normally be entitled to have their occupation of these lands regularised. In terms of the Government's policy in respect of encroachments all citizens who were in occupation of State land as encroachers prior to 1979 are entitled to have such encroachments considered for regularisation. The aforesaid persons largely fell into this category. The balance were stateless people of Indian origin who had encroached on State lands for want of other land.

In respect of all persons of Indian Origin, into whatever group they may be categorised, it must be pointed out that these persons came to the Trincomalee district, as indeed large numbers have gone to many other Tamil districts, on account of the violence unleashed on them in other parts of the country where they had been earlier employed largely in the Plantations. Consequent to the several racial riots that have been taken place over the past several years, in the course of which they were physically attacked, their houses and belongings completely burnt, these persons had migrated into areas which they considered safe or at least safer. Persons who so migrated were later joined by their relatives, a situation quite understandable in the context of the insecurity in which they resided, and the hope of more security in a new place, particularly a Tamil district.There has been a concerted plan to drive these persons out of these villages.

After the houses of these persons were burnt, these families were accommodated in several refugee camps. Government provided basic assistance, which by itself was totally inadequate for their survival; in some areas particularly within the Muthalikulam (Morawewa) A.G.A's division even such basic assistance was not fully provided. One could discern a reluctance and unwillingness on the part of certain Sinhala Government Officials to even provide this totally inadequate basic assistance to persons in such dire distress.

Tamil people in the areas in which the refugees camps were set up most willingly and readily responded with food, clothing and other necessities and the refugees were very well looked after.

What happened to them on the night of the 24th July will be dealt with later on. A massive attack by a section of the security services on the Trincomalee town, and its immediate outskirts occurred on the night of 26th July and will be dealt with later on.

Houses in various parts of Trincomalee town and its suburbs were attacked and burnt. Areas in which Tamils were distinctly in a majority were attacked. Such attacks could never have taken place without the active support of the security forces and without the fullest consciousness on the part of the Sinhala people, that the security forces would protect them against any retaliation or resistance by the Tamil people.

The Tamil people were not given any protection whatsoever by the security forces, the Sinhala offenders and attackers were in no way prevented from attacking the Tamil people by the security forces, and the Tamil people's right to defend themselves, in the exercise of their right of private defence of person and property was taken away by the direct intervention of the security forces. The Tamil people were intimidated into the belief by the State's Security Forces who are largely Sinhala that if any harm befell a Sinhala man even in the exercise of the right of private defence by a Tamil, the retaliation by the security forces would be harsh and severe.

One further significant feature-in respect of the acts of arson was that when a Tamil house or shop had been set on fire, and if other Tamils in the neighbourhood tried to rush and attempt to extinguish the fire, Service personnel on duty would point their guns at such Tamil people and drive them back. The Arsonists had freedom of movement, the security forces would grant them that freedom, but innocent Tamils who wanted to extinguish the fire of neighbour's property would have no such freedom . Can anything else be more dastardly, and demonstrate fully the hostility of Service personnel to Tamil people.

Several vehicles were destroyed by arson. About 10 to 15 Sinhala houses Temporary buildings were damaged by fire during the commencement of the disturbances."

The Tamil Times reported in August 1983 -

The Sri Lankan Government's propaganda machinery would like the world to believe that the atrocities recently committed against the Tamil speaking people is the result of the killing of 13 army personnel allegedly by unidentified Tamil youths on 22nd July, 1983.

The following diary (extracted from an affidavit sworn by a person presently in detention under the Prevention of Terrorism Act) of atrocities committed in and around Trincomalee in the month of June, long before the killing of 13 army men, demonstrates clearly a sustained and continuous campaign of harassment, torture, arson and murder.

3rd June - Trincomalee Town

Attempt to throw petrol bomb at Yal Cafe.4th June - Trincomalee Town

a) Mansion Hotel attacked and set alight.

b) Van belonging to Mansion Hotel set on fire.

c) All the furniture in the hotel damaged. The local police failed and neglected to genuinely investigate these offences. A special team of officers from Colombo then, came and recorded statements and a B Report was submitted to the Magistrate who issued warrants for the arrests of the suspects. The local police have up-to-date deliberately failed and neglected to apprehend three of the suspects who are freely moving around in the town.

5th June - Villangkulam

8 houses belonging to Tamils burnt.

5th June - Pankulam

Murder of N.Sriskandarasa

5th June - China Bay

Pillaiyar Temple set on fire.

7th June - Mullippaththanai

Murder of S.Rajathurai.

8th June - Trincomalee Town

Chariot belonging to Sivan Temple burnt 9th June - Uppuveli
Sub-Postmaster shot at - escaped. 9th June - Huskisson Road
Samson's house bombed.

10th June - Trincomalee Town

Two bombs thrown at Mr. R. Sampanthan, M.P.'s house.

11th June - Dockyard

Bomb thrown at Gandhi Hotel.

13th June - Central Road

Bombs thrown at four shops belonging to Tamils and four injured, and shops damaged.

13th June - Main Street

Bomb thrown at furniture shop.

13th June - China Bay

Prima Factory employees attacked, five injured.

13th June - Pankulam

Gunapala's house set on fire.

14th June - Panmathavachchi


4 Wayside Hindu shrines damaged.

15th June - Trincomalee Town

A house belonging to a Tamil clerk attached to Railway Department situated opposite the Trincomalee Railway Station burnt.

15th June - Uppuveli

A Tamil C.T.B. employee's house, in front of Uppuveli Police Quarters, burnt.

17th June - Kinniya

Two murders: 1) Saunthararasa 2) (Name not Known).

18th June - Anpuvalipuram

Three houses belonging to Tamils burnt.

20th June - Sivayoqapuram

Three houses belonging to Tamils Burnt

21st June - Thoduvapillaiyar

Six houses belonging to Tamils burnt.

21st June - Koviladdy

Six houses belonging to Tamils burnt.

22nd June - Singanagar

Three houses belonging to Tamils burnt.

24th June - Trincomalee Town

Bomb thrown into the houses of Mendis and Wilson.

24th June - Sivayogapuram

Two houses belonging to Tamils burnt.

25th June - Sivayogapuram

30 houses belonging to Tamils burnt.

26th June - Tricomalee Town

Bomb thrown at Nescafe Hotel.

27th June - Kithul Ootrue

a) Minibus called "Island- and belonging to a Tamil attacked; several sustained gun shot injuries; bus burnt, 17 passengers (all Tamils) admitted to hospital.

27th June - Uppuveli

b) Alvarpillai and Ramanan cut to death. Alvarpillai's wife and three other children admitted to hospital with cut injuries. 27th June - Anuradhapura Junction

c) 10 shops belonging to Tamils and two belonging to Sinhalese burnt.

27th June - Kithul Ootrue

Thirunavukarasu, Seetha and Usha cut and burnt to death.

Two Hindu Temples set on fire.

27th June - Central Road

Bomb thrown at Rajamani Stores.

28th June - Thirukkadaloor

Navy took into custody Sabaratnam, Kalirasa and Amirthalingam (Indian tourists) at the temple and handed them over to a group of armed criminals who brutally chopped the three of them and left them bleeding on the road. Sabaratnam died on the spot and the other two were removed to hospital some time later.

28th June - Uppuveli

Golden Sands Beach Hotel and Restaurant set on fire.

28th June - Panmathavachchi

Hindu Temple set on fire.

29th June- Pankulam

7th Channel Three murders- Rajagopal, Thavamani and one other.

29th June - Palaioottru

30 houses belonging to Tamils burnt. 29th June - Pankulam Track No.4 Nine houses belonging to Tamils burnt. 30th June -(Not known)

Santhirarasa and Selvarasa cut to death.

30th June - Nachchikulam

30 houses belonging to Tamils burnt. 30th June - Navattikuda at China Bay close to Air Force Quarters.

32 houses belonging to Tamils burnt.

Catholic Ashram set on fire.

30th June - Vilveri

30 houses belonging to Tamils burnt. 30th June - Paraiyankulam

Four murders: Vadivel, Chinniah, Poopayee and Valliammah.

Four sustained injuries, admitted to hospital: Ratnarasa 80 years, Muthuluxmy 30 years, Selvasamy 20 years, Muthukumaru 7 years. h) 27 houses destroyed.

30th June - Central Road

Kalai Magal shop burnt.

30th June - Dock Yard

Navy Officer Sivanathan who participated in the arrest of some criminals attacked by Sinhalese Naval personnel.

Navy personnel Sebastian's house attacked and badly damaged.

In all, 19 Tamil persons including women and children have been killed and more that 100 Tamil persons injured and many of them warded in hospital. 214 houses belonging to the Tamil people have been burnt and the families who lived in the said houses rendered homeless. 21 shops belonging to Tamil people, 8 Hindu Temples, 1 Temple Chariot and 1 Catholic Ashram have also been burnt or damaged.

And there was a definite pattern to the attacks against the Tamils in Trincomalee.

''And there was a definite pattern in it. The objective sought to be achieved was to drive the Tamils out of Trincomalee, for the Government was anxious to get a Sinhalese majority population there as the Tamils have been holding out Trincomalee as (their) future capital ...

The pattern of violence was such that the police/army/navy/airforce joined the Sinhalese people in unitedly attacking the Tamils. In early June, two Hindu temples were burnt. The house of the (Tamil) MP for Trincomalee was attacked and bombs thrown...

On 25 June, at Sivayogapuram, 20 Tamil houses were burnt by Sinhalese people in the presence of the police. On 26 June the 'Nescafe Hotel' owned by a Tamil was attacked and several Tamils were injured. One of the Sinhalese attackers was caught and handed over to the police, who released him.

On the 27 June a coach from Trincomalee to Jaffna, with Tamil passengers, faced a road block by the Sinhalese people. They shot at the coach and 4 passengers were injured. The coach was thereafter set on fire with all the passengers inside.

12 passengers, including a child sustained severe burn injuries. One Thirunavukkarasu, a Tamil helped the victims in the coach and despatched some of them to the hospital. On that very night, Thirunavukkarasu his wife, Seetha and a 4 year old daughter were killed by the Sinhalese at Kithul Uthu in Trincomalee... By the end of June, in Trincomalee, 214 houses, 24 shops, 8 Hindu Temples, 1 Catholic Ashram were burnt...'' (Satchi Ponnambalam, Memorandum to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights submitted on behalf of Concerned Eelam Tamil Scholars, February 1984)

Tamil organisations protested against these attacks by the Sri Lankan security forces in Tricomalee and one such protest telegram addressed on 1 July 1983 to 17 foreign embassies in Colombo read: ''Tamils experiencing pathetic situation in Trincomalee. Killing, looting and arson are now taking place. State security forces are behind violence. We seek immediate intervention by friendly nations to help stop genocide of Tamils.''

In August 1983, the Ceylon Workers Congress, whose President, Mr S.Thondaman, was a Minister in the Government of Sri Lanka, said -

" ... Even before the riots began in Colombo, the attack on the Tamil settlers in the Mannar, Vavuniya and Trincomalee areas had been set in motion. It is significant that communal violence on a large scale commenced with the burning of the huts of settlers in Trincomalee. They were uprooted from their homes in the early hours of the morning of 23rd July bundled and brought against their will to Nuwara Eliya and Hatton and left as destitutes.

The failure to regularise the land holdings of stateless persons and other people of Indian origin in the North, through a dialogue with the Minister of Rural Industrial Development and President of the Ceylon Workers Congress, has been a major contributory factor to this sad state of affairs which we are witnessing today.

Instead, of implementing the declared policy of regularising the settlement of persons of Indian origin in these areas, where they were transported and dumped as refugees after the previous holocausts, a concerted attempt had been made to drive them out of their holdings under various false pretexts. This had been further intensified around the middle of July when the police and the security personnel set in motion a-wave of terror intimidating the settlers and driving them away."

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