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Rape and Murder of Sarathambaal-File closed!

 

By V.Thangavelu, President  WTCWA

 

It comes as  no surprise and everything is true to form  to learn from newspaper reports that the Human Rights Commission  which  investigated  the rape and murder of  Sarathambaal  Saravanabhavanantha Kurukkal  has decided to close the file for lack of  evidence.  Likewise the CID too has thrown in  the towel saying  there are no suspects. Apparently to both the HRC and the CID it looks though Sarathambaal was never raped and murdered, but she  simply committed suicide!

 

Contrary to what the HRC and CID say, local residents claim  that the naval ratings who raped Sarathambaal have all been transferred from the island  to prevent identification, interrogation and arrest. This is a familiar and  thinly disguised ploy unashamedly  used by the  top brasses of the armed  forces to  shelter perpetrators of crimes from the long arm of the law. 

 

Ironically at that point of time the Information Department of the Peoples Alliance government released a statement saying that President Chandrika Kumaratunga had ordered a full inquiry to “report back to her immediately for deterrent action against the culprits irrespective of the ranks or status.” As events have now  proved,  President Chandrika’s order was  only a ritual and a camouflage intended to silence international criticism rather than a genuine effort to apprehend perpetrators of the crime, protect human rights and prevent further violations.

 

It will be recalled that Sarathambal ( 29),  daughter of the local Brahmin priest and mother of a three years old  child,  was forcibly dragged out from her home in Punkudutivu by gunmen in black  uniform. The incident happened at  8.30 p.m. on December 28 (Tuesday),1999 when a curfew was in force. They then gang-raped and murdered her in cold blood.

 

Punkudutivu is one of several islands lying off the Jaffna peninsula that is under martial law and night  curfews since rested from the LTTE  in 1995/96. Chandrika’s government has ceded the island to the para-military outfit EPDP and crowned Douglas Devananda as Viceroy  as  pay-off  for  betraying the Tamil freedom struggle and providing armed  mercenaries to fight the LTTE.

 

The body of the victim  was found the following morning  dumped under the bushes near Kannaki Amman Temple situated just 20 metres away from her house. It was covered with ‘kaavolai’ ( dry palmyrah leaves).   

 

The burial of  Sarathambal took place at the Khanate cemetery, Borella in Colombo. 

Chandrasekara Sarma  the farther of the deceased and her three-year old daughter performed the last rites.  Ironically the funeral arrangements were made jointly by the EPDP which was ruling Punkudutivu  and the Forum for Human Dignity.

 

 At the inquest held  subsequently  a sobbing Chandrasekara Iyer Rajasekara Sarma, 19,  giving  evidence said the deceased was his elder sister. “On the day of incident at 8.30 p.m. I was at home listening to a radio program when suddenly four persons in black uniform with shoes forced  opened the doors of the house and entered. They tied my hands, covered my eyes and assaulted me. They  throttled my neck to prevent me from shouting and  dragged me behind the house ..... two of them dragged my  sister away to a nearby deserted house.” According to the witness, the rapists and murderers spoke in Tamil with  heavy Sinhala accent.

 

The medical  report furnished by the Judicial Medical Officer (J.M.O), Colombo  said that  the injuries and scratch marks found on the body of the  victim was consistent with  rape and murder.  Mrs. Ilangovan, Jaffna  Acting Magistrate  read out  the J.M.O’s report in open court on January 08, 2000.

 

Sarathambaal is only one among scores  of Tamil women  routinely subjected to sexual violence  and murder by the  Sri Lankan armed forces. There is a long list of hapless and defenceless Tamil women falling victims to thugs in uniform.

 

(1) On March 19, 2001 in Mannar, ten Navy personnel arrested  two Tamil women Wijikala  Nanthakumar ( 22) an expectant mother and Sivamani Arjunan (24) mother of three children   have gone  to Mannar on personal errands. On the way to the  Counter Insurgency Unit (CIU)  in Mannar, the Navy personnel started making  sexual advances towards these totally  helpless women.  On arriving at the CIU at 11.30 p.m. both women were stripped naked, blind-folded  and  sexually assaulted. Wijikala was brutally and repeatedly  gang raped by two naval ratings. Sivamani was also gang raped  and subjected to several hours of torture while the rest of the men in uniform sadistically relished witnessing the  rape through openings in the wall!

 

(2) Rajani Velayuthapillai, aged 23 years was detained by the Sri Lankan army personnel at Kondavil military check-post on her way back from Maanippai on October 03, 1996. She was returning after saying adieu to some of her close relatives prior to flying to Canada to join her fiancée. The soldiers on duty gang raped her and  dumped  her body in a pit of an abandoned lavatory near the Kondavil military check-post.

 

(3) Thenuka Selvarajah, a 5th grade student at Atchuvely Mahavidyalayam, was abducted and gang raped by army personnel attached to Puttur army camp on November 2, 1996. Luckily the sexually abused and psychologically tormented child escaped her abductors to tell her story to the school principal.

 

(4) Mrs. Murugesapillai Koneswary, mother of 4 children, of Central Camp, Amparai District, was passing though the check point at Central Camp on 17 May, 1997  when  she was verbally assaulted and sexually harassed by four police officers on duty at that time. Reportedly, Mrs. Koneswary was not one to quietly take the harassment and thus defended herself, shouting at the officers and demanding that they leave her alone. At approximately 11.00 p.m. the same night, an unknown number of armed men in uniform entered Mrs. Koneswary’s home. By 11.30 she was dead. She died instantly when a hand grenade was exploded on her private part. This was apparently done to destroy all evidence of gang rape. Mrs. Koneswary’s home, a thatched hut with a concrete floor, bore  the marks of the explosion.

 

(5) Velan Rasammah (38) a widow and her sister Nalliah Dharshini (28) were raped by four army soldiers at Thannamunai, a village 6 km north of Batticaloa. The incident took place on March 17, 1997  at 11.00 p.m. At an identification parade the victims identified only one soldier among a total of 150.

 

(6) On March 22, 1997 the police opened fire at a middle-aged couple in Batticaloa.  Mrs. Mervyn Ockerz (52)  who was shot in the head died on the spot. Her husband Kingsley Ockerz (55) was seriously wounded.

 

 Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar  brags  that the  armed forces under President Chandrika is highly  disciplined unlike during the time of her predecessors.  Such preposterous and audacious statement only help rub salt into  wounds. There  is a mountain of  damning evidence  to prove  that the Sri Lankan armed forces is  using rape as a weapon of war. Minister Kadirgamar should know better than anyone else that to the Tamils honouring and defending the chastity of Tamil women is an article of faith with them. And Tamil women will chose death in preference to losing  their chastity.

 

Since  the government of President Chandrika is indifferent to crimes committed   by  members of the armed forces  in a pervasive  climate of immunity from punishment, such  state sponsored terrorism is on the rise. The long  arm of the law simply refuses to catch the rapists and murders, except in very rare cases,  when the victims are Tamils!

 

International condemnation of such acts and protest demonstrations have also proved futile  and ineffective despite the fact a woman is the all powerful executive  president. As always the case the Tamil people have been virtually left to fend themselves for survival.

 

Let no one entertain any  illusion that the  Sinhala racist government will ever  punish those who commit   war crimes  and  mete out justice to the Tamil victims of   state  terrorism. 

 

If anything, war criminals will be rewarded with promotions and high profile diplomatic postings. The accused soldiers in the Kirishanti Kumaraswamy rape and murder trial told court that they were only carrying out orders of their commanders to bury dead bodies at Chemmani. One of the commander in charge of  theJaffna peninsula at that time (1996) was Brigadier Janaka Perera who was later promoted to the post of Deputy Chief of Staff, Chief of Staff and now appointed Sri Lankan Ambassador to Australia!

 

Since 1983 the Sri Lankan government and its armed forces have declared war on the Tamil people  unleashing military terror in order to subjugate them by force. In order to maintain their oppressive rule over the Tamil people the Sinhala occupation army has committed, and continue to commit, horrendous human rights violations.

 
As already stated  Sri Lankan state sponsored terrorism against Tamil people is  on the rise. The basic right to life and liberty of every Tamil is in jeopardy under the oppressive rule of  President Chandrika Kumaratunga.  Rape, murder, extra-judicial killings, disappearances, torture etc. have become  so common  that even  Amnesty International appears to evince  only superficial  interest  in such  crimes against humanity. According to a 1999 Amnesty International report "torture has been among the most common human rights violations reported in Sri Lanka."


Sri Lanka has ratified both the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention Against Torture. In addition, Sri Lanka has also enacted enabling legislation in the form of the Torture Act to give effect to the Convention Against Torture. But in practice they remain a dead letter.

 

Today, the Tamil people are not only subject to a brutal war in the Northeast which results in  death and destruction, but  they are also routinely subject to indignities of arbitrary arrests,  detentions without trial,  rape, torture and murder under judicial custody by the   Sinhala armed forces.

 

There is a proverb  in Tamil which says that it is  foolish for a man to be on the look out for a good omen while  having  a cat  in his pouch. So are the  Tamil people today. Until  they physically force  the Sinhala army  to vacate the illegal occupation of  our Tamil Homeland and  cut loose the chains of  Sri Lanka’s hegemonic rule,  the woes of Tamils will continue to multiply in geometric progression.