For sake of a chicken
[TamilNet, Monday, 04 January 1999, 19:29 GMT]
A civilian identified as S. Pathmanathan was shot dead by the Special Task Force (STF) last night around 7.30 a.m. at Mahiloor Munai, about 30 kilometers south of Batticaloa, Sri Lankan Police sources said today.
Pathmanathan was returning home after picking up a quarrel with another resident of the village, when he was shot dead by the Police commandos.
Sources said that Pathmanathan was accused by this resident of stealing chicken from his coop. The altercation between the two men was over this matter.
Pathmanathan had gone to his accuser's house last night, after coming to know that he was being held responsible by him for the robbery in the coop and scolded the owner of the missing fowl. A heated argument had ensued.
Pathmanathan's accuser had rushed to the local STF camp soon after he had left and had told the Police commandos that a member of the Liberation Tigers who had come to threaten him was on his way back through the village.
A STF party had immediately rushed to Mahiloor to look for this alleged armed Tiger activist.
Meanwhile, Pathmanathan's lamp, which residents have to carry when walking about in villages at night as stipulated by the STF, the Police and the SLA in the east had flickered out. Pathmanathan was also carrying a stick in his hand.
The STF party had detected Pathmanathan's moving figure vaguely in the moonlight, the illumination of which was dulled by the nocturnal monsoon mists.
Mistaking the stick he was carrying for an AK 47, and seeing that he didn't have the lamp civilians are expected to carry at night, the STF commandos opened fire, killing Pathmanathan on the spot.
"The abject poverty in these parts compels men to shamelessly stoop to such foul deeds, even for the sake of a few fowl" said one of Pathmanathan's relatives who was making arrangements for his funeral this afternoon.
A STF source in the area said that it is in their mandate to act swiftly on information from local civilians about the activities of the Liberation Tigers in the surrounding villages.
He said that as his men were acting on a tip off about the Liberation Tigers at that time of the day, they could not take any chances with the suspect by asking him to identify himself.