Valaichenai youth shot dead

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 18 May 1999, 22:50 GMT]
(News Feature) A Tamil youth was shot dead by security forces personnel manning the cemetery sentry point at Valaichenai town in the Eastern province at around 2.00 p.m. today, said sources.

Kathalingam Jeyarajah, 23, was an electrician and left for work as usual this morning. When passing the cemetery sentry point he was stopped by army personnel and asked to clear the shrubs on the road nearby.

Jeyarajah told them that he was in a hurry to get to work and left.

When returning home in the evening he was stopped by soldiers at the cemetery sentry point again and given a tiffin box to be handed over at the next sentry point. Jeyarajah complied with their instructions and took the box.

When soldiers at the next sentry point opened the box and found a bomb Jeyarajah was immediately shot dead, said sources close to local leaders.

Later, the SLA had handed over the body to the Valaichenai hospital stating that a LTTE member who had tried to lob a grenade at a sentry had been shot dead.

The cemetery is located about 150 metres from the SLA's Fishing Harbour camp.

The SLA has sequestered a portion of the cemetery and the large sentry point established in the area has barbed wire running around it.

Cremation in this area has been prohibited while cremation in the surrounding areas requires prior army permission.

A Valaichenai resident said to TamilNet that the presence of Sri Lankan Army personnel at the cremation ground was an insult to the Tamil people.

He complained that none of the other Tamil groups had taken up the issue. The Razeek group has also had sentries in the area.

Sentry points in the cemetery are guarded throughout the day and army personnel stationed there harass young girls passing by the area.

Residents complain that sentries have also been put up in the library building that is about 150 m from the cemetery. These sentries were erected in 1997 to prevent the Liberation Tigers from infiltrating the area.

There is a large military presence in Valaichenai, a Tamil town, located 32 kilometres north of Batticaloa and surrounded by about 10 hamlets. Over the years the area has been severely affected by SLA activities.

A report published by the " Fact Finding Citizen's Commission on the Border Villages in the Northeast Affected by War" in December 1998 concluded that Sri Lankan security forces personnel were using Valaichenai civilians as forced labour.

The labour is used to cut trees for bunkers. Civilians living in the Valaichenai area are used to cut wood from the shrub jungles west of Valaichenai.

The elected parliamentarian for the Batticaloa district, Mr. Joseph Pararajasingham has brought this matter up with the President on several occasions.

The area is strategically important and there are about 10 Sri Lankan Army camps in and around the Valaichenai junction. The main supply route to the Batticaloa district runs east from Polannaruwa to Valaichenai through a vast region held by the LTTE.

According to figures collected by the Divisional Secretary for the area, 35 civilians including 5 school children were killed by SLA shelling and retaliatory fire in 1998. During the same period the figures show that 97 civilians, including 14 school children were wounded and permanently disabled. Of the 97, eight received their injuries while being assaulted during SLA cordon and search operations. Official figures also show that 756 Valaichenai civilians were killed by SLA action in the period between 1990 and 1998.

The actual figure could be much higher if the lengthy procedure for recording the death of a civilian killed in conflict is considered.

The relatives of the deceased apply to the Divisional Secretary's office for a certificate of death. The DS then conducts an inquiry into the death and the files are sent to the Batticaloa unit of the Criminal Investigation Department. Only when the CID is satisfied that the person in question is not a "terrorist suspect or a terrorist" will compensation be sanctioned.

However, compensation has only been granted in 319 of the 746 cases that have been approved by the CID. The Sri Lankan Government says that it has insufficient funds to pay the others.

The Sri Lankan government charges 4.7% National Security Levy (NSL) on all goods and services sold in the island, said one Tamil social worker who has taken the issue up with the authorities.

"The NSL, ironically, is paid by the families of all the victims for the government has no money to grant compensation," he pointed out.

 

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