Key witness in Batticaloa massacre threatened
[TamilNet, Saturday, 29 July 2000, 12:28 GMT]
Father Joseph Ignatius Chandra, the key witness in the massacre of civilians in Batticaloa town by a section of the Sri Lanka army on May 17 has been threatened by armed persons suspected to be members of the Sri Lankan security forces and cadres of Tamil para-military groups operating with the Sri Lanka army in the east.
Fr.Chandra, the Catholic parish priest of Aayithiyamalai, 18 kilometers southwest of Batticaloa, was shot in the head by special forces soldiers from the 23-3 brigade in Batticloa following an explosion in Batticaloa town on 17 May this year. Nine children had come to see the religious festival with the priest were murdered in the indiscriminate firing by the special forces of the SLA from the 23-3 brigade headquarters. Three Policemen were killed in the explosion.
The private hospital in which father Chandra was being treated is in a high security zone of the Batticaloa town. Civilians are not allowed into this zone on Station Road in Batticaloa town after 6 p.m. The hospital, Vincent Nursing Home, is located between the Police camp at the Sri Lanka Telecom building and the detachment at the abandoned Batticaloa railway station.
Three armed persons, two Sinhalese and a Tamil, had gone to the hospital last week and had told the attendant on duty not to be near the priest that night. The frightened attendant had informed the hospital staff about the situation. The priest was then removed to a safe location, sources said.
The children were killed, according to eyewitness accounts, by the SLA special forces despite Fr.Chandra pleading with them that they (the children) be spared. A child who had come with the priest also described the massacre during the inquest into the killings later. Doctors of the Medicines Sans Frontiers recovered bullets from the dead and injured children and civilians later at the Batticaloa hospital.
A well known Tamil Police sergeant, Perinpam Uthayanan, the treasurer of the St.Michael's College OBA, who was on the road keeping people away from the scene of the blast was also killed by the special forces although he was in Police uniform. Human rights groups and the TULF MP for Batticaloa Joseph Pararajasingham say that many civilians were dragged out of shops and shot by the special forces soldiers from the Brigade HQ.
Despite appeals by the Batticaloa MP and the Amnesty International no action was taken by the Sri Lankan government to conduct an inquiry into the massacre so far.