Civilians complain STF harassment
[TamilNet, Tuesday, 14 May 2002, 01:14 GMT]
Civilians in the eastern province are complaining of increased harassment by the elite Special Task Force (STF), Tamil press reports said this week. Protests have been lodged with the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) over the incidents, the reports said.
STF troopers expanding their defensive positions demolished walls of a garment factory in Thampaddai, Ampara to obtain the necessary bricks, press reports said. The MP for the area, Chandraneru Ariyanayagam, said the village development board there had protested the destruction of the factory.
The factory had been opened by the former Sri Lanka president Premadasa but has remained shut for the past six years.
Meanwhile, the STF has set up a new road block on the Poththuvil - Akkaraipatru road in Sagamam and is harassing travellers. Mr Ariyanayagam said he would report both matters to the SLMM as violations of the ceasefire.
Residents of Sagamam were driven out by Sri Lankan forces in 1990 and many are still displaced, living in the Thirukovil refugee camp. The military has refused them permission to return to their homes.
In the adjacent Batticaloa district, STF units are routinely commandeering a ferry that plies between Kurumanveli and Mandoor for their own use, leaving civilians stranded.
Complaints over the practice have been registered with the Government Agent (a senior civil servant) for the Batticaloa district, as well as the SLMM. Locals said the boat was vital for teachers going to Mandoorr at 8 am and for coming back at 2 pm. Travellers are often made to wait for hours when the STF takes the boat away, they say.
Copies of the complaint have also been sent to Gnanmuttu Krishnapillai (Vellimalai), MP of the ACTC, and Pattiruppu Circuit Education head Mrs Shanthy Velakanthan.
The STF base in Kurumanveli is situated on the main thoroughfare of the village and has a fearful reputation amongst locals as a centre of torture, rape, kidnapping and extrajudicial killings. Tamil paramilitaries working in counterinsurgency operations with the Army often operate from this camp, residents say.
STF troops from the base have been accused in the past of extorting building and roofing material from local civilians for constructing their camp. Mr. Joseph Pararajasingham, the Batticaloa MP protested in a letter to President Chandrika Kumaratunga that the STF at Kurumanveli is regularly forcing local people between the ages of 12 and 40 to work at gunpoint.
Shelling from the Mandoor base towards civilian areas have killed and wounded several people in the past, including the elderly priest of Maariyamman Temple in the village. STF troops from this base were implicated in the horrifying rape of Sivasothy Krishnapillai, 31.