Thirukkovil resentful, STF said concocting evidence

[TamilNet, Monday, 14 October 2002, 13:02 GMT]
“The Special Task Force will pose a dire threat to our lives as long it remains in this region. There is no security now for farmers who have to pass the Kanjirankudah STF camp to cultivate their fields. The sole access to more than twelve thousand acres of our people’s fields is controlled by the STF which has no qualms about killing us like animals,” said Mr. Ariyanayagam Chandra Nehru, the sole Tamil MP for the Amparai District, Monday.

He slammed sections of the Colombo media for “diabolically distorting” the incident on 9 October in which seven people were killed and fourteen wounded when the STF opened fire on a demonstration.

Speaking to the TamilNet at his office in Thirukkovil, 76 kilometres south of Batticaloa on the island’s southeastern coast, the MP said: “The STF has treated the people of this area worse than slaves for more than 17 years. We cannot talk of keeping the peace here amidst their pent up anger and the STF’s well-known and implacable proclivity to commit atrocities. We are sitting atop a volcano here. The Tigers are telling us to keep the peace. But neither the LTTE nor I would be able to do much to keep the people calm if the STF attacks them again,” he said.


Kanjirankudah feature
Mr. Ariyanayagam Chandra Nehru with the Buddhist prelate Ven. Mahagalkadawela Punyasara Thero at the entrance of the camp Sunday.
The MP showed a videotape of Hindu Affairs Minister, Mr. T. Maheswaran, and Tamil National Alliance MPs visiting the scene of the shooting and the Kanjirankudah STF camp on Oct. 11. The tape shows an undamaged image of a seated Buddha in the shrine at the camp’s entrance. However, when Mr. Nehru visited the camp on Sunday, 13 October with Mr. Peter Bowling, secretary general of the International Working Group on Sri Lanka, Mr. N. Kandasamy, secretary to the Centre for Human Rights and Development in Colombo and the Buddhist prelate, Rev. Mahagalkadawela Punyasara Thero, the statue had been pulled off its alter, smashed and thrown on the shrine’s side.

“This shows very clearly that the STF is diabolically concocting evidence to tell the Sinhala people and the world that the protestors damaged the shrine,” the MP said.


Kanjirankudah feature
The Buddhist shrine at the camp’s gate sans the statue.
He drew attention to many instances in the past where the STF had killed people and manufactured evidence to prove they were members of the LTTE.

The STF drove out all the residents of Kanjirankudah from the village in 1990 and established the camp in their abandoned homes and the local school. Farming was also banned around the village since then. The school and homes are still occupied by the STF, eight months after the signing of the ceasefire agreement between the Liberation Tigers and the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL).

“For the first time in 17 years the Tamils here are trying to savour freedom and lead their lives as human beings with dignity. The STF does not like this because it has lost a lot of benefits it enjoyed when it used to treat us like slaves. In the past the STF commandos forced our people to give them fish, meat, curd, firewood, vegetables, rice flour and other goods free of charge. We had to work for them in their camps, give them our vehicles for their personal and official use. But since the ceasefire agreement was signed our people have begun assert their basic rights. The STF is unable to order them about like chattels anymore. So the commandos are very angry with us now,” Mr. Rasaiah Vasanthan, the President of a local development NGO called SWEIDO told TamilNet.


Kanjirankudah feature
The main coastal road by the Kanjirankudah STF camp where the commandoes opened fire on the demonstration. Concertina roles of the camps defences line one side of the road. The damaged barriers on the road near the camp’s entrance are in the foreground.



Kanjirankudah feature
Kanjirankudah cemetery.


Explaining that the STF had set fire to the barriers and a hut in front of the camp and had damaged its Buddha shrine to make the protest appear like a mob attack, Mr. Vasanthan said: “the same procession on which the STF opened fire passed the commandos’ camp in the Thirukkovil hospital too. They could have stoned the camp. But they peacefully marched by.”


Kanjirankudah feature
(From right) Mr. Rasaiah Vasanthan, the President of a local development NGO called SWEIDO, Samithamby Vivekanandan, a social activist and the Thirukkovil correspondent for the Tamil daily ‘Thinakkural’ and Samithamby Nesanathan, a social worker in Thirukkovil.
“We organised the protest march last Wednesday (9 October), against the dastardly killing of Mrs.Meghala Sritharan allegedly by an anti-social person who is working with the STF. The procession was also intended to show our solidarity with the Tamil political prisoners who were fasting in the Kalutara jail. Notice of the protest march was duly conveyed to the authorities concerned,” Mr. Nehru said.

“We are very angry. What’s peace for us after we have lost our kith and kin to the STF’s brutality? We have endured more at the hands of the STF than what is humanly possible to bear. No one, not even the LTTE, can stop an uprising here if the STF tries to harass us again; and we wont stop or rest until these criminals driven out - even if many of us have to lose our lives,” says Samithamby Nesanathan, a social worker in Thirukkovil.


Kanjirankudah feature
The Kanjirankudah Government Tamil Mixed School inside the STF camp


“The STF from Thandiyadi came in a truck, alighted at the Suppaththaanveli Bridge at the Kanjirankudah junction and opened fire on us without warning. Then bullets started raining on us from the Kanjirankudah STF camp. We had no cover. People could run only to the south of the road, across the stream and the dry, flat grassland. The commandos dragged inside the camp four youth in the procession who were wounded in firing and were lying on the road. They were alive at the time. Later, the STF told the SLMM the youth were shot dead inside the camp. Their wounds show that they had been hacked and shot at point blank range after they were dragged into the camp,” Nesanathan said.

“The government and the Colombo media should study the background to this problem carefully without passing judgment based on reports by one side. The SLMM too should get a better understanding of the problem here. The incident has to be studied and understood in the context of the numerous human rights violations which the STF has inflicted on the people of this area since 1985. Not a single atrocity committed by the government forces in this region, including the massacre of 135 innocent civilians in Udumbankulam on 26 February 1986, has been inquired into so far. Therefore the people are angry and want to take matters into their hand. The STF and its supporters in the sections of the media in Colombo are adding fuel to fire by trampling crudely and cruelly on the feelings of these people by twisting the truth,” said Samithamby Vivekanandan, a social activist and the Thirukkovil correspondent for the Tamil daily Thinakkural.

“It is true that the situation here is tense and that the people are angry. We also understand their feelings and share in their sorrow. The STF at Kanjirankudah and Rufus Kulam have harassed and assaulted our members after the ceasefire. But we are vigilant that the peace process should not be harmed. We have clear instructions from our leader that the ceasefire should not be jeopardised by any untoward incident,” said an LTTE official in Thirukkovil.


Kanjirankudah feature
Suppaththaanveli Bridge.

 

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