Tamil member of Kanchirankuda committee dissents

[TamilNet, Friday, 08 November 2002, 17:30 GMT]
The sole Tamil member of the committee appointed by Sri Lankaís Interior Minister to inquire into the shooting incident at Kanchirankuda on the islandís southeastern coast on October 9, 2002 said Friday that he strongly disagreed with the conclusion of that his colleagues had arrived at.

The committee inquiring into the STF shooting in Kanchirankuda in which seven persons killed and 14 others injured held a press conference Friday at the Ministry of Interior in Colombo after it presented its eighteen page report on the incident to the minister.

The Chairman of the committee Air Vice Marshal (retd) Harry Gunatilake told press persons the special task force was justified in firing on a procession of Tamils on 9 October in Kanchirankuda.

Mr. Samithamby Vivekanandan, sole Tamil member strongly disagreed and presented a dissenting report to the Minister of Interior.

Addressing the press conference, the chairman of the committee Air Vice Marshal (retd) Harry Gunatilake said that there was imminent danger to life and destruction of state properties due to the action of the people in the procession. He said that STF did not exceed the right of self-defence.

The ex-commander of the SLAF Harry Gunatilake said that the camp couldnít be moved out of the Kanchirankuda village until the matter is part of a permanent settlement.

Special Task Force is encamped in the village Kanchirankuda from which it drove out all residents to refugee camps in 1990.

Mr. Samithamby Vivekanandan strongly disagreed with the views of Air Vice marshal (retd) Harry Gunatilake and charged that the STF had concocted evidence to hide the truth.

The following is the text of his dissenting report: -

The action taken by STF Kanchirankuda against civilians on 9/10/2002 is unreasonable and is in violation of the laws of the country and the provisions of the ceasefire agreement between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers for following reasons: -

1) It was established during the hearings that the Officer In Charge of the Kanchirankuda STF camp did not take any non-lethal action to disperse the procession before the shooting.

2) There were neither rubber bullets nor marks left by rubber bullets were found on the bodies of the dead and wounded persons. Neither rubber bullets nor rubber bullet marks were found on the participants of the said procession on 9/10/2002. Participants in the said procession gave evidence that rubber bullets were not fired at them by the STF.

3) There are sufficient grounds to believe that the empty teargas canister found at the scene of the shooting by members of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission who visited Kanchirankuda STF camp area on the day of the incident was a formerly used one. The SLMM handed over the empty canister to the committee of inquiry on 22/10/2002. Persons who witnessed the incident said in their evidence before the committee that the STF at Kanchirankudah did not use teargas on the procession on 9/10/2002.

Furthermore the weapons expert who gave evidence before the committee said that the teargas canister found at the scene of the incident was manufactured in October 1989. According to him the said teargas had only five years of guaranteed shelf life and that even it was preserved under good storage conditions, could not last more than ten years. It is indeed hard to believe that the said teargas canisters could have been used effectively after 13 years of their manufacture.

The expert also observed in his evidence that a canister of this type of teargas could only affect people standing or walking within an area of 100-sq.metre. It would not have been possible at all to disperse more than 100 people at the same time with a single teargas canister.

4) According to the SLMMís evidence before the committee, slippers and bicycles were found along the road by the Kanchirankudah STF camp. This shows that people who came in the procession on the day of the incident did not enter the STF camp. But the OIC of the Kanchirankuda STF camp has stated that wooden rods, batons, sticks and stones were found inside his camp. This is a deliberate lie.

5) According to statements SLMM members who gave evidence before the committee, there was no evidence that people had entered the STF camp forcibly and the iron barrier in front of the main gate of the camp had not been removed. This can be clearly seen in the photos submitted by the SLMM to the committee.

6) In a photograph submitted by the SLMM to the committee, the statue of Lord Buddha in the shrine at the entrance of the Kanchirankuda STF camp is seen intact, without any damage. The SLMM took the photograph after the incident about 7.15 p.m. on 9/10/2002. The statue was intact when the Hon. Minister for Hindu Affairs, Mr. T. Maheswaran and Tamil National Alliance MPs visited the Kanchirankuda STF camp on 11/10/2002. The Hon. Minister and the Members of Parliament did not observe any damage to the statue during their visit. It was quite intact. This can be seen in the video recording of the Hon. Ministerís visit to the camp on 11/10/2002. However when the committee of inquiry went to the camp on 20/10/2002 the statue was totally damaged and its broken pieces were heaped nearby. The STF told the committee that the people in the procession had destroyed the statue on the day of the shooting incident.

7) Only the remains of two tyres burnt in front of the camp are seen in a photograph submitted to the committee by the SLMM, The SLMM photo shows that the resting sheds, checkpoints by the road had not been burnt. (The SLMM took photos around 7.15 p.m. after the incident). But later the resting sheds and checkpoints were burnt. It can quite clearly be understood that the STF burnt the structures after the evidence to concoct false evidence.

8) In another photograph taken by the SLMM, the STF observation point 1 (inside the camp) is not damaged and its roof too is seen intact. The OIC of the STFís Kanchirankuda camp stated in his evidence that persons who forcibly entered the camp through its eastern sector by cutting through the concertina rolls had pulled down the roof of the observation post and broke cement posts that are fallen in a southerly direction. How could people damage a roof and break cement structures with sticks and batons in a very short time?

9) The Kanchirankuda STF campís OIC states that LTTE members were in front of the procession and that they also were part of it. This is completely wrong and false. The members of the SLMM said in their evidence when they visited the LTTE office; they (the LTTE) were asleep and not aware of the developments. Also there were no LTTE among the wounded and dead.

10) According to the photographs taken by SLMM on that day, and evidence given by OIC Police, it is clear and certain that out of the 04 dead bodies found at the scene of the shooting, 3 bodies belonged to persons who had been shot and killed and put in different places in side the camp afterwards. There was no blood where the bodies were found in side the camp. Witnesses to the incident state that STF personnel had dragged a person from the procession inside the camp. He, according to them was alive then. This person was shot at the gate where there is pool of blood around his body?

11) The STF states that more than 100 people entered the camp by cutting the concertina rolls of its defence perimeter. But obviously more than hundred people could not have forced their way into the camp through a small gap cut through the dangerous concertina rolls within a very short time. If what the STF says is true then there should have been large gaps cut through the concertina in many places of the campís defence perimeter. But the committee found no such evidence when it visited the camp. Nor was there evidence to show that the people had damaged the entrance of the camp to force their way in.

12) According to the report of inquiring committee there were no sign of stones thrown at the STF camp. A window had been broken but the dead personís body was found 150 feet away. This clearly shows that after the incident STF officers had broken the window.

13) It clearly emerges from the evidence of the civilian witnesses to the incident and the SLMM that the shooting was premeditated by the STF from the camps in Thandiyady and Kanchirankuda. Civilian witnesses said that STF from Thandiyady had opened fire on the procession unprovoked. The SLMM member states in his evidence that the Thandiyady STF camp OIC was the person who received him when he went to Kanchirankuda on the day of the incident. Why werenít there any personnel from the STF camp at Thirukovil which is closer to Kanchirankuda (3 Ĺ miles) but from the Thandiyady camp?

14) The OIC, Kanchirankuda stated that 9 STF personnel were wounded in the incident. But not a single wounded STF officer or commando appeared before the inquiry committee. Also their medical reports were not submitted to the committee of inquiry.

15) According to statement of the OIC of the Kanchirankuda STF camp, the people who came in the procession were shot below the knee. However not a single wound below the knee was found either on the survivors or the dead.

16) There are clear discrepancies and contradictions in times and sequences of events in the evidences of the STF and the SLMM. For example the SLMM member stated in his evidence to the committee that he was received by an STF officer called Gunaretna at Kanchirankuda camp and that the (STF) officer showed him around. But in his evidence the OIC of the Kanchirankuda STF camp said that he had received the SLMM member on that day and had shown him (the SLMM member) around the camp and its environs.

17) The OIC of the Kanchirankuda STF camp states that an STF riot squad had come to the camp from Akkaraipattu through a secret path. This is incredible because the Kanchirankuda STF camp is located in an open space. The area around it is clearly visible from any direction. The only way the said riot squad could have reached the camp without anybody seeing it could have been through a secret tunnel. When the committee of inquiry visited the camp it found no evidence of a secret path by which the said riot squad could have entered the camp. Such a squad could have entered the camp only through its main gate. And above all evidence of the Kanchirankuda STF camp OIC is false and patently fabricated because there is no riot squad in the STF. Riot control is the work of the Police. The STF is an elite military/commando unit developed and deployed specifically for counter insurgency and offensive operations.

Judgment

(1)It emerges clearly that the main motive of STF at the Kanchirankuda camp was to kill civilians who came in the procession. In opening fire on civilians indiscriminately the STF has contravened all rules and regulations with regard to dealing with such situations.

(2)The Kanchirankuda STFís explanation that they opened fire on the people in the procession in self-defence is totally untenable.

(3)The STF personnel responsible for the death of the civilians should be brought before the law and be punished.

(4) The families of wounded and killed people should be paid compensation

(5) The Kanchirankuda STF camp should be removed and the people of this village who were evicted by the STF 12 years ago should be allowed to resettle in their homes now occupied by the STF. They should be allowed to engage in cultivation peacefully. Their safety and security should be guaranteed.

(6) The STF has only military and counter insurgency training. It neither has any training in civil matters nor any experience in dealing with peacetime law and order situations. As such it should not be allowed to deal with the general population. Instead the government can open a police station in this area.

(7) Arrangement should be made for SLMM and peace committees to function in this area round the clock

(8) As I wrote to you earlier, the STF occupying in Thirukovil hospital should be removed immediately under the terms of the ceasefire agreement between the government and the Liberation Tigers.

(9) At least once in two weeks, STF officers, LTTE officers, members of the peace observing committees and local peoples representatives should meet together and discuss about problems and about restoring normalcy and peace in the area.

During the interview the Chairman of the committee Air Vice marshal (retd) Harry Gunatilake agreed with press persons that the Police need massive retraining and there were serious shortcomings in the police.


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14.10.02   Thirukkovil resentful, STF said concocting evidence

 

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