Feature Article

Pall of boat massacre memory hangs over islands

[TamilNet, Thursday, 15 May 2003, 13:46 GMT]
Hundreds of Sinhala pilgrims now freely visit the Buddhist shrine in the island of Nainathivu, off Jaffna, after almost two decades. But the pall of Sri Lanka Navy presence continues to cast a shadow on Tamils who are still subjected to checks and regulations. Eighteen years ago, on 15 May, thirty eight Tamil passengers, including a two year old child, travelling in boat called ‘Kumudhini’ from the island of Delft to the Kurikkatuvan Jetty on the island of Punguduthivu were hacked to death at sea by armed persons suspected to be Sri Lanka Navy personnel.

The victims were gruesomely disfigured with machetes. Colombo took little interest in investigating the case, which was shelved after being taken up in the Jaffna courts briefly. The evidence of a survivor who came forward to identify the killers was ignored.


The new Kumudhini boat anchored at the KKN Jetty


The Nainathivu Multi-Purpose Corporative Society continues to operate a boat called ‘Kumudhini’. (The vessel in which the massacre took place was discarded years ago) The boat, anchored at the Kurikkatuvan Jetty, reminds Tamils waiting to board the next vessel to Nainathivu and Delft (Neduntheevu) of the massacre, which, eighteen years ago, struck terror among the people of Jaffna.

Passengers to Nainathivu and Delft have to register their identity documents at the SLN checkpoint on the tip of the Kurikkattuvan Jetty. They have to wait outside the SLN enclosure until the boat is ready to depart. On days when there are few travellers at the jetty, the SLN allows Sinhala pilgrims to enter the enclosure while Tamils have to wait until departure time to queue up for checking. Civilians visiting the Buddhist shrine, Nagadeepa Vihara, have to register at the SLN point at Nainathivu Jetty.


Passengers waiting outside SLN enclosure at Kurikkatuvan (KKN) Jetty


The SLN there asks some Tamils to surrender their identity papers when entering the island. Nightmares of the past die hard in such conditions.

There is a single bus to service the population on Nainathivu. Sri Lankan armed forces soldiers from various parts of the northern peninsula come regularly in batches to worship at the Buddhist shrine on the island. The Nainathivu Nagapooshani Amman temple is situated close to the shrine.


The Amman temple


In June thousands of devotees crowd Nainathivu for the temple’s annual festival. Since the cease fire between Colombo and the Liberation Tigers came into effect last year, a regular stream of Tamils from western countries visit the temple daily. Many cook free lunch for devotees served at the temple’s rest (Madam) in its precincts.

Drinking water is very scarce on the island.




Sri Lanka army soldiers worshipping at the island's Buddhist shrine, Nagadeepa Vihara




 

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