SLA punishes Batticaloa village officers

[TamilNet, Sunday, 19 October 1997, 23:59 GMT]
Life has become nightmare for village officers in the Batticaloa district as the Sri Lankan army has begun a sinister campaign to intimidate them into not working in the poverty stricken villages of the district's hinterland which is controlled by the LTTE. Many are languishing in prison and at least one may have been murdered.

Grama Sevaka (GS) (Village Officer) Selvathurai Tharmalingam has been missing since being taken into Sri Lankan army custody on September 16. Sources in the area said that he may have been tortured and killed.

Whilst on his way back from work on September 15, Tharmalingam was stopped at Kirimutty Palam, between Santhiveli Army Camp and the Korakally Madu Camp (on the Batticaloa - Valaichenai road) by a Sri Lankan soldier identified as Suraweera and an ex-member of the TELO, Sabha.

They had told Mr. Tharmalingam to report to the Morakkotanchenai Army Camp the following day. The next morning, after having informed the District Secretary in writing about the army inquiry, Tharmalingam went to Morakkotanchenai Camp around 9.50 am.

At the camp, Suraweera and Sabha had interrogated Mr. Tharmalingam regarding his work and about LTTE activities in the area. In addition, they had also asked whether he had informed anybody before coming to the camp.

Tharmalingam was released at 10. 25 am after being warned not inform anyone before coming to the camp in future.

Tharmalingam described what had transpired at the camp to his friend Paramalingam, who runs a tea stall near the camp. Whilst they were at the stall, they had seen five soldiers running out of the camp. The soldiers seemed unaware that Tharmalingam was still nearby.

About 100 yards from the camp, the five soldiers had stopped two passing passenger buses, and had searched for Tharmalingam by name.

Subsequently, Tharmalingam was stopped by the five soldiers while returning on his friend's motor bike. Witnesses say they last saw him being dragged - blind folded - into the shrubs near the camp.

Paramalingam has been threatened and his tea stall has been razed to the ground by Sabha. Paramalingam is in hiding now, fearing for his life as he knows about Tharmalingam's disappearance.

Sabha has also allegedly tortured Marimutthu Peethamparam, another GS, accusing him of helping the LTTE. When Peethamparam revealed that he had duly informed his superiors in writing, Sabha allowed him to go after forcing a bribe from him.

Frustrated by the expanding influence of the LTTE in the east and their own dangerously increasing isolation, the Sri Lankan forces seem to have stepped up their Macarthian tactics either to neutralise the LTTE's village level administrative control or simply to terrify supporters of the LTTE.

The present manifestation of this is the arrest and torture of Sri Lankan civil servants such as Tharmalingam and Peethamparam who serve in the LTTE controlled areas. The hapless officials are accused of working hand in glove with the Tigers.

map_sri_lanka.gifWorking in connivance with the Sri Lankan forces in the persecution of the officials are anti-LTTE Tamil militants who are armed and paid by the Sri Lankan military.

Several other public servants have also been arrested recently. Some have 'disappeared' while others have been detained in the infamous 4th floor of Colombo's CID building under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). The fourth floor is said to contain the CID's torture chambers.

GS Velmurugu Linganathan was arrested by CID personnel on June 26 and has been detained in the 4th floor since then. Linganathan came to Colombo for his wife's treatment. His wife was dragged from her hospital bed by the police on June 26. Her eye bandages were removed despite pleading with the police that her eye would become infected.

A young girl called Arulappu Mangalarani who had come to assist her in hospital was also arrested by the police on June 24. Mangalarani was badly beaten with batons by policemen, in her cell. The policemen squeezed and twisted her breasts. Mrs. Linganathan fainted on witnessing the girl's torture.

The police then demanded she confess that she had come to Colombo to plant a bomb in the Electricity Board building, and that she was an LTTE member. The ICRC staff who came to see her in custody had been turned back by the Police thrice. The police had simply said that she was not in their custody .

Mrs. Linganathan was released after 22 days. Mr. Linganathan is still in custody. His wife's eye disease has become severe as a result of the bandages being removed. She is helpless and too scared to seek treatment in Colombo again, despite the pain.

Furthermore, the police prevents people from visiting her house. The family cannot leave their house without getting special permission from the Police.

Another GS called Sinnathamby Manikkavasakam has been arrested and held in the 4th floor since July 28, 1997 on charges of helping the LTTE.

He was asked to come to Colombo for an inquiry through the Government Agent of Batticaloa. Manikkavasakam came to Colombo as instructed, where he was then detained by the CID.

Manikkavasakam had lost his job during the previous (UNP) government's rule and had been reinstated in 1995 by the present regime. During the time he was out of a job, he had made a living as an foreign employment agent.

A girl called Baheerathy from Mavady Munmary, was arrested by the Police from a lodge in Colombo. Unable to bear the police beatings, she agreed to claim that she was an LTTE member. She also told the police that Manikkavasakam brought her to Colombo to send her abroad. Based on the girl's 'confession', Manikkavasakam, too was arrested.

Nanthavanam Krishnamoorthy, a GS from Eruvil was arrested on December 13, for allegedly taking letters to the LTTE. He is now held in Kalutara prison.

Mayilippodi Arunthavanathan, GS of Mankerni (another area controlled by the LTTE) was arrested by soldiers from Valaichchenai Camp on charges of supplying a motor-bike to the LTTE. He is also being held in Kalutara prison.

Tharmalingam Thayaparan, another GS from Araipattai, was arrested for allegedly having connections with the LTTE. He is being held in the Batticaloa prison.

Altogether seven Grama Sevakas have been arrested from the Batticaloa district on trumped up charges. All the victims are from areas controlled or influenced by the LTTE in the east. The Sri Lankan government is simply turning a blind eye to the plight of its village officers.


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