Mutur magistrate sets a precedent

[TamilNet, Saturday, 17 March 2001, 10:23 GMT]
The Mutur Magistrate this week issued certificates that the deaths of seven Tamil farmers in the Poomarathadihchenai massacre in Trincomalee district were due to gunshot and cut injuries. Representatives of the International Committee of Red Cross on Thursday went to Poonagar and handed over the death certificates to the families of the dead, enabling them to claim compensation and relief. Magisterial inquests are not held for Tamils who are killed thus in border villages. As a consequence, hundreds of Tamil families in border villages that have lost their sole breadwinners are denied poverty relief as they cannot produce death certificates for the diseased required by the authorities to accept and process their applications.

Poomarathadichchenai is a Tamil village in Seruvila division of the Trincomalee district. On 2 October last year Sinhala homeguards from Mahindapura in Seruwila hacked with machetes and shot dead seven Tamils, including a woman, who were threshing paddy in their field at Poomarathadichchenai.

The farmers, S.Nallathamby,55 , his son Arulanantham, 17), T.Kalirasa, 35, V.Somasuntharam ,56), T.Kanagaretnam ,57, S.Rasan, 37, and the woman, Krishnapillai Thayapathi, 32, were from the hamlet of Poonagar.



Thousands of Sinhalese living close to the Tamil borders in the northern and eastern parts of the island are armed and deployed by the Sri Lanka’s Defense Ministry as auxiliaries to the army and military trained Police. Police and Human rights workers say that the ‘home guards’ who were originally part of the SLA’s counter insurgency operations against the Liberation Tigers are now involved in robbery, intimidation and sometimes rape in the Sinhala villages they were ostensibly intended to protect.

Their activities in Tamil villages lying near the border, particularly ones that are not under the control of the Sri Lankan army, are worse and are unchecked, a senior Tamil United Liberation Front leader from Trincomalee told Tamilnet.

Twenty four Tamils, including two infants and three children under 10, were hacked and shot to death by SLA soldiers on 11 February 1996 in Kumarapuram, a hamlet close Poomarathadichchenai. Two girls were raped and killed during the massacre.

None of the perpetrators have been brought to book so far. The case is pending in the Trincomalee courts.

The Poomarathadichchenai massacre was in retaliation to the death of two home guards who were killed in an ambush by the Liberation Tigers earlier that day.

No magisterial inquest was held into the deaths of the farmers. The Police conducted no inquiries. No compensation or relief could be obtained by the families of the murdered farmer, as there was no record to prove that they had been killed by the home guards.

The bodies of the dead were buried and cremated with out magisterial inquests and postmortems.

Representations were made to the Muttur Magistrate about the predicament the families of the murdered farmers. They had lost their sole breadwinners and had no means to claim compensation or relief, the magistrate was told.

The Mutur Magistrate Mr.R.M.Jayawardene then summoned the three Grama Sevakas (village officers) of the area and recorded their evidence to prove that the seven had been killed. His decision had no precedent but was taken on humanitarian grounds after due consideration of the merits of the case, legal sources in Trincomalee said.

The Grama Sevakas gave evidence at the inquests held at Kantalai circuit magistrates' court in December last year. They said in their evidence quoting from their official diaries that they found gunshot and cut injuries on the bodies of the deceased farmers and the woman. The Officer in Charge of the Seruvila Police also gave evidence.

Thereafter the Magistrate recorded a verdict of deaths of the seven were due to gunshot and cut injuries.

Accordingly, the Magistrate issued death certificates to the families of the murdered farmers.

The death certificates were given to the International Committee of

Red Cross to be handed over to the families of the farmers in Poonagar.

 

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