An event of remembrance was held on 9 July at the Navaly Church in Jaffna as it is 25 years since the massacre where bombs were dropped over the Navaly area, killing hundreds and injuring many more including at the Church.
According to an account by human rights activist Ruki Fernando, the bombings took place on 9 July 1995 at around 4.30-5 p.m. when a Pucara airplane dropped eight to 10 bombs over Navaly. ‘Initially, the Catholic Bishop of Jaffna, Thomas Savundranayagam and the International Committee of the Red Cross were quoted by the media as having said that 65 people had been killed. The number later rose to 117’. However, numbers mentioned to Fernando by villagers varied from 147 to 165 and 217. According to Fernando, some said that up to 300 could have been killed.
Fernando, in an article titled ‘Navaly Church Bombing – 25 Years On’ noted that at the time of the incident, the St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Navaly, was filled with displaced Tamils and members of the Church youth club.
‘Those killed included minors (a four-year-old, three young boys including one whose body was never found, and two girls including an 18-year-old), elders (two 68-year-olds), a Grama Niladhari who was cooking for the displaced and the youth volunteers, 13 members of one family, and a woman. About 45 of those killed are believed to have been from Navaly but most were the displaced who had come seeking refuge,’ he noted. The bombing also caused severe damage to the Church building (including the roof), the Hindu temple and about 30 houses (in three houses only rubble remained while another house had visible holes in the walls, and another had an iron gate that had got blown away).
He further noted that all the people he had met in Navaly had categorically claimed that the alleged perpetrator of the bombing had been the Air Force. This, he noted, was reinforced by the issuance of death certificates which stated the cause of death as ‘death due to injuries caused by aerial bombardment’, as back in 1995, there was no other armed group that had planes that could carry out aerial bombing.
‘Church bombings in Jaffna, like in Navaly, leading to a massive loss of civilian lives and injuries, and their survivors, victims’ families and religious leaders, have received little or no national media coverage and acknowledgment from Governments, and attention from politicians and religious leaders. Could it be because the military stands accused of these crimes, and that most of the victims are Tamil? According to the people in Navaly, for 25 years there has been no investigation into the massacre, and no one has been arrested, prosecuted or convicted. One elderly man told that he had received Rs 15,000 as compensation for a dead family member in 1997. Other survivors and victims’ families have not received any reparations’.