15 August, 2020

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Navaly Church Bombing 25th Year Remembrance 

By Ruwan Laknath Jayakody

Ruwan Jayakody

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’. 

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Latest comments

  • 10
    0

    I’m glad to see you writing again, Ruwan Laknath Jayakody.
    .
    Yes, this is said to have been really bad, and I know that you’ll follow up on al the details. You are one of the few whose writing shows deep caring.
    .
    I’m also glad to note that you’re using much shorter sentences; what you were writing earlier was really unnecessarily difficult to read.

  • 7
    5

    The only justice for the Tamils is they live alone themselves. It was a mistake Britain did that the Tamils who lost to Portuguese in 1619 were handed over to the Sinhala Buddhist Rapist Army, in 1948.

  • 7
    2

    well Ruwan ….those who were killed are Tamils. The usual story LTTE were hiding there with human shield. So we have to bomb the hell out of it!

  • 10
    1

    Thank you Ruwan for your input. It’s soothing to hear some of the progressives among the majority community continue to articulate sober messages – tough few and far apart. In the meantime, it is painful to note that the mainstream media mafia continue to suppress/sanitize the iniquities of the majoritarian regime against the minorities.

  • 6
    6

    Has anyone forgotten the ‘Easter massacre’? I doubt it, but it wasn’t the first Easter massacre, there was another one thirteen years ago that has been completely forgotten.

    On Easter Friday in 1987 the Tamils massacred 127 men women and children near the village of Aluth Oya. This was a precurser to the Pettah attack four days later where they killed over a 100 civilians.
    .
    Why do I refer to ‘Tamils’ rather than ‘Tamil Tigers’ or ‘Tamil terrorists’? Read the posts. Everywhere there are references to ‘the Sinhalese Buddhists’. No distinction is ever made between good and bad Sinhalese. The race is blamed en masse for the crimes of a few. If that isn’t the same racism that the minorities are complaining about, I’m a Dutchman.

    • 9
      1

      Stanley,
      You are right that there is a difference between Buddhist Sinhala Fundamentalists and Buddhist Sinhala. It is very difficult to differentiate between good and bad Sinhalese or good and bad Tamils or good and bad muslims. When massacre was done by the state do you call them as terrorists? Over 60000 civilians were massacred by the state who speaks for who? Do you see any difference between Easter Massacre and Navaly church massacre?

    • 3
      1

      Maybe it is because these kinds of atrocities were perpetrated by a government apparatus with the approval of the government elected by the majority (of the majority).
      in Sri Lanka, it is obvious that the governments are formed by and for the Sinhala Buddhists. supported by the facts that there has never been any government heads from the minorities and the chances are extremely remote with the current mindset of the Sihala Buddhists ( to be fair, not all of them but the majority).
      so, any accountability for the actions of Triforces ( even the mobs as in 1983 as they have the mandate for the Law and Order of the country) falls squarely on the shoulders of the government and by extension on the section of the people who wield the most power in electing governments.
      As for the Tamil armed groups which committed the same kind of atrocities, you have to call them as what they are. Tamil terrorists.
      as the Tamils never elected and approved them in any elections as their representatives. so you can make that distinction without any doubt in the future.

  • 3
    0

    Correction: “though few and far apart”

  • 6
    1

    According to Cardinal Ranjith , in his memory ,there is/was no such human rights violations in Lanka. According to Evil Eye most of them who died are LTTE members and the rest were public forced by LTTE to hide , as shield. What was our great humanitarian leader MR was doing then???? he was part of the Govt serving as Labor Minister and following a reshuffle ,he started “fishing in troubled waters”, as Fisheries Minister. Now he is discourses on “cordial working relationships” with GG, Thonda, Alfred, Hameed, MH , Kadir and Karuna.

  • 5
    1

    Ruwan, the same year there was another incident where Lankan Air Force bombed a school in Nagar Kovil, Jaffna killing between 35 to 70 people.

  • 8
    2

    Stanley I agree with you on that . It is not race en masse. The same year LTTE too had killed in Kallarawa Area. Killings cannot be justified by any means, but when people do , it makes LTTE and the govt equally culpable. In that case the Govt we have had up to now are no better than LTTE or ISIS.

    • 1
      8

      Chiv,
      Allied Forces bombed and killed civilians to liberate Germans from Nazis. Do you call the Governments of Allied Forces ‘Terrorists’?
      Governments of several countries jointly attacked Iraq and bombed killing thousands of civilians to punish Saddam Hussein. Do you call the Governments of those countries who sent army to invade Iraq ‘Terrorists’?
      Governments of Sri Lanka mobilized its Armed Forces to liberate the people in this country from Tamils who launched a terrorist campaign to grab a part of the country of Sinhalayo to create a separate State for the descendants of Dravida coolies brought by Portuguese to Yapanaya. They liberated the people of Sri Lanka from Tamil terrorists. So please do not put the Governments of Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan Armed Forces into the same basket with LTTE and ISIS. LTTE and ISIS are hardcore barbaric ‘TERRORISTS’.
      —-
      “In that case the Govt we have had up to now are no better than LTTE or ISIS.”

      • 6
        1

        EE
        Churchill ordered the bombing of Dresden in February 1945, although Dresden placed no significant role in WWII.
        I will call the US the biggest terrorist state. Will you disagree?
        *
        I do not know what itches you about coolies. Will you call mercenaries coolies? Strictly they are coolies of sorts. Check which caste groups among the Sinhalese are descendants of such coolies. There were contract labourers of all sorts that the Kings of the island (whose ethnicity is not always Sinhalese) brought into the island, centuries before the Portuguese, who became Singhalese.
        Should not we show more respect towards people who toil for a living than towards those who rob, steal and even kill?

        • 1
          1

          SJ,
          I call US a ‘Warmonger’.

          Tamil Diaspora that carried out a malicious propaganda campaign to tarnish the image of Sri Lanka and Sinhalayo for three decades use the term ‘State Terrorism’ as a part of their propaganda campaign to get the sympathy of the International Community. There was no ‘State Terrorism’ against Demala people. What we had was LTTE Tamil terrorism targeting Sinhalayo.

          Colonial rulers who brought Dravida people to work in their plantations called them coolies or indentured labor.

          Calling what Sinhalayo have as a caste system is a misnomer. Sinhalayo have a ‘Guild System’ based on professions.

          • 2
            0

            EE
            Atrocities were committed against Tamil civilians by the armed forces and I hold the state responsible.
            You may remember Lalith Athulathmudali’s branding anyone not anti-LTTE as terrorist and his efforts to starve Jaffna into submission.
            I make no exceptions.
            *
            I agree that the West has an interest in Sri Lanka not out of concern for human rights or love for Tamils as some may imagine. They will continue to dream to their own peril, and that of many others
            The question is how we get out of this mess.
            Each using his/her own twisted version of history to exclude the other does no good. Even your own claim that Dravida people were brought in by the colonialists it flawed and provocatively offensive. What do you achieve by it? That only helps other irrational elements to add fuel to the fire.
            Please think about it.
            *
            The average Sinhalese, Tamil or Muslim, understandably but not always justifiably, has a fear of the ‘other’. But that is not a fraction as bad as the racism in US and Europe. Let us build on the strengths of inter-community relations.
            Whom does personal abuse and insulting communities help?
            CT can help by censoring offensive language.
            History can be a great teacher, but should not be our master, especially when we interpret it subjectively.

            • 1
              3

              SJ,
              My claim that Dravida laborers were brought by colonial rulers is not flawed. That is the truth but that is one thing that separatist Demala politicians do not like to hear. Demala racist politicians and historians try to give the impression that Demala people in the North are ‘Indigenous Tamils’ and North East is their ‘Traditional Homeland’. Both these claims are incorrect. Even in this forum there are people who write again and again that Sinhalayo are colonizing Tamil land in the North and East. This is rubbish.
              According to information I have gathered, Chelvanayakam who started the Federal Party soon after Independence started a project to distort history of Sinhale. First thing they did was condemning ‘Mahawansa’ saying that it is fiction. Even now Vigneshwaran is carrying forward that project.
              As a person who witnessed the malicious propaganda campaign carried out by Tamil Diaspora in foreign countries often using fabricated information to tarnish the image of Sri Lanka and Sinhala Buddhists I will keep on challenging these people and expose the truth. When Tamil Diaspora carried out propaganda campaign against Sinhalayo they did not think how it hurt Sinhalayo.
              Unless Demala people realize the damage done by Vellala elite politicians to keep the two communities apart for their survival and get rid of them, the problem will drag on.

          • 3
            1

            Dear Eagle evil@
            Sinhalayo
            Demala People
            Dravida People
            Coolies
            To me there are coolies in every ethnic groups.
            :
            These terms very often repeat in your voccabullary. If we there there in Australia, we could help you getting you to a psychiatric hospitz. Unfornately we are not there.
            :
            Are we the sinhalayo that great people ? Dont you think we both sinhalayo and tamil people are from india ? Why DNA research and genealogical outcomes cant be innacurate right ?
            :
            Why and how they assaulted innocient tamils in 1983 riots – did not prove to anyone that so called sinhalayos are that human…
            .
            Not even few months how sinhalayo put the fire on innocient muslims -shortly after that easter sunday bomb disaster took the lives of nearly 300 – did not prove to anyone that so called sinnhalayo are that human … or am I standing on my head ?
            .
            You eagle evil twist anything and everything to take revenge on tamils and muslims… that is not at all acceptable. We also had tamil, muslim and burgher as mates also in srilanken Universities.-
            .
            Not to forget that you guys would hate JVPrs forever for all the atrocities they made during 89 insurgency even if they were not few thousand of rebells ?

            • 1
              2

              leelagemalli,
              True! There are coolies in every ethnic group. But I am talking about Dravida coolies brought from Hindusthan by Portuguese to Yapanaya and changed the population composition and the descendants of those coolies who claim that they are ‘Indigenous Tamils’ and North East is their ‘Traditional Homeland’ to grab a part of the country of Sinhalayo to create a separate State.
              When Tamil Diaspora carried out propaganda campaign against Sinhala Buddhists all over the world often using fabricated stories they did not think how it hurt Sinhalayo. Even in this forum there are people who carry out mudslinging against Sinhala Buddhists and Buddhist Monks using derogatory terms. You do not condemn what they do. You yourself often use the term ‘bellige puthas’ or BPs.

              Sinhalayo did not come from India. It is proven with scientific archeological evidences that Sinhalayo evolved in this country from Homo sapiens lived in southern part of the country 125,000 years ago.

              ===
              “To me there are coolies in every ethnic groups.”

  • 5
    0

    The bombing of the Church and killings were inexcusable. But stories told from a nationalist standpoint miss something. The incident took place during a time of army advance and massive displacement. Of course, one might say from experience that rather than deliberate intention to kill Tamils, much of the time it was indifference to taking life, and sometimes, reprisal against civilians was considered beneficial. This applies to most fighting forces including to how the security forces handled the JVP insurgency.

    The Navaly church incident was puzzling because Chandrika’s government believed, I think genuinely, in a political settlement. After extensive inquiries I was told that the Air Force was tailing an LTTE vehicle near Navaly, which in trying to evade the air force, had halted under a tree quite near the Church. It does not excuse the killing any more but gives a slightly different colour to the event. I am quite sure this was recorded in one of the UTHR(J) reports.

    • 6
      2

      RH
      I do not want to question your faith in Chandrika.
      She may even have been a little more serious about peace than even Ranil W.
      But I remember that the lady declared what she called war for peace.
      *
      My fear is that there is a limit to what is within the control of an individual, even with executive powers. There are other powerful forces that condition policy.
      Kennedy was responsible for the Bay of Pigs attack in Cuba and escalating the war in Vietnam. Strangely it was under Nixon that peace was negotiated in Vietnam and relations were normalised with China.

  • 3
    0

    Evil, I was not born in Iraq or Germany. I am talking about Lanka. You as well few others justify killings either by saying some one else did and you further go by numbers stating 40.000 makes you feel better than 150,000. People of your ilk are the reason why we are in such pathetic state after 70 years and looks like things will continue to be same or worse 70 years from now. . One more thing remember, it was Sadam Hussain who gate crashed into Kuwait without invitation in the first place. I guess you will come with some other excuse to justify that too. Your argument is like “you break into a bank to justify some one else breaking into a bigger bank. I guess DENIAL and excuses have no ends.

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