18 November, 2019

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Searching For The Missing In The War Years

By Michael Roberts

Dr. Michael Roberts

Dr. Michael Roberts

Let me begin with Rajasingham Narendran’s harrowing tale describing when he returned to his home in the Jaffna Peninsula after the IPKF’s imperial occupation of the north in 1987:

“My mother: 68-year old at the time of her killing. Slim build. Had been attacked by animals and crows and was in an advanced state of decay. My brother: 38-year old at the time of his death. neither obese or thin. Body intact though bloated. The gardener: Age approx. 60 years. Obese. All flesh had fallen off and the skeleton was clearly visible. A neighbour’s watchman: Age approx. 60 years. medium build. Only thigh bones-femurs and the skull remained. The rest of the body had been consumed or carried away by animals.”

A Tamil petitioning for a missing kinsperson with photos – maybe facing Cameron

A jackal feeding on a buffalo carcass at Kumana -April 2014–Pic by Roberts

This is just one corpus of fact and tale that will have to be evaluated by the unit that is envisaged by the Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms set up by the present government. If one visits the web site where the SCRM seeks submissions from the public, you will be led to “Boxes” where you can present ideas and/or information. The set of Boxes numbered 9 [nine] has this request: “The government has decided to set up An Office of Missing Persons. What measures should the office take to address the issue of the missing?”

Having addressed this highly volatile issue in March 2013 through an essay entitledA Missing Person in Sri Lanka: Heartfelt Issues & Ground Realities” that was placed in several sites[1] and been disparaged (as per usual) by some bloggers in Groundviews, it is a field in which I can make a contribution.

Needless to say, it is essential for the Presidential Task Force and its new branch office to build up a good bibliography and to pursue every avenue opened up in this manner. So, I lay out my stock of references and ask readers to submit items that I have missed — either via blogs or via email directed to me. In effect this is going to be a cumulative bibliography in Two Sections, the first encompassing those documents/articles that are directly relevant and the second providing clarifying contextual circumstances. As I understand the topic it also embraces instances of those MISSING as a result of abductions and kidnappings outside the war theatre — whether in the Jaffna Peninsula, Eastern Province or the rest of the country.Ramesh 6

The body of Ramesh – Photo from Weiss

On the basis of my previous investigation and my vicarious knowledge of war,[2] I am attentive to the manner in which battle zones generate the soldier category of MIA or “Missing in Action.”[3] So, let me warn the Task Force and readers that this arena of investigation is a veritable minefield. The personnel pursuing this work will have to transcend their office-room background and come to grips not only with the brutalities of battlefield encounter and underground dirty war, but also attend to phenomena that are totally beyond reach, namely, (i) bodies decomposed or devoured beyond recovery; (ii) bodies drowned beyond recovery; and (iii) bodies buried in bunker or deep-hole beyond easy retrieval.

In the first five months of 2009 those Tamils of Thamilīlam who had their fill of the LTTE rule and the latter’s draconian measures to keep the citizenry within a declining space so as to save the liberation project[4] began to seek a way out. A few fled by sea at night with the aid of fishermen. Though the SL Navy attempted to facilitate this process and even placed buoys with flags to guide the boats, one must allow for the possibility that some boats were fired at because the Sea Tigers were operational till mid-May 2009 and sometimes used the fishing boats as decoys or cover for strikes on the SL Navy’s FACs (fast attack craft).[5]

A Sri Lankan Tamil woman holds a portrait of a missing relativeOthers may have drowned in the waters of Nandhikadal Lagoon as they struggled across in late April and May 2009. Some of these scenes of frantic effort with the aid of rubber tubes were captured by local reporters. It is also possible that some Tiger fighters fell injured or dead into the water-filled ditches that were integral to their berm defence system at moments where their colleagues did not have the capacity to retrieve the bodies. The LTTE was normally attentive to their dead and a burial site was composed on the coastal stretch. But as their resources were stretched and situation got more desperate these retrievals would have been more difficult. Indeed, one of the facets that the Task Force has to pursue is the retrieval of the LTTE’s records listing its dead during the course of Eelam War IV.

However, the majority of the Tamil civilians who fled between in the first three months of 2009, numbering roughly 60,000, did so at night using the jungle and bush cover. We must allow for the possibility that some were shot at by Tiger fighters or SL Army personnel and that few died from snake-bites. The Sri Lankan dry zone jungle house a wide variety of venomous snakes and Anandasangaree has had the nous to indicate that some unfortunate civilians met their fate in this manner.[6] Groups of people fleeing through jungle and bush do not usually stop to carry their dead.

From the oral testimonies he gathered in April 2009[7] Rajasingham Narendran summed up the scenario thus: “it was utter chaos. Many yet living were left for dead. There was no one to help them, unless the armed forces had stepped in…. many talked about stepping over dead bodies and having to leave the sick and injured loved ones behind to their fate. The latter was the most traumatic aspect of their experience. They had to choose between a sick father and a young child or a child and an injured husband. I am sure they are yet tormented by the choice they made, although the choice had to be made for one to survive.”[8]

Can these bodies, or those of Tigers and SL Army personnel not retrieved by their fellow-soldiers, be discovered? Not a chance. Nature deals swiftly with these remains: jackals,[9] monitor lizards, rats, birds and termites are quick to the feast.

The Office of Missing Persons must therefore take note of these processes. However, beyond “nature” there is the problem of “Nurture.” Here “Nurture” point to the actions of those nourished in the arts of propaganda and vengeance; as well as those in grief driven to wailing tale of brutality built on the foundations of rumour rather than fact. For this reason, a reading of Gananath Obeyesekere’s article on “Sorcery, Premeditated Murder and the Canalization of Aggression in Sri Lanka” (Ethnology 1975 and SSC Pamphlet 11, 1993) is vital learning tool. We need discerning personnel manning the office – individuals with the cultural skills to see through the tears of wailing women[10] and grief-laden men in those instances where they are presenting fictional stories.[11] Not easy that.


For the CUMULATIVE Bibliography in two segments, visit

https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2016/04/25/the-missing-in-the-war-years-a-cumulative-bibliography-as-aide/

[1] Colombo Telegraph, Thuppahi and Groundviews.

[2] It so happens that as a teenager I lapped up the detailed descriptions and pictures re World War Two within the pages of the London Illustrated News at the library in St. Aloysius College, devoured lots of war novels and avidly watched war films.

[3] During Eelam War III the security forces of the Government of Sri Lanka recorded the MIA as 2718 and the KIA, or “Killed in Action”, as 9448 so that the former was roughly 26 per cent of the dead. In time, of course the MIA is merged with the KIA as deceased. The proportions of MIA to KIA were much less during Eelam War IV because the SL Army did not receive the battering that they ‘achieved under General Ratwatte and Company.

[4] As I have contended in several articles – beginning with “Generating Calamity” — the LTTE’s grand strategy I from mid-2008 was to generate a picture of “an impending humanitarian catastrophe” so as to spark an international intervention. So the Tamil people were more than just hostages and labour pool. They were an escape hatch. See Roberts, “Generating Calamity,” 2014 and the further clarifications in my more recent work “Saving Talaivar Pirapaharan.”

[5] The SL Navy lost 4 FAC’s and 6 smaller craft during the last few months – incurring a loss of some 80 to 100 men (information from a kinsman of a senior naval officer). This is an aspect of the war that has not been adequately researched.

[6] In De Silva-Ranasinghe 2010 “Information Warfare and the Endgame of the Civil War,” Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter, May 2010, 30/4: 35-37. http://www.asiapacificdefencereporter.com/articles/40/Sri-Lanka.

[7] Rajasingham Narendran met several IDPs in the refugee camps in April in association with a Tamil migrant group and then again visited IDPs at Mänik Farm and elsewhere in June July 2009.

[8] R. Narendran to Roberts, email, Nov 22 Nov, 2011, commenting on the first draft of my article “The Tamil death toll in early 2009: challenging Rohan Gunaratna’” (2011).

[9] When driving along a deserted stretch of road beyond Elephant Pass on my way to Jaffna in a hire van in mid-2010 I spotted two jackals crossing the road from west to east. The mental picture is indelible in mind still.

[10] Note this tale relating to the 1970s when imports were severely restricted in Lanka. One of our good Kiwi friends in Sri Lanka in the 1970s told us that when she went to Customs to pick up parcels and were told they would be confiscated or released on payment of a stiff fine, she burst into tears. The Custom men invariably relented. Again in certain localities such as Negombo there are females who serve as professional “criers” at funerals.

[11] I am guided, here, by the indirect significance of [vicious] rumour and gossip in promoting the pogroms against the Moors in 1915 and similar practices in the mini-pogroms directed at Tamils in 1958 and 1977 and the major pogrom in 1983

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Latest comments

  • 7
    16

    what’s the point of searching for missing tamil terrorists? most of them will be feasting with thadi prabha in hell by now

    • 15
      4

      ballah

      ” most of them will be feasting with thadi prabha in hell by now”

      Are you reporting this vital piece of information directly from Hell?

      “Who Let The Dogs Out”

      Who let the dogs out

      {Woof, woof, woof, woof}
      {Woof, woof, woof, woof}
      {Woof, woof, woof, woof}
      {Woof, woof, woof, woof

      • 3
        7

        [Are you reporting this vital piece of information directly from Hell? ]

        Tamil superiority complex.

        It is a crime to wipe out Terrorists.

        • 10
          3

          hegel egghead,

          when you play the stupid game all the time and every time you are bound to see everyone as your superior.- get a life!!

        • 8
          3

          Jim, These Sinhalese Buddhists are very famous in wiping out humans.

          • 1
            9

            ferrera
            Correction;
            Sinhalese Buddhists are very famous in wiping out terrorists.

            • 4
              0

              Eusense Sin`gay`lish egghead is trying to pass eggsaminations with second language as eingreese.

              Scream Whooo Hooo???.

            • 5
              0

              Nuisance

              “Sinhalese Buddhists are very famous in wiping out terrorists.”

              Sinhala/Buddhists are notorious for producing terrorists, crooks, bigots, racists, rapists, cronies, war criminals, drug smugglers, cheats, con artists, thieves, … liars, Polpots ….. weeping widows, … stupids, out of ordinary folks.

      • 4
        10

        you never disappoint the CT readers with your gibberish….keep it up

      • 4
        15

        Terrorist vedda
        Why write moronic posts which have no value?
        It’s better to let someone think you are an Idiot than to open your mouth and prove it.

        • 9
          3

          Eusense Hegel Egghead
          Busy Doing Nothing.
          Eusense is a doped toad on the road please don’t poach.

          • 1
            7

            zoro,
            Did you have an education?

            • 5
              0

              Eusense ,

              You seem to have deadication!!

              now scream Whoo Hoooo.

              What steps would you take if someone held a bayonet at you?

            • 4
              0

              Nuisance the stupid II

              “zoro, Did you have an education?”

              Did you?

              What is the difference between you and a knife?

    • 6
      3

      Michael

      It will be 29 years since our innocent mother, brother and the watchman were killed by the IPKF.

      Consequences of their death are still having deep down distress and difficulties for us.

      We can visualise the feelings of many thousands of innocents who sacrificed their lives and limbs for being in the front of the marauding forces in the war.

      Bullets and bombs of the unjust and sadistic were the dictum.

      The world was outlying when people were butchered so cold bloodedly.

      We have forgiven the criminals who breached their professional discipline but have not forgotten or redeemed ourselves from the consequences of the brutality. The consequences will have reverberating influence on us until we say good bye to this earth.

      I am saddened by the hurtful comments of the insensitive pundits herein.

      • 2
        0

        Rajasingham Jayadevan:
        While anyone but the most moronic cannot but be moved and agree with the last sentence of your submission, it still doesn’t prevent a sense of revulsion at the mealy-mouthed hypocrites such as Michael Roberts who continue to defend the most corrupt and violent rulers we’ve ever had, merely changing their tack from what it used to be.
        And for the benefit of those who trot out the “Hitler was a good oil painter” argument is comment even necessary?

        • 0
          1

          Emil van der Poorten

          Hurtful comments are beyond Michael Roberts.

    • 1
      3

      The war had a reason. It is started by the Sinhalese only in 1940s. This ballah not does know any damn thing. Communal minded mother F+++++r

      • 4
        2

        war had a reason and it’s tamil terrorists. you seem to show that you know things but you’re not. keep your mouth shut

  • 6
    17

    Has anyone accounted for all the terrorist fighters? How many were there? Where are they and what happened to them? Where are their next of kin? Why nobody is coming forward to claim that their next of kin, relatives or friends were terrorist fighters? Any writers here know any terrorist fighter?
    Or else, are these the “missing persons” Tamils are talking about?

    • 13
      4

      Nuisance the stupid I

      “Has anyone accounted for all the terrorist fighters? How many were there? Where are they and what happened to them? Where are their next of kin?”

      Could you address these questions to Gota.

      “Why nobody is coming forward to claim that their next of kin, relatives or friends were terrorist fighters? Any writers here know any terrorist fighter?”

      Do you think these are clever questions?

      Stupid II many have already given evidence to whatever bogus commissions MR set up to hoodwink the general public.

      Go ask, the commission chairman and the military which also conducted its own investigation.

      Stupid is as stupid types.

      What is the difference between you and a knife?

      • 2
        7

        Too many stupid….stupid!

        • 8
          2

          NAK

          “Too many stupid….stupid!”

          You have no option but to join them.

      • 3
        12

        terrorist vedda,
        Missing are the terrorists not innocent civilians. You don’t need to ask Gota or anybody else. He did the right thing by eliminating every single future suicide bomber.
        You proved it, If you don’t know the answer to my questions they are clever questions!
        Where are the “many” who has given evidence to the commissions? Why are they silent? Why don’t the corrupt overseas reporters publish their information and stories?

        The more you try to respond to my posts the more you get exposed as an invalid!

        • 9
          3

          Nuisance the stupid I

          Stupid is as stupid types.

          What is the difference between you and a knife?

          • 2
            10

            Terrorist vedda,
            Is the word “stupid” your only answer?

            • 8
              3

              Eusense
              Scumbag you ran away the other day.
              now make my day.
              What steps would you take if someone held a bayonet at you?

            • 6
              3

              Nuisance the stupid I

              “Terrorist vedda, Is the word “stupid” your only answer?”

              No,

              Its your first, middle,surname and of course GE name.

        • 1
          1

          Sinhalayage Sin- gala kama

    • 11
      3

      why are you hiding and squeaking?
      a favorite pastime of rats.

      • 3
        13

        zoro
        Why don’t you answer my questions rather than writing meaningless garbage?

        • 11
          3

          Eusense,

          Vele ralle

          keep chewing the garbage bin psycho-sense.

  • 13
    4

    Dr. Michael Roberts,

    ” after the IPKF’s imperial occupation of the north in 1987:”

    bringing the dead back to life??
    you are not even capable to bring a dead computer back to life.[Edited out]

  • 8
    4

    I wish someone bothered to investigate the cold blooded murder of Sinhalese boys and girls during the JVP uprisings in the 70s and the 80s.
    Mike I did not see or hear your comments on the atrocities committed in this era. I will never forget seeing dead bodies of young boys dumped in front of the Bellanvila temple every morning on my way to meet work colleagues, bodies floating down rivers etc, it seems no one is bothered as most of these kids were from the so called lower classes. Blood soaked earth, and blood money in certain bank accounts are what’s left from the Sinhalese uprisings and the Tamil Sinhalese uprising.

    • 12
      2

      “”Mike I did not see or hear your comments on the atrocities committed in this era.””

      he is a downright mercenary and a vulture. The article smells clearly of it.

      Have you visited the bottom half burger underpopulated blog??
      He is crying for recognition from the unknown.
      He is missing South African Apartheid where he could have minted so on the next best and whats more he has `hegel` Valli historian as his holdall.

    • 3
      13

      patrick
      He is writing about the Tamil terror war that suicide murdered over 100,000 innocent Sinhalese and Tamil civilians.

      • 10
        3

        Eusense,

        He is about to jump ship. The photo of the dog is exactly like what it was in during the economic embargo by SriMao. “weeping widow” In 70’s. rice from the moon.
        Lanka – ship is sinking- balande ende kiyane.
        Eusense Thoppi karaya…..)))))

        • 2
          10

          zoro
          Why not try to write something worthwhile?

          • 7
            3

            Eusense

            Make my day moron who ran away

            What steps would you take if someone held a bayonet at you?

          • 5
            0

            Nuisance

            “zoro Why not try to write something worthwhile?”

            Of course he should. On the other hand, he is responding to you.

            Why waste time writing something worthwhile from which you are not going to grasp the substance anyway.

  • 5
    2

    It is difficult to read your mind Dr Roberts.

    You do take on a huge task. It is not easy to make a compendium of those who lost their lives and those missing during and after the 30 year war.

    However you seem to treat grief with scant regard. This is quite disturbing. You are equating the grief of those whose loved ones are missing to that of professional wailers in Negombo or the woman who bust into tears at the post office. I assure you that those hundreds of thousands of war affected still living in grief and hope will not appreciate their real grief being thus trivialised.

    Personally I expected better from you.

    • 2
      1

      BBS REP
      ” Personally I expected better from you”
      Your expectation is tooooooooo high.
      Robert is an uncivilized moron with a brain smaller than a pea.
      He is living on the handouts from the Rajapaksas.
      Gota got his visa to Australia.

  • 0
    0

    Michal Roberts is well known Conseversity and orthodox historian read by colonial Baptist an ideology of The University of Ceylon in his first decree award by Professor Labaroay dept. Of history Peradeniya.

    His reading of any type of historical incidents not seek the truth by facts that always permitted to help you, out your ignorance by reservation for interpretations of incidents . Hence his reading of ideas that counter-revolution in essence, which is a afoot has its confuses your head.

    Michal is looking many areas of writing so many articles had been written ; nevertheless he is anti-Marxist and anti-progressive historian, he undertaken all ventures into doubt that it was the bourgeoisies weakness the instability and historical credulity as historian as well as sociologist .

    Michal regards to bourgeoisie historian that brought forth vacillation of petty -bourgeoisie political ideal’s..

    He refuse to take revolutionary measures against the unbridled blatantly counter-revolutionary press ? So it was ,so it will be as long as Michal continue to vacillate between counter-revolutionary bourgeois and progressive masses of Sri lanka.

    He write of so many human rights of that so-called truth of reconciliation in Sri lank but he totally ignored of Indonesia the anti-communist purges have been called one of the worst mass atrocities of 20th Century.

    The Indonesian army under the President Suharto and his civilian death squads slaughtered one million people in 1965/66 an one year. As many as 1.7 million were tortured or sent to military camps some decades. Indeed anyone who might conceivably have posed a threat to Dictator- Suharto supposed been killed by state until in office 1998.
    Not a single leading political Movement or Government act against Suharto, even Michal Roberts is silent for decades…. On the issues rights and truth reconciliations Indonesia ?

    1 No human rights demanded a crime or criminal investigation into 1965/66 killings by Surhro government was in power did NOT ACT by any
    parties since 1998.

    2 Ruling out any criminal inquire ,opting instead vague statement of remorse for the crime of event massacre by rulers since 1998!

    The very justice cannot be done without a FULL accounting of what happen?
    Is that Michal has utter word of this massacrer? Not yet!
    Still Old communist blacklisted them as Enemies of the state?
    Did Michal Roberts talk moving democracy ,it need to shed light of this dark Era of past Indonesian?

  • 3
    8

    Dr.Roberts,
    When addressing the question of missing people shouldn’t the western countries who accomodated people from Sri lanka as refugees reveal the identities of those people,whithout which it is almost impossible to tabulate a true figure.

    • 6
      3

      you have never been practical and are exposing your stupidity like mercenary
      Dead Rat (Dr) Whoooo Hooo

  • 1
    2

    This country is soaked by blood. Since 1940s communal riots have been taking place.Buddhism says not even to harm an ant. But Buddhist monks are on streets almost every day and they are welcoming the killer governments.They are happy to see the blood.Buddhism is too from India. Lord Buddha was a Hindu by religion.So called Sinhalese culture, Language, Dress,Music or any thing you name it , it is a duplicate and a carbon copy of India and Tamils.
    Who build Dalada Maligawa ? Who were the rulers of kandy and kandiya kingdom until British took over in 1815. Who paved path for them to approach Kandy ? The jealousies SINHALA BHUDDISTS only.
    They will learn a very good lesson very soon. It is from the Muslims . You mark my word.

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