By Rajan Hoole –
Although the Sansoni Report has been used selectively for propaganda, it, on the contrary, gives us strong direct and indirect evidence of the State’s blatant complicity in the communal violence. The events in Anuradhapura, and the conduct of G.W. Liyanage, SP, Anuradhapura, give us the strongest indication of direct involvement by the State. This was an officer directly responsible for the maintenance of peace in Anuradhapura. We rely on the Sansoni Report for the forthright account below of events in Anuradhapura, which is not a favourite section of those who acclaim the Report.
SP Liyanage had arrived in Jaffna at noon on the 16th, accompanying DIG Ana Seneviratne and, about 10.30 AM on the 17th, attended a conference in the Jaffna Kacheri. There, Superintendent of Health Services Dr. Dassanayake complained about the conduct of the Police. (He later left Jaffna after an anonymous caller told him that he would be ‘shot like a dog’.) Assistant Collector of Customs Mr. J. Senaratne who had come from Colombo by night train told SP Liyanage that he should be in Anuradhapura as Tamils had been attacked there. (The night trains had been attacked and the passengers robbed, but there had apparently been no deaths.) Liyanage had replied in Sinhalese, “Were they assaulted enough?”
Liyanage was in Jaffna when the false police radio message was sent alleging that large Tamil mobs were attacking or were getting set to attack the Sinhalese. He left Jaffna for Anuradhapura on the 17th evening. It was the same evening that DIG Ana Seneviratne told Amirthalingam that the troubles had spread to Anuradhapura and Kurunegala and that it was going to be worse than 1958. In fact on the evidence of the Report, the main killing of Tamils started at Anuradhapura only after Liyanage’s arrival from Jaffna. In contrast, a number of Tamils commended the attitude of Liyanage’s assistant, ASP Chandra Mendis.
On the 17th evening, two Tamil employees at Anuradhapura hospital took refuge in the house of Dr. Wijewardene, Medical Superintendent. One of them, Sivasambu, later died of injuries received. SP Liyanage came there at 10.30 PM and repeated the false radio message sent that morning with some macabre additions: “Havoc in Jaffna, Sinhalese have been murdered, Sinhalese women raped on the road, Buddhist priests have been attacked and doctors in Jaffna hospital not attending to Sinhalese patients.”
SP Liyanage was at large in Anuradhapura on the 17th night, repeating this message with variations, such as Sinhalese women were being nailed to the wall in Jaffna. He was at the railway station about 11.45 PM soon after the single worst incident of murder, telling the surviving victims his stories about the gory fate of Sinhalese in Jaffna. Testimony against him is damningly plentiful, especially that of L.M. Poulier, District Mechanical Superintendent of Railways.
Mr. K. Gunasekera, District Superintendent of Railways had placed his Tamil colleagues in the rest rooms upstairs of the station and a police guard of four was placed at the staircase entrance below. Also, there were 5 armed soldiers under Lt. Percy Perera from the National Guard. Poulier came downstairs and spoke to T.D. Gunawardene, PC No. 5920, about looking after the Tamils upstairs. PC 5920 replied, “…They must be given the works for at least 10 minutes”. Poulier then saw a mob rushing upstairs carrying weapons, who came downstairs 5 to 10 minutes later, with articles removed from the victims. Just at this time Lt. Percy Perera’s party had conveniently vanished.
A little later SP Liyanage visited the scene with a Major Jayewardene and left after a short time. The gist of Liyanage’s conversation as reported by Poulier had been: “I have just returned by air from Jaffna. Serves the bastards jolly well, right. It’s been a bloody massacre here all right, yes, yes, about 4 or 5 casualties, I think. Hm, Yea, OK, Cheerio.” Later in the night, Poulier phoned Gunasekera and told him, “There is blue murder here. My Chief Trains Controller is dying and so many others are injured.”
Although Sansoni did not say so, what he has recorded strongly suggests connivance between the security services and the mob similar to the Welikade prison massacre of July 1983. Tamils who asked SP Liyanage for help were abused and directed to “Colonel Amirthalingam”.
SP Liyanage had returned from Jaffna with so much zeal to carry out his brief that he had no use for discretion. He did not in the least feel shy about driving home the conclusion that he was a key mob leader as well as rumour-monger in Anuradhapura. Taken together with the events in Jaffna, he has left little to the imagination about what the Police hierarchy had discussed in Jaffna and the false radio message.
*To be continued..
*From Rajan Hoole‘s “Sri Lanka: Arrogance of Power – Myth, Decadence and Murder”. Thanks to Rajan for giving us permission to republish. To read earlier parts click here