By Rajan Hoole –
As for the thinking concerning Tamil detainees that was surfacing in the highest circles at this time, the killing of at least 20 detainees in Vavuniya on 2nd December 1984 provides a vivid illustration. This was the time the newly formed Media Committee under Dr. Wickrema Weerasooria, an Australian national and brother-in-law of Gamini Dissanayake, was having its trial run. At a press conference held at the defence ministry (Island 4.12.84) he announced that 32 terrorists were killed in two operations. 12 were killed in army operations around Kent and Dollar Farms. (Surely the twelve were not Tigers – who conducted a massacre there 3 days earlier and would not have around when the security forces arrived!) In the second incident according to Dr. Weerasooria, 20 terrorists were killed (the BBC said 30) and 2 wounded when terrorists attempted to attack the Northern Command HQ at Vavuniya. The terrorists killed were said by Dr. Weerasooria to be those under detention at the camp who attempted to escape during the attack.
The purpose of the attack, he said, was to rescue the terrorists detained at the Centre. The terrorists from outside who launched the attack fled upon the soldiers opening fire. None of them, he said, was killed in the attack. One soldier guarding the Command Centre also died in the battle, he added.
The report above speaks for itself. Doctor Weerasooria, it is said, was removed from his media role not long afterwards. About 3 weeks earlier Lalith Athulathmudali was in Vavuniya as National Security Minister for the opening of the new JOSSOP (Joint Special Services Operations) building. He was shown talking to captured ‘terrorists’ who were said to be pouring out their heart to him in the manner of repentant sinners.
Another report from a survivor said that several of those killed belonged to the PLOTE. There was an escape plan, it is said, which was leaked and several of the prisoners were killed. Some were badly beaten. There was no attack from outside. This report came from a survivor whose legs were broken. The incident is again a reflection of the press item cited from the Island of 12th June 1983, and suggests that such ways of dealing with the more spirited prisoners had become part of the mental make-up of the system. What began with Tamils in 1983 became a flood when dealing with Sinhalese youth from 1988.
*To be continued..
*From Rajan Hoole‘s “Sri Lanka: Arrogance of Power – Myth, Decadence and Murder” published in Jan. 2001. Thanks to Rajan for giving us permission to republish. To read earlier parts click here