19 September, 2020

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The Role Of The IPKF And A Sequel

By Rajan Hoole –

Rajan Hoole

Rajan Hoole

The Indo-Lanka Accord and Sri Lanka’s Fault Lines: July 1987 – Part – 8

The incident above took place against a mounting cycle of violence. A number of Tamil militants had, as mentioned, been shipped from Boosa and released in Trincomalee. Owing to what had happened in Trincomalee in recent years, there was also a mood to respond harshly when an occasion arose. Conditions of detention had also made them vindictive. One incident at Boosa about the time of the Accord says something of their state. An evening meal, which the detainees were served, had resulted in loose stomachs. They told a soldier who came into a particular room that they needed relief. The soldier refused and a PLOTE militant beat him up. The soldier went out and came with others who started shooting at the detainees. The latter survived with graze injuries by holding themselves flat on the wire mesh above them. Nine of the detainees were then taken out, beaten, shot and were run over with a vehicle.

The first communal clashes started in Trincomalee on 18th September 1987. The Thileepan fast was going on in Jaffna and a group of 200 Tamil ‘satyagrahais’ went to Anuradhapura junction where they were confronted by a group of Sinhalese. This was at the height of Thileepan’s ‘Gandhian’ death fast in Jaffna (see Sect.15.3). Both groups pelted each other with stones. One Tamil and two Sinhalese died. The IPKF separated the two groups by firing tear gas.

The first massacre of civilians after the Accord took place on 24th September. Some persons from Mihindupura, a recently settled suburb of Trincomalee, had set off in 5 bullock carts along the Vavuniya Road to collect firewood. The next morning two bulls returned home with their carts. Later 9 charred bodies were found burnt with a cart at Kattankulam. Three or four of them were identified as Sinhalese and one, as a Malay. Although suspicion fell on the LTTE, a fuller account of the incident was not available. During June, the previous year, the Sinhalese settlements around Mihindupura had been the scene of massacres and counter-massacres. On the morning of Wednesday 30th September, the bodies of 2 Tamils hacked to death were found in Mud Cove. Subsequently, a Tamil group stopped a lorry coming from Nilaveli in the same area, abducted and killed 3 Sinhalese men and left a woman alive with knife wounds. Communal clashes erupted which left several people dead. The Sri Lankan Police and the Indian Army (IPKF) went out on patrol.

Then took place the incident of 1st October reported above. The firing near Town Hall by the Sri Lankan Army was given in testimony by prominent local civilians, but was not reported in the Press. The IPKF later opened fire at a crowd of Sinhalese, which gathered at King’s Hotel Junction after rioting had broken out, killing one person. Of the 200 houses burnt, 150 belonged to Sinhalese. According to the Press, 10 were killed on this day, 35 were injured and 2000 were rendered homeless. The discrepancy with the earlier account above, may have resulted from the Sinhalese thrown into wells and buried not being counted in the Government’s figures.

However, the Indian Army’s subsequent behaviour appeared largely correct. There was anger among the Sinhalese as the Indian Army had prevented the Sri Lankan Army from leaving their barracks to aid the Sinhalese. At 9.30 PM the same day, 5 persons travelling in a green van opened fire on an IPKF patrol near the Town Hall. The IPKF gave a chase and apprehended them. Those persons admitted that they were homeguards who had been given T 56 guns by the China Bay Police. The following morning (2nd) at 7 AM, persons travelling in a white van with red stripes opened fire at an Indian Army foot patrol killing Private Gorakhan and injuring another. Once again the IPKF gave a chase and found the vehicle parked in the compound of the Sri Lankan Army Co- ordinating Officer, Colonel A.M.U. Seneviratne. The latter denied the shooting and claimed that the vehicle had been distributing breakfast to SLA units. Another incident took place where a man fired at the IPKF, left his shotgun and ran into Fort Frederick where the SLA was camped. The IPKF then prevented the SLA from moving out.

The local press cried foul at the Indian Army and President Jayewardene was quoted as ordering the Indian Army to restore order in Trincomalee or leave. The IPKF poured in 11 additional platoons to maintain order. More Sinhalese left the area and their number was estimated at 5000. The Sri Lankan Air Force was reported airlifting food for the Trincomalee refugees – although considering the loading and unloading, it would have taken about the same time to transport the food by road. A high level conference was also held to iron out differences between the Sri Lankan forces and the IPKF and Lt. Gen Depinder Singh arrived in Trincomalee.

In another incident on 4th October, the IPKF shot dead the Ven. Saddharmalankara Thero of the China Bay Buddhist temple who was leading a protest demonstration against the IPKF. Policemen who went there were assaulted by the IPKF. It was from the China Bay Police Station that the armed persons who fired at the IPKF had set off 3 days earlier.

The newspapers of 6th October quoted Prime Minister Premadasa as saying in an address at the New York Buddhist Temple, “We are prepared to sacrifice any gain and suffer any loss individually and collectively to preserve the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of the motherland.” Two years later he gifted a generous quantity of arms to the LTTE! In another irony during the crisis in Trincomalee, the JVP, which wanted the SLA to drive out the Indian Army, attacked a Sri Lankan Army camp in Kantalai near Trincomalee and stole the weapons. The JVP, despite its patriotic rhetoric, never fired a single shot at the Indian Army. At the same time, the local press expressed satisfaction that the IPKF was proving effective in restoring order in Trincomalee.

The question whether there was connivance between the Indian Army and local Tamil hoodlums in the violence which erupted in Trincomalee on 1st October 1987 after someone fired at Brigadier Joshi’s party, was put to a senior Sri Lankan police official who was very familiar with the events. He said that in his estimation there was no such collusion. He added, “Although the local press was crying foul, the Indian Army did not come equipped for policing duties. Their mandate was something else. Once a riot breaks out on such a scale, there is little you could do immediately unless you were prepared for it. It took them a little time.”

The official also felt that although the Press blamed the LTTE for the attack on 1st October, it was rather those released from Boossa. It was, he said, ‘a different story’ with regard to the massive attacks on Sinhalese civilians after the 12 LTTE leaders in SLA custody committed suicide on 5th October. However, suspicion about some low-level collusion on 1st October is hard to resolve. But normally in any peace- keeping exercise, the peace keepers begin very cautiously in dealing with non-state armed groups. This may explain some of the perceived leniency.

Up to the time of the crisis precipitated by the LTTE by attacking Indian Forces on 10th October, the latter had for the most part acted correctly in a peace-keeping capacity. There was of course a new problem confronting the Sinhalese in Trincomalee whose interests had earlier been looked after by the Sri Lankan forces. But having been a law unto themselves for many years, the latter had not cultivated the tact to handle this new situation in which the Indian Army was present. Instead, their gut- feelings and undisciplined actions complicated matters.

There is a gruesome sequel to this episode. The LTTE recommenced war with the SLA in June 1990 after working with President Premadasa and having the IPKF withdrawn. Major General Kobbekaduwe was placed in charge of the East on the 12th June 1990 and supervised initial operations until he was transferred to the North the following month. Major General Gerry de Silva then took charge of the East. About 900 Tamils disappeared in the Trincomalee District. This happened under Brigadier Lucky Wijeratne and Colonels Saliya Kulatunge and Sunil Tennekon. Colonel A.M.U. Seneviratne who was in charge at Trincomalee during the crisis above was posted to Batticaloa in 1990 as brigadier-in- charge. Disappearances ran into the thousands in Batticaloa. In one notable incident among several, 184 villagers, including 68 children, from around Sathurukkondan, near Batticaloa, were taken away on 9-9-1990, killed and burnt. Justice J.F.A. Soza for the Human Rights Task Force in 1993 and the North-East Disappearance Commission a few years later, have both gone into the matter, accepted its veracity and identified some of the culprits. The wheels of justice have remained stuck in what Soza described was ‘a veritable massacre of innocents’.

One of the underlying problems in Trincomalee was that of remedying state-backed encroachments by Sinhalese. An even more graphic problem was Weli Oya and all that it represented.

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

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Latest comments

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    Rajan’s work is great stuff. But I hope he stops using “Tamil militant” to describe rank inhuman types of the LTTE There is a difference between tamil militants and terrorists. There are, and were genuine Tamil Militants and some of them happened to be in fact sinhalese (!) like Tiranagama. And there were Tamil terrorists as well.

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    A bigger problem is terrorist sponsored Tamil colonization of Colombo City.

    Tamil terrorists bombed Sinhalese and Muslims out of Colombo and Tamils colonized Colombo – Wellawattei, Kotahena, etc.

    This must be reversed by whatever means.

    • 2
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      You are short of knowledge, back to basics, perhaps could start with some schooling.

  • 1
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    We need to bring criminals who committed War Crimes and crimes against Humanity to Courts, International investigation is the starting point, one by one all the criminals should be brought before Justice.

    • 0
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      You’ll have to dredge the bottom of Nandikadal lagoon to find them :D

      • 1
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        David,you might get the dredging contract and become a multimillionaire overnight like the countless new rich nowadays.BTW any particular reason for selecting a brahmin name.Is it because of a deep inferiority complex being called all your life as a lansiya by the sinhalese and parangi by the tamils and now you prefer to elevate yourself from burgher to brahmin.Never try to be someone else,be proud of what you are and what god has given you.Not even cosmetic surgery,let alone your name your parents proudly gave you.

        • 0
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          what makes you think this is david?

          • 1
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            In one of kath noble’s articles on injured to dead ratio david asked me a question.I ignored it.Then this so called brahmin came quickly and asked similar type of probing inquisitive comment on david’s favourite topic,the war crimes.I knew it was david but to be sure i insulted this brahmin with regard to his caste.He seemed utterly not bothered about it unlike a real brahmin who would have got angry.So that was the clincher.David my boy since that day i knew you were siva sankaran sarma.Now i also know you have a connection to sach.Why don’t you ask the question directly from me instead of bothering sach.Come out of the closet ‘sarma’ and just admit who you are.Personally i never play these childish games.

            • 0
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              what a rational person this shankar is. Now david = sach = siva?
              OMG, are these the people we need to live in this country with?

              • 1
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                Sach,i did not say that you were david.I said there is a connection between you and him.You might be personally knowing him maybe.I could be wrong on that.It may have been just curiosity on your part too as to why i knew sarma was david.

                • 1
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                  sach go see a eye specialist and wear specs in future.In my comment i have said to david “Why don’t you ask the question directly from me instead of bothering sach.”Now if you were david will i say that?As for having to live with me don’t worry,don’t you realise the guys who bail out before something goes down are better off than those who hold the sinking shares.I waved goodbye to srilanka long ago though my heart is still there my brain told me to get my feet out fast with my preschool kids.

          • 0
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            Poor shankar and co have been so soundly and frequently thrashed by me & David that they’re seeing our ghosts everywhere :D
            I could request CT to step in and enlighten us all, but I’m not sure these guys can handle even more public humiliation – plus it’s way more fun watching these geniuses detail their detective work :D

            • 0
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              “I could request CT to step in and enlighten us all,” David why don’t you do that?Sarma where is your usual smiley figure at the end of each and every one of your cynical,sarcastic,somewhat idiotic comments?This is the first time in your life you have failed to put it.Thought i will remind you about it.

              BTW you should not lump yourself with David by stating”thrashed by me & David”.David is a smart boy while you are the idiot Hyde part of his personality.

              • 0
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                So sarma,when Jekyll forgets he is Hyde he misses putting the idiot smiley figure that represents his dual personality which is one half idiotic and one half brilliant.You are the idiotic half.

              • 0
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                Did they forget to put your pill in your banana this morning shankar? You sound even dafter than your usual self :D
                Keep going with your investigation though, I can always use a good chuckle at some nutjob’s expense :D

                • 0
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                  sarma aka david,if you were twice as smart mate,you will be still considered stupid.You should be grateful that i considered only one half of you as idiotic.

                  To think that you elevated yourself to david’s level when you said
                  ”thrashed by me & David”,heh heh heh.David’s a smart boy and you will have to look up when the droppings fall from his arse to your face.Compare your idiotic comments with david’s and see the difference in quality.Thank god at least the quantity is much less compared to that boring fart fartima who churns out absolute same rubbish with monotonous regularity deluging this blog.

                  • 0
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                    Poor shankar seems to be having a spot of trouble telling its arse from its elbow – all within the same post no less. LMAO :D

                    • 0
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                      Dear sarma,you can speak brilliantly on any subject,provided you know nothing about it.

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                      BTW,what is the D for at the end of all your comments.David?Why have you now removed that smiley figure which was always there instead.I am trying to find your psychological profile as to why this mania to have something common at the end of every comment.Maybe it is because something must be wrong with your rear end and therefore you got to put something to end each sentence.Prostrate problems?[Edited out]

      • 1
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        David Blacker;
        you have more experiences in Digging graves and
        dredging for loots???????????????????.
        Don’t you David Blacker??,

      • 1
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        When International investigators arrive, they will start digging not only Nandhikadal but also surrounding areas as well, everything will come to light.

  • 0
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    Shankar,

    “Is it because of a deep inferiority complex being called all your life as a lansiya by the sinhalese and parangi by the tamils and now you prefer to elevate yourself from burgher to brahmin.”

    The country has lost a lot of color with the Burgers migrating. They were a wonderful group of people. If you Tamils do call the Burgers Parangi, then don’t complaint about the Sinhalese also using derogatory words towards Tamils

  • 0
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    ravi,you sinhala bhuddhists are the chaps who chased the burghers out with your language policy and now you praise them as colourful people.You have sucessfully chased out about a million tamils too and if you could send out the balance you will praise them as hardworking etc and weep crocodile tears of nostalgia for them.Ultimately colourful or not you will be only happy and at peace if you have only sinhala bhuddhists in the country because of your paranoid nature.I have heard countless times sinhalese telling that if they were chased out they have only the sea left to go to.Have some trust in your fellow human beings.Nobody wants to chase you into the sea.Dravidians are not an aggressive people.Now you have started on the muslims.Where will your paranoia end.

    As for the word parangi,i think it was not used in a derogatory sense because it was the tamil translation of burgher,but mostly used by tamil speaking muslims but not in a derogatory sense.You are the guys who use lansiya,karapotta etc in a derogatory sense.I of course have lived with sinhalese all my life and know that they have a great sense of humour and don’t mean anything serious to hurt but just have a good laugh over it but others who take life more seriously than you might get damn wild when they are at the receiving end of these type of fun.

  • 0
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    Fathima Fukushima comments on every article on the C.T.But, readers Pl.note his spelling in some of those comments.EX.Kothapaya for Gothabaya.Wellawattei for Wellawatte and there are several more.Like Alice in Wonderland this is getting curiouser and curiouser.

  • 0
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    Shankar,

    Please read your own statement.

    “Is it because of a deep inferiority complex being called all your life as a lansiya by the sinhalese and parangi by the tamils and now you prefer to elevate yourself from burgher to Brahmin.”

    Taken in the above context are you know if you are not insulting the Burgers or not.

    “Ultimately colourful or not you will be only happy and at peace if you have only sinhala bhuddhists in the country because of your paranoid nature”

    There are many Sinhalese who would think like above. I certainly do not think that way. Certainly do not think most sinhalese think like this either. Yes, it was Bandas cheap politics which lead to the Burgers leaving. Now about the Muslims, Sinhalese in general are not happy about what the BOORU BALA SENA is trying to do. No matter how hard they try the there won’t be a Sinhalese Muslim clash. Sinhala people have voted many Muslims into parliment and will continue to do so.

  • 0
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    “Taken in the above context are you know if you are not insulting the Burgers or not.” Ravi,i’am not insulting the burgers but pointing out how they might have been hurt by insults and got a complex.I had some burgher friends when i was in school and felt a bit sorry for them the way others seem to treat them.One of them would come practically everyday and take my pushbike and bring it later because the poor fellows dad would not buy him one.In fact i have never seen his dad and maybe he had left him.My grandma in the house did not like him because he was a burgher and would complain to my parents that he is coming everyday and taking the bike.Fortunately my parents were not like her and liked him because he was a nice well mannered friendly fellow and ignored her.So this shows some of the prejudice that older folks had against the burghers at that time i don’t know why and i couldn’t care less because i had friends from all communities and will mix with them because in my mind i just could not see the difference.I either like a guy or did not like him and that was that as far as i’am concerned,the background does not matter at all to me.That is the way i was when i was a child and that is the way i will be when i die too.

    “There are many Sinhalese who would think like above.Certainly do not think most sinhalese think like this either.” Taken in the above context are you trying to confuse us or not.

    • 1
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      shankar

      “Taken in the above context are you trying to confuse us or not.”

      Give Ravi Perera all the context you want to however much you explain your point, he is conditioned to look at it through a Sinhala/Buddhist bigoted prism.

      He like his fellow Sinhala/Buddhist has neither Sinhalese nor Buddhist perspective to each issue at hand. He does believe only in the Sinhala/Buddhist narrative and nothing else.

      For him and his species, draught is always caused by Chola, Pandya, minorities, Tamils, Up country Tamils, Ponna, Chelva, 1976 Vattukottai, TULF, TNA, LTTE, and now Sumanthiran and CM Wiggy.

      Now he believes that Muslims had always stood by Sinhala/Buddhists from time immemorial forgetting what had happened since or before 1915.

  • 0
    1

    Shankar,

    ” Taken in the above context are you trying to confuse us or not. “

    Don’t understand. By the way are you a peterite

  • 0
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    “There are many Sinhalese who would think like above.Certainly do not think most sinhalese think like this either.”

    ravi,aren’t these contradictory statements and as such confusing?In one you say that most sinhalese bhuddhists consider the minorities a threat but in the other statement you say you don’t think the sinhalese think like that.

  • 0
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    Sankar,

    Pls look up the meanings of “Many” and “Most” amd you will have the answer

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