Try soon to be ex-President Chandrika Kumaratunga for War Crimes! 

V.Thangavelu, President TCWA

            Chandrika Kumaratunga’s days as the powerful executive President of Sri Lanka are now being numbered. In less than 4 weeks she will have to vacate the Presidential House which she has occupied for over 10 years. As power slips away many of her close confidants, party faithful and cohorts  are jumping ship at lightening speed leaving her betrayed, isolated and frustrated.  Only her sibling appears to hold fort for her but unfortunately not many take him seriously. Anura Bandaranaike himself has a sordid history of abandoning  ship and joining  sworn enemies of his mother. It is therefore no surprise all roads now lead to Temple Trees which has  become the new gravitational centre of power politics.

            Chandrika Kumaratunga these days is  blowing hot and cold. She says one thing in the morning, something different in the afternoon  and  something opposite in the night. She said she is quitting politics and retiring to cooler climes.  News report said  she is eyeing for a posting with the UNESCO or some other arm of the UN. Incidentally UNESCO is the very organization that was chided by her late foreign minister Lakshman Kadirgamar when he asked that the UNESCO  resident representative should confine himself to catching mosquitoes and not  interfere in  the internal affairs of Sri Lanka. 

            In a recent interview to the Daily Mirror reporter Poorna Rodrigo Chandrika Kumaratunga  expressed the hope that the LTTE leader Prabhakaran would let her live after retirement. "I hope he would forget me and let me live a private life without fear” was the exact words she used in her interview.

            In an impassioned speech, President Chandrika Kumaratunga had also said she would be saying goodbye to the country’s highest post and going home with a clean record. “I can assure you that I am not going to take back home a red cent if it doesn’t belong to me and it gives me pride to say that I have not stained my hands with mud or blood, the President said addressing a felicitation ceremony organized by Uva Chief Minister Gamini Wijith Wijayamuni Soyza in Bibile.  (Daily Mirror – November 01, 2005)

            I don’t know how the LTTE leader Prabhakaran would respond to President Chandrika’s    prayer.  He might in all probability not care to answer her. But I do certainly know one thing, he  is not known to like her at all. 

            The horrendous human rights violations bordering on war crimes and crimes against humanity, committed against the Thamil people by President Chandrika Kumaratunga and her Government is only comparable to the suffering of the Black South Africans under Apartheid white rule.  Chandrika Kumaratunga wilfully and brazenly violated the basic democratic  rights and freedoms of the Thamil people by unleashing a bloody war from  1995  to April  2001. 

            The Jayasikuru military operation, coupled with economic strangulation, launched in 1997 with much fanfare wrought nothing but death and destruction to the people of Vanni for two long years.  This military operation was described as “War for Peace” a cynical slogan one out of 3 propounded by George Orwell in his novel 1984.  A Ministry of Peace was created to concern itself with War! The other 2 slogans were Freedom is Slavery and Ignorance is Strength!

            It may be recalled that Chandrika Kumaratunga was swept to power in 1994 (62.28 per cent popular vote) on a peace platform to end the bloody and destructive war that had festered and bled the country since 1983. From every public platform she promised to end the rivers of blood and usher in peace at any cost. She further claimed that she is one leader who has felt every human pain that is possible having lost her father and husband to violence.   

            The spontaneous euphoria created by Chandrika Kumaratunga 1994 election victory and the great expectations of the Thamil people soon turned out to be a grand delusion. Far from emerging as a progressive and innovative national leader representing all the people of the island of Ceylon, she ended just like her predecessors as an unashamed Sinhala-Buddhist champion! 

           Like her father, mother, J.R. Jayawardene and Ranasinghe Premadasa - Chandrika Kumaratunga also spoke about “One Nation, One People.”   Inaugurating the Sudu Nelum campaign at Sugathadasa stadium in July, 1996 this is what she said:

         “The Sinhalese Buddhist majority should merge with the Sinhala Christians, Thamil Hindus, Thamil Christians, Muslims and others to form one Lankan nation. This is the greatest task we are facing today"

          Chandrika Kumaratunga sought to buttress her ‘assimilation’ theory to resolve the national conflict by falsifying history. She brazenly declared:

          “Our ancestors succeeded in forging one nation. Even those communities who retained their separate identities lived with the Sinhala Buddhist majority as one nation. Then we lost our independence as a nation. When we regained our independence in 1948 we were also saddled with a legacy left behind by our colonial masters: seeds of communal dissension. ”

            No wonder, therefore, the Leader of the LTTE in his 1999 Heroes’ Day speech described Kumaratunga’s regime “as the one which has inflicted the worst form of tyrannical oppression in the diabolical history of racist oppression for the last half a century.”

            As an eye witness to the gigantic suffering of his people in the Northeast the LTTE Leader reserved the harshest barbs for Chandrika Kumaratunga in his speech. He further observed:

           “The two major Sinhala political parties, who have assumed political power alternatively in the Sri Lankan political system, are essentially chauvinistic organizations. Both these political parties have bred and flourished in the anti-Thamil Sinhala Buddhist racist ideology. For the last half a century these parties competed with each other in intensifying the oppression against the Thamil people. In this diabolical history of racist oppression it is Chandrika's regime which has inflicted the worst form of tyrannical oppression.

            The five-year rule of Chandrika has been a curse on the Thamil people. The monumental tragedy that our people encountered in the form of war, violence, death, destruction, displacement, hunger and starvation was the worst form of tyranny ever suffered by the Thamils. Chandrika's oppressive rule marks an epoch consisting of blood stained pages of our history. Her tyrannical rule left a permanent scar on the soul of the Thamil nation. “

            Not only the rule of Chandrika Kumaratunga was a curse and a monumental tragedy, it was also an unmitigated disaster for the Thamil people.

            President Kumaratunga in her dying days makes the further claim that she is retiring without mud or blood ! Is she serious or  is she  simply joking?

            The basic right to life and liberty of every Thamil was denied under the oppressive rule of President Chandrika Kumaratunga.  Rape, murder, extra-judicial killings, disappearances, torture etc.  became so common that even Amnesty International (AI) was forced to state in its 1999 annual report that "torture has been among the most common human rights violations reported in Sri Lanka."

            The Thamil people were not only subjected  to a brutal war in the Northeast which resulted in  death and destruction, but  they were also routinely subjected to indignities of  cordon and   search operations, arbitrary arrests,  detentions without trial,  rape, torture and murder under judicial custody by the  Sinhala armed forces.

            Even during the dying days of her oppressive rule more than 1,000 young men and women in Batticaloa were herded into common grounds by the Sri Lankan Military personnel in a cordon and search operation that was launched on October 31, 2005. Masked paramilitary cadres wearing military uniforms assisted the SLA personnel to round up the Thamil youth and parade them to common grounds for identification.

            Since it appears that Chandrika Kumaratunga suffers from selective amnesia  let me take her through the memory lane since  she was propelled to  power in 1994.  

        (1)               Following Riveresa military operation (1995/96) and capture of Jaffna peninsula more than 700 Thamil youths disappeared after arrest by the SLA.   AI said  “that of the 600-odd people who have “disappeared” in the last 18 months after their arrest by the security forces, nearly all have died as a result of torture or been deliberately killed in detention.”

        (2)               On July 09, 1995 St. Peter's Church, St. Peter's School and the adjoining residential houses were bombed by Sri Lankan air-force fighter planes during operation "Leap Forward". The bombing took place on the very first day of the military offensive and  3 miles away from the theatre of war. One hundred and twenty four (124) people were killed in the mindless bombing, including 65 women and children some less than 6 years of age. The tragedy is all the more weird when it was the Sri Lankan army that exhorted the people to take refuge in churches and schools.

            Chandrika Kumaratunga did not utter a single word of sympathy or  expressed remorse  to the families of the victims even though she shed copious tears during her (1994) election campaign for those who died during the civil war. A month after the attack (August 4), Chandrika Kumaratunga not only  denied the attack  by the air force, but had the temerity  to point the accused finger at the LTTE. The Reuters reported-

          “Sri Lankan President Kumaratunga said on Friday, the bombing of a church in the northern rebel-held Jaffna province last month was probably the  work   of Thamil Tiger rebels and not the air force. She also said the number of dead when the  St. Peter's Church welfare centre in Navaly was hit was not as high as some estimate.....” 

        (3)               On 22 September, 1995 Nagarkovil Central School in the Jaffna peninsula was bombed during school’s lunch break by Pucara planes killing 25 school children and 15 Thamil civilians on the spot. Of the 25 children 12 were between 6-7 year olds. Nearly 200 others were injured, most of them students of the same school. Elsewhere in the area, 15 other civilians were also killed in the course of the  bombing raids. The scene of the attack was visited by the ICRC. Pieces of human flesh were strewn around the area including tree branches, making identification impossible. The total death toll later increased to 71.

        (4)     On October 01, 1995 8 people were killed and  5 houses destroyed in Mannar when the SLAF planes bombed the area.

        (5)    On October 02, 1995 6 people killed and another 55 seriously wounded  by Artillery Shelling at Valkamam when SLA  fired artillery shells in the Valkamam area.

        (6)    On October 04, 1995 16 Thamil civilians killed and more than 60 wounded in the Jaffna district.  At least 8 Thamil civilians were killed and 30 seriously wounded by  artillery shelling from SLA camp in Thenmaratchi. Another six killed in Valikamam and other two people killed and more than 30 wounded in Vadamaratchi.  

        (7)     On October 05, 1995 eight Thamil civilians were killed and many houses destroyed  at Thenmaratchi.  Many Thamil houses were looted  and artillery fire  continued to rain down on  the 4th day of Military operation "Thunder" in the Thenmaratchi area.

        (8)      On October 13, 1995 two Thamil civilians were killed by artillery shelling in Vadamaratchi when the SLA  fired artillery shells in the Vadamaratchi area.

        (9)         On October 19, 1995 fifty-four Thamil civilians killed and several others wounded by aerial bombing and artillery shells fired by the SLA  in the Jaffna district. 20 of those were  killed in Valikamam and another 15 in Inuvil.

        (10)       On  October 27, 1995   twemty-five Thamil civilians were killed 23 wounded at Ariyalai by repeated aerial strikes by Supersonic planes! A couple married 3 months just 3 months before among those killed.

        (11)        On September 7, 1996, soldiers and police raped and murdered of Krishanthy Kumaraswamy, murdered her mother Rasamma Kumaraswamy, brother Kumaraswamy Pranavan and neighbour Kirupamoorthi respectively in Chemmani, Jaffna Although crimes like rape and murder committed by men in uniform against unarmed and defenseless Thamil civilians were common during the Northeast war, the rapists and killers of Krishanthy displayed naked barbarism that surpassed all previous crimes.

        (12)        On October 03, 1996 Rajani Velayuthapillai, aged 23 years was detained by the SLA personnel at Kondavil military check-post on her way back from Maanippaii.  She was gang raped by soldiers on duty and   her body dumped in a pit of an abandoned lavatory near the Kondavil military check-post.

    (13)            On November, 1996 Thenuka Selvarajah, a 5th grade student at Atchuvely Mahavidyalayam, was abducted and gang raped by army personnel attached to Puttur army camp. Fortunately, the sexually abused and psychologically tormented child escaped her abductors to tell her story to the school principal.

        (14)       On May 17, 1997 Mrs. Murugesapillai Koneswary, mother of 4 children, of Central Camp, Amparai District was raped and killed by an unknown number of armed men in uniform at her home. The soldiers exploded a hand grenade placing it on her  private part apparently to destroy all evidence of gang rape.

        (15)        On March 17, 1997 Velan Rasammah (38) a widow and her sister Nalliah Dharshini (28) were raped by four army soldiers at Thannamunai, a village 6 km north of Batticaloa.

        (16)        On March 22, 1997 the police opened fire at a middle-aged couple in Batticaloa.  Mrs. Mervyn Ockerz (52) who was shot in the head died on the spot. Her husband Kingsley Ockerz (55) was seriously wounded.

        (17)        On April 1999, Thambiaiyah Suntheralingam, 23, was arrested and taken into custody by the army at Navatkuda. The Batticaloa JMO who examined Suntharalingam on July 12, 1999 said in his report submitted to the court on August 02, that the youth had been beaten up severely and hung upside down and that his head had been covered with a plastic bag containing petrol and chilli powder during his detention at the military intelligence camp located in the former tooth powder factory building at Lake Road 2 in Batticaloa town. The DMO also stated in his report that the youth's head had been banged repeatedly on a wall for ten days while he was held at the camp of the Counter Subversive Unit (CSU) in Batticaloa town and that as a result his eardrums had burst and bled severely.

        (18)        On  July 13, 1999 Sithamparapillai Kanakanayakam, 27, of Kokkaddicholai, 16 kilometres southwest of Batticaloa, was arrested by the army while he was visiting relatives in Kallady, a suburb of Batticaloa town. He too was detained at the same military intelligence camp and later at the CSU camp. He was then transferred to Batticaloa and Kalutara prisons.

        (19)        The Assistant JMO for Colombo Dr.S.Sivasubramaniam who examined Kanakanayakam on December 15, 1999 states in his report to the court that the youth had been beaten up severely with wires and plastic pipes and his head had been covered with a plastic bag containing petrol fumes and chilli powder and that his head had also been repeatedly submerged  into water and held until he choked.

        (20)        On December 28, 1999 Sarathamabal, 29, was gang-raped and murdered in Punguduthivu in Jaffna by Sri Lanka Navy personnel. The CID last week said that there was no evidence to continue the case.

        (21)        On 12 July 1999 a young woman, Ida Kamaleeta, 21, was raped and murdered in Pallimunai, a suburb of Mannar town by SLA soldiers. Seven soldiers were accused  and the case is still pending.  

        (22)         On March 9, 2000 Thirumeni Sunthararajah (24) and Suntharaligam Subendran (23) were shot dead by the Vellaveli STF lying in ambush. when they were going to Mandoor to bid farewell to their relatives before they travelled abroad for employment. The government falsely claimed that both of them were members of the LTTE.

        (23)        On May 03, 2000 the day the new emergency regulations were gazetted 45-year-old Thangaiyah Sivapooranam from Wattala, Colombo was taken away by three people in civil dress who  identified themselves as officers of the Criminal Investigation Department of the police. Following  day, his body was found at Kadawatha, together with three other  bodies, whose identities remain unknown. There were five gunshot injuries,  including one to his forehead, suggesting he may have been summarily executed.

        (24)         Between June 21 - 27, 2000 Yogalingam Vijitha  a 27-year-old Thamil woman from Kayts, Jaffna was tortured and raped with a plantain tree flower (hard cone-like, approximately 8-inch long) while in detention at the Negombo police station. .

        (25)         On June 24, 2000 Velu Arshadevi, a Thamil woman of Indian origin, who was living in a boarding house in Colombo, was raped by three policemen.

        (26)           On July 19, 2000 the Batticaloa High Court released two Thamil youths who had been tortured by the SLA  while in detention under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. The state counsel said that the Attorney General is withdrawing the cases against them and another youth as Senior Superintendent of Police, Bandula Kumara, the chief witness had died. 

        (27)          On May 9, 2000 a 70 year old woman Poomani Saravanai of Neerveli, Jaffna was raped by soldiers of the SLA in front of her 32 year old son. The woman wrote a letter to Joseph Pararajasingham, MP narrating her ordeal at the hands of the thugs in khaki uniform. The MP read out the letter in Parliament and took the opportunity to inform Parliament that about 1, 500 Thamils arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act are still languishing in prisons without trial.

        (28)          On June 24, 2000  (Saturday), two men from Kalmadhu refugee camp in Valaichenai, who were on their way to go fishing in Punaanai lagoon early morning,  were killed when Sri Lanka Army soldiers opened fire, said survivors of the incident.  Witnesses said an SLA ambush unit hiding behind bushes fired at them, killing their two colleagues, Sinnathamby Selvarajah, 28 and Kanthavanam Mangalan, 30.

        (29)           On 13th July, 2000 a student named Somasunderam Sanjeevan schooling at Jaffna Hindu College was shot dead by the armed forces. Sanjeevan was returning home after playing football at the college grounds. The armed forces claimed that the deceased was a suspected Tiger and he was collecting funds for the LTTE.  The parents have strongly refuted these frivolous charges.

        (30)             On July 14 (Monday), 2000 Palanithamby Sambasivam, 16, and Thevaraj Gnanaesh, 16, both from Naasevanthivu were returning home from the annual festival of the Maylankarachchai Mariamman temple. They were shot dead by soldiers who were lying in ambush at Kaddumurivu, according to villagers. Kaddumurivu is a hamlet situated between Maylankarachchai and Naasevanthivu.

        (31)             On July 15, 2000 a female student from Alvai in the Jaffna peninsula was gang raped by two soldiers attached to the Gajabahu regiment. She was later admitted to Manthikai hospital.

        (32)             October 25, 2000 Sinhalese mob stormed the detention facility at Bindunuwewa close to Bandarawela.   In spite of the presence of armed police, the mob killed 27 of the inmates, hacking and clubbing them to death. Some victims were burned to death. The remaining 14 detainees were seriously injured.

                        The Bindunuwewa detention facility housed a total of 41 Thamil inmates with suspected links to the LTTE.  The youngest inmate in the camp was 12 years old; the eldest was in his mid-thirties. The detention facility was set up as a transitional rehabilitation centre, and despite many problems was regarded by many, including international observers, as a model center where the inmates had better conditions than at other detention facilities in Sri Lanka.

                        Though there were approximately 60 police officers stationed around the camp, not a single officer arrested any member of the attacking crowd. Subsequent independent investigations revealed that not only did the police not do anything to prevent or stop the killings, but some police officers also participated in the attack.   After years of investigation and prosecution, on May 27, 2005, the Supreme Court acquitted the last of the accused in the case, citing lack of evidence.  These acquittals show a shocking failure of the police and judicial system in Sri Lanka to find justice for the dead and injured from this horrific incident,” said Brad Adams, Asia Director of Human Rights Watch. “As the victims were all Tamil, the government needs to move quickly to start fresh investigations and to prosecute the perpetrators, some of whom were police officers, or it will only further distance aggrieved Tamils.”  

        (33)                        On March 19, 2001 in Mannar 2 Thamil women Wijikala  Nanthakumar ( 22) an expectant mother and Sivamani Arjunan (24) mother of three children  were  stripped naked, blind-folded  and  repeatedly  gang raped by two naval ratings for  several hours while the rest of the men in uniform sadistically relished witnessing the  rape through openings in the wall!

        (34)                       Medico-legal reports written by 17 doctors on 184 Thamils, who had been referred to the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture between January, 1997, and December, 1998 supported the allegations of torture in Sri Lanka.

Of the 184 men, 38 (21%) said they had been sexually abused during their detention. Three (7%) of the 38 said they had been given electric shocks to their genitals, 26 (68%) had been assaulted on their genitals, and four (9%) had sticks pushed through the anus, usually with chillies rubbed on the stick first. One said he had been forced to masturbate a soldier manually, three had been made to masturbate soldiers orally, and one had been forced with his friends to rape each other in front of soldiers for their "entertainment".

A Commission of Inquiry, appointed by the National Human Rights Commission to investigate complaints of "disappearances" in the Jaffna, Kilinochchi and Vavuniya districts from 1990 to 1998, published its findings in October. The commission investigated the cases of 280 "disappeared" people, 245 of whom had been detained by the army.  [Source: AI, Report 2004 (2004) 189.]

These are just random cases, but they faithfully reflect the magnitude of the dreadful human rights violations committed by the SLA and Police in the Northeast in a climate of impunity. Seldom or never the perpetrators of these crimes against humanity were arraigned before courts of law. Most often they are rewarded for “gallantry” or “bravery” and “decorated” like Major General Janaka Perera during whose command the Chemmani mass murders took place.

All these murders, rape. torture took place while Chandrika Kumaratunga  was the Commander-Chief of the Sri Lanka armed forces. In the light of this damning evidence her claim that  there is no blood in her hands rings hollow. In fact her hands are soaked with rivers of  blood of innocent Thamil men, women and children. Now is the time for the Thamil Diaspora and other human rights organizations to petition the IVJ/ICC  to try President Chandrika Kumaratunga  for  war crimes and crimes against humanity!

In the recent past, Head of States and army generals who carried out ethnic cleansing have already been arraigned before the ICJ/ICC/ICT. 

The following have been indicted  before the International Criminal Tribunal by virtue of their positions, as follows:

Slobodan Milosevic as President of the FRY, Supreme Commander of the VJ, President of the Supreme Defence Council and pursuant to his de facto authority;

Milan Milutinovic as President of Serbia, member of the Supreme Defence Council and pursuant to his de facto authority;

Dragoljub Ojdanic as Chief of General Staff of the VJ;
               Nikola Sainovic as Deputy Prime Minister of Serbia;
               Vlajko Stojiljkovic as Minister of Internal Affairs of Serbia.

The Indictment charges Slobodan Milosevic, Milan Milutinovic, Dragoljub Ojdanic, Nikola Sainovic and Vlajko Stojiljkovic on the basis of individual criminal responsibility (Article 7(1) of the Statute) and superior criminal responsibility (Article 7(3) thereof) with:

one count of violations of the laws or customs of war (Article 3 - murder), and
four counts of crimes against humanity (Article 5 – deportation; murder; persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds; other inhumane acts)

There should not be double standards or selective morality in trying war criminals.  (1988)