THE RAPE AND MURDER OF TEEN AGED KRISHANTI KUMARASWAMY BY SINHALESE SOLDIERS
The brutal gang rape and gruesome murder of Krishanti Kumaraswamy and her mother, brother and a neighbour on September 6, 1996 by the Sri Lankan army soldiers and policemen shocked the conscience of the civilized world. Although crimes like rape and murder committed against unarmed defenseless Tamil civilians have become common place in the North and East, the naked barbarism displayed by the rapists and killers in this instance surpassed all previous crime records.
Krishanti was aged sweet sixteen plus two years at the time of her murder. She was an Advanced Level student of the prestigious Chundikuli Girls College having earlier passed the Ordinary Level exam with seven distinctions. On that fateful day she went to college to write her chemistry paper. Her mother Rasamma Kumaraswamy (59) was the Vice-Principal of Maha Vidyalayam in Kaithady. Her brother Pranavan (16) was an O/L student at St.Johns College, Jaffna. Her elder sister Prashanti (21) has just moved to Colombo to pursue her studies in Accountancy. Krishanti’s father Kumaraswamy had died of cancer a few years back.
Day with Death
After writing her exam, she visited the funeral home of one her friend who died the previous day knocked down by a military truck. She then cycled back home. At Kaithady Army checkpoint, one of the hundreds dotting the landscape of Jaffna peninsula, Krishanti was detained by the army and police personnel on duty. The time was about 2 p.m. and fortunately a few passersby saw Krishanti taken into custody by the military personnel. They relayed the bad news to her mother Rasamma, who like every other mothers in Jaffna, was nervously waiting for her daughter’s safe return from school. Rasamma, in whose mind nightmarish scenes would have razed through instantly on hearing the bad tidings, decided to go in search of her missing daughter. Her son Pranavan and a neighbour Kirupamoorthy Sithamparam (32) who got married just six months earlier accompanied her. They did not suspect that their ill-fated journey was not only futile but she, her son and neighbour would be strangled, cut into pieces and buried in a little hut within the gates of the army camp the very same day.
The whereabouts of Krishanti and the other three remained a mystery and the army flatly denied any knowledge about the missing persons despite pressure brought to bear by the family’s immediate relatives, Tamil politicians and human rights organizations.
Dead Bodies Exhumed
After 45 days by sheer accident the dead bodies of all the four missing persons were found in crudely dug graves at Chemmani. The highly decomposed bodies were exhumed and flown in two coffins for burial in Colombo. A stubborn and insensitive government denied Prashanthi and close relatives of the family the right to mourn over the dead or perform last rites. To add insult to injury an ultimatum was given to the family by the army higher-ups that the bodies should be cremated within two hours!
Amnesty International and other human rights organizations like Women for Peace launched a sustained campaign to pressurise the Sri Lankan government to arrest and bring to justice the rapists and murderers of Krishanti and her family.
License to Rape and Kill
In the past, flagrant human rights abuses have been swept under the carpet by successive Sinhalese dominated governments and top brasses of the armed forces and police. The unwritten rule was that in the name of fighting a war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, security personnel enjoyed a carte blanche license to kill, rape, torture, and maim Tamil civilians. In fact these were effectively used as weapons to terrorise, oppress and subjugate Tamil civilians.
According to AI “ For too long the security forces have been literally allowed to get away with murder and a climate of impunity existed at all levels in regard to grave human rights violations committed by them.” The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances in its report for 1995 said, “Sri Lanka ranked second highest in the world total number of recorded `disappearance`.” Added the Tamil Information Centre (TIC) “Torture, deaths in custody, disappearances are wide spread in Sri Lanka. A number of women and children have `disappeared` after being taken by security forces in the Tamil areas. Tamils continued to be held in secret places of detention especially in the Jafffna peninsula, Colombo, and Vavunia.”
Gang Rape of Krishanti
Though sentence of death on six accused persons, out of the nine originally charged, with rape, murder and abduction have been welcomed by local and international human rights organizations and activists, there are doubts as to whether this marks an end to the climate of impunity in Sri Lanka. Also whether this is not a feeble attempt on the part of the Sri Lankan government to wash its sins and polish its image abroad also linger.
During the course of the trial two policemen who turned crown witnesses gave graphic account of the last dying hours of Krishanti. According to their evidence, the army and police personnel pounced on their prey like hungry animals to satisfy their carnal passions. Krishanti fainted and collapsed unconscious when these sex maniacs in khaki uniform raped her in a row. On gaining consciousness the poor girl asked for some water to drink. Thereafter when the sixth rapist was about to take his turn Krishanti pleaded with him. She unsuccessfully begged and pleaded with her tormentor saying, “Let me rest for five minutes.” Finally she was strangled to death and buried.
Unresolved Rapes and Murders
Unfortunately a swallow does not make a summer nor a single tree a forest. The prosecution of the thugs in khaki uniform who abducted, raped and murdered Krishanti is an exception rather than the norm. The extraordinary publicity given to Krishanti case had taken the focus off the hundreds of unresolved rapes and murders of other young Tamil women. The cases filed against security forces personnel in the rape and murder of 22 years old Rajani Velayuthapillai of Urumpirai and Koneswary Murugesapillai, aged 35 and mother of 4 children of Central Camp at Batticaloa are moving in snail’s speed in the courts.
On March 17, 1997 two sisters, namely Velan Rasamma (38), a widow and her sister Nalliah Dharshini (28) were raped by 4 soldiers at Thannamunai, a village 6 km north of Batticaloa. A plaint has been filed against a single soldier , but the accused is out on bail.
The case against 22 Special Task Force (STF) personnel accused of strangulation and murder of 27 Tamil youths whose floating bodies were recovered from Bolgoda, Alawwa and Diyawannawa lakes is still worse. The proceedings commenced at the Chief Magistrates Court, Colombo on September 15, 1995. After four consecutive postponements, the case was struck off the roll since both the Crown prosecutors and CID officials repeatedly failed to appear in Court. The government has now stealthily dropped the case entirely and the perpetrators are back in active service!
On June 22, 1991, 67 innocent Tamil civilians were massacred by the Sinhala army at Kokkaddicholai in the Batticaloa district. A Presidential Commission that probed the massacre found only Captain Kudilegama guilty. He was dismissed from the army but two months later he was given a higher position in a state corporation by the government!
Two Different Standards of Justice
The foot dragging and the lethargy displayed by the government in these cases is in sharp contrast to the diligence and speed with which graves in the South are excavated and how bodies of victims of 1988/89 army terror meticulously counted. So far a total of four Presidential Commissions have been appointed to probe into about 11, 000 cases of involuntary disappearances /extra-judicial killings between 1988 to 1994. But President Chandrika has brushed aside all appeal by concerned Human Rights organizations and Tamil parliamentarians to extend the terms of reference of the latest Presidential Commission to include period after 1994. This should cause no surprise since the human rights record of President Chandrika’s government is far worse than that of the UNP. During UNP rule it was a home and home match between the armed Sinhalese youths and the Sinhala armed forces. But now it is different- a Pan Sinhalese army raping and murdering innocent Tamil youths. Apparently President Chandrika has two different standards of justice system, one for the Sinhalese and one for the Tamils for identical crimes!
Mass Graves at Chemmani
In Krishanti’s rape and murder trial, the first accused Lance Cpl. Dewage Somaratne Rajapakse when asked by the court whether he has anything to say before sentencing said, ” We did not kill anyone. We only buried bodies that were sent to us by our superior officers.” He went on to drop the bombshell which even the Court could not have anticipated “We can show you where 300 to 400 bodies have been buried at Chemmani.” Other co-accused persons corroborated the first accused statement from the dock.
Lance Cpl. Rajapakse’s statement simply confirms the report issued by Amnesty International after a fact-finding mission to Jaffna. Amnesty International in its report dated November 27, 1997 stated categorically that “ nearly all of them are likely to have died under torture or to have been deliberately killed by (Sri Lankan security forces)”.
Amnesty went on to state that approximately 540 people `disappeared` in the Jaffna peninsula within the middle six months of 1996 alone. Over 60% of the 540 disappearances occurred in the two months after the LTTE overran the Sri Lanka’s Mullaitivu army base killing over 1,300 soldiers on July 18, 1996.
Amnesty further added “ Hundreds of others were victims of torture at the hands of the security forces” and it has received “several reports of rape by members of the army.”
President and Ministers Keep Mum
Thus far there has been no reaction from President Chandrika or her Ministers for the appointment of a Presidential Commission to probe into the alleged mass graves at Chemmani. Even Foreign Minister Kadirgamar who has been of late in an unholy mission to re-polish the image of the Sinhala army as a disciplined force is keeping mum. So is the leader of the UNP Ranil Wickremesinghe and other Sinhalese politicians.
Sinhala Hegemonic Rule should end
The fate that befell Krishanti, albeit not the only one, should not be allowed to recur henceforth. The root cause of the problem is the occupation of the Tamil Homeland by the Sinhala armed forces to establish hegemonic rule of the majority Sinhalese over the Tamil people. As long as the enemy is in illegal occupation of Tamil Homeland, so long our sisters and brothers will face the same fate as Krishanti, her aged mother, brother and neighbour.
So let us resolve and re-dedicate on this Black July 83 Remembrance Week our resolve to help our country to gain political and economic freedom so that our people could live in peace and security.
“EVERY HUMAN BEING HAS THE INHERENT RIGHT TO LIFE. LAW SHALL PROTECT THIS RIGHT. NO ONE SHALL BE DEPRIVED OF HIS/HER LIFE.”
-Article 6.1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (2005)
Probe of Chemmani Graves- Why is Sri Lankan Government Dragging its feet?
On July 03, at the Colombo High Court Trial-at-Bar case, the first accused Lance Cpl. Dewage Somaratne Rajapakse dropped a bomb-shell when he was asked by the Judge whether the accused has anything to say before imposing sentence of death on him. “We did not kill anyone. We only buried bodies that were sent to us by our superior officers. We can show you where 300 to 400 bodies have been buried at Chemmani” replied the first accused. Rajapakse’s statement from the dock was corroborated by the 3rd and the 7th accused persons charged with murder and rape of Krishanthy Kumaraswamy, her aged mother, and murder of her brother and her neighbour.
In one sense the accused statement merely confirmed what was an open secret known to all human rights and political activists. The Amnesty International in its report dated November 17, 1997 immediately after a fact finding mission to Jaffna said inter-alia, “ Approximately 540 people disappeared during the middle six months of 1996 alone. Over 60% of the 540 disappearances occurred in the two months after the LTTE overran the Sri Lanka’s Mullaitivu army base killing over 1,300 soldiers on July 18, 1996). Nearly all of them are likely to have died under torture or to have been deliberately killed by (Sri Lankan security forces)”.
It is now more than two months since this bomb-shell was dropped, but to date no concrete steps have been taken by President Chandrika or her Ministers to probe the mass graves at Chemmani alleged to contain the 300-400 bodies of Tamil youths who simply “disappeared” involuntarily. Despite the pleas of Human Rights organizations, specially the top human rights watchdog the AI; President Chandrika remains unmoved and unconcerned to expedite the probe.
Assault in prison
What is worse the life of the first accused Somaratne Rajapakse himself is in grave danger after he was severely assaulted by prison guards at the notorious Welikada jail. He was reportedly beaten up for alleging the existence of mass graves at Chemmani. According to AI even while warded at the prison hospital, the guards who assaulted Rajapakse earlier had visited him and threatened him not to talk about the incident – “Or you won’t be able to leave the prison alive.” Rajapakse has appealed to the Commissioner General of Prisons to transfer him to Bogambara prison in Kandy since he feared for his life at Welikada prison. So far there has been no response from the Commissioner.
Apparently the powers concerned believe that Rajapakse has betrayed the interests of the Sinhalese. His revelation in the courts that mass graves exists at Chemmani has helped to portray the Sinhala armed forces as barbarians in the eyes of the world.
The AI in a statement commenting on the assault on Rajapakse said “ There are fears for the safety of Somaratne Rajapakse who is in Welikada Prison hospital following an attack on him by prison guards to retract his allegation, first made when he was being sentenced earlier this month.”
Rajapakse in his statement to the independent Human Rights Commission claimed that he was forced by guards to retract his allegation that the grave at Chemmani contained 300-400 bodies of Tamil youths killed by the armed forces.
What is more disturbing is the allegation by AI that a government Minister was behind the move to retract the original statement made by Rajapakse. The Minister according to AI has ordered the prison guards to get a statement from Rajapakse to the effect that he had been emotionally disturbed at the time of making the statement to the High Court about the existence of mass graves and that it was false. The AI statement goes on to say that Rajapakse subsequently attempted to swallow the letter in order to preserve it as evidence, but the prison guards violently extracted it from his mouth resulting to some injuries to his mouth and chest.
The Secretary to the Ministry of Justice M.S.Jayasinghe has in a statement said Rajapakse sustained minor injuries when guards tried to confiscate some illegal papers which he had in his possession. This is hogwash and no person in his right mind will believe such a story specially when considered in the light of past tract record of the guards of this prison.
It will be of interest to know who was the Minister concerned who gave orders to the guards to obtain the purported statement from Rajapakse? Prison department comes under the Ministry of Justice and officially none other than the Minister of Justice can give orders to prison officers.
Evidence to be destroyed
No doubt there is a hidden hand or hands working feverishly behind the scenes to destroy all evidence regarding the existence of the mass graves.
The existence of the mass graves at Chemmani is a foregone conclusion since those 750 Tamils who disappeared after taken into custody by the army could not have vanished in thin air! If the disappeared cannot be traced, they must be presumed dead, if dead they must have been buried somewhere, if not at Chemmani. The logic is simple as that.
“Riviresa” army top brasses responsible for the arrest of these Tamils during search and cordon-off operations during 1995/96 are still in active service. They are the same generals now in command of the Jeyasikuru military operation at Vanni.
Therefore there are compelling reasons on the part of the authorities concerned to destroy evidence to save the skin of these army personnel.
Developments since the disclosure of the mass graves point to such conclusion.
- (i) The statement by a top ranking cabinet Minister who claimed that investigations could not be conducted on the basis of a convicted murderer’s statement against his superior officers(s).
- (ii) The Jaffna Army Chief statement that army could not investigate allegations against itself.
- (iii) The sealing off of all roads cutting through Chemmani and closed for all transport. This means Chemmani has become a no-go zone for civilians.
- (iv) The Co-ordinator, Mr. Senake Dissanayake and his associate Mr. Lohan Chandrasekare of the Sri Lankan government appointed Human Rights Commission have been suddenly transferred out of Jaffna by the Commission’s Head-office in Colombo. The Commission has specifically ordered the two officers to cease their activities immediately. These two officers were involved in collecting information about the 700 odd Tamils who disappeared after arrest by the army. Apparently their investigation work did not find favour both with the Commission and the government. Protest by the Union of NGOs in Jaffna asking for the repeal of the transfer orders had as usual fallen on deaf ears.
There is not a shadow of doubt that the government is not only dragging its feet, but also doing everything in its power to sabotage the probe of Chemmani graves.
Refuge under legal loop-holes
On August 13, Military spokesman Brigadier Sunil Tennakoon told reporters a forensic expert; government analyst and detectives from the police criminal investigation department will begin the probe after discussions with the attorney general. “ The date for the visit is yet to be decided,” he added. Now it is second week of September and no such probe has begun nor any official had gone to Jaffna. It is now claimed that the competent authority to order the probe of graves Chemmani is the Magistrate Court in Jaffna. Thus refuge is taken under legal loop holes to stall the probe and the government must be thinking that if it can weather the present storm then passage of time will take care of the rest.
Under normal circumstances a government uses its armed forces only to meet any external threat to the national security of the country. Only during exceptional circumstances like a state of emergency or national crisis that the army will be used, that too for a limited time frame, to maintain law order. Internal security is always left in the hands of the Police.
But what obtains in Sri Lanka is quite the reverse. Sri Lankan armed forces (99% Sinhalese) have been used by successive Sinhala governments not only as an instrument of state terror to subjugate the Tamils, but also to protect the numerous state sponsored Sinhalese colonization schemes that have sprung up in their hundreds in the North and East. Manal Aru (re-named Weli Oya in Sinhala- a direct translation from Tamil) is a typical paradigm. Of the 15 villages in Weli Oya one has been named Janakapura in recognition of the “yeoman services” rendered by Brig. Janaka Perera in developing that village.
Culture of immunity
The Sri Lankan armed forces have long enjoyed immunity from any prosecution or punishment for carrying out extra-judicial killings of Tamils. This culture of immunity has been assiduously promoted ever since 1956. Although the government does not issue specific orders, there is the unwritten law in the armed forces that Tamils could be killed without attracting any punishment. This explains why there has been hardly any judicial or court-martial inquiries held to punish errant army personnel responsible for murdering Tamils enmasse. In the rare instance when a Presidential Commission was appointed to probe the Kokkaddicholai massacre in the Batticaloa district, Capt. Kudilegama who was in charge of the army camp was found guilty and dismissed from the army. But the government after two months appointed him to a top job in a state corporation!
The saddest part of the whole episode is that disappearances of Tamils still continue unabated. Tamils are deliberately shot like dogs by the army and dumped in lavatory pits and abandoned wells. Chemmani mass graves are just the tip of the iceberg. Recently, the skeleton of a Tamil civilian, Ratnasingham, was recovered from the lavatory pit of Vasavilan Mahavidyalayam (school). According to TCHR, London, there are many “mini” Chemmani(s) scattered all over the Jaffna peninsula including Vasavilan and Punnalaikadduvan areas.
As mentioned above, the government is out to destroy evidence at Chemmani to protect army top brasses who are spearheading Jeyasikuru military operation at Vanni. The best way to get about the job is to bump off Samaratne Rajapakse perhaps the only eye- witness to the burial of 300-400 Tamils at Chemmani graves. “Or you won’t be able to leave the prison alive” is an ominous threat indeed. No one should be surprised if Rajapakse one of these days dies under “mysterious” circumstances within the four walls of well-guarded Welikada prison. The Sri Lankan government is dragging its feet this to happen.
SINHALA ARMED FORCES RAPE THAMIL GIRLS AND WOMEN
1) At a main checkpoint in Jaffna a soldier has asked a beautiful girl studying in a leading school at Jaffna to marry him. The girl has refused. The next day she was arrested as a suspected Tiger. She was initially detained in Jaffna and later taken to Colombo. It is not known whether she was dead or life. It is speculated she has been sexually assaulted and then murdered like Krishanthi.
2) There was a teacher who while going and returning from school used to pass through the army checkpoint at Ariyalai, Jaffna. She was abducted by the army one day and since then her whereabouts are not known.
3) A girl student schooling in Jaffna was subjected to harassment by a soldier. Under the pretext of examining her bag he stealthily placed a bomb without the student’s knowledge. Fortunately another student has seen the soldier placing the hand grenade. The soldier relayed the news to the next checkpoint that the girl concerned is carrying a hand grenade. On checking the bag the hand grenade was found by the army. When she was interrogated, the other girl had told the senior army officer present as to what really happened. The soldier who reported the girl was summoned and questioned by the senior army officer. Though at the start the soldier denied the charge, later he confessed to placing the hand grenade. He was severely reprimanded and possibly some further disciplinary action taken against him. However, as far as the girl is concerned this was a serious problem.
4.Rajani Velayuthapillai, aged 23 years was detained by the Sri Lankan army personnel at Kondavil military check-post on her way back from Manippai on October 03, 1996. She was returning after saying adieu to some of her close relatives prior to flying to Canada to join her fiancée. The soldiers on duty gang raped her and dumped her body in a pit in an abandoned pit near the Kondavil military check-post.
- Thenuka Selvarajah, a 5th grade student at Atchuvely Mahavidyalayam, was abducted and gang raped by army personnel attached to Puttur army camp on November 2, 1996. Luckily the sexually abused and psychologically tormented child escaped her abductors to tell her story to the school principal.
- On 17 May, 1997 as Mrs. Murugesapillai Koneswary, mother of 4 children, of Central Camp, Amparai District, was passing though the check point at Central Camp when she was verbally assaulted and sexually harassed by four police officers on duty at that time. Reportedly, Mrs. Koneswary was not one to quietly take the harassment and thus defended herself, shouting at the officers and demanding that they leave her alone. At approximately 11.00 p.m. that night, an unknown number of armed men in uniform entered Mrs. Koneswary’s home. By 11.30 she was dead. She died instantly when a hand grenade was exploded on her private part. This was apparently done to destroy all evidence of gang rape. Mrs. Koneswary’s home, a thatched hut with a concrete floor, bears the marks of the explosion.
- .On March 17, 1997 two sisters, namely 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. The incident took place at 11.00 p.m.. At an identification parade the victims identified only one soldier among a total of 150.
- On March 22, 1997 the police committed a gruesome murder, where a middle-aged couple from the Burgher Community was shot. Mrs. Mervyn Ockerz (52) was short in the head and died on the sport. Her husband Kingsley Ockerz (55) was seriously wounded.
Krishanthi Kumaraswamy murder case : SC affirms conviction, sentence, dismisses appeal
by Wasantha Ramanayake
The Supreme Court yesterday affirming the conviction and sentence, dismissed the Krishanthi Kumaraswamy rape and murder appeal.
The court included Military Police Officer to the definition of Police Officer in term of the Section 25 of the Evidence Ordinance and held that confessions made by such officers would not be admissible as evidence.
It was submitted that the Evidence Ordinance had not defined the term police officers and the confessions made to the Police officers would not be admitted as evidence against the accused and the confessions made to Military Officers had been duly admitted by the Court of law.
The special Bench of five Supreme Court Judges comprised Dr.(Mrs.) Shirani Bandaranayake, P. Edussuriya, H.S. Yapa, Asoka de Silva and Nihal Jayasinghe.
Delivering the unanimous judgement, Justice Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake observed that Military Police Officers had far greater powers in respect of the persons arrested under the Military Law than those vested in a Police officer with regard to persons kept in their custody.”Considering the powers and the authority the Military Police officers have over other persons in their custody, combine with the gravity of the charges, the detention in communicado and the inaccessibility to lawyers to practice, the rights of such persons in their custody would be a paramount necessity to include a Military Police officer also into the definition of the Police Officer in terms of Section 25 of the Evidence Ordinance.”
Accordingly, the court held that the confessions made to the Military Police officers by the appellants was inadmissible and therefore cannot be used against the appellants.
Justice Bandaranayake observed that except for admissibility of the confession, the case had been proved beyond reasonable doubt. “I am of the view that there is no merit on any of the grounds urged by the learned counsel on behalf of the appellants except the ground relating to the admissibility of the confession made to the Military Police Officer, after leaving out confessions, the evidence referred to above establishes beyond reasonable doubts that the appellants are guilty of the offence which they have been convicted. In the circumstances, I affirm the conviction and the sentences imposed on the appellants and dismiss this appeal.”
Although the court did not accept the confession made to the Military Police Officer which was the base of the appeal, Justice Bandaranayake observed that the case against the appellants could entirely be based on circumstantial evidence and their failure to give an explanation with regard to the said evidence established the serious charges against them.
“In such circumstances taking into consideration the position that there is no principle in the law of evidence which precludes a conviction in a criminal case being based entirely on circumstantial evidence and the fact that the appellants decided not to offer explanations regarding the vital items of circumstantial evidence led to establish the serious charges against them.
I am of the view that the Trial-at-Bar has not erred in coming to a finding of guilt gainst the appellants,” she noted.
Justice Bandaranayake further observed that “With all their damning evidence against the appellants with charges including the murder and rape, the appellants did not offer any explanation with regard to any of the matters referred above.” In the appeal accused-appellants, Army Personnel, R.D.Somaratne Rajapakse, G. Pradeep Priyadarshana, A. S. P. Perera, D.M. Jayathilake, D.V. Indrajith Kumara, and J.M. Jayasinghe cited the Attorney General as the respondent.
They were convicted and sentenced by the Trial-at-Bar in Colombo for the abduction, committing the rape and murder of Krishanthi Kumaraswamy and committing the murders of her mother, brother and neighbour Rasamma Kumaraswamy, Kumaraswamy Poonrnawan and Thiruba Moorthi respectively in Chemmani, Jaffna on or around September 7, 1996.
The accused-appellants averred that the Trial-at-Bar convicted them solely on a confession they made to Military Police Officers, that had been obtained under duress. They sought to set aside the conviction, order and the death sentence.
Ranjith Abeysuriya PC appeared for the first accused-appellant. Dr. Ranjit Fernando appeared for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th accused-appellants.
Solicitor General C.R. de Silva PC with Senior State Counsel Sarath Jayamanne appeared for the Attorney General.
Supreme Court to hear ‘Krishanthi Kumarswamy’ murder appeal
[ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka]
Jan 03, Colombo: Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva is due to appoint a five-member panel of Supreme Court judges to hear an appeal filed by five soldiers who have been found guilty of murdering Jaffna schoolgirl Krishanthi Kumarswamy and three others.
Their appeal was referred to the Supreme Court, challenging the death penalty handed down to them by a three-member bench of High Court Judges.
The five soldiers have been found guilty of the murder of the schoolgirl, her mother and brother and a neighbor at Chemmani in Jaffna in September 1996.
The incidents of major human rights abuses will be depicted around Kumar Ponnambalam who will be the story line as a human rights lawyer.
A) The tragic death of a human rights lawyer Footage from a vigil for Kumar Ponnampalam
Little bit of his story as a human rights lawyer
B) History and background of the conflict
C) Major incidents of human rights violations
1. Krishnanthy rape case & Chemmani mass graves
Speeches from Kumar Ponnampalam
News items & pictures
2. Kokkaddicholai Massacre
Speech by Margaret Trawick from Ottawa conference
3. Navaly Church Bombing
Excerpts from ‘War without witness’ video
Interview with Fr.Chandrakanthan
4. Nagarkovil school bombing
Excerpts from a video documentary
5. Killali Lagoon Massacre
Interview with a boy who lost speech on seeing his mother’s chopped
D) The history of human rights violations
Video on burning Jaffna library (?)
Interview with Anton Sinnarajah who escaped 1983 Welikada Prison
BBC news footage on July’83 riots (?)
Interview with other people who have been subjected to human rights
abuses (cases have to come from the Center for Victims of Torture
& Lawyer Xevier; exact number is not yet known)
Interview with Fr.Ratnapala on cases of human rights abuses
Interview with Karen Parker (?)
Dr.Jayawardane’s speech on economic embargo from Ottawa conference
E) End (finishing up with the story of Kumar Ponnampalam: funeral procession)
Federation of Associations of Canadian Thamils Le Federation des Associations des Tamoules Canadiens fNdba jkpou; rq;fq;fspd; rk;Nksdk;
2191 Warden Ave., Suite 202 Scarborough, Ont, Canada M1T 3N9 *Tel: (416) 498-3228, (416) & Fax: (416) 498 9179
July 10, 1998
Mass Graves in Jaffna Peninsula
The Colombo High Court on July 3, passed death sentences on five soldiers and one Policeman found guilty of raping and strangling the 18-year-old student Krishanti Kumaraswamy and murdering three others on September 7, 1996 at a military checkpoint at Kaithady in the Jaffna peninsula.
The London based Amnesty International has observed that “ This is the first time members of the security forces have been given such a heavy sentence for grave human rights violations…… For too long the security forces have been literally allowed to get away with murder.”
While welcoming the convictions we are at the same time extremely perturbed over the damning statement made from the dock by Cpl. Dewage Somaratne and his co-defendants that “We didn’t kill anyone. We only buried bodies. We can show you where 300-400 bodies have been buried at Chemmani.” This only confirms the statement made by Amnesty in November, 1997 that out of the approximately 540 Tamil people who `disappeared` following the occupation of Jaffna by the Sri Lankan armed forces during 1995/96 “nearly all of them have died under torture or to have been deliberately killed (by Sri Lankan security forces).” Amnesty further said “Hundreds of others were victims of torture at the hands of the security forces” adding that they had received “several reports of rape by members of the army.”
The NGO Consortium of Jaffna had demanded that not only should unauthorised graves at Chemmani be excavated, but mass graves in other parts of Jaffna too should be opened.
Ironically these mass graves in the North have appeared while the Sri Lankan government is excavating such graves in the South containing victims of army terror during 1988/89. There should not be two sets of justice one for the Sinhalese and other for the Tamils when the circumstances are identical.
We, therefore, urge the Secretary General of the UNO, Heads of States, Human Rights Organizations and the general public to exert pressure on the Sri Lankan government to order for the opening of the mass graves at Chemmani and other parts of Jaffna peninsula and bring to justice the army personnel responsible for the murder of innocent Tamil civilians.
FEDERATION OF ASSOCIATIONS OF CANADIAN TAMILS