( A commemoration for five students)
“ Thus it would be seen that though the evidence of the STF personnel who arrived at the scene almost immediately after the grenade explosion do not speak of having fired any of their weapons, the Police who arrived immediately afterwards and dispatched the dead and the wounded to the hospital. It is therefore hard to imagine that anyone other than the STF could have shot those who were at the Gandhi Statue. This is also confirmed by the evidence of Yoganathan Pooncalalon who stated that about 10 to 15 uniformed persons arrived soon thereafter. They had then put those who had been injured into their jeeps, assaulted them with their weapons while they were in the jeep, and then pushed them out of their jeep. Soon thereafter he had heard repeated gun shots two of which struck him on his thigh and back of chest” says a newly released report of the Special Rapporteur on the Conflict Related Human Rights Violations appointed by Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka in 2006.
Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka has now released the report on line. The Special Rapporteur on the Conflict Related Human Rights Violations was appointed at the time Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy was at its helm.
The Special Rapporteur was Mr. T.Sundaralingam, former member of the constitutional council and former high court judge. Wisaka Darmadasa President of the War Affected Women and M.C.M. Iqbal, a retired officer of the Sri Lanka Administrative Services were other two members of the team.
The issues investigated by the team headed by Mr. T.Sundaralingam were:
(a) Abduction of Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) Staff
(b) Killing of five students at Trincomalee
(c) Rape and Murder of Elayathamby Tharshini
( d ) Killing of the Kattankudy Divisional Secretary
( e ) Killings at Akkaraipattu Mosque
The report contains observations and recommendations too.
Here is the section of the report dealing with the Killing of five students at Trincomalee:
At about 7.30 p.m. on 2nd January 2006, there had been an incident of a grenade being thrown at some students at the Trincomalee Beach. Following this there had been shooting by the security forces. Consequently the following had died –
- Shanmugarajah Sajendran
- Thangathorai Sivanandan
- Manoharan Ragayar
- Lohithadasan Rohan
- Yogarajah Hemachandran
Pararajasingham Kokularaj and Yoganathan Pooncalalon had been injured. All of them were students who had gathered near the Gandhi statue that evening for a chat. The statements of the injured had been recorded at the Trincomalee Hospital where they received treatment. Kokularajah had stated that at about 6.50 p.m. all the above mentioned deceased, the other injured person Yoganathan and he had gathered for a chat.
Kokularajah was facing the Dockyard Road and chatting when he felt a vehicle approaching them. Within seconds he had heard a bomb exploding. He was injured on the head and had fainted. Yoganathan Pooncalalon corroborated the statement of Kokularajah. However he had seen a green coloured three wheeler coming towards them. A grenade had been rolled in their direction from the three wheeler. When he attempted to run away it had exploded. He saw the three wheeler fleeing towards the fort after the grenade exploded. As a result of the explosion Kokularajah, Sajendran, Sivanandan and he, were injured. He could not move as his leg was injured. Kokularajah had fainted. His head was injured. In a short while, a jeep had arrived with about 10-15 persons in military uniform. He is not sure whether they were from the army, navy or the STF. They had then put the injured into the jeep and assaulted them with the butts of their weapons. Thereafter they were pushed out of the jeep. Then he had heard several gun shots. Bullets hit him on his thigh and the back of chest. He lay flat with his eyes closed. In a little while there was silence. He could not move due to the injuries. Shortly thereafter the police arrived and took the injured to hospital.
This incident had taken place not very far from a check point on Beach Road. The navy and the STF were also not very far from this point. It is surprising how a three wheeler that threw the grenade could have come past one check point undetected and got away after throwing the grenade without anyone giving chase it to it. Nor had it been stopped at the next check point a little further away within hearing distance of the place of this incident.
It is in evidence that the STF had arrived for duty in Trincomalee on 24th December, 2005. Sub Inspector Ananda Bulanawewa of the Uppuveli Police Station had stated that he had been instructed by SP Kapila Jayasekera to work with the STF.
In his statement SI Ananda stated that he was at the Clock Tower check point on duty from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. This check point is not very far from the place where the shooting had taken place. He stated that 13 STF officers were present at this check point. They heard a grenade explode on the Beach Road. According to him all of them had then gone towards the Dockyard check point, stopped the jeep there and started walking towards the beach. He stated that they saw a police jeep halted near the Gandhi statue.
Police Inspector VA Sarathchandra Perera had stated that on 23rd December 2005 28 persons from the STF had come to Trincomalee on the orders of K.H. Jayaweera, Superintendant of Police. These 28 included 1 Inspector of Police, 2 Sub Inspectors of Police, 1 Police Sergeant, 22 Police Constables and 2 Police drivers. They were staying at the old Police station near the Urban Council. On 2nd January 2006, 13 of them were on duty near the Clock Tower. They were all wearing STF uniforms and were armed. He stated that on hearing the grenade explode they had rushed to the spot on the beach and saw seven persons, some of whom were injured. He stated that there is another check point about 75 meters away. Two Police jeeps had arrived from that side. On 6th January 2006 the STF had been ordered to leave Trincomalee.
Reserve Police Sergeant H.P.D. Upali Gunewardana of the Harbour Police had stated that 3 or 4 minutes following the grenade explosion he heard gunfire. At that time he was on duty at the UC Junction check point which is about 100 meters away from the Pedurukotuwa Junction which is near the beach.
The statements of these Police officers indicate that the place of incident is between two check points and the STF were the ones who first arrived at the scene of the grenade blast. IP Sarathchandra speaks of seeing seven persons at the site, some of whom were injured. When the Harbour Police arrived they had dispatched all seven to the hospital. The JMO had reported that the five killed at the incident had died due to gunshot injuries. Of them, three had been shot on the head. The two, who were injured, also had bullet wounds. The Magistrate had concluded that the deaths were due to gun fire.
Thus it would be seen that though the evidence of the STF personnel who arrived at the scene almost immediately after the grenade explosion do not speak of having fired any of their weapons, the Police who arrived immediately afterwards and dispatched the dead and the wounded to the hospital. It is therefore hard to imagine that anyone other than the STF could have shot those who were at the Gandhi Statue. This is also confirmed by the evidence of Yoganathan Pooncalalon who stated that about 10 to 15 uniformed persons arrived soon thereafter. They had then put those who had been injured into their jeeps, assaulted them with their weapons while they were in the jeep, and then pushed them out of their jeep. Soon thereafter he had heard repeated gun shots two of which struck him on his thigh and back of chest.
Dr. Manoharan, the father of the deceased had received a telephone message from the mobile phone of his son Ragayar, that the security forces who had arrived at the scene after the grenade blast, were making him and the others who were with him to kneel down and that they were pleading with the security personnel not to shoot them. Dr. Manoharan who had arrived at the scene soon afterwards had been stopped at the check point near the beach and prevented from going to the rescue of his son. He speaks of having heard the pleading of his son and then gunshots a few minutes later, which killed his son and the others.
Following this incident the security forces had issued a statement to the press that seven tigers who had attempted to throw a grenade had been injured as the result of the grenade exploding in the hands of those who brought them. As the result of the explosion five had died and two had been injured. This story was proved to be false when the Judicial Medical Officer who conducted the postmortem examination reported that all those who died had gunshot injuries. The JMO Dr. Gamini Gunathunga, who deserves to be commended, had stated in his report that three had gunshot wounds on their heads while two had been shot on their chest and abdomen. Though the Magistrate had ordered that the bodies be released to their families, there had been some delay in releasing the bodies. The people of Trincomalee had been enraged by these incidents and had observed several days of mourning for the dead students. There had also been a hartal.
The inquest proceedings and the photographs of the deceased that appeared in the Tamil Newspapers – the Metro News and the Sudar Oli on the 9th of January,2006. This brought to public knowledge the manner in which the killing had taken place. This enraged the Tamils who continued to mourn these deaths. These pictures had been taken by Subramanium Sukirtharajan, a correspondent of the Sudar Oli newspaper. On 24th January 2006 he was shot dead near the ICRC office which is in the High Security Zone of Trincomalee.
President Rajapaksa had also initiated a probe into the killing of the students. Even Amnesty International had issued a statement condemning the action of the security forces in respect of these killings. It is hoped that probe ordered by the President will result in bringing to light the manner in which the incident took place and identifying the perpetrators. Thereafter action has to be initiated to deal with the miscreants who had tarnished the image of the government and placed obstacles on the President’s efforts to bring peace to the country.