Conclusions of the presidential commission that inquired into the Matale mass grave are an insult to the professional experts who had carried out the investigation at the grave site, the experts allege.
The two judicial and archaeological experts who supervised the digging of the grave have told JDS that they completely rejected the commission’s report.
The report, handed over to secretary to the president P.B. Abeykoon on April 29 says the skeletal remains found from the grave do not belong to the persons who had gone missing during the 1988-89 period.
Its conclusion is based on a carbon-testing carried out in Beta Analytic laboratory in Florida, USA which determined the bones belong to a period before 1950.
Attempt to falsify scientific reports
Archaeologist Prof. Raj Somadeva, who maintains the skeletal remains belong to the 1986-90 period, described the commission report as an attempt to falsify scientifically-based findings.
He said he told the commission that he could not recognize its report which had been based on human bone samples which he personally had not collected or sent to a laboratory.
Prof. Somadeva pointed out that the samples could definitely have been polluted as the grave had been flooded twice, and accuracy of the carbon-testing should come into question.
He added that it is now internationally accepted that rather than carbon testing, it is better to depend on archaeological dating.
He also questioned the commission’s conclusion that the buried persons had been tortured before being murdered, noting that it was an attempt to say that it did not belong to the 1986-90 period of the JVP’s second armed struggle.
JMO Dr. Ajith Jayasena has told JDS that he too, could not accept the commission’s criticism of the expert opinions.
He said that from the outset, they knew the commission would be biased, and the motive for its appointment was to clear a top person implicated.
He said he had carried out the examinations amidst harassment by the authorities and various hardships.
Dr. Jayasena said his verdict during examinations was that there were skeletal remains of more than 150 persons, whose heads and limbs had been sawed off and iron nails forced into their bodies.
He said that while carrying out his professional responsiblities, his conscience prompted him to demand justice for these victims of a heinous crime.
Everybody knows that a top state official of the previous regime had been implicated in the crime, and the commission had wanted only to clear him.
Matale torture chambers
[At the opening of the Gajaba regimental centre on 25 July 1989 – (from left) Maj. Y.N. Palipana, Lt. Col. Gamini Angammana, Maj. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Col. Wijaya Wimalaratne, Lt. S.A. Kulatunga, Col. G.C. Premachandra]
The Matale mass grave was discovered during digging for a construction purpose in November 2012.
The then president Mahinda Rajapaksa in June 2013 appointed the commission comprising retired supreme court judge S.I. Ismail, former secretary general of parliament Dhammika Kithulegoda and retired high court judge Bandula Atapattu.
The new government or the new president are yet to make an official announcement about the commission report.
During the JVP’s second uprising, several military and police torture chambers had operated in Matale.
From 01 May 1989, the Gajaba Regiment was called into Matale to curb this armed struggle, and its commanding officer was Maj. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the defence secretary of the previous regime.
‘Gota’s War: The Crushing of Tamil Tiger Terrorism in Sri Lanka’ by ‘The Island’ deputy editor C.A. Chandraprema says that as the Matale district military coordinating officer at the time, Gotabhaya had lieutenants Shavendra Silva, Jagath Dias and Sumedha Perera serving under him.
Read related Sunday Times article: Skeletal remains have no connection to 1989-1990 disappearances: PCI