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Monday, February 26, 2024

SRI LANKA: Whose remains are in the mass grave at Matale

A skeleton at the Mass grave 

The publically known facts about the mass grave at Matale is that the remains of 154 persons were discovered in this grave, that the remains show injuries which indicate that they were all murdered and that most likely they were assassinated sometime between 1986 and 1991.

However, the key question is as to whose remains these are. Identifying the exact names of those whose remains are inside this mass grave is of importance, not only for future initiatives relating to justice but it is also important from the point of view of the families who lost loved ones during this period. For many families what happened to their loved ones who ‘disappeared’ is a vital psychological and emotional issue. Besides the importance of this information for the families the names of these persons are also important from a political and sociological point of view. If the question as to who they are can be established then through other sources of information it is possible to establish how their remains came to be there.

In order to find clues as to who they are we looked into the records of evidence given to the special presidential commissions of inquiry to investigate into involuntary disappearances appointed by the Chandrika Bandaranaike government. These commissions recorded the evidence of thousands of complainants who revealed to them various information about the disappearances of members of their families, or someone known to them or someone that they were concerned about. Literally, hundreds of thousands of pages of this evidence is in our possession.
Since this mass grave is in Matale we looked into the evidence given to the Special Presidential Commission for Central and the Uva provinces.

We particularly looked into complaints of disappeared persons from Orvilikanda, Ratthota, Aluviahara, Kaikavela, Udasgiriya, Gurubabila, Matihakka, Mumandeniya and Alakolamada. Many complainants from these villages told moving stories about persons abducted and also about those who abducted them and further, particular reasons for which they were abducted. Shocking details of petty reasons which led to the arrest of several of them which took the form of abductions belies the version that all these persons were active fighters for the JVP who took up arms against the government.

From these complaints we were able to gather the names of the following missing persons from these areas.

Place of abduction
1 Y.B. Ramayake of Ratthota From a carpentry school Masked men in black
2 M. Jinasena of Kaikavela From Polwatta, Kaikavale A gang of about 12 persons wearing commando uniforms who arrived in a vehicle without registration number
3 Dayananda Banda of Kaikavela From Polwatta As above
4 Karunarathna Banda of Kaikavela From Polwatta As above
5 R.A. Ranasinghe of Kaikavela From Polwatta As above
6 Jinasena of Kaikavela From Polwatta As above
7 Jinasena Fernando of Kaikavela From Polwatta As above
8 Lambert Perera of Kaikavela From Polwatta As above
9 Gunasiri of Kaikavela From Polwatta As above
10 Sudath Alias Sana of Kaikavela From Polwatta As above
11 Wijasinghe of Kaikavela From Polwatta As above
12 Gamine of Kaikavela From Polwatta As above
13 K.G. Ratanapala of Kaikavela From Polwatta As above
14 R.M. Karunaratna of Kaikavela From Polwatta As above
15 Gunasiri of Kaikavela From Polwatta As above
16 W.A. Sirikumara of Mumandeniya From his home A number of persons in civilian dress who arrived in a white Delica Van anda blue Pajero from the two army camps at Wije College, Matale and the camp at Ratthtota
17 G.G. Punchibanda of Alakolamada From his home at Alakolamada Persons in civilian dress suspected by the complainants to be from the camps at Wije College and Ratthota
18 G.G. Dasanayake of Alakolamada As above As above
19 T.M. Tennakoon Banda of Gurubabila Surrendered to the camp at Ratthota from which he was taken to the camp at Wije College
20 P.D. Kuranayake of Udasgiriya Taken from the shop of Mr. Aradasa Corporal Wimalasiri, Captain Bandara and six other officers of Yatawate Army Camp
21 Suman Ashoka of Aluviahara From his home Police personnel from the Matale police who were accompanied by K. Somasundaram who came as a billi (Masked man)
22 A.G. Jayatunge of Orvilikanda From his home Sgt Jayatissa from Orvilikanda Army Camp
23 N.K.G.G. Upasena from Orvilikanda From the paddy field near his home. By army personnel, Nimal Senaveera and Susini Jayasinghe, I.G. Krunatilika, Nandasire Jinadasa and Jayatissa an officer from Orvilikanda army camp. A person called Chaminda Sugathapala came as the billi.
24 G.H.D. Kusumsiri from Orvilikanda From his home Army officers Jayatissa and Mr. Gunasekara Wassantha, the owner of the estate and two persons named Kumsonsiri and Mutosame as billis.
25 K.P. Sirisena of Orvilikanda From Dewara Temple Sgt Jayatissa and six army officers – he was taken in a van.
26 U.G. Chandrapala of Orvilikanda From near the Orvilikanda camp Sgt Premadasa from Udasgiriya Camp and Sgt Jayatissa from Orvilikanda Camp

 We have not included in this list those persons whose bodies were found at the time.

The details found in the statements made by complainants before the Special Commission provided telling details of reasons for some of the abductions. The persons listed from No. 2 to 15 were assisting at a Piritih Maduwa at Polwatta Kaikawela. This Piritih Maduwa was constructed by a gem merchant in the area. It was when these persons where there when a Delica van and a Pajero arrived with 12 army officers in commando kits and took them away. These persons had had some political problem with the local politician, one Mr. Kavirathna. According to the complaint made to the Special Commission this Mr. Kavirathna later boasted that a number of persons who opposed him are now under the earth. The complainants further said that when the dead bodies were exhibited on the roads in those days Mr. Kavirathna arrived to check as to whether his opponents were among the dead.
Regarding the person under No. 16, W.A. Sirikumara of Mumandeniya, a complaint of his abduction was made to Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa who was during this time in charge of the Gajabara Regiment. Regarding the same person complaints were also made to S.P. Balasuriya who was in charge of the area. A complaint was also made to one Mr. Nawalage who was in charge of the ‘I’ Branch of the police at Matale.

It is likely that the remains of the persons who are named above could be among the bodies found at this mass grave.

If details are collected from the complainants and other family members the mystery about whose remains have been found can be resolved. Perhaps much more information may be available with the villages in the localities named above which may be helpful in identifying the persons who were buried in this mass grave.



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