Navy - EPDP kill thirteen civilians in Allaipiddy-Velanai
May 16th, 2006
By D.B.S. Jeyaraj
Thirteen Tamil civilians including two women and two children were
killed in three incidents of violence on the night of Saturday May
Thirteenth in the Allaipiddy and Velanai islets off Northern
province's Jaffna peninsula . Another man and woman were seriously
injured while at least eleven businesses including a
telecommunication centre were destroyed through deliberate arson.
Personnel in civils from the Sri Lankan Navy and cadres of the Eelam
Peoples Democratic Party (EPDP) were suspected of being responsible.
Those of us who read English poetry of an earlier vintage may
recall " The Cottar's Saturday Night" by Robert Burns. Scotland's
national bard had written a masterpiece about the calm ,serene life
of a humble cottar as he settled down for the night peacefully with
his family in his cottage. It was however a different night of deadly
violence that lay in store for the victims of an extended family in
Allaipiddy on Saturday May 13th.
The northern archipelago off the Jaffna peninsula coast comprises
many Islands and islets. Only thirteen of these are populated.
Allaipiddy is one such islet. Situated along the Oorkavalthurai
(Kayts ) road that branches off from the Pannai causeway it is
adjacent to Mankumban. People of the Islands are renowned for their
business acumen and entrepreneurial skills. At one stage they
dominated much of the retail trade and eateries in Sri Lanka.
The escalation of the ethnic conflict has taken many of them to
Western Countries where they are doing well as professionals as well
as in commerce. The two - storied house in ward two of Allaipiddy
that witnessed violence on Saturday night also belonged to Tamil
expatriates. With the owners living abroad some of their relatives
were living there. They in turn had brought in some other relatives
to stay. It was one big extended "family" living in a big,
comfortable house that was the envy of many.
Most of the Islands are under the control of the Navy. The Islands
have been under Government control from 1990.Earlier the navy was
assisted by EPDP cadres in maintaining security. After the ceasefire
EPDP influence had waned considerably. There was a big navy camp in
Allaipiddy about 500 metres away from the house. There were also
sentry posts and bunkers in the area. Security had been intensified
after a landmine attack that injured two navy men.
The nominal caretakers of the house were T. Sellathurai and his son
Amala Dhas also called Amalan. Another small house in the same
compound was used as a small shop. It was managed by Sellathurai with
the aid of a couple from ward one in Allaipiddy. Amuthadhas was
engaged in business trading mainly in sea food products.
On May 13th at about 8. 30 pm four men wearing shorts and tee -
shirts had gone to the shop and bought biscuits and mineral waters.
They ate and drank a little and began sauntering out. They seemed to
be navy men in civils. Even before these men were in the
shop "trouble" had started brewing in the vicinity.
Uniformed navy men on duty in the neighbourhood asked the drivers of
the few vehicles passing through to "off" their lights. At the same
time some EPDP cadres on motor cycles went up to houses in the area
and asked them to turn all lights off. The lights near sentry posts
were also turned off.
It was pitch dark when the four men emerged from the shop but they
according to residents had "petromax" lanterns. After getting out of
the shop casually the men started moving fast. They entered the big
house where the inmates had kept doors open as they had no danger to
fear. The men had firearms.
Entering forcibly the men began firing at the people inside. It
appears that the men went upstairs and downstairs shooting away at
their targets. One person seated down near the doorway listening to
the radio was shot dead. So too were a sleeping family of four. The
parents and two children were killed in sleeping position. Three men
staying on the upper storey were also shot dead. Eight people staying
in the house were killed.
The men then went outside to the shop. After firing a few shots they
threw a grenade inside. Three people were seriously injured. With
Naval and EPDP personnel ordering "lights out" earlier and hearing
reports of gunfire and explosions the people were terrified and
stayed indoors. Allaipiddy was not densely populated even in earlier
times. Now the population was quite sparse.
It was left to Fr. Amalathas the Catholic priest at nearby St. Philip
Neri church to collect some people and visit the scene of violence.
They were horrified by what they saw. Eight dead people were lying
dead. What was most appalling was the brutal killing of two children
including an infant..
The dead victims at the Allaipiddy house and their ages,
1. Ketheeswaran Yathursan - 4 months
2. Ketheeswaran Thanushkanth - 4 years
3. Agnes Esther Ketheeswaran (23),
4. Palachamy Ketheeswaran (25),
5. Sellathurai Amalathas (28)
6.. Abraham Robinson (29)
7. Ganeshan Navaratnam (50)
8. Joseph Anthonymuttu (64)
Fr.Amalathas and Allaipiddy people then ran to the shop. They found
three persons inside who were injured but alive. They then tried to
take them to the Jaffna hospital via the Pannai causeway. The navy
men on security duty refused to let them proceed. Finally Fr.
Amalathas had to telephone the Jaffna district judge of their plight
who in turn contacted the navy top brass and obtained
The three injured people were rushed to Jaffna hospital. But
Sinnathurai Sivanesan (46) succumbed to his injuries. He may have
lived if the navy had allowed him to be brought to the Hospital
without delay. Sivanesan's wife S Mohanambikai (46) and T Sellathurai
(61) though seriously wounded are alive still and receiving treatment.
The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission was duly informed. To their credit
the monitors arrived at Allaipiddy at about 1.00 pm and inspected the
scene. The frightened people gathered around them like a drowning man
clutching at straws. With old men , women, middle - aged men, young
men, child and infant killed people from all ages were afraid and
They requested the monitors to stay with them that night for
protection. Some even fell at their feet and begged. But the SLMM
could not help. Their mandate and regulations did not permit it.
Besides there was the question of security. The monitors left for
Jaffna. Thereafter about petrified people both Hindus and Christians
gathered at the St. Philips Neri church for safety and spent the
night there under the watchful eye of Fr. Amalathas.
If this was the situation in Allaipiddy where nine were killed and
two injured the night of violence had not ended for the people living
in the Northern Islands. A road forking off from the Allaipiddy -
Mankumban - Kayts road goes through the Vangalavaadi junction in
Velanai west. A tea boutique - closed for the day - in Vangalavadi
was attacked between 10 to 10.30 pm..Ratnam Senthuran (38) the owner
was dragged out and shot dead. The assailants also set fire to the
Further up on the same same road is Puliyankoodal junction in Velanai
from where three roads go to Naranthanai, Suruvil and Kayts
respectively. There is a row of shops and businesses at
Puliyankoodal. Among these is a telecommunication centre which is
open 24 hours of the day. A gang of armed youths speaking in both
Tamil and Sinhala arrived at the spot between 10. 30 to 11. 00 pm.
They wore dark blue balaclavas to hide their faces. Some also had red
bands tied around their heads.
The main target of the gang seemed to be the telecommunication
centre. Three members of the same family running it were shot dead.
The victims were the father . Murugesu Shanmugalingam (72), mother
Shanmugalingam Parameswari (65) and son S Kantharoopan (29) . Another
son managed to run away and hide down a well to escape the
assailants. Some people from the other businesses also ran out and
The marauders exploded grenades inside the telecommunication centre.
They also took fuel from a nearby depot and set fire to the place.
They also set fire to the other businesses in the area. The fuel
depot was also burnt down. The commercial establishments including
the telecom centre burnt down at Puliyankoodal numbered ten.
The navy was very harsh on the people the following Sunday 14th. They
were not allowed to travel outside the Islands. With an unofficial
curfew in force most people kept indoors through fear. One
consequence of this action was that the outside world could not know
much about the previous night's massacre, violence and arson. But the
clamp down was relaxed to some extent the following day. With people
being able to travel to Jaffna town and Kayts more details emerged.
It appears that there were a few eye - witnesses to the violence and
killings. The prime suspects were the Navy and EPDP. It appeared that
the Allaipiddy massacre was done by one group and the Velanai
violence by another. In Allaipiddy the actual violence was done by
navy men in civils with EPDP men aiding and abetting. In the case of
Velanai violence EPDP men were suspected of being in the forefront
with navy men also participating.
There are many theories about the targets of violence but a brief
account of recent history in the area is necessary to understand the
context. The Navy - EPDP nexus had the Islands in an ironclad
security grip for many years. The situation changed after the
ceasefire when the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) entered
the area to do "politics" and made their presence felt.
EPDP power dwindled considerably. This was illustrated clearly
through the Parliamentary elections of 2004 and Presidential
elections of 2005. Earlier the EPDP had much "influence" through the
captive vote bank.
With the LTTE political cadres "officially" withdrawing from Govt
controlled areas last year the situation began reversing itself. But
violence erupted sporadically again this April. On April 11th Thambu
Gopalasingham (26)a mini - bus driver from Kayts was beaten to death
by the EPDP. He was a strong tiger supporter.
On 23rd April former deputy - chairman of Kayts Pradeshiya Sabha
Nagamuthu Thiruchelvam (71) was shot dead by the LTTE.He was an EPDP
member. On April 27th an auto - rickshaw driver from Kayts Suresh
Fernando (38) was shot dead and his four year old daughter injured.
The EPDP was suspected of being responsible.
On April 29th a woman named Bhothini Ratnasingham (30)was shot at
Velanai near the old bus stand. The single mother of one was killed
by the LTTE. The tigers suspected her of being an army informant. The
incident took place at 6 pm. There was a delay in taking her to
Jaffna hospital due to stringent navy procedures and the woman died
after undergoing belated surgery.
On the following Sunday April 30th the relative calm of Allaipiddy
was shattered when a tiger claymore mine went off at the junction.
Two navy men were injured. They were airlifted to Palaly and then
Colombo. The incident took place at 6. 40 pm. Some sailors at
Allaipiddy ran amok. They entered houses in the area and assaulted
people. A 74 year old man Ramasamy Sangarapillai was shot to death
despite his pleading not to shoot him.
Relations between the navy and people in Allaipiddy began to sour
after the April 30th. The navy felt people in the area were
harbouring tigers. Their suspicion fell on the big house occupied by
S, Amaladhas and others. The prime suspect was Ganeshan Navaratnam
who was also staying there. Navaratnam was a business associate of
Amaladhas. He was from Kottadi in Jaffna and a father of five
children. Three of them were in the Wanni and believed to be closely
linked to the tigers.
The navy and EPDP from the area regarded the house as a tiger den.
They suspected perhaps all inmates including the 4 month infant to
be "kotiyas" and "kotipatau". On may 3rd some navy men went to the
house, inspected it casually and then asked the residents in a
friendly way to give them the house to set up camp. This was refused.
It is not known whether the decision to attack the house and kill
inmates was taken officially or unofficially. It is also not known
when it was taken or who made the decision. The tension however was
simmering from May 1st. The flashpoint may have come after the LTTE
attack on the "Pearl Cruise II" and other Dvoras on May 11th. The
navy was seething.
Some of the naval personnel who came on the passenger ferry resumed
duties in the Islands on the morning of May 13th. It was also the day
after Vesak. There is reason to believe that some navy men angered by
the earlier incidents had attacked the house and killed the
occupants. It also could be an "officially sanctioned unofficial
execution". These executions are part of the State's retaliation
strategy being implemented as part of unauthorised Mahinda Chinthana.
The killing of an infant was a new low.
As far as the Velanai violence was concerned the Navy was angry with
the business people for shutting down during hartals. Despite the
navy insisting they remain open the businesses had closed defiantly.
This was seen as part of tiger designs. The tea boutique owner and
the family running the telecom centre were perceived as active tiger
supporters. Both had refused to pay "kappam" money to the EPDP. There
has also been some tensions with navy personnel demanding "free"
telephone calls and free cigarettes, food and tea.
Many cadres of the EPDP in the area came from Thambatty in
Naranthanai. It is an EPDP stronghold. It was here that an EPDP mob
attacked the TULF and injured people like Senathirajah, Raviraj and
Sivajilingam some years ago during election campaign in 2000. Most
people from Thambatty belonged to the so called oppressed castes. The
businesspeople of Velanai belonged to the so called high castes. Thus
there was much friction between the two groups that were political
and socio- cultural. This too may have played a part in all this.
With some action happening in Allaipiddy the green light may have
been given in Velanai too. So an action plan unfolded there too. In
Allaipiddy the navy took the lead role with EPDP playing second
fiddle. In Velanai the EPDP seems to have played the major role with
the navy playing sidekick.
The LTTE's Jaffna political commissar Ilamparithy has lodged a
complaint to the SLMM. "Unprovoked and preplanned killings of
innocent civilians including children in the islets of Jaffna are
being carried out by the paramilitary Eelam People Democratic Party
(EPDP) along with the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) soldiers. " he has stated.
"Two pickup vehicles loaded with inebrieted EPDP cadres from their
Sridar theatre camp in Jaffna town on Saturday around 6.30 p.m left
to Allaipity where they joined the SLN and entered Selathurai
Amalan's home firing and lobbing hand grenades killing 8 people on
the spot including two small children".
The monitors - God bless them all - are investigating! Let us all
hope that the SLMM comes out forcefully and fast with a statement!!
Whatever the political affiliations of the victims may or may not
have been there is no justification that a massacre of this nature
could be perpetrated. What is happening now in parts of the North -
East is unadulterated state terror.
Why is it that the international community which is quick to condemn
LTTE "terror" harshly is by contrast painfully slow and soft in
condemning state "terror"? Is there any justification for killing
sleeping infant and child?
Why are those media sections who beat their breasts about the life of
the unborn child in the suspected pregnant woman's womb being
eloquently silent now about the life of a living infant being cruelly
The Allaipiddy massacre and Velanai violence has sent shock waves
down all decent people who came to know of it.. It was committed the
day after Vesak. Mahinda Rajapakse has once again promised a full
investigation. The world is keen to know the fate of his earlier full
investigations like the murder of five Tamil youths in Trincomalee.
Keheliya Rambukwella the cabinet spokesperson on Defence matters
is "spinning" away. He is even better than Murali. Keheliya now says
that the massacre may have been done to bring discredit to the
Government. How true! But who ? The Tigers are trying to distract
international action is another googly. Anura Priyadharshana must be
thanking his stars that Rambukwella and not he is in the hot seat.
Keheliya is ably assisted by DKP Dassanayake the navy spokesman. His
Doosra was "at night we are confined to our camp in the islets, as a
precautionary measure, to avoid clashes with the Tigers". How nice!.
How considerate of the navy. So the tigers are on top nocturnally.
But then Dassa says "that night also we were inside the camp, but we
had to help some civilians control a fire, which broke out twice in
some shops near our camp. Who lit the match then?
Brig. Prasad Samarasinghe is cautious. Being a good soldier he may
not want to defend the sailors or the half - democrats. When the BBC
quizzed him he did not commit either way but said something like
justice will be done.
IGP Chandra Fernando is hilarious. He has sent a special team to
investigate. Its priority? Find out whether it was done to bring
disrepute to the Government. So its not a sense of justice but a
yearning to whitewash the Government that motivates our top cop. By
the way it was this IGP who came out with the theory that the
headless corpses were a result of gang violence.
The EPDP now issues emotional statements mourning the tragedy and
lamenting the fact that they are being blamed for it. The EPDP
reminds the Island Tamils of the services they rendered in the past.
Now the EPDP's beloved soil is soaked with blood and the tigers are
blaming them for it they complain.
Thus goes the charade while the cycle of violence goes on. Life for
Tamils is "Nasty, brutish and short". From infant to old man all
Tamils seem to be fair game. From headless corpses in Avissawela to
bodies lying in Allaipiddy they get killed nowadays. It is no longer
the exception or aberration. Rather it is the norm or rule.
It is customary to end articles of this type with the appeal that
justice should be done and the culprits be punished. In the Sri Lanka
of Mahinda and Gothabhaya Rajapakse that is not likely to happen. My
appeal is only to the silent or silenced majority of Sri Lanka and
those sections of the International Community that are genuinely
concerned about justice and peace. Let these crimes not go unpunished.
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