presidential Commission of Inquiry into Involuntary Removal or Disappearance
of Persons in the Warrant under your Excellency’s hand was signed on the 30th
of November 1994, setting up a Northern and Eastern Provinces.
following were appointed Commissioners under Section 2 of the Commissions of
Inquiry Act (Chapter 393): Krishnapillai Palakidner Esquire, Luwisdura Walter
Romulus Widyaratne Esquire, and Dr Wedaarachchi Nawalage Wilson.
K Palakidner Esquire was appointed Chairman of the
Commission. The Secretary to the Commission was appointed on the 4th
of January 1995 and the Hon. Minister of Justice briefed the Commissioners on
the 9th of January 1995.
The Commissioners were to inquire and report on the following:
Whether any persons have been involuntarily removed or have disappeared from
their places of residence in the Northern Province and Eastern Province at any
time after January 1st 1988;
The evidence available to establish such alleged removals or disappearances;
The present whereabouts of the persons alleged to have been so removed, or to
have so disappeared;
Whether there is any credible material indicative of the person of persons
responsible for the alleged removals or disappearances;
The legal proceedings that can be taken against the persons held to be so
The measures necessary to prevent the occurrence of such alleged activities in
The relief, if any, that should be afforded to the parents, spouses and
dependants of the persons alleged to have been so removed or to have so
disappeared; and to make such recommendations with reference to any of the
matters that have been inquired into under the terms of this Warrant.
The Commission housed in the Superior Courts Complex of the Ministry of
Justice, called for public representations, by notice published in the
national newspapers in all the three languages on the 14th January,
1995. A period of one month was given for the receiving of representations.
Subsequently on Your Excellency’s directive, the period was extended by
another month. The electronic media was also widely used to appeal to the
public to send in their representations.
Complaints were received both from the affected parties and also from the
various Non-Governmental Organisations. Complaints
were also referred to us from Your Excellency’s office, from the Ministry of
Defence, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, and from
the various Branches of Amnesty International.
It was also observed that more than one member of the same family had
sent in their complaints regarding disappeared persons.
It so happened that the wife of disappeared person who had opted to
stay with her parents after the alleged incident had sent in her complaint
from the parent’s home while the father of the disappeared person had also
sent in another complaint regarding the same person from his place.
It also happened that those who complained to us direct in response to
the advertisement had also sent in their data to the Non-Governmental
Organisations, which again forwarded these to us.
There was considerable overlap in these complaints.
The Commission had to recheck all these complaints. It also prepared
and circulated a questionnaire to be completed by these complainants.
- Annexure A.
receipt of the perfected questionnaires the Commission fixed dates to meet the
complainants in their own area and also in Colombo and recorded their
statements in public. The public sittings were held in the following areas, during
the dates mentioned:
Public Sittings held in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.
Disappearances in the Batticaloa District Public Sittings held in
24.09.95 to 02.04.95
09.11.96 to 16.11.96
01.02.97 to 07.02.97
Disappearances in the Trincomalee District – Public Sittings held in
11.03.95 to 18.03.95
20.07.95 to 30.07.95
14.09.95 to 25.09.95
4th Sittings -
23.01.96 to 27.01.96
Disappearances in the District of Kilinochchi, Mullativu, Vuvuniya and
Mannar (Mainland) Public Sittings held in Vavuniya.
1St Sittings 09.03.96 to
13.07.96 to 14.07.96
Disappearances in the Mannar District (Island – Public Sittings held
in Puttalam. Sittings were held from 06.10.96 to 07.10.96
Disappearances in the Amparai District – Public Sittings held in
Amparai and Kalmunai.
01.03.97 to 07.03.97
20.04.97 to 22.04.97
Public Sittings were held in Colombo on the following dates in respect
of all Districts.
The purpose of the Commission during the First Stage of the inquiry was
to give the complainants a chance to relieve themselves of the anguish
festering in their minds for almost six years.
Opportunity was given to the complainants to elaborate on the data
submitted by them to the questionnaire. During
this stage of inquiry, the commission also formed a rough idea of the economic
set-up of the affected families. It
was found during the inquiries that most families were in desperate
circumstances. People who had
been leading comfortable lives found themselves suddenly destitute.
They had to work as unskilled labour to support their families.
This affected the women folk most; hence the Commission worked out a
compensation scheme for these affected families as a priority step.
The Second Stage of the inquiry was to find out the persons responsible
for these arrests and subsequent disappearances. This was a more complex problem.
Most people who suffered in the north and east were illiterate and from
rural milieu and could not distinguish the Special Task Force persons from the
Army personnel. It was virtually
impossible for them to identify any officers who were responsible for these
arrests by name or by rank. The
Sri Lankan Army does not display the name badge on the uniform like the
American GI. Except for some notorious cases of Army Personnel who were known
far and wide for their terror tactics, most of the officers and soldiers who
participated in the arrests could not be identified. We had to write to the Army and the Police to find out which
officer was in-charge of a particular camp at a particular time.
This operation was time consuming.
There were delays in replies and often there were no replies at all.
We were able to investigate into some complaints but the bulk of the
exercise is left for the successor commission to look them.
Commission has come to the conclusion that youth in the north and east
disappeared in droves in the latter part of 1989 and during the latter part of
1990. This large scale
disappearances of youth is connected with the military operations started
against the J.V.P. in the latter part of 1989 and against the L.T.T.E. during
Elam War II, beginning in June 1990.
Commission was satisfied that the complainants who appeared before the
Commission alleging arrests by the Army and Other Security Agencies were
speaking the truth. There is no reason for the people to come forward and allege
that the Army from the X Camp or Major X from some other Camp arrested their
sons or husbands 6 years earlier. The
Commission was impressed by the sincerity and the feeling behind
evidence and the general demeanour of the complainants.
Commission wishes that it could say the same thing with reference to some of
the Security Service Personnel who appeared before it and gave evidence.
During the arrests the Army had come out with standard excuses when
confronted with the demands of the relatives of those arrested.
The stock excuse was that they are being taken for inquiry and will be
released after the inquiry was over. Other
response of the Army was to deny the arrests altogether.
security officers who gave evidence before the Commission came out with
similar excuses. They denied
involvement altogether or maintained that “records were missing”.
On occasions the Army officers were less than co-operative in assisting
the Commission in its work. One
instance of this unhelpfulness given below is illustrative: The Commission
took up the matter of the abduction of nine members in the same family with
the ages ranging from 65 to 4. This
abduction happened during curfew hours in Trincomalee from a house that is
close to a Military Check Point. Hence
the Security Services were suspect.
witness gave evidence in camera that Cpl. Piyamantha of the Sri Lanka Army and
Richard Wijesekera, D.I.G. were involved in the abduction.
As Cpl. Piyamantha was reported to be stationed at the Plantain Point
Army Camp we asked the D.I.G. (Uva and Eastern Ranges) to summon Cpl.
Piyamantha, question him and submit a report. The reply we received stated
that inquiries were made at the Plantain Point Army Camp and that the Army
Authorities were not in a position to indicate the present whereabouts of Cpl.
Piyamantha, and they wanted the Commission to supply the Full Name, Number and
the Regiment to which he belongs. The
Commission wrote to the Army calling for these particulars.
The reply received from the Army is reproduced in full in Annexure B.
This episode reveals that the attitude of the Army was of no great help
in our inquiries.
Commission was able to listen to the evidence of the Army Officers connected
with three major arrest operations conducted by the Army – Viz
Mc-Heyzer Stadium arrests in Trincomalee, Bse Hospital arrests in
Trincomalee and Sathurukondan arrests in Batticaloa.
burning question confronting the Commission is what happened to all those who
were arrested during the operations from 1988 to 1993.
The arrests are well documented and the Commission is satisfied in its
mind that the arrests took place.
was the impression of the Commission that the Army Officers were not
forthcoming in the evidence they gave or in the assistance they offered to the
was obvious that a section of the Army was carrying out the instructions of
its political superiors with a zeal worthy of better cause.
Broad power was given to the Army under the Emergency Regulations which
include the power to dispose of the bodies without post-mortem or inquests and
this encouraged a section of the Army to cross the invisible line between the
legitimate Security Operation and large scale senseless arrests and killings.
to time constraints and other factors the Commission is unable to complete its
inquiries against the Army Personnel who had caused the disappearances of so
many people and we hope that the successor Commission, will have success in
its investigations into the arrests.
other Commissions this Commission had to investigate disappearances in areas
of Military Operations. The
Commission had to either cancel several sittings or postpone them due to the
unsettled conditions caused by the ground situation.
On one occasion in Batticaloa, the Commission found shells zooming over
where it stayed and heard the rattle of gunfire for hours.
On this occasion the L.T.T.E. attacked the Batticaloa Police Station in
the heart of the Town. In fact we
were advised by the President’s Office on 10.12.96, not to go to Jaffna to
hold inquiries, as conditions were not conducive for holding public inquiries.
A Word of
Commission wishes to record its appreciation of the help rendered by several
parties for the successful completion of its work.
Ministry of Justice made available the space to house the office of this
Commission. The Ministry
recovered no rent for the space allocated.
A good part of the furniture was borrowed from the Ministry of Justice
and we have to put on record the help given by the Hon. Minister of Justice G
L Peiris for allowing us to continue to function in the building when attempts
were made to eject us. We should also record the immense help given by Mrs Lalani
Perera, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Justice who went out of the way to
make out stay as comfortable as possible.
Government Agents in the Districts offered us all assistance in the work of
the Commission and helped us in numerous ways.
Mr K. Ganesh, Govt Agent, Vavuniya, Mr K. Pathmanathan, Govt Agent,
Batticaloa, Mr A. I Wickrema, Govt Agent, Amparai, Mr K. Paramalingam, Deputy
Chief Secretary, Provincial Public
Trincomalee, Mr P. Balavadivel, High Cout Judge, Trincomalee, Mr R. Premasiri
Appuhamy, Acting Gove Agent, Puttalam Mr P.A. Rupasiri, Administrative Officer
Amparai Kachcheri are some of the Persons to whom this Commission is deeply
indebted for anticipating even the slightest wish of the commissioners and
mobilising all the resources under them to make our tasks lighter and more
have also to thank the army and several Deputy Inspector Generals of Police of
the Districts who provided us with Security during our stay in troubled areas
in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.
S.C. Manicawasagar, Secretary and the three Assistant Secretaries, M/s S.
Appadurai, S. patkunarajah, and S. Kankasabapathy and the staff worked
cheerfully under cramped conditions in the office by giving of their best in
matters of Organisation, supplying support services to the Commission and in
drafting the Final Report.
two legal officers, Mr V.S. Ganeshalingam and Mr A. Punithanayagam used their
contacts with Human Rights Organisations to strengthen our investigative
process. Finally we have to thank
your Excellency for reposing confidence in us with this mandate and we have to
thank the Secretary to the President Mr K. Balapatabendi and his staff led by
Addl Secretary, Mr Dhammike Amarasingha for the unfailing assistance provided
to this Commission.
L W R Widyaratne
W N Wilson
S C Manicavasagar
(Secretary to the Commission)