The evidence before this commission is that the
issue of the involuntary removal/disappearances in Colombo of
persons of Tamil origins should not be subsumed in the phenomenon
of involuntary removals/disappearances that occurred in the
period under review in the context of the insurrection in
Southern Sri Lanka.
Around 8% of all incidents from Colombo
District reported to this Commission relate to persons of Tamil
This percentage rises to 21.7% when the reports to the
North Eastern Commission from this category are taken into
Additionally, the following
assassinations in the period 1989/1990 have been brought to our
July 1989: Mr. A Amirthalingam, M. P
Attorney-at-law, leader of the TULF Group in Parliament and Mr.
P. Yogeswaram, Attorney-at-law, former M. P. for Jaffna. Mr. P.
Annamalai Attorney-at-law, Mr. Sam Tambimuttu M. P. TULF,
Batticaloa Distraict and Mrs. Thambimuttu in May 1990.
Mr. Amirthalingam MP and Mr. Thambimuttu MP were Members of
parliament after the July 1989 Election in the newly formed North
The following paragraph which are based on the
cases reported to the Commission will pinpoint.
(A) certain features of divergence of the
category under consideration from the total figures.
(B) certain features common to all groups of
(C) certain features of divergence of the
category tender consideration from the total figures.
(i) Temporary residence in Colombo
(a) in re: incidents where corpus of Tamil
(b) In re: Colombo District including (a) above: 37.6%
(c) In re: Colombo District excluding (a) above: 29.5%
(ii) Response to summons in respect of
temporary residents of Colombo District
(a) In re: Temporary residents of Tamil
(b) In re: Colombo District inclusive of (a) above: 84%
(c) In re: Colombo District exclusive of (a) above: 97.6%
(iii)Availability of evidence to the
(a) Purported Eye-witnesses summoned by the
Commission often proved evasive. When they responded m
summons, their position was one of denial to beating an
eye-witness. In many other cases the summons were returned.
This was particularly marked in instances where the corpus
was alleged to have been staying at a 'Lodge'.
(b) Another obstacle has been the practice
of non-disclosure of the source of information by
petitioners, who instead, file affidavits to the effect
"I was informed", "I believe....",
"he has been...." etc. stated in form as fact,
though the deponent is not a witness to the incident.
(c) Evidence of the conduct of the
petitioner's family's on learning of the disappearance: their
endless search for information of him, their numerous letters
of inquiry to the authorities contemporaneous V. the alleged
disappearance, have been the strongest evidence of the truth
of the allegation on involuntary disappearance
(a) Re: Persons of Tamil Origin :
Security Forces : 40%
Subversive act : 4%
Unknown : 42%
(b) Re. Colombo District including (a)
Security Forces : 71.60%
Subversive act : 3.84%
Private enemy : 1.60%
Unknown : 22.92%
(c) Re : Colombo District excluding (a)
Security Forces : 75.63%
Subversive act : 3.82%
Private enemy : 0.03%
Unknown : 20.52%
B. Certain Features Common to All Groups of
1. The attitude of recording/investigating
authorities.- One prosecution and 2 police Declarations of
Death have resulted from complaints to the police.
The prosecution is in respect of the abduction
and murder of a University Student by a mob in ostensible
retaliation for a subversive raid and murder of Sinhala persons.
The police Declarations of Death
6 are in respect of
2 persons who have disappeared after abduction following a fight
between 2 gangs in a tenement area of Colombo. These Declarations
do not contain the grounds on which the Declaration is made, and
the issuing officers have been evasive in revealing the grounds
to the Commission.
In other cases, the line of investigation is
seen to be one of "Our records do not show (the security
forces) to be responsible", rather than an approach of :
"who did it?"
(i) In 1989 a Jaffna resident wrote to the
Minister of Defence alleging the Army had abducted from a
his son and 2 other youths who had paid large
amounts to a job Agent in expectation of employment abroad.
He heard no more, and petitioned this Commission in respect
of the disappearance of his son. The commission's inquiry
from the Ministry of Defence as the action taken on the
father's complaint in 1989, elicited the response :
"Inquiries made no information forthcoming to date as to
the whereabouts of these persons or being taken into custody
by security forces."
(ii) In another case, where a Tamil youth
and 2 Sinhala youths were abducted by the Army-Police 3 days
after they had gone voluntarily to the Army-Police to give a
statement, the responses of the Army-Police to the
Commission's Inquiry is: "All Books were destroyed in
the 1992 floods".
(iii) The abduction of K, a Human Rights
activist and employee of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting
Corporation abducted in a police jeep was witnessed by a
senior official of the SLBC, who gave detailed evidence
before the Commission. K had been abducted 3 months earlier
too by the police. On that occasion he was released without
charge after Human Rights organisations traced him to police
station concerned. There is no acknowledgement of arrest or
detention by the police. The CID's report is also to the same
effect. The motor cycle K was riding at the time he was
abducted has been returned to family by the police with the
statement that it was found on the road.
2. Effect on Families.- The same feeling
of emotional devastation and unjust persecution, the same scene
of economic hardship and insecurity, as was evident in respect of
other families of the disappeared, were evident here.
A Colombo Tamil mother who had lost 3 sons, was
desperate about the plight of her grand-children (whose mother
had deserted them). She had a record of several attempts to
A Negombo Tamil wife of a Jaffna Tamil, both
devout Hindus, related how she had herself and her children had
converted to Roman Catholicism in search of spiritual comfort on
the abduction and disappearance of her husband.
A high-ranking civil servant who had taken
early retirement consequent on the disappearance of his son, gave
graphic description of the continuing emotional ill-effects on
his son due to his transfer from Batticaloa to detention at
Boossa; the mental instability created in the boy (who was
physically big made though only 16) by reason of the physical
aggression of non-Tamil speaking guards at the detention camp; so
that the boy still tremble when addressed in Sinhala, and longed
to be back in Batticaloa. The father did not speak of the
emotional damage to himself by reason of his son's experience,
but it was very evident to the Commission.
The same theme of the continuing ill-effects to
an individual and his family was reflected in the evidence of a
very humble family of Narahenpita who described how their son who
had lost his power of speech after the sight of bodies by the
road-side in the '83 Riots, was picked up by a passing Army jeep
on Havelock Road, as the family stood by the road-side near the
Kovil a mile from the spot where Ranjan Wijeratne Minister of
Defence had come by his death in a bomb attack on the previous
day. The medical reports of the boy, and news paper
advertisements placed by the family asking for news of him were
produced to the Commission.
The sense of isolation and being singled out
for prosecution, felt by many, was expressed vividly in the
letter to the Commission of a father whose Moratuwa University
qualified son had disappeared after abduction in '89 in Colombo.
May be you are not aware that letters reach
us only occasionally, and that persons wait months after the
purchase of a ticket for passage to Colombo. Please give me
at least 6 months notice of the date of inquiry.
3. The Reason for the
Abduction/Disappearance.- The reasons for acting outside the
law, are immaterial both in National law and in Human Rights law.
A brief consideration of this aspect is
rendered relevant however by reason of the
perceptions of petitioners.
The petitioner's perception was that the reason
for the abduction/disappearance lay in a factor specified to the
10 or that it was
explicable wholly in terms of "being a
Tamil"/"being a Tamil in Colombo"
An ignorance of/a reluctance to acknowledge,
any involvement of the corpus in subversive activity, was
apparent in the position taken up by the petitioners in respect
of this group of the disappeared. This is with the position taken
up by the families affected by the Southern insurrection.
There is no evidence before the Commission that
the politicisation of violence inherent in subversive action has
won the acceptance or approval of any of the families who came
before the Commission or the communities they belong to. However,
the state should refrain from taking a form which comes to be
seen by these families and communities as rendering the state
itself a co-participant in the politicisation of violence.
1. 70 incidents.
2. 150 incidents.
27% of cases reported to this Commission allege the corpus was
abducted or otherwise disappeared while staying at a Lodge. Not a
single eye-witness has come forward to give evidence in respect
of these incidents.
The situation is different when they have been residing in a
This is a feature common to cases from all 3 provinces.
"Would I have been searching like this, had I news of
him?" said a father from Matara giving evidence before the
Commission in respect of the disappearance of his son in Matara.
His words are equally apposite to the cases under consideration
in this chapter.
(i) We have received reports of cases of the payment of
considerable sums to a job agent who then decamps with the
money after providing misinformation to security forces who
acting on it abducted the corpus from the 'Lodge' where he is
(ii) 2 brothers from tenement in Colombo, were abducted by
the security forces just prior to the date when their
evidence was due to be recorded as eye-witnesses in a murder
trial in the High Court. The accused ni the murder inquiry
were discharged thereafter for want of evidence.
A police declaration of death by the officer-in-Charge of a
police station states that it is his opinion that a person who
was resident in his area is no longer alive. This document does
not state the grounds on which the finding is based. It is issued
in order to enable the recipient to benefit under the Most
Affected Persons Scheme (MAPS) of REPPIA.
The failure to investigate is discussed further in Chapter Six.
Except in very narrow circumstances that do not need
Ex: The Job Agent who was defaulting with the money paid to him
by the corpus, had laid false information against him, either
with the security forces or with the Armed Political Groups.
i.e. placed these events in the context of "reprisals
Posted on 1999-01-01