There are 600 plus (murdered) Police officers inside the one you see
There was a farmer who had a terrible, terrible day 21 years ago
(June 11, 1990). He was not the only farmer and not the only man either
who had to live through terrible days, of course, but this was
‘special’, if indeed that word could be used.
This farmer, from a place called Thambiluvil was forced to
‘volunteer’ (yes, words acquire strange meanings in terrible times) to
carry out a particularly gruesome task. That task, however, was quite
benign compared to the ‘gruesome’ that came before. His was after all
just a mopping up assignment.
He was one among several farmers who had been ‘volunteered’ to bury
some dead bodies. They were charred bodies. And there were some 600 of
them. Retired SSP, Tassie Seneviratne, in his recently published book
‘Human Rights and Policing’, quotes this unhappy farmer. Not that quote
was needed of course.
This is what happened. They were blindfolded, hands tied to their
backs, made to lie down, facing the ground in a row that was about 25
meters long. Then machine gun bullets were sprayed from end to end, all
targeting the backs of their heads. Then the bodies were dragged into a
heap. Oil was poured over the dead and dying. A single lighted match
created a bonfire.
was part and parcel of the Liberation Struggle. It was not the first
‘massacre’ and it was not the last either. There were, in total, 240
recorded attacks on civilians from November 11, 1984 (Dollar Farm
massacre of 33 civilians including a large number of children and women,
some pregnant) and April 12, 2009 (the Mahagodayaya attack where nine
were murdered, including two children). Among the dead were people of
all communities and belonging to all religious faiths. This particular
act of terrorism was a landmark, though.
It marked the end of a tenuous ceasefire arrangement between the LTTE
and the then government, that of Ranasinghe Premadasa. The why and how
of ceasefire-breaking ought to have chastened those who believed
‘negotiation’ was a term the LTTE understood, but mistakes were to be
repeated several times thereafter and at similar or greater cost.
This particular ‘infringement’ ought to have chastened those who
believed the LTTE represented them, but for two more decades, many
Tamils ‘went along’ and indeed did much more than ‘stand by and watch’;
they funded, sang hosannas, represented, grieved at defeat and even now
spare no pains to glorify the butchers, sorry, ‘liberators’.
On that fateful day, long before this farmer from Thambiluvil was
made to dig the earth not to prepare ground for planting, the LTTE
surrounded several Police stations in the Eastern Province and prevailed
upon Peace-Partner Premadasa to get the Policemen to surrender. Between
600 and 700 surrendered.
I am not saying they all had stellar and unblemished track records.
Still, they were unarmed. They surrendered. They submitted to the orders
of a superior, the then IGP, Ernest Perera, who had been briefed by the
President to ask him men to surrender.
All in the name of liberation
I closed my eyes. Forgot Sri Lanka. Forgot the Police. Forgot
uniforms and the names of the assassin and the assassinated. I pictured
600 able-bodied men, all unarmed. Hands tied behind their backs.
Pictured them being blindfolded by their abductors. I tried getting into
They’ve just realized that their superiors were dumb. They’ve just
realized that their President has been hoodwinked by a third rate thug.
They’ve realized that they are going to get killed.
I am trying to think the thoughts they might have thought - of their
daughters and sons, the parents who gave them life, the lovers and wives
who taught them the meaning of tenderness, the homes they built, were
building or planned to build, and other things that they would not be
thinking of a few minutes later. I can’t think.
I think of the apologists. I thought of S.J.V. Chelvanayakam, who
spoon-fed separatism and gave birth to Velupillai Prabhakaran. I thought
of the TULF and Appapillai Amirthalingam and his political heirs (i.e.
those who followed him after Prabhakaran assassinated him) who called
the terrorists ‘boys’.
I thought of Father (sic) Emmanuel, whom the Church never took issue
with. I thought of those who said ‘The LTTE is the sole representatives
of the Tamils’. I thought of those who demanded that the government come
to a negotiated settlement with the LTTE.
My thoughts return to those 600 Police officers. Unarmed. Dead.
I am thinking of myself now and of the people I love. I am counting
my blessings. I feel so privileged that I am embarrassed.
Twenty one years ago, some 600 plus unarmed, blindfolded and tied up
Police officers were butchered in cold blood by the LTTE. If we are glad
that it is part of ‘past’ then we should ensure that it does not become
part of ‘future’. And part of ensuring these things include the need to
There are other things to remember, I know. This, however, was
‘signature’ about what was to follow. The signatories are no longer
around. Even as we rejoice, we need to understand that ‘return’ is never
impossible. This is why we remember.
I wish someone had drawn from the hearts and minds of those who were
about to be gunned down the last thought and last feeling. I wish it
were possible to string them all together. Life does not give us such
monuments. We need to create our own, each according to his/her slants
Twenty one years ago, some 600 plus men were taken away from their
loved ones. For those they left behind all that remains is the fact that
they remained, that they like all of us arrived at a day called June 11,
2011, twenty years later, but that those 600 plus did not.
Let there be a moment of silence for all those Police officers and
for all the unnecessarily killed.