As if from a deep slumber Sri Lankan authorities after 21 years have woken up to Commemorate the more than six hundred police personnel who were brutally killed by the LTTE on June 11, 1990 after they surrendered to the outfit on the orders of the “higher ups.” The police Department held special religious rites in a special commemoration ceremony last Saturday.
These hapless police personnel serving in the Eastern Province, especially in the Ampara District were never before considered to be reckoned with, leave alone someone commemorating them. In fact their killing was hidden from the public eye by the state for some time until the government of President Ranasinghe Premadasa on whose orders they were said to have surrendered to the LTTE used the incident to counter international allegation of human rights violations.
The Present Government too seems to be attempting to use this unprecedented horrific massacre by the Tamil Tigers to ward off the allegations by the Western countries and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. Hence, perhaps, the sudden awakening.
However, it is interesting to note that an investigation into the incident was not at least considered so far by any of the governments that had boasted to be patriotic. Also, since the day the incident was revealed to the world, human rights groups, local and international, have been treating it as an un-serious or less serious issue and they never have called for a probe into it.
After the peace talks between the Premadasa government and the LTTE which collapsed in mid 1990 the outfit surrounded the police stations in the Eastern Province on June 10, 1990 and demanded the surrender of the police. Interestingly, the excuse for the encirclement was a trivial incident where a tailor who served them was taken into custody by the police over an illicit affair with a woman, according to a news item in the now defunct “Dinapathi” newspaper. The police did not budge and fought until the evening of June 11 when they got the orders from the higher ups to surrender.
The LTTE deceived not only the police but also the leadership of the country into believing that the surrendered policemen would be taken out of their respective police stations and released later. When they were butchered cold-bloodedly in the Kanjikudichchaaru jungles the gravity of the incident forced the government of the day to conceal it from the masses who voted it into power.
It was in a letter sent by the then presidential advisor on international affairs Bradman Weerakoon in December, 1990 to the Amnesty International that accused the Premadasa government of breaching human rights in its fight against the LTTE that the brutal massacre of the surrendered policemen first came to light. In spite of the allegations by the then UNP rebels led by Lalith Athulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayake against President Premadasa of arming the LTTE, this horrific massacre ironically was swept under the carpet.
Deputy Minster of Resettlement, Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna Amman might be unhappy over the issue being revisited by the authorities now as he was the special commander of the LTTE for Ampara and Batticaloa Districts when the barbaric incident took place. He was targeted even by the very LTTE for this massacre when he escaped to Britain after his defection from the outfit in 2004. However, the Tigers gave up the campaign against him soon and abruptly as they seemingly realized that the salvo might boomerang on them internationally.
Minister Muralitharan had said that he was unaware of the incident as it was executed by the LTTE’s intelligence wing leader Shanmugaligam Sivashanker, better known as Pottu Amman. No one believed it; neither had anyone contested it, for obvious reasons.
If the idea behind the sudden revisiting of the fate of these policemen by the authorities was to counter the allegations of human rights violations against the government it is somewhat valid, as those who did not take action against such heinous crimes committed by one party have no moral right to question another party in respect of similar charges. However, morality has a meager validity in international politics as in the case of local politics.
Hence, those who turned a blind eye when around 9,000 surrendered Iraqi soldiers were buried alive in their trenches as plow-equipped tanks dumped tons of earth and sand onto them during the first Gulf war and those who justify the Israelis when they systematically bulldozed thousands of houses of Palestinians dare to speak about human right violations in Sri Lanka, Iran, Libya or Cuba.
Questioning the morality of the accusers might have some effect, but questioning of the substantiality of the accusations would be much more effective.