brutal gang rape and gruesome murder of Krishanti Kumaraswamy and her
mother, brother and a neighbour on September 7, 1996 by the Sri Lankan
army soldiers and policemen shocked the conscience of the civilized
world. Although crimes like rape and murder committed against unarmed
defenseless Tamil civilians have become common place in the North and
East, the naked barbarism displayed by the rapists and killers in this
instance surpassed all previous crime records.
Krishanthi was aged sweet sixteen plus two
years at the time of her murder. She was an Advanced Level student of
the prestigious Chundikuli Girls College having earlier passed the
Ordinary Level exam with seven distinctions. On that fateful day she
went to college to write her chemistry paper. Her mother Rasamma
Kumaraswamy (59) was the Vice-Principal of Maha Vidyalayam in Kaithady.
Her brother Pranavan (16) was an O/L student at St.Johns College,
Jaffna. Her elder sister Prashanti (21) has just moved to Colombo to
pursue her studies in Accountancy. Krishanti’s father Kumaraswamy had
died of cancer a few years back.
After writing her exam, she visited the funeral home of one her friend
who died the previous day knocked down by a military truck. She then
cycled back home. At Kaithady Army checkpoint, one of the hundreds
dotting the landscape of Jaffna peninsula, Krishanti was detained by the
army and police personnel on duty. The time was about 2 p.m. and
fortunately a few passersby saw Krishanti taken into custody by the
military personnel. They relayed the bad news to her mother Rasamma, who
like every other mothers in Jaffna, was nervously waiting for her
daughter’s safe return from school. Rasamma, in whose mind nightmarish
scenes would have razed through instantly on hearing the bad tidings,
decided to go in search of her missing daughter. Her son Pranavan and a
neighbour Kirupamoorthy Sithamparam (32) who got married just six months
earlier accompanied her. They did not suspect that their ill-fated
journey was not only futile but she, her son and neighbour would be
strangled, cut into pieces and buried in a little hut within the gates
of the army camp the very same day.
whereabouts of Krishanti and the other three remained a mystery and the
army flatly denied any knowledge about the missing persons despite
pressure brought to bear by the family’s immediate relatives, Tamil
politicians and human rights organizations.
After 45 days by sheer accident the dead bodies of all the four missing
persons were found in crudely dug graves at Chemmani. The highly
decomposed bodies were exhumed and flown in two coffins for burial in
Colombo. A stubborn and insensitive government denied Prashanthi and
close relatives of the family the right to mourn over the dead or
perform last rites. To add insult to injury an ultimatum was given to
the family by the army higher-ups that the bodies should be cremated
within two hours!
International and other human rights organizations like Women for Peace
launched a sustained campaign to pressurise the Sri Lankan government to
arrest and bring to justice the rapists and murderers of Krishanti and
to Rape and Kill
In the past, flagrant human rights abuses have been swept under the
carpet by successive Sinhalese dominated governments and top brasses of
the armed forces and police. The unwritten rule was that in the name of
fighting a war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, security
personnel enjoyed a carte blanche license to kill, rape, torture, and
maim Tamil civilians. In fact these were effectively used as weapons to
terrorise, oppress and subjugate Tamil civilians.
to the Amnesty International:
“For too long the
security forces have been literally allowed to get away with murder and
a climate of impunity existed at all levels in regard to grave human
rights violations committed by them.”
UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances in its report
for 1995 said,
“Sri Lanka ranked
second highest in the world total number of recorded `disappearance`.”
the Tamil Information Centre (TIC)
“Torture, deaths in
custody, disappearances are wide spread in Sri Lanka. A number of women
and children have `disappeared` after being taken by security forces in
the Tamil areas. Tamils continued to be held in secret places of
detention especially in the Jafffna peninsula, Colombo, and Vavunia.”
Rape of Krishanti
Though sentence of death on six accused persons, out of the nine
originally charged, with rape, murder and abduction have been welcomed
by local and international human rights organizations and activists,
there are doubts as to whether this marks an end to the climate of
impunity in Sri Lanka. Also whether this is not a feeble attempt on the
part of the Sri Lankan government to wash its sins and polish its image
abroad also linger.
the course of the trial two policemen who turned crown witnesses gave
graphic account of the last dying hours of Krishanti. According to their
evidence, the army and police personnel pounced on their prey like
hungry animals to satisfy their carnal passions. Krishanti fainted and
collapsed unconscious when these sex maniacs in khaki uniform raped her
in a row. On gaining consciousness the poor girl asked for some water to
drink. Thereafter when the sixth rapist was about to take his turn
Krishanti pleaded with him. She unsuccessfully begged and pleaded with
her tormentor saying, “Let me rest for five minutes.” Finally she
was strangled to death and buried.
Rapes and Murders
Unfortunately one swallow does not make a summer, nor a single tree a
forest. The prosecution of the thugs in khaki uniform who abducted,
raped and murdered Krishanti is an exception rather than the norm. The
extraordinary publicity given to Krishanti case had taken the focus off
the hundreds of unresolved rapes and murders of other young Tamil women.
The cases filed against security forces personnel in the rape and murder
of 22 years old Rajani Velayuthapillai of Urumpirai and Koneswary
Murugesapillai, aged 35 and mother of 4 children of Central Camp at
Batticaloa are moving in snail’s speed in the courts.
March 17, 1997 two sisters, namely Velan Rasamma (38), a widow and her
sister Nalliah Dharshini (28) were raped by 4 soldiers at Thannamunai, a
village 6 km north of Batticaloa. A plaint has been filed against a
single soldier , but the accused is out on bail.
case against 22 Special Task Force (STF) personnel accused of
strangulation and murder of 27 Tamil youths whose floating bodies were
recovered from Bolgoda, Alawwa and Diyawannawa lakes is still worse. The
proceedings commenced at the Chief Magistrates Court, Colombo on
September 15, 1995. After four consecutive postponements, the case was
struck off the roll since both the Crown prosecutors and CID officials
repeatedly failed to appear in Court. The government has now stealthily
dropped the case entirely and the perpetrators are back in active
June 22, 1991, 67 innocent Tamil civilians were massacred by the Sinhala
army at Kokkaddicholai in the Batticaloa district. A Presidential
Commission that probed the massacre found only Captain Kudilegama
guilty. He was dismissed from the army but two months later he was given
a higher position in a state corporation by the government!
Different Standards of Justice…
The foot dragging and the lethargy displayed by the government in these
cases is in sharp contrast to the diligence and speed with which graves
in the South are excavated and how bodies of victims of 1988/89 army
terror meticulously counted. So far a total of four Presidential
Commissions have been appointed to probe into about 11, 000 cases of
involuntary disappearances /extra-judicial killings between 1988 to
1994. But President Chandrika has brushed aside all appeal by concerned
Human Rights organizations and Tamil parliamentarians to extend the
terms of reference of the latest Presidential Commission to include
period after 1994. This should cause no surprise since the human rights
record of President Chandrika’s government is far worse than that of
the UNP. During UNP rule it was a home and home match between the armed
Sinhalese youths and the Sinhala armed forces. But now it is different-
a Pan Sinhalese army raping and murdering innocent Tamil youths.
Apparently President Chandrika has two different standards of justice
system, one for the Sinhalese and one for the Tamils for identical
Graves at Chemmani
In Krishanti’s rape and murder trial, the first accused Lance Cpl.
Dewage Somaratne Rajapakse when asked by the court whether he has
anything to say before sentencing said, “ We did not kill anyone.
We only buried bodies that were sent to us by our superior officers.”
He went on to drop the bombshell which even the Court could not have
anticipated “We can show you where 300 to 400 bodies have been
buried at Chemmani.” Other co-accused persons corroborated the
first accused statement from the dock.
Cpl. Rajapakse’s statement simply confirms the report issued by
Amnesty International after a fact-finding mission to Jaffna. Amnesty
International in its report dated November 27, 1997 stated categorically
nearly all of them are likely to have died under torture or to have been
deliberately killed by (Sri Lankan security forces)”.
went on to state that approximately 540 people ‘disappeared’ in the
Jaffna peninsula within the middle six months of 1996 alone. Over 60% of
the 540 disappearances occurred in the two months after the LTTE overran
the Sri Lanka’s Mullaitivu army base killing over 1,300 soldiers on
July 18, 1996.
further added, “ Hundreds of others were victims of torture at the
hands of the security forces” and it has received “several
reports of rape by members of the army.”
and Ministers Keep Mum…
Thus far there has been no reaction from President Chandrika or her
Ministers for the appointment of a Presidential Commission to probe into
the alleged mass graves at Chemmani. Even Foreign Minister Kadirgamar
who has been of late in an unholy mission to re-polish the image of the
Sinhala army as a disciplined force is keeping mum. So is the leader of
the UNP Ranil Wickremesinghe and other Sinhalese politicians.
Hegemonic Rule should end…
The fate that befell Krishanti, albeit not the only one, should not be
allowed to recur henceforth. The root cause of the problem is the
occupation of the Tamil Homeland by the Sinhala armed forces to
establish hegemonic rule of the majority Sinhalese over the Tamil
people. As long as the enemy is in illegal occupation of Tamil Homeland,
so long our sisters and brothers will face the same fate as Krishanti,
her aged mother, brother and neighbour.
let us resolve and re-dedicate on this Black July 83 Remembrance Week
our resolve to help our country to gain political and economic freedom
so that our people could live in peace and security.