Ilankai Tamil Sangam

26th Year on the Web

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Kumudini Boat Massacre, May 15, 1985

by K.S., Tamil Araichchi, May 14, 2008

"I still remember clearly receiving those patients alive - cut and bleeding - and dead from that event, at Jaffna Teaching Hospital as a third year Medical Student. I am glad to hear someone is alive to tell the story." -- Sangam member

Extracts from Wikipedia:

The Kumudini [ Kumuthini] boat massacre happened on 15 May 1985 when at least 23 minority Sri Lankan Tamil men, women and children on a ferry boat named Kumudini sailing from the Island of Delft to the island of Nainatheevu were alleged to have been killed by Sri Lankan Navy personnel.

According to eye witness accounts six men believed to be from the Sri Lanka navy, dressed in T-shirts and blue longs and some in shorts, boarded the ferry boat. One by one the passengers were called to the aft section of the boat and told to shout their name, age, address and the destination of their journey. Then they were hacked to death.

Eyewitness accounts were documented by Amnesty International. The government-owned ferry boat named Kumudini plying between number of islets in the Northern province was boarded with passengers at about 7.45 a.m. on May 15, 1985. After it had moved from the island of Delft towards the island of Nainativu, it was ordered stopped by some men who came in a fiber glass boat. About six men boarded Kumudini while about two remained in the fiber glass boat which they tied on to Kumudini. The men who boarded Kumudini had rifles and all of them were dressed variously in blue pants or shorts and T-shirts as worn by the Sri Lankan navy personnel.

All the passengers and crew were ordered to enter the forepart of the boat and ordered below deck. All the passengers were also made to shout out their names, status, locality and where bound to and then they were ordered to come out one at a time. One man pointing out a gun shouted out such an orders in broken Tamil. The eye witness or the others in the fore section did not know what was happening to each person who was led away in this manner owing to the noise created by the forced shouting of passengers.

When the eyewitness approached the upper desk, he saw blood all over and the cut pieces of human bodies. At this juncture the eye witness shouted and refused to move.

"I was then hit on the head and I fell. I felt that I was dragged and cut on my head by some kind of a hatchet. I received further injuries on my stomach and legs and fell between the boards of the bottom of the boat. I pretended to be dead and lay there. I felt further bodies falling over mine and the cries of distress of men and women."

About 45 minutes after the attack on the eye witness the fiber glass boat left the ferry boat. Although various estimates put the death toll anywhere from 36 to 48, the Amnesty International has names of only 23 persons killed in this incident.

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