Amirthalingam Speech in Parliament re 1981 Burning of Jaffna Library

by Sri Lanka Parliamentary Debates, June 9, 1981, vol.15, no.1, columns 67-92, posted on Facebook by Sivakumar Subramaniam, May 30, 2023

The speech made by then Leader of the opposition Mr A. Amirthalingam in Parliament.

A verbatim transcript is provided below. Honorifics of participants have been omitted for convenience.

Goddess Saraswathy statue in front of Jaffna Library after burning

A.Amirthalingam: Sir, I wish to place before this House certain matters concerning the tragic events that have taken place in Jaffna during the last one week or more. To be precise, from the 31st of May upto yesterday, a number of events have taken place which call for serious consideration and action by every person interested in peace and harmony. I hope hon.Members will give me the indulgence of permitting me to state fairly fully the events that have taken place in Jaffna.
At the very outset I wish to say that neither we nor any law respecting person will condone certain acts of violence that took place in Jaffna. I take this opportunity to place on record our unreserved condemnation of those acts of violence. Whether they be acts of shooting, or robbery, or violence of any type, we completely dissociate ourselves from such acts and we have condemned them in unequivocal terms.
Mr.Speaker, on 31st May, at an election meeting in support of the candidates of the TULF presided over by the Mayor of Jaffna at a place called Nachchimar Kovilady, a certain incident took place. Unfortunately I was not in Jaffna on that day. I was away in Trincomalee. After I returned to Jaffna on the 3rd, I did my best to investigate for myself in order to find out the truth with regard to the shooting of four policemen, two of whom have since died as a result of the injuries which they sustained on that occasion. There seem to be conflicting versions of that incident. I learnt from the family of Sergeant Kanagasundaram who died that he had stated to them that he was shot by another police constable, and I understand that the statement he made to the House Officer of the Jaffna Hospital – I do not know how far that is true – is to the same effect. But on the other side on hearing of this, from Trincomalee I immediately contacted the I.G.P.[Inspector General of Police] at 2 am, and he told me that some youth had shot this policeman. I am unable to speak to the veracity of either of these versions. That is a matter that has to be investigated and the truth ascertained, and whoever was responsible for that should be punished.
We do not for a minute condone any person whoever he may be, who was responsible for these incidents, and if it was the action of any civilians, it is certainly the duty of every Member on both sides of this House to see that the offenders are brought to book. Whatever hon.Members may say, I, on behalf of my party, wish to state categorically that we want, and we are very keen, that whoever was responsible for that shooting should be found out, arrested and brought to trial. In fact, no one in his senses will think that we could have been a party to an incident of that nature, to disrupt our own meeting and to disturb the elections to the District Development Councils on which we were so very keen.
The Government is aware that in the teeth of opposition by certain sections of our own party, certain sections of our own youth who even went to the extent of showing their resentment by setting fire to the jeep of the hon.Member for Manipay [V.Dharmalingam], we stood firm on our acceptance of the District Development Councils. We were anxious to have democratically elected District Development Councils in our areas and we were putting forward candidates and campaigning for them. But, immediately after that incident what happened was this. Somebody had shot these police officers and one of them rushed up to the platform with a gun in his hand and fired a few shots in the air. The Mayor Mr.Viswanathan who was presiding asked him, ‘What are you trying to do, Mr.Kanagasunderam?’. He said ‘I have been shot. Ask these people to go away, close the meeting and send me to hospital. The Mayor closed the meeting and the people dispersed. Then he got down a car and saw to it that this officer was sent to hospital. When the crowd dispersed, it was found that another police officer had been shot and was actually dead. There were two other police officers who had sustained injuries, who had of course on their own left the venue of the meeting. All these people were taken to hospital.
Within half an hour, jeep-loads and truck-loads of policemen, some in uniform, some without uniform, in civilian clothes arrived at the venue of the meeting. They entered the temple itself. They damaged what are called ‘vahanam’, the figures of animals which are used for carrying the deities. (Interruption). Hon.Members, if they do not know, if they are ignorant of it must not shout. Anyone who knows anything about the Hindu religion will tell you that what are called ‘vahanam’ are figures of various animals on which the images of deities are carried on festival occasions.
These policemen had entered the temple, broken some of those figures, broken the bell, damaged the gate, set fire to the Kopuram, and tried to set fire to the chariot. Fortunately only a portion of it was burnt because it was, I think, covered. Then they had run riot in the neighbouring houses and set fire to two cars, including the car which was returning after having taken those constables to the hospital. Another car was also burnt. They had set fire to four or five houses in the vicinity.
Then they had proceeded to the bazaar and commandered a bus driver by a driver named Appiah. They had gone first to a liquor shop belonging to Suppiah and Sons, broken it open, consumed large quantities of liquor and removed all the bottles. They had then gone to the bazaar and set fire to the entire row of shops right from Hospital Road to Power House Road, stretching right across the length of the bus stand. All those shops were completely burnt. They had broken open Autos Ltd, broken a petrol pump, taken out a sprayer, filled it with oil (Interruption). Some hon.Members – I will not say that all of them are so unconcerned with what has happened – think this is a matterfor laughter, a matter for joking, a matter about which they can make light remarks in a spirit of levity. Whatever that may be, it is our duty to place these facts before this House and the country because these events have not been reported and the people at large are not aware of what happened.
As I was saying, they had set fire to a number of shops in the new market. The old market was burnt down. They had set fire to a row of shops next to Ranee Theatre on Power House Road. Then they had gone in a bus, halted it at the junction – the hon.Member for Jaffna [V.Yogeswaran] is here and he will speak to the facts in so far as he was personally concerned – got down from the bus, some of them in uniform, Mr.Speaker, some in civilian clothes, fired a shot to open the lock with which the gate to the house of the hon.Member for Jaffna was closed, entered the house of the hon.Member for Jaffna, and set fire to everything in the house. And the hon.Member for Jaffna and his wife had to scale a wall behind their compound in order to escape from the hands of these murderers. (Interruption). These laughing jackals can go and see the damage done. (Interruption).

G.V.Punchinilame – Deputy Minister of Regional Development: He cannot call hon.Members of this House, jackals. He must withdraw the word. (Interruption)

A.Amirthalingam: I withdraw the word ‘jackal’. (Interruption)

The Speaker: Order, please! Hon.Member please allow the House to carry on with its functions. I am allowing to make remarks, but not always.

A.Amirthalingam: I think hon.Members will realize the gravity of it only when a thing like this happens to them. It can happen to them any day. (Interruption) We will wait and see. Anyhow, Sir, I expected hon.Members of this House, when the home of a colleague of theirs had been invaded in this manner and the whole house reduced to a complete shambles, to ashes – there is not even a door-frame or a window-frame left intact – to show some concern. Such a huge house like that! Immediately that night, on hearing of what had happened, I contacted the Hon.District Minister at his residence in Jaffna and told him, ‘It is reported that this has happened’, because I was very worried about the safety of the hon.Member for Jaffna. So I asked the Hon.District Minister to go and see what had happened to him, and he said that he would look into the matter.
Now, Sir, that house was completely burnt down. There were men armed with rifles standing right along the road to shoot down the Member of Parliament for Jaffna if he came out from the front door on to the road. They pulled out his jeep from the garage, took it on to the road and burnt it. There was a car belonging to a friend of his which was parked under the porch of the house. That too was completely burnt. The hon.Member for Jaffna and his wife were left with sarong and the wife in her petticoat. Every item of clothing was burnt. Even their jewellery was burnt. Every piece of furniture, every book, every paper, everything that was in the house was completely burnt by these policemen.
Then these same men had proceeded to the headquarters of the TULF and done the same thing: the entire place was reduced to ashes. They stood there with their guns to prevent anybody from coming ther to put out the fire.
I am told that the Hon.fair Minister was in Jaffna on this night.(Interruption) No, I do not expect her to go out in the midst of all this. On the 31st night she was in Jaffna, and I am sure that as a fair-minded person she will be able to speak the truth with regard to the crime that was brought on the people of Jaffna by these policemen on that night (Interruption). One need not be an eye witness to speak to facts. That is an elementary principle. I am not giving evidence here.

The Speaker: Please do not get involved in these interruptions.

A.Amirthalingam: Very well, Sir. This matter was brought to the notice of the authorities. I myself telephoned the IGP from Trincomalee, and he said that he was already aware of it and that steps were being taken to bring the situation under control. He admitted to me that as a measure of retaliation for the shooting of the policemen, the policemen had gone on a rampage and done all these things. He also told me that His Excellency the President was also aware of these facts.
The very next day the IGP himself had gone to Jaffna. I think Brigadier Weeratunga was sent there; and some of the higher-ups from the Defence Ministry also went to Jaffna. The most curious thing is that when the IGP and all these people were there on the night of the 1st [June] these same men got out armed with weapons, armed with torches, and set fire to the Public Library of Jaffna, which was only about 50 yards from the police station. I think 95,000 volumes (Interruption). They cannot understand the value of books, Sir.

M.Sivasithamparam: They do not know what a torch is. It is the pandam that you hold!

A.Amirthalingam: I do not want to cast aspersions on anybody’s knowledge of the English language. A torch does not mean an ‘Eveready’ torch. A torch is what is called a pandam. If you do not know that I can only feel sorry for you. Anyhow 95,000 volumes of books, both in the reference and in the lending sections of the Public Library of Jaffna, were burnt down. Not one page of these books was left. Of course, one wing where some magazines were kept was not burnt down, but the wing in which the reference books and the lending section of the library were housed was completely burnt down. This library had been built up over the decades by eminent scholars. The Rev.Fr.Long and various others have contributed to the building of this library. There were some very rare books, copies of which cannot, I think, be found anywhere else. Books which were printed in Tamil and English by the American Missionaries early in the last [19th] century were all there. They were all completely burnt. And curiously, Sir, this is an indication of the depths to which people in this country can sink.
At the height of the [2nd] World War, when Hitler went to ravage Britain, when German planes were bombarding Britain every half hour, strict instructions were given to the pilots that Cambridge and Oxford should not be bombed, should not be attacked. Similarly, the British gave instructions to their fighters that they should not attack or in any way destroy Heidelberg University in Germany. Even in the height of war, they realized, civilized men that they were, that the seats of learning, the centres of education, should not be touched, should not be damaged.
But here, with the IGP in Jaffna, with Hon.Ministers in Jaffna, these policemen go and set fire to the Public Library in Jaffna. If anyone is trying to find excuses for the policemen who did all this, I think one has only to sympathize with such person.
These men not only set fire to the Public Library. There is a newspaper printed in Jaffna founded by Mr.K.C.Thangarajah, the former Chairman of the Paper Corporation. This was the only daily newspaper published anywhere outside Colombo – in fact the only daily newspaper published in the provinces. This had been in publication for nearly 25 years. They went and completely destroyed it. They had kept tyres under the machines and set fire to the whole place. They had heaped up the bicyles, the motor cycles and other vehicles belonging to the employees of this press and set them all on fire. The manager of that press, a nephew of Mr.Thangarajah and one of the sub-editors, who were working upstairs, were also badly burnt in the process. One has to only see the damage done to this press to realize the extent of the vandalism some of these policemen have resorted to. They would have put the barbarians of 2,000 years ago to shame.

May be an image of buildings and text that says 'Public Library burnt'The Speaker: The Sitting is suspended for half an hour. (Sitting accordingly suspended till 5 pm and then resumed. Deputy Speaker Mr.Norman Waidyaratna in the Chair.)

A.Amirthalingam: Mr.Deputy Speaker, I was dealing with the incidents that took place in Jaffna on 1st June. I referred to the burning of the Public Library and the Eelanadu press office and the entire building. One of the saddest incidents in this connection was the death of Reverend Father David, one of the greatest scholars in Jaffna. He was a disciple and student of Reverend Father Gnanaprakasar, one of the greatest etymologists that this country has produced, in whose memory stamps were issued in Germany in the early ‘thirties. He was such a great scholar. Father David was continuing the work of Father Gnanaprakasar and he was a linguist who knew 32 languages. When he heard the news of the burning of the Public Library, this old priest got such a shock that he passed away. He knew the value of books and he was so horrified at the idea of any human beings setting fire to such a valuable collection of books, that he died of shock. That is one of the matters that I am constrained to mention in view of the spirit of levity in which some hon.Members are inclined to treat this horrifying incident which anybody will think is a blot on the history of Buddhist Sri Lanka.
Mr.Deputy Speaker, these were not the only two buildings that were burned that night. A row of shops right in front of the Chunnakam Police Station, just across the road, on the other side of the Police Station, were also first looted by the Police and then burned. In fact, we had information, which we passed on to Brigadier Weeratunga who was in charge, that some of the looted articles were there in the houses of certain police officers attached to the Chunnakam Police Station. I do not know what action he took on that matter.
Then, Sir, on the [June] 2nd the same men in khaki went and set fire to a big business establishment called Pillayar Stores on Manipay Road in the Jaffna town. Two lorries, two vans, one car, a large quantity of grain – he was a dealer in cereals, aerated waters and various other things – and thousands of bottles of aerated water were all completely burst or broken and destroyed in that house. The following shops were looted and burned on the 2nd night; Pushpa Jewellers, Murugan Stores, a furniture shop, a pawn shop, the petrol shed adjoining Veerasingham Hall, four shops on Hospital Road, including Royal Pharmacy – one of the biggest drug stores in Jaffna – right opposite the hospital – Usha Cream Cabin, a row of seven shops from S.M.Muttiahs to E.A.Bhai, even this Esmailjee Adamjee Bhai’s shop was looted and burnt.

A member: By whom?

A.Amirthalingam: By the police!

G.V.Punchinilame: I rise to the point of Order. Can the hon.Member accuse the police without an inquiry?

A.Amirthalingam: You hold the inquiry.

Deputy Speaker: Order, please! He takes responsibility for what he states.

A.Amirthalingam: I take full responsibility.

G.V.Punchinilame: An inquiry is going on, and it is not fair by the police.

M.Sivasithamparam: You defend them if you want.

G.V.Punchinilame: We are not going to defend the police. We are not certain whether the police dit it.

A.Amirthalingam: I say with a full sense of responsibility that all this was the work of the police and none other.

A member: What about the bakery boy who was murdered in Jaffna?

A.Amirthalingam: I will come to that.

M.Sivasithamparam: Investigate that also.

A.Amirthalingam: On the night of the [June] 2nd (Interruption). I do not know. It is for the police to find out. But I know who burnt the jeep of the hon.Member for Jaffna. It was burnt by your police.

M.Sivasithamparam: And, we also know what happened to our election office.

Cyril Mathew: Your police, police recruited by you.

A.Amirthalingam: We know that all these were burnt by your police. (Interruption). Usurping the functions of the Commissioner of Elections – that is what you were doing.

Cyril Mathew: He is making certain allegations against me.

A.Amirthalingam: I will prove them. We are going to move a Vote of No Confidence on you and the Minister of Lands and Land Development. You arrogated to yourselves the functions of the Commissioner of Elections (Interruption). Disgraceful episode! Fifty years of universal franchise! – (Interruption) The Minister of Lands and Land Development has taken a lesson from Hitler. I am surprised that he did this.

M.Sivasithamparam: We are going to prove what we say on the Floor of this House.

Deputy Speaker: The hon.Leader of the Opposition surely knows –

A.Amirthalingam: Why did he open his mouth and interrupt me? That is why I have to come out with all this. You cannot blackmail me as you did Mr.Duraiswamy. He may be your stooge, but, take it from me, I am not a stooge of yours. You two Ministers will be put on the mat in this House.

K.Thurairatnam: Democratic world!

A.Amirthalingam: Democracy? What democracy for you? Take 39 bus-loads of thugs and planting them as SPOs and peons who cannot do anything other than paint the fingers –

G.V.Punchinilame: I rise to a point of Order. The hon.Member cannot make that accusation. He must withdraw that.

Deputy Speaker: Order, please! This must stop. Any allegations made against an hon.Member of this House should not be done in this fashion.

A.Amirthalingam: Very well, Sir, We will do it in the proper way.

Deputy Speaker: I would request the hon.Member to address the Chair. If he does that he will avoid all this trouble.

A.Amirthalingam: Sir, hon.Members here should understand the depth of feeling of the Tamil people over what has happened. No doubt we sympathize with the policemen and their families. It is a crime for anybody to have shot them. We do not for a moment deny that. We sympathize with them. In fact, we attended the funeral of Sergeant Kanagasundaram and extended our sympathies to the family of that poor police officer.

May be an image of templeA Member: How about Punchi Banda?

A.Amirthalingam: We have condemned the shooting and extended our sympathies to his widow.

Deputy Speaker: Please address the Chair. Then you can avoid all this trouble.

A.Amirthalingam: On the night of the 2nd, right along KKS Road, between Chunnakam Police Station and Tellipallai junction, around 8 or 8.30, a number of people were assaulted by the police. One man, a shop-keeper by the name of Navaratnam from Mallakam junction, died as a result of the assault. Another boy who was returning from the cooperative hospital, the son of a lawyer by the name of Thambirajah, who was the acting Magistrate of Mallakam at that time, was assaulted on the head by the police. He is yet in hospital. Fortunately he did not die.
That same night a person by the name of Attapattu was admitted to the Tellipallai hospital by one Piyasena with a history of having been knocked down by a motor bicycle. He was then transferred to the Jaffna hospital and he died. This same Chunnakam police who were responsible for assaulting these two persons had sent a message here to headquarters that this man was shot or killed by some Tamils. The bed-head ticket at the Tellipallai hospital may be gone into. In fact, when I was in Colombo on that day, the 3rd morning when this was brought to my knowledge, I immediately contacted a responsible person, former Senator Nadarajah who lives in Mallakam, and asked him to check up on the circumstances of Mr.Attapattu’s admission to hospital. He informed me that he had been admitted with a history of him been knocked down by a motor cycle. So I immediately telephoned the Hon.Prime Minister and told him, ‘This is what I hear about this incident. Please get them to check on it.’ I felt that if any such thing had happened, it was a serious matter and one has to take serious notice of it. I also told the Hon.Prime Minister on the 3rd, about the other two incidents, namely, the assault on Navaratnam and his death, and the assault on Mr.Thambiratnam’s son and his being hospitalized as a result of police attack.
On the 3rd, the Emergency was declared and there was a curfew in Jaffna within the Municipal limits, from 5 pm to 6 am. At Kankesanthurai, a gang of 100 policemen, some with rifles, had gone and set fire to a row of shops. One Chelliah’s shop was completely looted and burnt; in fact they can check up on it – a part of the building that was burnt belonged to their UNP candidate, Mr.Balamoorthi, of Kankesanthurai. The entire row of shops was burnt. (Interruption) Hon.Members may think that they are beling very clever when they say that this is the work of the TULF and so on. I think they should make remarks in a more responsible way. I think the Government can find out from Mr.Balamoorthi, their own candidate, as to who was responsible for the burning of those shops. In fact, a studio right opposite the Kankesanthurai police station was also burnt down on the night of the 3rd.
Now, Sir, I come to a rather interesting chapter which I leave to the hon.Members to decide whether it is important or not. I reached Jaffna only on the 3rd night. Suddenly, at 2.45 am, that is early on the election morning, an A.S.P. [Assistant Superintendent of Police], some army officers and the O.I.C.[Officer in Charge] Chankanai, all came to my house. The A.S.P. Mr.Donald Mendis told me, ‘I have been told to arrest you.’ I asked him, ‘On what charge?’. He said, ‘The Competent Authority has directed me to arrest you on a charge of disrupting the democratic process.’ So I asked him, ‘What is this? Under what law is this offence?’ He said, ‘I do not know, Sir. Do not ask me about these things. I have been asked to bring you. I will have to take you. Please do not argue with me.’ Then I asked him, ‘Have you brought a detention order?’

G.V.Punchinilame: Not for our security. That is for your security.

M.Sivasithamparam: Thank you very much. We will look after ourselves.

G.V.Punchinilame: You would not have been here to tell your story to us if they did not take you in.

A.Amirthalingam: Later, anews report appeared under the name of the good, and I dare say, really honourable Minister of Information, which statement I say is absolutely an untruth. I am surprised that they should have sought to add insult to injury. They said I was taken into protective custody. If that was necessary that officer could have told me, ‘I am taking you for your own protection’. He merely said that I was arrested for disrupting the democratic process. (Interruption) Why are you shouting?

G.V.Punchinilame: Get down that officer here and ask him?

A.Amirthalingam: I cannot make you understand, hon.Deputy Minister. Please do not interrupt me. Please do not get into fields which you do not understand. Please know your limitations and keep quiet. You should know your limitations. You seem to know a lot about law!

Deputy Speaker: Order! Please address the Chair.

Jaffna Library after burning

A.Amirthalingam: I think that the statement that was issued to the press is an insult to us, not only to me, but to the hon.Members for Nallur, Chavakachcheri and Manipay who were brought to the army camp at Palaly and kept there. Even His Excellency the President who spoke to me on the telephone at 8.30 did not say that we were taken into custody for our protection. You must understand that. You may ask His Excellency if you want to verify that. (Interruption) When the hon.Member for Point Pedro was not in his house, his house was searched. Every room was searched. In order to give us protection, they wanted to search every room to find out whether we were hiding anywhere. (Interruption) Do not make fools of yourselves. Let not the hon.Members stultify themselves by making remarks like this. They are only making fools of themselves when they make remarks like this.
I will tell you who the people were who took this decision to arrest us. It was not one man who took this decision. There were two responsible Ministers, one Deputy Minister, the Secretary to the Cabinet and Brigadier Weeratunge. They were there when this decision was taken. I want to ask them, and also ask hon.Members, when the Leader of the Opposition is taken into custody, should not somebody at least inform the Head of the State, inform the Hon.Speaker that they are taking him into custody on the eve of the elections? And for anybody to pretend that it was for our protection (Interruption). How do you know all this? How do you know why we were taken into custody? Do you not know that you are making fools of yourselves by shouting like this? (Interruption) If not for the fact that this is fraught with such serious consequences one might say that the continuance of democracy in this island appears to be a comic matter. But it is a very serious matter if you value the rights of Members of this House. I wish to know from the two Hon.Ministers, who are now present in this House, who were a party to this decision to arrest us –

G.V.Punchinilame: Not to arrest you.

A.Amirthalingam: Shut up. You do not know anything. (Interruption)

Deputy Speaker: Order, please! I think it is justifiable for hon.Members to make interruptions.

A.Amirthalingam: How many times do the Members shout?

Deputy Speaker: I have no doubt the hon.Member will withdraw the word he used, but I request the hon.Member for Ratnapura (Mr.Punchinilame) also to limit his interruptions.

A.Amirthalingam: Sir, I withdraw the remark, but let the hon.Member for Ratnapura (Mr.Punchinilame) please keep his mouth shut and allow me to speak.

G.V.Punchinilame: There, again he goes on.

A.Amirthalingam: That is permitted in Parliament.

Deputy Speaker: The request of the hon.Leader of the Opposition is to permit him to carry on with his speech. I dare say that any hon.Member is entitled to make certain remarks, but not to interrupt.

G.V.Punchinilame: With due respect to you, Sir, I do not like to be dictated to by another Member of this House. So, he should withdraw that remark.

A.Amirthalingam: I have withdrawn it, but I have requested you to keep your mouth shut and permit me to speak. That is all.

Deputy Speaker: I wish the hon.Member for Ratnapura takes that advice.

A.Amirthalingam: So, we were there in the Army camp and at about 8.30 some Army officers came and told us that His Excellency wanted to speak to me on the telephone. (Interruption) For breakfast we were given some godamba rotti with sambol. I am glad that somebody thought of my breakfast!
Thereupon, I had to go some two or three bungalows away to speak to His Excellency over the telephone. He said, ‘It has been a mistake. I have ordered the release of you and the other Members of Parliament. I am sorry about it.’ That is all His Excellency said. Even at the time, let the hon.Members of this House take note, His Excellency never told me that we were taken into custody for our protection. He never told me that. Instead of asking us to bring the police officer, they might ask His Excellency about it.
Then, I ask in all earnestness from the Hon.Minister of Industries and Scientific Affairs and the Hon.Minister of Lands and Land Development, who, to the best of the information that I had, were parties to this decision to arrest the Members of Parliament of the TULF on the eve of the election, whether they deny that, or whether they admit that they were parties to this. (Interruption) I know that the Hon.Minister of Industries and Scientific Affairs loves me more than anybody else.

M.Sivasithamparam: He is the dearest friend we have in the world!

A.Amirthalingam: After being the guests of his Excellency’s Government for about six hours from 3 o’clock to 9 o’clock, we were released and allowed to go. I would request the Hon.Minister of State who is in charge of information and who is a fair-minded person, to tell us whether the Government admits that it had made a mistake. They must not try to tell the world –

Anandatissa de Alwis – Minister of State: That was a mistake, I admit that.

A.Amirthalingam: Thank you.

Anura Bandaranaike: The only honourable Member on that side!

A.Amirthalingam: This attack on people had continued throughout the night of the 3rd, on the eve of the election, and a number of people had been killed on the roads in Jaffna. At Kopay, one Parameshwaram, a Cultivation Officer, was taken into custody by the police at about 8.10 pm on the night of the 3rd. His body was found shot a few hundred yards away from the place where he was taken into custody, on the Kopay-Neervely Road. That is on the Point Pedro Road.
Shortly before that, a dhoby and a boy were returning after work on a bicycle on the Urumpirai-Kopay Road. The police threw the bicycle on a side and took these two men into the jeep. The body of the dhoby was found thrown on the road with gunshot injuries, and the body of the boy was recovered at a different spot very much later.
That same night at about 2.45 or 3 am, some army personnel had got into the office of the hon.Member for Nallur (M.Sivasithamparam). There were some young men, election workers, who were sleeping on the verandah. A boy by the name of Balajothy, who had completedhis training as a seaman in the Hon.Minister’s training school at Trincomalee and who had just got back, was there sleeping on the verandah of the hon.Member’s office. These army men had rushed in at 2.45 am, jumped over the parapet wall and entered. These boys had run in all directions. The army men shot, and on the verandah of the office of the hon.Member for Nallur, this boy Balajothy was killed by a rifle bullet which had gone through his head. (Interruption) I do not know whom they were looking for.
Anyhow, Sir, this does not complete the tally of deaths that were caused on the night of the 3rd, on the eve of an election. What was the purpose? Was it to further democracy? Was it to inspire confidence in the democractic process among the people that all these shootings and killings were done on the roads of Jaffna four or five hours before polling was due to start?
I do not want to speak of what happened in respect of the polls. I will tell you, Sir, that we intend giving notice of a Vote of Censure on certain responsible Ministers for the way they interfered with the functions of the Returning Officer and the Assistant Commissioner of Elections in Jaffna and destroyed democracy as far as these elections went. I will not speak on it today because the results of that election have not yet been declared. I understand that the Commissioner of Elections has now decided to ask the Returning Officer to count those votes. Of course, the bulk of the votes had been counted in the respective polling stations, but about 40 to 45 boxes had been taken without counting in spite of requests by counting agents that they should be counted. Whatever that may be, I do not want to deal with that aspect of it. That is a very, very serious matter, not for us alone but for everybody in this country who values democracy and the elective process as a means of changing or installing governments in a democractic way. I will not deal with that now, Sir.
Even on the following day, with army petrol, a liquor shop was broken open at Inuvil. One can verify from the employees of the Inuvil hospital that it was done by army personnel. They broke open the liquor shop, which is opposite that hospital, and removed the liquor that was there. They have done the same thing at Nelliady, in Point Pedro (Interruption) I now that this is the raw material for your type of elections!
Now, Sir, I do not want to narrate at length all these things, but I would like to say that the Tamil people in this country cannot continue to be treated in this way time after time. This is not the first occasion that this has happened. So, on behalf of our people we have to place certain demands before thisGovernment to punish the offenders and to guard against a recurrence of events of this nature. These are the demands that we are placing before this Government.

(1) That the police force responsible for this havoc be sent out immediately and the Government should see to it that at least 75 percent of the police force and all officers in charge of police stations and senior police officers in the Tamil-speaking areas areTamils or Muslims.
(2) That a system of home guards be established in each district under District Development Councils to act in conjunction with the police to safeguard the lives and the property of civilians.
(3) That the army responsible for the killing and looting be withdrawn immediately, and whatever limited number of armed personnel are necessary for purposes of security be confined to barracks.
(4) That the Government should permit an appropriate international organization like Amnesty International or the International Commission of Jurists, to make a full inquiry in to the events of the last few days, from 31st May to 8th June, and the violations of human rights in Jaffna and to report on what action should be taken on them and to prevent recurrence of similar events.
(5) That the miscreants be identified, and punished adquately and immediate redress be given to the victims.
On behalf of the TULF, I wish to say that we are placing these demands for the serious consideration of the Government and hon.Members. We ask that an international organization like Amnesty International or the International Commission of Jurists should inquire into these incidents because we have lost all confidence in Select Committees and Commissions of Inquiry which go on for years and years and produced nothing but abortions.

Sir, unless and until adequate measures are taken to meet these demands the TULF Members of Parliament will not attend the Sittings of Parliament and will not participate in the legislative process except to expose the Government on a Vote of Censure on the conduct of the District Development Council elections in the Jaffna district which we intend giving notice of in conjunction with other Opposition parties.
Mr.Deputy Speaker, if we have committed any offence, I invite the Government to put us on trial. We are prepared to face any trial anywhere. Let the normal process of law be complied with. In the same way, in the case of three policemen who committed these murders, arson and looting, merely because they are in uniform let not the Government condone these actions and for all time keep the Tamil people at the receiving end of these heinous attacks and crimes. Thank you. Baheerataran Amirthalingam

No Responses to “Amirthalingam Speech in Parliament re 1981 Burning of Jaffna Library”

  1. Ranjan

    Thank You to Sangam website for putting the above record for all to see.
    It is critical that readers become aware that the Ealam Tamil struggle did not start with LTTE.