A Tribute to a Brave Leader

Eyes Of Kuttimani

by Thanjai Nalankilli

 

Kuttimani (photo - center), a nominated member of Sri Lankan parliament... was forced to kneel in his (prison) cell by his assailants and ordered to pray to them. When he refused, he was taunted by his tormentors about his last wish... He had willed that his eyes be donated to someone so that at least that person would see an independent Tamil Eelam. The assailants then gouged his eyes... He was then stabbed to death and his testicles were wrenched from his body.'

 

Thousands of brave Tamil men and women have sacrificed their lives and limbs so that the next generation of Tamils in the Island of Sri Lanka can live in their homeland (Tamil Eelam) in the northern and eastern regions of the island in peace and freedom as an independent nation among the nations of the world. This is the story of one such freedom fighter named Selvarajah Yogachandran, popularly known by the name Kuttimani.

Kuttimani was a firm believer that only a free, independent country for the island's Tamils in their traditional homeland will protect their legitimate rights. He was arrested by the Sinhala police on April 5, 1981 and was charged with an array of "criminal acts". The Sri Lankan court sentenced him to death.

The presiding judge, having sentenced him to death, asked Kuttimani his last request. Kuttimani's reply showed the world his yearning for a free country (Tamil Eelam) for his people. This was his reply:

"Before my death sentence is carried out, please remove my eyes and transplant them to a Tamil without eyesight. I will not be able to see the free Tamil Eelam but, at least, let my eyes see it."

Kuttimani was sent to the Welikada (Welikade) maximum-security prison to wait for his execution. The prison consisted of many small buildings. There were both Sinhala and Tamil prisoners. The Sinhala prisoners were convicted of criminal offences such as murder, rape, robbery, etc. The Tamil prisoners were all freedom fighters. The Sinhala and Tamil prisoners were kept apart all the time to avoid racial clashes between them. A good and wise policy.

Kuttimani was put in one of the buildings along with 34 other Tamil prisoners. There was a violent race riot in Sri Lanka in July 1983. It was a one-sided riot. Sinhalese went on a rampage in Tamil areas, torturing and murdering Tamil men and children, raping, torturing and murdering Tamil women and girls, and looting and burning Tamil residences and businesses. Police and army (which were almost exclusively Sinhalese) either participated in this orgy of violence against the Tamils or kept a blind eye. It is widely believed that some senior ruling party (United National Party) members encouraged and helped this onslaught against minority Tamils.

As the Tamils were being slaughtered in the streets, in their businesses and in their homes, the guards (all Sinhalese) at the Welikada prison were also becoming bloodthirsty. On July 25, the guards left open the gates that separated the 35 Tamil prisoners from the Sinhala prisoners. According to Amnesty International, some of the Sinhala prisoners were given alcohol and then were encouraged to attack the Tamil prisoners. A large number of the Sinhala prisoners, with knives and other sharp weapons, stormed into the building where the 35 Tamil prisoners were lodged. They stabbed, beat and tortured the Tamil prisoners. Testicles of some of the prisoners were cut off. In case of Kuttimani, they also gouged both his eyes laughing about his last request of eye donation. They carried the dead bodies of these Tamil prisoners out of the prison cells and put them in front of the Buddha statue in the prison yard (majority of Sinhalas are Buddhists and it is the state religion of Sri Lanka. Most Tamils are Hindus with a fair number of Muslims and some Christians.) All these things happened in front of armed prison guards and they did not stop this violence.

The Sinhala prisoners made sure that not even Kuttimani's eyes would see the free Tamil Eelam, which he longed for and sacrificed his life for. Not only Kuttimani, but thousands of brave Tamil men and women who fought for a free Tamil Eelam have died in the battle fields without seeing their beloved Tamil Eelam as a free nation. What can be a more fitting tribute to these martyrs than an independent Tamil Eelam?

POSTSCRIPT

The International Commission of Jurists, in its report, concluded that these murders could not have happened without the connivance of prison officials. Amnesty International's investigation revealed that prison guards gave some selected Sinhala prisoners alcohol and encouraged them to kill the Tamil prisoners. The Sri Lankan government, however, did not punish a single prison official or guard.

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Posted July 25, 2004