NORTH EAST SECRETARIAT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Tel: 94 (0) 21 228 5986
8th February, 2005
Killings a Blow to Human Rights in the NorthEast
NESOHR strongly condemns the killings of NESOHR’s Chandra Nehru, former member of parliament, Amparai District and LTTE personnel, including the political head of Eastern Province Kousalayan. This attack took place at a Pilliyar Temple in the village of Namalgama in the Sri Lankan government-controlled area between Punana and Valaichcenai about 7.45 in the evening of 7th February 2005. The LTTE personnel and Chandra Nehru were traveling in a vehicle after having had discussions about counseling and relief work related to the Tsunami in Killinochi.
I have known Chandra Nehru for a long time as an ardent advocate of human rights in the Northeast. NESOHR and I depended on him to oversee human rights violations in the East as he was our representative in Amparai district. His work was crucial for effective measures to be adopted to halt these human rights violations. In fact, I had a lengthy discussion with Chandra Nehru yesterday on the state of human rights in the East and counseling measures to be adopted in providing humanitarian assistance to those affected by the Tsunami.
It is indeed a great tragedy for a person like Chandra Nehru to be gunned down in cold blood for having done so much for the promotion of human rights in the East. In the broadest sense, this tragedy is a big blow for NESOHR and for the international community that are both committed to promote peace and human rights in Sri Lanka in general and in the Northeast in particular.
On behalf of NESOHR I call upon the international community to exert maximum pressure on the Sri Lankan government to investigate the matter and to bring to justice the perpetrators of this killing.
Specifically, the international community should impress upon the Sri Lankan government that killing of innocent persons, including human rights activists, must be stopped. Paramilitary groups operating within the fold of the Sri Lankan armed forces must be disarmed so that killings of this nature would not continue.
I am afraid these killings do not augur well for peace and the well-being of people in this country. Human rights organizations such as NESOHR cannot function in an environment that seems conducive to political murders. What is more, the killing of Chandra Nehru illustrates vividly that even human rights’ activists are not spared in these cold-blooded killings.
On behalf of NESOHR and the people in the NorthEast I take this opportunity to convey our condolences to and sympathy for the families of those killed.
Rev. Fr. M.X. Karunaratnam
As a Batticaloa native, I was dismayed by a serious error which had crept into the statement that has been released by NESOHR chairman Rev.M.X.Karunaretnam. In the very first paragraph, he had recorded that the tragic incident (ambush of Kausalyan and his LTTE colleagues) had taken place between Punanai and Valaichenai. This distorts the real fact and gives an erroneous impression that the incident took place within the boundaries of Batticaloa district. Rather, the ambush-shooting incident had in fact taken place between Walikanda and Punanai, in Polonnaruwa district.
I find it surprising that while all other newsreports which I had checked indicated that the incident's location was between Walikanda and Punanai, why Rev.Karunaretnam had erred. To add insult, he also had quoted about a Pillayar Temple, which for many living in the Western countries would provide an additional impression that the tragic incident had taken place in a Tamil-Hindu vicinity.
By merely replacing the name Walikanda with Valaichenai, Rev.Karunaretnam had diluted the serious nature of the February 7th incident. It may not be surprising then, given an opportunity, President Chandrika Kumartunga may quote Rev.Karunaretnam to hoodwink the gullibles that the February 7th incident took place within Batticaloa district.
As a Batticaloa native, I can assert that there indeed exists a spot (not a place with homestead) called 'Pillayaradi', where there is a roadside Pillaiyar statue. This is the location (between Walikanda and Punanai) where the original boundary stone of Batticaloa district was found in the early 1970s. Till early 1980s, there was a railway quarters (basically, a single long stretch of line apartments, to house the workers who carry out custodial care and repairs of railway lines) near this roadside Pillaiyar statue. There is no trace of these quarters now. From Polonnaruwa to Valaichenai, the railway line and the trunk road run parallel, next to each other. From this place Pillayaradi, about 2 miles west into the jungle, there exists an old temple called Velli Malai Pillayar kovil, along a water stream. I have visited this temple in 1977.
Finally, I have opted to send this rejoinder in the interest that the Sangam readers should not be misinformed by an error in Rev.Karunaretnam's statement on the location of February 7th killing of Kousalyan and his LTTE colleagues. The deceased ex-Tamil National Alliance parliamentarian Ariyanayagam Chandranehru is a friend of mine too.
Posted February 9, 2005