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Sri Lankan Military Continues to use Rape as a weapon of Terror

Senthuran Nadarajah snadara2 at chat.carleton.ca
Fri Nov 28 13:58:45 EST 1997

Sri Lankan Military Continues to use Rape as a Weapon of Terror 
Chennai, Nov 23, 1997 (SAMS) Observers say that the Sri Lankan
government's programme of winning the "hearts and minds" of the Tamil
people in the occupied Northern peninsula is in serious trouble as the
Sri Lankan military continues to use rape as a weapon of terror.

Hundreds of Tamil women have been raped by the members of the Sri Lankan
military behind an iron curtain of strict ban on reporters and
independent observers. Some of these crimes, especially those in which
the victims had friends and relatives in foreign countries have come to

Rajani Velauthapillai, 22, was raped and murdered by the Sri Lankan
military manning a checkpoint at Kondavil, a village near the Jaffna
city.  Rajani's fiance lives in Canada and she was to join him in a few
weeks.  As per traditions, she was visiting family elders to bid
farewell and to obtain their blessings before leaving for Canada.  On
Sep 30, 1996 at about 3:30 PM, Rajani was arrested by the SL soldiers
manning the Kondavil checkpoint for no apparent reasons.  Several people
had witnessed her arrest.  Rajani was then dragged into a nearby house
inhabited by two elderly people. The soldiers chased the two occupants
out of the house. They then gang-raped Rajani and murdered her.  Her
bruised naked body was found later in the toilet of the empty house.

Raping of young women by the Sri Lankan military is not confined to the
Northern province. In the Eastern town of Batticalo, another gruesome
rape and murder of a Tamil mother, Murugesapillai Koneswary, got the
attention of Amnesty International, which sent an Urgent Action Appeal
to President Kumaratunga, calling for an independent investigation into
the rape and murder. 

According to villagers, on May 17, 1997 around 11 p.m., a group of Sri
Lankan policemen entered her home, gang raped her and exploded a hand
grenade near her genital to destroy any evidence. Their gruesome tactic
worked.  Medical Officer L. D. D. C. Alwis, who conducted the autopsy,
concluded that the offenders could not be determined due to the hand
grenade blast wounds.  The notorious Central Camp police also ensured
that no witnesses would come forward to testify. Neighbors fear for life
of Koneswari's little girl who was also an eye witness to the
barbaric crime. 

President Chandrika Kumaratunga ordered an inquiry following protests by
the Eastern district member of parliament, Mr. Joseph Pararasasingam.
Human rights activists say they don't even know who is conducting the
investigation. The recently established Human Rights Task Force (HRTF)
was asked to investigate the murder.  However the task force said that
the incident does not fall within its jurisdiction and so no support or
assistance could be lent.

The rapes and subsequent cover-ups outrage human rights organization. In
a letter to President Kumaratunga, Mothers' Front of Jaffna wrote,
"reprisals by the security forces against civilians and their property
have now become a common feature.  Tamil women in the north and east are
no longer able to live with self-respect and dignity.  Normal life in
these parts of the country is severely hampered, as law-abiding citizens
are prevented from going about their day-to-day life."

The Centre for Women's Research in Sri Lanka (CENWOR) also protested the
rape. It asked the Sri Lankan president  "how can national and
international credibility be acquired when this type of grave crime is
committed by members of the armed forces against defenseless women." The
group organized a protest march in Colombo.  

Analysts blame the military solution undertaken by the present Sri
Lankan government for the grave human rights violations.  The fact that
the government tolerates the brutal acts of the army in order to defeat
the rebels in the battlefield worries human rights activists. They say
that numerous cases of disappearances and rapes of Tamil civilians by
the army are unreported because of media censorship in the north and
east of the island. Some of the armed forces who were charged with
committing atrocities have had their cases dropped in return for a
promise to serve in the Vanni battlefield.

The Tamils are fighting for a homeland in the north and east of the
island nation, claiming that they are discriminated against by the
majority Sinhalese, who control the government and military.  More than
78,000 people, mostly Tamil civilians have been killed in the conflict.

Copyright 1997 		South Asian Media Services

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