Sri Lankan Presidential Commission of
Inquiry into Bindunuwewa Massacre made public
demands implementation of the recommendations
Women’s Press Corp, New
Delhi: Asian Centre
for Human Rights (ACHR) at a press conference today released confidential
“Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Bindunuwewa Massacre
of 25 October 2000” in which 28 Tamil youth between the ages of
14-23 years were massacred while approximately 14 other Tamil youth
were seriously injured by a Sinhala mob and the Sri Lankan police.
The Commission headed by Justice PHK Kulatilaka was set up
on 8 March 2001 and its report was submitted in early 2002. Although
President Kumaratunga’s term as President comes to an end soon,
the report has not yet been made public.
ACHR demanded that the
report of Justice PHK Kulatilaka Presidential Commission of Inquiry
be made public and disciplinary action against the eight police
officers be initiated for, what the Commission termed as, “indefensible
inaction and attitude at the time of the incident”.
is a shame that then Headquarters Inspector Seneviratne who was
indicted by the Presidential Commission, instead of being taken
to task has been rewarded and is now the Senior Superintendent of
Police of Traffic at Fort Police Station” – stated Mr Suhas
Chakma, Director of ACHR.
of the Justice Kulatilaka Presidential Commission of Inquiry:
President Chandrika Kumaratunga
had no interest to prosecute the culprits. Even before the start
of any inquiry, she blamed the massacre on the “external forces”.
Therefore, Justice P. H. K. Kulatilaka was mandated to investigate
extraneous issues but not to find the truth and prosecute the culprits.
The Presidential Commission
of Inquiry indicated the organised nature of the massacre. A section
of the villagers were drawn to the Bindunuwewa Rehabilitation Centre
and there was “also evidence that crowds were transported from outside
to the Vidyapeetaya playground in buses, private vans and also three
wheelers”. Posters like “why is the big man feeding the tigers with
milk”, “Tigers’ flesh to our dogs” were displayed in and around
Bindunuwewa one day before the massacre.
Justice Kulatilaka concluded
that the police knew about the impending massacre as the crowd gathered
to attack the camp and it was “a
lapse on the part of the ASP Dayaratne and HQI Seneviratne by their
failure to send sufficient reinforcement to guard the perimeter.”
Among others, Justice Kulatilaka
further concluded that:
meaningful steps had been taken by the police to prevent the mob
from … coming into the Rehabilitation Centre.
the mob invaded the Centre, acts of setting fire to the buildings,
attack on the inmates and the massacre of inmates continued unabated
while the police were just looking on.
police had opened fire on the unarmed inmates who were running for
protection towards the police trucks parked outside the main gate,
thereby causing death of one inmate and injuring two others.
police (60 armed personnel) had failed to arrest any offender even
though the assailants were seen moving about freely carrying weapons
while the policemen were standing nearby” and that evidence was
Eight police officers who
were held guilty are: (1) A.W. Dayaratne, Assistant Superintendent
of Police; 2) R.M.T.K. Jayantha Seneviratne, Chief Inspector, 3)
S.J. Karunasena, Inspector, 4) N.G.S. Walpola, Sub Inspector (SI),
5) P. Ratnayake, SI, 6) K.W.C.N. Abeynarayana, SI, 7) Capt. Y.K.
Abeyratne former Officer-in-Charge, Bindunuwewa Rehabilitation Centre
and 8) Lt. P. Abeyratne, Second Officer, Bindunuwewa Rehabilitation
The judicial biases:
Commenting on the acquittal
of the four accused of the Bindunuwewa massacre by the Supreme Court
of Sri Lanka on 21 May 2005, ACHR Director, Mr Suhas Chakma stated:
“The entire trial was orchestrated to exonerate
the culprits. The Attorney General did not file indictments against
any senior police officers including ASP Dayaratne and HQI Seneviratne
who were indicted both by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry
and the National Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka”.
The Attorney General filed
wrong indictments by clubbing the accused civilians and the policemen
together and charged them for “unlawful assembly”. It was a case
of mixing oranges with apples, as the police were responsible for
taking appropriate actions against members of the unlawful assembly
and their criminal actions. It was necessary for the prosecution
to establish the organised nature of the massacre to establish the
fact that the police shared the common objective of the “unlawful
assembly” of the civilians. But prosecution never investigated the
organised nature of the massacre despite the findings of the Presidential
Commission of Inquiry. Not surprisingly all accused were acquitted.
The Supreme Court went to
the extent of blaming the Tamil inmates for inviting the wrath from
the Sinhalese crowd, who were identified as “peaceful Sathyagrahis”
by the Court. “The fact that 60 fully armed
policemen could not arrest a single socalled peaceful Satyagrahi
speaks itself about the organised massacre and complicity between
the mob and the police.” – stated Mr Chakma.
From day one, evidence was
destroyed systematically. The prosecution ignored the shooting of
the fleeing inmates. One of the inmates was shot to death with six
bullet wounds from three separate bullets; but such vital facts
could not be entered into evidence.
The High Court held the
police responsible for removing the dead bodies of the detainees
from the scene to destroy the evidence. The Supreme Court justified
it on the ground that “it was so done to preserve peace in the area
as there was a large concentration of Tamil estate workers in the
The Supreme Court also gave
more importance to the testimony of the police such as ASP Dayaratne
and a sole Sinhala witness over the testimony of two survivors -
accepted as true by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry - that
they were each attacked by the mob while they were inside a police
vehicle within sight of numerous police officers.
The Supreme Court also dismissed
the claims of survivor Perumal Easwaran that his two fingers were
blown off by a gunshot wound when the police shot towards a group
of inmates fleeing attackers. The Supreme Court relied on the evidence
of a Judicial Medical Officer who certified his wounds were caused
by sharp weapons but ignored the fact that an earlier JMO report
recommended treatment of “gunshot wounds.”
While considering the question
of the police failure to arrest any of the attackers, the Supreme
Court made no mention of the photographs taken by the police that
clearly showed senior police officers milling around the camp alongside
armed attackers, as a dead or injured detainee lies at their feet.
The Supreme Court also
ignored an important piece of evidence that the High Court made
much of: the fact that the attackers were able to burn the bodies
of many inmates beyond recognition suggests that the attack was
not over and done with quickly. For the bodies to be burnt so completely,
the High Court argued, would have required the acquiescence of the
failure to make Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Bindunuwewa
massacre is not an isolated incident. The report of the three-member
Truth Commission formed by President Chandrika Kumaratunga in July
2002 to investigate incidents of ethnic violence between 1981 and
1984, including anti-Tamil riots in July 1983, has also not been
made public. The denial of justice to the Tamil minorities is a
collective failure of the institutions of the Sri Lankan state run
by majority Sinhalese, and one of the main obstacles to national
reconciliation. It cannot simply be brushed aside under the brutalities
of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam” – asserted Chakma.