Press Release calling for immediate action on Trincomalee situation – 21st April 2006

Press Release calling for immediate action on Trincomalee situation – 21st April 2006. Also available as a PDF in Sinhala

CALL FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION ON TRINCOMALEE SITUATION

A fact-finding team of civil society representatives traveled to Trincomalee on 16th and 17th of April 2006 in the wake of reports of civil unrest in the District.

The findings of this mission have left us gravely concerned by the events that have unfolded in Trincomalee over the past week; events which have left over 20 civilians dead, over 30 shops and 100 homes destroyed by fire and over 3000 persons displaced and seeking refuge in schools and places of worship.

On 12th April, a bomb exploded in the vegetable market in Trincomalee town, leaving five persons, including one child, dead. Within 15 minutes of the explosion, a gang of armed Sinhala persons began a rampage through the business area of the town, setting Tamil shops on fire, and looting goods. According to bystanders, though the gang never consisted of more than 100 at any given time, there was no reasonable attempt made by the security forces to prevent the violence.

Several people have been reported killed in and around the market on the 12th during the course of the rioting. Some bodies were thrown into the flames of the burning shops. 19 deaths, including of 7 women, have been reported so far; however the figure is rising daily. The burning of bodies has resulted in delays in identification, and has destroyed traces of mutilation and sexual assault prior to the death.

Over 30 shops were burned in all, the majority belonging to Tamils and 2 to Muslims. It appeared that several large shops were specifically targeted ? among them were Hari Electricals, the Dollar Agency, the Dialog Company and the Sunlight (Lever Brothers) Agency. The mob also attacked the Hatton National Bank.

Other incidents of violence, including arson and murder took place outside the town. The body of a young Sinhala man, identified as Nissanka, was found in Mahindapura on the 14th April. He had been missing since the 13th. Subsequently the Sinhala villagers of Mahindapura went on a rampage in the neighbouring Tamil village Nadesapura and set fire to over 40 homes. The office of the Trincomalee District Youth Development Organization (AHAM) was attacked and several vehicles belonging to the organization were set on fire; the Hindu temple in the village was also attacked. Similar incidents have taken place in Thuwarangkadu, resulting in the displacement of almost 1000 persons, and in Andankulam, where several houses were burnt down. The houses in Andankulam were new, built under a post-tsunami reconstruction scheme.

The violence, as well as the fear and insecurity experienced by the civilians, has led to a fairly substantial displacement. As of the 20th April, the District Secretariat, Trincomalee, had this figure at 2673 persons (723 families). This does not take into account the large numbers who are residing with family and friends, and those who are simply leaving their homes at night-time for more secure locations. The response to the displacement, even from NGOs, has been slow, hampered by the prevailing tensions and lack of personnel. In some areas government assistance was received only on the 18th April, despite the fact that people were displaced on the 14th April.

The speed with which the violence erupted after the explosion seems to indicate an element of pre-planning that is extremely disturbing. Two observers referred to the situation as being reminiscent of the anti-Tamil riots of July 1983. The rioting lasted for over two hours, during the daytime. During this entire period the armed forces and the Police did almost nothing to prevent the violence from taking place. There are several very credible eye witness accounts to the manner in which the security forces stood by and allowed the burning and killing to take place.

Although there is a multi-ethnic Citizens? Committ
Press Release calling for immediate action on Trincomalee situation – 21st April 2006
Press Release calling for immediate action on Trincomalee situation – 21st April 2006
Press Release calling for immediate action on Trincomalee situation – 21st April 2006

Centre for Policy Alternatives

The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) was formed in 1996 in the firm belief that there is an urgent need to strengthen institution- and capacity-building for good governance and conflict transformation in Sri Lanka and that non-partisan civil society groups have an important and constructive contribution to make to this process. Focusing primarily on issues of governance and conflict resolution, CPA is committed to programmes of research and advocacy through which public policy is critiqued, alternatives identified and disseminated.