Tamil resistance met with Sri Lankan state terrorism - 1979

Place: Ceylon | Date: 19790000

On the 11th of July 1979.. President Jayawardene appointed his nephew Brigadier Weeratunga, as commander of the security forces in Jaffna... On the same day, a state of emergency was declared in Jaffna, and a Public Security Ordinance gave the police and armed forces the power to dispose of dead bodies without an inquest.

On the night of the 14th of July, six Tamil youths were taken from their homes - three were never seen again. The mutilated bodies of two others were found the next day, and the sixth youth died later in Jaffna prison hospital. By this time a Prevention of Terrorism Act had been brought into operation...

This Act has been roundly condemned by Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists as a gross violation of human rights and an incitement to torture. The state of emergency which Brigadier Weeratunga supervised for six months in the North gave Amnesty and the ICJ ample evidence for this assessment.

During this period, the security forces - most of whom did not speak the language of the people of the North, and had been taught to look upon them as enemies who must be subjugated at all costs - rounded up and tortured Tamil youths. Houses were entered and searched, relatives were taken into custody until wanted men surrendered.

Villages were surrounded and the inhabitants flushed out and interrogated. Frequent 'stop and search' operations were carried on cars and buses. People who had absolutely nothing to do with any type of political activity, much less 'terrorism', were tortured with burning cigarettes, with chilli powder and red ants applied to sensitive parts of their bodies, by being hung upside down by their feet, or suspended by their wrists, by having pins driven into their toes and fingers, by being deprived of food and sleep, and by being beaten repeatedly...

By the time the emergency was lifted in December 1979, hundreds of people, mostly young men, had been through the hands of the security forces. Many were radicalised by this direct application of state power, and sought for the first time to work for Eelam..." - Nancy Murray, the State against the Tamils in Sri Lanka - Racism and the Authoritarian State - Race & Class , Summer 1984


''In the period immediately after the emergency declaration (in July 1979) a pattern of arbitrary arrest and detention existed and torture was used systematically... Six young men, reported arrested in the days after the emergency declaration, died in the custody of the police after having been tortured and the bodies of three of them have still not been found.

When the Emergency was declared, the President had instructed the Commander of the Security Forces in the Jaffna District to carry out his mandate before 31 December 1979...

In a subsequent letter to the President, Amnesty International... said it had recently received testimonies which indicated that serious violations of the right of freedom from torture and from arbitrary arrest, detention and punishment - rights also guaranteed in the Sri Lankan Constitution - had occurred in the months after the emergency declaration...

Various methods of torture have been used by both the police and the army in the period immediately after the emergency declaration, including suspending people upside down by the toes whilst placing their head in a bag with suffocating fumes of burning chillies, prolonged and severe beatings, insertion of pins in the finger tips and the application of broken chillies and biting ants to sensitive parts of the body and threats of execution. After these and other methods of torture had been applied, statements were extracted and recorded'' - Amnesty International Report, 1980