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Post subject: 1983 Welikade Tamil prisoners’ massacre:
Sun Jul 31, 2005 5:35 am
|Date : 2005-07-30
1983 Welikade Tamil prisoners’ massacre:
In conversation with Douglas Devananda MP - an eye-witness account.
-@ Asian Tribune -
: Douglas Devananda: "I saw Sinhalese prisoners dragging and piling the dead bodies. When I asked what happened, one atchchukariya told okkama marila. (All died)."
One more year has elapsed and still the sickening memories of the gruesome murders at the Welikade high security prisons haunt us. It was on 25th and 27th July 1983, total of [(35) + (18 ) = 53 Tamil political prisoners were killed with impunity and the Sri Lanka government led by President J.R.Jayewardene remained as a passive observers of the whole sordid affair.
Then President J.R.Jayewardene expressed no sorrow or grief for what had happened either at the Welikade high security prison or in the country. Unfortunately he never had any words of sympathy for those killed at the hands of the marauding assassins, but he by his words and deeds indicated that the anti-Tamils violence of the “Black July” was the fitting retribution to the death of the 13 Sinhala soldiers by Prabakaran and his cadres on 23 July 1983.
‘Asian Tribune’ has already published testimonies of two of those survivors, former Tamil political prisoners of the Welikade high security prison massacres on 25 and 27 July 1983.
Initially “Asian Tribune” published the first person testimony by Gnanapiragasam Gnanasekeram nom de guerre Rajan or Paranthan Rajan, the Secretary General of Eelam National Democratic Left Front. Missing pages of the Presidential Commission on Ethnic Violence - Re-enacting the1983 Welikade Jail Massacre.
Following Rajan, it was a revelation by M.Nithyanandan, a former lecturer of the University of Jaffna and at present, head of the news and events division of Deepam Television - a Tamil Language TV channel based in London. Tamil Prisoners’ Massacre ‘83 – a Horror revisited by M. Nithyanandan, one of the 19 survivors
Today we publish the eye-witness account of Douglas Devananda MP and Minister of Agricultural Marketing Development, Co-operative Development, Hindu Affairs and Assisting Education and Vocational Training. He is also one of the survivors of the massacre at the Welikade high security prisons on 27 July 1983.
Devananda was born in Jaffna on 10th November 1957 as the second son of Subramaniam Kathiravelu. He had his primary and secondary education at the Jaffna Central College, where his mother was a teacher, till her death. In 1970, at the age of 13, Devananda joined the Manavar Peravai (Students Federation), being distressed by the government’s scheme of standardization of marks for admission to universities.
In 1974, Devananda was sent to Colombo for further studies under his uncle’s K.C. Nithyananda’s tutelage. In Colombo, however, it was not studies that interested Devananda, the teenager, but politics.
He joined the Eelam Liberation Organization (ELO). He organized the General Union of Eelam Students (GUES) in Colombo, and coordinated its activities in the North and East of Sri Lanka.
In 1975 EROS - Eelam Revolutionary Organization of Students was formed in London by Eliyathamby Ratnasabapathy, a Sri Lankan Tamil who was residing in Britain along with Sankar Rajee and Arulpiragasam (Arular). The EROS became known only when its student wing- General Union of Eelam Students (GUES) was subsequently formed in Madras.
In 1975, Douglas Devananda became a founder member of the EROS in Sri Lanka along with V.Balakumar and Bala Nadarajah (Sinna Bala). It was then that he assumed the pseudonym of Douglas. He received military training from the Al-Fatah faction of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1978.
Trouble was brewing in the hierarchy of the EROS. Between the periods of 1979 to1980, differences over the absence of the London leadership in Sri Lanka, and organizational problems such as democratic centralism arose among the EROS leaders in Sri Lanka. Subsequently the organization, with its leadership based mainly in London, broke into two.
A section, including Padmanabha and Douglas left EROS and formed the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF). The student body GUES of the EROS, attached itself with the EPRLF.
The EPRLF started as a leftist group with a strong Marxist element. In 1982, they formed a military wing and later indulged in several militant activities. From the very beginning Douglas served as a member of the politburo and as the commander of its military wing, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
In 1980, the Sri Lanka government arrested Douglas twice under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. He was incarcerated in the prisons at Batticaloa, later at the Magazine prison, followed by a stint at Panagoda detention centre, and finally transferred to the high security prisons at Welikade.When the July 1983 anti-Tamil riots broke out, Douglas was an inmate of the Welikada prison.
In an interview with the “Asian Tribune” Douglasa Devananda, recounted that Tamil political prisoners and detainees totaling 72 in numbers were kept in the Chapel section in the B3, C3, D3 and also on the ground floor of the Youthful Offenders (YO) section.
Selvarajah Yogachandran alias Kuttimani, Nadarajah Thangavelu alias Thangathurai, Jegan and three others who were on 24 February 1983, sentenced to death in the Neervely Bank robbery case were locked up in B3 section. This B3 section had a wooden partition in the rear-end where the gallows were.
Another 29 prisoners were in the D3 section. In the C3 section including Douglas Devananda, 28 prisoners were locked up and nine prisoners were locked up in the ground floor of the YO Block and they were all aged and elderly people except for, M.Nithyanandan and Dr. Jeyakularajah. Others were Dr. Tharmalingham, Kovai Mahesan, Dr. Somasundaram Rajasundaram, S.A. David, Fr. A. Singarayar, Fr. S Sinnarasa, and Rev. Jeyatilekarajah.
Devananda told that meals to his C3 section were used to be served by the senior prisoners and they were called Atchukkaraya in Sinhalese. One of the Atchukkaraya was short and flabby with large round eyes and he resembled Prabakaran the LTTE leader.
All most all those in the C-3 section knew Prabakaran well and many of them associated with him in some of those daring bank robberies in those days. So they all called that particular Atchchukaraya “Prabakaran”.
Although we were all locked up in the Welikade Prison in the Chapel section it was very difficult to meet others who were in the other sections. At times we use to meet Thangathurai, Kuttimani and others from the B3 section.
All those six persons in the B-3 sections were involved with the robbery of waylaying van carrying money of the People’s Bank near Neervely on the Point-Pedro – Jaffna Road, on 23 March 1980. The People Bank’s van while returning from Point Pedro with the day’s cash collection was stopped and the two policemen in the van were gunned down and the party led by Kuttimani escaped with five suitcases containing a total of 7.8 million Sri Lankan Rupees.
After the loot, Sri Lankan police offered one million rupees for information leading to the arrest of the gang which robbed the bank’s money.
As life in Sri Lanka was unsafe Thangathurai, Kuttimani, and Sellathurai alias Thevan decided to leave for Madras (Chennai) by boat. Sri Sabaratnam dropped them in a car at Manalkadu as requested by Prabakaran, a coastal village located in the Point Pedro East, and left before the party embarked on the boat.
No sooner they arrived in Manalkadu, the waiting policemen surrounded them and arrested all the three gang members involved in the robbery.
Devananda revealed that Thangathurai, Kuttimani and others told that it was Prabakaran who betrayed them and the police was able to wait in ambush for them at Manalkadu only on the information given by Prabakaran.
Kuttimani was so furious and he was never prepared to forgive Prabakaran for his act of betrayal. He was telling everyone that he wanted to apply for bail and go to India or anywhere in the world and kill Prabakaran and return back to the jail. For him when he was at Welikade, killing of Prabakaran was the only goal before he died, as he was sentenced to death. Every minute he was thinking of taking revenge by killing Prabakaran.
Whenever Captain Kotalawela - that time he was only a Captain -- visited the Welikade prison to talk to the political prisoners, Kuttimani use to appeal to him to arrange some sort of a bail for him to leave the prison for a few days so that he could accomplish his mission of killing Prabakaran for betraying him and his fellow Tamil prisoners who were dedicated to noble goal of achieving Tamil Eelam through the TELO group.
Douglas Devananda told that in his C -3 section nearly three to four prisoners were locked up in one cell. The prison guards used to take all those inmates in one cell at a time for exercise just for 15 minutes in the open yard. He said that was the only opportunity for them to go out of the locked cell and meet the other prisoners. During that time he said that the other guards attached to other blocks too might sometime bring the Tamil political prisoners from the other sections also. He said that he met Kuttimani, Thangathurai and others on a few rare occasions when he met them in the open space where they were taken for the physical exercise.
Devananda recalled that on 24th July 1983, he and his cell mates were taken to the open space for exercise and he found the atchukaraya and the prison guards were all very tense and talking to themselves looking and pointing at the other side of the Prisons towards the Borrella junction.
“I asked one of the prison guards why they were all so tensed and what was the matter?” -Douglas Devananda.
The prison guard narrated the story of 13 soldiers being killed in Jaffna and the dead bodies were expected to be brought from Jaffna anytime now for cremation at the Kanatte cemetery and the people in thousands were marching towards Kanatte and are protesting over the death of the Sri Lankan army’s soldiers.
When we learnt about the killings of the 13 soldiers on the night of 23 July 1983 at the Tirunelveli junction in Jaffna, we knew that it was another misadventure of Prabakaran, a foolish act which might change the history of the country, and it indeed changed the country’s course of history.
We also learnt that 24th July, it was a Sunday, by the evening crowds has started gathering outside the Colombo’s main cemetery where the Government had made initial arrangements to bring the dead bodies of the 13 soldiers died at Tirunelveli for cremation.
For reasons unknown, the cremation did not take place in Colombo and the Government decided to send the slain army personnel to their respective villages for cremation.
The disappointed crowd who were waiting at the cemetery in Borrella grew restive and started attacking the Tamil shops and houses in and around Borrella and also at Ward Place, as well as in the Rosemead place in Colombo according to a prison guard.
On 25th Monday we learnt that all the Colombo papers carried the vivid account of the Tirunelvely attack - the gory killing of 13 soldiers, which fuelled an anti-Tamil program in July 1983. The chief man responsible to trigger off the 1983 July holocaust was no one else other than Prabakaran.
Attacking the Tamils all over the island started while the country was under curfew. On 25th, whole day we were locked up and we did not receive any information of what was happening around us.
By 2 PM in the afternoon we heard a big commotion and people marching. In fact the noises and commotion emerged from the B3 and D3 sections.
We heard people wailing and shouting and ‘jeyawewa’and so many other noises.
As there was no vantage point in our C3 section to see the commotion that was happening in the other two sections, we were not able to see all those happenings in those two sections. It went on till 5 PM on 25 July.
As my cell was the second one and I was unable to see, but someone in the cell one in our section shouted that Sinhalese prisoners in big numbers were marching towards B3 and D3 sections and attacking the inmates over there.
Sinhalese prisoners’ attacking the Tamil political prisoners was something unheard in a civil society and also we learnt that jailors and prison guards and civilians from outside the prisons too had joined the prisoners in attacking the Tamil political prisoners.
After 5 PM prison authorities came and informed us that there would be a magisterial inquiry and anyone interested can come and give evidence. Though we have not seen anything directly, I decided to go to inquiry to give evidence because that was an opportunity to know really what happened on that day.
As I agreed to give evidence, I was taken, passing the B3 and D3 sections. While going, I found blood spattered and human body parts scattered all over. The two sections were opened and there was no movement of any living being.
Then I saw Sinhalese prisoners dragging and piling the dead bodies. When I asked what happened, one atchchukariya told okkama marila. (All died)
The six detainees in B-3 Kuttimani, Thangathurai and others were ruthlessly done to death – a horrible sight.
I later learnt from others that a crowd of over 400 to 500 Sinhalese prisoners, jailers, prison guards and also many outsiders - unidentified men in civilian clothing marched to the B-3 and D-3 sections where the Tamil political prisoners were held.
Then the jailors and prison guards unlocked the cell doors for the crowd to enter the cells where the Tamil prisoners were held and they attacked the unarmed Tamil prisoners mercilessly. They were attacked with knives, crowbars, axes, iron bars and firewood lengths.
The unarmed and defenseless Tamil prisoners, majority of them were hacked and hammered to death. Even after killing those Tamil prisoners, I learnt that attacking group cut and chopped the body of the prisoners into pieces.
When I saw the gory sight, I could not control my revulsion. I learnt that the attackers forced the Tamil prisoners to kneel down and their eyes were gouged out with pointed objects and then they were killed.
Attackers were reminded, in a mocking voice, of the speech by Thangathurai made from the dock after the death sentence was served on them. They killed him and sliced his tongue and were laughing mockingly that they were able to silence the Tamil who spoke of Tamil Eelam.
They gouged the eyes of Kuttimani who told that he wanted to donate his eyes, so that at least his eyes may see the birth of a Tamil Eelam. Also another attacker sliced his tongue and he drank the blood of Kuttimani and shouted proudly, “I have drank the blood of Kuttimani” and also shouted Jeyawewa.
I also learnt that one young teenager survived the attack and was crouching in terror in his cell, but one prison guard spotted him and stabbed him to death.
On my way back after giving evidence to the Magistrate about the incidents that took place in the afternoon, I saw almost all the 35 Tamil prisoners, in the two sections lay dead and I saw their bodies were heaped in two piles in front of the two sections - B3 and D3.
It was our blood and flesh. I saw Kuttimnai, Thangathurai Jegan and all the others. Their disfigured faces, I cannot not forget even today. Still the memories are fresh and haunting me.
I recollected how Kuttimany was furious over Prabakaran for betraying them to the Sri Lankan Police and how he was appealing with Captain Kottalawela to provide him some opportunity to go in search after Prabakaran. He used to tell us that he was a viper and he has to be got rid of, for the Tamil community to survive. Now I agree with Kuttimani about his prophesy.
Later I came to know that the 35 dead bodies were simply dumped into an army truck and taken to the cemetery and cremated without even notifying to the relatives and loved ones of the deceased.
Next day, 26th July was a Tuesday and no incident was reported within the prisons. But by midnight we were awoken and our cells were opened up and the jail guards asked us to follow them.
We were taken to the Youthful Offenders Section and ordered to occupy the cells on the ground floor.
We began to wonder why we have been removed suddenly from the Chappell section of the prison to the YO section.
On 27th we were kept in our section. Here we were able to converse easily with the other inmates freely without any problem. However, we all had some tense feeling within us. We all had a feeling that something might happen to us soon.
We earlier knew that in the YO section they had 9 prisoners locked in the ground floor and many of them were elderly people, except for M.Nithyanandan and Dr. Jeyakularajah. Elderly people in that section were Dr. Tharmalingham, Kovai Mahesan, Dr. Somasundaram Rajasundaram, S.A. David, Fr. A. Singarayar, Fr. S Sinnarasa, and Rev. Jeyatilekarajah.
On 27th morning, we tried to establish voice contact hoping that they must be somewhere in the same section. At last we managed to establish voice contact and we found out that they were locked up in the upstairs just above us.
On 27th afternoon, we saw hundreds of the prisoners converging towards YO section. As we were on the ground floor we were able to see the marching crowd which included Sinhalese prisoners, jailors, prison guards and others in civil clothes.
The time would have been nearly 2.30 in the afternoon and our attackers were menacingly marching towards the YO section brandishing swords, axes, crowbars, iron pipes, firewood and so many other unconventional weapons and making threatening noises as they neared the main entrance of YO section.
It dawned on us that this was the battle formation to attack us and we realized that we must do something to save us - do or die and we prepared ourselves to face the consequences bravely and made our weapons out of aluminum eating plates and drinking cups and waited for the attackers boldly, though we were unarmed and outnumbered.
They managed to snatch the key to entrance of YO Section from the guard and to enter into the section. I saw a group going upstairs menacingly while the balance remained downstairs trying break open the doors leading to our cells.
It was a pitched battle. Some of us managed to grab the weapons of our attackers and kept on keeping them at bay, but we find that they had an upper hand in the battle as they had all the weapons needed for the attack and they outnumbered us
They managed to kill Muthukumar Srikumar, Amirthanayagam Philip, Kasalingham Kumar, Sellachami Kumar, Kandasamy Sarweswaran, A. Marianpillai Sivapalan Neethirajah Devanayagam Paskaran S.Rajaratnam - in total they killed 18 of us. We also attacked them very ferociously and I think we too managed to give them severe blows and I saw in the end they were dragging more than a dozen of their people. When the fight was evenly poised, suddenly the attackers withdrew.
When I looked around, I saw Rajan, Panagoda Maheswaran, and Tractor Sri including me, a total of 10 of us remained alive.
We all had sustained injuries, but survived. Even though we all sustained injuries, something in us was telling that we should continue to fight, defense was the best alternative left in us to counter the offence and challenges posed by our attackers. We were holding on and by 4 pm soldiers from the army entered the scene by firing tear gas to disperse the attackers.
Army personnel armed with modern sophisticated weapons, fired tear gas and simply ordered the attackers to leave the scene, without arresting anyone of them and ordered us to come out of our cells to the verandah of the YO section.
I saw many of our brothers who were with us in C3 section fallen and their bodies lying in pool of blood and flesh, body parts and blood scattered all over.
When we were ordered to come out of our cell I saw many of them still alive and struggling. I started carrying them to the entrance of the YO section and laid them in the floor, hoping that the Army people might rush them to the hospital to give necessary medication and make them to survive. Thus I carried almost seven of our colleagues who were not dead but they lay unconscious.
When the army saw me instead of coming out of the cell and staying in the queue of our prisoners staying outside the YO section, which is now being joined by the others from the upstairs also, they ordered me sternly to come out and join the queue.
By the time I went to join the queue I saw a group of prison guards releasing heavy blow on the heads of those unconscious prisoners whom I carried and laid in the front entrance of the YO section, thus ending the lives of six of them.
The army was simply watching without taking any steps to prevent the killings. Then when they struck the head of Yogarajah, he miraculously got up suddenly, screaming. Fortunately, as he recovered from the state of unconsciousness the army interfered and prevented him from being killed. The same comrade Yograjah is now with us in the EPDP in our office in Colombo.
Eleven of us including me, namely Gnanasekeram (Rajan), Thambapillai Maheswaran (Panagoda Maheswaran), Sritharan (Tractor Sri), Nadarajah Alexander Jeyakody, Yograjah, Naveenthrajah (Babuji), Manickathasan, Sivasubramaniam, and Ganeshalingham (Farouk) managed to survive.
Along with us, the elderly Tamil prisoners Dr. Tharmalingham, Kovai Mahesan, A. David, Nithiananthan, Fr. Singarayar, Fr. Sinnarasa, Rev. Jeyatilekarajah and Dr. Jeyakularajah also survived the attack.
By 10 O’clock in the night the army ordered us to get into an army truck. Already in the truck there were eight or nine Tamil prisoners including R. Vasudevan who was later the Deputy leader of PLOTE and the co-brother of D. Sivaram, who were brought from the Magazine prison.
Along with 11 of us, the elderly Tamil prisoners Dr. Tharmalingham, Kovai Mahesan, A. David, Nithiananthan, Fr. Singarayar, Fr. Sinnarasa, Rev. Jeyatilekarajah and Dr. Jeyakularajah were also brought from the cell upstairs and put them in the truck.
Though we were not told where we were being taken in the middle of the night, we arrived at the air force airport and were parked in the runway.
We were not allowed to get down from the truck and we were not even allowed to go to ease ourselves.
In the morning on 28 July 1983, by 7 O’clock, we were handcuffed and were boarded in the air force flight to Batticaloa.
- Asian Tribune -
Post subject: Tamil Prisoners' Masacre `83
Thu Jun 19, 2008 9:04 pm
Tamil Prisoners' Masacre `83 –
A Horror revisited by M. Nithyanandan, one of the 19 survivors.
Reliving the Welikade Prison massacres of 25 & 27 July 1983, is `horror revisited' said M.Nithyanandan (54 yrs), a former Lecturer of the University of Jaffna and at present Head of the news and
events divison of Deepam Television - a Tamil Language TV channel
based in London.
Nithyanandan is one of the 19 prisoners who miraculously survived in
the two different days attack. Prison massacre alleged to be
orchestrated by the leaders of the Government of that day, who were
responsible for fanning communal tension and intimidating Sinhala
prisoners to attack and kill defenseless Tamil political prisoners
who were quartered at the high security Welikade prison.
Welikade high security prison is located in close proximity to
Borella junction in a 48 acre land space in the Baseline road.
Tamil political prisoners and detainees totaling 72 in numbers were
kept in the Chapel section in the B3 C3, D3 and in the ground floor
of the Youthful Offenders (YO) section.
On 25 March 1981 Selvarajah Yogachandran alias Kuttimani led an
attack on the People's Bank motor-van by ambushing it at Neervely,
when it was returning to Jaffna with the collection money from the
bank branch. Kuttimani and his accomplices gunned down two policemen
and vanished with 5 suitcases containing money estimated around Rs.
8.1 million. But on 05 April 1981 Kuttimani, Thangathurai and Jegan
were arrested near Manalkaadu, while trying to escape to Tamil Nadu,
with a section of the heist.
Subsequently on, 24 February 1983, Kuttimani, Thangathurai Jegan and
another 3 were sentenced to death in the Neervely Bank robbery case.
After being sentenced by the courts, Kuttimani in his statement
said, "Kuttimani will be sentenced to death today, but tomorrow there
will appear thousands of Kuttimanis. They will not be innocent like
me, but more vigorous..." He also expressed his desire to donate his
eyes so that they may see the birth of Eelam.
On 01 March 1983, Thangathurai made a statement from the dock, which
to this day remains one of the best testaments to Tamil sentiments in
The moving speech of Thangathurai in the Tamil language eloquently
recalled the historic experience of the Tamils and contained these
lines: "We are neither lovers of violence nor victims of mental
We are fighters belonging to an organization that is struggling to
liberate our people.
To those noble souls who keep prating terrorism, we have something to
Did you not get frightened of terrorism when hundreds of Tamils got
massacred in cold blood, when racist hate spread like fire in this
country of yours?
Did terrorism mean nothing to you when Tamil women were raped?
When cultural treasures were set on fire?
When hundreds of Tamil homes were looted?
Why, in 1977 alone 400 Tamils lost their lives, reddening the sky
above with their splattered blood. Did you not see any terrorism then?
It is only when a few policemen are killed in Tamil Eelam and a few
million rupees bank money robbed, that terrorism strikes you in the
face... But my fervent prayer is that innocent Sinhalese people
should not have to reap what power hungry Sinhalese politicians have
These tribulations are a boon bestowed by God to purify us. The final
victory is ours.
Six of them appealed against the death sentences imposed on them by
the lower court and waited for the appeal hearing. They were locked
up in B3 section. This B3 section had a wooden partition in the rear
end and also had the gallows.
Another 28 prisoners were in the C3 section. In the D3 section 29
prisoners were locked up and nine prisoners in the Youthful Offenders
Those 9 prisoners locked in the ground floor of the YO Block were
almost all were aged elderly people except for, M.Nithyanandan and
Dr. Jeyakularajah, others were Dr. Tharmalingham, Kovai Mahesan, Dr.
Somasundaram Rajasundaram, S.A. David, Fr. A. Singarayar, Fr. S
Sinnarasa, and Rev. Jeyatilekarajah.
All were arrested and detained under the prevention of Terrorism Act
of 1982, said to have been authored by the then Attorney General Siva
Pasupathy, who is at present one of the constitutional experts of
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, assisted in the drafting of their
Interim Self-Governing Authority proposal.
On 27 October 1982, a group of eight Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
(LTTE) led by Seelan attacked the Chavakachcheri police station.
Accompanying Seelan in the attack were Aruna, Shankar, Pulendran,
Raghu, Mahattaya, Santhosam and Bashir Kakka.
In the attack, three of the Tigers were injured. One bullet pierced
through Pulendran's shoulder, another hit Raghu and broke his right
hand bone and the third went through Seelan's knee cap.
The injury sustained by Seelan, the number 2 man of the LTTE was
serious. He was carried back to the van along with the other two
injured cadres and driven away, by Aruna.
Subsequently it became known that they were driven to the house of
Mr. Nithyanandan & Mrs. Nirmala Nithyanandan's located at 330,
Navalar – Nallur Road, Jaffna for immediate medical treatment.
Seelan lost lot of blood and he fainted and an emergency medical team
was assembled at Nithyanandan's house and all three were treated.
Seelan recovered, but was later sent to Chennai for further treatment.
On 14 & 15 November 1981 Sri Lankan Government arrested three Roman
Catholic priests, Father A. Singarayar, Fr. S.Sinnarasa and Fr,
Jayatilakarajah. They were held at the notorious Gurunagar Army camp.
They were held incommunicado and were denied access to friends and
On 18 November 1982, Mr.Nithyanandan a lecturer at the University of
Jaffna and his wife Nirmala Nithyanandan, a popular writer,
sociologist and political activists were arrested by an army team led
by Major Munasinghe on charges of harboring terrorists and
withholding information. They were taken and held in the infamous
Gurunagar army camp. (Later when he was Brigadier, Munasinghe has
been the official Sri Lankan Army spokesman for several years.)
Mr.& Mrs. Nithyanandan were taken later by land to Colombo in a
military truck transiting at an army camp in Anuradhapura and were
locked up at the Colombo Magazine prisons – according to the Dutch
word Magazine – was a place or a warehouse for keeping gunpowder and
explosives during the Dutch rule of Sri Lanka and subsequently
converted into a prison.
Meanwhile as Thambapillai Maheswaran nom de guerre Panagoda
Maheswaran leader of the Tamil Eelam Army (TEA) and few others
managed to escape from the Panagoda army camp and subsequently
rearrested, Government decided to intern all the Tamils prisoners in
the Welikade Maximum Security prison in May 1983. A total of
additional 50 Tamil political prisoners were brought and locked up in
the Welikade Maximum security Prison.
On 03 June 1982, Sri Lanka Government promulgated an Emergency
Regulation. The noteworthy feature of the new Regulation was to
authorize the Police to deal with the disposal of dead bodies without
recourse to any inquest proceedings.
Nithiyanandan in his exclusive interview with "Asian Tribune" said
that in the Young Offenders Block, where along with him, nine of them
were held. It was a separate block and they were held in the ground
floor and the dormitory upstairs remained vacant and was under lock
He said Nirmala, his wife was held in another section in the women
wing of the prison.
Nithyanandan said when he was in the Magazine prison; he received the
first visit of his father. His father was the first person ever
allowed to visit him after his arrest and he added after going to
Welikade he expected more visits, but it did not happen.
When describing about their incarceration in the YO section, he
explained that there were row of cells on both sides divided by a
corridor and the nine detainees were locked up in separate separate
cells for each. In the mornings their cells used to be opened up by
the jail guards, so that they can all sit in a small common room
located in the corridor.
Nithiyanandan said that they were used to be taken out daily from
their cells to the open air for just 15 minutes for exercise, but
normally they were kept daily locked-up for the rest of the 23 hours
and 45 minutes.
He said on the evening of 24th July 1983, when they were taken out
for the routine exercise, he saw thick smoke over the prison's wall,
which was on the side of the Kanette cemetery, located off Borella
One prison guard told us that there was trouble in the country and
Sinhala mob has started torching shops and houses in the Borella area
and in the other parts of Colombo.
The fast deteriorating situation outside, put us off our balance and
through out the night we could not sleep, but we were holding our
cell iron doors and were talking to the opposite number on the other
side of the corridor.
However 24th July passed uneventful, but on 25th we heard lot of
commotion in the B3, C3 and D3 sections located in the Chapel
division, but we could not see anything.
Nithyanandan said that although we heard unusual commotion, noises,
shouts of Jeyawewa, we were not able to neither see nor understand
what was happening over there.
Nithyanandan goes on to say – we learnt later all that happened,
about the brutal killings that took place between 2.15 and 3.15 on
the afternoon of 25th July 1983.
According to our information, which we gathered in the later days,
that 35 defenseless Tamil political prisoners were attacked, battered
and were lying fallen and brought and lined up in the outer portico
of the building.
Subsequently Army made arrangements to remove those 35 bodies –
majority of them were still alive, according to an information, but
were soon loaded to be transported to the General Hospital accident
ward, but the Army did not allow the bodies to be taken out. Around
6.30 pm the senior medical officer examined the 35 detainees and
We learnt later according to the latest Emergency Regulations, those
35 bodies were loaded in an Army truck, heaped one over the other,
driven to the Kenette cemetery, located at Borella, and cremated
without even informing their relatives and the dear ones of those
But 26th July passed eventless, anyhow we were kept in the dark and
we had not the slightest inkling that already 35 Tamil political
prisoners in the other section had been subjected to the beastly
attacks organized by vested interest groups to do away with the
Cuthbert Janz, Deputy Commissioner Prisons, was acting as
Commissioner as D.P. Delgado Commissioner was out of the country at
Janz we learnt, brought the 25th July prison's incident to the notice
of J.R.Jayewardene, President of Sri Lanka. Subsequently it was
decided to take the remaining prisoners out of Colombo. In the
meantime it was decided to move the remaining prisoners to Youthful
Offenders building immediately and the prison authorities considered
the block a more secure place..
On 26th no one came to our section. Guards did not take us outside
even for the usual 15 minutes exercise. We were all seated in the
little common room and raking our heads to find out the existing
situation on the other side of the prison.
On 26th evening the jail guard and a few senior prisoners in white
uniforms who were called Atchchukaraya in Sinhala, came and told us
to leave our cells in the ground floor and go to the dormitory in the
When we asked why we are being changed, we were not told of the
reason. But one Atchchukaraya who stood behind the jail guard tried
to make some signal by squeezing his neck with his both hands and
pushing his tongue out, but at that point of time, we did not come to
terms with his signals and the situation prevailing outside.
The dormitory upstairs was full of dirt and dust and it was not
cleaned before it being occupied by us. Anyway we did not have any
choice other than to spread our bed sheets and lie on the dusty and
When we were in the dormitory, we heard sounds of people in the
ground floor moving into the cells which we occupied earlier.
We shouted and tried to establish voice contacts with the new
occupants, but we could not succeed in getting details of what
happened on 25th July.
While we were in the ground floor, I appealed for a small table to be
given to place my note book and write. After several weeks'
deliberation, prison authorities gave me a something similar to a
table - a small stool. Similarly the priests too were given stools to
keep their Holy Bibles and to kneel down and say their prayers. When
we moved upstairs we took with us our stools also.
On the 27th July at about 2 pm in the afternoon, I saw a group of
more than 400 prisoners marching towards the Youthful Offenders
Block. From upstairs I was able to see very clearly prisoners
demanding the key from the guard who was standing in front of the
main entrance of the block. He submitted to their demand and gave a
big key bunch to them.
The prisoners who got the key bunch were unable to find the right key
to open the main entrance and as they lost their patience, they began
to break open the lock of the main entrance.
I saw them all armed with improvised weapons. At last they managed to
break the lock of the door and I saw them entering inside.
By now we begin to hear thundering noises coming from downstairs and
also sounds of breaking doors.
By that time, it dawned on us that we were to be attacked by the
Sinhalese prisoners who were on a rampage and were after our blood.
At 2:30 pm they were screaming and whistling outside our gate
wielding axes, iron bars, pieces of firewood, and sticks shouting at
us saying that you are the priests we are looking for and we must
They were in front of our gates more than 50, of them brandishing
long kitchen knives, crowbar, iron rods lengths and other improvised
weapons and were breaking the iron gate's lock to enter into the
We decided to fight to death and not simply submit ourselves and
surrender. We broke the stools and held the legs as weapons to be
used for counter attacks against the marauders.
While they were breaking our gate to enter into the dormitory,
Dr.Rajasuntharam went up to them and talked. At that time he was only
wearing a waist cloth – sarong and was without a shirt on his back.
He talked to them and I was able to hear him asking them, "Aiye
mallee oya uppita gahanda ennae?" (Why younger brother, you came to
Before he could complete his sentence, one fellow gave a blow on his
head by a length of a thick iron rod. No sooner the fatal blow landed
on his head, his skull broke and blood burst profusely from scalp as
if though flowing out from a pipe. He fell down and that was it.
Blood was seen to spurt several feet
Meantime one of them threw an iron length blindly at one of us, but
none of us were injured by that throw. We immediately took over that
iron rod and held it out threateningly with an addition of one more
arms in our armory.
They threw bricks at us. We kept defending us and kept them at bay.
We also threw them back those bricks. Pieces of firewood and iron
bars were thrown at us. We courageously held on and managed to defend
ourselves. It went on ... a pitched battle…
By that time I was ready to hit to death at least a few, before I
succumb to their attack. I wonder how I got that determination and
guts to face that challenge at that time.
I shouted at them, and said "Mama Agona Guna Chandrage yaaluwa!!" (I
am the friend of Agona Guna Chandra). It worked for a few minutes.
One of them asked how you know him. I said that I was with him at the
Magazine prisons before coming over here.
Agona Guna Chandra was a gangster but a good and friendly person and
he was jailed in the Magazine prison and was serving his sentence
there. When we were in that prison he was very helpful to us.
I also started saying the Buddhist bana – prayers "Buddham Saranam
While we were holding up a group of 50 prisoners entering inside the
dormitory and attacking the balance 8 inmates including me, by 4 pm
the army people started firing tear gas to disperse the attackers.
When the attackers were dispersed, already 17 inmates in the ground
floor were battered to death.
Eleven of them including Gnanasekeram, Douglas Devananda,
Thambapillai Maheswaran (Panagoda Maheswaran), Sritharan (Tractor
Sri), Nadarajah Alexander Jeyakody, Yograjah, Naveenthrajah (Babuji),
Manickathasan, Sivasubramaniam, and Ganeshalingham (Farouk) were the
people who survived.
After dispersing the attackers by firing tear gas at them, Army
personnel menacingly armed, came upstairs to our dormitory and
ordered us to come down.
In the downstairs what we saw, reminded a typical battlefield
scenario where dead bodies, flesh, body parts, blood all scattered
A total of 18 bodies were piled up and remained in the outer verandah
of the Youthful Offenders building.
We were asked to get into the waiting truck and there were 08 people
from our dormitory, 11 from the ground floor total of 19 survivors
brought and boarded in the waiting army truck.
At that time Nirmala was quartered in the women section and though
she was not attacked she shouted with the Deputy Commissioner of
Prisons that she too should be allowed to join us. Subsequently the
prisons people brought her separately and I manage to see her only
So with her a total of 20 Tamil political detainees survived the
While we were inside the truck we saw the 18 bodies of our own blood,
our kith and kin, being dumped into another truck and that truck
began to move. May be it moved to Kennette for a common cremation.
In side the truck I saw Gnanasegram, Douglas Devananda, Thambapillai
Maheswaran and others. They told us the blood curdling episode of
what happened to them on that day as well as what they saw and knew
about the 25 th July episode to us in a hush voice while we were
waiting to be moved .
We were told of the incident how they battered Kuttimani and
Thangathurai to death. While in the truck the former occupants of the
C3 told us how Kuttimani had his eye gouged out because of the
statement he made that he wanted to donate his eyes to some one so
that he could see the birth of Eelam and Thangathurai his tongue
sliced for the statement he made at the courts.
According to one occupant who said that a prison guard told that he
had drunken Kuttimani's blood and he would serve Kuttimani's flesh to
the surviving Tamil prisoners.
By 10 clock in the evening our truck moved and went to Ratmalana
We were asked to be remained seated and not to move from the truck
and the truck was parked in the tarmac area.
On the following morning we were boarded in the air force plane to
Batticaloa Prison. As the Air force plane was small and the seating
capacity was limited, I have to go back in the second trip to
There I saw Nirmala at Batticaloa.
Given below the 53 Tamil political prisoners and detainees who died
in the nightmarish attack in Welikade Prison on 25th and 27th July
Names of those killed on 25 July 1983
Kuttimany Yogarajah, 2. N.Thangathurai, 3. Nadesathasan, 4. Jegan 5.
Sivarasa, 6. Sivan Anpalagan 7. Balasubramaniam 8. Suresh Kumar, 9.
Arunthavarajah, 10. Thanabalasingham,11.Arafat 12. P.Mahendran 13.
K.Thillainathan 14. S.Kularajesekaran 15. Uthaya Kumar 16.
S.Sivakumar 17. A.Rajan 18. S.Balachandran 19. Yogachandran Kili, 20.
S. Subramaniam; 21. Mylvaganam Sinniah 22. G.Mylvaganam; 23.
C.Sivanantharajjah;24. T.Kandiah, 25. S.Sathiyaseelan; 26.Kathiravetpillai; 27. Easvaranathan 28. K.Nagatajah; 29. Gunapalan
Ganeshalingham; 30 Anbalagan Sundaram; 31 Ramalingham Balachandran; 32. K.Thavarajasingham; 33. K.Krishnaku; 34.R.Yoganathan; 35. A.Uthayakumar.
Names of those killed in Welikade Prisons on 27 . 07 . 1983.
1. Muthukumar Sri Kumar; 2. Amirthanayagam Philip; 3. Kulasingham
Kumar; 4. Selachami Kumar; 5. Kandasamy Sarwesvaran; 6. A.
Marianpillai; 7. Sivapatham Neethirajah; 8. Devanayagam Paskaran; 9.
Ponniah Thurtairajah alias Thangathurai; 10. Gnanamuthu
Navaretnasingham; 11. Kandiah Rajendran alias Robert; 12. Dr.
Somasundatam Rajasundaram; 13. Somasundaram Manoranjan, 14. Arumugam Seyan alias Appu;15. Thamotherampillai Jegamohanandan; 16. Sinnathamby Sivasubramaniam; 17. Sellay Rajaratnam and 18. Kumarasamy Ganeshalingham
- Asian Tribune
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