Vanquished People

Government soldiers went on a rampage, raped Tamil women repeatedly in Wanni

by Pearl Thevanayagam

(March 24, Oxford, Sri Lanka Guardian) I am in a dark room. Tall black-trunked palmyrah trees are chasing me; falling over me and I am running. Every night this is my recurring dream. I wake up frightened and then I cry about what happened to me in that cell.

The girl who was examined by a psychiatrist in Oxford yesterday was opening up for the first time in two and a half years about her horrid experience of being dragged out and raped almost every night for 18 months by the government soldiers along with four other girls.

I have attended asylum hearings for the last 10 years and I have seen play-acting to obtain refugee status and I have heard enough lies. But when I witnessed the trauma she underwent first-hand as she related her experience it made me furious and made me wonder how the government or General Fonseka along with the mainstream media in Colombo dare to say no civilians were harmed during the last throes of the war.

She also bore a female baby who is now two and a half years old as a result of this inhumane and barbaric act of depraved soldiers who went on a rampage raping Tamil girls in Wanni.

I work for no NGOs such as Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International and I do not profit from interpreting for asylum-seekers who cannot speak English and who are unable to obtain Legal Aid.

Giving the benefit of a doubt let us forget Wikileaks and ignore Channel 4 videos. Yesterday’s experience brought me flashbacks of Krishanthy Kumaraswamy the 18 year old schoolgirl raped and killed by 11 soldiers in the North in June 1996 at a checkpoint as she was returning from sitting her A/L exam along with her mother (also raped). Her brother and a neighbour who went in search of her were also murdered by the soldiers.

The late Kumar Ponnambalam and I were the first to see the putrified and hacked bodies brought to Colombo in September 1996at the Judicial Medical Officer’s place and we were not allowed photographs. The stench was unbearable and the flesh peeled like boiled chicken meat from the tarpaulin which was used to tie the hacked body pieces. There were blue nylon ropes tied round each neck. The bodies were then ordered to be buried at government expense so as not to draw public outrage.

It is to the credit of President Kumaratunga, being a woman, who admitted there should be a trial-at –bar under pressure from Amnesty International and other media coverage and as a result the soldiers were charged with manslaughter and rape and sentenced. But sadly the government which took over managed to release the suspects on bail and subsequently freed them.

The girl mentioned earlier was born with low IQ and I saw the scars of burns with beedi butts on her private parts. She fainted right in front of me and injured her knee. She fell prostate at the feet of the psychiatrist and pleaded with her not to let her go out of even the consulting room since she was scared that she would be raped outside.

She could not bear to be touched by the female psychiatrist and she was reluctant even to speak to me saying very often, “You won’t tell my sister, will you?”

She had a screaming fit when she saw the hospital porter in uniform and ran for her life. I need not go on about what went on during the two hours of examination. The wounds have healed. The child is happy and healthy. Thank God, said the psychiatrist that it is a female child. Otherwise the mother would have been unable to bond if it had been a boy, remembering her rapists.

Should we bide time and suffer in silence like the Korean women did for nigh on 60 years for Japan to admit and apologise.

The present LLRC is an eye-wash and UN does not seem to be taking war crimes seriously. War crimes must be investigated. Otherwise we have failed as humankind.

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