JVP Demands Justice For Executed Comrades
- 149 skeletal remains exhumed from Matale mass grave
By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema
The controversy surrounding the Matale mass grave took a new twist last week with the JVP breathing fire calling on the government to hold a comprehensive inquiry into the largest mass grave to be excavated in the country.
As of Friday, 149 skeletal remains were unearthed from the mass grave in Matale that was initially dug last November to commence a construction project of the adjacent Matale Hospital.
The JVP last week claimed that the preliminary inquiries conducted on the skeletal remains have indicated that they belonged to the period between 1988 and 1989. It was also the period of the JVP insurgency.
The Matale District was one of the main areas where the JVP insurgency was at its peak, resulting in excessive force being used to combat the situation and eliminate the insurgents. Many police and military units were established in various areas in Matale to suppress the insurgency.
The JVP also charged that some persons responsible for the killings that took place during the 1988 JVP insurgency are now members of the government.
The then UNP government has been blamed for killing 60,000 youth during the insurgency, but the JVP has pointed out that some of the members accused of carrying out these executions are now affiliated to the government.
JVP Parliamentary Group Leader, Anura Kumara Dissanayake said that the 140 plus skeletal remains unearthed from the Matale mass grave belong to comrades who were murdered during the height of the insurgency.
He pointed out that the preliminary investigations have also revealed that the persons buried in the mass grave had been tortured.
“The investigations on the bones that were uncovered have revealed that some of them have not decayed or broken according to the normal decaying process. Some bones have indicated that they had been broken with the use of force and skulls that have been separated from the rest of the remains have shown that the separation was due to an external force,” Dissanayake explained.
Judicial Medical Officer (JMO) of the Matale Hospital, Dr. Ajith Jayasena said the reason for continuing with the exhumation of skeletal remains in the Matale mass grave was due to the evidence indicating it was a crime scene.
Dr. Jayasena has already submitted a preliminary inquiry report to the Matale Magistrate.
He explained that the team engaged in the exhumation process was still unearthing skeletal remains and it was likely that there could be more skeletons.
However, he observed that some physical particles uncovered from the site have been sent for further investigations to a professor in archeology.
Dissanayake said that the mass grave according to some persons engaged in the exhumation work could hold up to 200 skeletal remains.
“This is by far the largest mass grave to be uncovered in the country,” he said.
Dissanayake urged the government to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the mass grave, reveal those responsible and take action against them.
He observed that although the murders during the 1988-89 period were carried out by members of the then UNP government, some of the persons who were directly and indirectly responsible for the killings at the time are members of the current government.
“The government has members who were directly and indirectly linked to the murders during the period of the JVP insurrection,” he said.
Citing several examples, the JVP Parliamentarian said that Comrade Wijedasa Liyanarachchi was murdered due to a tip off by a person who is currently holding a senior post in the government, Comrade Thanga was assaulted and tortured by a member of the current government and the pregnant wife of Comrade Costa from Kesbewa was assaulted and murdered by a member of the current administration.
He explained that in a similar manner there are also armed forces personnel who were linked to the murders committed during the 1988-89 period.
He added that it was therefore difficult to assume that the current government would do justice to the dead by conducting a proper comprehensive inquiry into the Matale mass grave.
“All those who are linked to this crime should be arrested and punished,” Dissanayake said.
The MP further noted that while the JVP will fight to bring justice to those killed during the 1988-89 period, it will also work towards establishing a change in the current system.
“The Matale mass grave was uncovered by accident, but now that it is being excavated, justice needs to be meted out to the comrades who were unjustly killed,” Dissanayake said, adding that the authorities could not dismiss the matter saying the skeletal remains were of persons who were killed during an epidemic in the 1940s.
“If people had been buried en masse after being killed during an epidemic, there would be court and hospital records, but in this instance, there are no such records,” he noted.
However, when asked if the skeletal remains belonged to the period between 1988 and 89, Dr. Jayasena said that samples from the site would be sent to foreign labs for further investigations once the exhumation was completed.
“It is a sensitive issue that needs to be dealt with carefully,” he said.
Be that as it may, the onus is now on the government to ensure that a comprehensive investigation is carried out and those responsible punished.