The Sunday Leader

Justice Sought For Sugirdharajan

by  Hafsa Sabry

January has become an important month to be remembered as it is a month where most of the journalists who exposed the truth about a corrupt government and its officials in Sri Lanka were brutally murdered and attacked.

Subramaniyam Sugirdharajan is one of them who was assassinated for exposing photographs of five students who were alleged to have been murdered by the armed forces at the time.

Sugirdharajan was shot dead in Trincomalee on the 24th of January 2006 for exposing photographs of five students who were murdered in Trincomalee when the government and the state media tried covering up the story claiming they were LTTE terrorists and were killed in an explosion.

The young men were falsely accused of having died in an explosion whilst they were preparing an attack against government soldiers. Sugirdharajan along with his friends had taken clear photographs that revealed the students were killed in a shooting incident as bullet wounds in the head were visible.

The images published on the newspaper’s front page right after the incident were not fake. According to the former Sudar Oli Editor Nadesapillai Vithyatharan, it was a drastic editorial decision and was the only way to get the truth out.

Vithyatharan said that the photographs taken from the mortuary very clearly revealed that all five young men who were claimed by the government to be terrorists had gun-shot wounds on their heads close to their ears.

“The government and the Sri Lanka police investigated how the incidents occurred and lead the probe from there but it is important that the police look into who had delivered statements claiming these young men were terrorists. The defence secretary at the time and its officials should be taken into questioning as to why and on what condition they declared all five young men to be terrorists. If investigations are started from that  perspective it will definitely lead to the real culprit,” Vithyatharan told The Sunday Leader.

Vithyatharan went onto say that only because that photograph was published in the paper the truth was out about the brutally murdered young men.

“The international  community and media groups strongly condemned the move of the former government and the military groups. At a time when fresh probes are being launched over several murder cases the Sugirdharajan murder case must also be looked into,” Vithyatharan said.

The family of slain Sugitharajan left for Germany after the incident and could not be contacted for a comment.

The day before he died, Sugirdharajan wrote an article in the Sudar Oli newspaper exposing abuses committed by the EPDP, a government backed paramilitary group, in the Trincomalee area.

The following Sunday, several newspapers carried the in-depth story about the  shooting of the five students.  More detailed reports came out as Toronto based Tamil journalist D.B.S Jeyaraj wrote lengthy articles with a thorough documentation of the chain of events. The military and the government media’s attempts to cover-up failed.

However, the shooting was  done in a secret place where noone was able to hear. The entire area was sealed-off by the military, all the lights in the area were suddenly out, and the entire neighbourhood was pitch-black. The father of one of the boys had pleaded with the soldiers to be allowed in,  but this was of no use.

It was reported that hundreds of people in the village heard the deadly shooting right after the young men’s cries for mercy. The families opposed strongly when the army and the state media described their sons as ‘LTTE terrorists.’ The following day residents of Trincomalee  rallied behind the photographs of the deceased in mass protests.

The Sri Lanka Tamil Media Alliance (SLTMA) noted that suspected perpetrators in several similar murder cases have gone free, which opened up new murders coming up. This murder was committed in an area with a high presence of soldiers, camps and sentry points. It was a clear signal to all those who oppose the armed forces that they are not safe anywhere. The targeted killing was condemned by the local Free Media Movement (FMM), Reporters Without Borders (RWB) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Even though suspicious were raised against certain parties and the motivations behind it, the probe into the murder revealed no evidence against the real culprits.  Even though Journalists who survived attacks in most cases point the fingers towards soldiers, military intelligence and paramilitary officers affiliated with the security forces, none of them have been charged nor properly arrested. There is some progressive probe on a few cases whilst other cases like Sugathiraja and Sivaram were left unattended. Some claimed that it is high time that international committees on probing these murder cases are allowed into the country to bring justice to the deaths in.

In the meantime,  eighteen persons have been murdered  in the District of Trincomalee during the period November 2005 to January 2006.

It is unfortunate that a country that calls itself a democracy has criminals at large where people lose hope and confidence in the Laws which should be practiced by the law enforcement authorities of the country.

It is even more dangerous that the criminals will continue their criminal activities with impunity, unless the laws are vested upon them.

Furthermore, the fact that in many of these cases, like that of the five innocent students who were individually executed at the Trincomalee Dutch Bay Beach, it is alleged that the criminals of the crime are Special Task Force (STF) members, while in the 3rd Mile Post murders the perpetrators are believed to be members of the other Armed Forces and the incident is said to have taken place in the presence of the Sri Lanka Police.

The incident  is referred to as Trincomalee massacre in 2006 when the boys were briefly detained and murdered. Even though initially the Sri Lankan police and the government claimed these students were, in fact, LTTE terrorists killed in a premature detonation of a grenade the claims were contradicted by the results of the local coroner, who said that they were killed by gunshot wounds in execution style. Although a court case is still pending The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR),a Human Rights agency alleged that a local police superintendent was the mastermind of the operation to kill the students.

However, the official murder probe into this incident is still underway and STF staffers were remanded in 2013 in connection with the murder, by the Trincomalee Magistrate court.  However, only one father of the five deceased came forward but he was threatened by some elements of the Sri Lankan security forces. Human Rights Watch has called on the government to provide adequate protection for the witness.

8 Comments for “Justice Sought For Sugirdharajan”

  1. raj

    Most people in and outside of Sri Lanka believe that former regime’s higher level were behind murder of journalist. Since president is opposing calling higher military official or secretary of defense, it is hard to believe that justice will be delivered. Sri Lanka’s political culture has overdue undelivered justice. If that so, can Tamils stays with Sri Lanka or should they separate from Sri Lanka?

  2. kudson

    this is what sirisena is trying to sweep under the carpet
    when he appeared on TV
    condemning the officials from doing there job
    so much for yahapalanaya

  3. Sangaralingham

    Is it a case justice denied who kill who is not the problem why killed by who why when where is a matter of serious concern to the public and ordinary citizen justice is a matter of urgency for society to be effective and functional with pride

  4. aggydaaggy

    I do not know Raj… but the Tamils remained in Sri Lanka and away from the North during the entire war.
    If Tamils want to seperate, they can go to Toronto or to London.

    But there again Canadian Government had come with a new proposition
    TNA = LTTE.
    So, are you TNA or LTTE, Raj?

    • raj

      Aggydaggy:
      Tamils lives outside North and East because they have been deprived from development and other facilities by the government of Sri Lanka?. Do you belong to war criminals? Do you know that Hilary Clinton will have a different look war crimes in Sri Lanka?

    • raj

      aggydaaggy :
      I will never visit to a land of war criminals . No good people ever visit to land war criminals and putting their life in danger.

    • tomsam

      Very soon theravada buddhism would be equated to systematic genocide of Hindu and muslim Tamils in sinking lanka!

  5. Burt

    He was part of the problem with the last govt. He did not become Mr.Clean over night but Rev.Sobitha Thera and the rest thought he had a realistic chance of beating MR and he was one of them than Ranil.

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