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Tassie reveals how Tigers captured 324 policemen with Premadasa’s help


Retired Senior Superintendent of Police Tassie Seneviratne says the lives of over 300 police officers could have been saved at the outset of the Eelam War II in June 1990, had the then President Ranasinghe Premadasa allowed the Air Force to launch attacks on the LTTE and deployed the army reinforcements in support of the police personnel in the Kalmunai police division. Instead President Premadasa ordered the military not to back the beleaguered policemen in an attempt to work out a fresh ceasefire with the LTTE, Seneviratne says.

In a letter dated Jan. 31 submitted to the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), after giving oral evidence on Jan. 24, Seneviratne allege that the policemen who had surrendered could be divided into two separate groups, each comprising about 300 officers and men. Altogether there were over 600 of them, the ex-SSP says.

Seneviratne reveals in his letter: "One category comprises those who had surrendered after their police stations were overrun, having complied with a presidential order not to confront the LTTE at any cost. This was a prevailing order issued before the outbreak of hostilities on June 11, 1990. When police stations were surrounded by the LTTE threatening with attacks if they didn’t surrender, police officers who had specific orders ‘not to confront at any cost’ had no option but to surrender. This, in fact, is how the orders were interpreted by the SSP in Charge of Batticaloa Division who gave the police personnel the order to surrender before the arrival of the IG Police Ernest Perera in Batticaloa on June 11, 1990; those police stations surrendered without firing a shot."

Seneviratne says, in his written submissions, that the second category comprised the personnel of the Kalmunai Police Division under ASP Ivan Boteju, who refused to follow the presidential directive. Boteju and his men vowed to retaliate in case of an LTTE attack. In spite of a heavy attack, those holding Kalmunai police station defended their position causing heavy losses on the enemy, Seneviratne points out.

Seneviratne reveals that the LTTE had ample stocks of arms and ammunition supplied by the Premadasa government, while, those, who had served the country were denied reinforcements.

President Premadasa had IGP Ernest Perera flown to Batticaloa with specific orders to direct the fighting policemen to surrender to marauding LTTE cadres. The President through the IGP handed over 324 police officers to the LTTE, Seneviratne says. "This turned out to be a live sacrifice offered on a platter. Their case is unique and not comparable with those who were overrun without a shot being fired. It would be appropriate to recognise these 324 police officers as national heroes and to duly compensate their families."

Responding to a query by The Island, Seneviratne said that there could not have been a similar incident during the entire eelam war. Successive governments had never bothered to inquire into the circumstances under which over 300 fighting police personnel had surrendered only to be lined up and shot dead, former SSP said adding that had those who came to power after the assassination of President Premadasa launched an inquiry, the then IGP would have been compelled to be a witness. The IGP would have been obliged to tell the truth to an officially empowered investigator, Seneviratne asserted adding: "It is not too late even now."

Seneviratne says in his letter to the LLRC: "As the then Director handling police officers’ grievances, I was entitled to know the truth, and I enquired from IGP Ernest Perera, who told me exactly what had happened. Although I have gone public with the truth, the truth has not been accepted officially and there is no official record of it. The IGP at that time did all he could within his scope to give temporary relief from the limited funds available to him. But in the absence of an official record of the truth, the 324 police officers have been denied proper recognition by the government, and their families denied proper evaluation of compensation due to them from the government. When compared to rewards by several lakhs of rupees each, taken by very senior police officers up to rank of Senior DIG, for undisclosed acts of ‘bravery’ known only to the political masters, what deserving junior officers / their families received was ‘chicken-feed’."

Seneviratne, in a separate missive to the LLRC, a few days before his oral submissions alleged that Deputy Minister Vinayagamurthi Muralitharan aka Karuna had been directly involved in the massacre of over 600 policemen, including those fighting men, who had to cease action on a presidential directive.

Karuna, who appeared before the LLRC late last year denied his involvement in the massacre of the police. In a subsequent interview with The Island, Karuna, who played a critical role in the war against the LTTE said that at the time of the police massacre he had been in Jaffna.

Nevertheless, Seneviratne alleged that there was evidence before the LLRC regarding Karuna’s role in the massacre and the government shouldn’t turn a blind eye to past atrocities for political reasons.

Former SSP Seneviratne alleged that Karuna had been responsible for a mine attack on SSP Nimal de Silva on Oct. 8, 1987. The Batticaloa blast killed de Silva, the then coordinating officer for the eastern district. Seneviratne alleged that the Uzi automatic issued to SSP de Silva had been used by Karuna subsequently.

Seneviratne said that Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe had recently shown concern over the killing of Rajiv Gandhi, and wanted "KP" handed over to India, though no political leader had bothered about over 600 men, particularly those forced to surrender in spite of facing the enemy courageously.

The LLRC is believed to have received evidence in camera, which supported Seneviratne’s allegations against the LTTE.

~ ~ by Shamindra Ferdinando


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