The Social Architects story 1: Rasadurai’s story
Rasadurai was caring for a group of children from an orphanage in the No fire Zone during the end of the war.
Before we were forced to leave Kilinochchi, I dug six bunkers in the churchyard. We have dug bunkers all across the Vanni. Every time we had to move, the first thing we did in the next stopping place was to dig bunkers. I was in the Kilinochchi hospital for four days while it was under attack. It was part of the battle strategy to attack hospitals. As they moved into each new area, they attacked hospitals first. In Puthukudiruppu, thousands were injured and there was no anesthetic so the doctors amputated without it. The doctors were like machines – a patient would be in the surgery room for only a few minutes; then they would take the next injured person.
They used phosphorous bombs in Udaiyarkaddu. Phosphorous bombs produce black smoke, and wherever it lands it burns. It melted tarpaulins and the pieces fell onto the people below and burned them. It keeps burning once it gets on the skin. I saw one man badly burned by phosphorous lying on banana leaves. Some victims of phosphorous bombs were evacuated by ship.
Cluster bombs were first used in Paranthan area. They used a variety of types of cluster bombs. The main bomb explodes in the air and splits into many pieces. One kind of cluster bomb, used in Iranaipalai, produced colorful ribbons. Children were attracted and picked pieces up; as they handled the pieces they exploded.
On January 25, 2009, we counted the number of shells that exploded per minute. We were five priests, a group of sisters, and orphans, together in bunkers. We were under attack from multi-barrel rocket launchers, and we counted 60 explosions a minute.
I will talk about the most terrible days: On May 17, 2009, the government announced on the radio that the war was over. The government also announced on the radio that the Army was continuing to hunt down and kill the LTTE. In our bunkers in Mullaivaikal on these last terrible days of war, we were five priests, forty orphans, and a group of sisters. We had a CDMA phone and a satellite phone. We called our bishop and after that we called Brigadier Savindra de Silva who was in charge of the final operation. He is now the Sri Lankan Representative to the UN. The Brigadier asked us to come out of our bunkers with white flags. We tried to come out with the flags on the evening of the 17th, but the Army was shooting.
There had been no food or water for the last four days. To get one biscuit was a great achievement toward the end of the war. We had managed to find ten LTTE high-energy food packets in an abandoned bunker and we shared them among all sixty of us.
During the night of May 17th, I said about fifty rosaries in our bunker. The bunkers were shallow because we were close to the sea so water would come through the sand. The Army soldiers were throwing grenades into the bunkers and killing the people all night. That night the children were saying, “Father, we are going to die here.” I was saying rosaries and preparing to throw myself on top of the grenade to save the others in the bunker.
On the morning of May 18, when the soldiers came closer, we decided to come out for a second time with white flags. We were wearing white cassocks, as priests. Three times we tried to come out with white flags, but each time the soldiers were shooting and shouting from about 115 meters away. The soldiers shouted “You are LTTE! We will shoot you!” Then, they ordered us to come out with all forty children and the sisters. They ordered us to kneel down with the white flags.
One soldier said in Sinhala, “The commander has given the order to kill everyone.” They ordered us to remove our upper clothes. Then we argued, “We are priests. These are children.” We argued that we had spoken with the Brigadier on the CDMA phone we had in our bunker and that we already informed him that we were there. We gave them the CDMA phone, and convinced them to call the Brigadier. We argued with them for one hour. They had black cloths tied around their faces and they were like animals ready to kill. The one who was speaking to us seemed to cool down after talking with the Brigadier on the CDMA phone.
We could see people being rounded up by the Army from far away – people who had been hiding in thebunkers. Many were injured.
Finally we were each strip-searched. They allowed each person only one bag. A soldier hit one of the priests hard in the chest and he fell down. They divided us into two groups, thirty in each, so we could move faster. We walked on the road past burning vehicles with charred corpses under them. It was a scene like hell. The soldiers were laughing, saying, “We have killed Pirapakaran, Pottu Amman, and all the leaders, and now you are our slaves.”
We asked the soldiers to help the injured people and the priest they had attacked who was gravely ill. They took them to Salampan, and they left the priest, who was suffering cardiac arrest, without any medical care, to die there. He didn’t receive any medical attention at all. He was only thirty-eight years old.
The rest of us were taken in a bus to Salampan. They made us remove our clothes and they checked us when we were naked. After this strip search, we were taken to a hall where they told us, “We have killed your leaders but some are still alive and are among you. Those who are LTTE must come and register your names.” No one came forward to register, and then they forced all the priests to register their names as LTTE. We stated firmly that we were priests and showed our ID cards.
The people who were interrogating us were working for the Army, but they had been among the LTTE earlier (Karuna group members who had infiltrated during the last phase of fighting). One man knew me because he met me earlier in the Vanni. He told them that I was a priest.
Four of us, priests, were taken to Mullivaikal to meet the Brigadier, and we had no choice but to leave the children there. When we returned, the children had been badly beaten and had been forced to register as LTTE. After that, we were taken by bus to Chettikulam and we had to stay in the bus for two days without food.
While we were going in the bus on the road to Puthukudiruppu, around 6:30 pm, we passed a terrible scene near Munduvil (near Puthukudiruppu). There were about fifty soldiers who had piled up about three hundred naked corpses. They had placed tube lights to show off all the bodies, and they were laughing and taking photos of them. It was like a celebration. I think the people were probably killed in that area.
The first week of internment at Menik Farm we had no food or water and no toilet. No one was allowed in our camp, which was just called the “LTTE Camp” or just “Zone Four,” and it was as though the people in our camp were just going to be killed. We felt our lives were in danger there. There were about 40,000 in our camp. They gave one blue tent from China for sixteen people to sleep in. So the women slept in the tents and the men slept outside. They treated us like animals.
People have started to speak out in Jaffna now, and any dissenting opinion against the government is stopped. The government and military intelligence is bringing back the fear phobia. Tamils strongly feel they are a people. The billboards along the road to Jaffna stating “One nation one people” are propaganda that makes Tamils angry. They are changing the demography in three places: Akkaraiyan, Murukandy, and Attrapalai. They are constructing houses for Sinhalese military families. Mankulam will be the center of the Northern Province. They will bring in 300,000 people and it is their idea to maintain the national ethnic ration in each town, so it is their plan to alter the ethnic demography of the north. They have already allowed Sinhalese to settle in Navakuli.
The Social Architects (TSA) are comprised of a diverse group of writers, intellectuals and working professionals. While most of TSA’s members hail from the country’s North and East, the group also includes other scholars and activists who have been working on issues related to Sri Lanka. TSA seeks to educate, to inform and to provide timely, thoughtful analysis on a range of topics.
They write under the pseudonym "The Social Architects" because of the risk of retaliation against those that speak out against the government. In addition each author has selected a pseudonym for themselves and the victims and family members who appear in the story. Over the eight days between March 12th and March 19th we will be releasing one TSA story a day. You can read them all here.
The Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice