Hundreds of Eezham Tamils on Monday gathered at Navaali St. Peters’s Church in Jaffna in memory of 147 civilians, who were brutally slain in a genocidal massacre 17 years ago by the Sri Lankan military that had instructed the fleeing people from a military operation to seek security at the Church and the nearby Saiva temple. The Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF) on 09 July 1995 dropped leaflets from its helicopters instructing the civilians who were fleeing from a Sri Lanka Army (SLA) operation, to seek security at the Church.
More than 2,500 people had sought asylum at the area, comprising the church and the temple.
A few hours later, the SLAF bombers targeted St. Peters church and its environs, dropped around 13 bombs using Pucara bombers it had purchased from Argentine and massacred the people who had sought refuge there.
On that fateful day, the occupying Sri Lanka Army from the Palaali military base had launched ‘Operation Leap Forward’, uprooting thousands of people in Valikaamam from 5:40 a.m.
People from Valikaamam West, Valikaamam South West and Valikaamam South were forced to flee, carrying with them whatever they could take in their rush. Most of them fled with the cloths they were wearing that night as the SLA had started to fire shells early in the morning from its Forward Defence Lines in A’laveddi and Cha’ndilippaay.
The people were fleeing in bicycles, land-masters, bullock carts and on foot along Vaddukkoaddai – Navaali Road, Vazhukkiyaattu ve’li, and Navaali – Aanaikkoaddai – Maanippaay Road.
The SLAF was monitoring the pattern of the fleeing people from its combat helicopters and was providing coordinates to the SLA, which directed its indiscriminate shelling targeting the fleeing people throughout the day. Scores were killed while fleeing.
As the carnage continued, the SLAF helicopters dropped leaflets instructing people to seek refuge at Navaali St. Peters church and at Navaali Sri Kathirkaama Murukan temple.
After more than 2,500 people had gathered in the Church area, Pucara bombers launched the brutal massacre. The Church was destroyed in the attack. The entire area became a killing field.
Three village (GS) officers, who were assisting the fleeing people, were also killed in the massacre.
The remains of the slain victims, scattered all over the premises and its environs, were taken to Chemmani grounds for burial.
Every year, people of Navaali conduct memorial events remembering their kith and kin killed in the massacre.
On Monday, St. Peters Church Parish Priest G. Jothinathan, conducted a special prayer in memory of the victims.