welve members of Sri Lanka Police Special Task Force (STF) were arrested in connection with the extra-judicial killings of five Tamil students, all aged 21, at a beach in Trincomallee on 2nd January 2006, and remanded in custody till the July 18th court hearing, Colombo media reported Friday. Colombo has been resisting pursuing the killers amidst accusations that high-level officials connected to the Government were allegedly complicit in the killings. Amnesty International, and Dr Manoharan, the father of one of the victims, Ragihar, have relentlessly raised the matter in the UN and other international human rights fora. Polical observers speculate that the arrests are likely intended to mitigate serious fallouts from the impending visit to Sri Lanka of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay.
The names of the tweleve STF personnel as released by the Trincomalee court are: Harichandra Perera, Rohitha Wijekumara, P. Ananda, T. Jeyalal, U. Amal Pratheep, Lavilkumara Rathnayake Chaminda Lojitha, Uthaya Mihira Bandara, Gunamunagamage Hettige Sanjiva, U. Vimal Bandara, Nimal Bandara, Jeyasekara Tissanayake Jeyalath Tissanayake, and Indika Duvara.
In 2006 soon after the killings the same twelve were detained in connection with the killings, but were later released in 2006.
Udawatte Weerakody, formerly a Naval Officer and now a Senior Commander, and H.D.K.S. Kapila Jeyasekera, who rose in ranks as the Superintendent of Police (SP) from the Special Task Force (STF) and currently the Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) to the Ki’linochchi and Mullaiththeevu district, are allegedly key master-minds behind the killings, but both have not been charged.
Another key player in the massacre is alleged to be the Sinhala extremist and former DIG, H. Kotagadeniya, now reported to be residing in the U.S.
The STF team was sent to Trincomalee with the approval of Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse before Christmas 2005, and Kotagadeniya was acting as an advisor to the Defence Ministry in Police matters. "Judging by events there is hardly any doubt that the attack on the students in a public place was conceived as teaching the Tamils a lesson…If not the details, the general form of the atrocity was planned at the highest level," the Rights organization UTHR concluded in its investigations. (UTHR, 1/2/10, pg. 14)
Dr Manoharan, told TamilNet, "While I am happy that the spotlight is again on Sri Lanka’s criminal record, I am certain that Colombo will not be willing and will not be able to bring the perpetrators to justice. Only an independent international investigation will bring justice to my son."
A commission of inquiry was established in November 2006 to investigate the incident along with 11 other deaths. However, the commission report, delivered directly to the Sri Lanka’s President, was never made public.
No thorough investigation has ever been conducted and no one has been brought to justice for Ragihar’s murder, according to Amnesty’s report.
In a classified memo written by US’s Sri Lanka Ambassador Robert Blake in October 2006 to Washington, ten months after the extra-judicial execution of five students, Basil Rajapakse, had told Ambassador Blake that Special Task Force (STF) was responsible for the killings, according a Wikileaks document.
The case (DR-11/1-2006) in the Trincomalee court, was being kept alive by Colombo and the subservient judges for procedural purposes only, legal sources in Trincomalee said. The Magistrates have been postponing hearings routinely for the past seven years, first asking the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) to produce reports of investigations, and then accepting without scrutiny CID’s response that investigation is still in progress, Dr Manoharan who was following the legal process Sri Lanka told TamilNet.
The names and the dates of birth of the five students killed at the big harbor town under the control of and heavily garrisoned by the Sri Lanka security forces are: (i) Manoharan Ragihar, DoB 22.09.1985, (ii) Yogarajah Hemachchandra, DoB 04.03.1985, (iii) Logitharajah Rohan, DoB 07.04.1985, (iv) Thangathurai Sivanantha, DoB 06.04.1985, and (v) Shanmugarajah Gajendran, DoB 16.09.1985.
Dr Manoharan is also one of the three plaintiffs in a civil case filed in the U.S. courts against Sri Lanka’s President Rajapakse for his command responsibility in the Trincomalee killings. The U.S. State Department intervened in the case suggesting "Head of State immunity" for Rajapakse forcing the lower court to dismiss the case, and the appeal court to agree with the lower courts decision. The plaintiffs are currently exploring options for applying for a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court.