Four witnesses to the February 1996 brutal massacre of 24 Tamils by the occupying Sri Lanka Army (SLA) at Kumaarapuram village in Trincomalee district have been summoned to appear on Wednesday in Anuradhapura High Court that is situated in predominantly Sinhala district. The trial in the case is listed for hearing on July 17, July 18 and July 19 more than 17 years after the genocidal massacre. Many of the witnesses are poor labourers who do not know Sinhala.Meanwhile observes say that the Colombo government hoodwinks the international community on one side summoning the witnesses to give evidence and the on the other hand threatening them not to appear in court to give evidence.
On 11 February 1996, gunshots by the SLA rocked the village of Kumaarapuram, between 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.
A large group of SLA personnel from the Ki’liveddi camp, incensed at the killing of two SLA soldiers at 58th Milepost junction at Ki’liveddi, massacred 24 persons on that day.
The villagers there were farmers, mainly agricultural labourers. The main road from Moothoor to Ki’liveddi Mukaththuvaaram runs through this village.
During the late nineties massacres of Tamils were common and villagers ran towards Allai Tank and hid behind the trees. Few people stayed at home.
All the victims, who stayed back in the village, were shot dead.
Three infants below age 5, three children aged 5-10, eight youths aged 11-20, six persons aged 21-30, two persons aged 31-40 and two persons above 50 years were among the slain victims.
Two of the victims were girls who were gang-raped by several Sinhala army men before they were slain.
One of the victims was 16-year-old girl Arumaithrai Thanaluxmy who was hiding in a nearby shop, on her way back home with her 8 year old brother. She was dragged to the nearby milk collection centre and gang raped by the military.
7 among the 22 injured were children including 2 year old Moses Antony Joseph and 4 year old Kidnan and 6 year old girl Maheswaran Kuventhjini. One Nagarajah lost his eyesight as a result of the shooting.
The villagers had identified eight of the SLA men as the perpetrators of the massacre.
Of the twenty soldiers arrested by the SL Police immediately after the massacre the SL Attorney General had indicted nine with the murder of 24 Tamil civilians.
One of the accused died after being indicted. Despite the nature of the crime, all the remaining accused was enlarged on bail.
124 witnesses contributed to the non-summary proceedings which, was heard in January 1998.
All together 120 charges including murder, attempted murder and unlawful assembly were made against the accused.
Kumaarapuram case was committed to the High Court in the year 2002 after the conclusion of the non-summary proceedings in Trincomalee Magistrate’s Court.
The case against the accused soldiers has since been pending in the Trincomalee High Court awaiting trial. Now the massacre case has been transferred to Anuradhapura High Court for hearing.