The incident occurred in two different series of actions: the first on 25 July 1983 when 35 Tamil prisoners were attacked and killed by Sinhalese inmates. The second massacre was two days later when Sinhalese inmates killed another 18 Tamil detainees and 3 prison deputies.
‘It is the massacres in the Welikade gaol which are attracting the most attention. There is a particular interest in circumstances in which two alleged guerrilla leaders were killed.
The two men, Sellarasa “Kuttimani” Yogachandiran, leader of the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO) and a political writer, and Ganeshanathan Jeganathan had been sentenced to death last year for the murder of a policeman.
In speeches from the dock, the two men had announced that they would donate their eyes in the hope that they would be grafted onto Tamils who would see the birth of Eelam, the independent state they were fighting for.
Second hand reports from Batticaloa gaol, where the survivors of the Welikada massacre are now being kept, say that the two men were forced to kneel and their eyes gouged out with iron bars before they were killed.
The International Commission of Jurists commented:
“It is not clear how it was possible for the killings to take place without the connivance of prison officials, and how the assassinations could have been repeated after an interval of two days, since Welikade prison is a high security prison and the Tamil prisoners were kept in separate cells…” (Ethnic Violence in Sri Lanka, 1981-83: Staff Report of the International Commission of Jurists, ICJ Review)
“… it is relevant to mention the gruesome massacre of 53 Tamil prisoners in the Welikade jail in Colombo on July 25 and 27 last year. Many of them were only detainees on suspicion and not convicted prisoners. After they were brutally murdered, their wives, sisters, children and parents came to know about their death only through the radio. Much more terrible was the fact that the bodies of these detainees were buried or cremated without any member of the families knowing or being present. They were not even given the chance of having a last look at the body.
“The most brutal and obviously well organised massacres took place within the confines of a prison located in the capital city. A prison is by definition a high security establishment, this is particularly so of the Welikade Prison which even by official terminology of the Sri Lankan government, is a ‘maximum security’ establishment. Yet not one but two gruesome massacres occur within its walls in the space of a week!..”
The post mortem inquiry into the death of the Tamil prisoners at Welikade, returned a verdict of homicide. Amnesty International reported in June 1984:
“Amnesty International has itself interviewed one Tamil detainee who survived the killing and has received a sworn statement from another survivor, both of whom state that some prisoners who had come to attack them later told the surviving detainees that they had been asked to kill Tamil prisoners. According to the sworn statement: ‘We asked these people as to why they came to kill us. To this they replied that they were given arrack by the prison authorities, and they were asked to kill all those at the youth offenders ward (where the Tamil prisoners were kept)’. ”
The Tamil prisoners who were massacred in Welikade in July 1983 were :
25th July 1983
- Kuttimani Yogachandran 2. N. Thangathurai 3. Nadesathasan 4. Jegan 5. Alias Sivarasa 6. Sivan Anpalagan 7. A. Balasubramaniam 8. Surash Kumar 9. Arunthavarajah 10. Thanapalasingham 11. Arafat 30. Anpalagan Sunduran 12. P. Mahendran 31. Ramalingam Balachandran 13. K. Thillainathan 32. K. Thavarajasingham 1420. S. Subramaniam 21. Mylvaganam Sinnaiah 22. G. Mylvaganam 23. Ch. Sivanantharajah 24. T. Kandiah 25. S. Sathiyaseelan 26. Kathiravelpillai 27. Easvaranathan 28. K. Nagarajah 29. Gunapalan Ganeshalingam . S. Kularajasekaram 33. K. Krishnakumar 15. K. Uthaya Kumar 34. R. Yoganathan 16. S. Sivakumar 35. A. Uthayakumar 17. A. Rajan 36. G. Amirthalingam 18. S. Balachandran 37. V. Chandrakumar 19. Yogachandran Killi 38. Sittampalam Chandrakulam 39. Navaratnam Sivapatham (Master)
27th July 1983
- Muthukumar Srikumar 10. Gnanamuthu Naveratnasingham 2. Philip Amirthanayagam 11. Kandiah Rajendran (Robert) 3. Kulasingam Kumar 12. Dr. Somasunderam Rajasunderam 4. Selachami Kumar 13. Somasunderam Manoranjan 5. Kandasamy Sarveswaran 14. Arumugam Seyan (Appu) 6. A. Marianpillai 15. Thamotharampillai Jegemogenandan 7. Sivapathan Neethirajah 16. Sinnathambi Sivasubramaniam 8. Devanayagam Paskaran 17. Sellay Rajeratnam 9. Ponnaiya Thurairajah 18. Kumarasamy Ganeshalingam 19. Ponnampalam Devakumar
Kumarathasan Rasingam – Secretary, Tamil Canadian Elders forHuman Rights Org.