5th Anniversary of Trincomalee students’ execution

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RELATIVES of the five Trincomalee students, who were shot dead execution-style by Sri Lanka soldiers on January 2nd 2006, are remembering the fifth anniversary and mourning the death of their children.

Dr Kasipillai Manoharan, father of Ragihar, one of the students killed, appealed to international rights groups, including the UN Human Rights Commission, to investigate the crime and to provide justice to his lost son and his friends who were killed.

TamilNet reports that information, recently made public from the US embassy in Colombo, which has highlighted that ruling Rajapaksa family sanctioned extra-judicial killings in the North East, obliges international human rights watchdogs to call for independent international investigations into war crimes.

Journalist Sugirdharajan, who took photographs showing that students were killed at point-blank range, was gunned down on the 23rd January near the Governor’s Secretariat.

US-based pressure group Tamils Against Genocide (TAG) submitted an affidavit containing the personal testimony of Dr Manoharan, and two detailed reports of evidence collected on the killings by a rights group whose members are in self-exile due to threats to their lives, as record of evidence to the Dublin war-crimes tribunal hearing in January 2010.

The names and the dates of birth of the five students killed on 2nd January 2006 in Trincomalee, a big harbour town under the control of and heavily garrisoned by the Sri Lanka security forces are:

• Manoharan Ragihar 22.09.1985

• Yogarajah Hemachchandra 04.03.1985

• Logitharajah Rohan 07.04.1985

• Thangathurai Sivanantha 06.04.1985

• Shanmugarajah Gajendran 16.09.1985

Dr Manoharan’s efforts drew death threats from the Sri Lanka military, who are widely believed responsible for the crime, forcing the family to flee Sri Lanka, and seek safety in the UK

Investigations by the Sri Lanka President-appointed Commission of Inquiries (CoI) were suspended when witnesses, appearing by video, threatened to expose Colombo’s complicity in rights violations.

In addition, the Sri Lanka President intervened to force the resignation of a Tamil member of the committee, citing conflict-of-interest, rendering the CoI ineffective.

Amnesty International (AI) has embarked on a postcard campaign ‘to use this case as an example of the ongoing lack of accountability in Sri Lanka,’ according to the US Director of Amnesty Jim McDonald.

AI researchers plan to use the campaign as the focus of a broader effort to highlight the need for an independent international investigations into Sri Lanka’s war crimes.

Meanwhile a 20-year-old student, Gajeevan Puvanendran, who was being abducted by men in green uniforms in a vehicle around 5,30am last Saturday morning in Ki’linochchi,in Vanni, managed to alert his parents and relatives by mobile phone that he was being taken away on the A9 highway towards the South.

Later, Mr Gajeevan was saved, with at least four others, in Vavuniyaa.

The Sri Lankan Police has not revealed the details of the abductors or other abductees.

Informed sources close to the police in Vavuniyaa told TamilNet that a squad operated by the Sri Lankan military was taking the abductees to the South.

Armed men in green uniform, who were waiting in a bus-like vehicle in Ki’linochchi town, abducted Mr Gajeevan Puvanendran, while he was on his way from his village Iraththinapuram to Ki’linohchi town to attend morning tuition classes.

The international agencies, that once operated in all civilian areas in both Sri Lanka Army and former LTTE controlled areas, have now very limited access in monitoring human rights violations in the North and East.

At a time when UN and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) operations are being wound-up on the orders of the Colombo government, the increasing extra-judicial disappearances and the hidden hand of Sri Lankan intelligence in abductions, are raising serious concerns among local human rights activists in Tamil areas.

l The United States this week provided the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) operation in Sri Lanka with $5.5 million of emergency food aid, shortly after the organisation warned of serious shortages and halved the wheat flour and sugar in rations it distributes to displaced people.

The food situation remains ‘fragile’, despite improving since March 2010, and the next four months are critical, the WFP warns.

The WFP estimates that it needs some $27 million next year to continue to provide assistance to an estimated 371,000 Tamils displaced by the armed conflict from 2008, and has warned of a ‘pipeline break’ looming in 2011.

The donation by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) this week consisted of 6,740 metric tonnes of wheat flour, pulses and vegetable oil, a news release from the US embassy in Colombo said.

WFP Country Representative Adnan Khan said the US donation comes at a critical juncture for displaced Tamils returning to their homes, who have to spend considerable sums to supplement WFP handouts.

‘It will allow the WFP to continue providing much-needed food and nutritional support to the returnee population and increase their food security,’ he said.

‘USAID remains the largest and most consistent food aid donor to Sri Lanka and we are happy to support the food needs of 300,000 returnees,’ US Ambassador Patricia A Butenis said.

Two weeks ago, the WFP warned that ‘growing donor funding shortfalls since the beginning of 2010 have seriously circumscribed agencies’ capacity to deliver life-saving services to IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) in camps and to returnees.’

The WFP is to launch a new initiative to support the hundreds of thousands of displaced Tamils.

‘Our target is to raise 40 million dollars for this new initiative and we sincerely hope that other donor countries will extend their support to fulfill the needs of affected people,’ Khan said.

A UN survey of 1,755 households in five districts – Mullaitivu, Vavuniya, Jaffna, Killinochi and Mannar – found that the majority of resettled people spend more than 65 per cent of their income on food.

Meanwhile, according to press reports, the WFP has said it will cease assistance to those in ‘advanced’ stages of recovery after being resettled in 2007 and 2008.

Instead, the WFP will target the most vulnerable populations, including households headed by single women, mothers, pregnant women, and schoolchildren.

However, there are still serious needs in the eastern province which saw renewed mass displacement from 2006 to 2007, according to local officials.

‘These areas have seen no kind of sustained development for a long time,’ said Rasanayagam Rahulanayani, the top government official in the eastern division of Vaharai.