Six hundred and thirty brave police officers who were offered as live sacrifices to the LTTE on 11th June 1990 have become a forgotten lot.  On representations made to the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), the LLRC made a strong recommendation that this holocaust be fully investigated. But neither the UNP nor the SLFP [...]

Sunday Times 2

The forgotten sacrificial police officers


Six hundred and thirty brave police officers who were offered as live sacrifices to the LTTE on 11th June 1990 have become a forgotten lot.  On representations made to the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), the LLRC made a strong recommendation that this holocaust be fully investigated. But neither the UNP nor the SLFP led Governments showed any interest in such an investigation.

The UNP shied from investigating it because it was President Premadasa who gave the universally unheard of heartless order for police officers who were fighting terrorists bravely, to surrender to the terrorists, and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was a Cabinet Minister in that Government.

The SLFP, driven by political expediency, flirted with terrorist elements responsible for the cowardly slaughter of these police officers and even appointed Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna, who was directly responsible for this crime, a Cabinet Minister and a Vice President of the SLFP, leave aside investigating his crimes.

A group of concerned police officers under the guidance of Retired Senior DIG Mahesan Selvaratnam took up the cause of the families of these hapless police officers and families of other police officers similarly killed in action since 1971.
A letter signed by 13 members of this group was handed to IGP N. K. Illangakoon on February 8, 2012. The letter which is self- explanatory is reproduced.

“Mr. N K Illangakoon
Inspector-General of Police
Police Headquarters
Colombo 1
Dear Mr. Illangakoon
“We will endeavor to look after our own”

The killing of over 600 police officers by the LTTE in 1990, has received considerable media attention. Recently, the Government urged all police stations to hold commemoration ceremonies for the slain officers, on 11th June last year(2011). The Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation too carried a twenty minute broadcast in their memory, on the same day. We, a group of concerned retired police officers, thought it incumbent on our part to keep you informed of an ongoing initiative to assist, in whatever ways possible, the dependents of all police officers killed in action. We are, motivated purely by compassion.

A list of police officers killed since 1971 was prepared. They numbered over 2600. In order to ascertain the needs of these dependents a sample survey was conducted. A questionnaire (copy annexed) was sent out to 500 respondents, selected district-wise. The responses were many. Whilst gratefully acknowledging receipt of monthly salaries/compensation from the police department, they have indicated a need for assistance in areas including medical attention, education, employment and living conditions.

Many are undergoing much hardship and welcome help from our group. A majority of these seeking help are dependents of officers of and below the rank of Sergeant-Major. An important consideration in this respect is that those grades of officers, unlike senior gazetted and gazetted officers, have no organisation to look after their interests.

We are now in the process of analysing and collating the information received. In ‘Their Story’ accompanying the questionnaire, many have been most appreciative of the effort to reach out to them. Knowing that they have not been forgotten has boosted their morale. This psychological boost has now to be augmented by tangible measures. How this is to be done is being gone into.
We believe that the Police Department has a major role to play if this endeavor is to succeed and hence seek your valuable guidance and assistance.

Yours sincerely
Rohan Abeyawardena (Rtd.DIG); Nihal de Alwis (Rtd.IP); Tuan Drahaman (Rtd.IP); Sisira Mendis (Rtd.DIG); Chris Obeyesekere (Rtd DIG); Srimathi Palihakkara (Rtd.W/IP); Gamini Perera (Rtd.SSP); Mahesan Selvaratnam (Rtd.S/DIG); Tassie Seneviratne (Rtd.SSP); Upali Seneviratne (Rtd.SSP); Jayakumar Thangavelu (Rtd.DIG); Sivasampo Thavalihkam (Rtd.SSP); Hema Weerasinghe (Rtd.SSP) “

*A suggestion that came up before the concerned group was to obtain from the government, the piece of ground in the Thirukkovil jungle that was soaked with the blood of the surrendered police officers and build a mausoleum in honour of these police officers.

IGP Illangakoon, though he gave an appointment to meet the group, reneged on it, presumably not wanting to ruffle feathers, and dodged even meeting the group, much to the disappointment of the group to whom it was a case of ‘loves labour lost’.
I reproduce extracts from a report, written by me in September 1991, in order to remind the people about these forgotten police heroes on this 26th anniversary of the unprecedented tragedy.

“The saddest day
On the 11th June 1990 while peace talks were still in progress in Colombo, and the STF was providing security to the LTTE housed in five star hotels, police stations in the East were surrounded by armed cadres of the LTTE who ordered the policemen, under threat of death, to surrender their arms and vacate the police stations by 1500 hrs. The duteous policemen found themselves in the horns of a dilemma.
Ivan Boteju, ASP Kalmunai, who by this time had long completed his compulsory spell in the operational area, was carrying on as none was willing to take his place. It was only in November 1989 that his men hadfaced a severe attack from the Tamil National Army (TNA) with mortars, RPGG and automatic weapons. In that attack which lasted from 17th to 23rd November, six soldiers from the army unit which augmented the Police defence at that time were killed and several policemen injured. Ivan Boteju and his men however had fought back gallantly and repulsed that attack.
And now they had to face this new and paradoxical situation. Ivan Boteju contacted his superiors for assistance and in the meantime ordered his men to take up positions to defend the police stations if attacked. But the LTTE leaders convinced the Government that it is a misunderstanding, and gave an assurance that it will be sorted out. The Government trusted the LTTE Leadership. “No confrontation” remained the command.
Passing the deadline of 1500 hrs, the LTTE commenced attacking Kalmunai Police Station and the Policemen returned fire in defence. Volleys of fire and defiant words were exchanged for three and a half hours. At this stage the LTTE hierarchy giving an assurance to the Government that all policemen of Kalmunai, Akkaraipattu and Pottuvil would be taken to Amparai and released, wanted the policemen to surrender. The Government was prepared to sacrifice its arms and equipment and the policemen were ordered to comply with this arrangement that was a surrender unheard of in any part of the world. Ivan Boteju and his men however were not willing to surrender and protested insisting that they “would be tortured if not killed” and opting to face the LTTE attack, requested Air support and Military cover.
“No confrontation” remained the orders personally conveyed by the IG Police who was flown to the East with the specific orders from the President, in effect denying the policemen their Fundamental Right of Defence. Ivan Boteju, an athletic great of the fifties, smart and always spick and span, walked from the police station with his men; this time his head hanging low, shirt unbuttoned and hanging out, sobbing and obeying. By way of deception the LTTE Tigers took 324 policemen to the Tirukkovil jungles instead of Amparai, blindfolded them, tied their hands to their backs, got them to lie down prone and massacred them in a most cowardly manner, spraying bullets into them.
Over another 300 policemen were similarly abducted from Batticaloa and Vavuniya Districts after they surrendered on orders, and killed.
The 11 June, 1990 would go on record as the saddest day in the history of the Sri Lanka Police Force …”
Charge of the life bridage
Bunkers to the right of them,
Bunkers to the left of them,
Bunkers in front of them,
Volley’d and thundered’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they held and well,
Until the day was late,
Until the orders came,
‘n Surrender’d three hundred.
“Surrender”, an order’s made!
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not though the Policemen knew
Someone has blunder’d
Their’s not to make reply,
Their’s not to reason why,
Their’s but to do and die,
Alas! To the valley of Death
Groped the three hundred
When can their glory fade?
Oh the surrender they made!
All the world wonder’d.
Honour the offer they made!
Honour the lives they laid!
Noble three hundred.
(Apologies to Alfred Lord Tennyson)
(The writer is a retired Senior Superintendent of Police, former personal staff officer to IG Police and former Director, Police Grievances)

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