12th March 2000

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Major's wife among the dead

Achini Senani Dunuwila, wife of Major Tilak Dunuwila, formerly of the Media unit at the Operations Headquarters of the Defence Ministry, was one of the vicitms of Friday evening's bomb blast.

Twenty-seven-year old Achini, an executive at Seylan Bank head office, was returning home from work. She is also a mother of a two-year-old daughter.

Major Dunuwila had spoken to his wife an hour before the blast and was awaiting her return by van. Due to the delay he had decided to check up at the hospital and thereafter the morgue where he identified her body. The funeral takes place at Godigamuwa, Maharagama today.

Rajagiriya terror victims

Following is the list of the civilians and policemen killed in Friday's explosions and gun battle.

M.B. Maldeniya (46) - City Traffic, 5 S Police Quarters, Borella
Y. Wickremasena (34)- Borella police, Siri Housing Scheme, Maipana, Badalgamuwa
J.M. Jayasundara(22) - Divulpitiya Police, Godakawela, Sannagamuwa, Ratnapura
L.G. Dayaratne (30)- Borella Police, 31 Danwela, Galigamuwa
H.M. Perera - Kirilapone police
G.A. Dharmasena (42)- Alpitiya Police, Kimbulawela, Makthaka, Pitipana
R.M.Lakmini Vineetha (37) Bandaragama Police
Saman Gunawardene (37), 146 Kotubamma Road, Etul Kotte, Kotte
H.D.B. Perera (70), P9 Block F, Bambalapitiya Flats, Colombo 04
Rukshan Asanka Perera (23), 192/1 Sriyama Mawatha, Kandalanda, Homagama
Achini Dunuwille (27) 593/40 Gabadawatte, 3rd Lane, Pitipatha, Homagama
H.G. Wasantha Kumari (25), 26/5 3rd Lane, Manana Road, Gangodawila, Nugegoda
Mangalika Wickremasinghe (35), 593/1 Gabadawatte, No. 3 South Pitipana, Homagama
Thilak Balasuriya (60) 51, Sunethradevi Lane, Kohuwela
Damayanthi Premaratne (23), Galabadawatte, Homagama
D.Sumanasena Rupasinghe (69) 20/3 Railway Avenue, Nugegoda
K.G. Sarath Wijesighe (39) 553/12 Bokundara Road, West Arauwalla, Pannipitiya
Udeni Samanthika Dayananda (27), 262/A 2nd Lane, Shanthipura, Thalawathugoa
A.H. Somadasa (55), 424/A Welipara, Thalawathugoda
N Renuka Upasena, 563/3 Nawala Road, Rajagiriya

The morning after at the morgue

By Shelani de Silva and Faraza Farook

Families of Friday's bomb blast victims at Rajagiriya gathered at the Colombo morgue early yesterday to take the bodies of their loved ones home.

Most of them who had been frantically searching for their family members whole of Friday night came to the morgue as a last option. While some located the victims there were some others who had no trace even by late afternoon.

It was not only family members who were seen at the morgue last morning, but office staff who were trying to find colleagues caught up in the blast.

Benny Perera, a retired public servant, like any other day was bringing his daughter Sahanai back home from work, when she wanted to stop at the Fab to buy some food for her mother. With the heavy flow of traffic Mr. Perera had asked his daughter to get off and proceeded towards Cotta Road to park his car. Walking back to Fab Mr. Perera was caught in the blast. By this time his daughter was coming towards the vehicle but she escaped the blast.

Knowing that her father was around the place she had tried to go towards the scene but was stopped by the police.

It was late Friday night that the family discovered that Mr. Perera was among the dead.

"The car was not damaged and if my father remained in the car this would not have happened. He suffered head and face injuries with shrapnel hitting the back left side of the head," said his son Mangala.

Twenty-Seven year old Udeni Dayananda, a clerk at Commercial Bank's city office was travelling home in an office van when the blast took place.

Her brother Dulan was at the morgue to take his sister's body to their home at Thalawathugoda. The family had panicked only around 10 pm on Friday when Udeni had not returned home.

"Around 7 pm we heard about the blast on TV. I came back to Thalawathugoda Town hoping to see my sister, since the van delayed I wanted to go to Borella but was told that there was a heavy traffic block. I went back home. Even by 8.30 there was no trace of her, by this time the traffic was very heavy and it started raining. All this while we thought that the van was caught in traffic and not in the blast," he said.

Around 10 pm the roads were clear of traffic and this led the family to panic. With the help of friends and family, Dulan begun his search for his sister.

"For hours we went in search of her to hospital wards, ICU and even trying to locate other people who were travelling with her to get some information. It was only in the morning that we came to the morgue and found her.

It was just a few days back that she began going by van to work. Earlier she travelled by bus."

Udeni's colleague Damayanthi from Homagama was also travelling in the same van. Damayanthi too was a victim. This was the only office van caught up in the blast.

A prisoner of war recalls his ordeal

By Hiranthi Fernando

After six years in cap-tivity under the LTTE, Vijitha Nambuwasam, a leading Supply Assistant of the Navy, could scarcely believe he was a free man. Reunited with his wife and little daughter, Vijitha was happy to have a much needed respite at home after the ordeals he had gone through. He spoke to The Sunday Times, relaxing in his home at Imbulgoda.

Vijitha cast his mind back to the fateful day he was captured by the terrorists.

"It was 11.25 p.m. on September 19, 1994, when the first attack hit us at the back of the ship, near the propellers. We were patrolling in the Mannar Thalpadu area to provide security to fishermen and supply boats taking provisions to the islands. The cabin area was affected. The sailors who were sleeping in the cabin died in their beds. When I went down to the cabin to sleep, I found someone else in my bunk. Rather than wake him up, I went to the dining room and slept on a table. And so, I escaped death. However, I fell unconscious for a while. As I got to my feet and stumbled towards the mess for my weapon, I saw water pouring in. I came on deck. We were in a daze. Those who were already on deck, returned fire but in the state they were in, the guns got jammed", he said.

"Then a terrorist suicide boat packed with high explosives rammed into our ship, near the kitchen area. The ship caught fire and started sinking. The Commanding Officer, Ajith Boyagoda asked us to evacuate. We jumped into the water, not waiting for life jackets. We were in the water for two to three hours. The LTTE came in boats, flashing searchlights over the water and shot at those swimming. I somehow managed to avoid the shots. Finally, they came up behind me and fired a magazine at me. Asking me to put my hands up, they pulled me into the boat. They tied my hands and legs and hit me until one of the leaders ordered them to stop."

"Air Force helicopters searching the area in the morning, chased and fired at our boat, but failed to hit us. We landed in the Thalpadu area, around 8 in the morning. I was given biscuits and a soft drink. When I was taken ashore, I was confronted with my Commanding Officer. We were taken by jeep to Kilali lagoon and then by boat across the lagoon to Pooneryn. Finally by jeep to Manipay, where we were handed over to a leader named Selvaratnam. Commander Boyagoda and I were kept imprisoned there for about eight months."

"In July 1995, when Operation Leap Forward started, the fighting was near the road we were on. We could see ambulances taking the injured. We were then blindfolded and taken to Nallur and put in a cell in an upstairs building. That night my legs were chained with a space of about a foot apart and two large padlocks were fixed. It was difficult to walk or even to sit on the squatting pan."

"In that prison, there were about 20 other prisoners, who had been declared to the ICRC. The two of us were kept in one room, while the others were kept, ten each, in two rooms. The bathroom and toilet were partitioned off from the room. When Riviresa I started, we were taken to Kodikamam, with Riviresa 2, to Marusuvil and Riviresa 3 to Periyamadu in the Wanni, across the Kilali lagoon. That was on March 23 1996.

"There we were kept in a small prison. For the first two days, all 22 of us were packed into a cell 10 feet by 12 feet. We were then transferred to small cells six feet by five feet. With three of us in one cell we slept with feet and head alternating, like sardines packed in a tin. It was stifling hot."

"While we were in Jaffna we were fed reasonably well. When the LTTE lost Jaffna, we were fed on porridge or cunji water for breakfast and lunch and dinner consisted of meat boiled in water with no spices and a raw mango only, sometimes. For two years, we existed on that diet. Then we were allowed to get foodstuffs from home through an arrangement between the Government, the ICRC and the LTTE."

"When the Army captured the road from Vavuniya to Madhu in 1997, we were taken to Mankulam and Mundumurippu. We were kept in a cell in a jungle. There were four cells for 22 prisoners. We received one bucket of water each to bathe. We remained in this jungle hideout six months, until Jayasikuru started. On August 23, 1997, we were taken to Puthukkudiyiruppu. There were no cells. We were kept in a wire cage-like structure, some six feet high, while some were only three feet high and we had to crawl into them. After two months cells were constructed with our assistance. There were two cells measuring 11 feet by 11 feet, with 11 of us in each. We lived in this prison until I was finally released."

"Making false allegations that we tried to escape, they chained us with three chains each with only 11 links between our feet. They were welded together with a wooden splint through them while they were on our feet. On October 21, they took us to their political office to meet the ICRC officials. When we were taken, our chains were removed and kept in the vehicle. After the visit, on the way back to the prison, they were welded on again."

"By then we were desperate. We had no proper food, and not enough sugar for our tea. We had thought we would be freed on November 26 or even for the Millennium. When all failed, we had no hope of freedom. So we decided to fast. We gave notice of the fast to the ICRC. We gave letters to the government and the media but the ICRC did not accept them. The ICRC censored the letters we sent home."

"We started the fast on February 10. On the 14th, they removed our chains, brought us to a public place and broadcast the news. When our families heard the news, they requested permission to come and see us. Finally, after much discussion between the government, the ICRC and the LTTE, 28 family members were brought to see us on February 22."

"I set eyes on my daughter after five and a half years. She was an infant of six months when I was captured. I cannot describe the moment I saw her again. We stayed five days with our families. On February 28, the parents took leave of their sons. We were all very sad. The parents appealed to their fasting sons to call it off, undertaking to return in 15 days after negotiating with the authorities. We could not bear to see their distress so we took food."

"Just before we were taken back to our prisons, I, along with three others were separated from the rest and transported to Mallavi in a van. We were given clothes and asked to dress well as we were being released. It was a remarkable feeling to be free after six years of captivity."

Back at home Vijitha, expressed his gratitude to the ICRC for its assistance during difficult times and to the Navy Commander and staff for the assistance given to him as well as to his family while he was a prisoner. He is also grateful for the help he received from Lalith Kotalawela to buy a piece of land at a concessionary price for his family when he had given up all hope of being ever free.

A daughter's letter brings her father back

Viraji Lochana Nambuwasam , was a happy little girl. She had got her father back after six years in captivity. She is doubly happy because his release was said to be largely due to a letter she wrote to the LTTE leader asking for his release. She describes how she and her mother went all the way to Puthukkudiyiruppu to see her father who was captured by the LTTE.

" Ammi and I went along with the mothers of 15 uncles who were fasting with my Thaththi. I was the only child in that bus. We reached Anuradhapura in the middle of the night. The next day we went to Vavuniya. Mark Uncle from the ICRC took us in a bus to Piramanamkulam. There we got into a LTTE bus. There was a driver and another Tamil uncle in the bus.

" When we went where my father was, an old Seeya carried me in. He told me, when I go back to school, to tell my friends I met an old Tiger.

" My Thaththi was lying on a bed. He looked lifeless because he was not eating any food, only drinking water. There were 14 others there.

" I recognized Thaththi from the photographs Ammi used to show me. I asked him to come home with us. Then, with help from my mother, I wrote a letter to Mr. Prabhakaran asking him to release my Thaththi. I gave the letter to Thamilchelvam. We stayed with Thaththi and the other prisoners for five days. When we were going back we were told that Thaththi and three others were released. At Mallawi, the names were given.

" Thamilchelvam was there. He said he wanted to take photos with me. He gave a photo of Mr. Prabhakaran and said it was of Loku Maama. He gave me a parcel of chocolates. I opened one box of Kandos Promises and shared it with the other uncle."

"Thamilchelvam tied a watch on Viraji and said it was a memento," said her mother.

" They read a message from Prabhakaran which was translated for us. The message said it was because of my daughter's appeal that her father and the others were released. He also said there were 500 children like her, orphaned, who could not see their parents." the mother said.

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