The text below has been contributed by Human Rights advocates working in Sri Lanka. It has been published unedited, however names and places have been altered for security reasons.
Nagamma and her husband who is 70 yrs old, lived in Adampan. They were displaced due to the war in July 2007. They took all their possessions, including their 100 goats and moved to Nanattaankulam near Mallawi as Nagamma had relatives there. They lived there for sometime but by the end of 2008 they had been displaced so many times that they have lost count. The most they spent in any given place was a couple of days to a week, and by this time they had also abandoned all their possessions and goats.
Along the way from one place to another, they were caught in between the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE) and Sri Lankan Army shootouts and saw many people die. Once they were in LTTE controlled areas, they frequently thought about leaving or sneaking out but the LTTE never allowed it. When they finally crossed over into Government controlled areas there was a big crowd with them. The Army kept them for some time and then they were taken to Omanthai in buses. Once there, their names were registered and then they were taken to Chettikulam Camp.
Nagamma, her husband, daughter and son-in-law spent 6 months at Chettikulam camp and on 01 December 2009, they were finally able to go back to their village. Nagamma and her husband moved back into their home in Adampan but their daughter and her husband moved to another village. Sadly, Nagamma’s suffering was not over yet. Just one month after moving back to their village, she was raped.
Nagamma’s house was in a fairly isolated area. On the day of the incident, Nagamma had given her husband his lunch and then sent him off to the fields to work. She too soon followed as she had to go get water from the well. Another woman from the village was passing by and they walked together. The other woman’s house was on the way to the well and so she stopped at her house. Nagamma continued on to the well by herself. The well was a mere 100 meters from her friend’s house.
According to Nagamma, she had got the water and was in the process of standing up when she was grabbed from behind and her face covered with a black cloth. She had promptly fainted and is not aware of what happened after that. When she woke up, she was in a small shallow muddy place about 50 meters away from the well. She had been dragged there and raped. Her legs were scraped and bleeding due to the little cuts made from the bushes. Her clothes were torn and there had been blood all over. She had tried to get up but couldn’t and it was with the greatest difficulty that she had finally stood up. She had been dazed and disoriented (probably in shock) and was trying to walk back to her house when she passed her friend’s house once again. Her friend heard her passing by and came out asking Nagamma if she was only now returning from the well and what was she doing all this time. On seeing Nagamma and the condition she was in, the friend had quickly taken her by the hand and helped take her to the hospital. Nagamma was admitted to the Adampan hospital at 2pm.
In the meantime, the friend had run to the fields and informed Nagamma’s husband about the incident. He had rushed back to the hospital to find her on Saline. She was still dizzy and her body hurt all over. Her stomach too was burning and she was bleeding profusely. The village hospital did not have the facilities to help her and they had to wait for the husband to come to get his permission to transfer her to Mannar Hospital. She was sent to Mannar hospital by ambulance but as they too did not have a gynecologist she was transferred to Vavuniya hospital the next day.
Nagamma’s husband went to the Army to make a complaint and was told to go to the Police Station and make the complaint. The police had come and taken a look at the place where the incident had taken place. A complaint was filed at the police station on the following day.
The police took a statement from Nagamma as well. In the meantime, she underwent a DLC (her womb was washed/flushed) in Vavuniya hospital and she allegedly had an operation, and was then brought back to Mannar.
A boy from the village, who owned a motorbike, had taken Nagamma’s husband on his bike to the police station to make the complaint. This boy had been threatened by the Army thereafter for helping him. The Murunkan Army had also sent some people to Vavuniya to record a statement from Nagamma but at the time she was still in hospital and too weak to talk.
The husband suspects that the culprits were some men – laborers, who had been brought to Adampan from the south in order to construct the hospital. 3 of the laborers had bolted soon after they had seen the police checking the area.
Nagamma is still in a lot of pain. They do not have any belongings or income and are no longer living in their isolated house as they are afraid to. They are currently living with another man in the village. This man is no relative but knowing the situation and feeling sorry for the elderly couple, he has taken them in and is helping them in any way he can.
They have not heard any information regarding Nagamma’s attack to date and have little hope as to ever doing so.
Christia Antony’s Testimony
Name: Christia Antony
• Mother & Father
• Husband Antony & their 13 yr old son
• Elder Brother – Joined the LTTE when he was 18 yrs old. Was a Para-medic, he died a martyr. Was killed in a claymore explosion on his way to treat some people. Buried near the family home but after the Army took over the area, the graves had been destroyed. He was married and had 2 sons.
• Sister Nadiya – Her husband Regan died in an artillery shell attack. Regan used to work for the LTTE admin as he was very good with computers. He did not carry arms. He had apparently called out for ‘Nadi’, his nickname for his wife, 3 times before dying.
• Younger sister – Karthika (15 yrs old)
• Younger brother – Nirosh
The family lived in Alkattiweli. On 03 August 2007 they were forced to move out of their home due to artillery shelling. They packed up all their belongings and left. Christia, her mother, husband, son, Nadiya, Regan, Nirosh and Karthika went to Palliyar while Christia’s father went on to Jeyapuram. They stayed in Palliyar in a temporary shed in someone else’s compound for 10 months. They had to leave once again due to shelling and joined their father in Jeyapuram. They stayed here for 1 month and then the entire family moved on to Konaville for another 1 month.
It was extremely costly to move their belongings from one place to another. They were charged Rs.18,000 to move their belonging for a distance not more than 20 km.
From Konaville they went to Dharmapuram. In August 2008, they went to Mungilarun north where they stayed for 10 days, and then to Mungilarun south for another 10 days. They had to keep moving due to the constant shelling. In Mungilarun, they abandoned their goods and took only their clothes and utensils needed for cooking. They pushed these things along on bicycles. The LTTE did not stop them from moving. They were advised to move away so that the LTTE could fight back the Army without worrying about having the people in the way.
After they had to leave Mungilarun south, they considered going into the government controlled areas. However, their mother was too afraid and said that it would be too risky and so they continued to just follow the rest of the people and move in whichever direction they crowd was going in.
In February 2009 they reached Iratamadur. Christia and her husband decided that they should go to Sondarapuram. They took the remaining clothes/utensils and rode over to Sondarapuram. Antony remained with the stuff whilst Christia rode back to get the rest of the family. They were all seated around eating in Iratamadur, on February 4th 2009, when a shell exploded in their midst. A number of people died. Amongst them was Nadiya’s husband Regan. Half of his head and face was missing. Christia’s son and Karthika were both injured by the shrapnel. Christia’s son was 12 yrs old at the time. Christia stated that she saw a part of another woman’s torso lying on the ground. There had also been a 3 month old baby in a pram but after the explosion, only the child’s head remained. Christia stated that all their clothes were burnt and that they did not even have time to bury their dead and give them funeral rites.
The injured including Karthika were transferred by Hiace van to a Hospital in Udayakattar. Christia refused to let them take her son and she took him to Sondarapuram hospital. The doctors just closed and bandaged the wounds on her son’s injured leg without removing the shrapnel and when she had protested, they had said that is all they can do at the moment. There were so many injured people coming into the hospital that the doctors just did not have the time to deal with them all. (LTTE and Govt. doctors were working together in the makeshift hospitals).
The family remained in Sondarapuram for 2 days. When they removed the bandage on Christia’s sons leg it was all festered. The doctors said they might have to amputate it. Luckily, they had a family friend who was also a medic and they had managed to get an appointment number and have the leg treated and the shrapnel removed.
There had been many cluster bombs and they had passed by many bodies along the way. The stench was unbearable. They lived on water alone. Even if they had money, it was of no use as there was no food to buy. Christia now faced a new burden as she had to carry her injured son and so could not take any of the clothes or utensils. They moved on to Iranapalai where they had to continuously remain in a bunker. They stayed there for 10 days.
According to Christia, after Killinochchi, even the people had lost their trust in the LTTE. The LTTE continued to conscript small boys, girls and whomever else possible. A few days later they would bring the bodies back in a box.
They reached Pudumaththalan on 20th April 2009. This is where the final assault took place nearly a month afterwards. At this point, a spade was one of the most essential things the people needed. Pudumaththalan was a sandy place so they could not build a proper bunker. They fixed gunny bags with sand and made an L shaped open bunker and stayed behind that. At one point a number of people all started moving towards the army controlled areas thinking that it just might be safer there. It was at this point that they were stopped by the LTTE. There were so many people that they couldn’t be controlled and a group broke away and made a run for it. The LTTE opened fire on them. Christia saw a person being shot in the head. Their mother too was shot in the back during this time. When they opened fire, the people stopped running and came back to the LTTE area. The family was separated and Nadiya and Nirosh went to check on their father and injured mother. They returned to the bunker after awhile as their mother and father had been put in a tractor and sent towards the seashore where the medics were. The LTTE continued to stop people from crossing over by using palmyrah canes.
Two LTTE cadres had disobeyed their orders and told the people they would help them get across to the Government controlled areas. They had shown 2000 people how to go through a lagoon, where the water was neck deep and into the Government controlled area. Nadiya, Nirosh, Christia, Antony and their son were amongst the people who made this journey and crossed over to Army controlled Nandikadal. On 25 April 2009, they were taken to Chettikulam Ramanathan Camp.
In the meantime, their mother had been taken to Murukkul hospital on the same day, but she died there on the 22nd of April. Christia and the rest of the family were not aware of their mother’s death until a month later.
After their mother’s death, the doctors at the hospital had pretended that Christia’s father was a relative of another injured boy and helped him to get onto the ICRC ship that was heading to Trincomalee. Their father joined them in the Chettikulam camp later on. The family also got word through some Parish Priests that Karthika too was alive.
The family is currently back in their own home in Alkattiweli. Miraculously their original house was still intact when they returned to it nearly two years later.