Archive for April 5th, 2008

Many of those manning the civil defence posts set up on the way to Galyaya village, claimed that they were prepared to venture into the Wilpattu forest but the Wild Life authorities do not allow them to do so.

They alleged that in case they enter the forest the authorities accuse them of poaching and often legal action is taken against them. Four civil defense forces members have been removed from their posts and were awaiting trial. The guards claimed that while they were ready to do their best in providing security for the village, they were restricted to their bunkers. They said that they were in need of proper training if they were to be more proficient in defense tactics.

The village of Katupathwewa, close to Anuradhapura has been gripped by fear and panic after the killings of two of the villagers this week and has turned out to be a village very much under threat.

The two victims, 62-year-old Sediris and 17-year-old Kumara Jayalath had just finished their bath at a lake close to the borders of the Wilpattu forest when suspected LTTE cadres had allegedly sprung upon them.

Accompanying them was Sediris’s wife D.P. Anulawathi who had been apparently left unharmed by the assailants.

Grief stricken and still in shock Anulawathi said the little group were on their way home after a bath when some men jumped out of the bushes and grabbed hold of them. “As they were trying to drag my husband and the boy away my husband managed to break away and was shot while trying to run away,” she told us dazedly. “They grabbed hold of me too and while I was struggling to break free when one of assailants told the others to let me go.”

Anulawathi said she had managed to escape to the village and inform one of the security posts there and the guards immediately informed the Nochchiyagama Police which covers the area. In a cordon search operation, the police located the body of Kumara Jayalath known to be mentally handicapped and harmless member of the village shot in the head some distance from the lake.

“Sediris and Anulawathi being a childless couple were close to Kumara and fond of him. The teenager spent more time with them than with his own family,” a relative remarked.

The families of Sediris and Kumara Jayalath were among five families that stayed back in the Galayaya village some four kilometres further away towards the interior of the main Katupathwewa village.

The Galayaya village, which borders the Wilpattu forest was once home to an abundant farming community funded by the ADB, but with the funding coming to an end a majority of its residents moved to the main Katupathwewa village leaving behind a handful of people who had set up home in the way out village, having come from other areas. With the fear of LTTE attacks increasing even the handful of families had left with just five opting to stay back. But after the latest incident except for one family the others have fled to safer areas.

The villagers most of whom are chena cultivators fear that a similar fate might befall them too and sooner than later they too might be forced to desert the Katupathwewa village,

“There are nearly 400 people in this village and a vast area of cultivations to nurture and protect. Some 100 villagers have been recruited to the civil security forces but only a maximum 40 to 50 are present to guard the border village while the others have been sent to other areas,” Yahonis Perera, one of the oldest members of the village said.

He said that earlier the buffer zone set up by the forces led right up to the village, but now it had been moved back closer to the Wilpattu forest. “This gives more leverage for any person with an ulterior motive to use wide pathway to move about and attack us,” he said.

However Nochchiyagam Inspector R.M.S. Kumarasinghe said the buffer zone had been moved towards the forest to keep a closer watch on the Wilpattu forest line, thereby providing more protection to the village.

“The victims had been beyond the buffer zone area when they were attacked,” he explained.

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A group of Catholic priests from the Thevankutti parish have taken the Our Lady of Madhu statue to Vellankulam, 50-60km from Madhu Church claiming that they had no alternative but to escape through the LTTE checkpoint in Vauniya last evening. The Mannar Bishop, Rayappu Joseph has claimed that the statue would be returned to Madhu after the fighting is over.

The Bishop has also confirmed that the Sri Lanka Army was less than 1km from Madhu Church at Pandivirichchian. His statement indicates that Tigers infiltrating the church premises were attempting to engage the Army in a fight. The Tigers, according to the Bishop, had informed that they are not to be disturbed as they are trying to prevent the Army from entering Madhu Church.

The Army also confirmed that the LTTE was shelling Army units in the Madhu church area incessantly and planting booby traps trying to delay the Army’s advance. As the Army closes in, Tiger units will soon have to abandon or destroy their artillery and escape, just like the parish priests did through the LTTE’s Vavuniya checkpoint.

The Army says it is in no way responsible for the shelling, as some media have indicated and will not be responsible for any damages caused to the Church.

Senior officers of the Army told that is is amusing to note Bishop Joseph not taking the trouble to take the statue to Army areas even after they came so close to the church last evening. “If the Tigers told the Bishop to leave them alone, shouldn’t he have asked for our help to protect the statue?” they queried.

They claimed the Bishop was aware of strict instructions given by Task Force I Commander Gen. Jayasooriya not to shell the area or damage the church with own artillery . The fact that the Bishop still moved the statue to LTTE areas clearly indicates his bias, military analysts pointed out.



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