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‘I was screaming and pleading’

Sivamani Weerakon, a young mother of three, was arrested by the Counter Subversive Unit (CSU) of the Police in Mannar on 19 March 2001 along with another young women, Wijikala Nanthan, who was pregnant at the time.

Both were gang raped in custody. The following are extracts of their testimony to the Mannar Magistrate’s Court follow:

“Wijikala was screaming inside the building. I heard her pleading ''I have nothing to do with the Tigers. I am a family woman. Please do not do this to me''.

“Then some CSU men came out and told me that they were forcing Wijikala to have sex with them and threatened to rape me as well. One of the men tried to strip my clothes.

“When they saw that my son was asleep on my lap, a Policeman dragged him away into one of the buildings in the CSU compound as I begged them not to hurt him.

“Two men then pinned me down on the van''s floor while another stripped me and raped me. I was screaming and pleading when a Policeman put his foot on my mouth to stifle me.

“Inside the building they forced Wijikala, who was standing naked, to strip my underwear.

“I was hung upside down in a knot from a pole placed between two tables, with my hands and feet tied. Then the men in the room poked our genitals and tortured us until dawn”

At 11 p.m. on March 13, 2001, uniformed officers surrounded the Aasika lodge in Uppukkulam, a suburb of Mannar town, where Sivamani was staying with her son. Wijikala and her husband, Shanmugam Nanthan, were in the room next to hers.

The men from the CSU entered the lodge and checked the men and women separately. They separated Sivamani and accused her of being a member of the Liberation Tigers. She denied their charges and showed them her family album to prove that she was a person with children and a family.

She told the CSU personnel that she was staying in the lodge with her son. They had then dragged her son from bed to the main hall of the lodge where they were questioning the inmates. The boy was taken to a corner of the hall and questioned by the CSU men.

“However, they came back and threatened me, claiming that my son had confessed that I was a trained member of the Liberation Tigers. I cried and pleaded with them that it was obvious that my son was too sleepy and could not tell them anything. But they insisted that I was a Tiger. Then they got Wijikala search my person and me to check her".

“Then we, Nanthan, Wijikala, my son and I, were taken in a white van to a place in the town, which I recognised the next day as the compound in which the Mannar CSU office is located. There, Nanthan and his wife Wijikala were pulled out of the van and were dragged into a building in the compound.

“After a while I heard Wijikala screaming and pleading. Some Policemen who from the building, told me in lurid detail about how they were forcing sex on Wijikala and threatened that they would do the same to me. They me told me that the Officer in Charge wants to see me. But I begged them not to harm my little son.”

Sivamani was then raped in the van while her six-year-old son was dragged away into the CSU office.

She was thereafter taken to the CSU's Officer in Charge (OIC) Suraweera. Sivamani saw Wijikala standing stark naked in the room surrounded by more than five CSU men.

“The OIC, a tall fair man with a beard, ordered me to strip naked when I was made to stand before him with most of my dress torn and stripped. I was whipped with thick wires when I refused to remove my clothes. The pain was so unbearable that I was compelled to take off my skirt and blouse.

“But the CSU men insisted that I should remove my under wear as well. I refused. Thereupon a man poked a stick into my underwear and tried to tear them. Then they forced Wijikala to remove my undergarments and pushed me to the brightly lit part of the room close to the OIC.”

Sivamani said that Inspector of Police (IP) Suraweera, the OIC, had lasciviously scrutinised her private parts when she was pushed near him by the other Policemen in the room.

She was then tied up and hung upside down in a crouching position on a pole placed between two tables in the room and tortured until dawn, 14 March. The torture was so severe that Sivamani and Wijikala had agreed to say that they were military trained members of the Liberation Tigers.

Three days later they were ordered, while in the custody of the CSU, to sign confessions typed in Sinhala to the effect that they were members of the LTTE and had come to Mannar with bombs.

From a TamilNet report of March 28, 2001