Tamils in Batticaloa commemorated the 87 people killed by Sri Lankan security forces in the Kokkadichcholai massacre 33 years ago, amidst revelations that British mercenaries may have been directly involved in the atrocity.
Residents gathered at the newly rebuilt memorial erected for the massacre. The memorial was rebuilt and opened May 2018, after the original monument was destroyed by Sri Lankan troops.
The massacre, which took place January 27 1987, saw Special Task Force (STF) and army officers raid a prawn factory in the village, shooting dead the workers, which including seven boys aged between 12 to 14. The killings have since been dubbed the ‘Prawn Farm Massacre’.
According to relatives of the victims, the night before the massacre, government helicopters were seen circling the area. On the morning of the killings, helicopters were seen dropping troops off, as they went on to slaughter dozens of Tamils.
A book released last month examined how a British company – Keenie Meenie Services (KMS) – had been involved with training STF troops at the time, and had been reported to fly Sri Lankan military helicopters during security operations.
Phil Miller, the author of ‘Keenie Meenie: The British Mercenaries Who Got Away with War Crimes', wrote on the massacre, stating that “It is not known whether Tim Smith (KMS mercenary) was personally involved in the operation, although the company’s aviators were flying over the Eastern Province that month”.
After STF troops disembarked from the helicopters, they went on to massacre dozens. Some of the workers were taken to nearby road and shot dead. Forty people, who had been hiding in a nearby farm, were also killed. The bodies of those killed were burnt on old tyres, according to survivors.
The massacre took place during the then UNP government. No one, including KMS mercenaries, has been brought to justice for the crime.