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Kokkuthoduvai mass grave: excavation set to resume after delays

The discovery of the Kokkuthoduvai mass grave on June 29th by workers from the National Water Supply and Drainage Board while replacing pipes in the area. What followed were a series of developments and delays in the investigation.

Following the incident's report to the police, Mullaitivu Magistrate Court Judge T. Saravanan visited the site on June 30th to assess the situation. Upon his inspection, Judge Saravanan ordered excavations to commence on July 6th.

The excavation was carried out under the supervision of Mullaitivu Judicial Medical Officer Kanakasabapathy Vasudeva and Mullaitivu Magistrate Court Judge T. Pratheepan, eventually uncovering the skeletal remains of 13 victims.

A special meeting on July 13th discussed several key concerns related to the mass grave, including its size, a tentative timeline for the excavation and exhumation process, and the lack of capacity of the Judicial Medical Officers. During this meeting, it was decided that both the JMO and the Archaeological Department should submit a budget proposal for the comprehensive excavation and exhumation of the skeletal remains.

However, due to the failure to submit the budget proposal, the hearing regarding the investigation was postponed to August 8th. During this hearing, the court directed the excavation and exhumation process to be led by a team of JMOs. Mullaitivu JMO Kanagasabapathy Vasudeva would head this team, which included Jaffna JMO Sellaiah Biranavan and Rudrapasupathi Mayuratharan.

August 10th marked another significant step in the investigation when Mullaitivu Magistrate Court Judge T. Pratheepan conducted a field visit to the mass grave site. The second excavation date was then scheduled for August 17th. However, the excavation faced another setback due to the lack of allocated funds from the state, pushing it once again to August 31st.

On August 31st, a joint discussion involving multiple stakeholders took place, during which funds were finally allocated for the investigation. The excavation was then set to resume on September 5th.

Unfortunately, extreme weather conditions in the region prevented the excavation team from preparing the site, causing further delay.

Finally, on September 5th, the ongoing investigation into the mass grave, case number AR/804/2023, was heard at the Mullaitivu Magistrate Court. Judge T. Pratheepan met with relevant stakeholders at the site and announced that excavation would commence on September 6th at 7:30 am.

Following the multiple delays the excavation process was restarted on September 6th by the Archeological Department including Professor Raj Somadeva, Mullaitivu JMO K. Vasudeva, and Jaffna JMO S. Biranavan, with the oversight of Mullaitivu Magistrate court judge T. Pratheepan. Additionally the Mullaitivu and Jaffna JMOs, Attorneys-at-Law Ranitha Gnanarasa, V. K. Niranjan, and Kokkulai Police station officer-in-charge, Kokkuthoduvai Grama Sevakar, and Police Forensic specialists were present during the excavation.

While the excavation was being conducted, a team consisting of the Mullaitivu Government Agent A. Umamaheshwaran, Mullaitivu Additional Government Agent, K. Kanagesan and C. Gunabalan conducted a field visit to monitor the progress being made at the mass grave site.

At the end of the excavation, the Mullaitivu JMO announced that the excavation process will be continued by the Archeological Department on September 7th as well. He further said that the Archeological Department made several measurements today, trying to ascertain the size of the mass grave and how far the excavation should extend. He reassured that the media will be informed of the developments that take place during the excavation process in order to ensure transparency. 


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