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Krishanthi Kumaraswamy and family members killed in Chemmani massacre remembered

The 27th anniversary of the gang rape and murder of Krishanthi, along with the subsequent murder and cover-up of her mother Rasamma, her younger brother Pranavan, and their neighbour Kirupakaran, was commemorated in Chemmani.

Krishanthi Kumaraswamy's ordeal began at the Kaithady Army checkpoint, where many friends and relatives last saw her alive. She was gang-raped, murdered and buried in a clandestine grave by army officers near the checkpoint. At the time, Krishanthi, aged 19, had recently completed her Advanced Level exams at Chundukuli Girls School in Jaffna and aspired to become a doctor. Her daily route to school took her past the Kaithady Army checkpoint.

Concerned by her absence, Krishanthi's mother, younger brother, and neighbour set out to locate her. Tragically, they too fell victim to the brutality of the officers stationed at the checkpoint. Their bodies were mutilated and buried in a shallow grave near Krishanthi's. 

The incident was brought to the attention of the police by Kirupakaran's newlywed wife and Krishanthi's older sister, residing in Colombo. But it took a concerted effort by human rights groups across the island and international groups to shed light on the ongoing issues of disappearances and genocide in the North-East, particularly violence against women, pressuring the state to investigate the case.

Despite international pressure, the investigation into the gang rape and multiple murders faced numerous setbacks. Witnesses hesitated to come forward, fearing reprisals from the armed forces. The investigation also received limited cooperation from the Army and the Police.

During a court hearing, one of the suspects, Somaratna Rajapaksha, claimed not to have participated in the gang rape or murder but admitted to burying bodies. He said, "we only buried bodies; we can show you where 300 to 400 bodies are buried." Rajapaksha and other suspects, Mudaliyasena Jayasinghe, D. M. Jayatilake, S. A. Perera, and Gunasekara Priyadharshana, all Sri Lanka Army soldiers, disclosed areas in Chemmani and Ariyalai where hundreds of civilians were buried. This revelation led to the discovery of the Chemmani mass grave site.

At the commemoration for Krishanthi on September 8th, 2023, activists and political leaders gathered to light an oil lamp and offer flowers in honour of the victims, seeking solace for their violence that they endured at the machinations of the Sri Lankan Armed forces. 

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