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Remembering Balachandran

Today marks the birthday of Balachandran Prabhakaran, the third child of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, who was executed by the Sri Lankan military during the final days of the Mullivaikkal massacre.

Balachandran, who was born on the 1st of October 1996, would be 24 years old today.

Aged just 12 years old, he was one of thousands of children killed by the Sri Lankan military. Leaked trophy photographs taken by Sri Lankan soldiers, show the child in their custody sitting with a snack in his hand, sitting on a bench surrounded by sandbags, in what looks like a fortified army position.

Subsequent photographs show the boy lying dead on the ground, with bullet wounds through his chest.  

Digital analysis of both pictures shows that they were taken by the same camera, only a couple of hours apart, according to Callum Macrae, director of the documentary called “No Fire Zone”.

“The new photographs are enormously important evidentially because they appear to rule out any suggestion that Balachandran was killed in cross-fire or during a battle. They show he was held, and even given a snack, before being taken and executed in cold blood,” claimed Macrae according to the Independent. “It is difficult to imagine the psychology of an army in which the calculated execution of a child can be allowed with apparent impunity. That these events were also photographed and kept as war trophies by the perpetrators is even more disturbing.”

Macrae added,

“In addition to the footage of the boy's dead body lying beside his slaughtered bodyguards, Channel 4 has obtained a series of high-resolution stills of the scene. These have been analysed by a respected forensic pathologist, Professor Derrick Pounder, to assess the cause of death. It is possible, he suggests, that the boy may have been made to watch the execution of his bound and blindfolded guards before the gun was turned on him.”

“Professor Pounder believes he has identified the first of the shots to be fired at the boy: "

There is a speckling from propellant tattooing, indicating that the distance of the muzzle of the weapon to this boy's chest was two to three feet or less. He could have reached out with his hand and touched the gun that killed him."”

See more from the 2013 No Fire Zone documentary below.

Trigger warning - Graphic footage and distressing images

More Sri Lankan denials

The Sri Lankan government, as usual, denied any wrongdoing. Then Sri Lankan president, and current Sri Lankan prime minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa claimed;

“Had it happened, I would have known [it]. It is obvious that if somebody [from the armed forces] had done that, I must take responsibility. We completely deny it. It can’t be.”

Commenting on the evidence of the execution of the former commander of the army has said that the army Sarath Fonseka claimed he had "no information" as to the whereabouts of Prabhakaran's family.

Speaking to the Daily Mirror, Fonseka said:

“The Army had no information, never had any positions of Prabhakrans wife, daughter and the youngest son. We did not have clue about their presence or the whereabouts, whether they were in the country or they died during the war, we didn’t have any information about them.”

A frontline soldier testified to Channel 4 that the executions were carried out under orders “from the top”.

"Yes, our commander ordered us to kill everyone. We killed everyone," claimed one frontline soldier. “It is clear that such orders were, in fact, received from the top."

See the report from Channel 4 below.

Protests across Tamil Nadu

The leaked photographs sparked outrage across Tamil Nadu, where tens of thousands of people across the state took part in widespread protests. Demonstrations began after students of Loyola College undertook a hunger strike, leading to the closure of colleges across the state, as students joined mass demonstrations.

Rallies and protests swept through the state, with the film industry joining the outrage, and pressured the Tamil Nadu state assembly into adopting a resolution calling for a referendum among Eelam Tamils in the North-East of the island of the Sri Lanka, and those who have fled the conflict, on the formation of an independent state of Tamil Eelam.

Why Balachandran had to die - Editorial

“The recent publication of pictures of Balachandran Prabhakaran, hours before his execution, reiterates once again the brutality of Sri Lanka’s armed forces. The youngest son of the LTTE leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran was only one of thousands killed by the Sri Lankan army, but this execution was different from most other killings. The twelve year old was singled out and executed because he was seen as a representation of the Tamil national struggle. In killing him, the Sri Lankan army, was fulfilling its intention of materially destroying the Tamil struggle. Due to Balachandran’s significance there is also no doubt that the orders for his execution would have come from the very top: either the defence secretary Gothabaya Rajapakse or his brother, President Mahinda Rajapakse.

Balachandran did not represent a threat to Sri Lanka in any shape or form and would not have made a difference to Sri Lanka’s victory. Nothing was to be gained by the execution of this child. And yet, Balachandran was killed; shot five times at close range. It was an act imbued with momentous significance. In executing Balachandran, the Sinhala military was also annihilating the Tamils’ struggle and affirming to itself its complete dominance over the Tamil people. The Sri Lankan military’s abuses cannot be seen as individualised violations. Rather they are part of the state’s collective targeting of the Tamil population.”

Read more in our February 2013 editorial here.

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