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Vavuniya remembers massacred students killed under Rajapaksa’s tenure

The Vavuniya Agricultural College held a remembrance ceremony to remember a group of Tamil students who were killed by the Sri Lankan army in 2006, when current president Gotabaya Rajapaksa served as Sri Lanka’s secretary of defence.

Atchuthan of Batticaloa, Gopinath of Trincomalee, Rizwan Mohamed of Batticaloa, Sinthujan of Vavuniya and Hindujan from Batticaloa, were all shot dead by the Sri Lankan army.

"These soldiers fired indiscriminately at a group of students who had thrown themselves on the ground seeking safety after an LTTE (Tamil Tiger) claymore mine blast nearby," Helen Olafsdottir, spokeswoman for the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission told Reuters at the time.

"Witnesses say that soldiers jumped over the fence, into the agricultural school premises, and opened fire," she added. "They shot from close range, five of the students were killed and at least 10 others were injured."

The Tamil National Alliance released a statement at the time, calling the massacre “another crime in a very long list of such crimes that have deliberately and systematically targeted innocent Tamil civilians”.

Describing the killings, the TNA said,

On 18 November 2006, at about 10.30 am, the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) Army personnel had approached the premises of the Agriculture Farm School in Thandikulam, Vavuniya from several fronts firing in the air with live ammunition. Several students dressed in uniform were engaged in Practicals at the time. On hearing the firing the students had taken cover by lying flat on the ground.

On entering the school premises, members of the GOSL’s Army had ordered the students to stand up. At this point, one student Ramachandran Atchuthan, had stood up and explained that all those present were students of the said school and had no connection whatsoever to an earlier claymore mine attack that had been carried out on a Sri Lanka Army vehicle. At this stage the GOSL Army personnel shot Atchuthan in the head at point blank range. Subsequently three other students, Gopinath of Trincomalee, Rizwan Mohammed of Batticaloa and Sinthujan of Vavuniya were also shot in execution style killings. The GOSL Army personnel then proceeded to open fire randomly at the remaining students, grievously wounding ten students of whom six were girls.

See the full statement here.