Rohitha Munasinghe is the first to discover information on the Torture Camp of Eliyakanda. He was a victim of the Eliyakanda Torture Camp. Later he wrote a book titled ‘Eliyakanda Wadha Kandawura’.
In 2003, Psychiatrist Dr. Neel Fernando appoints me a soldier for psychotherapy, who was guarded in the Eliyakanda Torture Camp. By the time, the soldier was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Therefore, I made a study into the Eliyakanda Torture Camp and its psychodynamics.
Another detainee from the Eliyakanda Torture Camp Ajith Parakum Jayasinghe had already talked with me before. Ajith Parakum Jayasinghe has also written a book about the Camp. In my point of view, both Rohitha Munasinghe and Ajith Parakum Jayasinghe are individuals who have had very strenuous pasture in life and later succeeded in reintegrating into the society.
I met Rohitha Munasinghe recently in Paris, and he offered me a conversation regarding the Eliyakanda Torture Camp. The following are life experiences of Rohitha Munasinghe.
Why was he arrested?
The distant cause, me being the Electoral Organizer of the JVP and publically engaging in politics in Weligama, 1982. The immediate cause, the UNP member of the Electoral division whistleblowing to the army. During when Rohana Wijeweera contested for Presidential Election in 1982 I was a speaker who addressed public meeting being the Electoral Organizer. Because my name was pleased by the villagers, I was to be the candidate at the next General Election. So I was recognized by the villagers to be the number one JVP person in the division. I had been arrested thrice on Remand custody for eight months, for the Educational White Paper in 81, the Presidential Election in 82, and on another incident. Therefore, the Weligama Police knew well about my character.
The JVP was banned in 83. I lived in the open without going underground. One of the incidents during the time was, that for the gun was not fired my life was spared by an anonymous shooter who pointed at me, during when this politician was active as the Mayor in the dawn of 88 (the villagers defined the incident was orchestrated by myself). The incident took place not far from my home, when I was riding my bicycle on another direction. However, neither his relatives nor UNP supporters did ever threaten me with a word. The Police never raided in looking for me. To be frank, neither I ever accepted killings as such.
After the old Montego Jayawickrama this man elected as the member. The following day to November 13, 1989, when comrade Rohana Wijeweera is assassinated, I am getting arrested by the Army raided into my place--means once Wijeweera is captured and murdered their fear for the uprising went away. They began to holocaust JVP and slaughter it away, as if people who were leaned against the wall were turned around and began to whip away.
It should have been the Police I knew to arrest me, not the Army, if truth be told. Besides, along with me my brother-in-law (wife’s brother) was arrested too. This man wanted us both finished. All evidence lead to that it had been planned by this man. Welikada New Rest House Army Camp is not far away from this politician’s house. I had heard all the chitchats between the nightguards that the politician whistle-blows to the Army. When I went to Sri Lanka in 2004, I saw this man standing near a local shop nearby his house, and I stepped out of the vehicle I was in and said, ‘Hello, how’re you?’. The man stared at me as if he was stoned.
Tell us about how you were arrested?
On November 14 around 5.30 pm, an armed group of 15 men wearing fade-coloured clothes raided my home, captured me blindfolded and took me in a white van.
Why were you sent to Eliyakanda?
During I was at Weligama Camp, even when I was beaten 18 times I never testified against anyone. ‘Your mouth will be opened once you will be turned into meat at the K Point. Go to Eliyakanda’, they said and transferred me.
Tell us a little about Eliyakanda Torture Camp?
There were two sections. The section beneath was the torture chamber located in the old Training Collage for Teaching. Now they are hostels for the students of the University of Ruhuna. The place can be visited going in either road of Matara, the Coastal Road, Tangalla Road, and Brown Hill Road. The road leads to the top of Eliyakanda is met, when travelling further in Tangalla Road. On top of the hill, people were detained in canvas tents and coconut roofed tents on the compound of rooms of an old house like a bungalow. They were tortured with cruelty on a daily basis. I searched for Eliyakanda when I visited Sri Lanka in 2004-06, collected details, took photographs and published them in the following sets of printing in my book.
Who were the Officials and the Soldiers there?
Heard these torturing soldiers of Sinha Regiment were calling a couple of men called “Bombodiyar”, and another called “Sir”. In names, there were Gampaha Dayaratne, Udayaratne, Siril, Wickramasinghe aka Vicky, and Harsha.
What Methods of torture used there?
People were tortured by will, in amongst them, wilful beatings by cudgels and hands and legs, whipping by assembled wires, hitting by Eslon pipes filled with or without sand, hanging from the legs as well as first toes, turning into meat with knives by lying on a torture table, ripping nails apart, inserting barbed wire into the anus, frying or burning, smothering by tucking shopping bags and tying to the head, face drowning in a water bucket, throwing onto the ground by sacking into a bag, stuttering against a burnt gravel floor, throwing from the top of a tall mango tree, covering the genitals with chilli powder, and having younger ones for their sexual predation were common.
What torture method you are put in?
Beating by hanging on the roof, ripping toes apart, beating by poles, wires and Eslon pipes, smothering by polythene bags, beating in the neck by the pole called Susumnawa, on the counting of five finishing both eating and outdooring, preventing from urinating except for the morning, noon and evening, not letting drinking water except for the three meals are included.
Detail us about the Torturers?
Harsha had human qualities. Even though Vicky did not beat us often, bearing to frequent standing upside down was really difficult. Once he consumed too much cannabis he constantly hit us. Siril Silva from Aluthgama area boasted about his toddy business. Picked up those who could get Dried Fish and Maldives, In days Dayaratne and Udayaratne arrived, they killed us without killing.
Your book mentions of a group called Dalayo. Who are Dalayo from Eliyakanda? What were their duties?
They keep up with some as Dalayo, among the caught who were set out to be tamed, for their support. They are not beaten or blindfolded; allowed to freely access food, drinks, toilets and beds. Their main duties are to loosen the cuffs and chains of the detainees during meals and reassemble, watering two buckets in the head in washdays and ironing the personal clothes of the soldiers. Also they should check into the detainees by staying at them. They did that because they wanted to distract themselves from the disgusting smell came out of us for a while. It is a famous secret that some Dalayo were taken outside for kidnapping!
During your stay, how many of them you think were killed at Eliyakanda?
I stayed for only 2 months. I was blindfolded the whole time. If my ears told me the truth, at least 30 of them might have been killed! One day I was going to the urinating hole after the meals and I set foot on a man lying on the ground. I only saw a glimpse of 5 dead bodies lying on the ground at the moment.
Where are these Killers in the present?
I do not know. But I do not believe that they will be allowed to live as natural human beings. When I visited Sri Lanka in 2004, I learned that the torturer known as Gampaha Dayaratne was serving Ravi Karunanayake as a bodyguard and imprisoned in Welikada for a robbery, and Ravi with S.B. visited the prison to see him.
How did your life flow after the events of Eliyakanda?
In the Boossa Camp detained for 6 months, and in Koggala Camp 2 months, and no sooner than a month I got out came to France.
After the events of Eliyakanda, you succeeded in reintegrating into the society without being mentally deformed. How did you gain this ability?
I am anyway a mentally strong, flawless towards challenges and upright person. The main factor behind my successful reintegration into the society is the unconditional and deep love of my wife. She with a lot of self-confidence waited till I was being released. Second, the love, protection, and energy both families gave me. I was sent to France by my little brother “Daya Keerthi”. I did not even walked out to retrieve the VISA. The day I was going to arrive to France, keeping me at home my uncle “G.H. Buddhadasa” took me from home to the Airport. After that, till my wife and son were being delivered to France, I was taken into care by my uncle and aunt. In the end, only the family and one friend were left to help.
What are your thoughts about the Torture Camp in Eliyakanda today?
We are a country whose President was called Your Highness yes? You know that the Prime Minister of the country you live in, and the President of the country I live in can address each other with just names if they ever encounter us. Many people in Sri Lanka value having titles and keeping others below them.
Eliyakanda Torture Camp is just another distortion amongst many distortions at the Sri Lankan Army. There was a huge competition among high ranked officers to execute JVP members and score out from the big seats of the Government. Sinha Regime marches South as a result of the scene. Torturers from Eliyakanda called the Gajaba Regime “Gajababaala”, and the Gemunu “Thoththa Babala”. They had severe stigma against Regimes and the South. No fifty thousand of LTTEs were killed in the North-East, fighting face-to-face with the Army wearing blue uniforms, with artillery, mortar and missiles, when only thirty thousand of trained cadres were present. Why killing sixty thousand of young soldiers from the South, who had never been even trained to fight face-to-face wearing uniforms and heavy weapons, within two years, when the trained cadre did not even exist more than five thousand? That is the whole distortion of our country!
Conversed by - Dr. Ruwan M. Jayathunga