Written by Bella Dalima
11 Jun, 2014 | 10:40 pm
The passage of time is said to heal many wounds — 24 years ago on a day like today, over 700 police personnel were shot dead by the LTTE; and we found a witness to the incident.
The three decades of conflict saw the death and destruction of thousands; no fragment of life was left untouched by the cruelty of the war.
Among the many episodes that tarnished the social fabric of this country, the events that took place 24 years ago were of special significance to the Sri Lanka police – June 11, 1990 is known as the saddest day in the history of the Sri Lankan police. More than 700 policemen from the eastern province were forcibly taken into the Kanchikudichchi jungle and were shot dead by the LTTE after they were asked to surrender by the authorities.
Sub-Inspector Shantha Ranaweera was among the very few who survived the incident – and today, he recalls what happened 24 years ago.
“They took us into the Kanchikudiaru jungle, blindfolded, with our arms bound and then made us lie down before shooting us dead. Men who stood up and attempted to go were also shot in the head. When they moved away, I went forward with my shattered arm and sat down. While I was seated, I saw them coming with another group of persons whom they shot dead. When they went away, I went there to see of anyone else had survived. There was no one. I then stumbled away. It was evening the next day when I finally came upon a village. I lost consciousness several times.”
By around 6:30 p.m. on June 11 that year, the Kalmunai Police Station had become a lake of blood, with 24 of Sub-Inspector Shantha Ranaweera’s comrades departing this world.
“While I was at the Kandy Hospital, President Ranasinghe Premadasa visited me. He believed that I had to be taken abroad for treatment. Today,we serve in the Police Department as disabled officers. There are about 1,700 of us. Shouldn’t we get a wage increment at least? I wonder whether there is anyone left to remember what happened on a day like this. I don’t think there is anyone left in the Ampara Police division who remembers. It is a major problem.”
Nearly two and a half decades later, Shantha Ranaweera still holds the rank of sub inspector. He shows off his press clippings depicting his heroism with a sense of pride. We could not help but feel that the look in his eyes, was an expression of hope – that this would not be just another story.
Five years after the conflict in our nation, wounds may be healing but some memories are hard to erase — and some acts of heroism are yet to find their way into the records.
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