The Case: “Trinco 5”

My name is Dr. Kasipillai Manoharan. My beloved son Ragihar was murdered by Sri Lankan forces on January 2, 2006. Since that terrible day, I have campaigned for the truth about what happened.

The last time I heard from my son, Ragihar, was a mobile phone message. It just said “DAD”. TThat was on 2 January 2006, my son was a good boy and was celebrating the completion of his exams with friends on the beach in Trincomalee. That day, I heard a bomb blast on the beach and three of my other sons returned home immediately. Ragihar, however, did not. Just a few minutes after the blast, I received a call from him saying, “Daddy, the forces are surrounding me”. He meant the security forces. That was all he said. Then there was silence – just the last unfinished text.

I immediately rushed to the scene, but was blocked by Navy guards who wouldn’t let me through. I heard voices crying in Tamil, “Help us! Help Us!”, but I couldn’t see properly as the lights had been deliberately switched off where my son had been sitting near the Gandhi statue. Then I heard gunshots and lights going off near the statue.

As I am a doctor who had treated the Navy, I was able to gain access to the mortuary. I wanted to know if one of the bodies was that of my son. When I entered, the first body I saw was my beloved Ragihar. He had five bullet wounds. While I was there, a policeman wanted me to sign a statement that my son was a Tamil Tiger. If I agreed, they would release his body immediately. I refused. My son was a caring person. Ragihar was a good student, a table tennis and chess champion and a coach.

The government claimed that my son had been killed in a grenade attack. But three of the bodies I saw in the mortuary had head wounds that showed they had been shot in the back of the head. I have photos and the doctor’s report confirms this. The entry wound was small and the exit wound was large, indicating that the boys were shot at close range. They were executed – five young men whose whole lives lay ahead of them. That evening, I made a decision. I would call on the authorities to tell the truth. I had seen Sri Lanka’s Special Task Forces near the crime scene and wanted them to be investigated.

From the moment I spoke out, I received death threats. My other sons were also threatened. The journalist Sugirdharajan, who came with me to the mortuary to take photos, was shot dead a few weeks later. His photos disproved the army’s claim that the students had been killed in an explosion. A Buddhist priest who condemned the killing of Ragihar was also killed. It was simply too dangerous for me and my family to stay in Sri Lanka. With a heavy heart, we left Sri Lanka in December 2006. We lost our friends, our medical practice and our property. But our biggest loss is Ragihar (picture beside).

As a father, it is my duty to search for the truth. I gave video testimony before a commission of enquiry set up by former President Rajapaksa to investigate my case, commonly known as the “Trinco 5” case. Nothing came out of these efforts. The government showed no political will to recognise the role of the security forces. I could not stand idly by and decided to take my quest for the truth to the Human Rights Council in Geneva and urge the UN member states to tell Sri Lanka the truth. The Trinco 5 case was included in the 2015 OISL report on Sri Lanka and is considered an example of impunity or, simply put, state cover-up.

13 years later, the case is still deadlocked. It was tried in a Trinco Magistrate’s Court as a non-summary case, but on 3 July the 13 Special Task Forces suspects were apparently released.


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