The MISSING in the War Years: A Cumulative Bibliography as Aide

Michael Roberts

Let me begin with Rajasingham Narendran’s harrowing tale describing the moment when he returned to his home in the Jaffna Peninsula after the IPKF’s imperial occupation of the north in 1987: “My mother: 68-year old at the time of her killing. Slim build. Had been attacked by animals and crows and was in an advanced state of decay. My brother: 38-year old at the time of his death. neither obese or thin. Body intact though bloated. The gardener: Age approx. 60 years. Obese. All flesh had fallen off and the skeleton was clearly visible. A neighbour’s watchman: Age approx. 60 years. medium build. Only thigh bones-femurs and the skull remained. The rest of the body had been consumed or carried away by animals.”

   NARIYA 1 A jackal feeding on a buffalo carcass at Kumana -April 2014–Pic by Roberts missing= Photo by Eranga Jayawardena A Tamil lady in search of a missing kinswoman–Pic by Eranga Jayawardena in Groundviews

This is just one corpus of fact and tale that will have to be evaluated by the unit that is envisaged by the Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms set up by the present government. If one visits the web site where the SCRM seeks submissions from the public, you will be led to “Boxes” where you can present ideas and/or information. The set of Boxes numbered 9 [nine] has this request: “The government has decided to set up An Office of Missing Persons. What measures should the office take to address the issue of the missing?”

Having addressed this highly volatile issue in March 2013 through an essay entitledA Missing Person in Sri Lanka: Heartfelt Issues & Ground Realities” that was placed in several sites[1] and had been disparaged (as per usual) by some bloggers in Groundviews, it is a field in which I can make a contribution.

Needless to say, it is essential for the Presidential Task Force and its new branch office to build up a good bibliography and to pursue every avenue opened up in this manner. So, I lay out my stock of references and ask readers to submit items that I have missed — either via blogs or via email directed to me.

ready for killA Female Tiger (still attired) is picked outPic from Roberts, 2014 …

RAMESH IN CAB WEISSThe capture & execution of Col. Rameshfrom Weiss, 2012RAMESH BODY WEISS

In effect this is going to be a cumulative bibliography in Two Sections, the first encompassing those documents/articles that are directly relevant and the second providing clarifying contextual circumstances. As I understand the topic it also embraces instances of those MISSING as a result of abductions and kidnappings outside the war theatre — whether in the Jaffna Peninsula, Eastern Province or the rest of the country.

On the basis of my previous investigation and my vicarious knowledge of war,[2] I am attentive to the manner in which battle zones generate the soldier category of MIA or “Missing in Action.”[3] So, let me warn the Task Force and readers that this arena of investigation is a veritable minefield. The personnel pursuing this work will have to transcend their office-room background and come to grips not only with the brutalities of battlefield encounter and underground dirty war, but also attend to phenomena that are totally beyond reach, namely, (i) bodies decomposed or devoured beyond recovery; (ii) bodies drowned beyond recovery; and (iii) bodies buried in bunker or deep-hole beyond easy retrieval.

BUNKER A reinforced bunker of the LTTE –pic from Tammita-Delgoda

Picture 062 An improvised foxhole (and residence?) of sorts — If, perchance, a shell hit caused a roof collapse of these types of home-made foxholes or bunkers, then, bodies would be buried–perhaps irretrievably in situations of hastened migration

yatawara 1-17 may z_p08-Entrapped1Pics from Yatawara May 2009

K 127d--yatawara 5- 17 may

c1.1 Tamil refugee BOATS Pic from Frontline

In the first five months of 2009 those Tamils of Thamilīlam who had their fill of the LTTE rule and the latter’s draconian measures to keep the citizenry within a declining space so as to save the liberation project[4] began to seek a way out. A few fled by sea at night with the aid of fishermen. Though the SL Navy attempted to facilitate this process and even placed buoys with flags to guide the boats, one must allow for the possibility that some boats were fired at because the Sea Tigers were operational till mid-May 2009 and sometimes used the fishing boats as decoys or cover for strikes on the SL Navy’s FACs (fast attack craft).[5]

Others may have drowned in the waters of Nandhikadal Lagoon as they struggled across in late April and May 2009. Some of these scenes of frantic effort with the aid of rubber tubes were captured by local reporters (see Yatawara 2009 & Vidusha 2009). It is also possible that some Tiger fighters fell injured or dead into the water-filled ditches that were integral to the LTTE’s berm defence system at moments where their colleagues did not have the capacity to retrieve bodies. The LTTE was normally attentive to their dead and a burial site was even composed on the coastal stretch.[6] But as their resources were stretched and the situation got more desperate these retrievals would have been more difficult. Indeed, one of the facets that the Task Force has to pursue is the retrieval of the LTTE’s records listing its dead during the course of Eelam War IV.

However, the majority of the Tamil civilians who fled between in the first three months of 2009, numbering roughly 60,000, did so at night using the jungle and bush cover. We must allow for the possibility that some were shot at by Tiger fighters or SL Army personnel and that a few died from snake-bites. The Sri Lankan dry zone jungle houses a wide variety of venomous snakes and Anandasangaree has had the nous to indicate that some unfortunate civilians met their fate in this manner.[7] Groups of people fleeing through jungle and bush do not usually stop to carry their dead.

From the oral testimonies he gathered in April 2009[8] Rajasingham Narendran summed up the scenario thus: “it was utter chaos. Many yet living were left for dead. There was no one to help them, unless the armed forces had stepped in…. many talked about stepping over dead bodies and having to leave the sick and injured loved ones behind to their fate. The latter was the most traumatic aspect of their experience. They had to choose between a sick father and a young child or a child and an injured husband. I am sure they are yet tormented by the choice they made, although the choice had to be made for one to survive.”[9]


Can these bodies, or those of Tigers and SL Army personnel not retrieved by their fellow-soldiers, be discovered? Not a chance. Nature deals swiftly with these remains: jackals,[10] monitor lizards, rats, birds and termites are quick to the feast.

The Office of Missing Persons must therefore take note of these processes. However, beyond “nature” there is the problem of “Nurture.” Here “Nurture” point to the actions of those nourished in the arts of propaganda and vengeance; as well as those in grief driven to wailing tale of brutality built on the foundations of rumour rather than fact. For this reason, a reading of Gananath Obeyesekere’s article on “Sorcery, Premeditated Murder and the Canalization of Aggression in Sri Lanka” (Ethnology 1975 and SSC Pamphlet 11, 1993) is vital learning tool. We need discerning personnel manning the office – individuals with the cultural skills to see through the tears of wailing women[11] and grief-laden men in those instances where they are presenting fictional stories.[12] Not easy that.

    ***   ***


 Gunatilleke, Gehan & Nishan de Mel 2012 “Sri Lanka: LLRC Implementation Monitor,” November 2012.

Fernando, Ruki 2012 “Sri Lanka: When one goes missing every five days,”…

ICRC 2009a “ICRC Information [on Evacuees from Conflict Zone, 2009]”

ICRC 2009b “Sri Lanka: ICRC assists thousands of persons in government-run sites for the displaced,”

Kanagasabathypillai, Dushi 2013 “Sons and Daughters missing, missed, forgotten: LLRC’s Failure in Sri Lanka,” Groundviews, March 2013,

Kannangara, Nirmala 2013 “Families of the Disappeared to complain to UNHRC,” Sunday Leader, 15 March 2013.

Kariyakarawana, KK a & D. Yatawara, 2013 “Linking displaced family members in the North,” 11 August 2013,

 [LTTE] 2014 “LTTE War Video recovered by the Government–Revealing Episode,”

Ministry of Defence 2012a “A Factual Analysis of Disappearances and Abductions,”, last modified 26/7/2012

Ministry of Defence 2012b “Analysis of the Disappearances reported by ‘Groundviews’, ” from October 2011 to March 2012 (updated version)” June 2012, 16 pp.

Shanmugarajah, V. 2014 “Dr. Veerakanthipillai Shanmugarajah’s Affidavit Description of Conditions in the Vanni Pocket in Refutation of Channel Four,” 5 January 2014,

Sriyananda, Shanika 2009 “At long last they are free!” Sunday Observer, 17 May 2009.

Sumanthiran, M. A. 2013 “untied in Grief,” Sunday Island, 9 August 2013.

Narendran, Rajasingham 2014 Harsh Ground Realities in War: Decomposing Bodies and Missing Persons and Soldiers,” 28 January 2014,

Reddy, Muralidhar 2009f “Final Hours. An eye-witness account of the last 70 hours of Eelam War IV,” Frontline, 26/12, 6-19 June 2009, 20090619261200900.htm

Roberts, Michael 2012 “The Disappeared in Sri Lanka’s War in the Recent Past: What is missing in those “Missing”? 27 May 2012,

Roberts, Michael 2013 “Pictorial Illustrations of the Mass Exodus from the Last Redoubt, 20-22 April and mid-May 2009: Appendix V for “BBC Blind”,

Thangavelu, Velupillai 2013 “LTTE Cadres Who Surrendered to The Army: Where Are They? Colombo Telegraph, 18 August 2013,

UN Economic & Social Council 1999 “Civil and Political Rights, including Questions of Disappearances and Summary executions,” 21 December 1999.

UNICEF 2011 “Overview of ongoing government efforts to trace and unify missing children in Northern Sri Lanka,” July 2011.

UTHR 2009 Let Them Speak: Truth about Sri Lanka’s Victims of War. Special Report No. 34,

Vidura 2009 “The Great Escapes,” Sunday Leader, 17 May 2009.

Watchdog 2012 “A disappearance every five days in post-war Sri Lanka,” 30 August 2012,

Watchdog 2013 “Police detains families of disappeared from Northern Sri Lanka and prevents peaceful protest and petition to the UN,” 3 July 2013,

Weiss, Gordon 2011 “Sri Lanka faces its ‘Srebrenica moment’,” The Australian, 23 April 2011,

Weerasinghe, C. 20 “Operation Discredit Scuppered,” 24 April 2016,

Wijesinha, Rajiva 2013a “Sri Lanka Rights Watch 84 – Structures to deal with disappearances,”

Wijesinha, Rajiva 2013b “Sri Lanka Rights Watch 96 – Answering allegations intelligently,” 20 March 2013,

Weiss, Gordon 2012 New Evidence — The Death of Colonel Ramesh,” 21 March 2012,

[White Flag] 2014 5 years On: The White Flag Incident,

Yatawara, Dhaneshi 2009 “Entrapped Civilians seek salvation in Force,” Sunday Observer, 17 May 2009,


Bavinck, Ben 2010 Of Tamils and Tigers. A Journey through Sri Lanka’s War Years, Colombo: Vijtiha Yapa Publications for the Rajani Thiranagama Memorial Committee.

Bavinck, Ben 2014 Of Tamils and Tigers. A Journey through Sri Lanka’s War Years, Part II, Colombo: Vijtiha Yapa Publications for the Rajani Thiranagama Memorial Committee.

Carment, David & Yiagadeesen Samy 2013 “Dangerous game of ‘diaspora politics’ is here to stay,” 17 May 2013,

De Silva-Ranasinghe, Sergei 2010b “Information Warfare and the Endgame of the Civil War,” Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter, May 2010 30/4: 35-37.

Harshula 2011a “When allegations becomes evidence,” 6 June 2011,

Harshula 2011b “Channel 4 ‘Killing Fields’: Journalism, Advocacy or Propaganda?” 13 Sept. 2011,

Harshula 2011c “Australia’s Tamil Eelam Lobby and CHOGM,” 2011/11/03/australia%e2%80%99s-tamil-eelam-lobby-and-chogm/

Hewavitharana, Siri 2011b “Channel-4 video a ‘fake’, concludes video forensic analyst,”

Hewavitharana, Siri 2011c “UN misled on Channel 4 video,” 6 August 2010,

IDAG [i.e. Citizen Silva] 2013 “The Numbers Game: Politics of Retributive Justice,” OR, Simon 2011 “Simon Jenkins pulverized Miliband’s assinine foreign interventions in 2009,”

Jeyaraj, D. B. S. 2009a “Wretched of the Wanni Earth break Free of Bondage,” and Daily Mirror, 25 April 2009.

 LLRC n. d. “A List of Commissions of Inquiry and Committees Appointed by the Government of Sri Lanka (2006 – 2012).”

Mango 2011 “Jim Macdonald of AI boxed into corner by Mango in 2009,” 10 August 2011,

Noble, Kath  2013 “Numbers Game reviewed by Kath Noble: The full monty,” 14 July 2013,

Padraig Colman 2011 Evaluating the ‘Churnalism’ from Channel 4 and the Moon Panel,” 17 August 2011,

Prasad, Kanchan 2011a “Indian Reporter Pics at NFZ-14-to-18 May 2009,”

Prasad, Kanchan 2011b “Mullivaikkal Hospital in NFZ Last Redoubt,” in

Prasad, Kanchan 2011c “Two Indian Reporters’ Post-War Pictures at the LTTE’s Last Redoubt, May 14-19, 2009,” ed. by Roberts, June 2011,

Rajasingham, Narendran 2009 “Rise and Fall of the LTTE — An Overview,” Sri Lanka Guardian, 7 Feb. 2009,

Reddy, B. Muralidhar 2009d “An Escape from Hellhole,” 2009/04/25/stories/2009042558390100.html.

Reddy, Muralidhar 2009e “Final Assault. A first-hand account of the war and the civilians’ plight as Eelam War almost comes to a close,” Frontline, 26/11, May 23-June 5, 2009,

Reddy, Muralidhar 2009g “Multiple Displacements, Total Loss of Identity.” The Hindu, 27 May 2009,

Michael Roberts 2011 “A Think-Piece drafted in May 2011,” 23 July 2011,

Michael Roberts 2011 “People of Righteousness target Sri Lanka,” 27 June 2011,

Michael Roberts 2011 Reading “devastation”: Botham, CMJ, Ban Ki-Moon,” 10 June 2011 D-botham-cmj-ban-ki-moon/

Michael Roberts “Amnesty International reveals its Flawed Tunnel-Vision in Sri Lanka in 2009,” 10 Aug. 2011,

Michael Roberts 2011 “Incorrigible Watch-Dogs of the Human Rights World,” 30 November 2011,

Michael Roberts 2011 “The Tamil Death Toll in early 2009: Challenging Rohan Gunaratna,” 1 December 2011, -tamil-death-toll-in-early-2009-challenging-rohan-gunaratna/ and

Michael Roberts 2012 “The Torture Scene in ‘Killing Fields’ and Gordon Weiss,” 9 January 2012,

Michael Roberts 2012Misreading and Distorting the Sri Lankan War, 2009-2012,” 25 May 2012,

Roberts, M. 2014 Tamil Person and State. Essays, Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publishers.

Roberts, M. 2014 Tamil Person and State. Pictorial, Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publishers

Roberts, M. 2014a “Dedicated Medical Work Amidst the Heat of War, Death and Propaganda: In the Vanni Pocket, 2009,”

Roberts, M. 2014b “Generating Calamity, 2008-2014: An Overview of Tamil Nationalist Operations and Their Marvels,” 10 April 2014,

Sri Lanka Media Watch 2011 “Appalling Journalism. Jon Snow and Channel 4 News on Sri Lanka,” November 2011,

Senaratne, Kalana 2011 “Killing Fields: Problems and Prospects, “The Island, 24 June 2011 [also in].

Sri Lanka Government 2013 “The Last Phase,” video film,

Sri Lanka Media Watch 2011 “Appalling Journalism. Jon Snow and Channel 4 News on Sri Lanka,” November 2011,

Sri Lanka Media Watch 2012 “An Unreliable Witness. Gordon Weiss, The Cage and Sri Lanka,” view=article&id=745%3Aan-unreliable-witness-gordon-weiss-the-cage-and-sri-lanka-&catid=100%3Aheadlines&Itemid=313&lang=en.

Swami, Praveen 2013 “From Sri Lanka – questions about wars,” November 2013,

Tammita-Delgoda, S. 2009 “Sri Lanka: The Last Phase in Eelam War IV. From Chundikulam to Pudukulam,” New Delhi: Centre for Land Warfare, Manekshaw Paper No. 13,

Times 2011 TIMES Aerial Images, NFZ Last Redoubt, 23 May 2009,” photos/thuppahi/sets/72157626922360092/

You Tube Power Point 2011a “Technical Analysis of Channel 4 Killing Fields,”

You Tube Power Point 2011b “British Channel 4 TV Allegations manipulating the Medium,” 2011/06/13/Channel-4-video-a-fake-concludes-video-forensic-analyst.aspx

Weiss, Gordon 2011b The Cage, Sydney: Picador.

Weiss, Gordon 2011 “Sri Lanka faces its ‘Srebrenica moment’,” The Australian, 23 April 2011,

    ***   ***


[1] Colombo Telegraph, Thuppahi and Groundviews.

[2] It so happens that as a teenager I lapped up the detailed descriptions and pictures re World War Two within the pages of the London Illustrated News at the library in St. Aloysius College, devoured lots of war novels and avidly watched war films.

[3] During Eelam War III the security forces of the Government of Sri Lanka recorded the MIA as 2718 and the KIA, or “Killed in Action”, as 9448 so that the former was roughly 26 per cent of the dead. In time, of course the MIA is merged with the KIA as deceased. The proportions of MIA to KIA were much less during Eelam War IV because the SL Army did not receive the battering that they ‘achieved under General Ratwatte and Company.

[4] As I have contended in several articles –beginning with   – the LTTE’s grand strategy I from mid-2008 was to generate a picture of “an impending humanitarian catastrophe” so as to spark an international intervention. So the Tamil people were more than just hostages and labour pool. They were an escape hatch. See Roberts, “Generating Calamity,” 2014 and the further clarifications in my more recent work “Saving Talaivar Pirapaharan.”

[5] The SL Navy lost 4 FAC’s and 6 smaller craft during the last few months – incurring a loss of some 80 to 100 men (information from a kinsman of a senior naval officer). This is an aspect of the war that has not been adequately researched.

[6] This site was pinpointed by satellite photography and some sources even counted the number of grave [a count that did not and does not sustain the bloated guesswork figures referred to by the UNPoE Report]. Also see Times Aerial Images, NFZ Last Redoubt, 23 May 2009,” photos/thuppahi/sets/72157626922360092/

[7] In De Silva-Ranasinghe 2010 “Information Warfare and the Endgame of the Civil War,” Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter, May 2010, 30/4: 35-37. It would be pertinent tosee if any of the UTHR accounts based on oral testimony picked up this facet of the tales coming out of the crisis.

[8] Rajasingham Narendran met several IDPs in the refugee camps in April in association with a Tamil migrant group and then again visited IDPs at Mänik Farm and elsewhere in June July 2009.

[9] R. Narendran to Roberts, email, Nov 22 Nov, 2011, commenting on the first draft of my article “The Tamil death toll in early 2009: challenging Rohan Gunaratna’” (2011).

[10] When driving along a deserted stretch of road beyond Elephant Pass on my way to Jaffna in a hire van in mid-2010 I spotted two jackals crossing the road from west to east. The mental picture is indelible in mind still.

[11] Note this tale relating to the 1970s when imports were severely restricted in Lanka. One of our good Kiwi friends in Sri Lanka in the 1970s told us that when she went to Customs to pick up parcels and were told they would be confiscated or released on payment of a stiff fine, she burst into tears. The Custom men invariably relented. Again in certain localities such as Negombo there are females who serve as professional “criers” at funerals.

[12] I am guided, here, by the indirect significance of [vicious] rumour and gossip in promoting the pogroms against the Moors in 1915 and similar practices in the mini-pogroms directed at Tamils in 1958 and 1977 and the major pogrom in 1983




Filed under accountability, american imperialism, gordon weiss, governance, historical interpretation, Indian Ocean politics, legal issues, life stories, LTTE, military strategy, news fabrication, patriotism, performance, politIcal discourse, power politics, Rajapaksa regime, security, self-reflexivity, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, slanted reportage, Tamil civilians, Tamil Tiger fighters, the imaginary and the real, truth as casualty of war, UN reports, war crimes, war reportage, women in ethnic conflcits, world events & processes

4 responses to “The MISSING in the War Years: A Cumulative Bibliography as Aide

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