‘Secret torture chamber’ at Trinco base: Karannagoda debunks UN claim


by Shamindra Ferdinando

War-time Navy Chief Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda yesterday strongly rebutted accusations that there had been a secret detention facility within the Trincomalee naval base during the eelam war IV.

He said that during the war renegade LTTE cadres had been accommodated at the Trinco facility which some interested parties now wanted to portray as a torture chamber. "We didn’t operate torture chambers at the Trinco base or any other command. There was no requirement to do so."

A substantial number of LTTE dissidents had thrown their weight behind the combined military campaign directed at the LTTE, Karannagoda said, adding that the Navy had no option but to accommodate them in a previously unused building. "We used British-time air raid shelters," the naval veteran said, alleging that a despicable attempt was being made to bring the war winning military into disrepute.

The former navy chief was responding to a statement attributed to the United Nation’s Working Group’s Vice-Chair Bernard Duhaime, Tae-Ung Baik,and Ariel Dulitzky that they had access to Trinco torture chamber. The statement was made at the UN mission in Colombo at the end of a 10-day visit.

Navy headquarters allowed the visit on a government directive.

Responding to a query, the retired Admiral emphasized that members of various Tamil groups had worked closely with the military over the years. In the 80s, they fought alongside the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) against the LTTE, Karannagoda recalled.

Karannagoda said that hundreds of well trained cadres, especially from the Batticaloa-Ampara region had served the military after they deserted the LTTE in April 2004. One-time Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Tokyo said that ex-LTTE cadres also conducted joint operations with the elite Special Boat Squadron (SBS) against the LTTE in the wake of the then government ordering air strikes on Sampur.

Karannagoda insisted that the rehabilitation and reintegration of nearly 12,000 LTTE cadres to the society at the end of the war proved the sincerity of the government as well as the military. The former diplomat said that no less person than one-time Attorney General Tilak Marapana had reminded the country the way interested parties jeopardised a major intelligence operation in early 2002.

Karannagoda said that the visiting UN team was probably not aware how the war time UN mission in Colombo had secretly negotiated with the LTTE to secure the release of Tamil speaking local UN employees detained by the LTTE. They had earned the wrath of the LTTE by helping some Tamils to escape the LTTE-held Vanni to secure refuge in the government-held area in early 2007, Karannagoda said.

Karannagoda alleged that the ridiculous allegation directed at the navy was obviously part of their strategy to hold the country responsible for alleged atrocities committed during the war. The retired officer expressed disappointment that some had conveniently forgotten the sacrifices made by the military to bring the LTTE to its knees.

Karannagoda said that many of those who had been categorised as missing were living overseas. The recent Paris massacre revealed how borders could be accessed using various travel documents and exploiting ground situation. The country was being punished for eradicating terrorism, a disgusted Karannagoda said, whatever the propaganda the vast majority of Tamil speaking people were free to move on with their lives since May 2009.

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