Remembering 1985 A’pura massacre victims

All Sri Lankans should be grateful to S. B .Galgamuwa for recalling our attention to the horrible killings in 1985 at the Anuradhapura bus stand, the "Sacred Bo Maluwa" and at the Wilpattu National Park by the LTTE.

On May 14 next year (2010), it will be 25 years since the horrendous crime was committed, when two dozen LTTE terrorists massacred 120 civilians at the bus stand in Anuradhapura and bikkhus and devotees at the "Sacred Bo-Tree".

They then fled into the Wilpattu National Park where they killed another 19 innocent people.

This event does indeed deserve a monument or a plaque at Anuradhapura as suggested in Mr Galgamuwa's letter of November 20, 2009.

I wish to point out that an inscribed stone tablet commemorating the horrible incident was first erected in the Wilpattu National Park bungalow at Talawila.

This park bungalow had been reconstructed at his own cost by Mr Thilo Hoffmann in memory of his late wife Mae Hoffmann and was declared open by the then Environment and Natural Resources Minister, A H M Fowzie. The inscribed text is as follows:

"On May 14, 1985, an LTTE group from Mannar killed 120 civilians at Anuradhapura and then 19 at Wilpattu National Park including several Department of Wild Life Conservation staff. That day, the only visitors in the Park were Mae and Thilo Hoffman at Talawila Bungalow.

The previous day, an LTTE group had come by boat to Karawelakuda. There Thilo Hoffmann had seen and photographed them. That night they had driven in a hijacked bus from Elavankulam via Puttalam to Anuradhapura.

Retreating through the park, they left the shore at Pookulam in the boats which had brought them.

Around noon, the news of their first massacre and their entry into Wilpattu came to Talawila by radio. The bungalow staff and some park workers pleaded with the Hoffmanns to flee southward with them. The party, after a drive over mostly uncleared tracks, left the park by nightfall through Makalanmaduwa and Aliyawadiya from where the staff had fled. There was now a curfew in the district and the party was given shelter at Kala Oya. Early next morning, Thilo Hoffmann drove back to the Park to retrieve a camera.

He was present when the Army detachment found 12 bodies near Maradanmaduwa.

The park was abandoned a few years later. The Talawila Bungalow was destroyed by vandals.

In 2003, warden Wasantha Pushpanada began to redevelop the park.

The Talawila complex was fully rebuilt by Thilo Hoffmann in 2005.

This carved stone tablet should be carefully preserved and it is the responsibility of the Department of Wild Life Conservation to safeguard this historical record for future generations.

The park warden, the late Wasantha Pushpadana, put up a tablet at the Hunuwilagama Park entrance in remembrance of the staff and workers who were killed on this same day by the LTTE.

Pushpananda himself was later killed in 2007 and since then the park remains closed to the public.

G. Fernando

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