1984 Mannar massacre

4 09 2009

Location Mannar, Sri Lanka Date December 4 1984 (+6 GMT) Attack type Shooting Weapon(s) Guns Death(s) 107 – 150 Injured Unknown Perpetrator(s) Sri Lankan Army

The 1984 Mannar massacre was the killing of between 107 and 150 minority Sri Lankan Tamils civilians by Sri Lankan Army soldiers in the town of Mannar, north-western Sri Lanka, on December 4, 1984.[1] The attack was triggered when three Army jeeps hit a land mine, killing one soldier. In retaliation, landmarks such as the Central hospital, the post office, a Roman Catholic convent as well as villagers working in rice paddy fields and bus passengers were attacked. Villages around Mannar town such as Murunkan and Parappankadal were also attacked. Immediately after the incident, the then Sri Lankan President J. R. Jayawardene appointed a Presidential commission of inquiry. A local Roman Catholic priest, Mary Bastian who was a member Presidential commission was later killed on January 1985. A Methodist minister George Jeyarajasingham, who was a witness to the incident, was also killed in December 1984.[2][3]

Background information

During the British colonial period, when Sri Lanka was known as Ceylon, most (roughly 60%) civil service jobs were held by the minority Sri Lankan Tamils who constituted approximately 15% of the population. This was a result of the Western education provided by American missionaries and others in the Tamil dominated Jaffna peninsula. In order to win support amongst the majority Sinhalese people populist politicians initiated measures aimed at correcting the over representation of Tamils in the civil service. These measures, as well as riots and pogroms that targeted the Sri Lankan Tamils, led to the formation of a number of rebel groups advocating independence for Sri Lankan Tamils. Following the 1983 Black July pogrom full scale civil war erupted between the government and the rebel groups.[4]

The incident

On December 4, 1984 three Sri Lankan Army jeeps hit a land mine, killing one soldier and wounding eleven others. In retaliation, about thirty (30) soldiers went on a rampage, attacking public buildings and civilians in and around Mannar.

The soldiers attacked the central hospital; stopped vehicles and shot and killed the occupants; shot 15 employees of the post office by lining them up and shooting them, killing eight; opened fire on peasants in fields; and attacked a convent, stripping the nuns of watches, gold crucifixes and chains. Another group of soldiers stopped a bus and shot all the male passengers. A bus travelling in the opposite direction was also stopped and twenty of its passengers were shot dead. Off the main road, an army jeep drove into the village of Parappankadal. The soldiers fired indiscriminately, killing 12 of people including a mother nursing her infant child. The child survived but three of its toes were blown away by the bullet that killed its mother. Murunkan was another village affected the incident.

By the end, up to 150 people had been killed; another 20 were missing, mostly young male Tamils taken to army camps. It took three days to transport all the bodies.[5][6]


The then Sri Lankan President J.R. Jayawardene instituted a Presidential commission to investigate the incident. Although many locals were reluctant to participate in the investigation, Mary Bastian, a Roman Catholic priest, participated in the investigation.

Rev Jeyarajasingham, a Methodist priest, was another the focal point of Human Rights activism on behalf of the local people [7][8] He was also the local contact for the Sri Lankan government appointed presidential committee to investigate Human Rights violations in the Mannar district. [7] [8] Rev. Jeyarajasingham was shot dead on December 13, 1984 when he was travelling in his vehicle. Later his body was burnt along with his vehicle. Rev Fr Mary Bastian collected the remains of victims including Rev Jeyarajasingham and handed them to the Jeevothayam Methodist Centre. [8][7][9][8][10][11][12][13][14][15] Rev Fr Mary Bastian was himself killed on January 6,1985 allegedly by the military.[9][16][17][18][7]


  1. ^ Brown (edit), Cynthia (1995). Playing the “Communal Card”: Communal Violence and Human Rights. Human Rights Watch. ISBN 1-5643-2152-5. p. 91
  2. ^ Hoole, Ranjan (2001). Sri Lanka: The Arrogance of Power : Myths, Decadence & Murder. University Teachers for Human Rights. ISBN 9-5594-4704-1. p. 327
  3. ^ Marks, Thomas (1996). Maoist Insurgency Since Vietnam. Routledge. ISBN 9-7146-4606-71. p. 231
  4. ^ Tamil Alienation” (html). Russell R. Ross. http://countrystudies.us/sri-lanka/71.htm. Retrieved 2008-05-08.
  5. ^ Tamils hit by scorched-earth blitz, Sunday Times, London, 27 January 1985” (html). Anne Weaver. http://pact.lk/2008/03/23/4-december-1984/. Retrieved 2008-05-08.
  6. ^ Michael Hamlyn reporting in the London Times, 18 February 1985” (html). Michael Hamlyn. http://pact.lk/2008/03/23/4-december-1984/. Retrieved 2008-05-08.
  7. ^ a b c d Speaking truth to power:the human rights situation in Sri Lanka“. Paxchristi. http://storage.paxchristi.net/AP29E97.pdf#search=%22Fr.%20Mary%20Bastian%20%22. Retrieved 2006-03-26.
  8. ^ a b c d Chapter 32: Limbo between war and peace“. Asiantimes. http://www.atimes.com/ind-pak/DC23Df05.html. Retrieved 2006-03-26.
  9. ^ a b Note to the incident at St. Patrick‚Äôs:“. UTHR. http://www.uthr.org/Reports/Report1/Chapter1.htm#_Toc517801526. Retrieved 2006-03-26.
  10. ^ Frerks, George; Bart Klem (2004). Dealing with diversity: Sri Lankan Discourses on Peace and Conflict. Netherlands Institute of International Relations. ISBN 9-0503-1091-5. p.118
  11. ^ Humphrey, Hawksley (February 22, 1986). “Massacre in Akkaraipattu“. The Guardian. http://www.tamilnation.org/indictment/indict041.htm.
  12. ^ Lawrence, Patricia (2001). The Ocean of Stories ; Children’s Imagination, Creativity, and Reconciliation in Eastern Sri Lanka. International Centre for Ethnic Studies. ISBN 9-5558-0076-6. p.40
  13. ^ McDermott (edit), Rachel Fell (2008). Encountering Kali: In the Margins, at the Center, in the West. University of California Press. ISBN 0-5202-3240-2. p.121
  14. ^ Hoole, Ranjan (2001). Sri Lanka: The Arrogance of Power : Myths, Decadence & Murder. University Teachers for Human Rights. ISBN 9-5594-4704-1. p. 327
  15. ^ Caron, Cynthia (March 15-21, 2003). “Floundering Peace Process: Need to Widen Participation“. Economic and Political Weekly (Economic and Political weekly) 38 (11): 1029-1031. http://www.jstor.org/pss/4413336. Retrieved 2009-1-26.
  16. ^ Mannar human rights activist Fr Mary Bastian remembered“. Tamilnet. http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=10878. Retrieved 2006-03-26.
  17. ^ Brown(edit), Cynthia (1995). Playing the “Communal Card”: Communal Violence and Human Rights. Human rights Watch. ISBN 1-5643-2152-5. p.91
  18. ^ Marks, Thomas (1996). Maoist Insurgency Since Vietnam. Routledge. ISBN 0-7146-4606-7. p.197