1990 massacre of Sri Lankan Police officers

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1990 massacre of Sri Lankan Police officers
Part of the Sri Lankan Civil War
LocationEastern Province, Sri Lanka
Date11 June 1990
TargetUnarmed Sri Lanka Police officers who had surrendered
Attack type
Armed massacre
Deaths600–774 police officers
10 soldiers

A mass murder of Police officers took place on 11 June 1990. Members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a militant organization, are alleged to have killed over 600[1] unarmed Sri Lanka Police officers in Eastern Province, Sri Lanka. Some accounts have estimated the number killed as high as 774.[2] It was the deadliest terrorist incident in the world at the time until the September 11 attacks occurred in 2001.


Indian intervention[edit]

According to the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord, the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) arrived in Sri Lanka in July 1987. Their presence in the country was not very popular among the Sri Lankan public and the politicians. In January 1989, President Ranasinghe Premadasa's government was elected. President Premadasa's initial intention was to work out a peace plan with the LTTE, which was waging a bloody separatist campaign in the country's north and east. Premadasa too was unhappy with the Indian presence in Sri Lanka.[3] In June 1989, he entered into a ceasefire agreement with the LTTE. In an attempt to win over its leadership, Premadasa transferred a large quantity of weapons to the organization (at their request), to fight against the IPKF. And in late 1989, Premadasa asked the IPKF to depart, due to the adverse public opinion. Indian Prime Minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh consented and withdrew his force.

Breakdown of peace talks[edit]

Meanwhile, a Sri Lankan government delegation led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdul Cader Shahul Hameed held peace talks with the LTTE. Although the talks seemed successful at the initial stages, no agreement was made on critical issues like the dissolution of the Northeast Provincial Council and repealing of the Sixth Amendment to the constitution. LTTE chief political strategist and chief negotiator Anton Balasingham threatened the government, stating that "this is the last chance we give you. If you fail, we are prepared to wage war". The situation worsened after Sri Lankan Minister of Defence Ranjan Wijeratne asked the LTTE to lay down arms. LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran refused and hostilities between the government and the LTTE began to increase.

Preceding events[edit]

During this time, the Army was confined to the military camps. No action was taken against any of the LTTE activities for fear that peace talks would break down. But tension began to escalate by late May 1990. The army found that LTTE had constructed bunkers, dug trenches, and implemented other defense measures closer to the camps. But the Defense Ministry had instructed the Army to keep mute.[dubious ]

Thandikulam incident[edit]

On 7 June 1990, a vehicle carrying Army personnel from Vavuniya to Mullaitivu was fired at by the LTTE. One soldier died and nine were injured. But the Defense Ministry instructed to take no action.[dubious ]


On 11 June 1990, at about 6:00 a.m., LTTE surrounded the Batticaloa police station and abducted 3 policemen. About an hour later, around 250 armed LTTE cadres occupied the police station. Then the Sinhalese police officers along with their families were sent to the airport. Tamil Police officers were taken to the St Mary's Church, with their families. The acting officer-in-charge and four other policemen were detained. LTTE also removed Rs. 45 million in cash, gold jewellery, 109 T 56 rifles; 77 T 84S rifles; 28 light machine guns; 29 self-loading rifles; 65 submachine guns; 78 .303 rifles and 78 SAR 80 guns from the police station.

LTTE ordered all police stations in Eastern Province to be vacated by 2:30 p.m. or face the consequences. The inspector general of Police, Ernest Perera, also instructed the police officers to surrender, at the request of President Ranasinghe Premadasa.[1][4] Police officers laid down their arms after being promised safe conduct and subsequent release.

Then the Sinhalese officers were sent to the Army or Air Force camps while Tamil officers were accommodated at schools. Meanwhile, the LTTE abducted 899 officers. About 125 were able to escape. Prisoners were taken to the Vinayagapuram and Trincomalee jungles.[5] Once they had arrived, the LTTE cadres lined up the officers, tied their hands behind their backs and shot them dead. In all, 600 to 774 police officers died.[2]

But not all the officers complied at once. ASP Ivan Boteju, who was the OIC of Kalmunai police station, refused to surrender and kept on fighting with the LTTE from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. He protested insisting that they "would be tortured if not killed [if they surrendered]". Within that period, he repeatedly requested air support and artillery support but was denied. At about 5:20 p.m. the IGP personally contacted Boteju, ordered them to cease firing and surrender. When they had laid down their arms, LTTE took over and all communications with the Colombo Police headquarters were lost. Then the LTTE cadres took them to the Tirukkovil jungles and executed them.[6]

In Kalmunai, LTTE also fired at an Army convoy, killing ten Army soldiers. It was reported that 324 police officers who died were Sinhalese and Muslim. All of them were taken to the Tirukovil jungles by the LTTE and shot. It was later found out that these police officers were massacred using the weapons that R. Premadasa had clandestinely given the LTTE.


Sri Lanka's chief peace negotiator Minister Shahul Hameed's attempts to rescue the officers in detention went in vain. This massacre officially put an end to the ceasefire between the government and the LTTE. On 18 June 1990, the Minister of Defence Ranjan Wijeratne announced from the floor of the parliament, "From now on, it is all out war and no half ways".[7] It was the start of the Eelam War II.[8] As a result of the LTTE attacks, the Army had to abandon camps including Kokavil, Mankulam, Killinochchi, Kondachchi and Silavathurai. This, together with the abandonment of Police stations, resulted in a huge loss of territory to the government. LTTE had also managed to cut off the land route to Jaffna Peninsula. LTTE was in charge of most of the area in North and Eastern provinces by July 1990.[3] Before this incident, LTTE had no conventional fighting capabilities. During Eelam War I, LTTE was merely a guerilla outfit.[7]

At the time of this massacre, LTTE's peace delegation comprising Jude – an LTTE communication specialist – and two military wing cadres were at Hilton Colombo. Then they were moved to a military camp at Kalutara, under heavy security of Special Task Force. They were returned to the LTTE a few days later without any harm. According to Major General Sarath Munasinghe's book A Soldiers Version, the LTTE radio operator [Jude] had a message from Prabhakaran: "Whatever happens, ensure that the money offered is brought with you".[7]

The massacre provoked revenge riots in the Gal Oya valley, instigated by policemen. 26 Tamils were killed by Sinhalese mobs.[9]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Gunaratna, Rohan. (1998). Sri Lanka's Ethnic Crisis and National Security, Colombo: South Asian Network on Conflict Research. ISBN 955-8093-00-9
  • Gunaratna, Rohan. (1 October 1987). War and Peace in Sri Lanka: With a Post-Accord Report From Jaffna, Sri Lanka: Institute of Fundamental Studies. ISBN 955-8093-00-9
  • Munasinghe, Sarath. (2000). A soldier's version, Sri Lanka: Market Information Systems. ISBN 955-97130-0-0
  • Seneviratne, Tassie. (2011). Human Rights & Policing – Reminiscences of My Police Days
  • Gunasekara, S.L. (4 November 2003). The Wages of Sin, ISBN 955-8552-01-1
  • Gunasekara, S.L. (1996). Tigers moderates and pandora's package, Sri Lanka Freedom Party. ISBN 955-8552-01-1
  • Senanayake, P.M. (2010). "Sri Lanka- The War Fuelled by 'Peace'"


  1. ^ a b "Recalling the saddest day in Lankan Police history". Lanka Newspapers. 2011. Archived from the original on 15 June 2011. Retrieved 12 June 2011.
  2. ^ a b "Killing of 774 policemen". Rivira. 2011. Archived from the original on 15 June 2011. Retrieved 12 June 2011.
  3. ^ a b Rajasingham, K. T. (2002). "Sri Lanka: The Untold Story, Chapter 44: Eelam war – again". Asia Times. Archived from the original on 17 September 2002. Retrieved 13 June 2011.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  4. ^ Staff (2011). "There are 600 plus (murdered) Police officers inside the one you see today". Daily News. Archived from the original on 16 June 2011. Retrieved 14 June 2011.
  5. ^ "June: The War Begins". UTHR. UTHR. 2001. Archived from the original on 12 November 2007. Retrieved 7 November 2007.
  6. ^ Seneviratne, SSP Tassie (2011). "'The Saddest Day in Police History'". Sunday Observer. Archived from the original on 15 June 2011. Retrieved 14 June 2011.
  7. ^ a b c "Sri Lanka: The Untold Story, Chapter 44: Eelam war – again". Lanka Newspapers. 2011. Archived from the original on 17 September 2002. Retrieved 12 June 2011.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  8. ^ Staff (2011). "Police honour slain comrades of 1990 massacre". Sunday Times. Archived from the original on 13 June 2011. Retrieved 14 June 2011.
  9. ^ "The East: Report from the Times of London JP Pogrom 1 by James Pringle". uthr.org. UTHR-J. Retrieved 8 August 2019.

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