Anthonipillai a.k.a Azhagiri (65 years)
‘‘I need to mention here about Manikathasan a PLOTE member who I came to know from the time in Elephant Pass. I am grateful to him that I am here today, speaking…[breaks down] the energy he gave us at a time when we thought we were going to die; his response when I asked him jokingly, ‘what are you going to do with this machchan?’, was, ‘before we die we should be able to hurt our enemy even if it were just a scratch that draws blood’ as he sharpened a rusted nail he had brought from outside. Since the four of us were able to stick to our decision to counter-attack, I am alive today!’’
Anthonipillai from Mathakal, Jaffna shared with us his account of the harrowing couple of days inside the Welikada Prison as the prison massacres, a less discussed incident of the 83’ riots took place, seated in a Parisian park on a windy July day. Just before the massacre begun on the eve of July 24, the prison watchers told them not to stand close to the bars, checked the locks and left without really explaining anything. Later they hear about the death of 35 inmates including Kuttimani over the Ceylon Broadcasting Service. Anthonipillai and the other inmates are secretly transferred to cells in a new building during the early hours of July 26. The whole of July 27 they were ensured that nothing could happen to them but they are attacked later that day. Anthonipillai sees the other inmates being attacked but when the group of Sinhalese prisoners reach their cell they fight back. The struggle lasts for about 45 minutes and ends as the army fires tear gas.
He reiterates that until a fact-finding investigation answering questions of how it happened and why it happened is established and implemented, Sri Lanka will not be able to fully reconcile with its past! *
Anthonipillai, who left to London in 1975, to study Automobile Engineering returned later and became a member of Eelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students (EROS). In May 1982 he was arrested by the army and was transferred to army camps in Kurunagar, Elephant Pass and Panagoda for several months and in the end to Welikada with other political prisoners. He fled from Sri Lanka after breaking out of prison in Batticaloa, in September 1983.
*Not included in this photo-montage due to time limitations
P. Vijayashanthan – Concept, Photography & Editing
Tanuja Thurairajah – Concept and Text Summaries