More expert reports to finalise dating of Sri Lanka’s largest mass grave

By Kithsiri Wijesinghe

Sri Lankan authorities trying to determine the age of human remains from the country’s largest mass grave are to consult several expert reports after a US laboratory had identified a few bone samples to be dating back to the 15th century.

Florida based Beta Analytic Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory had found that six bone samples from the Mannar Sathosa mass grave belong to the period from 1499 - 1719 AD.

Mannar Magistrate T Saravanarajah who had not made a ruling on the dates, ordered the test results to be made public.

The state sponsored Office on Missing Persons (OMP) is providing financially assistance for the investigations.

“In order to decide on its future course of action the OMP will await the orders of the Mannar Magistrate,” said the OMP.

Court had ordered to suspend further excavations until the way forward is agreed upon by all interested parties.

More tests

Experts involved with the investigations as well as lawyers representing families of the disappeared have expressed caution on the age of the mass grave based on a single report alone.

The forensic scientist in charge of the excavations says that several other reports are also to be taken into consideration.

“Some of the reports have already been handed over to the court, while some are yet to come,” Judicial Medical Officer Saminda Rajapaksa told journalists in Jaffna.

“OMP, archaeologists and lawyers representing the disappeared will be having a discussion analysing the reports within a couple of weeks to decide on the future course of action. Excavating is the initial step. Analysis and investigations come next. After consulting everybody involved the magistrate will give his instructions.”

Soil layers and artefacts

Lawyers Representing the Families of the Disappeared in the Mannar Mass grave have confirmed that several more tests, may also have to be referred to experts for analysis and Report.

“We are also mindful of the enormous interest and attention as regards the excavation of the Mannar Mass grave and we would like to inform all sections of the public and the Media that the Report that has been received is only in respect of one aspect of the mass grave and the analysis and report on the layers of the soil and the artefacts and materials discovered at the site are still due and that any speculations on the entire process based on the available report alone may be premature and be prejudicial to the process that is being carried out under the directions and supervision of the court of Law namely the Magistrate Court of Mannar,” they said.

The statement was issued by Attorneys at law C.Ranitha Gnanarajah, V.S.Niranchan, G.Rajakulendra,  K.S.Ratnavale and Presidents Counsel V.Puvitharan.

More than 300 bodies including 30 of children were found from excavations carried out since May 2018.

Tamils from the war-torn area fear that their loved ones gone missing since the end of the civil war in 2009 would have been buried in the mass grave, which has been identified as a crime scene.☐



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