Sri Lanka Navy accused of behaving like 'cannibals'

Fishermen plying their trade off the coast of Kiranchi, in the Kilinochchi District have accused Sri Lanka Navy personnel of cannibalistic behaviour and unprovoked assault. The fishermen said they had initially refrained from complaining to the authorities fearing repercussions, although a statement was made when information reached the local police after one of them was treated in a government hospital for injuries.

Fisherman P. G. Julian, his brother and friend had completed routine registration at the navy camp around 4.00 p.m. on Tuesday 7 April before putting out to sea. Although the Sri Lanka government has imposed curfews in the country to contain the spread of the Coronavirus, fishing is permitted as an essential service.

According to Julian, they were fishing near the navy harbour as usual, when around 7.00 p.m. a light had been flashed in their direction from a navy boat. This was not unusual, but then the boat had come towards them at high speed. Navy personnel on board without making any inquiries had assaulted them and held them under the water.

Drunk and naked

In his statement Julian says, “One (of us) was bitten, I was hit on the head, our clothes were torn, our fishing gear plucked from our hand and thrown away. We were assaulted with our own gear. They behaved like cannibals.”

The statement goes on to say all the attackers were drunk and some stripped naked. They had stopped assaulting the fishermen only when Julian had shown his bleeding head injury. The navy personnel had then taken the injured to the navy camp. At the camp they complained the fishermen had been caught trying to steal the propeller of an Indian fishing trawler anchored in the harbour. The attackers had later downplayed the incident and sent the fishermen home.

“When we inspected our boat there were some things missing. But fearing they would do something to (hurt) us, we did not complain to the police. But in order that what happened to us does not happen to others, we have to find a fitting solution.”


Following the incident, one of the victims was admitted to the Kilinochchi Hospital. Information about the attack reached the Jeyapuram police through the hospital and the police have begun inquiries.

Camps and other installations belonging to the navy dot the coastline of Sri Lanka’s largely Tamil-speaking Northern and Eastern Provinces. 

The provocative behaviour of the navy in this highly militarised environment has been the source of many complaints by Tamil and Muslim fishermen. Fishermen have accused navy personnel attacking them, destroying their catch and using the official requirement of registering with the navy before fishermen are permitted to go to sea, to intimidate and harass them.



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  • JDS is the Sri Lankan partner organization of international media rights group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The launching of this website was made possible by the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), of which Reporters Without Borders is a beneficiary.