Govt. tip toes around carbon dating skeletal remains

Tuesday, 9 April 2013 01:33 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Matale mass grave


By Uditha Jayasinghe

The Government yesterday denied attempting to protect perpetrators of a the Matale mass grave and insisted that a full investigation would be made but stopped short of promising essential forensic evidence such as carbon dating.


Rubbishing claims by the Opposition Defence Ministry media spokesman Lakshman Hulugalle insisted that there was no reason to hide investigations as the present Government was not in power at that time.

“There is a lot of attention because this area was headed by the Defence Secretary at that time. The President has appointed a commission, which will be named very soon but up to now the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) has done their investigations and we have found two or three reasons and so far we can’t say which era this graveyard is from,” he stressed.

Hulugalle said that several people have given evidence showing that the grave could be as old as the 1940s, and there was even documented evidence to show that the location was also used as a cemetery.

He then went into details of findings by the CID, who have been probing the grave since 3 December, that included a testimony given by Matale Municipal Council employee, identified as Jayasena who had noted that the pipeline running above the mass grave had been inspected by him from 1962 to 1985 and as such a grave from 1988 could not be under the pipeline.

According to Hulugalle there is also evidence that people who died from epidemics and landslides could be buried at the same location.    

“There are certain reasons, as I already told you, there have been incidents in 1971, 1947 and also this is a hospital ground and no one can say which era this graveyard is from.”

However, Hulugalle acknowledged that the Government was considering carbon dating the skeletons to pin down a specific date. Since only three countries do carbon dating, Hulugalle noted that this was an expensive venture.

“If the Government feels that it is necessary it will be done, but I will not say that it is essential. We are still waiting on several reports, all of which will be presented to the Matale Magistrate.”  

On Sunday, President Rajapaksa announced plans to appoint an independent commission to probe the mass grave that has so far unearthed skeletal remains belonging to 154 people.

The opposition, however, headed by the United National Party (UNP) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) dismissed the commission as an attempt by the Government to hide the involvement of key members including powerful Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who is the President’s younger brother.

The JVP insists that the dead are supporters of their 1988-89 Marxist revolution that was brutally put down by the then government with the assistance of the military and has called for transparent investigations. 

The judicial medical officer Ajith Jayasena, who has headed the excavations since the mass grave was discovered behind a hospital in the Matale District in December, has told local media that the skeletons date from the 1988-89 period and show signs of torture. He also believes that the mass grave could contain more skeletons.