Lanka police to probe suspicious presence near mass grave

An investigation into the alleged presence of an unidentified group near a mass grave where some 154 skeletons were recovered in Sri Lanka's central province has been ordered.

Police chief N K Ilangakoon had asked the Superintendent in the central town of Matale to investigate the complaint lodged by the opposition JVP over the alleged presence of a group clad in military uniform on Tuesday night near the mass grave, police spokesman Buddika Siriwardena said today.

In a letter to Ilangakoon, JVP leader Somawansa Amarasinghe noted that the JVP Matale District organiser had informed him that a group of 10 individuals in military uniforms had arrived at the mass grave, which dates back to late 1980s.

The Marxist JVP, or People's Liberation Front, suspected a foul play as interested parties may have wanted to tamper with the magisterial inquiry.

Last week, President Mahinda Rajapaksa named a committee to investigate the mass grave.

Presidential sources said three retired judges are to be the part of the presidential probe panel.

Some 154 skeletal remains surfaced in November last year while digging was going on to construct a new building at a hospital in Matale. The skeletons were found buried in neat rows, five or six stacked on top of one another.

Two reports filed in the court following tests done at the grave by archaeologists and judicial medical officers, Matale magistrate's court was told that the grave dates back to 1986-1990.

The JVP believed that the victims were their members who had launched a rebellion in the said period. It had said their members who were tortured and extra-judicially executed had been buried at the site.

The JVP has also accused the government of trying to cover up the human rights abuses by the then United National Party (UNP) government, who is now the main opposition.
The government charged that the JVP which led the rebellion was responsible for murdering both their and UNP members.

Some of the UNP members who are responsible for the mass grave are currently members of the Rajapaksa government, the JVP claimed.

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