The initial process of determining the age of the individuals whose skeletons were exhumed from the Kokkuthoduvai mass grave site has already begun, says the Judicial Medical Officer (JMO) in charge of the excavation.
JMO of Mullaitivu Kanagasabapathy Vasudeva while briefing media persons at the local press club said the age of the skeletons would be decided based on the examination of their teeth.
“Currently the recovered skeletal remains are kept safe at the mortuary in the district hospital. As the first step, we have decided to X-ray the teeth to estimate their age. Also, we have sought the support of a professor of dentistry at Peradeniya University. In the future, after the X-rays are done, when they come and directly examine the skeletal remains, we will also be present and attend to subjects related to us, ” she said.
The Mullaitivu court on Monday (30) decided to resume the exhumation process at the Kokkuthoduvai mass grave site from the 20th of November. The JMO told the press a balance of approximately 2.5 million LKR is currently available according to the chief accountant of the district, which would be sufficient for two weeks of work.
Adding further JMO Vasudeva said, all the skeletal remains exhumed and kept in the mortuary so far will be examined and then the results would be made known. “As regards the results, small works including X-raying of the exhumed skeletons have already been done. We will fully exhume all the skeletons in the mass grave. It has been decided that the investigations will be then done and the results announced. If we publish the findings at the beginning issues may arise. The families of the victims of enforced disappearances and their lawyers have demanded complete excavation be done first before examining exhumed skeletons and the report being prepared”.
The excavation process was temporarily suspended on the 15th of September. Forensic archaeologist Prof. Raj Somadeva who was at the forefront of the investigations suggested that the exhumation could be stopped temporarily to examine the available pieces of evidence.
“The activity is suspended for two months to examine the available pieces of evidence. Action has been taken to analyze the body parts and other materials found during the first stage of excavation and present the facts to the Mullaitivu Magistrate Court. Then the court will decide whether to proceed with further excavation and investigations or not and we will wait for that decision”.
When the Mullaitivu Kokkuthoduvai mass grave site exhumation recommenced after a brief initial process, 17 skeletons of suspected LTTE cadres were exhumed in nine days. Evidence including clothing and undergarments worn by women pointed to the possibility of those skeletons belonging to the women cadre of the Tamil Tigers.
The mass grave site was accidentally discovered while municipal workers were laying pipelines for water supply along a 200m distance from the Kokkuthoduvai Mahavidyalayam-Kokkilai road. While digging for laying such pipes on the 29th of June body parts and pieces of clothing were found leading to a full-fledged excavation.
The now suspended process is expected to begin on the 20th of November and the place is now under protection with CCTV cameras installed.
JMO Vasudeva also said media persons will be permitted thrice a day during the excavation days.
“As regards permission for the media, like the last time they will be permitted to come inside and take pictures before the excavation starts in the morning, then in the mid-day, and after the excavation is over in the evening”.