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"JULY ’83": Dayan’s final rejoinder to Mahinda Gunasekara

In his ‘Final Response’, Mr. Gunasekara returns to his theme of the provocative character of the TULF’s separatist political stance and propaganda. This takes nothing away from my point that this does not constitute a legitimate reason for the vicious, murderous violence of July 1983. No political position or pronouncement, however objectionable, if expressed peacefully, can justifiably be met with violence, leave alone lethal violence. I have already referred to Quebec and Scotland, but let us look closer home.

Separatist sentiment in Tamil Nadu died down only with the India-China war of 1962. Pottu Sri Ramalu committed suicide in the Tamil separatist cause by setting himself alight. However, we did not hear of non-Tamil Indians hacking and burning Tamils because they found Tamil Nadu separatism objectionable, which they indubitably did.

Armed violence by Tamil insurgents does not furnish a legitimate reason for July 83. Violence against the state by insurgents, or indeed violence against civilians by terrorists, does not justify lynching innocent civilians who are linked to the insurgents only by the biological accident of a common ethnicity, language, religion, or skin colour. It is only if this moral principle is grasped, publicly expressed and practiced, that we may be able to prevent a repetition of the tragedies and crimes of 25 and 50 years ago.

The attacks on Tamils in May-June 1958, chronicled by Tarzie Vittachi in his "Emergency ’58", had nothing to do with TULF separatism. Indeed the TULF would not be formed and a secessionist platform adopted until almost two decades later. Mr. Gunasekara’s explanation is the felt need in the 1950s, to dethrone English and enthrone Sinhala. So, in 1983 it was the TULF’s provocative propaganda, and in 1958 it was deeply felt language sentiment, but the outcome was the same: Lethal attacks on Tamil citizens. Prof EFC Ludowyck put it much more pithily about the events of the 1950s: In post-colonial Ceylon there was certainly a problem that needed thrashing out, but it was the Tamils who got the thrashing!

In defence of his thesis of Indian government training of Tamil youth pre-July ’83, Mr Gunasekara mentions a book by an author he does not care to name -- "In the book, ‘International and Regional Implications’ by a well known Sri Lankan security intelligence expert (page 17)". He does not give any evidence for this assertion, and one does not know if his unnamed authority has done so either. I would recommend instead that he reads the posthumously published essay in the last issue of the Sunday Island by Kethesh Loganathan, which details the effects and consequences of July ’83 on India’s policy towards the Tamil insurgency. It confirms that state or state-sponsored training and support of Tamil militancy was clearly subsequent to July ’83.

As for the 13th Amendment, it is part of our Constitution. Its implementation is the declared policy of the Sri Lankan State, government and elected President. Stepping back from it would impose an utterly unaffordable cost (as in 1987) on our relations with our neighbour, our ongoing military campaign and the destiny of the country.

Dayan Jayatilleka

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