The role of an exploder in the July ’83 riots

I refer to Mr. D. Siriratne's letter of Feb. 16, responding to Dr. Dayan Jayatilake (DJ) where he requested, "Mr. Editor, I have no doubt that in keeping with your policy of allowing freedom of expression, you will permit this letter to be published". I am also requesting the same to disabuse the minds of those who still believe as stated by DJ 'that the comparison is not today with the July '83, it is what led to July '83. The road to July ’83 was paved, prepared by anti- Tamil propaganda' and point the finger at the late Cyril Mathew.

But the road to July '83 was not paved by anti-Tamil propaganda. It was a spontaneous feeling of anger caused by the wailing parents and relations of the massacred soldiers at Kanatte and capitalized on by looters as in other countries. Here are the factual events that led to July '83:

The 13 soldiers were brutally killed by using an exploder robbed from the Sri Lanka Cement Corporation (SLCC) by the LTTE, threatening the SLCC security guards. An exploder is used to quarry limestone for the manufacture of cement.

At that time I was the chairman/Managing Director of Lanka Cement Ltd., a public company of which the majority shareholder was the SLCC. Since the SLCC plant was almost adjacent to the Lanka Cement Plant in KKS, the Minister of Industries, the late Cyril Mathew appointed me the Managing Director of SLCC also. Since the exploder could be used to destroy from a distance and considering its dangerousness in the hands of the LTTE, I was asked by the minister to go to KKS, investigate the robbery and take whatever safety measures to protect the cement plants. I together with the General Manager Jayamanne and the DGM Gajanayaka investigated the robbery and took measures to strengthen the security. Incidentally, to digress, allow me to pay my last tribute to these two fine upright officers who had visited KKS and been awakened at midnight by LTTE terrorists, who marched them and placed them against the SLCC wall and point blank shot them dead!

I must place on record that these two officers played a very active role in the construction of the Lanka Cement Plant working round the clock with foreign contractors. They also looked after the Harbour View Hotel and the KKS Port which belonged to Lanka Cement Ltd. I can vouch that these two officers were not only devoted but efficient and totally trustworthy. Their murder occurred when, providentially, I had left both the SLCC and Lanka Cement with the removal of the late Minister Cyril Mathew by President J.R. Jayewardene. I say providentially because these two officers always traveled to KKS with me and I too would not be alive to write this today. I had a meeting with the security forces Commander of KKS, and explained to him the danger of this exploder being in the hands of the terrorists, particularly because it can cause destruction from a long distance. I requested security for the two cement plants. But these LTTE terrorists used the exploder to kill the 13 soldiers traveling in a lorry and not the cement plants as I feared.

What happened in July '83, I reiterate, was not a preplanned attack on the innocent Tamil citizens in Colombo but a spontaneous feeling of anger caused by the wailings of the parents and relations of the dead soldiers at Borella, Kanatta. The looters took over from there.

This would not have happened if the government had not made the blunder of bringing all these bodies to Colombo instead of sending these to their respective villages for burial.

Mr. Siriratne has drawn the attention of Dr. DJ to the attacks on Sri Maha Bodhi, Dalada Maligawa, Arantalawa, Kebitigollewa etc. and DJ says "every single one of the massacres took place AFTER July '83." I do not know why his emphasis AFTER! It is my opinion that all these massacres were done to provoke the Sinhala Buddhists but in vain.

The Tamils are citizens of Sri Lanka and they have the same rights as other citizens of Sri Lanka.

P. S. Mahawatte

Colombo 5

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