‘July `83: Telling it like it was’: a response


Ms. Anne Abeysekera has responded to Mr. Mahawatte giving her version of what it was like. Her version is close to the current orthodoxy held dearly among a certain class of urbanites in Sri Lanka — that it was engineered by some Sinhala Buddhist chauvinists with the connivance of JR.

There is no doubt that the Head of State’s  (JR’s) appalling behaviour and those of his minions have been suspicious. However, the observation that some people went around with lists does not prove that this was the work of the Sinhalese or the government.

We have just heard from a retired top police officer a very interesting new version of the burning of the Jaffna Library than what the urbane-journalists in Colombo have been telling us up till now. Chandrika’s government even tendered an apology in regard to the library burning, without even investigating it.

The then IGP in Colombo (in 1983) and the IGPS under him cannot be accused of `Sinhala chauvinism’ as they were all Tamils. So what was  the reason for their inaction? We expect that their job would have been  to spring to action when law and order got disrupted. However, this did not happened. Why?

Let us call upon any of those top police officers or their immediate juniors, who must now be in retirement (if they are living), to come forward and tell us if the government actually thwarted them from enforcing the law. Some UNP politicians of the JR era are still in politics.

If they are guilty, they must recant and repent, even if they go Scot-free.

It is well known that in one of Prabhakaran’s orations, he attacked the Colombo Tamils as a breed that visited Jaffna only during the holidays, and were too cozy with the Sinhalese. The need to disrupt this coziness was stressed. The top TULF leaders were assassinated by the LTTE precisely because the LTTE felt that they would `cut a deal’ with JR.

Even today, the LTTE sympathisers in Toronto hold `Black July’ gathering where the tone is to nurse the beggar’s wound and rouse anger against the citizens of Sri Lanka (not the UNP).

Mr. Mahawatte has given some first-hand information from his experience as a technocrat at the cement factory in Jaffna. This is valuable information and we need such empirical data. Even when the pogrom was going on, videos were being shown by Tamil activists in London. Clearly, some groups were well organised, while others were caught by surprise. The dynamics of mob violence is not as naively  simple as made out by Anne Abesekera. Irrespective of various interpretations of the event, we note that no government has actually investigated this cataclysmic horror, leaving room for diverse speculations.

The sooner this is investigated, the better it is for all of us.

Bodhi Dhanapala,

Quebec, Canada

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