The Black July 1983 that Created a Collective Trauma
Posted on April 27th, 2010

Dr Ruwan M Jayatunge

With Black July, dawned the era of gun culture, disappearances, child soldiers, collapse of rule of law and erosion of democracy. Within the first ten years of UNP rule from 1977, the draconian Constitution was further strengthened with 16 further constitutional amendments – with the two notorious 4th and 6th.” Dew Gunasekara- General Secretary Communist Party of Sri Lanka

Overview

Race riot is a form of collective violence caused by hatred for one another of members of different races in the same community.  In the 20th Centaury alone there had been over 300 racial riots reported from most parts of the World. Among these   Denver Riots 1901, Toronto riots against Greeks in 1918, Brisbane riots 1942, Singapore riots in 1950, Dutschke Easter Riots in Germany 1968, May thirteenth race riots in Malaysia 1969 , Southall riots in England 1979, Black July in Sri Lanka 1983,  Los Angeles Riots 1992,  Tutsi massacres in Rwanda 1994, Anti Immigrant riots in Spain 2000  represent a huge proportions  of man made disasters. 

 Mukami McCrum of the Central Scotland Racial Equality Council defines racial violence as follows”¦..

 The use of violence as a method of control and domination of those who are deemed to be inferior and powerless is practiced in many cultures, societies and countries of the world. Racial violence differs from other forms of violence in that the root causes are to do with assumption of superiority and dislike of other people who are deemed to be inferior because of their identity, ethnic origin, nationality, national origins or descent; and because of their appearance and physical characteristics such as colour, language and dress.  

 Riots typically involve assaults, murders, vandalism and the destruction of private and public property. The Philosopher, historian and political economist Pierre-AndrƒÆ’†’© Taguieff debates that racism and racial hatred is based on xenophobia and ethnocentrism (evaluate other cultures in terms of one’s own).  The distinction between one specific ethnic group and one outside that ethnic group gives rise to feelings of fear, hatred, and rejection. It is a primitive feeling, which came through the human evolution. One outside the ethnic group identifies as an alien, and feelings of dangerousness and absolute possession projects onto the uncanny stranger.   

 From the Freudian perspective, there are fundamental tensions between civilization and the individual. Freud identifies aggression and killings as humankind’s primitive instincts. According to Freud, violence is deemed as the basis of human existence on two levels; the violence in the uninhibited instinct and the violence, which the culture practices against one another.

 According to the Sociologist NoƒÆ’†’«l A. Cazenave, racism is a highly organized system of ‘race’-based group privilege that operates at every level of society and is held together by a sophisticated ideology of color/’race’ supremacy.  Racial tensions frequently link with poverty, economic recessions and unemployment. Often riots are instigated by the extremist groups and they use mob elements to commit violence. 

 Psychologist Arnold Goldstein   defined a mob as “a crowd acting under strong emotional conditions that often lead to violence or illegal acts.” He further explained that a riot is “an instance of mob violence, with the destruction of property or looting, or violence against people.”  To Goldstein, “mobs are the product of a process of evolution” and they are formed by people sharing the same “conscious or unconscious needs. Psychologists have observed that riots develop a life of their own once they begin. The first stage of the riot is an attack on property and the riot then moves to attacks on people. As the riot grows and more people join in, the duration of the riot depends on the resistance met by rioters, their organization and leadership, the “success” of their violence and the “degree to which extant authorities send permissive signals encouraging continuance or vigorously intervene.” The riot may also spread to other areas, sometimes distant from the precipitating site, (The Psychology of the Wilmington Riot)

 The Black July

In July 1983, communal violence erupted in Sri Lanka and between 400-3000 Tamils were killed (Frances Harrison BBC correspondent in Colombo). Black July was a highly organized mob violence that had political backing. Following the conflict, more than 18,000 houses and numerous commercial establishments were destroyed. The property damage was estimated over  $300 million US Dollars. More than 150,000 Tamils fled the island-seeking asylum in India, Canada, UK and Australia. 

 In 1984 Paul Sieghart, the Chairman of the British Section of the International Commission of Jurists stated his views on Black July. He stated that   the Black July   was not a spontaneous upsurge of communal hatred among the Sinhala people. It was a series of deliberate acts, executed in accordance with a concerted plan, conceived and organized well in advance.

 Tirunaveli ambush “”…” The immediate catalyst for the racial riots 

On the 15th of October 1981, Tamil militants killed two soldiers of the Sri Lanka Army and from 1981 to 1983 July; nearly 35 members of the armed forces were killed in the North. The militants disrupted the civil administration.  Public transport was crippled due to setting CTB buses on fire. Banks were robed. The tension was rising in the South. The killing of 13 soldiers including the Second Lieutenant Vaas Gunewardene of the 1st battalion of Sri Lanka Light Infantry at the Tirunaveli junction became an immediate catalyst for the racial riots.  Violence broke out in Borella and spread to other areas. 

 Political Hands behind the Black July  

Some historians point out that the racial violence against Tamils in 1983 had a political backing or a politically sponsored program against Tamils. Some politicians facilitated unprecedented violence. According to Professor Rajan Hoole several weeks prior to the Black July the former Minister of Fisheries Mr. Festus Perera had mentioned to his supporters at the Browns Beach Hotel that “let them wait a few weeks , they will learn a good lesson” which meant that   a mass attack against Tamil civilians would be launched soon. When the clashes broke out some cabinet ministers, local politicians, and their henchmen launched violent attacks against Tamil civilians openly. The perpetrators used voter lists containing home addresses to make precise attacks on the Tamil houses.

 Violence against Tamil Students at the Peradeniya University in 1983 May

Nearly two months before the Black July Tamil students of the Peradeniya University were savagely assaulted by a group of Sinhalese students led by W.A.D.T. (Thulsie) Wickremasinghe and A. Ekanayake –   4th year science students from Arunachalam Hall and another group led by Dr. S. Gamage, a passed out dentist who was motivated by personal considerations. (Sri Lanka: The Arrogance of Power: Myths, Decadence and Murder – Rajan Hoole). The violence against the Tamil Students at the Peradeniya University could have had links with assaults and expulsion of the Sinhalese students from the Jaffna University by some radical Tamil students in early years. In 1976, the University Registrar Mr Wimal Sundara was beaten and chased out from the university by these radical groups. Although the university’s head, K Kailasapathy wanted to maintain the multiethnic character in the Jaffna University by 1978 most of the Sinhalese students of the Jaffna University were moved to other universities.

 Weilkada Prison Massacre

On the 25th  of July 1983, prison riots  broke out and thirty-seven Tamil prisoners who were detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act were murdered by the inmates. Within a few days, the second riot erupted and further 15 prisoners were killed. Following the riots Selvarajah Yogachandran, (Kuttimuni )   Thangathurai,  and Jegan  lost their lives.

 Fr. Philip Anton Sinnarasa of St. John’s, Church Delft was arrested under the PTA and kept under detention at the Welikada Prison. He was one of the very few survivors of the 1983 Welikada prison massacre. He had published his experience in a web page – Remembering silenced voices Black July 83.

 I remember that on the first day, the 25th, we were brought outside of our cell and we could see that the whole sky was in smoke. There were big riots taking place outside. We also heard that there was a lot of burning and killing going on.

 That evening, we a heard a lot of screaming and crying. We quickly found out that there was an attack on the political prisoners in the Chapel section. All the Singhalese criminals were let out. They took whatever they could, and they were killing the Tamil prisoners. 35 people were massacred on this day.

 “¦..Eventually the army came in and fired tear gas. It was a closed building, so we were also affected, but they were able to chase the criminals outside. The soldiers came in with guns to see whether we too had done anything. We were asked to kneel down. We didn’t know what was going to happen. We thought that they were going to just finish us off! Luckily, a high-ranking officer came and he ordered us all to leave.

 Sepala Ekanayaka ‘s  involvement in the Weilkada Prison Massacre

 Sepala Ekanayaka earned the title to become the first Sri Lankan to hijack an aircraft. In 1982, Sepala Ekanayake hijacked an Alitalia aircraft with 300 passengers on board and he threatened to blow up the aircraft unless his demands were met.  His major request was to reunite with his Italian wife and his son Free Ekanayaka. After his demands were made, Sepala Ekanayaka came to Sri Lanka with his family. He received a hero’s welcome by the public. Sepala Ekanayaka could not enjoy his freedom with his family for a long time. After he returned to Sri Lanka Sepala was arrested and indicted.  He had to serve a prison term at the Welikada prison.

 Professor Rajan Hoole the author of – Sri Lanka: The Arrogance of Power: Myths, Decadence and Murder indicates that Sepala Ekanayake was involved in prison riots.  When the Commandos entered the Welikad prison to prevent prisoners escaping Sepala Ekanayake went in front of Major Sunil Peris of the Commando Unit and showed him a human part, which could have been removed from a Tamil prisoner. The officer was horrified and assaulted Sepala Ekanayake. The detainee Prof Nithyanandan too had confirmed that he saw Sepala with the other inmates who attacked the Tamil prisoners. According to Professor Rajan Hoole, some jailors (Rogers Jayasekere, Samitharatne alias Samitha Rathgama) played a key role conspiring the massacre.

  (Soon after the 1983, Weilkada Prison riots Sepala Ekanayake made a public statement and denied any participation of the measures. He was released in 1987. )

 The media propaganda that ignited the racial conflict  

The  media played a crucial role in the 1983 riots. The local media fuelled the tensions between two groups. These newspapers used ethnic stereotyping and ethnic prejudices as well as dramatization of ethnic events to keep high emotions.  

 When the terrorism was emerging in the North some Sinhala newspapers  took a dramatic turn and started spreading  hateful words and racist propaganda. This may be a response to some Tamil newspapers that spread racially motivated emotions against the Sinhalese population. The newspapers of both sides attempted to influence public opinion through igniting racial hatred.   

  6 “”…” 8 weeks before the Welikada prison massacre one article appeared in   a Sunday newspaper that carried the title “”…” Siragedara Balkana Maheshakyo (The Privileged who have a good time at the Prison) In this article the writer  had   heavily criticized the prison authorities for giving extra comforts to the Tamil prisoners who were detained under the PTA at the Weikada prison. This article could have made an impact on the Welikada prison massacre. 

 Media and Racial Violence- Example from Rwanda

How the media can control the minds of the people in a period with racial tension?  Allan Thompson gives a detailed account in his book Media and the Rwandan Genocide.

In March 1992, Radio Rwanda was first used in directly promoting the killing of Tutsi in a place called Bugesera, south of the national capital. On 3 March, the radio repeatedly broadcast a communiquƒÆ’†’© supposedly sent by a human rights group based in Nairobi warning that Hutu in Bugesera would be attacked by Tutsi. Local officials built on the radio announcement to convince Hutu that they needed to protect themselves by attacking first. Led by soldiers from a nearby military base, Hutu civilians, members of the Interahamwe, a militia attached to the MRND party, and local Hutu civilians attacked and killed hundreds of Tutsi (International Commission 1993: 13″”…”14).

 The role of the radio in inciting killing demonstrated the importance of controlling the media. Opposition parties, having proved their strength in massive street demonstrations, were able to push Habyarimana into conceding to them the right to participate in government and one of the ministries they wanted to control was a newly created ministry of information. In the new coalition government formed just after the Bugesera massacre, a member of one of the opposition parties was named to head this ministry. He gradually instituted policies meant to end the MRND monopoly on the media and to guarantee equal access to members of other political parties. Nahimana was removed as head of the information office and so lost control of the radio as well (ChrƒÆ’†’©tien 1995: 61).

 The Eye Witness Accounts of Black July

  Sanjeevan Selladurai

 I was returning home from grade 5 scholarship exam on 1983 July 23rd. The day was horrible. Everywhere it looked clouded with smoke. I rushed  home around 12:30 p.m. and found everyone looking tense. Around 3:00 P.M, a mob of 50 people came to my home and started beating my brothers. My mother tried getting in front of them to protect them but still two of my elder brothers were beaten with wooden sticks. All the neighbors simply looked on and enjoyed the scene. Only one person named Kakka who was Sinhalese, came forward and talked for us. He asked the thugs to leave the place immediately.

 I think we are all alive today because of that single person. Later, we were taken to his house and we were there for 3 days. Then, we decided to move to a refugee camp set up within the St. Lucia Church in Kotehena and then we went to Jaffna by a cargo ship called Lanka Kalyani. It took 3 days to reach KKS and we all were starving inside the ship without any food or water.  

 (Sanjeevan Selladurai  who is a Sri Lankan Canadian had published his experiences in the web page –  Remembering silenced voices Black July 83)

  A student who witnessed the events in Boralla and Maradana

It was a Monday morning and I was going to school. Our bus suddenly stopped in front of the AF Raymond’s building and we saw a vehicle that was burnt in the middle of the road. The driver stopped the bus and we all got down. I walked up to the Borella junction and saw many destroyed shops. The firefighters were trying to extinguish the BCC building that was on fire. I overheard some one was telling that the fire fighters saved a Tamil girl and her mother who were trapped on the top floor. 

 I met some of my schoolmates there and we walked towards Maradana. Near Kupiyawattha Rd I saw Tamil wedding photographs thrown on the ground. We presumed that the looters had taken the photo album throwing the wedding photos. That was an awful thing to do, destroying wedding photographs “”…” someone’s memorable event of life.

 Maradana was full of flames. We climbed the Marada  overhead bridge to get a clear view. I saw the crowd assaulting a man probably a Tamil. He fell down and over 25 people assaulted him. There were several policemen on the street, but they did not pay any attention and controlled  traffic turning their back.  

 A Resident at W.A Silva Mawatha -Wellawattha “”…” The invisible Perpetrator

Several weeks before the 1983 July riots, I went to buy some food items at the near by boutique. The shop owner who was a Tamil told me that a little while ago, he listened to the Kotihanda (the voice of the Tigers) and their boys are attacking the Army. He said this in a proud and daring voice to insult me.  I was so furious but speechless. When the riots stated after several weeks,  a group of mob came to our area and attacked Tamil shops. I went near one of the ringleaders, showed the boutique, and said “in that boutique you will find a Tiger supporter, go and teach him a lesson” The mob went and attacked that boutique.  Within a few minutes, I could see the flames.

 (The invisible perpetrator revealed this story   soon after the 83 communal riots)

 The Plight of Dr Emerson

Dr Emerson was a respected Tamil dentist lived in Colpetty near the Liberty cinema. When the violence started the local gangs gave him an assurance that he would not be touched. But Monday afternoon a group of mob from another area attacked his house. Although Dr Emerson his wife and children escaped without any physical harm, their house was burnt.  The Emerson family came to Milagiriya and stayed in a relative’s house. In the evening, another group of thugs came to attack the relative’s house in Milagiriya.   A Sinhalese neighbor came forward and gave them shelter. Dr Emerson’s young daughters and son were  hidden in the Sinhala neighbor\s house until the mob went away. The kind neighbor gave rice and other dry rations to the Emersons. On the second day, Emerson Family went to a refugee camp. After a few months, the entire family got asylum in UK. After living in UK for  several years, Dr Emerson died in United Kingdom as a refugee.

 The Story of a System Analyst

 A 28 year-old systems analyst, a Sri Lankan Tamil who wishes to remain unidentified, had an even ghastlier experience to relate: “ƒ”¹…”That morning, we were having a meeting in the office when we heard the sounds of mob fury. We went out onto the balcony and what we witnessed was systematic looting and arson by a merciless mob. The leader had a voters’ list with him to identify Tamil houses. They would mark a Tamil house, forcibly enter, smash the furniture and window panes, drag the inmates out and kill them. Another passing mob would stop cars, extort petrol and set fire to what was left of the houses. I rushed home and told my parents we must leave. Hardly had I said that when we heard the next house being ransacked. We grabbed our passports and a change of clothes and rushed out. A Sinhalese swung at me with a spear. Luckily, a Sinhalese shopkeeper nearby stopped him by telling him we spoke Sinhalese and had done a lot of social work locally. It was like being born again when we got out of the country.’

 (from “Tamil Nadu: Backlash” by S.H. Venkatramani. India Today. 31 August 1983, p.18  

The Tamil houses that were saved by the neighbors

When 1983 Communal riots erupted, Bambalapitya flats was the only community in Colombo which was not affected. Sinhala dwellers of the flats protected their Tamil neighbors. Hence, not a single house was attacked. When a group of mob came to attack the Bambalapitya flats from the seaside  on the July 26, 1983 at about 3.30 pm,  a young man named Chamley Abysuriya and a group of Sinhala boys rushed to them and  said to them in Sinhala “we are attacking here you guys go somewhere else ” so the mob believed them  and went towards Wellawatte. Soon the Sinhala youth of Bambalapitiya flats organized a vigilant service to protect the lives and property of their Tamil neighbours. Gamini Walgama who is a STF officer now gave the leadership to organize the day and night vigilance service. Up-to-date no one has admired the courage and leadership demonstrated by Chamley and Gamini Walgama on the 26th  of July 1983.  

 Are you a Sinhalese? 

A group of mob were screening people to find Tamils in July 1983 and one person was stopped. The leader asked from the man   “Are you a Sinhalese?” The man said yes , to verify the man’s identity further the mob leader asked the man to say Buddunta Wandina Gathawa Kiyanava “”…” (tell me the stanza that you warship the Lord Buddha )  the man said the correct stanza and he was released.  Then the man asked from the mob leader “Are you a Sinhalese?” The mob leader properly answered  Yes. Then the man had asked from the leader “Ok tell me the stanza that you say to the Lord Buddha when you offer him flowers.  The mob leader was thunderstruck he did not know the stanza.

(This incident was reported by late Mr Amitha Abesekara the journalist Island Newspaper)

 The Truth Commission

In 2001, the President Chandrika Kumaratunge appointed the Truth Commission under the  chairmanship of the former Chief Justice, Mr. S Sharvananda and the commission made some recommendations. But unlike in South African Truth and Reconciliation committee the 1983 Truth Commission was unable to reach the hearts and minds of the general public and it could not make a deep impact in our society. The Truth Commission of Sri Lanka failed to promote national unity and reconciliation. The commission failed to achieve reconciliation between the Tamil and Sinhala communities.

   The psychological effects of Black July

The Black July created a collective trauma among the Tamils that lasted for a long time. It was a  shock wave that gave a destructive domino effect. People encountered and witnessed horrific events beyond usual human experience. Many victims had faced NDE experiences that affected their psychological wellbeing. Some victims still suffer from the psychological repercussions of the Black July. Most of the victims lost the sense of trust. Some have deposited deep hatred and resentment towards Sinhalese people. Many youth joined the militant groups to retaliate. Some actively took part in anti Sinhalese propaganda exhibiting deep-rooted prejudice.  

 Professor Rajan Hoole points out the anger and revulsion exhibited by some Tamil expatriates revealing the deep-rooted prejudice of   Fr Sinnarasa

 Fr. Sinnarasa who escaped to India in September 1983 distanced himself from the LTTE for several years, but is now in North America campaigning for the LTTE in a spirit of blind hatred not different from that which moved the Cyril Mathews of July 1983. (Sri Lanka: The Arrogance of Power: Myths, Decadence and Murder – Rajan Hoole).

 The experience of the racial riots 1983 made long-lasting negative impression on the minds of the victims, their family, community and society as a whole. The psychological scars of the Black July was passed on from person to person in the community and remembered by generations to come.  Therefore reconciliation and peace building has become utterly difficult.

 How did the Sinhalese people react to the Black July? The majority of Sinhalese people did not approve such brutal attacks against Tamil people and many risked their lives to save the Tamil neighbors. Many years after this tragic event, Sinhalese people are still trying to disassociate with the Black July. These hurtful and guilty feelings were repressed to the collective Sinhalese consciousness and scheme of silence was maintained. Many Sinhalese educated masses are reluctant to talk about the Black July. Some Sinhalese fractions argue that the Black July occurred due to the provocation by the Tamil minority and justify it with the mass violence such as Arantalawa massacre ,the Gongala Massacre,  Central Bank bombing etc  that were unleashed against the Sinhalese people  But these fractions do not understand one thing . That is one crime does not erase another.  This form of an eye for an eye does not represent the mainstream thinking.

Conclusion

The Black July 1983 created a collective trauma in Sri Lanka and it affected the country’s political, economical, social and moral structures. It escalated further violence distancing Sinhalese and Tamil people hindering the development and advancement of Sri Lanka. The racial violence of the 83 tarnished the image of Sri Lanka changing the course of the nation’s history. The Black July 1983 taught many bitter lessons to the Sri Lankans. Now the time has come to these two groups to rectify the past errors, think, and work for a common peaceful future.   

 The darkest day- longest night

 It was indeed a dark day
When the cities covered with smoke and blood
Frightened people hiding under
When the wolves looking for fresh blood

 It was a time of madness  
When mob rules came in to action  
When a time like this
One could see both light and the dark

 When good people hiding their neighbors from the wolves
The bad people brought wolves to their neighborhood
The darkest day longest night
One could see the savage part of human nature
It was a time of belligerence
The time of emptiness

17 Responses to “The Black July 1983 that Created a Collective Trauma”

  1. Ratanapala Says:

    The words below were written by me when Choura Regina Chandrika was President and the Prince of Batalanda – Don Juan Ranil was the Prime Minister. This is my eye witness account of what happened in July 83. We the Sinhala Buddhists sincerely hoped and waited for justice and peace. Now with President Rajapakse in power and the Tamil Tiger Terrorists vanquished we hope to see peace and justice in Sri Lanka – Justice and Peace with dignity for all Sri Lankans! The country must be now developed for all Sri Lankans to live freely anywhere they please in the Island. The land must not be parceled out to placate racist demands. The key is in becoming self sufficient in our basic needs and in the continuous maintenance of a strong defense force.

    Colombo Clans, Goon Squads and the Church

    By Ratanapala

    Today Sri Lanka is again at the cross roads. It is time to take a look back into happenings of the last two decades. The puppet masters, the Colombo Clans ( Wijewardhanas and Bandaranaikes), and the Christian Church, who nurtured Tamil racism are out in the open in a last ditch attempt to save and give respectability to the genocidal LTTE and their erstwhile leader – Prabhakaran – the man who styles himself as the sole representative of the Tamils in Sri Lanka. In the aftermath of the September 11th attack, no effort is to be spared to make him another Yasser Arafat and to save him from facing charges at the Hague for crimes against humanity, genocide and ethnic cleansing. If the world gives into this masquerade it will shame all civilized society.

    It is common knowledge that it was UNP goondas who attacked and killed Tamils in Colombo during the July ’83 riots. It is also common knowledge that it was the then President J R Jayawardene who allowed the riots to continue unabated for a full day before a curfew was called to stop the rioting. On this day J R Jayawardene was under severe pressure from the army after the killing of the 13 soldiers in Jaffna , to take effective action against the LTTE terrorists in the North. His solution was to use his Goon Squads to attack and kill the Tamil residents in Colombo and other major cities and thereby avert the wrath of the army.

    It is also common knowledge that after his victory at the General Elections in 1977, Jayewardene wanted to remain in power for an extended period, if necessary by terrorizing the general electorate. For this purpose every minister in his administration was encouraged to form and develop their Goon Squads with the idea of intimidating the electorate prior to any subsequent election in Sri Lanka. In this fashion R Premadasa his Prime Minister, Gamini Dissanayake, Lalith Athulathmudali, Ranil Wickramasinghe the present Prime Minister, Ananda Tissa de Alwis,Cyril Matthew, M H Mohammed and others went on to form their own Goon Squads. These Goon Squads were used most effectively in subsequent elections to intimidate, terrorize, maim or kill political opponents. Viz; the 1980 District Development Council Elections, and the 1982 infamous ” the Pot and the Lamp Referendum. They were the very ones who attacked Dr Sarathchandra too. How the democracy in Sri Lanka deteriorated during this period is also common knowledge and is a subject that is well researched and documented. These Goon Squads were equipped with electoral lists and they knew in advance where their political opponents lived.

    It is now common knowledge that the mini riot that originated at the Borella Kanatta on the day of the funeral of the 13 soldiers ended at Narahenpita around mid night the same day. However the systematic torching of Tamil trading establishments and residences commenced the following morning at Borella junction. The riots and the burning continued throughout the day through Punchi Borella, Maradana, Pettah and finally on to Fort, and unabated till they reached the Ambal Café in the heart of Fort at 4:00 PM – just a few meters away from where the now infamous President of Sri Lanka had his office. It took Jayewardene 10 hrs to impose a curfew and get his Goons off the streets. Goon Squads armed with electoral lists went from house to house, this time looking for Tamil residents. Goon Squads saved the day for Jayewardene by taking the army who was breathing fire on his scrawny neck.

    Once the curfew was in place, in four consecutive days, four very significant statements were made over the Television – Rupavahini Channel. While a shocked populace waited for the Executive President to address the nation, the UNP government and the Church plotted behind the scenes to place the blame entirely on the shoulders of Sinhalese Buddhists. This is how it was done.

    1. Most Ven Madihe Pannaseeha Maha Nayake Thero was asked to address the Nation first. Naturally the Mahanayake Thero requested the Nation to have patience and be calm. The nation was angry but it was in no mood to go on a killing rampage. By getting him to address the nation J R Jayewardene got the world to believe that the Mahanayake Thero was really addressing the Sinhalese Buddhists and that they were responsible for the pogrom.

    2. The second was made by J R Jayewardene (the man with the professional mourners face)himself, , as the President of Sri Lanka. He justified the riots as the justifiable anger of the Sinhalese for the killing of the 13 soldiers in Jaffna. Here he clearly laid the blame for the pogrom on the Sinhalese. It must also be noted that UNP Goon Squads and every shade of hooligan, Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim and other took part in the universal phenomenon of looting that followed throughout the island. In many instances old scores were settled, regardless of ethnicity, taking advantage of the deplorable and unfortunate situation.

    3. The third statement was made by R Premadasa the Prime Minister a servant of the Wijewardhana clan. He said that behind the riots was a coup organized by a Naxalite Terror Group. This was a diversionary attempt to put the blame on the pseudo socialist group led by Vijaya Kumaranatunge at that time.

    4. The fourth and final statement was made by Ananda Tissa de Alwis the then Minister of Communications and Constitutional Affairs. He said the next stage of the coup would be for Sinhalese Buddhists to attack Sinhalese Christians. His was the voice of the Christian Church who would finally go to convince the world that Sinhalese Buddhists were responsible for the carnage. With this they killed two birds; firstly the blame for the pogrom was laid firmly and squarely on Sinhalese Buddhists and secondly they set up the Christians against the Buddhists.

    The essence of the above four statements show the way J R Jayewardene and his administration manipulated the media to put the blame, for the riots by his Goon Squads, on Sinhalese Buddhists. It is doubtful even today if the Mahanayake Thero knows how he was manipulated to lay the blame on the Sinhalese Buddhists. The subsequent propaganda by the State media and the Christian Church convinced the world that it was the Sinhalese and especially the Sinhalese Buddhist who were responsible for the July ’83 Riots.

    As Sinhalese and mainly as Sinhalese Buddhists, we should not harbor any guilt complex about the happenings of July ’83 or those Racial riots of 1958, and thereafter. These were carried out by thugs affiliated to the two main political parties the UNP and the SLFP. To the Western Christian World, this was just the opportunity to denigrate the Buddhists in Sri Lanka. Since July ’83 dozens of provocative actions have been carried out in Sri Lanka. Even though hundreds of innocent Sri Lankan civilians have been bombed, maimed, killed, driven away from their lands, their places of worship desecrated and destroyed, their leaders assassinated the nation has just looked on with hope that ultimately justice would prevail. They have waited with timeless patience for their elected leaders to take appropriate action to curb terrorism, eventually eliminate racism from Sri Lanka and put an end to the meddling by externally funded church affiliated NGOs, inimical to the culture and life in Sri Lanka. This is yet to happen.

    The Terrorist war that ensued has consumed much of Sri Lanka and her resources. Tamils in droves left the island crying genocide, many seeking greener pastures. Yet for all there are more Tamils now living in The Western World and the Christian Church accepted them with open arms. Various Terrorist groups were funded, nurtured, and covertly trained initially by India and then later by others. Hundreds of Church funded NGO’s descended on Sri Lanka in various guises, but intent on division of the country and the unethical conversion of Sri Lanka to Christianity. On Sri Lankan soil they were ably assisted by the Church affiliated Wijewardhana clan and the Bandaranaike clan. These two clans outwardly masquerade as Buddhists, but their loyalties lie with the Christian Church.

    At the moment the subjugation of Sinhalese Buddhists is going on various fronts. Unethical conversion of Buddhists is going a pace unabated. The land of the Sinhalese is up for grabs. Sinhalese Buddhists have neither voice left nor any representation in the proceedings in the so called “Peace Process” in Sri Lanka. A Lutheran Christian nation, and one time Nazis, who practiced open racial discrimination against their own indigenous people – the Inuit or Lapps, who aided and abetted with the LTTE are now in the garb of the mediators. (We should have been better off getting the TULF to mediate than these unknown foreigners with agendas of their own for South Asia.) The Buddhists are left largely friendless in the world due to years of diplomatic mishandling. The media has been in the hands of the Church affiliated Wijewardhana clan for decades. The audio- visual media are on a frontal attack on Sinhalese Culture. What is seen, heard and covertly imposed on the minds are all foreign values and ethos. While the Puppet Masters are now on open stage for everybody to see, a helpless nation is waiting its dismemberment.

    Today with one time leader of one of the Goon Squads- Ranil Wickramasinghe – Prince of Peace of Batalanda fame ( If only Gonawela Sunil (Biyagama Electorate) is alive today,he would have many tales to tell about the Prince of Peace) as the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Tyronne Fernando as the Foreign Minister, John Amaratunge as the Minister of the Interior and Home Affairs, Jayalath Jayewardhana the LTTE spy as the Minister of Rehabilitation and Refugees, Joseph Michael Perera as the Speaker of the House, the Christian Church is well and truly enthroned in Sri Lanka. The LTTE never had it any better.

  2. Fran Diaz Says:

    We find this article a rather painful subject even now, to recall July 1983. Looking at the events objectively, Black July was a well organised TRAP into which the best brains of the then GoSL fell, hook, line & sinker. Recall that :

    * Lankans were struggling with her Identity & Economy, only 35 yrs after some 500 yrs of Colonial Rule. We had a huge population of Sinhala & Tamil peasantry, neglected for over 500 yrs., angry and ready for Revolution. One JVP led Revolution had been already put down by the then GoSL in the 1970s.

    * In 1983, the Cold War was still on between USA & Russia.

    * India was ‘with Russia’ at that time (India was struggling with geopolitical realities & her own past & internal conflicts).

    * Lankans had no idea about the 3,000 yr old Caste System of India which marginalised Tamil Dalits (Untouchables, some 5 Million) of Tamil Nadu.

    * Powerful side players in the Game with Lanka.

    Connect the dots …. we had bad situation then, to say the least. However, Lanka is having the best chance now to go beyond the past, work together as a country & move forward.

  3. Chintha Says:

    The article says between 400-3000 Tamils were killed . Thats a very large range. I have read the official figures were in the 400s. Can someone explain this huge range?

  4. M.S.MUdali Says:

    Ruwan:
    Thanks for the “truths” brought by you on the “directors” of the Black July!

    It was a sad historical day for all Sri Lankans.

    In my view that fateful event was well planned and executed by LTTE and UNP. Deaths of people in a country where COMMUNAL politics exist, will give more milage for the RACIST sentiments and the communities will be divided. J.R. Gang used this “philosophy” to create more tensions to gain VOTES from majority community. But UNP and its CHURCH allies used this opportunity to “HARVEST” souls to support FOREINERS. It was done visibly.

    But at one point majority FEDUP and realised the true picture and replaced the UNP president. Then MIRACLES started to happen. LTTE was unable to OVER_RUN military installatations.

    But UNP and Ranil gave a territory in a hurry and cried PEACE arrived. What a false idea these UNP mongrals propagated while LTTE was killing and bombing from a safe heaven.

    Catholic/Christian Churches never gave shelter to any fleeing Tamil people during 1983 riots but later they showed themselves are the SAVIORS of Tamils.

    In any case the Church and UNP tried a war to destroy HINDUS and BUDDHISTS who never had any problem over religion for centuries!

  5. Fran Diaz Says:

    In response to Chintha’s query : As far we know, the numbers dead during the 1983 Riots are between 300-400. The BBC will concoct & alter facts and figures to suit their role as ltte sympathizers, then and now.

    We also heard that some Sinhala people were killed during the Riots and some Sinhala shops were burnt. We personally know of two well known Sinhala enterprises that were burnt up in Pettah. Yes, personal vendettas & petty jealousies were acted on to pad up the Chaos.

    Also, poor people who were interested ONLY in looting came out during the last 2-3 days of the Riots. Goods stolen from burnt out buildings were openly sold in the streets of Colombo. We were told that drugs (‘kudu’) was available in the market places for as little as 25 cts a shot ! The whole things was well planned to create as much chaos as possible. It is pertinent to state that similar looting took place in USA after the earthquake in the west coast in the 1980’s, as also after hurricane Katrina.

  6. Raju Says:

    There is no point in violent minorities (or their Sinhala appeasers) complaining about “violence” of their creation nor is there any point beginning conveniently from 1983 -a highly exaggerated event from the point of view of Tamils. They are the ones who launched an “armed struggle” starting in 1976 (the ground work had already been laid in earlier years through ethnic cleansings programs against Sinhalese in the North. The post 76 phase was to “take on” the State and cause its collapse). Today they are suffering the consequences of these actions and are “upset” because the war and racist ideals they “invested” has amounted to nothing. 1983 was retaliation directed at the viscously anti-Sinhala JR government for failing to reign in Tamil terror and slaughter of Sinhalese that was on going since the late 1960s but reached a new level under his administration.

    Most disgusting was that the violence was being funded by the likes of Amirthalingam and Tamil chauvinistic parties and politicians in tandem with Tamil businessmen all holding high levels of Government and influence at the time. While joy fully living in Colombo and colonising the South they where slaughtering Sinhalese in the North and East pushing their monoethnic racism (under which Sinhalese are inferior), Tamil DOMINATION and Tamil ONLY concepts -the root cause of all problems in Sri Lanka. Many Tamils seized the opportunity provided in 1983 to go abroad to economically better off countries and be a source of additional “open” funding for violence and act as the door into Sri Lanka –part of “taking on” the State. When the initial riot began the mob that formed it were marching to JRs house out of anger at JR, true some Tamil shops and businesses believed to be establishments linked to the violence against Sinhalese in the North were burnt en route. Tamils elsewhere, backed by their racist politicians, seized on this factor. They burnt their own shops and homes and attacked random innocent Sinhalese to trigger responses and make it look like a large scale well orchestrated event by Sinhalese, but in reality they themselves were behind it. Large numbers of supposedly “killed” Tamils magically came back to life in Western countries to start beating their chests and complain about their own “deaths” (why else is it that in 1989 when 40,000 Tamils who “fled” Sri Lanka citing “1983 violence” and entered Canada an equal number returned to Sri Lanka for holidays travelling on refugee visas).

    To this day Tamils revel in 1983 and wish for another one, because the first one was so beneficial for them. More Sinhalese died that day than did Tamils (350 people died in Colombo, 150 where Sinhalese, 1000-1500 Sinhalese were killed in Baticola, Trincomalee together by Tamil gangs on orders from Amirthalingam but this goes unreported). Furthermore thousands of Sinhalese on the day (and in the weeks and months which followed) helped many Tamils get asylum in the West by vouching for them (even lying to help them) to only be repaid by never stopping death and destruction for the next 30 years. But as always we only hear tales of “poor Tamilis”. Alas that is the nature of Tamilia.

  7. Raju Says:

    To put a long story short.

    The number of dead in 1983 were around 300-350. Included in this is dead Sinhalese.

    Tamils since have increased the number of “dead Tamils”.

    In 1983 it was said to be “1000”.

    In 2003 the 20th anniversary it was “2000” (go read the papers and Tamils propaganda at the time).

    They continued to spread this number of “2000” in 2005 into 2006. When the war started and the LTTE ran away from Mavil Oya the number slowly went up to 3000 and was the number used in 2008 for the 25th anniversary.

    After May 2009 they have “floated” the number of 5000. Just wait till the 30th anniversary and they will say 10,000.

    People were charged for the riots in 1984, the International Commission of Jurists was in SL to carry out an investigation. They reported a total of 350 deaths (50 were Sinhalese), and also reported many of the Tamil shops/homes destroyed were self-inflicted, i.e. the Tamils set them on fire themselves, collected insurance and fled the country through the airport (only people facing “persecution” and “genocide” hang around in the airport of the country where it is taking place).

    You only need to see the way Tamils celebrate the event. That’s right, they CELEBRATE the event because it benefited so much and they would love another. You would think a people who were “forced” to leave their homes would be saddened by the event, instead Tamils revel in it. Not to mention that in the 1990 40,000 Tamils left the country for Canada claiming the aforementioned “persecution” and “genocide” while an equal number returned to the country while still on political asylum visas.

    Ruwan is a typical old timer Sinhalese stuck in his time box and obsessed with appeasement. Give up Ruwan. Stop oppressing your own people and tormenting another generation who like your own had nothing to do with a highly exaggerated event used by Tamils everywhere in Sri Lanka (some rushing in from Tamil Nadu to “join in”) as a way of getting access to Western countries for a better life by spitting on Sri Lanka and latter slaughtering Sinhalese (many of who saved them and helped them escape to the West) by funding the LTTE to justify their asylum claims.

  8. Sita Perera Says:

    Ruwan please do not use the term ‘Black July’ ever again. It is a term used by the separatists to legitimise their claim of discrimination and persecution. We fools would swallow any crap – these are the Sinhala Modayas.

    Why should we go with their tide?

  9. Sita Perera Says:

    Only 400 killed, you idiot says 4000 killed, what sort of a moron are you?

  10. Sita Perera Says:

    Rajan Hoole’s book – go and give publicity in Tamilnet not here

  11. Andare Says:

    We were ourselves in Sri Lanka in 1983 during the riots and here is what we saw.

    There was a lot of looting by the suburban poor who took the opportunity to rob. It is the same in USA in LA riots, New Orleans, etc. But we did not see any killings. I myself was pulled out of the car myself and a knife held to my throat. The man looked drugged and he pulled out my wallet and then when the driver of the car told him that I am a Sinhalese, he reluctantly gave me my wallet back.

    There were fellows carrying long poles dressed up in pure white “Jatawa” and loin cloths. They were dressed up like for a photo operation. Who set them up?

    How come all the shops that were burnt were Tamil Hindu and Sinhala Buddhist shops? The Catholic places like Cargills, M P Gomez etc. were untouched.

    Were any Tamil Catholic people killed at all? As far as I know it was only Hindu Tamils and Sinhala Buddhists who were killed.

    Was the Papal Nuncio deported by JR Jayawardena at the end of the July 83, a week after the riots started? Can someone confirm this if it is true ? I heard of it from a reliable source. I would like a confirmation of it.

    Who advised JR & some of his Ministers to agree to ‘look away’ & some like Cyril Mathew to participate in the 1983 Riots ?
    Why were Tamil ambassadors in place in Germany (Lakshmi Naganathan), Paris (Balachandra) and London (Moorthy). I am not sure who was in Canada at the time and the USA. They helped to fan the flames of anger against Sri Lanka. It was as if the plan had been laid down carefully over time with all the key players in place.

    The video cameras available in 1983 were large bulky cameras. There were no neat little cameras carried by tourists in those days. The Tamil claim that the videos shown abroad were from tourists cameras is a lie like all the other lies. It would have been planned to have cameras with the operators in strategic places since they knew there would be a reaction to the killing of soldiers by LTTE snipers. In addition there had bee so many killings of the Sinhalese in Jaffna and the East that they knew it was a matter of time before it all blew up.

    Is it not amazing that 40,000 people were able to move so quickly to Canada. If that had not been planned then I would be very surprised.

  12. cassandra Says:

    There is one thing I have always wondered about, in relation to the July 1983 riots. Were they in some way connected to JR’s failure to hold an election and instead ‘getting away’ with his infamous referendum? My point is are not elections like ‘circuit breakers’ that allow the public to, periodically, give expression to their pent up feelings, and when that opportunity was denied it, it reacted (may even be without being aware of it) in violent fashion. Perhaps, Dr Jayatunga will care to comment.

  13. M.S.MUdali Says:

    Black July was used By JR to extend the EMERGENCY and null the voting rights of the Sri lankans.

    Tamils met the loss and not the Sinhalese. The government at that time never arrested a SINGLE Sinhala criminal involved and prosecuted. That itself an indication for Canada and other “refugee accepting” countries.

    There is no point at barking Tamils who got entry in Canada or elswhere while the root cause not addressed. Do those Sinhalese expect the Tamil people to get the beatings of Sinhalese confine to their homes always? No human tolerate arrogance or riots!

  14. Fran Diaz Says:

    We think that elections were not held by JR during that period because it had far wider ramifications than indicated by some readers.
    The then Cold War had India more or less going with Russia (due to geopolitical pragmatism & India’s own internal problems), and at that time Sri Lanka with its Trinco harbor, among other items, was very important to the west. As such, a pro-west JR govt was very important to the west. Therefore, no elections were held. If elections were held at that time, the JR govt may have been replaced by a pro-Russian one.
    Recall that India’s then PM Indira Gandhi trained the ltte cadre on South Indian soil. Ordinary Tamil people were caught up with this east/west geopolitical snare & the possibility of Eelam. Fortunately, all this is history. In future, Lanka has to remain Non-Aligned – everyones friend, and enemy to none. Lanka has to “Develop” in every way, for the good of ALL her people.

  15. cassandra Says:

    Fran Diaz, I note what you say. My point, however, was whether not holding the election – regardless of the merits or otherwise of that – was responsible in any way for the riots. As I said, elections are like “circuit breakers” that let the public to periodically give vent to its pent up feelings. Not holding an election therefore denies it that opportunity and perhaps the riots were one way of expressing “repressed” feelings. I’d like to hear what Dr Jayatunga might wish to say.

  16. Fran Diaz Says:

    Cassandra, permit me one more point : Elections were held over & over again many times in Lanka prior to and after JRJ times. Obviously, the JVP frustrations of 1970s & 1980s were not mitigated by elections as elections were held faithfully every 4 yrs.
    in Lanka, except the one time with JRJ. So, can we infer that holding elections helped the JVP ? I think not. Elections may be a Distraction or even a partial solution, but not a lasting Solution to human frustrations. The root causes had not been addressed. One reason for so many uprisings was that a huge population of rural citizens had been neglected during the Colonial times. I leave the deeper psychoanalysis of human frustration to Ruwan.

  17. cassandra Says:

    Thanks, Fran Diaz. I note what you say and would still like to hear what Dr Jayatunga has to say in relation to the point raised by me 5 days ago. I wonder whether he does not care to read the responses to his articles.

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