How Sinhala Buddhists were made scapegoats for July ’83 – It is happening again in May 2019!
Posted on May 19th, 2019

Ratanapala

17 May 19

Easter Sunday Bombings were over in a day. Mostly thanks to Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith’s foresight and in general the fortitude of the Catholics and the general populace revenge attacks on the Muslims did not take place. Thanks to the Security Forces quick arrests were made of individuals, organizations and arms caches were discovered in a variety of places and to the surprise of many but not to me, inside mosques!

I have tried my level best to inform the general public of the march of Islam in Sri Lanka but found only a few takers to advance my conversation!

What has been found by the Security Forces include knives, swords, bombs, bomb making materials, army uniforms, white garment worn mainly by Buddhist women when visiting temples. We have many excuses for possessing these but we are yet to hear any that ‘stands up to scratch’ as the saying goes!

Now after nearly 3 weeks we have attacks on Muslim business places. This was a time that we all thought that the worst was behind us and what remained was only mopping up operations hither thither.  However it seems from what we hear and see through the media that a concerted attempt has been made to divert the attention and the blame game on the all too familiar – Sinhala Buddhists.  What happened at Minuwangoda, Hettipola, Bingiriya and similar places, so far brings our memories back to some unfortunate happening that took nearly 3 decades ago. The overall effect is to take the conversation elsewhere from the dastardly crime that was perpetrated on the Catholics of Sri Lanka and on visitors to Sri Lanka and lump it all on the backs of the Sinhala Buddhists.

The infamous 24th of July is on us again. It was for happenings of 24 July ’83 and on the few subsequent days that the Sinhala Buddhists were castigated all over the world for a dastardly crime for which they were not responsible. Given below is a narrative of what took place on that fateful week, nearly 30 years ago.

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 divert attention and use his Goon Squads to attack 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 and also the then Rev Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thero 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 organized and 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 to take firm action against rising terrorism in the country.

Once the curfew was in place, on 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. While the curfew was in place the following took place.

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. ‘Janathava Sansun Wanna’ was his call! 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 mourner’s face) – DB Nihalsinghe had to dress him for this occasion and it is mentioned he had a task to get his face in one place for the occasion to make him look Presidential. In his address to the nation 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. 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 the Catholic – Vijaya Kumaranatunge who was masquerading as a Buddhist 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 highest common denominator of what happened and hense responsible for the carnage.

The curfew was lifted on Friday 29 July 1983. People who had to stay indoors came to the streets to buy essentials groceries with simple bags in their hands. It was on this day the second phase of the conspiracy was unleashed on the populace on this day. Calls went on all major transport arteries emanating from Colombo saying that Tigers  have landed at the Fort Railway Station and are now on the attack. Personally I witnessed the people and the Police running with dread in their eyes. What followed and the carnage that took place made 29 July 1983 to be called Black Friday.

Unfortunately, after 10 years to a month we are back at the same place we were back in July 1983. The attack on the Catholics of Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday 2019 is being diverted to an attack on ‘innocent Muslims’ by Sinhala Buddhists of Sri Lanka. This is the message that Al Jazeera and the BBC are conveying to the world!

Wittingly and some unwittingly foolish elements in our society backed by unscrupulous politicians are trying hard to walk over the dead bodies of innocents to make political capital!

Shame on them! 

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