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Irrelevance & Relevance of Black July’83

Shenali Waduge

There have been many articles, lectures & even photo exhibitions to mark 25 years since “Black July” – many of these organizers have labored to portray the brutality of a month that led to deaths, destruction of property & looting. Overnight Sri Lanka & most importantly the Sinhalese were branded as “racists” & the world labeled the situation in our country as an “ethnic conflict” & whatever who is privy to what really happened may say in history’s books what happened that July is written as a barbarous attack on innocent Tamils as a result of the deaths of thirteen soldiers. That was the relevance of the taint upon the image of the Sinhalese. This is what will continue to haunt the Sinhalese for ever. Is it really relevant to continue to remember the Black July as if a repetition of it is just round the corner when despite scores & scores of atrocities carried out by the LTTE since July 83 upon innocent civilians has not resulted in a single attack on the Tamil minorities - yet there are no “black” months for these events by those who impatiently wait to promote the Black July every year – every month of every year would have to then be remembered for all those whose lives were nullified by the LTTE?

It is today common knowledge that while the nation may have been awed by the news of the deaths of these soldiers the incidents that took place therein would not have happened unless it had not been orchestrated by the then Government run by J R Jayawardena who for some reasons best known to him stood silent & allowed the situation to get out of hand. This is exactly what happened & the leaders of the present opposition as well as those who are now in Government ranks having done the “kangaroo” on their party are all witnesses to the happenings of that period & it is they who should be held accountable for the situation that ensued – how can their bellies be white! How could “looters” ever be categorized as patriotic to the country or the Sinhalese? It is poignant at this stage to emphasize that “looters” or “mobs” comprised Sinhalese, Muslims & even Tamils who belonged to the poor income groups & they took on the opportunity to “loot” irrespective of the “race” factor. The ordinary people – the Sinhalese will all know their individual roles in assisting their Tamil friends & providing them safety while the UNP Government did nothing for three days giving looters & mobs a field day & attackers all the opportunity to do as they liked.

Be that as it may the “Black July” ended up a windfall for it created the passage for many to seek “refuge” in empathetic nations resulting in the “Tamil Diaspora” – nevertheless there are many Tamils who did not have a stone turned but the luck of photographs enabled them to secure their safe passage to greener pastures too….many of those who were actually never really left the refugee camps & one doubts whether they would have really wanted to leave their country either. The thousands of Tamils that eventually came to “reside” overseas became the perfect tool for the LTTE to ensure a steady flow of funds to their cause & use these people to open up the infamous “proxy” charity & NGO operations that would also suffice to internationalize their cause & provide easy avenues to channel to legitimize their operations.

When the tsunami occurred in 2004 there were many who thanked their stars for the luck that came their way – it was because “opportunities” had come their way to better livelihood………many Tamils now domiciled some of whom have even obtained citizenship in face must be thankful for the ability to help their families in Sri Lanka through foreign currency though we are also aware that a percentage goes into the LTTE kitty.

The ordinary people of Sri Lanka’s majority the Sinhalese do not require to be repeatedly reminded of the brutality that occurred that dark July in 83…the public are really not to be blamed though they must shoulder the humiliation of the shortsightedness of the decisions of the country’s politicians at the time…similar these leaders have also to share blame for making cannon-fodder of the country’s armed forces belittling them over the years. Yet the country today is at a critical juncture closing in on its enemy giving the opportunity for the Tamil people who cannot deny that they have not suffered by the LTTE – the opportunity will soon be theirs for them to say that they do not want the LTTE but to live in peace amongst all the communities. We are all waiting to see what the Tamils will decide to do.

Those who tirelessly endeavor to bring out the Black July in its blackest of forms are really addressing the English readership that really had no part in the “mob violence” – it then makes us wonder why so much of effort is being taken unless of course it is as a means to fortify their hidden agendas giving stronger articulation that the Sinhalese in general strive to deny the rights of its minority.

It would be good if those who enjoy depicting the July 83 memories so fondly would also organize similar lectures & photo exhibitions to depict the macabre actions of the ruthless LTTE.

Australia apologized to the aborigines recently & the world is well aware through years of examples how the blacks were treated by the Americans & South African whites ……….the 83 was an incident for which the country & its people continue to apologize & for which for no reason the Sinhala populace must bear the guilt. 25 years on despite thousands of provocations the Sinhalese have not allowed any such incident to occur & to be fair by the successive Governments they too have not allowed a repetition of what JR Jayawardena did to occur.

There is only one question to these lobbyists that enjoy dramatizing Black July – do they not want fences to be mended & the past to be healed? If not…we must then wonder why?

Shenali Waduge

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