Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Welikade Prison Massacre

by TamilNation, date unknown

No amount of sanctimonious expressions of sorrow or statements made before the Commission that the Sri Lankan Government was not proud of what happened at the Colombo jail would be acceptable to the civilised world, when up to date, the government has failed or neglected or refused to order an independent judicial inquiry into this unprecedented slaughter of those who were in the custody of the Government. (Statement by All India Womens Conference at UN Sub Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, 24 August 1984)



Black July 1983: the Charge is Genocide

Fifty three Tamil prisoners were murdered whilst in government custody

Dr. S. Rajasunderam, Selvarajah Yogachandran ( Kuttimuni ), Nadarajah Thangathurai
Dr.S.Rajasunderam Selvarajah Yogachandran
Nadarajah Thangathurai

Fifty three Tamil prisoners were murdered whilst in government custody. Thirty five Tamil political prisoners (held in custody under the infamous Sri Lanka Prevention of Terrorism Act, which was described by the International Commission of Jurists as 'an ugly blot on the statute book of any civilised country') were killed within the walls of the high security Welikade prison, in Colombo, on 25 July. Two days later, on 27 July, 18 more Tamil political prisoners were killed within the confines of the same Welikade prison.

The Tamil prisoners who were massacred in Welikade in July 1983 were :

25th July 1983

1. Kuttimani Yogachandran 2. N. Thangathurai 3. Nadesathasan 4. Jegan 5. Alias Sivarasa 6. Sivan Anpalagan 7. A. Balasubramaniam 8. Surash Kumar 9. Arunthavarajah 10. Thanapalasingham 11. Arafat 30. Anpalagan Sunduran 12. P. Mahendran 31. Ramalingam Balachandran 13. K. Thillainathan 32. K. Thavarajasingham 1420. S. Subramaniam 21. Mylvaganam Sinnaiah 22. G. Mylvaganam 23. Ch. Sivanantharajah 24. T. Kandiah 25. S. Sathiyaseelan 26. Kathiravelpillai 27. Easvaranathan 28. K. Nagarajah 29. Gunapalan Ganeshalingam . S. Kularajasekaram 33. K. Krishnakumar 15. K. Uthaya Kumar 34. R. Yoganathan 16. S. Sivakumar 35. A. Uthayakumar 17. A. Rajan 36. G. Amirthalingam 18. S. Balachandran 37. V. Chandrakumar 19. Yogachandran Killi 38. Sittampalam Chandrakulam 39. Navaratnam Sivapatham (Master)

27th July 1983

1. Muthukumar Srikumar 10. Gnanamuthu Naveratnasingham 2. Philip Amirthanayagam 11. Kandiah Rajendran (Robert) 3. Kulasingam Kumar 12. Dr. Somasunderam Rajasunderam 4. Selachami Kumar 13. Somasunderam Manoranjan 5. Kandasamy Sarveswaran 14. Arumugam Seyan (Appu) 6. A. Marianpillai 15. Thamotharampillai Jegemogenandan 7. Sivapathan Neethirajah 16. Sinnathambi Sivasubramaniam 8. Devanayagam Paskaran 17. Sellay Rajeratnam 9. Ponnaiya Thurairajah 18. Kumarasamy Ganeshalingam 19. Ponnampalam Devakumar

David Beresford in The Guardian 5, 10 August 1983....

"Eyes 'gouged out' in Sri Lankan gaol" is the massacres in the Welikade gaol which are attracting the most attention. There is a particular interest in circumstances in which two alleged guerilla leaders were killed. The two men, Sellarasa "Kuttimani" Yogachandiran, leader of the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization and a political writer, and Ganeshanathan Jeganathan had been sentenced to death last year for the murder of a policeman.

In speeches from the dock, the two men announced that they would donate their eyes in the hope that they would be grafted on to Tamils who would see the birth of Eelam, the independent state they were fighting. Second hand reports from Batticaloa gaol, where the survivors of the Welikada massacre are now being kept, say that the two men were forced to kneel and their eyes gouged out with iron bars before they were killed. One version has it that Kutimani's tounge was cut out by an attacker who drank the blood and cried: "I have drunk the blood of a Tiger."

The two men were among the 35 killed in the Welikada gaol on July 25. Another 17 were killed in the gaol two days later and the Guardian has obtained a first hand account of part of the fighting in this incident, including the circumstances in which Sri Lanka's Gandhian leader, Dr. Rajasunderam, died. Dr. Rajasunderam was one of nine men, including two Catholic priests and a Methodist minister, who were moved out of their cells immediately after the July 25 killings -- to make way for survivors moved into their cells on security grounds -- into a padlocked hall, upstairs in the same block. The nine, convinced that further attacks were coming, made repeated representations to the prison authorities on July 26 for better security measures. Assurances were given that they would be protected, but nothing was done.

At 2:30 pm in July 27, hearing screaming and whistling outside, one of the priests looked out of a high window and saw prisoners breaking in from a neighboring compound, wielding axes, iron bars, pieces of firewood, and sticks. There was no sign of the prison guards. The mob, which was later found to have killed 16 prisoners in the downstairs cells, ran up to the hall and began breaking the padlock. Dr. Rajasunderam then went to the door and cried out: "Why are you trying to kill us? What have we done to you?" At that moment, the door burst open and Dr. Rajasunderam was hit on the side of the neck by a length of iron. Blood was seen to spurt several feet. "At that juncture, we thought we should defend ourselves," one of the prisoners related. "We broke the two tables in the hall and took the legs to defend ourselves." "We kept them at bay. They threw bricks at us. We threw them back. Pieces of firewood and an iron bar were thrown at us. We used them to defend ourselves. It went on for about half an hour.

They shouted: 'You are the priests, we must kill you.'" The killing was eventually ended by the army, who moved in with tear gas. An inquest has been opened into the Welikada massacres, but the above details did not emerge. Prison warders claim that keys to the cells were stolen from them. Lawyers for the prisoners who have accused the warders of having participated, claim that they were not given the opportunity to bring evidence despite representation to the Government. "

"Selvarajah Yogachandran, popularly known as Kuttimuni, a nominated member of the Sri Lankan Parliament...,one of the 52 prisoners killed in the maximum security Welikade prison in Colombo two weeks ago, (on July 25) was forced to kneel in his cell, where he was under solitary confinement, by his assailants and ordered to pray to them. When he refused, he was taunted by his tormentors about his last wish, when he was sentenced to death. He had willed that his eyes be donated to some one so that at least that person would see an independent Tamil Eelam. The assailants then gouged his eyes...He was then stabbed to death and his testicles were wrenched from his body. This was confirmed by one of the doctors who had conducted the postmortem of the first group of 35 prisoners." (Madras Hindu, 10 August 1983)

The International Commission of Jurists commented:

"It is not clear how it was possible for the killings to take place without the connivance of prison officials, and how the assassinations could have been repeated after an interval of two days, since Welikade prison is a high security prison and the Tamil prisoners were kept in separate cells..." (Ethnic Violence in Sri Lanka, 1981-83: Staff Report of the International Commission of Jurists, ICJ Review)

"... it is relevant to mention the gruesome massacre of 53 Tamil prisoners in the Welikade jail in Colombo on July 25 and 27 last year. Many of them were only detainees on suspicion and not convicted prisoners. After they were brutally murdered, their wives, sisters, children and parents came to know about their death only through the radio. Much more terrible was the fact that the bodies of these detainees were buried or cremated without any member of the families knowing or being present. They were not even given the chance of having a last look at the body.

No amount of sanctimonious expressions of sorrow or statements made before the Commission that the Sri Lankan Government was not proud of what happened at the Colombo jail would be acceptable to the civilised world, when up to date, the government has failed or neglected or refused to order an independent judicial inquiry into this unprecedented slaughter of those who were in the custody of the Government. (Statement by All India Womens Conference at UN Sub Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, 24 August 1984)

"The most brutal and obviously well organised massacres took place within the confines of a prison located in the capital city. A prison is by definition a high security establishment, this is particularly so of the Welikade Prison which even by official terminology of the Sri Lankan government, is a 'maximum security' establishment. Yet not one but two gruesome massacres occur within its walls in the space of a week!..'' (R.K. Karanjia in The Blitz, 6 August 1983)

The trials of Tamil militants under the Prevention of Terrorism Act had become an embarrassment to the government. Allegations of torture had attracted observers from the International Commission of Jurists and from Amnesty International. The Court itself had become a forum for agitation in support of the claim of the Tamil people that they constituted a nation.

Around May 1983, the government moved many political prisoners held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, including Nadarajah Thangathurai and Selvarajah Yogachandran, from the army camp at Panagoda to the jail at Welikade. Panagoda was a special prison, in an army camp in an outlying suburb of Colombo and conveniently situated for torture and 'investigative interrogation'.

But if the prisoners were killed whilst at Panagoda, the government of Sri Lanka may have been directly implicated for the act of the army. Sections of the maximum security Welikade jail, however, housed a large number of Sinhala prisoners as well. The move from Panagoda to Welikade assisted the plan to murder the Tamil militants in custody, at an appropriate time and explain away the murder as a "prison riot".

''Very few believed the story that these killings were the result of a prison riot. How did the other prisoners get out of their cells? Where did they get their weapons? And, most important who put these Island Reconvicted Criminals next to the detenues and in the same building? And when? And even if one overlooked the first killings, how to explain the killing of a further seventeen Tamil detenues the following day? What were the prison authorities doing....? Why did'nt they send the Tamil detenues to a safer place?... This coldly calculated murder of Tamil prisoners will be an eternal blot on the Sri Lankan government that nothing can wipe out. An army officer who had visited the prison morgue told me that the detenues must have been attacked with clubs and knives. Kuttimuni had been badly slashed...'' (Eye witness account, Sri Lanka: Racism and the Authoritarian State - Race and Class, Volume XXVI, A.Sivanandan and Hazel Waters, Institute of Race Relations)

The post mortem inquiry into the death of the Tamil prisoners at Welikade, returned a verdict of homicide. Amnesty International reported in June 1984:

"Amnesty International has itself interviewed one Tamil detainee who survived the killing and has received a sworn statement from another survivor, both of whom state that some prisoners who had come to attack them later told the surviving detainees that they had been asked to kill Tamil prisoners. According to the sworn statement: 'We asked these people as to why they came to kill us. To this they replied that they were given arrack by the prison authorities and they were asked to kill all those at the youth offenders ward (where the Tamil prisoners were kept)'. ''

An eye witness account of the Welikade Prison Massacre

from "Detention, Torture and Murder" by S.A.David, B.A. (Architecture) Melbourne, Diploma in Town Planning (Leeds, UK), the then President of the GandhiyamSociety, and published in November 1983. The writer was one of the lucky ones who escaped death in the infamous Welikade Prison Massacre in July 1983. He later escaped from the Batticaloa jail.

Under the Buddha Dharma regime of President J.R. Jayawardene in Sri Lanka anyone can be arrested and detained without trial,anyone can be murdered and buried without inquest.

Still Sri Lanka is a model democracy of the third world praised andsupported by the Capitalist nations of the world led by Americaand followed by Germany, Japan, Britain and the White CommonWealth and the Arabs. This is a crying shame to the intelligence'and conscience of 20th Century humanity.

Although the Prevention of Terrorism Act refer to the wholeof Sri Lanka its application has been reserved for the Tamilsand particularly the Tamil youth.

Under the PTA of Sri Lanka a person can be detained for periodsupto 18 months (renewable by order every three months) if the Minister has reason to believe or suspect that any person isconnected with or concerned in any unlawful activity. Unlawfulactivity includes even pasting posters on walls punishablewith death.

There has been ridiculous instances when Judges of Courts have ordered detenus were taken to Remand Prison, their names enteredin Prison Registers and then the provisions of the PTA invokedand the detenus brought for torture to Army Camp. Such is the working of Buddha Dharmista in Sri Lanka.

The bitter pill of the PTA has been sugar coated with an apparentlyhumanistic provision to allow appeal within twenty days of arrestto a Board of three members. This is purely to circumventInternational human rights considerations. Yet in application ofthis provision diabolical intrigues are observed.

In my owncase, the appeal form was given on the last date for appeal,twenty days after my arrest but dated ten days ahead. Fraud on a national scale is not outside the capacity of a vile SinhalaGovernment.

I was arrested and detained, tortured and nearly murdered underthe provisions of this inhuman Act and I wish to place on recordmy experiences in J.R.Jayawardene's jails so that posterity mayact to save itself from the agony of body and soul I have endured.

I am now 59 years of age. By dint of sheer honesty, intelligenceand hard work I rose from humble village conditions to work asarchitect and Town Planner in Sri Lanka, Australia, UK, Nigeriaand Kenya. With passing of Sinhala Only Act in 1956, I resignedmy post as architect in Sri Lanka Government and went overseas,as I truly felt there was no honourable place for a Tamil in Sri Lanka.

The statements of two senior politicians at this time still ring in my ears. Senator Nadesan said, "We have come to partingof the way; let us depart in peace" and Dr. Colvin R. De Silva said,"One Language two Nations." Time has fully vindicated theirforesight.

In 1972, I came back to Sri Lanka to devote myself heart and soulto alleviate the suffering of my people, the Tamils. After intense study by reading and personal observation of many systems around the world in Europe, America, Israel, Africa and FarEast I chose the Gandhian model as most suited to the genius and traditions of the soul of my people and proceeded to systematicallyto bring my people to the Gandhian way of life.

Together with Dr. Rajasunderam of Vavuniya, a tireless energeticworker, in five years we had built up a sound network of DistrictCenters throughout the traditional homelands of the Tamils inSri Lanka, in Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mannar, Mullaitivu, Vavuniya,Trincomalee and Batticaloa. At the time of our arrest, 450pre schools with an average of thirty students each were providingdaily milk and triposha and Kindergarten teaching facilities tovillage children.

Twelve model one-acre farms in Vavuniya, Trincomalee and Batticaloa were showing the villagers the simplestsafest and quickest way to economic social and cultural revival.Mobile clinics equipped with basic preventive and curative medicinewere making regular rounds to outlying villages. A training centerwas preparing thirty to forty young women, every three months forGandhiam work in their own villages. In addition, Gandhiam withother social service organizations was assisting 5000 refugee families from Tea Estates to settle down to safe life among thetraditional Tamil villages.

The quality and quantity of Gandhiamwork impressed Foreign Aid Organizations and Tamils living overseasso much that we were receiving and operating on an yearly budgetof Rs. 5,000,000/-.

All the time we were aware that the Sinhala Government was keepingits watchful eye over us. In April 1983 the Government took the decisive step to arrest me and Dr. Rajasundaram.

The charges on which we were arrested as told in the indictmentgiven to us on 22 July 1983, three and a half months after the arrestand solitary confinement, torture of body and mind were:

1. Meeting Uma Maheswaran and not informing the police

2. Meeting Santhathiar and not informing the police

3. Assisting Uma and Santhathiar to escape to India

We could be sentenced to fifteen to twenty years of imprisonmenton these charges.

I have experienced partial freedom and enjoyed it. I wanted totalfreedom for myself and my people. Instead, I was caught up in total bondage. It was hell. Now I realize total freedom would beheaven indeed.

At 11-30 pm on the 7th of April 1983, there was a knock on my doorat Room No.9 at the YMCA in Colombo. I answered the door, CID and police officers walked in led by Mr. Punya De Silva, A.S.P. Theyopened all cupboards, drawers, boxes, seized all documents andordered me to follow them without any clothes for change.

I was taken to the 4th floor at the CID department in the Fort, allowedto sleep on an office table. Next morning, as I sat with fearand confusion, CID officers appeared with grim faces and grindingteeth threatening to dismember me and throw me into the sea.

Infairness, I saw compassion in the faces of some officers and oneofficer had thoughtfully brought me breakfast from his home. Iwas questioned by Mr. Wijetilleke, CID, who was very polite butanother officer was constantly threatening me. He rushed at me withclenched fists, and hit me on the shoulders, ordered me to raisemy arms and stand in that position for nearly half an hour. Nextday, Mr. Punya De Silva cross-examined me.

At the end of the cross-examination this officer had the courageof his convictions to say,

"Mr. David, I have examined hundredsof people connected with terrorism. In your sincerity and self-sacrifice I have no doubt. I may not agree with your ideals but tothe end I will respect you as a gentleman."

A great load wastaken off my head. To my dying day, I will remember withgratitude Mr. Punya De Silva and Mr. Wijetileke who treated me with extreme politeness.

That evening I was told that the Minister of Defence had ordered me tobe detained in the Army Camp at Panagoda. Mr. Wijetileke took meto Panagoda, handed me over to the Army. Immediately he left,nearly 20 soldiers surrounded me, ordered me into a corner.Someone gave command and a soldier hit me on my chest. I urinated.They ordered me to take off my shirt and trouser. All of them had a hearty laugh at my nudity and there was loud obscenecomments. The ordered me to walk out past the soldiers and asI went, they struck me with hands and legs. I was taken to a solitary cell and locked up. In the morning, fellow Tamil detenus distributing brushes for cleaning and pouring teacheered me up.

From then on during the morning and eveninginspection Commander Udugampala would threaten to kill me.Soldiers on guard would welcome with leather belt and razorblades and order me to put my hands raised and rotate. Theywould scold me in obscene language and curse the Tamils. Iwas not able to meet a lawyer for a fortnight. Immediately Imet Mr. Kumaralingam, Advocate, I told him my experience and requested him not to communicate this with army one fearingthe Army will retaliate. But he sent telegrams with highlyexaggerated details to the President, Army and Police Chiefs.In three days, Army got wind of Kumaralingam's complaint andI was put in hand-cuffs for four days and nights continuously.I was not allowed to bathe for two weeks and not allowed anyreading materials.

There is some justification for arrest, detention and imprisonmentof actual terrorists but among the detenus at Panagoda therewere many innocent people.

There was Jayadas, a young man of 24 who had no connection withany rebel group. He had given 50,000/- rupees to an agent toobtain work in the Middle West and the agent to get rid of him,handed him to CID and now he was in detention. He narrowlyescaped death at Welikade prison and still is in detention atBatticaloa prison.

There was Balasingam, a man of 50 years nearly blind. He hadtransported dynamite to dig a well. He was arrested and was indetention. With aid of powerful Singhalese Advocates he was released just before the murders at Welikade prison.

There was Ganeshalingam, aged 26 from Vavuniya. A gun had beenthrown into the shop where he was working when he was not there,at Vavuniya by rebels who attacked the Air Force. He was detainedand murdered at Welikade prison.

There were many youths who had carried posters. There were youthswho attended classes on Marxist Philosophy. There were youths whowere taken with books on Eelam, a Separate state for Tamils.

There was Dr. S.A. Dharmalingam, 75 years old who after the savagemassacre of the Tamils at Trincomalee by Navy personnel had calledthe Tamils to defend themselves.

There was Kovai Mahesan, 46 years old, editor of Suthanthiran whowas openly advocating Eelam over the past decade.

All were classed as terrorists, detained and tortured, irrespectiveof age or status, treated worse than condemned criminals.

The extent of the irresponsible and vindictive nature of the arrestand detention of Tamils under the infamous PTA can be gauged from the above accounts.

After Dr. Rajasunderam was brought to the Panagoda camp, the attackon the Tamil detenus became very frequent and more vicious. Almostevery other day and whenever he was in the mood, Commander Udugampolawould come drunk with a glass of arrack in his hand and open thecells, strip the detenus and assault and kick and curse them. I couldhear cries of pain and groans throughout the nights and early morningsand see naked colleagues hanging head down from high window bars. I sawnaked detenus being chased around the courtyard and being assaultedand kicked by six to eight soldiers with PVC pipes and iron rods intheir hands.

One day Commander Udugampola came drunk and opened my cell, orderedme to strip and lie face down on a concrete bench. He ordered threesoldiers to trample my back and legs and hit me on my buttocks.They left me exhausted on the bench.

On another day, he came drunk entered my room with shoes in his handand hit me on my head and face. My lips split and started bleeding.He ordered me to wash, allowed me to sleep naked throughout the night.

In comparison to the torture meted out to the other detenus I mustadmit I was mildly treated. Dr. Rajasunderam was severely attacked,his left arm dislocated, his ear drums broken and left on severaloccasions unconscious on the floor. Manickam Thasan and Robert weresingled out for ferocious attacks and for weeks after the attack,they would drag themselves to take their meals.

More than the physical torment the psychological torment was the most unbearable. Eelam was the center of all obscenities andevery soldier whenever he felt like it, would cast rude remarksabout Tamils and Eelam.

One day Dr. Rajasunderam was ordered to walk on all fours handsand legs and bark like a dog. We were very often ordered to carryfood on our heads and double up. Another time a youth was ordered to crawl through mud and water around the courtyard. Ingenious ways were devised to destroy self respect and spiritof the detenus.

One of the most unbearable incidents at Panagoda was the sadistichabit of regularly bringing school cadets between ages of 15 to20 at week ends and allowing them to watch, grin and cast remarksat us as we were ordered to double up and remove our food placedon the floor in front of them. A running commentary on each of uswas given by some soldiers to those boys. The Army is perhapstaking care to raise a new generation of Tamil haters to maim andtorture Tamils in years to come.

There was a Corporal with morbid curiosity to see nudes. He orderedme one day to undress in my cell. I refused and from that day tillI left Panagoda whenever he was on duty he would subject me to mild torture. He would order me to stand on the bench in the cellwith hands raised for hours on stretch. He would order me to keep jumping in the cell for hours on end. He would order me to keepturning around for hours. There was no use complaining as complaintwill bring more torture. Once I complained against a Corporal, so together with the Sergeant on duty, they handcuffed me to the irongate of the cell but released me in half an hour on the arrival ofthe Commander.

During the days I was kept handcuffed for four days and nights continually one cold night my hands and legs became benumbed.I felt numbness creeping towards my chest. I was in mortalpanic. Uncontrollable shiver seized me. I was falling away fromthe concrete bench. All the while the Corporal on duty was calmly watching me, as if he wished me to wriggle to death. Iremembered that the compassionate Sergeant was on duty and calledout to him. He came, removed the handcuffs, rubbed down my handsand legs brought a blanket and asked me to lie down and sleep.I told him if the Commander came he would punish me and him too.He said the Commander was on leave and not to worry and have a sound sleep as he was in-charge that night. He said the Commander was on leave and not to worry and have a sound sleep as he was in-charge that night.

A very painful yet novel torture remains etched in my mind. When Commmander Udugampola was away, another young commissionedofficer came drunk one day, ordered us, about 34 in all, naked into the courtyard. It was a rainy cold night and therewas 3 inches of water in the courtyard 30'X60'. He asked us tolie flat on the ground and drag ourselves on our hands and knees up and down the courtyard pool. The officer and the soldiers were highly thrilled at this ingenious method and wererocking with laughter for days after the event.

I heard from other colleagues, later at Welikade where I gota chance to talk to others, the detenus had been beaten to deathat Kurunagar and Elephant Pass camps. Bottles, iron rods and sticks have been driven into rectums, chilli powder smearedand smoke forced through nostrils and mouth, beaten with ironbars and iron pipes till bleeding, cut with broken bottles, beaten and kicked unconscious, starved for days, forced to eatfood with excess salt and kept chained to wall with hands raised for months continuously. Some were in detention for overtwo hand a half years and undergone torture all these years.

In the midst of all these bodily and mental torture a pure rayof boundless compassion has left an indelible mark on my soul.I experienced to the very limit of its content the compassion ofthe great Buddha. This is the nature and action of a Sinhala Army Sergeant. As the detenus were being beaten and kicked andhanged he would look with tear-filled eyes on us and when all wasquiet, open the cells and apply balm and rub down and cover uswith warm clothes.

All the sad moments I have gone through are as nothing for thisrare meeting and companionship of this great soul. How noble andhow great Sri Lanka could have been if its leaders could havehad in their soul a hundredth of the compassion in the soul ofthis Sergeant.

Around the middle of June 1983, the detenus bringing brushes and brooms and tea whispered that we were to be taken to Welikadeprison. There will be no more torture. We will have visitors,allowed to talk to others and read books and papers. Generally,there were smiles, sometimes jokes and laughter in the cellsafter this news. The day of partial deliverance did come on27-6-1983. We were taken to Welikade prison by a convoy of military trucks, armoured cars and jeeps good enough for a fullscale battle. The compassionate Sergeant unable to contain hisutter disdain of the Army tactics openly remarked, "I willtake these 34 people to Jaffna and bring them back alone ina CTB coach!." This is the measure between truth and falsehood.

At the Welikade prison there was no fear of physical attack.But the condition of food, toilet facilities and sanitation in the cells was primitive. In the first two weeks almost allcontracted bowl disease. Some were taken to prison hospital andill treated by Sinhala prison doctors and nurses. The rice wasfull of stones and food was tasteless and insipid.

Only fifteen minutes was allowed for outdoor exercise. For 23hours and 45 minutes we were locked up in solitary cells. Tenminutes were allowed for morning ablution and toilet. If wewanted to go to the toilet at any other time we had to shoutand beg the jailers to open our gates, which was done withreluctance and some times with rude remarks.

The case against me and Dr. Rajasundaram was taken up in thecourts at Buller's Road on 22-7-1983. On this day, Dr. Rajasundaramrequested the Judge to transfer us to Remand Prison. The Judgeagreed and both were transferred to Youth Ward along with theReverend Fathers Dr. Dharmalingam, Dr. Jayakularaja, Mr. Nithiananthan and Kovai Mahesan on 23-7-1983.

On 25-7-1983, the Sinhala prisoners attacked the detenus in the Chapel Section of the prison and murdered 35 persons alongwith Thangathurai, Kuttimani and Jegan. From eye-witnessaccounts of our colleagues, Kuttimani's eyes were gauged outand his blood drunk by his attackers. After killing six Tamilsalong with Kuttimani in one wing, a boy of 16 years Mylvaganam,had been spared by the attackers and was crouching in a cell.A jail guard spotted him and stabbed him to death.

The 35 dead were heaped in front of the statue of Gautama theBuddha in the yard of the Welikade prison as MinisterAtulatmudali so aptly described as a "sacrifice to appease theblood thirsty craving of the Sinhala masses." Some who were yet alive raised their heads and called for help but were beaten down to death in the heap.

The attackers then made entry into the other wing through openings in the first floor but the jailors there refused togive the keys and persuaded them to leave. 28 Tamil detenus inthis wing were transferred to the ground floor of Youth ward and nine of us were accommodated in the First Floor. All was quiet onthe 26th.

On the 27th at 2.30 pm there were shouts around the Youth Ward and armed prisoners were scaling over boundary wallsand starting to break open gates in the Youth Ward. Nearly 40prisoners armed with axes, swords, crowbars, iron pipes and woodenlogs appeared before our cell and started to break the lock.

Dr. Rajasundaram walked up to the door and pleaded with them to spare us as we were not involved in any robberies or murdersand as Hindus we did not believe in violence and as Buddhiststhey should not kill. The door suddenly opened and Dr.Rajasundaramwas dragged out and hit with a iron rod on the head. He felldead among the crowd.

The rest of us broke the chairs and tables in the cell and managed to keep the crowd at bay for half anhour. The Army arrived, threw tear gas bombs and dispersed thecrowd. The two soldiers lined up eight of us and were taking aimto shoot us when the Commander called out from below to themto come down. Then the soldiers chased us down and all whoescaped death were lined up on the foot path in front of YouthWard. As we walked out we saw corpses of our colleagues aroundus and we were allowed to live.

We were ordered to run into a mini-van and removed out of prisoncompound and loaded into Army truck. We were ordered to lie facedown on the floor of the truck and few who raised their headswere trampled down by the soldiers. All along the run to Katunayake Airport some soldiers were cursing Tamils and Eelamand using obscene language. We were kept at the Airport tillearly morning. We were refused even water. We were taken intoan Air Force plane and ordered to sit with our heads down tillwe reached Batticaloa airport. From here, we were taken in anopen van to Batticaloa prison. Here, we were received with sympathyand smile. Hot tea was served to us. We felt we had returned tosanity and some measure of safety.

Batticaloa prison by comparison was heaven on earth. We were behindbars, of course, but there was human dignity. In Batticaloa welearned that a maximum security prison was being built in a feverishhurry at Homagama in the Sinhala area. With all the nightmarishexperience of the past, we could well imagine what hell it wouldbe for the rest of our lives. We resolved to break jail even inface of death and after meticulous co-ordinated activity from inside and out we broke jail on 23 September 1983. We are happy that allpolitical prisoners have escaped from the clutches of the bloodthirsty Sinhala savages. We have dedicated ourselves, if necessaryat the cost of our lives, to free the Tamils from the strangleholdof the Sinhala demons.

After missing Uma Maheswaran's group with which I was to escapeI was finally traced and brought back to safety by his agents.The ingenuity and the expertise with which they organized andexecuted my escape is a thrilling episode in the history of theTamils and I hope some day to relate it in detail so that futuregenerations of Tamils may know that even in the darkest hourthere was courage and bravery among the Tamils reaching down tohumble homes in villages and jungles of our land...

The Sri Lanka police and the armed forces either looked the other way or actively participated in the attack.

''...Police units were not sent in until well after the rioting began and made few immediate attempts to check the mass arson and looting that spread through the city. At twilight ... bands still roamed the city and fires were still being started'' (Guardian, 26 July 1983)

"..Throughout the early hours of the violence, it was clear that neither police nor defence forces had been given orders to re-establish control. My friends reported how police and troops could be seen on street corners watching the lawlessness spread. At one point several army vehicles drove through the city, packed with troops who shouted encouragement to the rioters..." (London Daily Telegraph, 26 July 1983)

"..The news from Sri Lanka this week has recalled the horrifying events leading up to the division of India thirty-six years ago. The Hindu-Muslim-Sikh massacres of that time are reflected in the bloodshed, arson, looting that has sent thousands of innocent Tamils running for safety wherever they can find it. They are, it must be emphasized, a minority community whose status as citizens of Sri Lanka should be unquestionable. Unhappily, ever since Sri Lanka became independent in 1948, the current of Sinhalese nationalism has turned with envious anger on this community that played a part in Sri Lanka's political and professional life under British rule out of proportion to its numbers.The most recent events have revealed a culpable bias on the part of the forces of Order...

Early reports of rioting in Colombo before censorship was imposed agreed that the police were slow to intervene. Reports of action by naval units in Trincomalee and some recent army actions have suggested that reprisals were their aim, more likely to stimulate than to pacify. Worse than this, evidence of official Sinhalese hostility to the Tamils has been the government's failure to respond to the palpable tension aroused two months ago when municipal and parlimentary by elections were held. The campaign was said to be more like civil war than an election." (The London Times Editorial 27 July 1983)

''Businessmen, civil servants and ordinary people have gone through race riots before: but last July's killings and lootings were so premeditated, with the military and police playing an active role, that nothing can allay their fears...The rank culpability of troops and jail authorities rather than of the familiar anti social gangs has given an eerie touch to the carnage'' (Times of India, 31 July 1983)

'' Mr. Pat O'Leary from Killarney, who had been working for five weeks in Colombo for the Port Authority said: 'I watched a group of Sinhalese people chasing a group of three Tamils. They caught one, beat him up, threw him to the ground and stoned him. I don't know if he died. It was terrible. Nobody did a thing to help. Even the police turned a blind eye.''' (London Times, 2 August 1983)

''Army personnel actively encouraged arson and looting of business establishments and homes in Colombo and absolutely no action was taken to apprehend or prevent criminal elements involved in these activities. In many instances army personnel participated in the looting of shops.'' (London Times, 5 August 1983)

"..But for days the soldiers and policemen were not overwhelmed: they were unengaged or, in some cases, apparently abetting the attackers. Numerous eye witnesses attest that soldiers and policemen stood by while Colombo burned.Were they following their own communal instincts or signals from above?" (London Economist, 6 August 1983)

''As the town (Nuwara Eliya) burnt to charcoal and the Tamil inhabitants ran for their lives, I watched Sri Lanka soldiers on the spot stand idly by... The soldiers on the street seemed quite willing to stand and look on...'' (Peter Hartnell, New Statesman, 12 August 1983)

" the present violence, the army, police and gangs of thugs acted in conjunction... Some of us saw truck loads of soldiers cheering on the arsonists bands..." (New Statesman, 26 August 1983)

"..The police force 95% Sinhalese did nothing to stop the mobs. There was no mercy. Women, children and old people were slaughtered. Police and soldiers did nothing to stop the genocide.." (London Daily Express, 29 August 1983)


But whilst the government remained silent, the henchmen of senior Ministers, and some of the government Members of Parliament and the office bearers of the trade union of the ruling Party, were seen leading the attack on the streets.

''Sources say that Industries Minister (Cyril) Mathew, who also controls the powerful labour union, Jathika Sevaka Sangamaya, was directly responsible for pinpointing Tamil owned shops and factories to be destroyed. In (the Sri Lanka) Parliament on August 4... Mathew defended the violence by saying: 'The Sinhala people were frustrated for years, they were discriminated (against). If the Sinhala is the majority race, why can't they be the majority?''' (India Today, 31 August 1983)

''In Mount Lavinia, a suburb of Colombo, thugs were led by (a) UNP Councillor... In the Maradana area of Colombo, thugs brought in from upto 100 miles away and loyal to Prime Minister R. Premadasa.... and Industries Minister Cyril Mathew were identified by eye witnesses.'' (New Statesman, 28 August 1983)

'It was alleged by very many people, some eye witnesses and some repeating information which they believed to be firmly authenticated, that persons known to be active supporters of the U.N.P. (the United National Party which won the 1977 elections and had been in power ever since) were on many occasions leaders in the gangs perpetrating violence.'' (Patricia Hyndman, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of New South Wales and Secretary, Lawasia Human Rights Standing Committee Report -Democracy in Peril, June 1985)

''...There is enough circumstantial evidence to support this charge (that attacks had been engineered by the state authorities). Take the blood curdling massacres in jail. It is difficult to believe that Sinhalese prisoners are capable of over powering the security guards in the Welikade prison that is supposed to have 'maximum security'. It is not merely Tamil prisoners who were killed but also those Tamils who were arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism law... Kuttimuni, Jegan and several other 'Tigers' lost their lives as did office bearers of the Ghandiyam movement whom the state authorities suspected to be in league with the Liberation Tigers.

In the first prison massacre, 35 prisoners were butchered. Should not the authorities have promptly evacuated the rest of the Tamil prisoners in the same prison as common sense would have told them that they too would have been vulnerable to attacks? The authorities chose to drag their feet and the result was that 17 more were slaughtered... in several instances, government machinery was used to wreak havoc. For example, government vehicles were used by the mobs to go on a rampage; army trucks were allegedly used to transport looted goods. One eye witness account also serves to substantiate government involvement. Sarathas is a big shop catering to Indian tourists. The owner suspecting trouble, protected his shop frontage with a thick iron shutter. According to the eye witness a heavy truck of the Government Electricity Board was used to smash the shop. And when that had been accomplished, there were loud shouts of 'Jayawewa' - a victory shout in Sinhalese.'' (Anita Pratap in Sunday, 14-20 August 1983)

''It is worth noting that most of the petrol that was used to burn shops, homes and vehicles was kept ready in white cans at the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, which comes under the jurisdiction of Industries Minister, Cyril Mathew.'' (N. Shanmugathasan, Sri Lanka: Racism and the Authoritarian State - Race and Class, Volume XXVI, A. Sivanandan and Hazel Waters, Institute of Race Relations, London)

''This researcher tried hard to trace some member or active supporter of some party other than the UNP who might have had some hand in the spread of violence in Badulla, but failed. All those on whom accusing fingers were pointed turned out to be UNP supporters without exception.'' (Sri Lanka: July 1983 Violence against 'Indian Tamils' - Edited by S. Sivanayagam, Tamil Information Centre, Madras)

''...Most of those who witnessed the scenes of looting and arson recognised the gangs as being UNP elements with particular allegiance to two prominent cabinet ministers - one of whom had been revealed as the force behind the communal violence that took place a month previously at the eastern sea port of Trincomalee. The employees of certain corporations under ministers and the members of the pro UNP trade union of which one minister is President seem to have played a major role in these riots. It is also significant that a violently anti-Tamil book in Sinhala, entitled 'Protect the Buddhist Religion' by Minister Cyril Matthew, had been circulating for some time. It was distributed free of cost.'' (Eye witness account, Sri Lanka: Racism and the Authoritarian State - Race and Class, Volume XXVI, A.Sivanandan and Hazel Waters, Institute of Race Relations)

Government failed to condemn and President Jayawardene expressed no sympathy when he belatedly addressed the nation on 26 July 1983...

Whilst the henchmen of senior Ministers, and some of the government Members of Parliament led the attacks, and Colombo was burning on the night of 24 July the National Security Council was not summoned. Curfew was not declared until the evening of the 25th of July. The Sri Lankan government made no public declaration condemning the attacks by the goondas. The government made no public call to the army and the police to do their duty in the face of that which it later sought to make out was a "left inspired attack" directed against itself.

''What the troops and the rioters did not get was a clear public order to stop the mayhem. After two days of violence and the murder of 35 Tamils in a maximum security jail, the only editorial in the government run newspaper was on 'Saving our Forest Cover'. It was five days after the precipitating ambush and a day after a second prison massacre that the police of Sri Lanka heard from their 77 year old President.'' (Economist, 6 August 1983)

"...For four days after the incident broke out - I do not want to blame anybody - nobody came on television or over the radio. The country was virtually burning: unprecedented acts of violence had taken place in Colombo and in the suburbs..." (S.Thondaman, Minister of Rural Industrial Development, speaking in Sri Lanka Parliament, 4 August 1983 - Hansard page 1354)

It was after four days of planned violence that President Jayawardene eventually broke his silence on the night of Thursday, 28 July 1983. But, when he spoke, he expressed no word of regret, no word of sympathy, no word of horror at the humiliation and suffering of thousands of innocent Tamil people - innocent of any crime other than that of being Tamils. This was the President of Sri Lanka who later, in December 1983, claimed that thousands of Tamils had voted for him and that he was entitled to speak for them. This was the President who sought to speak on behalf a people but to whom, he had nothing to say in their hour of need.

The full text of the statement made by President J.R.Jayawardene on TV, on Thursday, 28 July 1983 read:

My Dear Friends,

It is with deep regret and sorrow that I address you today. When I see the destruction around me, the spate of violence that has arisen, it is very, very distressing. This violence has been aimed particularly against the Tamil people, and it has been caused by the deep ill feeling and the suspicion that has grown between the Sinhala and the Tamil people for several years. When there is distrust, when there are grievances, it is easy to lead people to violence, and we feel that there is an attempt to lead this violence for the purpose of destroying the political and economic progress that this Government has been able to ensure for our people.

It was from 1956 that this suspicion between the Sinhala and the Tamil people first began. In 1976 for the first time a movement for the separation of our beloved motherland, the separation of a united Lanka into two nations, was also accepted. The Sinhalese will never agree to the division of a country which has been a united nation for 2,500 years.

At first, this movement for separation was non­violent. But since 1976 it became violent. Violence increased and innocent people were murdered. Members of the Armed Services and the Police, politicians who did not agree with the movement for violence, whether they were Sinhalese or Tamil, were assassinated. It has grown to such large proportions that not a few but hundreds had been killed during this movement. Because of this violence by the terrorists, the Sinhalese people themselves have reacted. I feel that the movement for separation should have been banned long, long ago. I have also been a member of the Governments which are responsible for not banning it. I thought that in the All Party Conference which I summoned a few days ago, which we are unable to hold, firstly, because all the parties did not accept my invitation, and secondly because of the violence and the curfew around us, I thought that at that conference I would say that we intend to implement the 1977 manifesto of the United National Party, which sought to solve some of the political problems that arose, and once we did that, we would also ask the consensus of opinion to make the division of the country illegal.

Unfortunately, we could not hold that conference. But the Government has now decided that the time has come to accede to the clamour and the national request of the Sinhala people that we do not allow the movement for division to grow any more.

The Cabinet, therefore, this morning decided that we should bring legislation, firstly, to prevent people from entering the Legislature if they belonged to a Party that seeks to divide the nation. Secondly, the legislation will, make Parties that seek to divide the nation illegal or proscribe them. And once they are proscribed, the Members cannot sit in the Legislature. We will also see that those who belong to this Party or those who advocate the separation of the country lose their civic rights and cannot hold office, cannot practice professions, cannot join movements or organisations in this country.

We are very sorry that this step should be taken. But I cannot see, and my Government cannot see, any other way by which we can appease the natural desire and request of the Sinhala people to prevent the country being divided, and to see that those who speak for division are not able to do so legally." (quoted in Lawasia Report 'Democracy in Peril - Sri Lanka, a Country in Crisis' by Patricia Hyndman, 7 June 1985)

Paul Sieghart, Chairman of British Justice commented in his report for the International Commission of Jurists in March 1984:

"..the President did not see fit to utter one single word of sympathy for the victims of the violence and destruction which he lamented. If his concern was to re-establish communal harmony in the Island whose national unity he was so anxious to preserve by law, that was a misjudgment of monumental proportions. " (Sri Lanka - A Mounting Tragedy of Errors - Report of a Mission to Sri Lanka in January 1984 on behalf of the International Commission of Jurists and its British Section, Justice, March 1984)

It was a 'monumental misjudgement' if it was the concern of the President to 're-establish communal harmony'. But, then, the President had already declared, in July 1983, that the government of Sri Lanka was no longer concerned with the lives of the Jaffna (Tamil) people. The reasonable inference was that the government of Sri Lanka expressed no regret, because it felt no regret. It expressed no sympathy because it felt no sympathy. It expressed no horror because those at the helm of affairs were not horrified.

Again, not only was it that the President failed to utter one word of sympathy but he went on to declare:

"..the government has now decided that the time has come to accede to the clamour and the request, the natural request, of the Sinhala people that we do not allow the movement for division to grow any more"

To the government of Sri Lanka, the planned attack on the Tamils by organised goondas, in furtherance of a contingent plan, was a "clamour". It was a "request", and a "natural" one at that. President Jayawardene's speech of 28 July, served to justify the violence inflicted on the Tamil people.

''Surprisingly, President Jayawardene in his first public comment made three days after the riots had begun, did not condemn the violence against the Tamils. In trying to placate the majority Sinhalese, he seemed by implication to justify the atrocities against the Tamils.'' (The Review, International Commission of Jurists edited by Niall Macdermot, December 1983)

Attack was renewed with vigour after President Jayawardene spoke...

Black July 1983It was unsurprising therefore that on the following day, the onslaught on the Tamils was renewed with increased vigour.

''President Jayawardene's remarks that the violence of the past four days had been an expected reaction.. seemed to encourage a fresh wave of violence in Colombo and its suburbs on Friday (29 July). (London Observer, 31 July 1983)

''On July 28th, Mr.Jayawardene spoke on TV to denounce separatism and proscribe any party that endorsed it... Not a syllable of sympathy for the Tamil people or any explicit rejection of the spirit of vengeance.. Next day, Colombo was a battlefield. More than 100 people are estimated to have been killed on that Friday alone, and 30,000 Tamils fled to refugee camps.'' (Economist, 6 August 1983)

''On July 28, President Jayawardene finally spoke to the nation in a speech notable for its failure to chastise the Sinhalese mobs or express sympathy for the tens of thousands of victims... I witnessed the effect of this speech the next day on my way to the airport; the situation which had begun to calm down the day before, had deteriorated again... buildings burned and panicky motorists tried to avoid gangs of thugs who stopped outbound traffic in search of escaping Tamils. Vehicles that would not stop were attacked.'' (Carlton L. Ames in the International Herald Tribune, September 20 1983)

On the morning of 29 July, a rumour swept the city of Colombo: the Tamil Tigers had arrived in Colombo Fort. Who started the rumour? Reuters representative in Colombo sent a dispatch datelined 29 July which said:

"Panic swept through Colombo today and thousands of office workers rushed home early after reports that the Sri Lanka capital...had been infiltrated by guerillas. Government spokesman, Douglas Liyanage, confirmed to reporters that 12 men suspected of belonging to a guerilla movement had been arrested and taken to a police station in the centre of the city. There was no confirmation of rumours that the 12 had been sniping at troops from buildings."

Mr. Liyanage was the Secretary to the Ministry of Information headed by Minister Ananda Tissa de Alwis. But his own Minister later denied that there were any suspected Tamil guerrillas in Colombo on that day. He denied that any arrests were made. He said that some shots had been fired in the city and some foolish people had thought that the "Tigers" had come. It was all a grim joke. He said:

"Some people from a roof, some Sinhalese people, threw some explosive at our troops. Our troops fired back and these people on the roof, some of them died. That is how the rumour began..." (Ananda Tissa de Alwis: Televised speech on 30 July 1983)

But who were these alleged 'Sinhalese people' on the roof? The government offered no explanation and held no inquiry. However, the rumour served to set the frame for the attack that followed. On 29 July, hundreds of goondas transported in government owned vehicles from outside Colombo, renewed the attack on the Tamils in Colombo. Several Tamils were dragged out of their cars and killed on the main roads of Colombo and in broad daylight.

''The violence on Friday July 29th was of horrifying proportions and I heard eye witness accounts of terrible atrocities. Cars were stopped.. and if Tamils were in the cars, they were burned inside them, petrol was poured over people and they were set alight, people were also burned in their houses and were hacked to death.'' (Patricia Hyndman, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of New South Wales and Secretary, Lawasia Human Rights Standing Committee Report -Democracy in Peril, June 1985)

''In Colombo nine Tamils were burnt to death yesterday at the main railway station in front of European tourists while plans were being discussed to ship thousands of Tamil refugees out of the capital by sea..'' (Guardian, 29 July 1983)

The government sought to make out that like the "spontaneous riot" in the prison, this was yet another "spontaneous riot", but this time on the streets of Colombo, following a convenient 'rumour'. A 'riot' carried out by imported goondas following a rumour bearing the stamp of Douglas Liyanage and which his Minister sought to make out had something to do with Sinhalese on roof tops who had decided to throw a couple of explosives at the Sri Lankan army - presumably Sinhala leftists on roof tops who worked together with Sinhala goondas travelling in government owned vehicles at ground level. It was not a day that the Tamils who were in Colombo, and who survived, were likely to forget.

On the same day, Cabinet Minister Gamini Dissanayake arrived in Nuwara Eliya by helicopter.

'' (On 29 July), Nuwara Eliya was closely guarded by the army. All vehicles were checked. Bus conductors had orders not to transport Tamils. Minister Gamini Dissanayake came from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya to hold a meeting with party members.... Soon after the end of Gamini Dissanayake's party meeting they (some well known rowdies who had been arrested the previous day) were released. These people went out immediately, well equiped with petrol, iron rods and other kinds of weapons and tried to attack two Tamil priests in town. They managed to escape. Without having succeeded they moved on.

Another mob joined up with the first one. They laid a ring of petrol around a Tamil shop which was then burnt. They were supported in this by the army who supplied them with gallons of petrol. During the day all the Tamil owned shops were burnt... Tamil people who walked the streets were beaten by soldiers. The fire brigade which stood waiting was hindered by the army and the Sinhalese mob in doing its job... Shops which had not been burnt by the mob were set fire to by the army. Around noon, Nuwara Eliya was like a sea of flames.'' (Sri Lanka - Paradise in Ruins, Sri Lanka Coordination Centre, Kassel, 1983)

and the succeeding days, was carefully planned...

Clearly, the attack that was launched on the Tamil people on 24 July 1983 and the succeeding days, was carefully planned. This was no spontaneous outbreak of violence. This was no emotional backlash to the ambush of 13 Sinhala soldiers by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Jaffna on the day before. Neither was it something that was planned within twenty four hours in the immediate aftermath of the ambush.

Whilst those Tamils who were resident in predominantly Sinhala areas, in the island, were set upon by Sinhala goondas, in the Tamil homeland in the North and East, the attack was launched directly by the occupying Sri Lankan 'security' forces.

Whilst Tamil houses and shops were burnt in widely different places, the same distinct method was adopted time and again. The attackers carried lists of names and addresses. They knew exactly where to go. In many cases the homes of owners of shops were attacked at the same time as their shops were burnt. Where shops were rented by Tamils from Sinhala landlords, the building was spared, but the goods were taken out and destroyed. Where Tamil shops were adjacent to Sinhala owned premises, care was taken to separate connected roofs.

The goondas demonstrated remarkable skills in destroying buildings. They smashed up windows where they were closed, and thus ensured ventilation. They then broke the roof and from the roof top poured in petrol followed by a lighted paper. The goondas engaged in arson but did not take part in looting. The looting took place after the arsonists left. There was a general pattern seen in the attacks which started in Colombo and then spread to Kandy and the outstations.

The selection of the persons to be attacked, the preparation of the lists of names and addresses, the selection of the goondas, the distribution of the lists to the leader of each area goon squad, the distribution of white plastic petrol cans complete with rubber tubing, to siphon petrol from cars, and the distribution of clubs and iron rods made it self evident that the attack was the result of a plan that must have taken weeks of preparation.

''The rioters seeking out Tamil homes and burning them had a particularly detailed knowledge of who lived where and who owned what.'' (London Times, 8 August 1983)

'The violence was vicious and bloody. But what distinguished it from many other communal Asian riots was the way that the mob singled out specific business premises. In street after street in Colombo groups of rioters hit only at shops and factories, as well as homes owned by Tamils. Their careful selectivity is apprarent now. In each street individual business premises were burnt down while others alongside stand unscathed. Troops and police (almost exclusively Sinhalese) either joined the rioters or stood idly by.The events were so well organised no one doubts that there was a master list of targets.'' (Financial Times, 12 August 1983)

''From the beginning of the disturbances, many people in the mobs in the streets possessed election lists containing the names and addresses of all those who lived in particular streets. The lists indicated the houses in occupation by Tamils and also whether the owner of a house was Tamil, Sinhalese or Muslim. The possessions and houses of Tamil people were then systematically attacked. If a Tamil family were living in a house rented from Sinhalese owners, the house itself was not damaged but the furniture and property of the Tamils within it would be destroyed. In many streets all the Tamil owned shops were destroyed but those owned by Muslims or Sinhalese were spared. The same thing happened with houses.

The destruction was repeatedly described as systematic and organised and similar lists were used in all the towns throughout the country where violence occurred.... Throughout, the destruction of Tamil property was the apparent primary aim. The fact that very little looting took place in the very early stages tended to confirm the conviction about the level of organisation involved. It was observed that many people in the gangs were extremly poor so that the temptation for them to loot must have been very great, yet, on the whole, this temptation was resisted. Also, it was stressed that the order which was apparent in the big gangs indicated that there was considerable organisation behind their activities.'' (Patricia Hyndman, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of New South Wales and Secretary, Lawasia Human Rights Standing Committee Report -Democracy in Peril, June 1985)

''...the killing and the arson and the destruction and the looting were done with a high professional expertise and diabolical sophistication. Rioting mobs? Blood thirsty thugs? Certainly, but led by cold blooded arsonists and vandals who knew exactly what they were doing, what they had to do, or had been asked to do. It was deliberate, methodical and thorough, and entirely one sided... No, it was not an ethnic riot: it was a pogrom, an organised massacre of an ethnic minority by the power wielding majority...'' (An Indian Reader in the Madras Hindu, 3 September 1983)

''A 28 year old housewife, who returned from a Sri Lanka holiday with her husband and two daughters said the huts Tamils lived had been 'cleanly burned out', the arsonists evidently being anxious to ensure that no Sinhalese property was damaged.'' (Oslo Report dateline 29 July 1983 in Madras Hindu)

''It was a horrifying nightmare - looting, burning, murder on an unimaginable scale. Colombo resembles a bombed city in places - charred and blackened, roofless gaping buildings where prosperous houses, shops and factories once stood. What is dreadful to realise is that the whole operation was planned and carried out with virtually military precision. Tamil... houses, shops and factories had quite clearly been marked out earlier. And although everything took place so quickly and over such a large area, giving the idea of spontaneity, everywhere the pattern was the same... Some one seemed to have planned the whole thing and waited only for an opportunity...'' (Eye witness account, Sri Lanka: Racism and the Authoritarian State - Race and Class, Volume XXVI, A.Sivanandan and Hazel Waters, Institute of Race Relations)

These were the facts which led Paul Sieghart Q.C., Chairman of Justice, to write in March 1984 :

"... One thing is quite clear: they (the attacks) did not start spontaneously. On the morning of the 24th of July, many people apparently went about their ordinary business in Colombo, with no forebodings and no expectations of anything untoward. And then suddenly, the streets were full of goondas, Tamil houses and shops were on fire, Tamil possessions were being destroyed, and Tamils were being killed... Clearly this was not a spontaneous upsurge of communal hatred among the Sinhala people - nor was it, as has been suggested in some quarters, a popular response to the killing of 13 soldiers in an ambush by Tamil Tigers on the previous day, which was not even reported in the newspapers until after the riots began. It was a series of deliberate acts, executed in accordance with a concerted plan, conceived and organised well in advance. But who were the planners?" (Paul Sieghart: Sri Lanka-A Mounting Tragedy of Errors - Report of a Mission to Sri Lanka in January 1984 on behalf of the International Commission of Jurists and its British Section, Justice, March 1984)

The government of Sri Lanka faced with these self evident facts was, disarmingly frank. The Sinhala Minister of Information, Dr. Ananda Tissa de Alwis, announced on 29 July 1983 (see also Full text of Speech) :

"Look at some of the facts that you know yourself. As I told the press briefing on Wednesday after the cabinet meeting, there was a pattern about this, wherever the rioting took place. You may recall that His Excellency the President, when he addressed the nation, also referred to this general pattern of events, from place to place. The similarity of the action of those who took part in it. How can there be a pattern if there was no leadership?

Pre planning, instruction about what each group was to do - you saw for yourself, for example, that although riots took place, burning of houses and shops took place in widely different parts of the city and its suburbs, there was a distinct method in every case... Now, if this happened in Borella and did not happen in Nugegoda, then there is no pattern; then there was no unity of design; there was no instruction. But where it happened, it was exactly in the same way. This was the pattern...

Another thing that everybody noticed, or most people noticed if they were looking, was that the looters or the people who came to burn and pillage, carried lists of names and addresses. They knew exactly where to go. They did not search. They looked at a piece of paper, looked at a number and there they were. Therefore there was pre planning. We now understand from the information in the hands of the government, that these names and addresses were taken from the Register of Electors, from the Parliamentary Voters Lists, and were prepared very much in advance for an occasion such as this, the timing of which was left for various events which might or might not have happened, or might or might not have been engineered."

In the words of Minister de Alwis, "How can there be a pattern, if there were no leaders? " How, indeed? Who, then, were the leaders ? Who were the planners of this contingent plan which was "prepared very much in advance" and the "timing of which was left for various events which might or might not have happened " or which "might or might not have been engineered"?

Full text of speech by the Minister of State & Information, Anandatissa De Alwis on TV on 29 July 1983 as issued by the Sri Lanka Government Printer and quoted in Lawasia Report 'Democracy in Peril - Sri Lanka, a Country in Crisis' by Patricia Hyndman, 7 June 1985 -

" Everyone knows the extent of damage done to our country by the riots of the last few days. People are beginning to realise the extent of the unemployment which is a direct result. Even a small boutique employed two or three persons, and some of the larger shops twenty or thirty persons. And some of the factories that have been burned down employed thousands of people. Ninety persons of the employees in all these establishments were Sinhalese. But I am not going to talk to you about those disasters. I want to talk to you about some other aspect of this situation, which is even more dangerous.

Tonight I want to tell you that this is not a mere Sinhala - Tamil riot. It is much more than that. It is a deeper conspiracy that merely set one set of people against another. This is part of a very deep plot to overthrow the Government.

Look at some of the facts that you know for yourself. As I told the Press briefing on Wednesday after the cabinet meeting, there was a pattern about this, wherever the rioting took place. You may recall that His Excellency the President, when he addressed the nation also referred to this general pattern of events, from place to place. The similarity of the action of those who took part in it. How can there be a pattern if there was no leadership? Pre-planning, instruction about what each group was to do. You saw for yourself, for example, that although riots took place, burnings of houses and shops took place in widely different parts the city and its suburbs.

There was a distinct method in each case. The rioters came along, took out the people from their homes, or the employees and proprietors from the shops, put them on the road, then carried some of the goods on to the road and set fire to them. Then they proceeded inside the workshop, or factory or house, to set fire to the rest. Now, if this happened in Borella and didn’t. happen in Nugegoda, then there is no pattern. Then there is no unity of design. There was no instruction. But wherever it happened, exactly in the same way. This was the pattern.

Of course there was looting, but there were — according to information now in the hands of the government — definite instructions not to loot. This instruction was given apparently in order not to attract public disapproval and resistance to what they were doing, or the people doing it. Further, the looting that took place was an activity in which the locals took part. (As you know the thugs and hooligans you find in every street junction were happy to do the looting once the job had been done).

So to that degree, there was a pattern. Another thing that everybody noticed, or most people noticed if they were looking, was that the looters, or the people who came to burn and pillage, carried lists of names and addresses. They know exactly where to go. They didn’t search. They looked at a piece of paper, looked at a number and there they were. Therefore, there was pre-planning. We now understand from the information in the hands of the Government, that these names and addresses were taken from the Register of Electors, from the parliamentary voting Lists, and were prepared very much in advance for an occasion such as this, the timing of which was left for various events which might or might not have happened, or might or might not have been engineered.

The Government also has information that there were three stages in the operation, plotted against it to bring it down. Stage one was to start a Sinhala - Tamil riot by exploiting the prevailing tension between the two races and the tension created by the unceasing activity of terrorists and terrorism in the North. The second stage was to begin later with a riot between the Sinhalese and the Muslims. In point of fact, one of our Ministers said that some such thing was attempted in one area, but fortunately he was present on the spot and was able to calm feelings of people who might otherwise have been at each other’s throats.

This shows that there was a pre plan and an incitement ready, provocation ready, to create such a series of actions throughout the country. Now that was the second stage of this plan. The third stage of the plan was to create a division among the Sinhalese themselves. Sinhalese-Buddhists and Sinhalese-Christians. This would have followed the same pattern of rumour, or provocation, of some assault on some Priest or Church or Temple, and a highly exaggerated version of what really happened, and then the people who were planning it, would have witnessed the kind of mayhem we witnessed in the last few days.

It was believed by these people that if all these changes were successfully launched, the Police and the armed services would themselves be divided. (After all if there were conflicts between Sinhala and Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslims, Buddhists and Christians, then the men serving in the Armed Forces and Police are themselves Buddhists, Christians, Sinhalese or Tamils, or Muslims as the case may be.)

The people who were plotting all this hoped that that would lead to a collapse of the military arm of Government, and that Government would not be able to keep the peace, and a Government that cannot keep the peace has ended its authority. That was the objective of the people who planned this thing in this country. Certain reports show that advice on local conditions and the kind of persons to be involved, persons to be isolated for criticism or attack or whatever. That kind of advice came from certain University lecturers in the Campuses of this country. I am not free to talk of names and people, I am only indicating the background to what has happened.

The master plan had in it the minds of certain foreign elements. These foreign elements are the Master Planners, who plotted the course of actions one by one. The operation was based on local political parties. Sometimes in certain areas combinations of political parties totally opposed to the Government. Some of these parties have also had talks with terrorists in the North, and there had been secret meetings at which the Sinhala parties in the South and the Tamil parties in the North had got together to help each other, both using terrorist means to achieve ends for different reasons, one from the other.

The plotters also hoped to create later, or simultaneously, a run on food. A food shortage, leading to a food riot. And there, regardless of party, regardless of race or religion, everybody would join or so they hoped. If this plan succeeded, our country’s progress would have been doomed. All the developnent which means jobs, food, money, land, homes, health, education for the people, peaceful living for the people, all these would have been gone. All the efforts of development would have been in vain. Once again Sri Lanka would have gone back to being yet another basket case among the poorer nations of the world. Our people would have lived in terror and fear of their own shadows. But fortunately the Police and the Armed services, working under very severe difficulties, under great strain and the large mass of our disciplined people in the country, helped the Government to deal with this situation. The danger is not yet over. There are still groups using every means they can, particularly of rumour to start new riots all over again. There were looters waiting to take advantage of this situation. They are not concerned with Sinhala or Tamil or any other race or issue. They are neither patriotic nor one bit worried about the future. They are worried about tomorrow’s loot. They exist only when there is disorder. They are waiting.

Everyone’s family is now in danger and the remedy now is in your hands. The Government has a right to ask you to help the Government to protect you. You have a right to demand of the Government that the Government protects you. But both these things have one common feature. A togetherness between the people and the Government. The Government by itself cannot protect anybody. The people cannot by itself ask the Government to protect them if they do not help. Now can you help? We are not asking you to fight in the streets.

You can help by giving your support and confident to President Jayewardena. He is the Head of State, and if this crisis is to be overcome, he and he alone can help us all, without help to overcome it, and to bring back peace and order in this country. You can help by keeping calm, even if the people round you get excited and angry. All of us are going through a terrible strain. Most of us are anxious for someone or another, some parts of one family. This is natural. It is natural to be irritated and angry under the circumstances. Trying to find someone to blame. Nobody blames himself or herself. We always try to find someone to blame. Therefore, in this crisis if we can keep calm and not trying to find people to blame (we can do that later) we can help.

We can help by forming vigilance Committees, in our streets, in our gardens, in our cities and towns. We can help by helping those who have formed these Societies. We can help by not passing on rumour, tots of these rumours are passed on the telephone. ‘Did you hear’, somebody says. ‘I heard from a very reliable friend’, and these reliable friends have heard from other reliable friends, and if only these ‘reliable friends’ WILL KEEP THEIR MOUTHS SHUT, many of the trouble we had would not have occurred. For example, somebody invented a rumour that there were terrorists on the roofs of tall buildings in the Fort and that they were shooting at our troops. THERE WAS NO SUCH THING. But it became so believable, people described them. They said they were in uniform. There were some who invented a beautiful story that some of these people were white people, from some other country. And one was a magnificent invention. The person said he saw one of them dead and his body was white.

This is what imagination, fevered imagination can create, out of nothing. What really happened you have read in the daily Press. Some people from a roof (some Sri Lankan people, some Sinhalese people) threw some explosive at our troops. Our troops fired back and these people on the roof, some of them died. That is how these rumours began. But see, what you heard was not what happened. What you heard was a fantastic story, a deadly story. It caused panic. People ran for their lives. That is what rumour can do. So, you can stop it. It’s you. If you do not repeat it to somebody else the rumour stops at your door. You can help in that way. You can help by not helping thugs and looters. This is no time to show your sympathy for the man in the next gardens of whom some people are afraid.

Therefore, my friends, in this hour of shame and misery for Sri Lanka let us get back together in groups to save our little country so that we shall ensure for the future once again a free society for us and for our children."

But who were the planners of this plan which was directed against the Tamils but not against Government institutions nor against Sinhalese capitalists nor against multinationals?

Who were the planners of this carefully conceived contingent plan that was to be put into operation on the happening of a suitable 'legitimising' event, which would provide the 'cover' and at the same time, the emotional base for the planned action.?

What are the facts? The attackers were Sinhala people - without exception. They attacked the houses of Tamil Members of Parliament. They attacked large and small business establishments owned by Tamils. They attacked the homes of Tamils. They attacked Tamils who were doctors, Tamils who were lawyers, Tamils who were clerks, Tamils who were labourers on estates, and Tamils who were petty traders. They attacked Tamil women and Tamil children. The attack was directed against Tamils - again, without exception.

Another self evident fact was that there were no attacks on government institutions. There were no attacks on the police or the army. There were no attacks on cabinet ministers. There were no attacks on members of parliament of the ruling party. Cabinet Ministers and Sinhala Members of Parliament travelled freely, without fear, in Colombo and elsewhere. There were no attacks on government personnel. There were no attacks on government owned corporations. There was nothing to suggest that the attack was directed against the government.

Who were the planners of a plan which was not directed against the government but against the Tamils?

It was also a fact that there were no attacks against Sinhala owned business establishments, whether large or small. There were no attacks on Sinhala landowners. There were no attacks on Sinhala capitalists. There were no attacks on multi national enterprises even where their local partners were Tamils.

"...Significantly none of the business operations in the government sponsored 'new economic zone' near Colombo's international airport were attacked by the mobs. The zone was set up soon after President Jayawardene came to power in 1977. It is based on principles tried and tested in Singapore, and was established with guiding Singapore expertise..." (Daily Telegraph, 3 August 1983)

There were no attacks on foreign owned hotels and other tourist enterprises. There was nothing to suggest that the attack was directed against capitalists or multinationals. There was nothing to suggest that the attack was left inspired.

Who were the planners of an attack which was neither directed against the government nor directed against big business but was directed against the Tamils?

It w as a plan which required considerable organisational resources. Who were the planners who were in a position to command considerable organisational resources?...

It was plan which required considerable organisational resources. There was a need to mobilise a large number of goondas to attack simultaneously in many different parts of the country. The plan required that lists of names and addresses of Tamils be prepared from electoral registers in respect of electorates not only in Colombo but also in Kandy, Badulla, Nuwara Eliya and elsewhere. The plan required arrangements to be made for the transport of goondas from outside Colombo. The plan required that the goondas should be supplied with the implements to commit murder and arson.

Again, it would not have been open to the planners to advertise in the daily press for the recruits they required to implement a plan such as the one that they had in mind. Nor was it open to the planners to set about recruiting large numbers of persons in advance, to implement a contingent plan. If they had given advance notice of the plan to the thousands who were required to implement the plan, the danger of a leak would have increased in proportion to the number of persons who were made aware of the plan.

A plan which involved murder and arson must be kept secret. But this was more so, where the plan was a contingent plan and which must therefore await the happening of a future event, the timing of which may not be entirely within the control of the planners. It would not have done, if the world had become aware of the plan before the time had arrived for its implementation. The best kept secrets are those that are known to the smallest number. And the contingent plan that was put into operation on 24 July 1983 was a secret that was well kept. It was a contingent plan which was known to a relatively small number - until the contingent event occurred and the order was given to implement the plan.

At the same time it was necessary that once the plan was made operational, the planners should have the capacity to mobilise thousands to do the deed at relatively short notice. But thousands cannot be mobilised at short notice, unless the thousands belonged to an existing organisational network. The planners were persons who were in a position to command and use such an existing network - a network with knowledge and experience of strong arm methods.

"..Thugs have been an increasingly important part of the Sri Lankan political scene over the last few years. They are like storm troopers, employed by right wing politicians and used freely at election time to intimidate, for example, voters..." (The New Statesman, 28 August 1983)

The New Statesman may have added, if it had known, that the largest concentration of 'storm troopers' was to be found in the trade union wing of the ruling party, the Jathika Sevaya Sangamaya, appropriately called the J.S.S., for short. The President of the J.S.S. was Industries Minister, Cyril Mathew and it was not without significance that the overwhelming majority of the members of the JSS were employees of government owned Corporations which functioned under the Industries Minister. In the words of a Dutch Working Group in its Memorandum of Human Rights Violations and Ethnic Violence in Sri Lanka in December 1983:

"The use of the police or pro government supporters to harass, humiliate and intimidate the opposition is not a phenomenon peculiar to this government... But under the present government, this phenomenon has assumed an alarmingly new dimension, in the highly organised and systematic way in which goondas are made use of for political purposes. These squads are organised in two ways. UNP parliamentarians are known to have a permanent squad of vigilantes in their electoral districts, made up of UNP youth leaguers and well known local thugs. In addition, vigilante squads drawn from the UNP trade union, the JSS, have been organised in each government owned corporation. These squads function as para military units exercising pro government discipline, and do not hesitate to use violence to achieve their ends....

When (the Sinhala opposition leader) Mrs.Bandaranaike was deprived of her civic rights, the government feared that her supporters would come to Colombo to stage a civil disobedience. To prevent this, groups of UNP thugs were deployed all over the city in addition to the armed forces. President Jayawardene himself stated at a public ceremony in the village of Thopawewa: 'we told the party organisations, trade unions, youth leagues and women's leagues to protect their villages, not to allow even a dog to enter the city of Colombo, to ask those who try to enter why they were coming and to inspect them."

Who were the planners who were in a position to command considerable organisational resources?

Who were the planners who were in a position to command thousands to obey their orders to kill and burn and to assure the would be killers and arsonists, that no harm would befall them?...

Again, it was necessary that the planners were persons who were in a position to command thousands to obey their orders to kill and burn and to assure the would be killers and arsonists, that no harm would befall them.

Who were the planners who were able to assure the would be killers and arsonists that there would be no arrests by the police and that the army would look the other way? Who were the planners who occupied such positions of authority that would render such assurances credible?

But that was not all. It was not merely a matter of assuring the would be killers and arsonists that no harm would befall them. It was not merely a matter of such assurances being credible. The success of the plan itself depended on securing that the police and the armed forces did in fact look the other way whilst the deed was done. Goondas are notorious for their cowardice and if the police and the army were seen as being ready to move into action, the attack would have collapsed.

And, in fact, the police and the armed forces cheered or looked the other way. This happened not in one place. It was not the case that a particular battalion of the army had mutinied. The army in Nuwara Eliya, the army in Kandy, the army in Badulla, the army in Colombo, the army everywhere, acted in the same way. The uniformity was chilling. In the words of Minister de Alwis, "now, if this happened in Borella and did not happen in Nugegoda, then there is no pattern; then there is no unity of design; there was no instruction. But where it happened, it was exactly in the same way. This was the pattern."

The part played by the Sri Lankan armed forces constituted a chilling pattern. It was a pattern which Minister de Alwis found convenient to ignore. Nevertheless, it was a pattern which revealed a 'unity of design'. In the words of Minister de Alwis :

"How can there be a pattern if there was no leadership ...pre planning, instruction about what each group was to do.."

Who were the planners who were in a position to direct and influence the police and the army which functioned directly under President Jayawardene?...

Who, then were the planners who were in a position to direct and influence the police and the army which functioned directly under President Jayawardene: a police and an army which were led by officers hand picked by President Jayawardene during the six year period of his presidency which commenced in 1977?

It was a police force which was encouraged to violate human rights by a government, which on more than one occasion, promoted police officers and commended their conduct within hours of the Supreme Court finding that such officers had acted in breach of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

"..The President freely conceded that he had personally ordered the promotion of the two police officers (in June 1983), and the payment out of public funds of the damages and costs. This he said had been necessary to maintain police a time when he found the Supreme Court a hindrance to some of his policies. The conclusion is inescapable that he was deliberately seeking to teach the Judges a lesson in order to make them more pliable to the Executive's wishes..." (Paul Sieghart: Sri Lanka - A Mounting Tragedy of Errors - Report of a Mission to Sri Lanka in January 1984 on behalf of the International Commission of Jurists and its British Section, Justice, March 1984)

''The government when presented with evidence that the army or the police have committed atrocities against defenceless Tamils has usually reacted with a shrug of the shoulders. Sometimes, indeed, police misconduct has actually been rewarded. In two separate cases recently, the Supreme Court found that police officers had acted illegally. In both cases the officers concerned were both promoted after the judgment. The security forces have interpreted this as a license to do as they please with impunity, and President Jayawardene has not seemed eager to disabuse them. Early last month he introduced legislation to cremate or bury dead bodies if they think it necessary without any inquest or post mortem taking place.'' (London Times, 30 July 1983)

The planners were persons whose instructions would be obeyed by the police and army, and whose instructions, 'to look the other way', would not be countermanded by any one else. Because, if the instructions were countermanded, then the plan would fail. And, it was a contingent plan that depended heavily on the army and the police looking the other way.

The features of the planners of the contingent plan emerge from the nature of the plan...

The features of the planners of the contingent plan emerge from the nature of the plan.

  • The planners were persons who had little regard for the opinion or the lives of the Tamil people.
  • The planners were persons who were in a position to command considerable organisational resources.
  • The planners were persons who were in a position to mobilise an existing strong arm net work at short notice.
  • The planners were persons who were able to assure the goondas that no harm would befall them and that the army and the police would look the other way.
  • The planners were persons who occupied positions of power which rendered such assurances credible.
  • The planners were humans, if such they were, who were in a position to influence and direct the police and the army to look the other way and ensure that such directions were not countermanded.
  • The planners were persons who were secure in the knowledge that they themselves would be safe after the event - that the thousands who implemented the plan would not and could not 'tell on them'.
  • The planners were persons who were secure in the knowledge that there would be no investigation by the government - because the planners themselves were persons who were in a position to direct and influence government action.

The circumstances taken together, support the charge that the Sri Lankan authorities (and nobody else) were the planners of Genocide '83.

Cabinet Minister S. Thondaman (who continued to serve in the Sri Lanka government) remarked in an interview in the Illustrated Weekly of India on 18 December 1983:

''We all know who these people are. I am not naming them right now... How can any action be taken against them? They are important people. They are part of this government, just as I am. Behind all this are our own people... We all know them.''

And Professor Wilson writing in 'Break up of Sri Lanka' quotes a letter written to him by George Immerwahr, a United Nations civil servant and a US citizen who had worked in Sri Lanka in the late 1950s. The letter dated 13 February 1985 said:

" .. the most shattering report came from a friend who was a civil servant; he told me that he had helped plan the riots at the orders of his superiors. When I heard him say this, I was so shocked I told him I simply couldn't believe him, but he insisted he was telling the truth, and in fact he justified the Government's decision to stage the riots. When I heard this, I telephoned an official in our own State Department, and while he declined to discuss the matter, I got the impression that he already knew from our embassy in Colombo what I was telling him."


But the Sri Lankan government said the attacks were a left inspired plot against the government!...

But, having admitted that the attack was a planned attack and the result of a contingent plan, who did the Sri Lankan government say were the planners of this planned attack on the Tamil people? On the 22nd of August 1983, President Jayawardene stated in an address to the nation (see also Full Text of Addressbelow):

"Three weeks ago, the people of Sri Lanka passed through experiences which they have rarely had in this country since Independence. Hundreds of people lost their lives, thousands lost their jobs, houses were burned, factories destroyed. These events applied equally to all citizens of Sri Lanka - Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims.... I had been advised that I should say this or something else, but I thought that I should speak from the depth of my conscience..."

President Jayawardene, plumbed the depths of his conscience and his conscience told him that 'these events applied equally to all citizens of Sri Lanka'. President Jayawardene would have had his listeners believe that the murder and arson of July 1983 was not an attack on the Tamil people - on the contrary, it was a left inspired attack on the government, which 'applied equally to all citizens of Sri Lanka, Sinhala, Tamils and Muslims'. He continued:

"..these (left wing) parties do not believe in democracy, these parties feel that, under the democratic system, the economic advance that we have undertaken, the economic steps we have taken to give jobs to our people, to raise the standard of living of our people, would attain such a height in the next few years that all chances of coming to office will be lost and finished."

President Jayawardene's Minister of State, Mr.Anandatissa de Alwis was more specific:

"This was part of an international conspiracy to destabilise us. We know who are behind it at all. I have even told the nation this... These people are jealous of the success of our experiments with a free economy. That is why they are trying their best to set us in flames. Behind all this is the foreign hand: the KGB, to be precise. I am not afraid of saying this openly." (Interviewed by Pritish Nandy, Illustrated Weekly of India, 18 December 1983)

But, what was the nature of the 'economic advance' which President Jayawardene's government had undertaken and which these left wing parties feared would lose them 'all chances of coming into office' through the democratic process? Sri Lanka's external debt rose from Rs.13,000 million in 1977 to a massive Rs.42,000 million in 1982 - an increase of more than 200%. Its terms of trade deteriorated sharply by 64% during the same period. The purchasing power of its exports saw a marked decline and it became increasingly dependent on foreign aid and support. Again, the government was compelled to introduce harsh expenditure cuts in not only welfare budgets but also in capital projects. Fixed income employees were hardest hit by rising inflation and in 1980 a nationwide strike had resulted in 40,000 employees losing their jobs.

President Jayawardene's own confidence in the response of the Sinhala electorate to the 'economic advance' that his government had undertaken was such that in December 1982, he had taken the unprecedented step of postponing the general elections that were due in 1983, by holding a referendum under an emergency. A Dutch Working Group reported in December 1983:

"..the reason given for the referendum was the 'discovery' by the President of a threat to his life and a plot to overthrow the government, by a group of 'naxalites' - a group within the main opposition party, the SLFP. These persons were taken into custody and a state of emergency was declared. The referendum was then held, with a state of emergency prevailing; with the main organisers of the opposition party behind bars; and the Presidents main opponent, Mrs. Bandaranaike prevented from taking part (because she had been deprived of her civic rights).

Once the referendum was held, the threat to the government seems to have disappeared as mysteriously as it had emerged. A police inquiry into the alleged conspiracy could come up with no evidence against the accused...The referendum was held in an atmosphere of violence, corrupt practices and intimidation of the opposition unprecedented in Sri Lanka's electoral history. .. The whole shameful charade calls into question the legitimacy of the UNP's present term of office...It is worth recalling that Hitler too, used the stratagem of referenda, maintained a climate of anti semitism and anti communism reinforced by political thuggery to suspend 'guaranteed civil liberties', to create an awesome dictatorship."

And Australia's New South Wales M.P., Timothy J.Moore reported in June 1983:

"The Civil Rights Movement of Sri Lanka has published a critique of the referendum questioning whether it was, in fact 'free and fair'. This analysis, released in January 1983, in summary alleges that there were serious defects both prior to the poll and on polling day. The Movement also draws attention to some statistical analysis in selected electoral districts that would appear, prima facie, to raise grave questions as to the accuracy of the count returned from those districts... The author shares the concern expressed by the Secretary General of the International Commission of Jurists about the desirability of the use of a referendum to extend the term of the parliament and also is deeply concerned as to whether the referendum, in fact, was conducted freely and fairly and could be taken as representing the expression of opinion of the people of Sri Lanka..." (Ethnic and Communal Violence: The Independence of the Judiciary: Protection of Fundamental Rights and the Rule of Law in Sri Lanka - Fragile Freedoms? - Report of an ICJ Mission to Sri Lanka in June 1983 - Timothy J.Moore M.P)

Patricia Hyndman, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of New South Wales and Secretary, commented in the Lawasia Human Rights Standing Committee Report, Democracy in Peril, published in June 1985:

'' this time, government statements indicated that the violence had arisen from a foreign inspired plot to overthrow, or at least to seriously undermine, the government's authority. Hinted at was the involvement of a foreign power which was said to be using the Soviet affiliated Communist Party to destroy Sri Lanka's economic developments... By the time of our departure from Sri Lanka (September 1st) no evidence had been made public to substantiate these allegations of the involvement of either the leftist parties or a foreign power in the July violence.''

''Many foreign local observers... regard the claims of Mr.Jayawardene and his fellow ministers (of a left wing plot and foreign involvement) as an attempt to cover up the fact that a few leading members of his own government and his ruling United National Party may have played a leading role in the plot (to attack the Tamils)...'' (John Elliott in the Financial Times, 12 August 1983)

Again, though President Jayawardene claimed that the July '83 attack was the result of a left inspired contingent plan, the Sri Lankan Ambassador, Mr. Tissa Jayakody told the Sub Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities in Geneva, on 22 August 1983, the same day that President Jayawardene addressed the nation in Sri Lanka, that the incidents of July and August were a 'spontaneous reaction'. He said:

" The incidents which had been sparked off ... at Colombo and in other parts of the country (after the ambush of 13 soldiers in Jaffna) had been a spontaneous reaction..." (Summary Record of 10th Meeting of 36th Session of UN Sub Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, 22 August 1983)

The government of Sri Lanka spoke in two voices. Which voice, if any, represented the truth?


Full text of President J.R.Jayawardene's Address to the Nation on 22 August 1983 and quoted in Lawasia Report 'Democracy in Peril - Sri Lanka, a Country in Crisis' by Patricia Hyndman, 7 June 1985

"Three weeks ago, the people of Sri Lanka passed through experiences which they have rarely had in this country since Independence. Hundreds of people lost their lives, thousands lost their jobs, houses were burned, factories destroyed. These events applied equally to all citizens of Sri Lanka - Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims. Fortunately it was confined only to certain area of Sri Lanka, including Colombo. I express my deepest sympathy to those who have suffered and we shall try our best to see what help we can afford to them.

I am speaking to you today as the Head of the State and Head of the Government elected by the people. I am not here, put in this position by arms or violence but by the free vote of the people. My Government too was elected by the people, where a democratic Government functions in a democratic environment.

I had been advised that I should say this or something else, but I thought I should speak from the depths of my own conscience, not to hurt anyone, not to please anyone, but to place before you certain facts and opinions which I hold.

There has been a growing tension between the Sinhalese and Tamil people in the last thirty five to forty years. I need not go into the history of these conflicts. But when we came forward for election in 1977, the United National Party, in its manifesto, outlined how it intended to solve some of these problems. Since then, we have introduced legislation imposing certain conditions which we promised we would do. We have implemented them, may be not as fully as we wished to, but we are in the process of doing so. We have, therefore, taken whatever steps we could legitimately, to implement the provisions of our manifesto.

We intended at the Round Table Conference, which we summoned just before these violent activities took place, to place before those who attended the Conference, our solutions and what we intended to do, and also to obtain the consensus for the banning and making illegal of the desire for a separate State. Unfortunately, we were unable to do so because, on the first occasion, many of the Parties invited did not come, and, on the second occasion, violence had broken out. Instead we were able to introduce in Parliament a resolution and a law to make the desire and the movement for a separate State, illegal. For the first time in our history, since a group of politicians decided to divide this country into two, we brought that legal action to make such a step illegal and punishable. I need not go into the details of that law.

We also had a dialogue with the Prime Minister of India and, for the first time, the central Government of India has specifically stated that they do not support the separation of our country, will not help in such a movement and further that they stand for the unity, the integrity and the independence of Sri Lanka. It was when we had come to this stage of our dialogue with those who wanted a separate State, that the violence broke out.

We have also decided that in future we will not have any talks with any Party that wants to advocate the separation of Sri Lanka. Therefore, who would benefit of this violence created or these violent actions taken. I cannot think of any solution to the problem we face by violence. Some say the violence was communal, some say it was political. It is true there was a growing feeling, as I said, of tension and animosity between the Sinhalese and the Tamil people. That animosity was re created and flamed up for the purpose of the political activities and desires of those who, we think, led, spearheaded and outlined this movement.

You are aware that this Government came into office on July 23, 1977. The elections were on July 21st. The results were on July 22nd, and myself and the members of my cabinet took their oaths on July 23, 1977. We had the Presidential election last year and the people decided at a Referendum that General Elections which were due in August 1983, will not be held but be postponed for six years. Since the results of the Referendum there have been various speeches and actions by members of certain political parties that they would not let this Government function after August 1983.

I draw your attention particularly to a statement made by Mr. Vasudeva Nanayakkara who was a candidate for one of the bye elections in May 1983 to the Eheliyagoda seat. He had said quite specifically there that if he is elected he would use his powers as a member of Parliament for extra Parliamentary activity, joining hands with the terrorists in the North for this purpose of achieving their objects. He has further stated that he does not stand for democratic elections, but is prepared to join in what he calls “Aragalaya.’, that is riot or a disturbance or a violent movement for the purpose of seeing that elections are held in August 1983, and this Government does not function after that. It is obvious, therefore, on the statements of the Nava Samasamaja Party leader, Mr. Vasudeva Nanayakkara, that from August 1983, they were preparing for some form of violence or disturbances.

We have evidence that, soon after the referendum or during the referendum, a certain group that were called the Naxalite group, were preparing, by inflaming the people’s minds, making them violent minded against the Government, against the President, that they would take some action, in case they returned to office, to destroy the United National Party and others who thought democratically, including those in the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, who were democratically minded. We have also the conduct of the JVP which is a party which took to arms in 1971, fought the Government of the day, tried to destroy it, took over the Police Stations and almost succeeded in bringing down a lawfully elected Government. I remember I was the Leader of the Opposition at that time in Parliament. I gave the full support of myself and my Party to Mrs. Bandaranike to defeat any insurrection which sought to overthrow a legally elected Government.

The JVP also made statements and made it clear after they lost the Referendum, they did not even contest some of the bye elections. They made it clear that they are giving up their parliamentary tactics and that they should take to non- parliamentary tactics in order to defeat a Government, which by a Referendum extended its period by more than six years. We have, therefore, reviewed certain political parties in this country - the Communist party, the party of Vasudeva Nanayakkara called the Nava Samasamaja party, the party of Rohana Wijeweera, the JVP - as dedicated not to the democratic way of life, but to a violent way of forming a Government and maintaining it by violence. We have, on the other hand, the United National party, the Sri Lanka Freedom party, which are democratic parties.

During the elections that were held last year, out of six million five hundred thousand voters, six million voted for the two democratic parties, the United National party and the Sri Lanka Freedom party. It is, therefore, parties that represent only five hundred thousand people who believe in violence as a way of attaining political power. We also find in the violence that took place from the 25th of July, there is a certain pattern of leadership, where gangs of youth were going about in vans and bicycles and motor bicycles and cars, inflaming their supporters in various towns and the city and violence and arson took place after that.

We found that in Colombo, we found it along the Colombo - Kandy - Galle Road, we found it in Kandy, Badulla and Bandarawela. That is not a sudden outburst of mobs, surely? But was planned and carefully nurtured over a period of time. We found also that the murder of thirteen of our soldiers in Jaffna took place on a very significant day, the day being 23rd July, 1983. It was six years before that on the 23rd of July, 1977, that I myself and my Government were sworn-in exactly on that day, also a Saturday, that we find this outburst, beginning with the death of 13 soldiers in Jaffna.

That was the signal for the uprising which took place in certain parts of this country. I would, therefore, like you to remember that we have the JVP, which initiated the insurrection of 1971, who were released by me as I thought we should give them a chance, return to the democratic system, contest the elections. But having lost the presidential election, having lost the Referendum, having lost the by-elections, they thought the only way to return to power before the six years were over was by violence.

Now, these are being investigated by certain authorities and when we receive their report, further action would be taken. Where parties that believe in democracy, for democracy to function, the majority who prevail, where a parliament functions after elections by the free vote of the people, the Government and the Opposition are chosen and laws are passed by the majority vote taken in parliament, where discussions to settle problems affecting communities of people, are settled by round table conferences by discussions and majority vote.

These matters are alien to the thinking of those who believe in violence, if I may say so, some of the Marxist parties in our country. Without law and order being preserved, without the law being respected, without order being the guiding line for Government, you cannot have democracy. Those parties do not believe in democracy. Those parties feel that under the democratic system the economic advances that we have undertaken, the economic steps we have taken, to give jobs to our people, to raise the standard of living of our people, would attain such a height in the next few years that all chances of coming to office will be lost and finished.

Therefore, my friends, this Government is dedicated not only to the democratic way of life, not only to economic development according to the plan outlined, but also primarily to maintain law and order. In that our Government is completely dedicated and resolved that where people seek to disturb and disrupt law and order in this country, the strictest tenets of the law will be enforced. Whatever punishment there has to be served out to them, our Government is determined to do that, whether it be individual or party.

Thank you for listening to me and I hope I have the co­operation of all those who believe in civilization, in a civilized way of living, who believe that law and order must prevail, that the smallest, the poorest and whatever race or caste he may belong to, who is a citizen of this country, is entitled to live and think and work within the framework of democracy. That I feel would have the fullest support in all the efforts that this Government is taking to preserve that itself."


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