Pogroms in a Divided Country

'EVOLUTION OF POGROMS IN A DIVIDED COUNTRY'                                     By Richy Markandu

23rd-24th of July are the dates unforgettable in the minds of Tamil ethnic minority of Sri Lanka. These are the days when political member gangs of Sinhalese ethnic majority with the help of government armed forces chose to vengefully attack Tamils ethnic minority, their businesses, homes, temples in south of the country including the capital city, Colombo. The past refuses to go away.  The political history of Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) since independence from Great Britain in 1948, revealed more candidly on successive Sinhalese governments' orchestrated 'STATE TERRORISM' to safeguard the aspirations of Buddhist Sinhalese people. The events in the political history started with the leading action undertaken by the political dynasty family of S.W.R.D Bandaranaike, followed by D.S.Senanayke's family, then by the family of J.R.Jayawardene's and, at present, combinations of both dynasties of Bandaranaike's (Chandrika B.K as President) and Jayawardene's (Ranil Wickremasinghe as Prime Minister). In fact one of the ethnic researchers after meticulously researched the entire political history of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) pointed out Sinhalese made their nationalistic identity into 'Sri Lanka is for Sinhalese.' Three decades ago, people like J.R.Jayawardene and his member stooges namely, Cyril Mathew, Gamini Dissanayke, R. Premadasa, and Lalith Athulathmudali (all were cabinet members of J.R. Jayawardene's government) organized the anti-Tamil movement, a parallel to anti-Zionist movement to exterminate the economic life of Tamil people. A policy evolved slowly from 1981 to 1983, and it reached a crescendo in July 1983 known similar to CRYSTAL NIGHT in Europe in which temples of Jews were burned, businesses were looted, homes were burned to ground, people were killed. On 23rd of July, 1983, anti-Tamil violence erupted throughout Colombo and South of Sri Lanka. In the aftermath of pogroms orchestrated by then government of J.R.Jayawardene, more than 3,000 Tamils were slaughtered, burned alive while government armed troops stood watching the horror scene. Many had lost their parents, children, family members, kith and kins, their homes, and their businesses. The anti-Tamil policy idea was introduced by J.R.Jayawardene to solve the Tamil problem once and for all. This was stated categorically in one of the secret meetings of J.R.Jayawardene. Since then, successive governments had a series of hidden anti-Tamil policies to silence Tamil ethnic minority and the government of Sinhalese ethnic majority transformed race-riot which started in 1983 into a pogrom design to eliminate Tamil ethnic minority from Sri Lankan soil. The Chairman of the International Commission of Jurists representing Great Britain at that time Mr. Paul Sieghart put it, ' It was a series of deliberate acts, executed in accordance with a concerted plan, conceived and organised well in advance.' The evolution of pogrom which started in 1983 with leading action taken by J.R.Jaywardene's government took the lives of more than 3,000 Tamils and still the death toll continues to grow more than 70,000 lives under the commandership of President CBK. As I said earlier, the past refuses to go away. The attempts to 'normalize' the past aim to make every Tamil see the genocidal killings in the context of ethnic civil war with its five-to-six figures (100,000) casualties. 23rd-24th July, 1983 might be more powerful image of the shattering of illusions about religious values implicit in the enlightenment than of the gleeful scenes of burning one of the best libraries in Asia, The Jaffna Public Library when J.R's men came to power because this was the turning point on the road to the most unthinkable and unspeakable horrors Sri Lanka or even South Asian counterpart witnessed before.

Let me wind up giving an oration by David Levertov during Adolf Eichmann's Trial:

It is crystal night

these spikes which are not

pitched in the range of common hearing

whistle through time

smashing the windows of sleep and dream

smashing the windows of history

a whiteness

scattering in hailstorms

each a mirror

for man's eyes.