Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home > Tamil National ForumSelected Writings - Ana Pararajasingham >  Remembering Black July 1983 - Address at a public meeting in Sydney attended by Australian Parliamentarians > Genocide'83

Selected Writings
Ana Pararajasingham, Australia

Remembering Black July 1983
Address at a public meeting in Sydney
 attended by Australian Parliamentarians

23 July 2006

Ladies and Gentleman,

Like the Jews of old who sat down by the rivers of Babylon and remembered Zion, the Tamils Diaspora, in this week in July will be gathering in all of the capitals of the modern world to remember our homeland and the event that drove us out of it-Black July.

Twenty-three years ago, in late July 1983, we were terrorised by angry mobs murdering, maiming and burning our homes in an orgy of violence unparalleled in our history and proving the Germen Poet Heinrich Heine's prediction that people who burn books do indeed burn people.

Two years prior to the genocidal violence that was unleashed against us in the South , the man responsible for coordinating these events, the Sri Lankan Minister for Industries, the Hon Cyril Matthew, a senior member of the Government was in Jaffna in the North, in the very heart of our homeland, leading his private army in an act of cultural genocide by burning down the Jaffna Public Library.

In July 1983, it was the same minister who supplied electoral lists and transport to carry out the carnage that was meant to 'teach the Tamils a lesson'. Months prior to the massacres, the President, JR Jayewardene had set the tone by publicly declaring that he no longer cared about the lives or the opinion of the Tamil people.

Minister Mathew ever ready to please his master acted promptly. The result was formidable; Over 3,000 Tamils killed, thousands of Tamil homes torched, hundreds of thousands of Tamils rendered refugees-all within a space of 10 days!

The lesson learnt by the Tamils, however, was not what the minister intended!

Faced with the stark choice of fight or flight many took flight but much to the surprise of the Minister and the Sinhala political establishment, several thousands of Tamils decided 'enough is enough' and stayed on to fight the Sinhala Government.

Throughout the previous 25 years Sinhala Governments had succeeded in beating the Tamils into submission by unleashing similar bouts of violence. This time it was different!

What was surprising was not that the Tamils had decided to fight for their lives and dignity, but that it had taken them this long. In 1958, Tazie Vittachi,a Sinhala journalist of international repute ended his ground breaking book 'Emergency 58' with the question 'have that Tamils and Sinhalese come to the parting of their ways?'.

It had taken the Tamils 25 years to decide that it was indeed time to part.

No doubt, the severity and intensity of Black July had something to do with it. But more importantly it was something else. It touched us in ways that the previous pogroms had not. Many who had escaped death either had a close brush with it or had seen it happen to kith an kin at close quarters in the hands of the mobs.

Many had escaped from homes only moments before the gangs arrived armed with the precise details of the owners and transported by Government vehicles, others had watched while loved ones were maimed, tortured and killed. I myself having fled our home minutes before it was burnt down; experienced the anger on hearing how my 85 year old grandmother was driven to the streets and my parents forced to seek refuge in a church .Having found refuge in the same church hours later, I was privy to stories of death, destruction and acts of murder carried out in broad daylight watched by hundreds. At the same camp while hundreds were clamoring to escape abroad or to reach our Homeland in the North East, I also heard several young men deciding stay onto fight.Black July was no doubt the turning point-the watershed. The Tamil worm had finally turned!

To paraphrase the words of Nelson Mandela, it was the Sinhalese oppressor who had decided the means of Tamil resistance. And today, that resistance has resulted in a de facto state comprising well over 70 % of the Tamil homeland in which Tamils are able to live with dignity and freedom if not in prosperity.

But in areas outside the de facto state, in our homeland still under the iron boot of the Sri Lankan state, the terror continues notwithstanding the cease-fire or the presence of the International Peace Monitors. Just this year alone over 300 people were killed ; in Allipiddy and Mannar entire families were brutally wiped out ; in Trincomalee and in Batticaloa murders continue unabated. But as always, the silence of the international community is deafening. Our message to the world at large is simple.

Death shall not deter us
Enough is enough.
Our people have endured persecution and oppression far too long.

To conclude in the words of Moses, addressed to the Egyptian Pharaoh who had oppressed and persecuted the Hebrew People "Let my people go"

Thank you





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