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Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home >  Tamils - a Trans State Nation  > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Indictment against Sri Lanka > Black July 1983: the Charge is Genocide - Preface, Prologue & Index > Black July 1983 - The Record Speaks


Black July 1983: the Charge is Genocide

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)



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