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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

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 Address):

"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:

''...at 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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