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Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
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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

On 21st Anniversary - President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga's belated attempt at an apology
but yet no inquiry to
establish the facts
and bring the culprits to justice...

"President Kumaratunga in her words and actions has the advantage of being completely free of any sense of embarrassment or shame.

Many who experienced Black July 1983 at the receiving end are either dead or, if alive, still find it so terrible that they are unwilling to verbalise to others. On the other hand, the guilty or the complicit either still gloat, minimise (�It was not that bad�) or blame the victims: �They asked for it.�

It would be difficult to exaggerate the horrors of that day: human beings, including children, burnt alive while jeering groups danced gleefully around in �patriotic� and pious frenzy; women gang-raped, the eyes of at least one prisoner gouged out; bodies dragged and placed before a Buddha statue, as if the Compassionate One were an atavistic god who demanded human sacrifice.

Now the President thinks the past can be wiped out and the present healed simply by saying sorry for those �incidents� (sic). She does not seem to realize that such an apology is an insult to the dead, and a painful affront to those who suffered directly or indirectly. Such an apology is much worse than silence, which at least can be variously interpreted. There is no declaration of an annual National Day of Reflection and Sorrow; no mention of an independent Truth and Reconciliation Commission; no mention of prosecution.

Simply waving the magic wand of �Sorry� brings about a wonderful change of scene and situation. If only life were so simple, and rectification so easy. She blurs and confuses matters by mentioning those who send children as suicide bombers. While not condoning such actions, one must point out that these unfortunate developments are both after and, more importantly, because of 1983. (At that time, the number of those active in the LTTE is estimated to have been between fifteen and twenty-five. The Tigers are the creation of chauvinism, and of the intolerance and violence that flow from it.)

But to return to the President�s utter lack of morality and, therefore, of any sense of shame, she exploits the issuing of an apology to reflect credit on herself. By implication, she says, I have the �courage� and offer �the right leadership�. At root, it is not an apology so much as preening self-praise: See how honest, courageous and just I am.

And one asks, �What took you so long, Madam? Being late, why so little?� Is the apology to be seen as one of the �great achievements� (of the President) that the nation can be �proud of�? It might seem boorish of me to cavil at an apology, but (a) the nature and (b) the motives of this verbal gesture need to be recognised, exposed and condemned." Charles Sarvan from Berlin, Germany on Chandrika Kumaratunga�s Apology, 27 July 2004

President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga's belated attempt at an apology

"President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga tendering a national apology to the victims of July 1983 riots on behalf of the state, government and all citizens last Friday said that it is late but still not too late. Excerpts of the speech:

"As we know all nations have great achievements, which they are proud of, they also have moments in their history, which they need to be ashamed of. Only very few nations seem to have had the courage or the right leadership to accept the blame for their moments of shame.

"At least now I believe that we as a nation and especially the Sri Lankan State should come of age, look the truth in the face and make a national apology, first to all the victims of that day in Black July and then beyond them to the entire nation.

"Perhaps it is the responsibility of the State and the Government to engage in that exercise first and foremost, and then all of us as the Nation, every citizen in this country should collectively accept the blame and make that apology to all of you here who are the representatives or the direct victims of that violence and through you to all the other tens of thousands who suffered by those incidents.

"I would like to assign to myself the necessary task on behalf of the State of Sri Lanka, the Government and on behalf of all of us; all the citizens of Sri Lanka to extend that apology. It is late but I think it is still not too late.

"Maybe if all of us can collectively put behind us all the little pettiness that has bound us in shackles, free ourselves from those many and numerous hatreds, jealousies that make of us little men and women, then I am sure we could move forward towards working, living as one nation in harmony, in a search for that very necessary unity within the diversity that is Sri Lanka, the diverse ethnic communities, the diverse religious communities, and various other social groups that live together in this country.

"We cannot forget, we cannot blind ourselves to the mistakes we have made; we will have to accept collective guilt for the wrongs, and then move forward.

When I say collective guilt I mean first the State of Sri Lanka for the horrors they perpetrated upon one section of our peoples, 21 years ago and at other lesser moments, but I also mean all the others on the other side of the divide who have also used young children as suicide bombers, and killed hundreds of people and caused much suffering to other people.

"I hope on this day, and I know that all of you here would hope and pray with me that all those who call themselves leaders, amongst the Sinhalese, the Tamils, the Muslims, the Hindus and everybody else would be able to reach at least for a brief moment that level of greatness that is required of us mere humans, those of us who pretend to be leaders to reach that greatness in order that we resolve this problem for our peoples.

"We are willing to do that, I hope all the others are also ready to do that. I am sure the Government will receive the support from all the citizens of this country, irrespective of who they are, or to what community they belong, in this enterprise which is the most difficult, the most challenging and the most dangerous any Government of this country has undertaken." Report in the Sri Lanka State Controlled Sunday Observer, 25 July 2004

Sarath Kumara on an Empty Apology,  6 August 2004

"....Speaking at a meeting to mark the 21st anniversary of the pogrom, Kumaratunga declared: �Every citizen in this country should collectively accept the blame and make an apology to the tens of thousands who suffered. I would like to assign to myself that task on behalf of the State of Sri Lanka, the government and on behalf of all of us; all the citizens of Sri Lanka to extend that apology.�

The �apology� was accompanied by nominal compensation to some of the victims. Just 72.3 million rupees [$US702,000] will be paid to 937 people or an average of 77,000 rupees [$750] for the injuries and destruction they suffered. Leaving aside the cost in lives, the loss of property alone in 1983 has been estimated to run into billions of rupees.

Kumaratunga�s sweeping declaration that �every citizen� was to blame is to consciously obscure the role played by the ruling elites in Colombo not only for the pogrom itself but their deliberate resort to anti-Tamil chauvinism over the preceding decades and since...While the president now offers an empty apology for the events of 1983, her Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) was responsible for institutionalising the anti-Tamil discrimination in the 1960s and 1970s that paved the way for the pogrom and the war. Along with the United National Party (UNP), she and the SLFP ruthlessly prosecuted the racialist war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to ensure the predominance of the Sinhala elite over their Tamil counterparts. ...�Every citizen� was not to blame for the tragic events. It is open secret that this violence was instigated and organised by then UNP government of President J.R. Jayewardene..."




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