Tension ahead of Black July anniversary

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 22 July 1998, 23:59 GMT]
Security has been tightened in the northern town of Jaffna with increased search operations being carried out by the Sri Lanka Army (SLA), as the 15th anniversary of 'Black July' approaches said sources in Jaffna. Road checks by the SLA have also been increased during the last few days, they added.

On Monday the SLA launched a major search operation in Jaffna Town, and several check points were set up at which people were stopped and their identity cards checked, the sources added.

Fifteen years ago, ethnic violence engulfed the island starting on July 23 and lasting until early August.

The Sri Lankan government estimated that 300 Tamils were killed in the violence although NOVIB, a Dutch NGO in Sri Lanka at the time estimated death toll at between 1,000 and 2,000. Other NGOs say the it was even higher.

However, the strict press censorship enforced during that time and the existence of the notorious Public Security Act which allowed security forces to destroy bodies without inquest makes an accurate figure difficult to arrive at.

The Sri Lanka Government maintains that the violence was the spontaneous response of the Sinhalese populace to the news that 13 Sri Lankan soldiers had been killed in an ambush.

However western observers present in Colombo when the riots took place thought differently.

"Clearly this attack in July and August was not a spontaneous upsurge of communal hatred among the Sinhala people...It was a series of deliberate acts, executed in accordance with a concrete plan, conceived and organised well in advance" said Paul Sieghart in a report by the International Commission of Jurists in March 1984.


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