Feature Article

2009 genocide justice not going to come from UNP of 1983 pogrom: Shivajilingam

[TamilNet, Monday, 25 July 2016, 21:12 GMT]
The United National Party (UNP) was responsible for the 1983 anti-Tamil pogrom. The current SL Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe was a cabinet minister in 1983 in the UNP regime. 33 years have elapsed. The UNP has totally failed to deliver accountability for the crimes to which it was responsible. How could one expect any justice or solution to come from the UNP for the genocidal crimes committed against Eezham Tamils in 2009, asked M.K. Shivajilingam, a veteran political leader of the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO) marking 33rd anniversary of Black July. The Black July memorial events were held in Jaffna and Trincomalee in the occupied country of Eezham Tamils on Monday. The memorial events in Jaffna were held at St. Mary's Church and at Nalloor Murukan temple.

Black July

Black July
“The UNP is deceiving the Tamils with the so-called ‘good-governance’ claim. The International Community is also collaborating with the UNP in this deception,” Mr Shivajilingam, who is also a councillor in the Northern Provincial Council, told the press after paying tribute to the Tamil leaders and victims, who were slain by the Sinhalese in 1983. NPC Councillor Ms Ananthy Sasitharan accompanied Mr Shivajilingam at the memorial event held in front of the Nalloor Kandasamy temple.

Another memorial event was held at St. Mary's Cathedral Church in Jaffna, where prayers were held. TNPF General Secretary Selvarajah Kajendren and civil society activists took part in the memorial event at St. Mary's Church.

* * *

Eyewitness account by Gandhiyam David, a survivor of 1983 Welikade massacre

The late Gandhiyam David, interviewed in 2012 by TamilNet, gave an eyewitness account on how he faced the SL State-sponsored pogrom against Eezham Tamils inside the Welikade prison on 25 July 1983.

His interview follows:

* * *

International Commission of Jurists in 1984: ‘Sri Lanka: A Mounting Tragedy of Errors’

The late Paul Sieghart, a renowned human rights campion who was the chairman of the executive of the Council of Justice, the British section of the International Commission of Jurists, in a report titled ‘Sri Lanka: A Mounting Tragedy of Errors’ issued in March 1984 noted that the Sri Lankan Minister for Industries and Scientific Affairs, Cyril Matthew, who was also the leader of the principal UNP trade union, was behind the pamphlet titled "Sinhala People - Awake, Arise, and Safeguard Buddhism".

Following are some excerpts from the report by Paul Sieghart:

The first serious communal violence erupted in May 1958 (while an SLFP Government was in office); the next came in August 1977, soon after the present UNP Government was elected; then again in August 1981; and most recently in July/August 1983. The intervals between these episodes have become shorter; their extent over the Island has become wider; and the violence has become more intense.


In many respects, the Tamils' response to these events, and to the more chronic discrimination to which they feel subjected, has been remarkably restrained. One of the most striking features of the episodes of communal violence, for instance, has been the lack of retaliation by Tamils against the Sinhalese in their midst, with the result that virtually all the victims on each of these occasions have been Tamils.


Undoubtedly, an independent Tamil State (the expression Tamil Eelam is increasingly going out of fashion among moderates) symbolises the aspirations of some Tamils. Professor Leary and Mr. Moore have dealt adequately in their reports with the legal arguments which have been advanced for it, based respectively on the right of self-determination and on the proposition that Tamil sovereignty has never in fact been abandoned, and I express no view of my own on either of those questions.


The attitudes of successive Sri Lanka Governments since Independence to what they sometimes call "theTamil question" have displayed some curious ambivalences. There have, for example, been several negotiated "Pacts'1,^ each welcomed as heralding the final resolution of all ethnic problems, but for one reason or another they never seem to have been fully carried out. Sri Lankan Governments are always careful to include Tamils in their administration: the present one has three Cabinet Ministers, the Attorney-General (who also served in the previous one), the Inspector-General of Police, and several other high officials. But even that does not seem to be enough to reassure the Tamil community of the benevolence of their Island's elected government.

There is of course one recent event that was scarcely calculated to instil such confidence. The last outbreak of communal violence began on 24 July 1983. For day after day, Tamils (of both the "Sri Lankan" and "Indian" varieties) were beaten, hacked or burned to death in the streets, on buses, and on trains, not only in Colombo but in many other parts of the Island - sometimes in the sight of horrified foreign tourists. Their houses and shops were burned and looted. Yet the security forces seemed either unwilling or unable to stop it - indeed, in Jaffna and Trincomalee, some members of the armed forces themselves joined in the fray, claiming an admitted 51 lives. Seen from the Tamil point of view, either the Government had lost control of the situation, or it was deliberately standing by while they were being taught a lesson. The first massacre in Welikada jail took place on 25 July, and claimed another 35 lives. The second - allegedly foreseen by the prison staff came two days later, and claimed another 18. Not until the very end of that second episode was a special army unit sent in, to save the lives of the few remaining Tamil political prisoners.

And not until the fifth day, on 28 July, did President Jayewardene finally appear on national television. In a brief address, he blamed the violence and destruction exclusively on the reaction of "the Sinhala people" to the movement for the establishment of a separate Tamil State, and announced a Cabinet decision to bring in what in the event became the Sixth Amendment, designed to ensure that even peaceful supporters of separatism could not sit in Parliament, and that "those who advocate the separation of the country lose their civic rights and cannot hold office, cannot practise professions, cannot join movements or organisations in this country."

In the course of that address, 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: I have yet to meet a single Tamil at any level in Sri Lanka or out of it who does not remind me of this glaring omission at the first opportunity. Nor are they reassured by the programmes for relief and rehabilitation of the victims which the Government has in fact since installed: at the time of my visit, six months later, around 10,000 homeless Tamils were still in refugee camps.

For months after the violence, the President consistently refused to hold any discussions with the TULF leaders, in or out of Parliament, unless they first formally abjured a separate Tamil State - something they clearly could not do, whether they privately believed in it or not, since they were bound by their party's explicit resolution of 1976 on which they had been elected.


There is one more political and social - albeit wholly unofficial - feature of Sri Lankan life which must be mentioned here, and that is the so-called "goondas". These are, essentially, organised gangs of hooligans available for hire by anyone whom it happens to suit to foment trouble in the streets. It is freely admitted that every major political party has its own rented or rentable goonda contingent: there are SLFP goondas, UNP goondas, and doubtless goondas serving other political interests. In private discussion, their employers seem to regard them as regrettable necessities on the political scene, and to play down the importance of the harm they can do; by contrast, those against whom their hooliganism is from time to time .directed are apt to play up their importance, and to describe them as "private armies", in the pay and at the service of named politicians. That they exist is not disputed: what is less clear is the extent of the damage they can inflict, and how it comes about that their paymasters seem to enjoy a surprising degree of immunity from prosecution.


Likewise, the communal violence which began in Colombo on 24 July 1983 bears every appearance of having been started by hired groups of goondas, and that led to much loss of life, suffering, and destruction of property. Yet here again, despite long-drawn-out police enquiries, no one has yet been able to establish the hand behind that initial episode, a matter to which I shall return in section 4.1 below.


After the 1977 General Election, Mr. Jayewardene's incoming UNP administration enjoyed an unprecedented majority of five sixths of all the Members of Parliament. That enabled it to amend the Constitution without a new Constituent Assembly, and by the following year to enact a completely new one, under which Mr. Jayewardene became President with very wide powers (see section 3.3 below). Like its predecessor of 1972, this Constitution accords "the foremost place" to Buddhism and declares Sinhala to be the only Official Language, though it adds that both Sinhala and Tamil are National Languages. It also includes a detailed catalogue of fundamental and protected individual rights.


If there is to be any hope of reducing the tensions between Sri Lanka's two main ethnic communities, some essential steps must be taken as quickly as possible: full and independent judicial inquiries into the origins and sequence of the tragic events of July/August 1983, and in particular the two massacres in Welikada prison which cost 53 lives; the publication of the results of all internal inquiries into killings by members of the security forces, the urgent completion of police enquiries into all such cases, and the institution of appropriate proceedings where the evidence warrants this (4.1); and a sustained effort by the Government in support of education for tolerance and the dismantling of the prevalent myths, for which the Sri Lanka Foundation and its associated Centre for Human Rights are especially well placed (4.3).

Support for a separate Tamil State is a consequence of the perception by the Tamil community of discrimination against them, reinforced by extravagant counter-measures against terrorism (2.6). But to outlaw that support, even if it is expressed peacefully and within the framework of an open democratic system, plays directly into the hands of the terrorists. The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, by which that was done, is a clear breach of Sri Lanka's obligations under Article 25 of the ICCPR (3.5).

Related Articles:
20.10.15   David in 2012: Diaspora duty-bound in advancing independent ..



Latest 15 Reports
04.02.24 15:40   Photo
சியோனிசம் காணும் தோல்வி ஈழத்தமிழருக்குப் பலன் தரவல்ல படிமை மாற்றத்தின் அறிகுறி
24.04.22 05:44  
தீவின் நெருக்கடிச் சூழலில் ஈழத்தமிழர் தேசம் கடைப்பிடிக்கவேண்டிய நிலைப்பாடுகள்
09.04.22 14:44   Photo
குறிதவறும் ஈழத்தமிழர் தலைமைகளுக்கு வரலாறு தருகின்ற எச்சரிக்கை
21.01.22 07:24   Photo
ஈழத்தமிழர் தேசத்தின் தலைமைத்துவம் தேர்தல் அரசியற் கட்சிகளுக்கு அப்பாலானது
02.11.21 15:32   Photo
13 ஆம் சட்டத்திருத்தத்தால் கட்டமைக்கப்பட்ட இன அழிப்பை எதிர்கொள்ள முடியுமா?
15.09.21 08:19  
English version not available
17.05.21 19:23   Photo
Ananthi blames war criminal Silva for blocking collective memorial at Mu'l'livaaykkaal
09.04.21 14:46  
English version not available
23.03.21 12:41   Photo
No focus on Tamil genocide, geopolitics gets played out in Geneva in favour of QUAD formation
21.03.21 13:34   Photo
Navi Pillay explains ‘human rights’ limitations in Geneva on Tamil genocide
15.03.21 20:36   Photo
Deceived Tamil activists in UK falsely claimed ‘substantial changes’ to Zero draft
09.03.21 21:34   Photo
UK repeatedly wronged Tamils says hunger-striker, demands genocide justice
26.02.21 11:53   Photo
Tamils witness false dilemma in Geneva as geopolitical formations pit against each other
19.02.21 14:02   Photo
UK not prepared to push for ICC option in new UNHRC Resolution
07.02.21 23:16   Photo
Unprecedented P2P uprising paves the way for rights-oriented politics of Tamils and Muslims
Find this article at: