14 June, 2024


Black July – Are You Kidding Me?

By Sanmugam Kanaga-Ratnam –

On July 7th, we saw on social media postings, a team of police officers drag a Buddhist Priest and take him into custody; a woman wearing a mask was kicked and dragged into a van by a contingent of police officers as she stepped out of court after posting bail. According to reports, the police routinely took dissidents to distant locations to be “quarantined”, to silence voices of dissent. The next day Basil Rajapakse took oaths as the Minister of Finance of Sri Lanka, thus strengthening the Rajapakse clan’s dynasty in Sri Lankan politics.

Social media in Sri Lanka is ripe with video blogs, Facebook posts, and online commentaries, leveling scathing attacks on the current administration. However, many believe the government is hesitant to charge these dissenters, fearing it might further jeopardise the E.U. government’s GSP+ policy towards Sri Lanka.

Recently, one of these commentators, a young woman, Achala Seneviratne, a human rights lawyer, called July 7th. “Black July”!!

I have news for Ms. Seneviratne – the July 7th event she refers to is a picnic in Vihara Mahadevi park compared to the July 1983 massacre of the Tamils appropriately labeled “black July.” in Sri Lanka’s history.

In July 1983, in a skirmish between the military and Tamil separatists in the North that killed seventeen soldiers, President J.R. Jayawardene, by his deliberate inaction for three days, let goons attack Tamils, burn down their houses and businesses. 

J.R. Jayewardene made his position clear:

 “I am not worried about the opinion of the Jaffna people… now we cannot think of them, not about their lives or their opinion… the more you put pressure in the north, the happier the Sinhala people will be here… Really if I starve the Tamils out, the Sinhala people will be happy.” – President J.R. Jayewardene, Daily Telegraph, July 1983

“Mobs of Sinhala youth rampaged through the streets, ransacking homes, shops and offices, looting them and setting them ablaze, as they sought out members of the Tamil ethnic minority.” – London Daily Telegraph July 26th, 1983

As a result, over 4,000 innocent Tamils were tortured and brutally killed. The July 1983 event caused a mass exodus of Tamils to abandon their homeland and settle down in Canada, The U.S., Australia, and Europe. Thus, July ’83 is the “Black July.” that contributed to the beginning of the civil war that lasted some thirty years.

I see a sudden awareness among the Sinhalese of the suffering of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka over the past seventy years. This awareness is happening at the grassroots level in Sri Lanka; I see an awakening of consciousness among the Sinhala diaspora scattered worldwide.

In Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, London, Sydney, and other major cities, zoom meetings and socially distanced community gatherings of Sri Lankans of both ethnicities speak out about the injustices meted out to the Tamils over the years. This open dialogue has come about because of the current situation in Sri Lanka, namely: the Covid-19 crisis, the state of bankruptcy of the Sri Lankan treasury, human and civil rights violations by the government, increasing military infiltration into civil administration, use of police to quell dissent and muffle social and other media, harmful environmental policies, complete breakdown of law and order, lack of independence of the judiciary, etc.

In meetings I attended, my Sinhala brethren, who in the past have taken a nationalist stance of Sinhala nationhood for Sri Lanka, now speak of the ill-fated “Sinhala Only.” policy introduced by S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike. Sunethra, S.W.R.D.’s daughter, came out recently, calling her father’s Sinhala Only policy “disastrous.”

Recently two young Tamil diaspora entrepreneurs speaking in fluent Sinhala gave interviews in local media, claiming they, along with a group of Tamil diaspora businessmen, presumably the ones who fled the country in July 1983, are ready to come to the aid of Sri Lanka and bail out the country from its present financial crisis.

The crimes of July 1983 | pic by Chandraguptha Amarasingha

Venerable Dambara Amila Thero has been appealing for communal harmony directed at the Sinhala Buddhist community, lamenting that they should stop thinking about Sri Lanka as a Sinhala Buddhist nation and started embracing Tamils Muslims and ethnic minorities – as fellow citizens of the nation of Sri Lanka.

Now that the magician, the mythical Basil Rajapaksa, has appeared with his magic wand to perform miracles on the financial front, all eyes will be on him, the new Finance Minister. But, what kind of magic will he perform that highly educated, eminently qualified, and experienced economics and Finance professionals have not been able to achieve thus far?

The Rajapaksas have ruined the economy since they took control of the administration in 2005. Rampant corruption, nepotism, and complete disregard for the rule of law have driven the economy to the ground, currently on life support. They were riding on the war victory buoyancy, siphoning off international aid, and misappropriating the L.T.T.E. treasury; Rajapaksas built an empire onto themselves. First, they stashed their loot in California, Texas, and elsewhere. Then, to keep the masses happy, they created vanity projects such as the Port in Hambantota, a dormant airport in Mattala, with exorbitantly priced loans from China, thus strapping the nation in crippling debt. The port city project is the latest in the Rajapaksa schemes to enrich themselves by entrapping the country into further debt and becoming victims of China’s stranglehold. These actions of the Rajapaksas on the economic front have made Sri Lanka a high-risk country in the eyes of the major credit rating agencies. Therefore, I.M.F., the last resort lender, will place several restrictive conditions before any bailout for Sri Lanka.

The writing is on the wall. The Rajapaksas will not want a repeat of the rude shock they experienced in 2015 when an alliance of Wickremesinghe-Sirisena ousted them. The recently increased arrests of media personnel, restrictions on protests and strikes, and military personnel in civil administration all point to an impending emergency declaration that will give President Gotabaya Rajapaksa unlimited powers.

I wish July 1983 remains “Black July” in the annals of the history of Sri Lanka, and July 2021 or any other July should not earn that dubious distinction.

Given the degree of current dissent among the citizens and the ruthless nature of the Rajapaksas, and the brutality of their means to justify their end – one cannot be sure.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 21

    There is no difference between the brutal racist JR Jeyawardena who set the fire to burn Tamils in 1983 and Gotabaya Rajapaksa who used the same power to set the fire to burn Sinhalese. Both came into power by the same Buddhist Sinhala religious leaders but this time against Buddhist Sinhala ordinary people. The fire set by JRJ was lead to 30 year war which ended in 2009 reignited by Rajapaksa immediately against Muslims now targeting Buddhist Sinhala in 2021 and how long it is going to take is a question? Executive power is to execute brutality.

  • 13

    If we are really serious about avoiding another Black July, all communities should learn from history and gain maturity in our political outlook. We all need to modulate our nationalisms and tone down the rhetoric of identity politics. Such a true awakening of consciousness among all Sri Lankans is a matter of urgent priority not just to avoid racial violence, but to protect democracy in the country from the looming threat of a Rajapaksa dictatorship backed by the military.

    • 4

      For Demalu it is ‘Black July’ but for Native Sinhalayo it is ‘Black Three Decades’. Sinhalayo went through hell because of blunders made by racist separatist Demala politicians. They should learn from the blunders they made starting from 1930s so that Demalu can live in peace with Sinhalayo.

      “If we are really serious about avoiding another Black July, all communities should learn from history and gain maturity in our political outlook.”

      • 11

        In blind eagles’ world, the offspring is the parent … and the ass is the brain. Anyway, take care buddy. You’re some fun.

  • 2

    Sinhala-Demala clashes that took place in Sinhale/Sri Lanka after Sinhalayo gained Independence are a continuation of Dravida aggression against Native Sinhalayo started in 3rd Century BC. They came from Hindusthan to Anuradhapura Kingdom of Sinhalayo located in the North and adopted scorched earth policy that aimed to destroy anything that might be useful to the enemy. Ruthless Dravidians burnt houses, massacred Sinhalayo, burnt paddy fields and paddy stored in the houses, destroyed irrigation systems, dumped dead bodies in wells so that Sinhalayo cannot survive. They did the same thing in Polonnaruwa forcing Sinhalayo to retreat to South.
    After Europeans colonized Sinhale, Dravidians stopped invading because they were scared of ‘Gun Power’ of Europeans. However, during European colonial rule, a large number of Dravidians came to Sinhale to work for colonial rulers. After Europeans left, descendants of those Dravidians in Yapanaya once again started aggression against Sinhalayo by attacking Sinhalayo who lived in Yapanaya in 1950s. Then in 1976, separatist Tamil politicians adopted Vaddukkodei Resolution to create a separate State for Tamils in Yapanaya and declared war against Sinhalayo. In 1983, Tamils triggered clashes by killing soldiers in the Sri Lanka Army. Eventually, Tamils resorted to terrorism and massacred Sinhalayo for three decades to grab a part of their country to create their separate State in Sinhale.

    • 4

      Blind Dravidian Eye,

      “In 1983, Tamils triggered clashes by killing soldiers”
      Thirunelveli attack —-
      “retaliation for the killing of one of the LTTE’s founding members, Charles Anthony, by Sri Lankan forces[23] and for the alleged[24] abduction and rape of Tamil school girls by government forces”

      • 2

        Dear Anbu, DBSJeyaraj’s account of the events;

        “The anti-Tamil violence of July 1983 was not a spontaneous mass uprising against Tamils. Prior to the outbreak of violence, there existed a pre-planned conspiracy to launch a widespread attack against Tamil life, limb and property on a massive scale. All it required was a powerful incident to be the provocative pretext to justify such an attack.”

        “The Thirunelvely attack by the LTTE killing 13 soldiers provided such an excuse of being the flashpoint of tension. It is also noteworthy that violence against Tamils had preceded July’83 in Vavuniya, Trincomalee and the University at Peradeniya. July 83 in that sense was a grand finale or culmination of an on-going process.”

        “The mobs had lists of Tamil owned houses and businesses. They also knew the details of ownership. Wherever premises were owned by Sinhalese, only furniture and goods belonging to Tamil-tenants were destroyed and set on fire. The buildings were not burnt or damaged.”

        “In most instances the large groups of thugs and goondas were transported in Government owned Transport board vehicles or in vehicles owned by semi-govt corporations. Even food parcels and liquor were distributed systematically to these elements.”

        • 2

          Thank you Sugandh.

  • 8

    The UNP government under JRJ was responsible for this.

    • 1

      J.R. Jayawardana gave a lesson and he wants to prove Sri Lanka belongs to Sinhalese Aryans in 1983 July 22. More than 75% of Sinhalese Aryans lining in this tiny Island. If Tamils want a separate country go to Tamil Nadu and fight for that even Kamala Haris also help them. Thanks to GOTABAYA who completely wiped out the entire leadership of LTTE and now no more LTTE in Sinhalese Aryans country Sri Lanka.

      • 1

        Portuguese Aryan
        Can you prove 75% of Sinhalease Aryans?
        We all are Dravidians.

  • 4

    Black August 1977 in the north against Sinhalese.

    Black August 1990 in the north against Muslims.

    There are no Sinhalese and Muslims in the north still. What happened to them?

    • 10

      Is that a Black Comedy of yours Jadam.

    • 8

      Do you have the foggiest idea of what happened in your so called “Black August 1977 in the north against Sinhalese”
      Do not propagate vicious lies.
      Have you been to Jaffna in the past ten years?

    • 7

      “There are no Sinhalese and Muslims in the north still. What happened to them?”
      They got together with the military , looted Tamils money and gold an now settled in Australia, Germany and some even in Canada.

    • 0

      Another 15 to 20 years Sinhalese Aryans will be the majority in the North and Eastern region. This country belongs to 75% Sinhalese Aryans. The whole world knows this. Lets the dogs bark.

  • 4

    As fellow citizens of the nation of Sri Lanka Some countries like to spark conflict in sri lank go down to get advantage. Dont start war , War does not determine who is right – only who is left.
    If we don’t end war, war will end us

  • 4

    “There are no Sinhalese and Muslims in the north still. What happened to them?”
    They got together with the military , looted Tamils money and gold an now settled in Australia, Germany and some even in Canada.

  • 7

    Booruwa Blind Eagle alias HLD, Killing of Tamils by Sinhala civlians in 1956 and it continued unabated. Moron, the LTTE was an inevitable option to protect the Tamils from sinhala racists. Civlians, military and Buddhist clergy all played the role in these murders of civilians. LTTE was a direct result of that. You moron ran away the day Premadasa was killed and sought refuge in australia. It is a tragedy that LTTE failed in it noble mission by some miscalculations. LTTE war was a dharma war to confront the evil. Of course now the same racists are walking along streets to get rid of the major killers whom they elected as sinhala buddhist heroes. Now the same guys are struggling to have a proper meal or to care for their children. Many are alos hanging around various embassies including Ethiopia, bangaladesh, pakistan, Nigeria to name a few to get visa and to go there to make a living.Karma in full swing. Gona Eagle, if you have the balls first come back to SL before opening your foul mouth. People are tired of looking after you guys who are of no use.

  • 4

    Qualitatively and quantitatively, incomparable – There’s only one real Black July in the annals of SL’s shameful history to date – The Anti-Tamil Pogrom of JRJ’s government in July 1983.

    That said, events of today under the double-Paksa government, like the events of July 7th 2021, are of serious concern as to where we are being led.

    Prof. Kumar David’s and others’ call for United Action needs to be heeded expeditiously;

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.