By Rajan Hoole –
Sri Lanka’s Black July – Part 22
It was not as though the UNP on the 25th morning taking a cue from Cyril Mathew, picked up electoral lists from party offices and went about attacking Tamil homes. In the context of Jayewardene not taking advice from the Police to declare curfew, the methodical attacks with lists had started in Anderson Flats, Narahepita, by 5.00 A.M. (see T. Sabaratnam, CDN 27.7.99). Mobs entered Tamil flats identified from lists, smashed property and threw refrigerators over the balcony, but did not harm the people if they did not resist. It does not seem credible to suppose that taking advantage of there being no curfew, some bright sparks started something that quickly became widespread and moreover, uniform.
The attacks on the 25th were widespread in the Western Province. Thugs from one area went into another area, often to be joined by UNP local councillors with electoral lists taking on lane by lane. T.D.S.A. Dissanayaka himself comments on the methodical thoroughness in Athulathmudali’s electorate of Ratmalana and in Dehiwela. Houses owned by Sinhalese and occupied by Tamils had the furniture dragged out and burnt. Thugs boarded the train from Galle at Attidiya, Ratmalana, and got down at various points in Wellawatte in an organised manner by pulling the emergency chord and went in to attack from the sea front. The attacks started at sharp 10.00 A.M. and stopped at 4.00 P.M.
A particular revealing instance was related by T. Sabaratnam, a Tamil journalist in the state owned Ceylon Daily News (article of 27.7.99). Having received a call from a friend of attacks on Narahenpitiya flats, he locked his house in Dehiwela and moved with his family to Castle Lane, Bambalapitiya. He later learnt from his Sinhalese neighbour that a gang had come late in the morning and asked for Tamil houses. The neighbour denied that there were any in the lane. The article runs, “The gang leader pulled out a list and showed my name…. Around the same time the houses of R. Sivagurunathan, P. Balasingham, K. Nadarajah, K. Sivapragasam, Ponmany Kulasingham and others who held influential positions in the field of Tamil journalism were set ablaze. The suspicion among us at that time was against the JSS, headed by Industries Minister Cyril Mathew.”
This was the case of a special list of prominent Tamils prepared by JSS men in their departments. The gang attacking these houses was one delegated to work on this list. It was not part of the general sweep based on electoral lists. This special list had undoubtedly been prepared well in advance.
To be continued..
Part four – Sri Lanka’s Black July: The Cover Up
Part five – 30th July 1983: The Second Naxalite Plot
Part seven – Black July: Thondaman & Muttetuwegama
Part nine – Tamil Merchants In The Pettah – Post July 1983
Part eleven – Sri Lanka’s Black July: The Question Of Numbers
Part fourteen – Circumstances Leading To The Magistrate’s Inquest
Part fifteen – Welikade Prison: The Second Massacre: 27th July 1983
Part seventeen – Welikade Prison Massacres: Postscript
Part eighteen – July 1983: Planned By The State Or Spontaneous Mob Action?
Part nineteen – July 1983: Ranil Wickremasinghe Followed Cyril Mathew
Part twenty one – Events Of 24th July: What Were The Army’s Orders?
*From Rajan Hoole‘s “Sri Lanka: Arrogance of Power – Myth, Decadence and Murder”. Thanks to Rajan for giving us permission to republish. To be continued..