By Rajan Hoole –
Sri Lanka’s Black July – Part 6 –
In the morning of 25th July he was near Angoda at their press, proof reading their journal. A crowd coming from Colombo advised people to close up and go home. Bopage drove home to Kelaniya, passing through Colombo. In Kelaniya cars were being stopped on the road opposite the Tyre Corporation and vehicles carrying Tamils were being burnt with their occupants. (Sources from Kelaniya University told us that one Omar, a well-known thug of Cyril Mathew’s, was responsible for killing a Tamil doctor and burning him along with his vehicle.) The thugs wanted to remove some petrol from his car. Someone recognised him and waved him off. He then got into the road to go to his home in Mawarandiya. A Ceylon Transport Board breakdown truck came towards him with 25 to 30 passengers wielding clubs and long knives.
About five of them got down and asked if he were a Tamil. He got down and shouted, “Are you fellows mad?” They went off. This and his experience over the next few days and testimony from JVP officers elsewhere convinced him that the State was the main party to the violence. Following the ban on the JVP he was detained and taken to the CID Building. The reasons for the arrest of JVP-office bearers, Bopage said, was ‘complicated.’ The house of a Tamil DIG, Vamadevan, was burnt during the riots and he had accused the JVP of burning his house. Vamadevan had earlier made a report that the JVP was re-arming, and this had been referred to on JVP platforms. Bopage felt that this was only a pretext. The real target he believed was the election petition against the 1982 Referendum filed by Wijeweera, which had a strong chance of succeeding, since these same charges were later confirmed in the Election Commissioner’s report.
At the CID building, ASP Chandra Jayawardena was one of the officers interrogating them. In his statement to the CID, Bopage denied any JVP involvement, and charged that according to reports from their officials sent to the Party, Prime Minister Premadasa was behind the violence in Pettah, the violence in Nuwara Eliya had started only after Gamini Dissanayake arrived on the scene and that Cyril Mathew was involved in a big way. He challenged the CID to bring in these three ministers and question them. The CID, he said, did not contradict what he said, but as far as he knew, these ministers were never questioned. He asked the CID if they had apprehended one member of the JVP who was involved in the violence. They replied that one looter caught in Mount Lavinia admitted to being a JVP supporter.
Tyrell Gunatilleke, SSP (Special Investigations), CID, Bopage said, had within two weeks cleared the JVP of any involvement in the disturbances. But they were not released. One day Bopage was called to the office of SSP Rajapakse, Director, CID, who delivered a long harangue against the Tamils. Then he suddenly came out with an invitation to Bopage to join the UNP and added, “Orders from the top”. This he firmly declined. The invitation was repeated by Athulathmudali in 1985 after he, Bopage, had left the JVP over differences pertaining to the ethnic question, and was detained again on suspicion. He refused again.
Wijeweera’s petition which was dismissed by the District Court then went to the Court of Appeal where the lawyer Prins Gunasekera appeared for Wijeweera. The Bench comprising Justices B.E. de Silva and T.D.G. Alwis in their judgement on 4th December 1984 upheld the contention of the Solicitor General K.M.M.B. Kulatunga, that none of the grounds of the application was valid, since the District Judge had dismissed Wijeweera’s action on the grounds that he had not answered the interrogatories.
Part four – Sri Lanka’s Black July: The Cover Up
Part five – 30th July 1983: The Second Naxalite Plot
*From Chapter 9 of Rajan Hoole‘s “Sri Lanka: Arrogance of Power – Myth, Decadence and Murder”. Thanks to Rajan for giving us permission to republish. To be continued tomorrow ..