By Tassie Seneviratne –
Who burnt the Jaffna Public Library (JPL)? This has been a vexed question ever since this most unfortunate incident took place on that fateful night of May 31-June 1, 1981, exactly 33 years ago.
Different versions have been put forward and various academics and ‘righteous’ persons have been accepting versions they were gullible enough to accept or believe what they preferred to believe for questionable reasons. I am urged by a sense of duty to my country to make known what I have come to know in this regard as misleading reports have been coming up of late.
How I came to know what I know is like the question and answer in the famous nursery rhyme:
“Who killed Cock Robin?”
“I,” said the sparrow, “with my bow and arrow”.
It was a police sergeant who was attached to the Jaffna Police Station who told me that he poured petrol from a barrel and ignited the fire with a match stick at the Jaffna Public Library. This Police Sergeant who had worked with me in Colombo earlier, kept in touch with me thereafter. Long after the fateful incident, he found it hard to contain this act on his part within himself, and realising that he was misguided, became quite remorseful and confided in me. More recently I came to know that he had confessed it to another Senior Police Officer (who retired in the rank of DIG) with whom we had mutual ties. I did not press the Sergeant to tell me who else was behind it. It was a well-known and accepted fact that some Government Ministers and Senior Police Officers, sent for election work, were behind the mayhem that was created during the Jaffna District Development Council elections when the burning of the JPL took place.
Now a new dimension has been brought in to the issue of the burning of the JPL in a much belated ‘Intelligence report,’ that has been gobbled down by interested parties to suit their own agendas. According to the intelligence report of Retired Senior DIG Edward Gunawardena, the burning of the JPL was the work of the LTTE with a view to implicate the Sinhala people and win the sympathy of the international community. This is the first time such a report has been put forward, and that too by a person, who on his own admission, had been accused of complicity in the arson.
Did not these academics of the likes of Dr. Carlo Fonseka and Gunadasa Amarasekara consider the principle of ‘conflict of interests’ – when a report comes from an interested party? Are they now trying to pursue a line different to what their earlier motives suggested? So fickle even academics and ‘righteous’ people can be! The danger is that they mislead the people with their sanctimonious talk. My Police mind makes me even wonder if this ‘intelligence report’ is not conducted after the act!! The importance of the JPL to the Tamil people would only have struck academic minds. The thought of destroying it would have been conceived only by sick academic minds.
Furthermore, will the Tigers, given that they were the most inhuman murderers of all communities including Tamils, fighting for Tamil Elam, destroy the strongest and most precious cultural possession of the Tamil people — the records of the very cultural claims they were making? Inconceivable by any stretch of imagination!!
*The writer is a retired Senior Superintendent of Police