19 December, 2017

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July 1983: Planned By The State Or Spontaneous Mob Action?

By Rajan Hoole –

Rajan Hoole

Sri Lanka’s Black July – Part 18

“Nero’s excesses were overtaken by disaster. Whether it was accidental or caused by the emperor’s criminal act is uncertain – both versions have their supporters. Now started [during the night of 19th July A.D. 64] the most terrible and destructive fire which Rome had ever experienced…The flames could not be prevented from overwhelming the whole of the Palatine, including [Nero’s] palace. Nevertheless, for the relief of the homeless, fugitive masses he threw open the Field of Mars… [He] also constructed emergency accommodation…and the price of corn was cut. Yet these measures for all their popular character, earned no gratitude. For a rumour had spread that, while the city was burning, Nero had gone on his private stage and, comparing modern calamities with ancient, had sung of the destruction of Troy.” – Publius Gaius Tacitus, from Histories page1image8912

Official Claims

The original claim that the violence was highly planned came from none other than the Minister of State, Mr. Anandatisa

de Alwis, barely 48 hours after the violence had erupted. This was even before other ministers had thought about how they were going to explain this to the outside world. de Alwis addressed the Press after the weekly cabinet meeting on the morning of Wednesday 27th July. Here is what he said from the leading report in the Sun of 28th July, titled, “There is a Pattern in the Havoc”: “The similarity and the modus operandi in the execution of acts of violence shows a well organised and highly planned movement by anti- government forces. These attacks were not confined to a few places but were spread in many parts of the Western Province. There were no injuries to persons in general despite a few deaths resulting from these attacks. Goods were destroyed but there was no looting. The looting was done by the others who came later.” Indeed, violence of this description is none other than highly organised.

The Guardian (London) quoted de Alwis saying: “Some organised force has set this in motion, we have to find out who it is”.

Douglas Liyanage, the Competent Authority in de Alwis’ ministry put the planned nature of the violence even more strongly in a TV broadcast 4 days later on 31st July (CDN 1st August): “It is our belief that the Jaffna incident was only a trigger. This whole business was not planned in 48 hours.” In other words, the killing of 13 soldiers had little to do directly with the violence.

Jayewardene himself gave a very elaborate version of the master plan in his address to the UNP parliamentary group on the 4th August 1983 (CDN 5.8.83). This appeared to be a reversal from his address to the nation a week earlier, calling upon the Sinhalese to lay down their arms. According to Jayewardene, the first attack was to be on Tamil households and means of production owned by Tamils. Special instructions were given to avoid looting. The places and households to be attacked in the first stage were identified previously and given to squads that were going to strike. The households of Tamils were identified from electoral lists and institutions of production owned by Tamils were previously earmarked. Some university lecturers were the local leaders of this strategy. The elements responsible for the implementation of this plan had a dialogue with Northern terrorists and agreed to strike simultaneously.

Jayewardene further added that the island was divided into 3 sections with 500 agents in each section. The group leader’s task was to recruit the best known local thugs in a given locality and large sums of money were to be paid to them.

These claims by the Minister of State, his Secretary (called permanent secretary in former times) and Jayewardene himself give away a good deal. It may be argued that they were laying down this line so as to facilitate shifting the blame for the violence on to the Left. But why? For such a strong charge of elaborate organisation against the Left was easily discredited, and indeed the Police did not find a shred of evidence. Also many, including the IGP, knew that there was no truth in it. Organised communal violence is a very rare phenomenon – Nazi violence against Jews is one of those rare examples. One might for example say that the root cause of violence against Muslims in an Indian town was to do with speeches by Hindu extremist politicians. They already had a following of lumpen elements who would have rushed into violence watched by a lax police force. Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and members of the SLFP were widely blamed for the 1958 violence. But organisation and direct participation were not then suggested, not even by the Federal Party.

Following the 1977 elections, UNP thugs were let loose on the supporters of the defeated SLFP, while the Police and the Magistrates were asked to take a holiday. The election results were also being talked about as a victory for the Tamil separatists, and so the same mobs, in that holiday spirit, were instigated to turn on the Tamils and teach them a lesson. Individuals in the UNP were accused of complicity or inaction, but not then of organisation. Communal violence, however, continued to be used as a threat to deter Tamil separatism.

Thus if the Government wanted to blame the Left for the July 1983 violence, the purpose would have been served by simply saying that the Left wanted to create trouble for the Government and took advantage of the opportunity provided by the funeral of the 13 soldiers. That had a better chance of being believed. But there is no evidence of such an intention on the part of the JVP, which had a good case in court to overturn the Referendum. That would have given them a springboard to attack the Government democratically, which violence would have imperilled.

But de Alwis, Jayewardene and others in the Government spell out in detail a very elaborate plot. Though having a fair resemblance to reality it was an overkill for the purpose of blaming the Left. It would be inexplicable unless one takes it that the Government was conscious that the violence was indeed well organised and looked blatantly so to the causal observer. Moreover, there is little or no evidence of the Government in the first four days discussing how to stop the violence, while it was very much concerned about how to avert Sinhalese discontent from food shortages. The only testimony available to us from the books authored by Ratnatunge and Dissanayaka suggest indirectly that senior government members were talking about whom to blame for the violence and not how to protect the Tamils. According to Ratnatunge, a preoccupation at the first cabinet session on Wednesday (27th) morning was the suggestion to close down the Soviet (Russian) Embassy – the Left again. Following Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s telephone call placing the Government under compulsion to curb the violence, it is notable that the first person Jayewardene talked to was Alle Gunawanse (Sect.12.7) – an extremist rightwing monk accused of compiling hit lists of premises!

To be continued..

Part one – Sri Lanka’s Black July: Borella, 24th Evening

Part two – Sri Lanka’s Black July: What Really Happened At Kanatte?

Part three – Black July: ‘Api Suddha Kara’ – JR’s Failure To Declare Curfew

Part four – Sri Lanka’s Black July: The Cover Up

Part five –  30th July 1983: The Second Naxalite Plot

Part six  – Black July: The Testimony Of Lionel Bopage, Then General Secretary Of The JVP

Part seven – Black July: Thondaman & Muttetuwegama

Part eight – What Was Behind Tiger Friday – 29th July? -The Significance Of The Pettah

Part nine – Tamil Merchants In The Pettah – Post July 1983

Part ten –  Sri Lanka’s Black July: A Family’s Tragedy In Colombo

Part eleven –  Sri Lanka’s Black July: The Question Of Numbers

Part twelve –  Welikade Prison Massacres: The First Massacre: 25th July 1983

Part thirteen –  Welikade Prison Massacres: Testimonies Given At The Magistrate’s Inquest

Part fourteen –  Circumstances Leading To The Magistrate’s Inquest

Part fifteen – Welikade Prison: The Second Massacre: 27th July 1983

Part sixteen – Welikade Prison Massacres: Chief Jailor Observed Army Commandos Coming In

Part seventeen – Welikade Prison Massacres: Postscript

*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..

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Latest comments

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    “The elements responsible for the implementation of this plan had a dialogue with Northern terrorists and agreed to strike simultaneously”
    If this theory can be supported then the Tamil militants too had a hand in the fate that took over thousands of Tamils in the South – is worth remembering.

    As to Elle Gunawansa, the evil monk with feary eyes, he has in his hands the blood of thousands of innocent civilian Tamils. What a man of religion? The same man whom the Rajapakses used to threaten the Asgiriya Mahanayakas with rivers of blood of Buddhist priests if they went ahead with the Great Meeting of the Sangha planned for Kandy about
    3-4 years ago against the unsatisfactory rule of the Rajapakses.

    Pandaranayagam

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    Rajan Hoole,[Edited out]

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    Hoole……… why don’t you pop this question to Late JR’s Nephew RW?
    He will certainly have the answers.

    Did JR envisage to appease the JVP and/or Tamil Militants as well to enable him to rule which came to haunt him?

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    It was planned. JR was directly responsible for this.
    When the entire country came to a boiling situation and
    the then government know that there would be a disaster
    JR or the Govt didnt impose curfew.
    They let the mob to attack the Tamils for three days.
    This was when Tamils lost faith in UNP.
    It was JR, Gamini, Cyrril Mathew and their cronies.
    Although people labelled R. Premadasa & Lalith as racists, they were not.
    Its worth reading the booklet that Pakistani embassy printed on this violence at that time. I dont know the title I read it long back.

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      You may well be right when you say Lalith was not a racist.

      Nevertheless, he introduced racist slogans into the Referendum campaign, including: “A vote for the Pot is a vote for Eelam” pretending that Amirthalingam had claimed this.

      And it was in Lalith’s electorate that this statement was painted on the municipal cemetery wall (opposite a Buddhist temple), declaring it to be Amirthalingam’s. Depictions of a sword, a severed hand (or was it SL cut in two?), & a Pot were also painted with the slogan. The whole remained undistrubed, spread from end to end of the long wall. Aththulathmudali didnt even deign to have it removed after many of his Tamil electorate were cowering in fear in the Ratmalana air base after Matthew & his thugs had done what their Master ordered.

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        Manel, I knew for a fact that Lalith Athulathmudali wasnt a racist. Having said I cant gurantee 100% that he was or wasnt. Who knows. He may have done some tricks to mislead the public in order to win the referendum or to get popularity. After all he was a politician and a Sri lankan politician.
        See what is there today for us? I would have rather prefered Cyrille M or Festus P (two racists) as the leader than the current one.
        Lalith’s close friends were Muslims.

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          Kekille–well, even if Lalith was 99% non-racist, he was CERTAINLY a communalist, which probably is the descriptor I should have used (after all Sinhalese & Tamils are not different races anyway). And he helped to fan the flames of communalism. And having friends from a different ethnic community isnt necessarily proof against communalism. Lalith was not only a politician, he was also one of the better educated ones from whom a little more might have been expected. I might quote here something told me by someone (a wellknown lawyer) who is dead now, so perhaps it would be dismissed as hearsay, but why not, it’s not that terrible. At Oxford, traditionally, a person putting himself forward (or being put forward) to be President of the Union, never campaigned on his own behalf. Lalith A. broke with this “gentlemanly” tradition and went all out to gain the position. A small thing one might say, but it seemed very shocking at the time.

          I cant remember much about Festus but I would tremble to see a Cyril Matthew as “leader”. Not to say I’m not trembling most of the time now anyway. And I just dont want to see another communal flare up before I die.

          By the way has anyone got a copy of Kenneth de Lanerolle’s Report on the May 1983 Events on the Peradeniya Campus? I have been trying to replace a lost one for ages & now need it rather urgently. A photocopy or email scan would be paid for. The one person who I know has a copy refuses to be helpful and regards it rather as a feather in his hat than a tool for anyone investigating the causes and process of our sad contemporary history. After 30 years, this suppressed report should be made widely available.

          ANY ONE OUT THERE WHO CAN HELP, PLEASE?

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          Kekille –
          sorry to sort of flog a possibly dead horse
          well, Lalith is dead, but the need to dig up the “truth” about things like May & July 1983 isnt),
          but while looking for material on the “events” on the Pera campus in May 1983, I came across a report by T Sabaratnam (who must have been the wellknown Lake House journalist who lived in Dehiwela).

          Local govt elections had been set for 18 May 1983. The TULF was confident of winning hands down in Jaffna with a large turnout of Tamil voters. Prabaharan, called for a boycott, saying JR was just trying to show the world that democracry prevailed, etc. He called the TULF “traitors” for playing JR’s game. “The election result was a complete wipeout for the TULF….[it] lost the mandate it had obtained from the Tamil people of the northeast in July 1977. The people, who voted en masse for the TULF in 1977 and reconfirmed their trust in it in the 4 June 1981 DDC election, chose to obey the LTTE edict on 18May 1983…a stunning rejection for the TULF…”

          A general attitude that Tamils should be collectively punished was emerging among the armed forces and the Sinhala people.

          “Strong rumours were also afloat, especially in media circles, about a decision taken by the inner cabinet that collective punishment of the Tamil people was the only method to eliminate the Tigers. Athulathmudali is rumoured to have strongly advocated that approach. Athulathmudali, who had taught law for some time in an Israeli university, supported strong-arm approach from the inception. He was for the adoption of the Israeli military strategy developed by the Israeli army. He was the brain behind the notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act.”

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            I’m afraid my last comment went off accidentally while still in process. This is how it shd read:

            Kekille – sorry to sort of flog a possibly dead horse

            well, Lalith is dead, but the need to dig up the “truth” about things like May & July 1983 isnt),

            but while looking for material on the “events” on the Pera campus in May 1983, I came across a report by T Sabaratnam (who must have been the wellknown Lake House journalist who lived in Dehiwela), where he traces the transfer of the Tamil voters’ allegiance away from the parliamentary dependent TULF. To the militant LTTE & other militant youth organizations.
            Local govt elections had been set for 18 May 1983. The TULF was confident of winning hands down in Jaffna with a large turnout of Tamil voters. Prabaharan, called for a boycott, saying JR was just trying to show the world that democracry prevailed, etc. He decried the TULF as “traitors” for playing JR’s game. Sabaratnam says:
            “The election result ws a complete wipeout for the TULF…[it] lost the mandate it had obtained from the Tamil people of the northeast in July 1977. The people, who voted en masse 4 the TULF in 1977 & reconfirmed their trust in it in the 4 June 1981 DDC election, chose to obey the LTTE edict on 18May 1983…a stunning rejection for the TULF…”
            As a result of ensuing violence by both the militants & the security forces,
            “a general attitude that Tamils shd be collectively punished was emerging among the armed forces and the Sinhala people.
            “Strong rumours were also afloat, especially in media circles, about a decision taken by the inner cabinet that collective punishment of the Tamil people was the only method to eliminate the Tigers. ATHULATHMUDALI is rumoured to have strongly advocated that approach. ATHULATHAMUDALI, who had taught law for some time in an Israeli university [significant that! new to me, too. Lalith wasnt then just a politician!!!…says Manel], supported strong-arm approach from the inception. He was for the adoption of the Israeli military strategy developed by the Israeli army. He was the brain behind the notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act.”

            Kekille, Lalith’s Israeli connection so far back too, puts a whole different complexion on LA as far as I am concered. I am trying to remember what period Wadugodapitya, J., was enquiring into when he examined the MOSSAD connections.

            I think the background work done by some senior politicians which emerged in July 1983 is well worth examining closer. I wonder if there are any others still alive to tell the tale.

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              Thank you MF for your updates on the issue. Its rather informative and also interesting. You reminded me the blunder Velupillai made at that time. Thank you for that, after all dont we know that he made enough blunders. I always beleived that the Tamil people suffered and suffering still because VP of course after SWRD, Srimavo & JR.

              I tried to gather some important information of Athulathmudali from few people who knew him but failed (none of them were around). I will write about it further in future or when I get them as comments to relevant articles as and when possible. I have met L.A few times but wasnt that close.
              About the copy of Kenneth de Lanerolle’s report on the ’83 event….Lets see if anyone could assist you, cant promise though.

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      Kekille

      R. Premadasa was not a racist but Lalith Atulathmadali was as racist as or even worst racist than Cyri Mathew. Only difference was, Cyri Mathew openly exposed it but Lalith Atulathmadali did not openly show it.

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        Ravi I have commented above for this, please read.

        R Premadasa was a leader. A man worked so hard for his achievments. He was a fighter and great orator too.
        It was pity that he had two terror groups to fight from both ends.
        But let me say this too that R Premadasa was the one who responsible UNP’s misery today because of his inferiority complex.

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    If the idea was to send the JVP underground inorder to sabotage the court case on the referandum,there were many better ways of doing it without this carnage. July 83 was planned and executed to serve two main purposes. Strengthen Prabhakaran’s cadre and create a diaspora to fund the struggle in to the future. Who squeezed JR in to do this is not much of a surprise today as we see the elements that were behind the scene then are now in the open.

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      I wonder how recently this notion — that July 83 was planned to serve such purposes — started to be spread. I also wonder how much currency it has gained by now. I just dont believe it at all.

      One of the possible motives may have been to “teach the Tamils a lesson” for not supporting the referendum. My memory fails me here, but I think in areas where the T vote was large, it went greatly against the govt in Dec 1982. Must check that out.

      Are you also saying that the May events where Tamils were targetted in Peradeniya University were also planned by Prabaharan?

      Anyway, even the LTTE leadership, especially at that time, was not as diabolical as you want to make out….to sacrifice so many of its ethnic brothers and sisters.

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        Dear Manel,

        I have reason to believe 7/83 was a carefully laid-out plan “to teach the Tamils a lesson” since many in the North voted for Hector Kobbekaduwa against JRJ – and there was the just fear the JVPs threatened legal action stood a chance to be carried.

        Lalith, Premadasa and Gamini D were all communalists in various ways. Although Premadasa came from a plural electorate and had many Tamil voters, he and his wife are suspected to have instigated the arson and attacks on many rich commercial assets in the Pettah, some of which eventually found the hands of their favourites. One of these gangsters is believed to have been finally behind the killing of Lalith in later years. All this is academic now and the country has since moved on – divided, sadly.

        Senguttuvan

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          Senguttuvan, dear Senguttuvan, has the country moved on? I hardly think so, unless you mean in a very literal sense. It is strange to me that few people seem to want to get to the bottom of many things that have happened in our lifetime here—so much criminality and bloodshed. of course, maybe it’s cos we are always reeling from something or other & have little time for the past—except of course, that most glorious one we always pat ourselves on the back for!

          Yes, you are prob right about the Tamil vote in the Presidential election. In fact JR, who was expecting a huge majority over the much incapacitated & comparatively unknown Kobbekaduwa, couldnt believe his eyes when he saw the result….(read Migara–Sinha Ratnatunge I believe — in Sun or Weekend soon after). He was cocksure that though many of his MPs were detested & might do badly in the due General Election, he himself was had ‘n shoulders above everyone else & wd sweep the poll. When he didnt he said that well, before we decide the date of the Gen elect. we will have a look at the results. They were so worrying, he opted for a Referendum. i have analysed the strange swings to the Lamp (i.e. the UNP) that took place in electorates which had gone agin Jr at the Pres E. I hope to reissue the report I did at the time.

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    Even Before 1983, JAffna had a established business of making Fake passports and sending Tamils over seas. Even the foreign govts know how Tamil tribalists set up block votes in western countries before the planned eelam – war.

    In 1983 or before 1983, Tamils prepared Videos depicting tamils as innocent sinhala villagers and they are engaging in violence. Sri Lankan Diplomats who were Tamils showed those videos to European dignitaries when the 1983 came. Now, some believe even the RAW may had had a hand in 1983.

    These Tamils talk BS here.

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      Jim Softy continues his reputation as a diabolical liar. Tamil enclaves
      – mostly in Canada and later in the UK – is a more recent phenomena. It was unheard of before 1983. Softy, there must be some method in your obvious and regular madness. Wallow in your own faeces, pyscho.

      Varathan

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      Jim you moron,

      Let me give you some news. Whether you are right or not the Tamils had a genuine grievance starting from Independance to leave Sri Lanka.
      Using a fake passport is only a means to escape death in the hands of you lot half animals.
      But you damn fool the Sinhalese opportunists are now using fake passports claiming to be Tamils no doubt taking advantge of the Tamil Plight and have set up cosy life styles in the West. This is disgusting man using Tamil Identity after killing innocent Tamils. If you have any decency left in you Can you explain to me the moral justification for this. I have a list of Sinhalese who have claimed asylum in the West pretending to have helped the LTTE and as a result are being wanted by Gotha.
      For your information it was Gotha who sent Karuna on a Diplomatic Passport and having arrived in the UK claimd asylum but the UKBA were smart and after raisng the issue with Gotha returned Criminal Karuna back to Lanka where he is now a minister for BROTHELS and his wife is in charge of running it.
      When Karuna was languishing in the Immigration Detention Centre his wife who is in the UK refused to see him and other Immigration Detainees after questiuoning him poured hot water on his face.
      So shut up you Jim fool. Tamils will be coming back to Eelam after the election in September just like the Jews who left Israel on fake Passports who have since returned. By the way your Government is very fond of the State of Israel and I hope you are too.

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      Fake passports???

      This is exactly what JimSofty and his people (the Sinhala-Buddhists) did and still doing in the South. He is talking about his own personal experience.

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