2 October, 2020

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Memory Of Shame; 1983 July, 2013 January And Cooking Kiribath

By Mahesan Niranjan

Prof Mahesan Niranjan

Time and again we have seen that when power is excessive, highly centralized and has no purpose, its consequences are ugly and show up in all sorts of ways.

Six months short of thirty years ago, I found myself in a situation to be ashamed of being a Sri Lankan. That was July 1983 and the J.R. Jayawardane government had decided to unleash violence on the ethnic Tamil population. Thugs roaming the streets of Colombo and elsewhere looted and burnt property, and beat up and murdered Tamils. The Police and armed forces were ordered not to interfere, if not to actively take part. The week of carnage went down in history as amongst the most shameful days of the way we managed our country ourselves since the British granted us independence in 1948.

Happily though, in July 1983, I was not in a position to actually feel that shame. Being at the receiving end of JRJ’s mischief, I had other pressing things in mind, like jumping off a second floor balcony, scaling a wall, running into the Maradana police station, getting help to rescue my uncle and family who were hiding in a toilet while their flat was being ransacked and looking for my brother who had gone missing. When your mind is preoccupied with survival, shame does not come into the picture.

Now, in January 2013, as the Sri Lankan Parliament passes a resolution to impeach the Chief Justice — on flimsy charges and a kangaroo court process, and thereby drives the final nail in the coffin in which lay any notion of democratic governance in our country, that sense of shame has returned, and haunts me. Unfortunately for me, this time there is nothing to distract from feeling that shame. The picture of thugs outside the Courts beating up protesters, with the police looking on, is an image fresh in my mind from Borella junction in 1983. The callous and irresponsible remarks from politicians about all of it being a diaspora conspiracy, a minister on television referring to a judge of the Appeal Court as “the Tamil one” as a way of undermining his judgement, and another in Parliament commenting “we have told the judiciary to go to hell”, brings memories of JRJ blaming the evil that he masterminded on the (then) imagined JVP threat to peace and stability of our country.

Anyone who is not convinced of the sense of shame I am talking about, please consider the act of a jeering crowd cooking kiribath (milk rice) on the road outside the residence of the Chief Justice. If that is part of our millennia old culture, how different is it from the one that beheaded the young housemaid last week?

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    Professor,

    How does your story fit in with that where a Govt in 7/83 – whose Cabinet was full of learned lawyers – did not succeed in prosecuting a single offender in the whole country – whereas multiple hundreds of thousands were thrown out of their homes, their properties more often stolen while some burnt. The only case I know of where the Police successfully prosecuted the High Court in Kurunegala, manned by a judge who had an axe to grind with many Tamils in Colombo where he lived, studied and grew up – he had all of them released.

    So, in a way, what we witness now is really the grains from the seeds that were sown then to finish the Tamil race. Life can be full of ironies like that in which the once Hero-General, who had sworn to finish the Tamil Menace, was seen praying – bared bodied, with pottu and kumkum – in the Nallur Kandasamy Kovil asking the deities therein to help him to come to power. In fairness to him, he had since changed by that time and urged the Tamil people, whom he once swore to eliminate, to help him come to power. It is good all that now seems to be forgotten. The ancient Tamil race has gone through such phases many times in their antique saga.

    Senguttuvan

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      Got your wires twisted Senguthuwan? He talks about lawlessness. The police looked on then. They are mere spectators even now. He feels ashamed now, he didn’t have time to experience any emotions then. very evocative!

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      With the learner end cabinet you are talking about, one megalomaniac , brought shame on our mother land. Now it is his nephew doing the number on us.
      Yesterday one of the two, most disgraceful Buddhists, dressed in pristine white, partially educated , barefaced lying shames was on swarnawahini, telling the country that they were just following , what JRJ had started. What a bare faced liar. They are lucky that Sri Lankan s by and large are ,frogs in the well who would believe any thing.
      The professor writes well , good reasoning and he was Sri Lankan . We so called Sinhala Buddhists do not have the brains to realize that we are all people. Knowledge can be got from books but wisdom has to be cultivated. Lord Buddha included everybody but these two runty little s…s are racists and idiots. If they want to preach or practice what lord Buddha said they should educate the people to live to gether in harmony.and each culture /religion has so much to offer a society and could only make it richer and spicier.
      Why are we stupid enough to follow uneducated ,unprincipled, self serving ,uncouth,greedy parliamentarians why have we stopped thinking for our selves. We used to live with Tamils , Muslims burghers Malays and Chinese and were , very happy. We had the capacity to laugh at each other with out taking offense. We used to have plays like he comes from Jaffna and songs like Banda comes to town. Politicians divided us starting from Bandaranayake. What a mess these fellows are. I wish some one cleverer than I would do some thing about it.

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      Senguttuvan — to me, the first line of Maheshan’s article says it all “highly centralized power without purpose which has ugly consequences”. You are free to imagine that all they (JR to MR & SF) had in mind is the “finishing off” of the Tamil tribe. Tamils have proved they are capable of self destruction, they don’t need any help.

  • 1
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    Dharma (Aram to the Tamils) is a concept that governs our lives, but is rarely understood. We will pay or be paid for what we do in life. Karma or action, begets a reaction. This is also the law in physics. ” Every action has an equal and opposite reaction”. We are responsible for what we do as individuals, communities or a country and we have to pay the price or receive a payment. ,It is a constant battle between righteousness and unrighteousness; between what is right and wrong; between good and bad; between darkness and light; between ignorance and knowledge; and between the best and the worst within us. Which aspect takes the upper hand in us as individuals and collectively, will determine our destiny. Sri Lankans have been made to make or accept the wrong choices over a very long time and it appears we are being made to pay the price now. We have to clear the bad debts/deeds we have accumulated and make amends, if we are to reach our potential as a country and peoples.

    I remember the story of Tharman/ Dharman in the Mahabharatha that touched me deeply as a teenager. I had a drawing of the scene printed in ‘Kalki’- a Tamil weekly , framed in my room. This was also looted or destroyed in the 1977 riots. Coming back to the story, long after the Kurukshetra war, when Tharman died of old age, in his journey as a soul, he was followed only by a loyal dog, doggedly at his heels or shadow. His brothers and other kith and kin were not there with him on this journey. He was alone, but for the loyal and ever faithful dog. This dog was the Righteousness – Dharmam/ Aram,, he had done in his life. This is will be the only power and wealth we will carry beyond our graves or funeral pyres.

    It is time we as people’s and our rulers learn this wisdom from our forefathers and foremothers. Many may not believe in an afterlife, but it is said that in the Kaliyuga, we are living in, the pay back times comes in this life time.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

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    Prof Niranja

    This is a country where we shape things up. Ask most Sinhalese, they would have one of two excuses for your situation and would try to “shape it up” either evading it or saying they were helpless. No one would admit to the fact that the law of the jungle prevailed and we need to be accountable for what happened.

    Leela embodies the first type. She will tell you that she is for a unitary state which is Sinhala Buddhist and therefore others must “do as we say” and “we will let you be, under our terms”. From her perspective “Tamils had to be taught a lesson”. Ask her if she is ashamed of what happened in ’83, her response would be to evade the question.

    The latter type would say ’83 should not have happened, but they were helpless and still don’t see anything wrong with what happened.

    There are millions of others who put their lives at risk and protected the victims, and they are truly ashamed. They were the ones who swept CBK to power in ’94.

    When you look at Sri Lanka form a narrow racist prism, you will yourself to shape things up, because you think anyone who is one of us should be shaped up. Breaking the law is accepted, and we are willing to mingle shamelessly among rouges and robber barons. Look at the new CJ’s alma mater. I see many who are wishing him well on FB.

    We have a life size social challenge. To learn to respect the rule of law and learn to be ashamed as a people. You are not alone. I am ashamed too.

  • 1
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    Millenia old culture has gone to the vultures of Hambanthota backwoods and their boot lickers.True there is no difference between the beheading of a young woman on one hand and beheading of CJ on the other.Culture vultures are having a field day until some one brings in saner counsel.

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    This dude is ashamed of what happened in 1983 January 2013.

    But not eve a little mention .let alone shame of the horrific , horrible and disgraceful things that happened to innocent mums , dads kiddies and even Buddhist monks, in between.

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      K.A Sumanasekera

      You are spot on.

      You mean between 1987 and 1991 the atrocities committed by the state and the Sinhala/Buddhist JVP against the innocent Sinhala speaking people.

      I am glad you remember those atrocities.

    • 1
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      ….and the thousands of Tamils killed in temples, churches, in their own houses by aerial bombings and random massacres by the military of the Sri Lankan state.

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    Dear Prof Thank you for awakening the memories of a shameful past. As you said this shameful act OF rogue impeachment will have far reaching consequences. You very correctly summed up the feelings of genuine Sri Lankans. I am ashamed to be a Sri Lankan when truth is trampled beneath our own feet with terror tactics in the name of democracy by so called legislators. I was expecting at least one member of the governing coalition to resign but nay that never happened. The gingling coins are heavier than values in their ears if at all those yes men have any values left. The cry for a fair rial is being echoed all over the country. The day would dawn where a fair trial to CJ and to every one who suffered injustice at the hands of little thinking administrators be given. Also a fair trial be given to all who deserve it. That is our responsibility. That day would not be too far..

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    WELL THEY ARE ALL ALIKE.

    THE DEVIL VELUPILLAI PRABAHARAN IS DEAD AND GONE WITH THE WIND.

    BUT THE DEVIL DANCERS FROM RUHUNU ARE STILL AROUND DANCING TO THE “THOIL BERE”.

    UNLESS THESE ASSHOLES ARE SHOT WITH THEIR OWN SHIT AND ELIMINATED THE ISLAND PARADISE WILL NEVER BE A PARADISE BUT A HELL HOLE.

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    “Got your wires twisted Senguthuwan? He talks about lawlessness. The police looked on then” says reader MY Foote. If you read my comments again, it is on the absence of law and the Police shirking in their paid-for duties. Clearly somebody has missed the plot and twisted wires. But, pray tell me, who?

    Senguttuvan

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    thats very true dear Professor. I too watched with deepest dismay the ‘citizens’ eating kiribath & celebrating the death of law an ddecency in my country. these pathetic idiots will eat kiribath at their mothers’ funerals. you’re lucky to live in UK, where the law reigns. but us, the Sri Lankans who did not celebrate the death of the rule of law, are the most unfortunate.

    the govt assasins (ministers) who joined the kiribath eaters should be remembered forever: Rohitha Abeygunawardena (has 50million bribady case swept under carpet by MR, on top of all illegal earnings & thuggary), Thilanga Sumathipala (the bookie owner, who was proven to associate underworld kingpins like Dhammika, whom [Edited out] later [Edited out] in the courthouse), Dilan Perera (who shouted for his ‘friend’ Nalanda Ellawala, took all political milage from it, and then shamelessly sat with Nalanda’s killers Susantha Punchinilame & Mahinda Rathnatilaka in govt), Anura Yapa (so called Lawyer who never appeared for any significant case other than for kassipu addicts in Kuliyapitiya).

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    Dear Prof.Niranjan
    Everyone talk and know about 1983 July riots. But no one talk or knows about what happened in 1979. I was born in a small town in Kurunegala and most of my town shops were owned by Tamil traders. They were very friendly with people and we too always went to their shops because they treat well people talking like brothers and sisters for my parents and for me like uncles. Even my father used to speak with them in Tamil. We never had any riots or troubles and lead a very peaceful life. I still can remember Rasaiya the owner of the biggest shop of cloths in the city who was very much like a sinhalese used to talk to every one on the road when passing his shop was very unusual for me. But in 1979 riots his life is taken by some of the people who backed by armed security people of a textile mill. We saw how they came and burned his shop. Finally a good sinhala friend of him allowed him to escape and brought him to his house and kept there to protect him. But unfortunately someone has given the tip and lead thugs to attack this house as well and killed him by using a “Wangediya”. After this incident whole people in the town were shocked but as a consequence all tamil traders left our town. I consider this was the biginning of tamil moment against sinhalese rulers and not 1983.

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    Dear Sisira:

    I think I read this description from you earlier in another blog.
    In moments when man became savage in this country during 1958, 1977, 1983 and perhaps other times – many Sinhalese showed their
    true religious learning of compassion and kindness risking their lives
    and all. My family and I were subject to both aspects of the human
    condition.

    Senguttuvan

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    Sri Lankan Housemaid beheaded in Soudi Arabia. Sri Lankan Juciciary beheaded in Sri Lanka itself. Rule of Law becomes Rule of Jungle Law in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka Parliament becomes a Kangaroo court. Sri Lankan Democracy becomes Mobocracy and finally Mobocracy in Sri Lanka is converted into a Demoncratic nation ruled by ?????????.

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    Dear Niranja(n)
    You forgot the celebration of SriLankans in the steets of Colombo, just as 20,000, 40,000, 70,000 or 140,000 (who knows?) were massacred at the orders of their elected representatives, and another 300,000 or so were caged into internment camps. 1983 faded in comparison. Not a Sri Lankan questioned this. But millions endoresed this by a popular vote a mere six months or later. Did the supreme court do anything but aquit everyone over the past 60 years who had committed crimes against humanity. And now you talk about shame?

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      Absolutely, PB, I agree that Prof Ninja is totally out of touch with what really matters.

      But how come there is such a big uncertainty in your estimate of how many people were massacred — have you tried make a more precise estimate of the number of people killed?

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