18 October, 2019

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On Politicized Black July

By Malinda Seneviratne –

Malinda Seneviratne

Last week The Nation commented on the events of July 1983, referring inter alia, to the context and how it helped shape the larger tragedy that unfolded.  July 1983, referred to as ‘Black July’ has been politicized to the point where the victims have receded into a statistical figure, a rhetorician’s convenience to be debated about, to be manipulated for political ends.  Inevitable, one might say.

It was black, that July.

There were other Julys that followed, in many ways as or more tragic, as or more violent, as or more dark, but strangely forgotten.   On July 24, 1996 was a black day.  The Dehiwala train bombing.  Sixty four is less than 300+, but death is death, the loved ones of the victims would not have wept less.  No commemoration, though. No ‘Never Again!’

There was a July in 2001. Katunayake.  Twenty four aircraft were damaged or destroyed in an audacious LTTE attack which had a tremendous and negative impact on the economy. It paved the way for ‘regime-change’ and the Ceasefire Agreement on February 22, 2002, the ill-effects of which, including the massive loss of lives, are well documented.  Unremembered.  No ‘Never Again!’

And if only numbers matted, we had a July in 1990. Thousands were killed in that month by vigilante groups who did the bidding of the then Government.  If July 1983 was black, then a darker color to describe the July of 1990 is yet to be named.  No commemoration.  No ‘Never Again!’

Blackness is about the horror of the moment, true.  But ‘black’ is a color that can be used considering effect.  In this sense, the July that came in 1987 is as black as any other.  This was the July of the Indo-Lanka Accord, whose (il)legality, Indian machinations embedded in background construction and text, violation by the principal architect (India) and other ‘thereafters’ are excellently detailed in an article by Dimuth Gunawardena titled ‘Indo-Lanka Accord a nullity’ (see page 11).

No commemoration. No tears; none for the 60,000 who were slaughtered in the insurrectionary thrust spawned by the Indo-Lanka Accord.  No ‘Never Again!’  Instead there are shrill cries for ‘full implementation’.  There’s also the Oliver Twistian ‘More, I want more!’ And there is the shameless sycophancy of those who caution, ‘India might bark and bite!’

July 1987 was the blackest month for Sri Lanka in terms of what happened to national dignity, sovereignty, territorial integrity and so on.  An unnecessary war that had already cost much in terms of lives lost was given what turned out to be a further 22 years to live.  It took a strong and determined political leadership to put that baby to rest, yielding as ‘price’ a regime which in after-conflict glory acquired a half-sanctioned and half-wrested ‘do as we please’ complexion.

The dead cannot be brought back to life.  They will be mourned by those who they left behind.  They will be the plaything of the rhetorician.  Little can be done to stop that.  The relevant ‘blacknesses’ will not lose hue until time covers event and buries memory with other tragedies and/or the consecration of a resolve to ‘move on’, either by grievance-redress or acquisition of better sense or the counting of blessings.

The blackness of July 1987, however, can be dealt with. Decisively.  The LTTE is no more.  A different avatar of that monster can of course be birthed by the marriage of communalism.  An ’83 can recur.  The blackness of July 1987 is a ready platform for the full flowering of both kinds of blackness, for the monumental lies that underpin the Indo-Lanka Accord and the abiding nature of the signature it crafted on the political landscape.  A cancer if ever there was one.  It requires removal.  One less ‘blackness’ in these dark times is certainly welcome, after all.

*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com

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Latest comments

  • 1
    0

    It is Tamil superiority complex.

    In 9/11 about or less than 3000 people died. they used it to for years as a grievance to destroy some societies.

    Tamils also used this balck july to create 30 years of mayhem and later they wanted to recreate that again and sinhala people became intelligent and did not accept the challenge.

    So, the dishonest Tamil writers and their supporters live on that.

    They don’t feel any shame.

    • 0
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      MS a State organized pogrom as in July 1983 against a minority GROUP, cannot be compared with random acts of terrorism of a non-state actor such as the LTTE.
      Anyone who knows an iota of political science and theory knows that the organized violence of the state against a whole people is a higher order of crime than that of a small terror outfit.
      So, Cut the crap and EDUCATE yourself and stop being such a racist ignoramus.

      • 0
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        MS is a US university drop out who likes to pretend that he is a know-all, but is really terribly ignorant, and worse, an arrogant SInhala racist!

        • 0
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          I saw a video interview of this MS guy about the BBS atrosity. In which he behaved talked like a real nut. His body language was appalling. I was surprised that with his third class attitude he is a journalist. Same body language as Gota. He has no class or any mannerism.
          No wonder that this guy is a Pro-Rajapaksa. We badly need the elite class back in power. Slum shanty guys must be chased away the sooner the better for a better tomorrow.

  • 0
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    Lessons for SL from Israel.

    The Israeli cabinet has backed a bill that requires any peace deal with the Palestinians to be put to a referendum.

    “Any agreement which may be reached in negotiations will be put to a referendum,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office as quoted by AFP. “It is important that on such historic decisions every citizen should vote directly on an issue deciding the country’s future.

    The referendum bill is seen as a goodwill gesture to right-wing members of the government who might oppose concessions Israel could have to make within the peace process negotiations – including giving up land.

    Netanyahu has said that he is firmly supportive of the idea of a referendum.

    Peace with our neighbors requires peace among ourselves, and the way to ensure this is through a referendum,” the PM stated.”

    How true!

    Peace with our neighbors requires peace among ourselves, and the way to ensure this is through a referendum,” the PM stated.”

    • 0
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      Write this on a paper, fold into four and stick it up in Leela’s C.

  • 0
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    The 1200 IPKF troopers killed are remembered by a memorial.
    Was this a ‘black massacre’ by the LTTE?
    What of the 600 policemen executed by Karuna – was this black or white.
    The lstter probably as he was made a vice-president of SLFP.
    Will he campaign in the north alongside Devananda for the UPFA?

  • 0
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    I find it just disgusting that the author here would attempt to compare what happened in July 1983 with the attacks of a rebel/terrorist organization. What took place in Black July was a state-sponsored pogrom that targeted a specific ethnic group. As such, it was genocidal in nature.

    The subsequent July attacks that the author describes “as or more dark” simply cannot be placed on the same moral plane by any free thinking individual.

    The whole point of a “Never Again” cry is to highlight something deeply unconscionable about an elected government facilitating the death of so many innocent people and forcing so many into exile. On a scale of “blackness”, it would seem obvious to most that this far outstrips the other events described by the author.

    The only conclusion I am forced to make is that the author must have received some flack from the hardline Sinhala Right for an earlier article on Black July that might have been deemed too sympathetic towards Tamils and now has to write something like this to make his stance clear.

    Quite sad.

  • 0
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    Fully agree with Disgusted in above post.

    It takes an apologetic and chauvinistic mindset to equate July 1983 riots to the acts of terrorism carried out by the LTTE. It’s true that death is death and all parties involved in that terrible 30 yr conflict suffered beyond measure.

    This is why the need to reflect, mourn and grant closure to all is so great. The type of mindset the author MS is demonstrating is the biggest enemy to this.

    Forget for the tit for tat. Forget the triumphalism. We don’t need victory parades. We need a period of mourning to contemplate on every death: soldier, civilian, Tamil, Sinhalese, and Muslim. We need to give closure to the grieving families and cry our hearts out. We need to then stand up and acknowledge that we are all equal and we all have a right to peacefully live in this beautiful land. Then and only then can we say never again to July ’83, ’87, ’01, for every day that happened after.

  • 0
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    Truly disgusted by the arguments here as with the shameless ‘spread’ trail of terror in the author’s newspaper that made equally grotesque supremacist excuses for the horror of 1983. If he were writing then he would have been the chief apologist for the mobs that lynched and killed innocent Tamils in July ’83 to pay for the crimes of a terrorist organisation.
    There’s a reason the state sponsored mob is going after Muslims now. Because Sinhalese of the likes of Malinda Seneviratne will never say ‘Never Again’.

  • 0
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    Finally Malinda, you show your colors – which was known to all those who knew you. Time to write that article “The Tamil in me”. That way we enjoy your acrobatics – even more.

    • 0
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      Kiri Yakka – “Finally Malinda, you show your colors – which was known to all those who knew you.”

      “Finally”??? Shit man, his “colors” have been there for all to see – maybe those of you who knew him sussed it out sooner than the rest of us, because (as Senerath K’s comment above mentions) his actions speak even louder than his words!

  • 0
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    Equating one ‘black’ with another ‘black’ is a futile exercise. Why do we do it? Its the stupidity of the argument that appals. The only ray of hope is that more Sinhalese are now aware of the terrible events of July 1983 and hopefully will resist any attempts to cause ethnic riots.

  • 0
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    Malinda,

    Are you trying to justify the 83 sin by the reactions it brought us?

    Who is the scoundrel who put you in that position you hold? You are a disgrace man.

  • 0
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    ALL right minded persons should stop buying the Nation Paper for start to bring this guy down to earth

    • 0
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      Genny & Ahmed:
      Not buying the paper won’t do any good because it is owned by the Rajapassa family and financed by the GOSL. THOSE ARE SIMPLE FACTS. Why do you think this piece of s…t was hired as Editor-in-chief or something?
      This is our Miracle of Asia, no?

  • 0
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    Please donot equate the pogrom committed by the State where then Ministers like Cyril Mathew who went about killing. and burning houses and businesses with the aid of voter lists to the atrocities committed by non state actors which any in any was random while on the hand the pog rom was orchestrated by the Govt which has the responsibility of taking care of all its citizens whether they be singhalese , Tamils or Muslims.
    1983 was game changer when theTamils realized that the two major communities cannot live together peacefully and the only way was separation.

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