20 May, 2024


Sri Lanka’s Black July: The Question Of Numbers

By Rajan Hoole –

Rajan Hoole

Sri Lanka’s Black July – Part 11 –

Before we leave this chapter, we look at the question how many Tamils were killed during the July 1983 violence? Almost

every figure aroused controversy. Sarath Muttetuwegama pointed out that according to the censor 36 persons had been killed in Colombo on the 25th – the first day of violence – including 35 prisoners at Welikade! T.D.S.A. Dissanayaka gives a total of 471 Tamils killed including 227 in the Colombo District. Dr. M.S.L. Salgado, JMO Colombo, recalls that during that week about 283 bodies came to him for post mortem examination. Under the prevailing anarchy, we may take it that nearly all of them were victims of communal attacks.

Amirthalingam in speaking to the Tamil diaspora in New York just after July violence placed the number of Tamils killed at about 2000. After he became leader of the Opposition, Amirthalingam was generally painstakingly detailed and accurate. But in the South itself the attention of many shifted from the atrocious nature of the violence itself to a defensive cry that the Tamils (including Amirthalingam) were exaggerating and that Sri Lanka was being unfairly vilified. Take for example Dissanayaka’s remark: “Political opinion in Tamil Nadu ranging from the sublime to the ludicrous and the mass media was orchestrated against Sri Lanka. A hartal (stoppage of work) was observed on August 2nd.” It was as though such concern, which alone kept the local Tamils in hope then, was attempt to make Buddhism the key element in the Sinhalese identity while playing down caste. Today the most strident of Sinhalese publicists and scholars who move towards demonising the Tamils while eloquently holding out against political accommodation with them, come mainly from the service castes.

The new however jostles uneasily with the old. Gamini Dissanayake was a Kandyan Govigama. During the July 1983 violence he and his wife dropped in one evening among old friends visiting a Tamil lawyer on holiday from Britain. In private discussion, Dissanayake lamented the state of the Left. “Earlier”, he told another visitor, “in dealing with the Left, one could have talked to a good Govigama like Dr. N.M. Perera or to a good Dutch Burgher like Pieter Kenuman”. “But now”, he added, “the leadership of the Left has gone to the scum!”

illegitimate. How many more Tamils would have been killed if not for Indira Gandhi’s telephone call to Jayewardene, and her subsequently sending Rao? The question is not about Mrs. Gandhi’s or M.G. Ramachandran’s sincerity. Their actions were legitimate, apart from perhaps being politically necessary.

In assuming that the figure of about 500 Tamils killed is correct, one would also assume that the Police were faithful in directing nearly all the corpses of victims to hospital mortuaries. Given the active or passive connivance of the Police in the violence, what interest did they have in directing bodies to mortuaries and totting up the score? Was Jayewardene, who was getting worried about foreign publicity, going to reward them for keeping an accurate record? Were the bodies of Arunan and his father sent to the mortuary? We know that they were burnt with the house. Were any remains of the man thrown on to the burning tin roof in Kandy sent for a post mortem? How about those travellers clubbed to death and then placed under their motor cycle or inside their car and set on fire?

This problem was posed to Bradman Weerakoon, then Commissioner General for Essential Services. He said that Jayewardene asked him to take over this job on Friday the 29th and allocated Rs.50 million for this purpose. He accepted on condition that there was no interference, and in this matter, he said, the promise was kept. On the number killed, he said that he had moved around quite a bit during that period, and had no difficulty with figures such as 2000 or 3000 killed. He described one particular experience. The 29th was Tiger Friday in Colombo when fresh violence erupted. On Saturday morning, he went with a police escort along Galle Road, from de Fonseka Place in Bambalapitiya to visit his mother in Mount Lavinia. The main road was chock-full with burnt vehicles and debris. He had to proceed very slowly, he said, often climbing over objects on the road. But on Monday following the week- end, he saw Galle Road wiped clean as it were.

Only the burnt buildings on either side betrayed signs of past calamity. Some movers had been brought and everything on the road had been lifted and disposed of somewhere, including the human remains. Such were the times that one would not have expected the Police to go to the scene and dispatch bodies unless they had been expressly sent or they could not avoid getting involved.

Before discussing the nature of the event, we will in the next chapter discuss two key events that have a bearing on the violence as a whole.

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 –  Black July: A Note On Buddhism, Caste & The New Sinhalese Nationalism

*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..

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Latest comments

  • 0

    Prof.Ratnajeevan ,an old johnian like me, is doing a good service towards reconciliation. He hosted all of us,members oba SJC Colombo for a dinner ,about 14 years back. Both of us are now abroad.

    Keep on going!

  • 0

    How many more Tamils would have been killed if not for Indira Gandhi’s telephone call to Jayewardene,

    Its strange isn’t it? In one hand she is using Tamils to destabalise Sri Lanka. On the other she pretends to care about Tamils.

    Amirthalingam in speaking to the Tamil diaspora in New York just after July violence placed the number of Tamils killed at about 2000.

    Well, going by latest crop of Tamils nazi’s currently there is a sexual predator epidemic in Jaffna. The TNA guy who was in New York claimed he saved over 200 women from being raped.

    Despite benefitting from Sri Lankan free education, the Tamil Nazi have never been good with numbers. The latest example being the Mulliyawaikkal hoax.

    Between Jan and July close to 600 deaths were registered at govt departments. This included non-riot related deaths. Unless the families packed their dead relatives in suitcases when they left the country there could never have been more than 600.

    • 0


      Unless I have got this one wrong I cannot identify any Tamil Nazis and your delusion about the sexual predators they cannot be none other than your barbaric soldier brothers.
      I like your choice of the name which has now become a fashion amongst your lot to give the impression that a lot of Northern Indians are adding to the support of your race. Frankly they dont care a damn about you and they look down on you.
      Man Mullivaikal was not a hoax it was something cooked up by Tamil extremists. There was no Tamil killed man it was just poor Sinhalese occupying soldiers that was the 120,000 bodies found which have all been dispopsed of.
      But dont worry when MR and his clan are taken to the Hauge all will be revealed. So sleep in peace.

  • 0

    Aren’t numbers irrevelant now? 1 or 2, 1000 or 2000- what does it matter? What’s the point in arguing. ‘Black July 1983’ was more than Black-an indelible mark in our country’s history. Dr Hoole’s book was written sometime ago, an excellent analysis. We cant re-write the past-but we can make the effort to write a different future.

  • 0

    There was no black July. Go to Colombo and you will see more Tamilians than anyone else!

    There were 2 black Augusts in Jaffna by Tamils against Sinhalese (1977) and Muslims (1990). Go to Jaffna and you see no Sinhalese or Muslim civilians. This is proof.

    • 0


      You have now given up that Ghost of Water shortage.

      But for your information.

      There may have been 2 Black Augusts against Occupying Sinhalese and Spying Muslims. I think your memory is failing you so check the dates and that may be due dehydration brought on by Water shortage.

      But the above is nothing compared to



      Against innocent and defenceless Tamils for the last 63 years

      If another month was available on the Calender you would have utilised that also.

      No doubt your sister the Sinhala NONA when she reads this will add some spice to it beacuse her hormones are playing up and she cannot take the pill. But you are a man and I am sure you will just gulp it down,

    • 0

      i say Muliyawaikkal you got yourself in a twist man and got the dates wrong Muslims of Jaffna were not ethnically chased in Aug 1990 but in Nov 1990 shows ur nothing but a scumbug!

      • 0

        Peace Lover, Leave this Leela. He is an eunuch since his nuts were twisted like GnanaSatan.
        This bugger when it suites to him drags the Christians to blame the Muslims, drags the Muslims to balme the Tamils and vice versa. A ‘ponsi’ is a ‘ponsi’ no matter what.

  • 0

    It is not too late. Rajan can call the details of the dead people even today through medias. Will CT do it as a social service?

    • 0

      Sivanathan the Sinhalese which dead people are you talking about. No doubt you are talking about the countless number of innocent Sinhalese killed by barbaric Freedom Fighters the LTTE.
      Unfortunately CT dont do social service only Journalism.

      Try MR, GOTHA, WIMAL and all the other cronies

      • 0

        So, you dont want to find the correct numbers but want “any numbers” for political racism only! I think you did not read this article. First reat it!

        Further you are an idiot to call me Sinhalese!

        You guys dont like any “correctness”.

        A media has more resources to do a social service than individuals! I think you have no idea about JOURNALISM which is also a part of social service! You are addicted with propaganda leaflets!

        Are you the representative or the spokesperson for CT?

        • 0

          Yes you sigy I am a spokesman for CT. I do unpaid work.
          You know man sometimes truth hurts and you pretend to be a Tamil no one will believe you except your Sinhalese masters.

          Definition of Social Work:

          Work carried out by trained personnel with the aim of alleviating the conditions of those in need of help or welfare.
          [Edited out]

          • 0

            This to the Mederator,

            There is a saying ” Modesty Forbids”
            I paid you a compliment and by editing out the compliment you have refused to accept my compliment.

  • 0

    Ranjan hole is obsessed about the caste of the Sinhalese. I don’t believe Sinhalese really care about the caste has he loves to make it out to be. I am Karava caste while my wife is Govigama. She did not know what her caste is until I told her when we got married many years ago.

    • 0

      I am Karava caste while my wife is Govigama.

      Are you Gnanakone?

      But you divorced her.

  • 0


    You are a compulsive writer but dont believe in replying. I asked you a question about your comment that somehow if LTTE has not intervened the Tamil suffering would have been extinguished by a miracle but you have not replied. How was the fire going to be extinguished friend:

    1) Was it going to be dowsed with water
    2) A divine intervention

    Friend I am waiting to know ” Entru Thaniyum Intha Suthanthira Thepam”
    ( I mean the flame)

    Please reply

    • 0

      If LTTE headed by a smuggler criminal Prabhakaran, more than 100000 people alive and billions of properties of Tamils not destroyed. No refugee problems also!

      • 0


        Learn English man first. There are gaps you havent filled and your comment is incomplte.
        Stop this rubbish and do what you are capable of doing may be clean the Colombo slums.

        I think what you wanted to write was.

        If LTTE headed by a smuggler criminal Prabakaran had not been created by racist Sinhalese more than 100,000 innocent Tamils and Sinhalese and billions of rupees ( not properties) of Tamils would not have been destroyed.
        There would not have been a Refugee problem.

        If you want to learn come to my Tutory in Timbaktu and I will teach you free as you have special needs. Puthi Mathu

        • 0

          I did not study English in school.

          Tamil is my first language, Sinhala is second, Malayalam is third and English is forth.

          I dont need any education from you because you are a follower of a grade 7 petty criminal.

          Further cleaning is the main employment of many LTTE Tamils! Are you one of them?

          • 0

            You Sinkalam,

            Your language in the following order:

            1) Sinkalam
            2) Sinkalam
            3) Sinkalam
            4) Little bit of Enkilis(English) fourth not forth

            I can see it is beggning to affect you so in future talk sense

            • 0

              What’s that ‘Poda-Maire’ Mallu Mota fellow doing here.
              His real name is not Sivanthan.

            • 0

              But I suspect. Are you a Tamil anyway because you follow a Malayalee Prabhakaran!

      • 0

        correction:Read it ..

        If LTTE was not headed by a smuggler criminal Prabhakaran, more than 100000 people alive and billions worth of properties of Tamils not destroyed. No refugee problems also!

  • 0


    I shoud have added billions of rupees ( not properties ) and thousands of Tamil properties

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