11 December, 2017

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University Of Peradeniya – May 1983: When Majesty Stoops To Folly

By Rajan Hoole

Dr. Rajan Hoole

Dr. Rajan Hoole

While the author of a book strives to be accurate with his facts as the times and circumstance permit, there will invariably be more to be said, and some of it of considerable importance. In 2005 (four years after the book), UTHR(J) had the opportunity of meeting in Canada Mr. Balasooriyan, and consulting others familiar with events in the mid-1980s. Additional information of considerable interest that throws further light on the conduct of the university authorities at Peradeniya was published as:

Supplement to UTHR(J) Special Report No.19: Part II

University of Peradeniya – May 1983: When Majesty Stoops to Folly

– The Beginnings of Mass Mobilisation for the Tamil Militancy, 9th September 2005

For many Tamil students the violence at Peradeniya University in May 1983 was a greater factor in their radicalisation than the more sensationally brutal events of July, which quickly overshadowed it. Peradeniya was the country’s premier institution of higher learning. When Sinhalese students with UNP leanings attacked fellow Tamil students on three consecutive days in May; the authorities and the country’s leading intellects did little to stop it. The excellent report of the committee of inquiry chaired by Kenneth de Lanerolle (discussed at length in UTHR publication Sri Lanka: ‘Arrogance of Power: Myths, Decadence & Murder) created controversy because many thought it went too far. We would argue that good as it was, the report still did not go far enough.

The recently obtained testimonies below suggest that the report did not touch the rot that was at the root of the problem. There is evidence to suggest that violence was not merely the result of passive acceptance by the administrative and academic establishments, but of their active complicity in the actual direction of events. The punishments it recommended against identified offenders were not implemented and the report itself was suppressed.

Bala’s Ordeal

The main attacks on students on the 11th night took place almost simultaneously at Hilda Obeysekere Hall (HOH), James Peiris Hall (JPH) and Marrs Hall (MH). HOH was attacked about 9.45 PM by students armed with staves and parts of furniture. They were from other halls looking for particular students, some of whom were pointed out by fellow Sinhalese students. A particular target being out called by the mob was first year engineering student P. Balasooriyan who was editing a Tamil magazine and was accused of being a ‘tiger’. What follows is his testimony:

Unknown to Balasooriyan, 4 issues of the magazine ‘Puthusu’ (New) he was co-editing had arrived by post the same day and had been removed from the letter board and opened. The cover had the picture of a dove in a cage chained to a large metal ball. The picture was inspired by those commonly used then in Amnesty International publications campaigning for the release of political prisoners. That was enough to make Balasooriyan a ‘tiger’ although the political line of the magazine was sharply critical of the LTTE and its methods.

Sensing danger, Balasooriyan left his room and went to the room of Thayaparan, also on the first floor, where one bed was vacant. At this point Balasooriyan saw over the balcony the intruders searching his room in the wing across. The intruders came in and asked for their names. Balasooriyan gave the name of Appathurai Mohan. The intruders saw a Milk White calendar with a picture of Mahatma Gandhi on the wall and forced the two inmates to eat it. They went away and failing to locate their prey, came back asking for student record books. Balasooriyan said that he was a first year who came late, and had not got one yet. The mob started beating Tamil students. His fellow Tamil students who were protecting Balasooriyan felt this could not go on long and advised him to escape. He ran along the wing’s corridor and jumped one floor down at the Mahaveli River end. He was spotted and a cry went out. Lying on the ground, he found a torch flashing on him within 5 minutes. He was taken upstairs. He told the mob of 25 to 50 that he was asthmatic and frightened and that was why he jumped out. He denied he was Balasooriyan and gave Thayaparan’s as his room. The mob took him there, gave him water, asked him to lie down on the bed, switched off the lights and went away.

15 minutes later there was a huge rumble, the mob came again and knocked at the door, which Thayaparan opened. Balasooriyan sat up and blinked as the light came on. Asked for his name, he repeated Appathurai Mohan. The mob called, “Bandara, come here”. Bandara was a Sinhalese batch-mate in Balasooriyan’s engineering practical group assigned in alphabetical order. Asked if this was Balasooriyan, Bandara agreed.

The mob took Balasooriyan to an open (long) balcony connecting the wings and began assaulting him with broken legs of chairs and other physical means as he lay prostrate in his sarong. This went on for half an hour with Sinhalese students watching. A number of their faces clearly displayed disapproval and others urged the attackers, without success, to stop. The student who was most violent and unrelenting in attacking Balasooriyan was his own batch-mate, W.M.V. Fernando.

The time was past mid-night and the huge racket had been going on for above three hours without any intervention by the authorities until the warden, Dr. K.N.O. Dharmadasa (now professor of Sinhalese), arrived. The mob made room for him to advance along the corridor. He asked the others to stop beating the victim and that he would take over. Dharmadasa took Balasooriyan gently by the hand as if to reassure him and led him to his office.

It’s a Bomb!

Balasooriyan was astonished to find that all the printed matter and private letters in his room had been neatly arranged in Dharmadasa’s office and it was about 1.00 AM. Among these were Palestinian poems translated by Dr. M.A.M. Nuhman (Linguistics), Letter to a Sinhalese Soldier attributed to the then famous political prisoner Nirmala Nithyanandan and widely circulated among Tamils, and pamphlets issued by almost all the militant groups in Jaffna. There were also the four issues of the magazine Puthusu which Balasooriyan discovered for the very first time had arrived for him by post. Dharmadasa pointed to the cover of Puthusu and asked him what was on the cover. Balasooriyan explained in his then unfamiliar English pointing one by one to the cage, the pigeon, chain and iron ball. Dharmadasa suggested dramatically, “It’s a bomb.”

It struck Balasooriyan that during the rioting that had preceded Dharmadasa taking him by the hand, the belongings of his room had been systematically rifled and brought to the warden’s office. The copies of the Puthusu, which Balasooriyan had not seen before, had been intercepted and almost certainly given to Dharmadasa in advance, leaving the warden pondering over the enigmatic cover while the riot was on around him.

The dove in a cage manacled to an iron ball was part of the imagery popularised at that time (early 1980s) by the worldwide movement for the rights of political prisoners, which was triggered by a convergence of a number of public events: The campaign by the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo in Argentina, the murder in 1980 by US-trained death squads of Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador and the ongoing repression by Western-backed regimes in East Timor and Chile. Amnesty International had by then recorded about a score of disappearances in custody of Tamil political prisoners. While Tamil activists were circulating these images as part of their political mobilisation, most educated Sinhalese and the Colombo media angrily branded Amnesty International an agent of terrorist propaganda. The two communities in the small island were continents apart, not least in Peradeniya.

Dharmadasa questioned Balasooriyan closely on who sent the magazines and notices, all the time probing his links to the LTTE. Balasooriyan was afraid of naming his friends in Jaffna who kept him posted with literature for his work as co-editor of Puthusu and said that his father had sent the magazines and that leaflets were routinely posted by all the groups to the Press, writers and analysts. He added that Dr. Sivasegaram who taught at the Engineering Faculty knew him well. Dharmadasa telephoned Sivasegaram. At this point a JVP youth called Ranjit Gunaratnam who spoke Tamil came in and inquired after his well-being.

Dharmadasa, looking very severe, took Balasooriyan to Sivasegaram’s house in a university vehicle. Prof. Thillainathan (Tamil) and Dr. Kasinadar (Philosophy) were also there. The three Tamil academics had spoken to the Vice Chancellor Prof. B.L. Panditharatne and tried to explain that they knew Balasooriyan through his literary interests and that the material he possessed was for a bona fide purpose. The Vice Chancellor maintained that the matter had gone to the CID 4th Floor independently of him and he had no alternative but to hand Balasooriyan over to the Police.

Balasooriyan expressed the fear that policemen irritated at being woken up from their sleep are likely to take it out on him. They went to the Vice Chancellor’s place in the jeep. The VC said that Balasooriyan could spend the night in the custody of the University Marshal (whose office had done absolutely nothing to protect the Tamils) and be handed over to the Police in the morning. He also gave an assurance that Balasooriyan would not be beaten; an assurance he should have known was worthless.

Sivasegaram then felt that even the Marshal’s men might beat him and decided that he would stay the night with him. Being bare bodied in a sarong, Balasooriyan was taken to his room to change into trousers, shirt and collect his Bata slippers. His things were in a mess and Rs.96 he had for the week’s expenses had been robbed. He told his roommate to inform his parents. It was 4.00 AM when they reached the Marshal’s office. Both frightened and tired, Balasooriyan began to nod off. Sivasegaram who sat across asked him to sleep and stayed awake, an act of kindness Balasooriyan said he could never forget.

Government Hospitality

At the Kandy Police station (Wednesday 12th) Balasooriyan was placed in a cell 2ft. by 4 or 5 ft. and taken out to the toilet at the back of the station near the railway tracks. He was told that the CID could not come from Colombo until the next day. About 11.00 PM a police officer asked him who sent the notices. He was beaten when he said that he did not know. A CID party from Colombo took him by jeep to Kotahena police station in Colombo where he arrived at 7.00 PM on the 13th, this time to a longer cell with a toilet behind.

Next day on the CID 4th Floor, a man tried to scare him by telling him that Kuttimani was tortured there and there is blood on the floor and he must tell the truth. During the interrogation lasting 2 to 3 hours, all his materials from Dharmadasa’s office were placed before him. The Muslim translator struck him as sympathetic. They seemed very concerned with Nirmala’s letter to a Sinhalese soldier. A hefty inspector then came in and asked him who sent the letters. When Balasooriyan said he did not know, the Inspector gave him a thundering slap and ordered him to stand bent with his head under the table. Later on they took him to be certified by a doctor and released him to his brother in law living in Colombo. This was on the 14th.

The University’s Complicity

We may point out here that Balasooriyan was handed over to the Police because the University authorities had decided that he was a Tiger. The reason given by Vice Chancellor that he had no alternative because Balasooriyan’s name had already gone to the CID was so patently absurd that it was not repeated before the Lanerolle Committee. In fact the Lanerolle Report says, “A prima facie case by appropriate authorities does not appear to have been made against Balasooriyan before taking a very serious step of sending him to the Police”. The Report further said: “During this critical period what authority existed within the campus was in eclipse. Not only did the Security Service signally fail in its duty, but wardens and sub-wardens appear to have abdicated their responsibility. Here was a situation which could not be handled by the University’s own structures. Yet were serious attempts made to call in the Police?….

The foregoing facts with the fact that it was students from the ruling UNP who were at the forefront of the attacks point inexorably to complicity on the part of the University at the highest level in the Tiger hunt. While giving the facts from which the reader could frame questions, Lanerolle avoided explicitly embarrassing the university hierarchy. Dharmadasa was then a middle level academic, and would very likely not have acted in such a highhanded manner unless he felt this is what the authorities intended him to do. The Report says: “Dr. Dharmadasa himself admitted that their prime concern was to defuse the situation… Had a less hasty step been taken, regarding Balasooriyan, it would have saved the authorities and his 300 accusers the ignominy of learning (later) that the ‘tiger’ was only an ‘unoffending cat’!” This excuse was after Dharmadasa knew that his foray into Tiger hunting had been less than glorious.

Further, the VC’s claim that the CID was anxious to question Balasooriyan is belied by the CID’s unenthusiastic and tardy, if not bored, conduct of the business. The Police would be concerned about guns, explosives and secret plans, but not over lots of commonplace paper that newspaper offices and libraries had. Contrary to the VC’s assurance that the Police would not beat Balasooriyan, if professors could not make anything credible of the pile of paper, what else could the Police do except to beat the fellow? According to the Report Dharmadasa had contacted the Vice Chancellor regarding Balasooriyan. The circumstances and the VC’s complicity suggest that someone high up in the University had gone to the CID.

It was so light a thing for the University to send a youth already tortured with their complicity to be tortured again by the Police. Other reliable testimony, which also concerns Sivaram, tells us that the attack on Tamils was not a sudden fit of madness, but the University had been teetering towards it for some months.

Exit Sivaram

In 1982 a Tamil student from the East in the Humanities with no political involvement was interrupted during a lecture by a peon from the Dean’s office and handed over a letter. The letter typed in English was from the Gurunagar army camp in Jaffna asking him to come over for an inquiry. Having heard and read stories of torture and disappearance at the camp and the corpses of Inpam and Selvam dumped in public he was frightened. He remembers being given a white sheet of paper and the letter was not even in an envelope. Letters to students from the administration are normally posted on the letter board, not hand delivered in this manner. We may infer that the letter originating from Military Intelligence was addressed to the Vice Chancellor’s office, where it was opened and passed on to the Dean’s office for immediate delivery.

The student thought it best not to let the matter become public, lest he and his family become targets of harassment. He only told his two elder brothers, his brother-in-law, a district judge, his Sinhalese roommate and his teachers Dr. Kasinadar and Rajan Kulathungam. He travelled overnight by bus to Jaffna and at the army camp was surprised to see another batch-mate from Batticaloa, who too received such a letter and was keeping quiet about it.

The interrogation consisted of recording answers to a list of more than 70 questions giving all the details of his life from friends and family. Exhausted, he was left to sit it out as the hours fled towards nightfall, dreading the prospect of all the tortures he had heard about and wondering if he would ever go home. Meanwhile another young man made conversation with him trying to win his confidence. He was given his first food at 10.00 PM and questioned the next day. The young man who had tried to make conversation with him was there as translator.

The translator, a Muslim, asked him if there had been a problem between Muslim and Tamil students. The student remembered that there had been a dispute between Muslim and Tamil second year males over the manner of each ragging of fresher girls from the other community. This particular student had been conspicuous in leading a campaign to stop all ragging. It occurred to him that there were informants in the University passing on information about possible ‘tigers’.

The second interrogation by a colonel was under conditions when the exhausted student’s mind and memory were hazy. It consisted of repeating the same questions of the previous day and comparing the answers. There were inevitable discrepancies, and at each discrepancy the colonel slapped the student. At the end of it Brigadier Balthazar came in, apprised himself of the proceedings and ordered the student released. The student’s relief was short-lived. The Muslim translator took him and described to him the list of tortures they inflicted there. He told him that he must help them by keeping them informed of activities in the University and should he not cooperate and gave them occasion to pull him in again, he would not get off so lightly.

The student found out later that the Batticaloa student had also been released. The student was not troubled again. But he has kept quiet about it to this day. Talking about it could also have opened him to being suspected an army spy. Under these circumstances one can have no idea of how many were summoned in this manner. Our witness, the student, said that he recalls having heard that Sivaram too received a letter about that time summoning him to Gurunagar. The only concrete indication he could cite is that Sivaram dropped out of the University at that time.

The role of the University administration in this matter as an extension of the State’s security arm is unprecedented. The University was acting as a conduit for letters ordering students to attend torture sessions on account of opinions they were suspected of having. Others familiar with the University at that time opine that if the institution complied with such practices, initially at least the JVP was the main reason. The UNP government was then watching the JVP and using a carrot and stick approach, enticing selected JVPers into the UNP. National Security Minister Lalith Athulathmudali was a leading exponent of this policy.

Instead of a place where ideas are challenged and critically evaluated, the University had taken to policing ideas and opinions as an instrument of UNP party policy. The attacks on Tamils in May logically flowed from this approach. It was not a flash in the pan; it went unchecked by the authorities for three successive days with complete impunity.

The fact that the University suppressed the report of the committee appointed by them and took no action to punish the 10 students identified among the miscreants, is itself a strong indication of complicity. What’s more, the leaders were UNPers and Balasooriyan’s ordeal suggests that the miscreants were not acting on their own.

In the words of the Lanerolle Report, “The purpose of the campaign was to evict the Tamils from the Campus. In complete defiance of authority and acting with blatant violence, the attackers succeeded in achieving their ends.” A tragic irony confronted those who were evicted.

To Arms, Death and Disillusionment

We do not know the number of Tamil students from Peradeniya who joined the various militant movements in the aftermath of 1983, but the figure would run into several scores. More importantly, those displaced by the violence went into political work, particularly in Jaffna, holding pocket meetings and organising the fast in the University of Jaffna demanding Agriculture and Engineering faculties in Jaffna for the displaced students. These activities aided the massive recruitment into the various militant groups at that time. We give a small cross section of the students who joined.

Among those Tamil students who left their studies at Peradeniya and like Sivaram joined the PLOTE were Kirupaharan alias Selvam (Dentistry, Sivaram’s victim), Jan Master (Medicine) and Thayaparan (Engineering). Balsooriyan himself, after his displacement, joined the NLFT, a left and largely political group, led by Visvanandadevan, and alumnus of the Engineering Faculty who had influenced him earlier. Another engineering student Paripooranabala also joined the NLFT, but had returned to complete his degree. Of three students Chandrasekar (from Amparai), Rajakaran (Vannarponnai, Jaffna) and Vasikaran (Mannar) from Balasooriyan’s engineering batch, the first two joined the TELO and the latter joined EROS. All three were trained by the Indian Army, but subsequently left when the atmosphere within and among militant groups became oppressive.

As was quite typical of that time, although Vasikaran joined EROS, his elder brother Suthakaran who was a second year engineering student dropped out and joined the LTTE.

In 1984 he was injured in the leg by Army firing. Although the Army did not come near him, he took cyanide and died. Local peasants, who found his body later, gave it to the LTTE. Paranitharan was a final year engineering student during the May 1983 troubles (from Badulla as another recalls), later joined the EROS and also completed his degree. He was killed in Colombo in 1986 when a bomb he was transporting exploded.

Two students Kuganesan (from Atchuvely, Jaffna), a Peradeniya engineering second year, and Sri Sabesan (Kurumbasiddy, Jaffna), who was due to enter engineering at Moratuwa, were among the students who were on fast at the University of Jaffna. Others in the fast were the girls Mathivathani and Gowri, agriculture students from Peradeniya. Mathivathani was at Sangamitta Hall, adjoining and overlooking Hilda where Tamil students were riotously attacked.

This was January 1984 and the fast which some of the organisers had recklessly called a fast to death had attracted large crowds and the leaders were shy to call it off. They approached various groups to kidnap those fasting. The groups that were politically motivated refused. Mano Master, a Marxist in the TELO, told the leaders that if they had told the public something silly, the correct thing is to admit it. (Mano from Kommathurai, a former science student from the University of Jaffna, was again a major figure at that time, whose tragedy has not been written about. Shortly after he left the TELO in 1984 after protesting against its internal repression, he was gunned down in Pt Pedro by Kittu on the LTTE leader’s orders.)

The organisers of the student fast finally went to the LTTE, which promptly brought a van, abducted the fasting students and took them to India by boat. Mathivathani became the Leader’s wife and Gowri later agreed to join the LTTE. Kuganesan and Sri Sabesan refused to join. This recruitment by the LTTE was something of an anomaly tied to the abduction. Students at that time were politicised and the LTTE had a horror for open political discussion. The main groups, which had ongoing open discussions, were the PLOTE, EPRLF, EROS and NLFT. Many joined the PLOTE, as the students were impatient for military training and they thought that a short and swift campaign would bring them Eelam and then back to studies.

An Ill Omen

The abduction at Jaffna University, which the LTTE claimed was a mission of mercy to save life, has several ironies. They also point to the propaganda impact of the displaced students and the way the fight against state oppression was tragically moving.

A boy of ten or eleven years who was part of the crowd at the fast had secretly got into the van the LTTE had brought, during the commotion of abducting the fasting students. Stirred to join the militants despite his age, he thought getting into the van was a good opportunity. The boy was discovered when the van conveying the abductees reached the LTTE hideout. An LTTE functionary radioed Prabhakaran and asked what to do with the boy. The Leader’s order was to kill him. The boy was shot and buried. The incident is well known to LTTE dissidents of that period. One of them said that the child was first told that he was being taken into the organisation, after his fate had been decided. He was then given a cigarette and asked to smoke it. The child was confused and asked if smoking was permitted among militants. The LTTE functionary concerned later began having nightmares and not long afterwards left the organisation.

In a further irony of acting to save life, four years later the LTTE leader ordered his subordinate Thileepan to fast to death to score a political point with the Indians. The incident about the child also reveals the sadism of the organisation that today abducts young children.

Muhunthan

Murugamoorthy (from Vaddukottai), a dental student at Peradeniya, joined the TELO. Divakaran, a student of veterinary science, functioned as an EPRLF sympathizer and later completed his medical degree at Thanjavur, India. Baskaran had been a student at Colombo Hindu during the communal violence of 1977, when he came into contact with EROS political activists helping out at refugee camps in Colombo, and became politically involved with them. He later joined the section of EROS student activists who went to form the EPRLF under Pathmanabha. Baskaran was a third year agriculture student at Peradeniya during the 1983 troubles. Another Baskaran from Trincomalee who was a final year agriculture student was already involved politically in the PLOTE student organisation. After the 1983 incidents he joined the PLOTE.

A figure who in the interests of future generations is deserving of a fuller biography is Muruganesan (popularly known as Muhunthan), a conscientious Marxist of whose kind any people should be proud. Muhunthan was an agriculture graduate from Peradeniya who joined the teaching staff of the faculty and taught agricultural economics. He too became displaced by the events of 1983. From his home in Vaddukkottai, Jaffna, he used to cycle to Manipay and join discussions with displaced students, including Baskaran, who were close to the EPRLF. He had several discussions, including the applicability of Marxist ideas to their situation before committing himself. He later received military training in India.

Muhunthan was however an all-rounder as a freedom fighter. His heart was in ecology, sustainable agriculture and social upliftment. He took a keen interest in fostering local libraries, collecting books and materials on traditional knowledge and sustainable practices, such as economising on the use of water. He with some others in the EPRLF started an experimental plot in Jaffna. They also organised a protest against caste oppression in Siruppiddy and secured better wages for the women. This outlook was common among several left, rather than nationalist, groups from the late 1960s.

Among others who joined in these activities were Ahilan and Rajkumar who had completed their A. Levels at Royal College, Colombo, and their friend Bala from Hindu College, Colombo. Several of these boys from Colombo had joined the GUES (forerunner of the EPRLF) while doing cyclone relief work in Batticaloa in 1978.

As a freedom fighter, Muhunthan lived very simply like the ordinary cadres and kept only two sets of clothes. No longer able to fulfill the social expectations of a professional man, he felt obliged to break his engagement to his fiancée whom he knew from university. Unlike other leaders, particularly from other large groups who walked into shops and demanded the best, he went to the market and negotiated with the vendors for vegetables going bad.

His organisation was thrown off balance after being attacked and banned by the LTTE in 1986, and scores killed under detention. When it returned in 1988 after the Indian Army established control, many of the cadres acted from motives of revenge and killings became rampant on both sides. Under the EPRLF-dominated North-East Provincial Council, Muhunthan was posted to Jaffna as co-ordinator and given a room at the Jaffna Secretariat. At this time the behaviour of cadres was as particularly bad in the Jaffna town and Maruthanamadam camps. He identified Subathiran and Elango as persons to support him in a programme of reform and ordered that the weapons be placed under central control. He further tried to introduce norms for dealing with people, as became freedom fighters rather than ruffians.

Things turned topsy turvy with President Premadasa’s appeasement of the LTTE and the Indian Army’s pull-out in early 1990. Muhunthan could have left for India from Trincomalee in safety, but he went to Jaffna to see to the evacuation of EPRLF cadres and their families and left by boat with the last among them. His boat was apprehended at sea by the LTTE, which then had the full backing of the Sri Lankan Navy. He failed in his attempt to shoot himself. He was last seen at the LTTE’s infamous Thunukkai torture centre. Muhunthan who dedicated himself selflessly for the freedom and dignity of his people, lost everything, and did not realise any happiness in return.

Muhunthan’s tragedy encapsulates those of thousands of young lives who had much to offer their people, but whose persons, good intentions and energies were robbed, buried, and scorned by the fascist tendencies in their midst. Particularly so by the one which decreed that nearly all those from Peradeniya and other universities, for the crime of being able to think, were traitors.

The Poisoned Fount of Knowledge

The university authorities in Peradeniya had decidedly been wrong headed in their moves to police Tamil students, which flowed from the thinking of the UNP government. The students harassed and alienated were those unconnected with any violence at that time. The fact was that many students, especially from the North-East, had encountered the political or student wings of PLOTE, GUES (EPRLF), EROS and NLFT and were influenced by their Marxist-oriented programmes, but had never seen a gun. Indeed, it would have been a very indifferent Tamil student who was untouched by the government-organised communal violence of 1977 executed through the guardians of the law – the Police (see Arrogance of Power… and the Sansoni Commission proceedings).

These were grave issues, and the atmosphere in the University, which itself had become a tool of a partisan ideology, was hostile to any open discussion. Moreover, particularly after the Russian revolution, generations of students have been through universities the world over openly organising around cries to overthrow the system through revolution. But governments in democratic societies largely ignored them, leaving it to the appropriate sections of civil society to deal with them through dialogue, and were better off for it.

One can also see that the security forces were quite lost in carrying out nebulous orders under the PTA to crush terrorism, where distinctions between opinions, intentions and actions were thoroughly blurred. Perhaps the security forces interrogators came off marginally better than university professors in at least understanding the futility of it. This was yet another lesson that the security forces must not be used to buffer political incompetence and procrastination. This is a continuing disease in Sri Lanka that has debased and paralysed the security forces through misuse.

When it became known that Balasooriyan was to be handed over to the Police, his Sinhalese practicals group-mate Bakmedeniya who felt bad approached him and told him that he would supply the notes for the lectures he would miss. The Sinhalese roommate of the student summoned for a session at Gurunagar, told him after the violence at Hilda, “We can now understand why your people want Eelam.” This student from Hatton was not otherwise politically involved. These Sinhalese students showed greater sense than those who should have set them an example and brought these issues and the Lanerolle report out into the open. Instead, the Tamil students were condemned to live and study among their unpunished UNP assailants.

Several Tamil students displaced from Peradeniya in 1983 wanted a socialist and democratic Eelam and gave their life for it. The poisoning of the politics is today reflected in the sorry state of Jaffna and Eastern Universities. While Peradeniya would reflect the average political culture in Sri Lanka, Jaffna and Eastern have become arms of the LTTE. During the 1977 violence, the authorities and Tamil students in Jaffna went all out to protect the Sinhalese students. In 1990 when Muslim civilians along with the Muslim students in Jaffna were evicted, the University was terrorised and dumb.

In 1991, students in the University of Jaffna protested when the LTTE arrested a number of students with allegedly dissident connections. The LTTE placed on stage a senior teacher of Tamil to address the students. He literally threatened the students and called the dissident students traitors, along with the Muslims, weeds to be plucked up and cast away! University traditions in the country as a whole, from 1977, closely followed its political erosion.

In one of its strongest indictments of the of the May 1983 incidents at Peradeniya, the Lanerolle report stated: “To describe the May-June incidents as inter-communal would be inaccurate; rather, with traffic flowing entirely one-way, it would be more correct to call them an unseemly exhibition of racism.” Little wonder then that it was suppressed. But it had its effect. Moreover, it showed that there were some at Peradeniya who were willing to stand up and be counted. To be fair, any academic in the North-East who tried to stand up in a like manner would have been forced to contemplate the brevity of life. That in itself carries a deep message about the politics prevalent there.

Related posts:

Violence Against Tamils At Peradeniya University: A Portent?

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Latest comments

  • 2
    2

    1983 was a special situation.

    Yapapatuna University is not that old. but, how many incidences of Violence against Sinhala students and sinhala student killing it had ?

    Even if Two students because of drunkardness, in Yapapatuna, that becomes a special incident.

  • 1
    2

    Sri Saiee Bavaan , 195 , K.K.S.Road , Jaffna.

    Tamil are worried about eelam and when sinhala people beat Tamils during 1983.

    but, Even right Now, it says, high caste Tamils Restaurent with the above name and address is throwing hot water at low caste beggars moving infront of the restaurent.

    where is wigneswaran and human right businesses ?

  • 3
    0

    The following is FALSE:
    Dharmadasa, looking very severe, took Balasooriyan to Sivasegaram’s house in a university vehicle. Prof. Thillainathan (Tamil) and Dr. Kasinadar (Philosophy) were also there. The three Tamil academics had spoken to the Vice Chancellor Prof. B.L. Panditharatne and tried to explain that they knew Balasooriyan through his literary interests and that the material he possessed was for a bona fide purpose. The Vice Chancellor maintained that the matter had gone to the CID 4th Floor independently of him and he had no alternative but to hand Balasooriyan over to the Police.

    I was witness to what followed Balasooriyan’s detention and my meeting with Dr KNO Dharmadasa until next morning.
    Kasy took me to HOH on his mororbike. But Neither Dr Kasynathan nor Prof Thillainathan was there with me when I spoke to to KNO or to the VC, Prof. Panditharatne.

    The VC was sympathetic to my plea that Balasooriyan should not be handed to the police at that time of the night and agreed that there should be an inquiry before any police involvement.
    Balasooriyan was in the Security vehicle when I was with the VC.

    There were a few university officers with the VC at the time, but my discussion with the VC was entirely between us.

    I do not know where Dr Rajan Hoole got his version from.
    I did not divulge the details to any except Kasy, that too because he took an interest and worked with me.
    My concern was that Balasooriyan should not be ill treated; and Prof. Thurairajah played a useful role through our mutual friend W Dahanayake.

    I saw a distorted version of events several years ago on the internet and chose to correct the story. I reported my observations on more than an occasion.

    Somehow, the author has not thought it fit to correct a serious mistake.
    He could have asked me for details, and I was always accessible.

    It is a grave injustice to Dr KNO Dharmadasa that this version continues to be propagated. The VC too acted correctly in this issue.

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      Dear Sivasekaram,

      I wrote an article in the commemorative book of Late V.Viswananthathevan which was published recently. In that article I described very briefly about the incident at the Peradeniya University on 11.05.1983. Please see below the part of my article.

      Sincerely,
      B.Balasooriyan
      [Edited out]

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        CT — why have you edited out Balasooriyan’s article extract?

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          Dear Manel Fonseka,

          Exactly what I asked myself a couple of hours ago. What we need are more accounts from the people who actually suffered and for whom speaking out at that time would have been suicidal.

          Is it correct what I’ve heard: that you have the entire Lanerolle report, which I read through thirty two years ago? It is something that many people are now looking for. Would it be possible for it to be posted in downloadable form on the Internet?

          I don’t know you at all, but I have had many people who speak of you with the highest possible respect.

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            Sinhala Man

            I did have the report & have been trying to find it. I’m wondering now whether I gave it to the CRM or the Nadesan Centre Library.
            I shall continue to search for it. It’ll be a bit of a job scanning with my very basic scanner but I will do it if I can find or borrow it.

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            Sinhala Man

            I did have the report & have been trying to find it. I’m wondering now whether I gave it to the CRM or the Nadesan Centre Library.
            I shall continue to search for it. It’ll be a bit of a job scanning with my very basic scanner but I will do it if I can find or borrow it.

            Hooray! I’ve found it. But it’s 80 pages. It ‘ll take me ages to scan & then email. My computer’s rather ancient & very slow. I’ll see what I can do

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              That took you only five minutes! You must live in a small house :-)

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                Vanthi – I had been looking for it on & off all morning & even earlier when I first read Rajan’s latest episode. But after typing mycomment I suddenly had a brainwave and, hey presto, there it was.

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              if you don’t have a mouse scanner then (unstaple the booklet)scan all 81 pages as pdf for web and upload to utube or google by creating free account. It takes the load off an old bird machine.hope it helps.

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                Many thanks, Cat! as many pages need areas retyping I think I may have to go for OCR. With my minimal computing knowledge I believe a PDF file can’t be edited.

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                  We (that is to say, you, and I) cannot do it, but if one has Adobe Writer (which costs around 100K rupees) AND one has the necessary computer skills, a PDF file can be edited. It has to be entrusted to younger people! Or the younger Hoole – Jeevan; he is a highly skilled computer man, isn’t he?

                  We’ve got to know when to let go, where technology is concerned! Please text me your e-mail address, and we can continue from there. My mobile is 077 2987 665.

                  By now I know quite a lot about you, but it’s not polite asking others for your contact details. I had the pleasure of listening to at least one lecture by your late husband, Prof. Senake Bandaranayake.

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                  All versions of Acrobat and official clones can be edited.
                  Anyway yours won’t be a true copy so don’t bother the bookworms.

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              That is great. I have been looking for this copy for a very longtime. Looking forward to read it.
              As I mentioned earlier, I was attacked at Mars on that day May 11, 1983. In fact, we were selling Sinhala movie tickets (fund raising of Physics society) to tamil students in James Peiris Hall) early in the night. If my story is worth it and is not in the report, I will write it here.
              I entered Peradeniya in 1981 and really had a good time. Until May 11, 1983, I never believed such a incident will happen in Peradeniya. Even now I cannot forget that night as I was attacked because of my ethnicity. That incident had a very long impact on me. At that time, my anger was not against those attackers but we were upset with authorities (both University and Government)
              Recently I was following the unwanted attacks on Sinhala students in Jaffna unversity. I noticed lot of similarities between these two. Initially I thought we have not learned much from 1983 attack. However I noticed authorities got into action immediately in Jaffna. At least that is a good sign. I hope that publishing these reports will prevent similar incidents in the future

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            Sinhala Man,

            I wish to add to the last para in your comment about Ms Manel Fonseka. From the comments made by her for long in the CT, I am of the view she is a highly learned and liberal person – totally non-communal. People like her can greatly help the country reach unity and reconciliation, if that is possible at all at this tale stage.
            Like many readers, I feel deeply obliged to her for her regular comments and social responsibility.

            I missed meeting her in the lecture circuits although I have met with Dr. Senaka Bandaranaike.

            Backlash

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      Sir, is this what you are saying in effect? Contrary to Prof. Rajan Hoole’s report ONLY YOU HELPED BALASOORIYAN not Profs. Kasi and Thillai who chickened out.Thank you so much indeed!

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      Observation by UTHR(J)

      Sivasegaram’s major objection is over the portrayal of Prof. K.N.O. Dharmadasa. In one of the links given in the responses to the previous instalment of this serialisation, Dharmadasa is quoted: “Nobody, especially the bleeding hearts of the UTHR talk of those who were killed by mobs in those times. As far as I and my sub-wardens were concerned we have saved the life of Balsooriyan from a mob who would very well have beaten him to death.”

      Sivasegaram’s personal assessment of particular individuals may differ from the perception of the victims who felt the weight of the whole oppressive and stifling culture of the place, besides when few individuals in the University played any serious role in challenging it. Most of them had not pro-actively promoted the violence. As happens everywhere, they might have felt uncomfortable but did not have the courage to challenge it.

      We saw the same pattern during recent incidents in Jaffna University; a few tried to stop it. But are the University Teachers of this land doing anything profound to bring Tamil & Sinhalese students to engage in constructive discussion and play a positive role in accountability and reconciliation? Many individuals in Jaffna were troubled and JUSTA issued a statement condemning the incident. Subsequently however, the Jaffna University Teachers jumped on the bandwagon of the narrow nationalist Eluga Thamil carnival with no thought of the consequences. We are missing the opportunity to do something constructive by using the presence of Sinhalese students at the University to go beyond platitudes and understand one another’s predicament and perspectives. After all, both come from largely rural backgrounds.

      The UTHR report says that the tragic events were not just about an individual, but the culture of the university as a whole. The orgy of beating up Tamil students started at 9.45 PM, but no authority trying to stop it, which includes the lecturers, was visible until mid-night, when Dharmadasa put in an appearance where Balasooriyan was being beaten and tortured. He spoke to the attackers and the violence stopped. It were not as though the mob had been entirely out of control. There is more to be explained. Balasoorian’s literary belongings were stacked up neatly on Dharmadasa’s table, which raises questions about what he was doing all that time. He, according to Balasooriyan, questioned him about the picture of a dove pinioned by a chain to a metal ball, popularised globally by the campaign to release all political prisoners. Dharmadasa then answered that it was a bomb. In the suffocating political culture of the country at that time, the victim saw a leading academic acting like an ignorant policeman.

      Balasooriyan sent us some scanned pages from his contribution to the recently released volume, ‘1952 – 1986: Comrade Visvananthathevan’. He says of the violence, during that time all the entrances of Hilda Hall were blocked by a mob to prevent the escape of Tamil students; “I do not know where Sub-Warden Dharmadasa went during this time. Undoubtedly these communal atrocities against Tamil residents of the Hall could not have taken place without his complicity.” Our notes also say that when Sivasegaram pleaded Balasooriyan’s innocence, ‘Dharmadasa was so severe that one could not bear to look at his face’. The shame of the university authorities is compounded by Balasooriyan’s statement that the Tamil students in Akbar-Nell Hall alone were completely protected by student supporters of the JVP.

      It would have been fairer to the UTHR report had Sivasegaram, who is by no means lacking in language skills, titled his response a Clarification, rather than highlight the word FALSE. The report above clearly says that its chief source on the incident was Balasooriyan, one of the main victims of the attack. We have consulted our notes taken in point form. In a long conversation going back and forth, there may be, as happens, some minor mix up in our record. On crucial points any doubts were rechecked by phone. As the report indicates, Balasooriyan understood that Kasinathan, Thillainathan, and Sivasegaram in particular, were looking after his interest and Balasooriyan, according to our notes, understood that the three of them pleaded with the VC. Sivasegaram clarifies above that he alone spoke to the VC. This is not a crucial point and we gladly accept the clarification.

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      Peradeniya 11th May 1983: A Short Memoir

      Checking one memory by appealing to another, Wittgenstein famously said, is like checking the accuracy of one newspaper article by buying several copies of the same newspaper.

      I do not remember being present on any occasion in a meeting with KNO and the unfortunate Balasuriyan. Sivasegaram is therefore right that I was not involved in any. But I get the impression reading Siva that I had taken him to a meeting with Balasuriyan. I do not recall this either.

      I remember Siva, who was my immediate neighbour, joining me on the pillion of my bike when I went across to the campus as soon as I heard about troubles there. I was at that time the Deputy Director of Student Welfare. It was about 8 or 9 pm when I heard about the trouble that had started at the Science Faculty canteen earlier in the evening and of the growing tension in the campus.

      It is possible that it was Siva who informed me about the troubles but I am sure that I was not informed about Balasuriyan at this stage; my recollection is that the hunting down of Balasuriyan happened after I had returned home and that I did not hear of it till morning.

      I remember getting back immediately to Meewatura and going to the VC’s house which was only a few doors up from mine to alert him to the situation and my being told that the VC had gone to bed and was not to be disturbed.

      Much to my surprise I heard that much later in the night he had woken up to attend to the “arrest” and the handing over of Balasuriyan to the police.

      [Some minor points: I was no “Dr.” at that time; and the Kulathungam in the Philosophy Dept. was not Rajan but Devu (unless Devu was known also to some as Rajan). I do not remember this student who is said to have informed me and Kulathungam who were his teachers, of a letter summoning him to an army camp. It may be that my memory fails me. But if the student concerned was Sivaram, I must say I am sure he was not in any class of mine.]

      2. A day or two after the beginning of trouble, I was approached for advice by a group of Tamil students who were thinking of leaving the campus and going home. My advice to them was that could be the prudent thing to do, as I did not think there was much protection available to them from the campus authorities.

      I mentioned my advice to a senior don who was fairly close to the Vice Chancellor and he thought that I had given them the wrong advice. He said it was possible that the Tamil students may by my advice become victims of attacks in the stations or trains on their way home – quite prescient in view of the events only a couple of months later!

      I mention this partly because I am tickled by a somewhat perceptive remark from one of the commentators in CT that I had stirred myself around this time to complete my Ph.D. I was stirred into action but only by the Vice chancellor who not long after this wrote to me threatening to throw me out of my job unless I completed the degree within a few months. I have suspected that his knowledge somehow of this particular advice of mine, along with his certainty about my unfailing capacity for distraction, might have had something to do with the VC’s abrupt keenness on my further education.

      3. The Vice Chancellor at the same time also reported me as a Tiger to the CID resulting in me being summoned to the Fourth Floor where I was interviewed by a surprisingly sensible police inspector who told me “Your vice chancellor sees Tigers everywhere”. One of the items of evidence provided against me, he said, was that Professor Barr Kumarakulasinghe had been seen leaving my home at 2 am. I told the inspector it would be surprising if Barr had left any house to which he was invited for dinner any earlier, given that he usually turned up only after 10pm or later having completed some long emergency surgery.

      That such things were noticed, filed and 2 and 2 were added so easily to produce 7 and 13 by senior academics will illustrate perhaps the toxic atmosphere developing there at that time.

      4. They were long dark days with one unrelenting horrible incident after another. I remember for instance one morning when we heard on the grapevine of another particularly serious attack planned against the Tamil students and staff that evening. When I found that the VC was about to leave for Colombo and tried to persuade him of the need of his presence in Peradeniya, he promised to return early. He didn’t.

      5. I have not really read any of the accounts of those days or any book about it. I wonder whether any of them mention the role played by Arjuna Parakrama who was at that time a young lecturer in the Department of English. In view of my office I was closely involved as events unfolded and there were many villains and many indifferent observers and I am sure many heroes too. Of these latter, Arjuna’s role in bringing some sanity into those days was at least as great as anyone else’s. He inspired and painstakingly helped affected students in many ways and at the end showed great courage and determination in collecting evidence from many of the reluctant victims. In doing this he earned the wrath of quite a few who did not like his “meddling” in events that did not concern him!

      6. Probably someone has already mentioned how Akbar-Nell which was at that time under a JVP run student council, remained for that reason the only almost trouble free oasis for Tamil students.

      Dr. S.V. Kasynathan was in 1983 Lecturer in Philosophy at Peradeniya

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        Dear Kasy
        Thanks.
        I was informed by some students that I was wanted at HOH.
        I was about to walk that evening to HOH, and you kindly offered to take me there on the pillion of your motorbike.

        There was no chance for me to tell you anything that evening because I myself did not know what was going on until I got there.
        I did not say that you were involved in any way in the conduct of matters that evening. (It was the UTHR which involved you and Thillai).

        You should remember coming in the morning to relieve me at the Security Post, and it was in your presence that the so-called “inquiry” occurred with your not being allowed to intervene. You will also remember that you came to the E’ Fac and told me that the police took Balasooriyan away.

        I outlined to you the events of the night only after that.
        But I did not speak much about the episode to any.

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        Thanx for this and it is useful.

        On your point reproduced below – though we should not credit the JVP
        —————–
        6. Probably someone has already mentioned how Akbar-Nell which was at that time under a JVP run student council, remained for that reason the only almost trouble free oasis for Tamil students.
        —————–

        The JVP had limited influence at Akbar Nell – this hall was under the influence of the Engineering Students Union and had mostly students from this Faculty – and resisted the attempts to incite violence.

        I remember turning up here with the JVP Peradeniya Students Union leader and one of the Tamil Dept lecturers the next day (in the lecturers VW – he was a warden or sub-warden at Akbar Nell) and it was here that the PSU leader knew definitely what went on at ANH. They told us that a mob – had come here and the steel gates of the hall was shut and barricaded and the students inside refused to let anyone in.

        As further evidence, later on, after the Tamil students had left, the Engineering students collectively decided to boycott lectures until the Tamil Students came back.

        Leaving this aside, the JVP students has to be credited for fighting against the race based violence. But that was the card that the UNP students were using to find a place in student politics in Peradeniya.

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    Thanks, Prof. S. Sivasegaram. We must all contribute what we can to ensure that we get the narrative right.

    This installment looked familiar, and then I realised that it really is not part of the actual book, but is, word for word, what Dr Hoole had given as a link to his previous article. That must be why there are almost no comments on this article.

    Yes, I was taught by many of these people. Dr Kasynathan suddenly stirred himself and got himself his PhD during my period in the University. I hope he sees this. Wonderful guy; we learned a lot of Wittgenstein from him, although he hardly ever seemed to be teaching us seriously. In relation to the previous article I acknowledged my debt to KNOD. Of course what he taught us was not central to our actual discipline, but these were nice people.

    I also corrected Dr Hoole about some things to do with Prof. Leslie Panditharatne – because you are right: accuracy is important. But I must say this: the VC was not a monster, but he didn’t do enough: at least that’s what students like us felt. Also, while I hope that Dr Hoole will acknowledge the inaccuracies that you have pointed out (I’m quite satisfied myself, because not contradicting me, means accepting). However, isn’t it true that he has given us lots of information, and the mistake here is not really distortion?

    Sir, I remember you, but I don’t think that I ever got to having a chat with you. It would be wonderful if you could locate a copy of the Lanerolle Report and publish it. Undergrads may enjoy reading it, and they will certainly improve their English if they do!

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      Dear SM
      Thanks.
      This is not the only lapse in Dr Rajan Hoole’s series on the subject.
      He has a soft corner for some people and overlooks many of their flaws. I have commented on several. Part of the problem is that he can get sucked into personalities even where bigger and broader issues are at stake.
      I do not expect him to agree with me, but what is written is supposed to be history. There is case for precision.
      I respond to his writings because I think that the work is mostly good.

      There are others on which I do not bother to comment. To respond seriously to tripe is to give it undue respect.

      Re the VC, this was not the only occasion when I negotiated with him.
      Once, as EFTU Secretary, I persuaded him to expedite the inquiry of Dr VBK who was suspended without specific charges for very long, based on his arrest by the police.
      Kasy (from whom I too learnt about Wittgenstein) and I were able to negotiate with him and the students on a strike following the suspension of apparently pro-JVP students. We thought that we made very good progress until the students took Prof. Dias captive. (There were sinister forces at work on both sides. You may know as much as I do on the subject.)

      Leslie Panditharatne was made VC for political loyalty, but he could never be quite the UNP apparatchik.
      He was not vindictive and I know two appointments in his time which were of political opponents of the regime.

      The problem of the post-1977 (really starting 1978) regime in Peradeniya was the desire of the regime to control campus life. Things escalated since the UNP & JVP fell out.

      As for the Lanerolle Report, I am sorry that I never had access to it. All I knew was part of its content and what happened to it. I was out of the country from 1984 until I returned for good 13 years later.

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        [Edited out]

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          Mohanasundaram

          By any chance, you are related to HOOLE family?

          “Dr.Sivasekaram had abandoned his Marxist ideology long ago and became a sort of LTTE spokesman.”

          Was he a Marxist, Stalinist, Maoist or Polpotist?

          Please bear with me for I never knew the difference among these isms anyway.

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        Mr Sivasegaram

        I have offered to lend CT my copy of the de Lanerolle Report. Unfortunately I was not able to get hold of the appendices. My request, emailed some years ago, to the Committee’s Secretary, met with a firm: No.

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          Dear Manel
          Thanks very much.
          The request was really from another, to which I responded.
          However, I would like to read it myself.

          Will it be possible to place it on the internet, even serialize it on CT?
          Th appendix will have only evidence and other supporting documents.

          The report itself is worth reading I think.

          Sincerey
          Sivasegaram

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    As a batch-mate in the engineering faculty and hall mate of Balasooriyan in Hilda Obeysekera Residence Hall, I saw some of these events first hand. I have always wondered what happened to him afterwards. So if it is indeed him who has responded in one of the comments, I am glad to learn – after 34 years.

    Not in the above telling – is the following.
    Shortly before he had been caught by this mob in May 1983, he had been in my room along with a few other Tamil batchmates for what I recall was at least an hour – my neighbours were also batchmates, I left asking him to stay there because it was going to not be a place that anyone would go looking for him – particularly because couple of my neighbours (Bassa, Dissa and Puncha also batchmates) had also pledged to protect them and we had worked out a system to shunt folks via a balcony from either of our rooms if anyone came knocking – I went out to find out what was going on – but on return he was not there.

    I always thought if he had remained there, we could shielded him. For some of us, this was a cause of shame, but a fuller telling shall provide context and reveal the forces arraigned against us. Here are some of my recollections.

    Earlier that day, we had learned of the rumours as to the defacing of the Sinhala characters of the University of Peradeniya sign at the Galaha Junction on the main road. Within the Hall, some of my colleagues in the Hall were expecting an attack by the Tigers or whatever other Tamil Militant group and were piling up stones on top of the Hilda Obeysekera Hall front corridor (HOH had once been a female residence and now once again it is the same and its built with only one exit – even though there are 7 parallel 3 story buildings – all connected at either corner by a long corridor/balcony at the front and at the rear). There was a fear psychosis being built up and to me all seemed loony until the Secretary of the UNP Student Union a guy we called “Katta” turned up with lists of Tamil Students who were supposed Subversives.

    Although we had many students there, almost all the Tamil students in HOH were my engineering batchmates – for various reasons there were more Tamil Engineering students than those from the other faculty who also occupied this Hall. HOH at that time had students from many faculties – to make a rough estimate – each of the 7 wings had about 30 rooms and there were 3 person allocated to a room then – so its 7 x 30 x 3 = approx 600 students.

    Students from the First Year Engineering batch are usually at the Akbar Nell Hall which is on the opposite side of the Mahaweli River (and which remained secure) but for reasons of mixing folks from different faculties up and keeping the first years away from ragging – maybe about 100 Engineering first year students had been allocated to HOH. Our batch had entered the University around the previous August and by May the engineering students were not well integrated. Later in the Engineering Students Union, our batch would be faulted for its failure to protect the Tamil batch-mates by our Seniors.

    To be Continued.

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      Yes, LAREEF Mohamed,

      You are one who can testify to much more than a guy like me can. I know that you were heroic, faced more difficult situations than I did.

      I was a much older student, a teacher who had entered on study leave and I didn’t reside in a hall. The risks for a guy like me to speak out were much less. You were heroic. I do hope that you continue with your narrative.

      I wonder where you now are.

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      Lareef
      I keenly await the rest of your text.
      The delay means many will miss it.
      Cannot you make it a full article in CT?

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        Yes, Zubair Lareef,

        I beg that you post a full article.

        Very few will be in the habit of giong into the archives of this site to look for what has been said about an article that is no longer displayed.

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        Thanks Prof. Siva – Now I have to do it.

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    Dear Manel Fonseka,

    I think that we should just sit back and do a little thinking! While I’m out of the swim a bit, I still feel that there may be ways of getting over this.

    First, I don’t have a scanner at all, but I’m sure that in a matter like this, there must be many places where they may be able to attend to something as important as this. For instance on Wednesday last, the 19th that was, I attended a commemoration for Prof Ashley Halpe at the International Centre for Ethnic Studies, a place I didn’t know until I actually went there. The subject did come up; a place like that will do a more professional job than you can possibly undertake. The result may be that the scanning will be of higher quality and take up fewer Kilobytes, or whatever.

    Before going there, I had done an Internet search, as referred to in the second comment here:

    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/violence-against-tamils-at-peradeniya-university-a-portent/

    There I’ve given you a link to this article:

    http://island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=24471

    There Tissa Jayatilleka says that he was given Kenneth de Lanerolle’s personal copy. Unfortunately, what I was told on Wednesday was that Tissa J. is away in the US. Else, he is a Director of ICES, and (I’ve just found the visiting card) Dr Mario Gomez, Executive Director, said that they ought to keep a copy of a document like that in their library. I’ve got to go back to my village in Uva on Tuesday, but I’m sure that somebody may be able to pursue this.

    Dorai Calnaido’s copy that I read through wasn’t just an 80 page report, it was more like 800 pages with all the evidence recorded. It made very interesting reading – which may have contributed to it being easy for the VC to get it rejected.

    For instance, when the case against Thulsi Wickremasinghe had been well and truly proved, a lady Instructor in English had tried to provide an alibi for Thulsi. She’d known him well and used to meet him sometimes.

    I remember that it had been recorded that Lanerolle had asked “how often do you meet him.”

    “When I need him, I send for him,” was what was recorded. Lanerolle had said that the evidence lacked credibility.

    Now before I’m charged with saying improper things, let me stop; but very probably what Tissa Jayatilleke has may be an exact replica of this.

    I fear that I’ve done as much as I can; had I had the means to do so, I would have photocopied it in 1983, (or was it 1984?). I did lend it to one of my Professors for a couple of days (let me not embarrass others! – so let it be just like that!) but even that didn’t lead to its being copied (photocopying was around but was relatively expensive then), and I had to take it back to MIRJE.

    I do hope somebody locates a copy and it gets published. As I’ve already said, to fully understand what was happening then, it may be necessary to also see the report of the “Justice C.V. Udalagama Committee”. Please study what I’ve said on October 16, 2016 at 1:41 am. The link is as above, the previous Hoole article.

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      Dear Sinhala_Man,

      Most smart devices have a scan “app” that can be used to scan but you will find scanning very likely easier, faster and the scans of better quality in a communication center. I only use the smart device app for documents of some pages.

      As you may know ICES, Tissa J and Gomez have all been mentioned in cases of alleged wrong doings with foreign funds etc. There is a recent court case against the Board of ICES by Dr Sarvi. If you don’t know about these allegations you can search CT and other media for “ICES, Dr Sarvi, Grow project”. ICES has had documented and proven problems with foreign funds earlier.

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      Thanks very much for your efforts.

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    Sinhala Man

    Actually, you were pointed out to me at Ashley’s Commemoration meeting at ICES.

    I’ve not heard from CT since I offered to lend my copy for scanning so maybe they have access to another. I don’t suppose Dorai Calnaido is still living?

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      Sinhala Man

      But I wasn’t told your name (I only referred to u by yr pseudonym) nor would I recognize you again as you were a bit too far away for me to see you properly. So your identity is safe from me.

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        I’ve responded to the comment that you had made for Karl and me yesterday.

        It will allow you to work out my contact details, if you really consider it useful to know me!

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    Sinhala Man

    Yesterday I added a comment — for what it us worth now that episode from Rajan’s book has been archived — to Rajan’s previous extract, giving the Lanerolle Report’s complete recommendation about Tulsie W. Inter alia it said that he was not fit to be in an institution of higher learning.

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      You say that he is not fit to be in an institution of higher learning according to the Lanerolle commission report but
      Thulsi Wickramasinghe was welcomed to the University of Peradeniya as a Visiting Professor under the prestigious Fulbright program.

      http://www.cies.org/grantee/thulsi-wickramasinghe

      Is this because the Lanerolle commission report is not released yet? Or would it have mattered anyway.

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        I’m shocked that he was allowed to come in to Pera just like that. The crimes he committed were grave, and if he is a reformed man he ought himself to have tendered apologies without having to be asked.

        About two years ago, a prominent man in Bangladesh was hanged for horrendous crimes that he had committed during the war which separated Bangladesh from Pakistan. He was hardly out of his teens when he committed really atrocious crimes, and in the interim he’d been a Minister. Somehow it didn’t seem right.

        But there is another dimension to this; as Dr Hoole demonstrates, Thulsi’s actions led directly to replication in July ’83. The problem is not so much lack of vengeance on Thulsi as the demoralising effect that this has on Tamils today. Will Sinhalese thugs always enjoy impunity? Will Tamils always be denied Justice?

        Two undergrads shot on their motorcycle. They may have been breaking some regulation. If the cops were native-Tamil-speakers the problem wouldn’t be so serious. Two bright young men killed is one tragedy.

        The Tuesday hartal in the North is because there necessarily is a political dimension. And it’s because there is a similar dimension to ‘Thulsi’s being a Fulbright scholar that you’ve given given us this information; I guess you are camouflaging your own disgust.

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      Manel
      Thulsie was also helped by a very religious (not SB) senior academic who appointed him to the staff, despite the report.

      As for being fit or not fit to be in a university depends on what idea one has of a university. If developing young men and women into mature humane individuals is a role that a university plays, then TW disqualifies.
      If not, who cares?

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        The religious senior Academic was, of course, Prof. of Physics, Dr George Dissanayake. A bit embarrassing for me since he was a relative of my mother – he told me that he had carried her when she was a baby.

        They are all gone now, but George’s only child, Gishan, is a Professor of Economics at Cambridge University. All undergrads were junior to me in years. Gishan was actually junior in batch terms also. He and I acted in plays together. The, mostly right wing, Arts Faculty ‘English Medium” guys used to try to function separately from those studying Arts in Swabasha.

        I commend to you a comment made by somebody that in 1983, for guys like us, that Affluent vs Poor dichotomy was a more real challenge than anything ethnic. That was changed by July 1983 – which (if we were to believe our then President Junius Richard J.) was masterminded by (among others) Comrade Bahu! He and the JVP guys had to go in to hiding, and people like George Dissanayake just couldn’t face the reality that it was the “Junta Guys” who were responsible for the violence.

        “We” put out leaflets denouncing the racist violence, and I remember George D. telling ME that the English in it was much too good to have come from any undergrads. My English (and that of Gishan – whose political views were unfortunately identical with those of his father) was good enough to have written them, but he was technically correct, because most of them had been written by a lecturer younger than me, Arjuna Parakrama, now Professor of English.

        Yes, George D. actually gave evidence saying that the Thulsie he knew was a decent man. He told ME that as well!

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        Dear Prof. Sivasegaram,

        Looking over these comments now, it strikes me that in 1983 there was so much polarisation that certain decisions were made without sufficient thought. Prof. George Dissanaike was a really good man but the right wing was buying anything that the government was then saying.

        By 1986, things were very different. I’ll come to that by and by.

        As usual I seem to have brought all sorts of details in, which don’t belong together. For instance, Prof. G.D. (by then quite elderly and living outside the University) had no way of knowing what was really happening in the Halls. His son was probably still in the notorious Dumbara Campus at Polgolla. He had entered the University from Trinity College, Kandy. It was in 1985 that we acted in plays together.

        By 1986, I remember young Gishan Dissanaike (I think that they spelt their name so)had got a Debating Society going, and they invited Dr Neelam Thiruchelvam for a guest lecture. His coming in to the University caused quite a stir, with some Senior Professors, who ought to have known better, saying that no Eelamist would be allowed in to the University. But the debating Society went ahead, and we saw Neelan’s brilliance. I wonder whether you were there? Neelan had chosen some topic that seemed obscure, and STUCK to it. But so allegorical was it to what was happening in the country that we understood clearly his brilliant analysis of how racists were destroying the University and the country.

        I have no way of contacting you directly; I’m hoping that you will see this sometime and tell us what you thought of Neelan’s performance that day – if you were there.

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    Dear Rajn Hoole & Sritharan

    Thank yo for responding.

    I said:
    The following is FALSE: Dharmadasa, looking very severe, took Balasooriyan to Sivasegaram’s house in a university vehicle. Prof. Thillainathan (Tamil) and Dr. Kasinadar (Philosophy) were also there. The three Tamil academics had spoken to the Vice Chancellor Prof. B.L. Panditharatne and tried to explain that they knew Balasooriyan through his literary interests and that the material he possessed was for a bona fide purpose. The Vice Chancellor maintained that the matter had gone to the CID 4th Floor independently of him and he had no alternative but to hand Balasooriyan over to the Police.

    Item wise:
    Dharmadasa, looking very severe, took Balasooriyan to Sivasegaram’s house in a university vehicle: NOT TRUE

    Prof. Thillainathan (Tamil) and Dr. Kasinadar (Philosophy) were also there. NOT TRUE

    The three Tamil academics had spoken to the Vice Chancellor Prof. B.L. Panditharatne and tried to explain that they knew Balasooriyan through his literary interests and that the material he possessed was for a bona fide purpose. NOT TRUE

    he Vice Chancellor maintained that the matter had gone to the CID 4th Floor independently of him and he had no alternative but to hand Balasooriyan over to the Police.. NOT TRUE

    All what I wanted was for these things to be corrected. That has not happened.

    I am not in the habit of issuing character certificates to any.
    I only reported what I saw and heard first hand.

    The rest of your comments are matters of opinion and of little relevance to the issue at stake.

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    Prof. Sivasegaram,

    I am sorry Sir, I have admiration for you. But I wonder why you keep talking about a simple matter again and again. As they indicated the affected person’s perception is different. Of course, people in high authority show different faces to different people, one to an academic and another to average people or students
    I am sorry to note that you fail to understand the important main point they are trying to highlight there. What touched me most is what they said about academics at that time. It awakened me, to how the academics could have played a proactive role in uniting the young Sinhalese and Tamils which would have helped the young ones to understand each other and further, paved way to unite the country.
    What impressed me most in their reply is that, they are addressing to a bigger problem prevailing in the Universities even now, particularly in Jaffna, that the academics could have educated the youngsters to understand each other. Even after three decades, we are still in same rut. Had the academics been proactive from that time, the current problems in the Universities could have been less severe.
    Have any proactive measures been taken by the academics or the university community to improve the relationship between the Tamils and Sinhalese?
    Based on your long experience, please give your advice to the academics as to how they can be proactive in interacting with students with a view to bringing about better understanding among the communities.
    Thanks Sir.

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      Dear Kavya
      Thank you. Kindly note that I neither blamed anyone personally nor kept on about the subject. I only responded as comments demanded.

      My concern was about writing history accurately: A story was narrated most inaccurately, and I wanted it corrected. Several years after I pointed out the errors, more than once, the same erroneous version reappears accusing people of offences that they did not commit.

      The authors now seem to acknowledge the correct version of events and I hope that I will not need to point out errors again.

      I have worked with several proactive (but not very popular) academics. Their good work was seldom appreciated at the time. People, when they matured, knew better.

      Experiences of the past few decades has made many academics feel secure inside their shells.

      A most important aspect of education– social education –happens outside lecture rooms and outside the campus. Putting things right takes support from the community, like in the early years of the Jaffna Campus.
      We live in a rather indifferent society over the past few decades. It is now awakening I guess.
      So each could try in one’s own little way. I am always hopeful of the future.

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        Dear Prof. S. Sivasegaram,

        What I understand is this: Dr Rajan Hoole published a book, “Sri Lanka: Arrogance of Power – Myth, Decadence and Murder” in Jan 2001, when he was in hiding, and, the book being out of print, he has handed over a soft copy of the entire book to the Editor of Colombo Telegraph and asked him so to use the material in any way so as to allow us, the public to know what happened. He does not expect to make any money out of it. So, excerpts are coming out every week, not necessarily in the order in which they appear in the book, but as the Editor of CT thinks fit.

        Today, the atmosphere is very much more relaxed and many of those who suffered are comfortably middle-aged and some are safely abroad. So, it could be expected that many more accounts would surface, and they are all being published. When many queries about facts began to come out on the installment that appeared on 15th October 2026, realising that SOME updating could be given us immediately, he has given us a link, attached to the second response here:

        https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/violence-against-tamils-at-peradeniya-university-a-portent/

        Clicking on the link that he had given us took me here, since I was following carefully, and indeed that second query was by me:

        http://www.uthr.org/SpecialReports/spreport19ptIIsuppl.htm

        This is a supplement that had been put out in 2005, and is NOT part of the book published four years earlier. Not many would have seen what he directed us to on October 16, 2016 at 11:44 am. So, on October 22, 2016, CT has published this “article” which I had seen a week earlier, and is NOT part of the original 2001 book. So we already have TWO versions which have the Hoole imprimatur. I think that he ought to be VERY careful when he puts out a THIRD document since it could lead to further confusion for rather more casual readers than us. I think that he should wait until the flow of new material STOPS coming in, and that could take three months, I guess.

        Who am I? A Sinhalese as stated, who had been a teacher for fourteen years before I entered the English Department at Peradeniya on study leave based on GAQ results. If a guy like me, who makes no claims to be anything more than a guy who happened to be there, makes a mistake its of little consequence. That is why I thought I’d put this on.

        You, Sir, are an important contributor, and you have NOT been contradicted. The overall picture is clear; why not all of us be patient until what could be the last version of this decade comes out? Provided all this material is available (let’s hope the Internet itself doesn’t crash), somebody else may be able to piece together all the little details and resolve any conflicts in the “History”. That may have to be a younger trained Historian. What I will continue doing is to state as accurately as I can, what I know.

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        Dear SM
        Thank you. You are among the sanest here. I am sorry that I never met you in Peradeniya.
        I do not see any reason for all the fuss either.

        There was a serious mistake in a rather detailed account which accused people of things they did not do; and I corrected the story at the first opportunity I had. It was in places accessible to the authors and their source(s). Let us for argument sake agree that none of them saw it.
        I corrected the story again when I saw it on CT pages.

        It would have been simple for the author to say that his source could have been wrong or that this is an unedited version and that he will check my account with whoever possible and attend to it at the appropriate stage. (I am sorry that in the context of what I was talking about, only KNO, Leslie P, and I were the actors. Balasooriyan had no role in my narrative but as the silent victim. Thanks to Kasy for confirming his absence. BTW, what KNO reportedly said re his intention is credible to me as he did express that fear to me on that fateful evening.)

        There was no sign of regret about a likely mistake but an attack on my choice of words. It seems that it was wrong for me to use the word “false” and that I could have used something like “clarification’ instead— but I had clarified more than once long ago.
        (I was rather amused that two teachers of mathematics with PhDs could not appreciate that ‘what is not true is false’.)

        I saw a similar attitude towards correcting mistakes in the context of a false charge levelled against GG Ponnambalam, based on Federal Party fairy tales.

        Some people are never wrong: the mistake is to question or correct.

        I would not have spent time on Rajan Hoole’s text if I did not take it seriously. There are quite a few holes and pointing to them is not to destroy the work but to reinforce and add credibility to a later edition.

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    ok, so if we are writing for history, then, let me add that

    The JVP Youth referred to was not “Ranjit Gunaratnam” but Ranjitham Gunarathnam. He was a JVP activist and a senior engineering student – maybe 3rd year. There is a lot in the public domain on Ranjitham afterwards – he was killed later in the decade according to him mother – even now the students informally refer to one of the new residence hall after him after agitating unsuccessful to replace the new name of Ivor Jennings. Wonderful irony!

    I remember early in our first year that Ranjitham along with Ananda Idamagamage once gathered our batchmates, who spoke Sinhala, to an engineering lecture hall, and tried some indoctrination – I remember this backfired on the majority – they both misjudged the audience. Ananda also was dissappeared later in the decade.

    Idamagamage’s Brother Bandula Idamagage has commented on a previous article here by this authour that Ananda was an anti-racist and was motivated towards the JVP due to what happened in May. The first part is true but not the second in toto.

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      Ranjithan Gunaratnam’s younger brother Kumar Gunaratnam, also in the E’ Fac later, is a leading figure in the FLSP and has made quite a few headlines.

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      `Moodar Koodam`- Fools Gathering at 3rd world after school ranch called engineering.
      In the UK a mechanic or plumber is a self styled engineer and knows more than the report writing quack with a 3 year degree.- so much for lankan socialist trade union style education without industry to back it.`Let Her Cry`-Asoka Handagama.

      Fulbright Scholarship and East West Scholarship have been ignored by the brightest of Indian Engineering Graduates for around half a centenary. It’s all in the chit at Lanka.

      Bob Dylan declined it in a better spirit than the philosopher Sartre.

      In the summer of 1964, Bob Dylan released his fourth album, “Another Side of Bob Dylan,” which includes the track “It Ain’t Me Babe.” “Go ’way from my window/Leave at your own chosen speed,” it begins. “I’m not the one you want, babe/I’m not the one you need.”

      That fall, the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre played a variation on the same tune in a public statement explaining why, despite having been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, he would not accept it. “The writer,” he insisted, must “refuse to allow himself to be transformed into an institution, even if this occurs under the most honorable circumstances.” Mr. Dylan was talking to an imaginary lover, Sartre to an actual Swedish Academy, but the message was similar: If you love me for what I am, don’t make me be what I am not.

      We don’t know whether Mr. Dylan was paying attention to l’affaire Sartre that fall 52 years ago. But now that he has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, he seems to be following in Sartre’s footsteps. Indeed, Mr. Dylan has done the philosopher one better: Instead of declining the prize, he has simply declined to acknowledge its existence. He hasn’t issued a statement or even returned the Swedish Academy’s phone calls. A reference to the award briefly popped up on the official Bob Dylan website and then was deleted — at his instruction or not, nobody knows. And the Swedes, who are used to a lot more gratitude from their laureates, appear to be losing their patience:
      Wiggle Wiggle

      WRITTEN BY: BOB DYLAN

      Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle like a gypsy queen
      Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle all dressed in green
      Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle ’til the moon is blue
      Wiggle ’til the moon sees you

      Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle in your boots and shoes
      Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, you got nothing to lose
      Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle like a swarm of bees
      Wiggle on your hands and knees

      Wiggle to the front, wiggle to the rear
      Wiggle ’til you wiggle right out of here
      Wiggle ’til it opens, wiggle ’til it shuts
      Wiggle ’til it bites, wiggle ’til it cuts

      Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle like a bowl of soup
      Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle like a rolling hoop
      Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle like a ton of lead
      Wiggle—you can raise the dead

      Wiggle ’til you’re high, wiggle ’til you’re higher
      Wiggle ’til you vomit fire
      Wiggle ’til it whispers, wiggle ’til it hums
      Wiggle ’til it answers, wiggle ’til it comes

      Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle like satin and silk
      Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle like a pail of milk
      Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, rattle and shake
      Wiggle like a big fat snake

  • 2
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    Tamil Militants from the University of Peradeniya

    The sketch above only touches the contribution of the University of Peradeniya to the Tamil militancy. After the UTHR(J) report above was published, the following case was given to us in September 2005 by a lawyer in Canada dealing with asylum claims.

    Yasotharan Iyampillai (aka Yasodharan) from Velikulam, Vavuniya, joined the Engineering Faculty at Peradeniya in January 1983. He was residing off-campus in Kandy. Immediately after the July 1983 communal violence, he was arrested by the Kandy Police and was detained for 21 days. He claims he was beaten during that time. His father Iyampillai was a retired police officer then. He came to Kandy and rescued his son.

    Upon return to Vavuniya, Yasotharan joined the PLOTE and took the nom de guerre Centhil. Later in March 1986 he moved to the ENDLF. He had lived inside the IPKF camp in Killinochchi but denies any direct involvement in torturing LTTE suspects.

    On 8th January 1988, his brother Yasokumar went missing on his way to the Vavuniya market, allegedly kidnapped by the LTTE and never seen again.
    In November 1988, Yasotharan Iyampillai was elected to the North-Eastern Provincial Council (NEPC).

    By the end of 1989, the NEPC was on the run and the Sri Lankan forces were hand-in-glove with the LTTE in hunting down its opponents. On 10th January 1990, while Centhil was travelling in a van from Amparai to Kandy with K.A. Joseph (Khalid) and Kaneshamoorthy (Kanes), the van was stopped by the Sri Lankan Army (SLA). They identified Khalid and Kanes (probably by an LTTE informant, frequently then in SLA uniform). Centhil, the driver of the vehicle was not identified. Centhil claims that Khalid and Kanes were killed at the checkpoint.

    Centhil later lived in Orissa, Madras and Bangalore.
    He returned to Sri Lanka in July 1990 (by which time the Government was at war with the LTTE) as an elected member of the ENDLF to take part in talks with President Premadasa. When the talks failed, he quit politics in January 1991. He later underwent psychiatric treatment in Canada and had a hard time controlling his emotions.

    Centhil claims that had he not been beaten by the Kandy Police, he would not have joined any movement. He would have gone to Madras and continued his studies.

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      Minor Point:
      If
      Yasotharan Iyampillai (aka Yasodharan)
      joined the Engineering Faculty as a student, it shall likely be
      3 months earlier rather than in January 1983 as stated above.

      Not so Minor Point:
      There was no
      W.M.V. Fernando in Balasooriyans batch to my recollection – the WMV Fernando you cite as the engineering batchmate beating him up. There were Bandara’s who may have identified but there were several of them.

      Major Unanswered Question:
      It seems that any historian has to sort out who organized the mobs.
      As I recall from being present and seeing “Katta” (the UNP student group secretary as I remember) with lists orchestrate the attack at Hilda Obeysekera Hall – perhaps the Lanerolle commission report can shed some light.

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        ZL Mohamad,

        There is a spelling mistake in the initials of Fernando. It is W.N.P. Fernando. He lives now in Australia. There were only two Bandara’s in my batch.

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          Balasooriyan:

          Please get in touch with me via
          zilm at mail.com

  • 3
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    Lareef, you were in that late 1982 batch, weren’t you? So you have to be right on the minor point. I came in on External GAQ Special intake on the 5th of November 1982. Your sister (Prof. Thiru K. said he’s met her in Sydney) who did an English Special was ONE year ahead of me – she would have entered the Dumbara campus some time in 1980. Minor points, but the usefulness of bits of information collaborating.

    You would know your batch mates. The E-fac was closely knit at the time.

    Major Question: I know we sensed the build up. But I cannot remember what Lanerolle said. As I’ve already said Kasynathan (now Dr!) taught us Wittgenstein, (for my Sub) and he’s actually talked about memory above! It was well known that many, many Tamil students gathered for the Tamil film on Wednesday night, of course. Organization: I thought there was general agreement (long before Lanerolle came on the scene), that it was Thulsi W. and Ekanayake (that’s already been referred to above). This is the thing: you were in a hall, (albeit Akbar-Nell on the other side of the river, but the foot and motor-bike bridge made it reasonably close), so you know about “Katta”.

    When you get your article done, link it in some way to the Hoole writing (even if you say it’s the inadequacies of Hoole’s account, I’m sure that we’re getting somewhere!) so that you get wide readership. I think that you’ll agree Dr Hoole has done a wonderful job in covering the ethnic conflict in its entirety, but you are the expert on these details.

    I never flattered myself that whatever I said could be more than catalytic.

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      Sorry, readers. Bad typo.

      Last word of first para above should have been “corroborating”, not “collaborating” – obviously.

      Just shows that we must have more relaxed young people working on these things.

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      Well thanks for your encouragement.

      My perspective, is as a resident at Hilda Obeysekera Hall that year and that day. Later I resided in Akbar Nell – including as a sub-warden. More on that later.

      Am not really talking inadequacies of R. Hoole’s account – just that I have
      been ruminating about this for a long time – and so have been pointing out a few things. Loved his first book, all the UTHR reports but the second book is sitting on my shelf -ADDD now afflicts me – should read that.

      Anyway on his major point, yes, the May 1983 had profound consequences, and R. Hoole is looking at it from the perspective of what followed in July. RH presents the May 1983 as portents for what followed and as something that rather deeply affected the Tamil students.

      I agree – but what if July 1983 had not happened? Separately, we experienced it in the next months in a different way. How will we write about this in this case.

      There is racism here – but are other factors as well – e.g. the various shortcomings of the University – not just the failures of individual wardens and sub-wardens. How culpable are the individuals named for often times petty acts which turned out later to be anything but.

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    We youngsters are trying to catch up with some of the history and this gives us inspiration go deeper. We are thankful for the opportunity provided for comments from such pieces as this, where different people could come out with some productive information which indeed contributes to the health of the society making it think and contribute towards better understanding. It also connects people, which too is important.
    Some of the stories of students at that time, giving an insight into what happened, with an update to the present context is indeed good, moving and what is desirable. But The Sinhala Man & Tamil Man (Sivasegaram) remind us of the comedians in Tamil cinema. Each time I try to read their comments, I appreciate their language ability, which we youngsters don’t have. But towards the end of reading, we are left with a bad taste as if they are only ‘I specialists’. What on earth are they trying to say? May be this is a good occupation for them, during their old age, to while away their time. In a way it is good for people like them. Then, why don’t they write a separate article and publish with their resources. We would love to know what they want to say to the society from their experience. Otherwise, just being a critic all along in this manner, shows what is in their mind.

  • 3
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    Thank you for the compliment, for often it is the comedian who is the most acute observer of reality in Indian and even European theatre.
    (However, the truth is rarely what one wants to hear.)

    Reading history is tough business. Writing it is thus a responsible job. Some of us try but, as I can see, not always successfully to help the process.

    Historical truth requires many iterations, and is even harder to achieve in the era of Internet disinformation.

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      Dear Kumaran Selvarajah,

      I think that you get your points across admirably; in other words, I don’t think that you are in any way lacking in language skills. The exasperation that you feel with us old codgers is understandable. It is true that we seem to indulge in recalling events and in pontificating, and that is all that we seem capable of doing.

      It’s just that I was trying to ensure wider coverage of the events that I knew at first hand, and let’s hope that my aim of getting the Lanerolle Reprot published is successful. Also, some of those (like Lareef Mohamed) whose insights were not known will publish more of what they knew – which was much more than I could speak of.
      Also, that Prof. S. Sivasegaram has understood that there were many people like me may hep him perform in his much more important roles.

      That much I may have achieved, but yes, it is left to young people like you to examine what is NOW happening. I went up to the Trinco area for three days with other retired teachers: many Sinhalese are going up there, and I had only one member of the Socialist Equality Part to share my misgivings at the attempts to claim areas for the Sinhala-Buddhists. Thiriyaya, Kinniya, Seruwila – I guess you know the areas.

      The Sinhalese going there are good people who have been totally brainwashed, but I don’t think that I can really counter all that they say, because I just don’t know enough. So, I share your concerns.

      Well down here, I am concerned with what is happening to my old schools where there were ideals, and where pupils from all ethnic backgrounds used to be educated. But now it looks as though it is people just wanting to protect their privileges alone who are pushing their agenda through. That I have spoken about as much as I can in three articles that I wrote. This is the middle one from where you can navigate to the others, if you think it relevant:

      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/the-whited-thomian-sepulchres-the-pharisees-who-cheat/

      You may find it all a bit depressing, and not really relevant to the life of the country as a whole. If you take the trouble to navigate to the other articles, you will find that The Church has had enough influence to get comments on the third article stopped from coming in. It may be that only shocking horror stories get coverage; we rarely take the trouble to nip things in the bud.

      Yes, so Kumaran Selvarajah, I share your sense of frustration. Think of me as an old man who cannot do much; that is the reality.

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