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19th July 1998

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Mirror Magazine

15 years after...

It's been a while since those harrowing days and frightful nights of July 1983 when Sri Lankans, specially a section of the Sinhalese took leave of their senses.

Provoked by the massacre of 13 soldiers including a young teenage Second Lieutenant, the July 1983 anti-Tamil riot was a watershed in the history of contemporary Sri Lanka. Over 500 Tamils were brutally done to death. 2000-3000 wounded and an entire community hurt. It was wounded pride on both sides.

It was to change the course of modern Sri Lankan history. Communal feelings reached a crescendo. Thus began the flight of a generation of Tamils to far off lands that were eager to offer a safe haven to the oppressed minority in this hell-hole island-nation once acclaimed the Garden of Eden - Paradise on Earth.

Those who migrated in fear and in hopelessness as well as those who grabbed the opportunity to become economic refugees have collectively formed a powerful Octopus-like organisation collecting monies to oil the separatist war machine in the land of their birth that has dragged the people who remain in it - of all races to near self-destruction.

They made a meal out of the July 1983 riots but nary a word about the people from the same majority race who offered shelter and security to their minority friends in that grave crisis.

The world came to know the majority as a barbaric race by the misdeeds of hundreds not as a compassionate race by the good deeds of thousands.

Fifteen years later many are wiser. The Indians for example who kicked Mahathma Ghandi's principles of non-violence and Nehru's principles of non-interference into the dustbin of history nurtured the Tiger cub to paw at their troublesome, economically developing southern neighbour only to learn its bitter lesson when the grown up Tiger swallowed the rider.

All those Western and North American nations that opened their front doors and their back doors to the flood of Sri Lankan migrants at the time have one extra headache now.

Back at home the nation bleeds internally. Those who suffer belong to all races. Young men and women lose life and limb at the battlefront, civilians get trapped in the crossfire and bombings. Children become orphans. The economy stagnates. All energies are dissipated in a war that the government forces are not winning and the guerrillas know they can never win.

World opinion has turned against the LTTE as has quite a segment of opinion of the very community they represent. The LTTE is credited or debited, with killing more of their own than any other, including the Sri Lankan Army.

It decimated rival guerrilla groups TELO, PLOTE, EPDP and the EPRLF all of whom having the same word"Eelam" as part of their official name–still. The LTTE in its endeavour to be the sole representative of the Tamils, systematically eliminated the leaders and the politicians of the TULF. And its own suspected traitors to the cause were shot by firing squads. To commemorate 'Black July' as the LTTE calls it in remembrance of July '83 the LTTE murdered a PLOTE MP and his three-year-old son, and attempted to murder the EPDP leader.

And who is it that still says this is an 'Ethnic Conflict?'

What is equally disappointing is the fact that successive governments have allowed this wound to fester, now requiring major surgery. Originally it was the Indians who obstructed our every move. Now these Western and North American nations are trying to force a package down the throats of an unwilling nation.

The Indians force-fed us with a Provincial Council system that does not work and nobody wants. Now it's a package that has effectively divided the clergy and the laymen alike.

It is in this context that we are glad that the UNP has at least welcomed the creation of a Joint Chief of Staff (like the old JOC) and shown some commitment to join hands with a wobbly government in the conduct of the war (see our page 1 story this week). Be done with this war as quickly as possible and then begin the process of unification of one country of one people with one identity.

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