The month of July, this the time where all it began. It is the most disastrous horrific month to remember for Sri Lanka as it is marked 37 years since the Anti-Tamil pogrom occurred in 1983. It is also recognised as ‘Black July’ when Tamils were brutally killed by Sinhala mobs with the influence of the ruling government and Sri Lankan armed forces. This was Sri Lanka’s darkest days, the holocaust will never be forgotten even though the civil war has ended.
As a result of the separatists’ assassinations, a few days later, the majority of Sinhalese mobs sought revenge by attacking local Tamils. They took vengeance by killing over 3,000 innocent Tamils around the country. Unfortunately, who knew that was the beginning of a brutal civil war that continued for many long years. The consequence of war had brought suffering and sent hundreds of thousands of Tamils into exile.
The mobs massacred thousands of innocent Tamils even burned alive in their cars. Thousands of Tamils were wounded, stripped, and women were raped, tortured, and left homeless. According to estimation, over a hundred thousand Tamils became homeless.
The war-struck island had lost a large number of Tamil civilians. The bloodshed on the battlefield has ended, but still, we talking about the war. The way of thinking needs to change and find answers to ongoing issues. What happened to those forced disappearances? Has the government reconciled with the war crimes committed during the war? Has racial discrimination settled?
The government denies acknowledging the genocide or the exact numbers to be unknown of Tamil civilians who were killed during the civil war. Over the years governments have changed, but they all proclaim that there is no ethnic problem in Sri lanka; there is only economic problem; all are equal.
The government, after a victorious battle against Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), have continually failed to respect reconciliation. At present, minorities exist, and it has been emphasised throughout the ethnic communities.
Quoting from the Ceylon Independence Bill, Hon. member for Hornsey David Gammans said that “Ceylon is not a single racial unit” and further he revealed,
“It was the Jaffna Tamils who came over in large numbers and started the railways and Government services. Where there is a racial minority in the country, the danger is that it may become a permanent political minority, and if it does become a permanent political minority, Ceylon’s evolution on a democratic basis is bound to fail.”
As a result, Sri Lanka is in great peril because there is no equality being given to the Tamils.
Hon. Member for Swindon Thomas Reid said in the Bill “I am perfectly certain that every person like myself who has known Ceylon will wish the people of the island prosperity and success. I am convinced they will show the world that a people in an island in the Indian Ocean can really work democracy”.
So, democracy can work in Sri Lanka, but the question is, do we really have democracy in the country? Taking a reference taken from the Bill, Reginald Sorensen said “Ceylon is a much happier country than its great neighbours India and Pakistan. That seems to be true, but on the other hand even Ceylon is not free from communal differences”.
Today, eleven years after the war, Sri Lankan Tamils continue to flee to other countries to make their lives safer. Due to their fear of going back those Tamils who are still living in exile live as refugees. During the riot, the damage, destruction, and countless deaths were the most tragic incidents that happened in Sri Lanka. Desolately, Sri Lanka had lost many significant assets, brilliant minds who could have contributed to the betterment of Sri Lanka. Many intellectuals fled the country and are living abroad.
If the government takes initiation to treat all civilians in the country as equal, then this peace and reconciliation should have on another level to change it for the betterment of the country. It is true when the path is set to peace and reconciliation on the other side dictatorship and authoritarianism dominate in the entire system. Tamil civilians never received equality and left as a minority in the ethnic community.
Hostilities may have been eradicated from the country, yet accountability lacks from the government. Tamil civilians need justice for the war crimes committed by the government. People still talk about war, but none speak about genocide, war crimes or the human rights violation that occured. The war is over, the past is the past, and never should we allow history to walk in the shadow with the present. As we write about the country’s progression, how far we come truly? We need to change the people’s mindset, the way we think, how we communicate and understand each other and help each other. This all matters for ethnic communal unity.
Morosely, political corruption is the real demon in the country’s ultimate downfall of development. Many corrupt politicians who only crave for political power and money do not think about the future of the country or the people’s needs. They are satisfied and living their lives of luxury.
Satgunarajah, M. 2016. “Never Again”: The Case Study of Sri Lanka and the Collective Action Theory of Genocide. [Online]. [24 June 2020]. Available from: https://scholar.uwindsor.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=6917&context=etd
Gouby, M. 2010. Sri Lankan 2010 presidential elections: a door shut on reconciliation?. [Online]. [24 June 2020]. Available from: https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/sites/files/oxlaw/srilankaarticle-melaniegouby-final1.pdf
Hansard. 2005. CEYLON INDEPENDENCE BILL. [Online]. [2 July 2020]. Available from: https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/commons/1947/nov/21/ceylon-independence-bill
Ms.Dulakshi Mohotti is a freelance journalist and a poet who graduated from Bangalore University in India with BA First Class (Journalism/English Literature/Psychology). She completed Post Graduate Diploma in English Literature at Anglia Ruskin University Cambridge UK.