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Rex Albert

My name is Rex Albert. I am an accountant by profession and I was living in Wattala (Alwis Town) with my wife, daughter and my in-laws. I worked at St. Anthony's Industries as a Cost accountant and I remember the dreaded July 25, 1983 very well. This was the day that changed our life for ever.

On that day, there were rumours about troubles brewing in Colombo and the suburbs. As usual, my company vehicle came to pick me up and I went to work. Around noon, the Finance Manager of the company informed me that there were a lot of troubles in Colombo and that most of the Tamil homes, shops and businesses were being burnt and looted. He also witnessed Tamils being attacked and murdered. Since he was a Sinhalese, he did not want to stay in the office as the company belonged to a Tamil. He asked all the employees to leave the premises as soon as possible.

On my way back home, there was a mob standing outside the factory which was threatening to come inside and attack the office and the factory. As we proceeded past them, we were stopped by the thugs and interrogated whether there were any Tamils inside the vehicle.My driver was a Sinhalese and there were two other Sinhalese officers were with me so I was able to get home without any problem. On my way back home, I saw several cars belonging to Tamils were set on fire. Some Tamil passengers in a public transport bus were taken out and assaulted in the presence of Police officers who were mere spectators. They did nothing to stop the mob from attacking the Tamils or burning the cars.

That evening, there was big commotion outside our home. Armed thugs with the list of Tamil homes in that area started to attack and burn the Tamil homes. When they came near our house, we ran to our neighbour's house and spent the whole night in their house locked up in a room. Though they were Sinhalese, they were also scared for their own lives as weill since they were safeguarding us in their home. We could see our house go up in flames and the asbestos roof bursting like fire crackers. That noise is still vividly fresh in our minds and we can never forget that moment.

The next morning, we were able to get in touch with a friend of ours who was in the Armed Forces. He escorted us to the Colombo Hindu College Camp. If I remember right, we were in the camp for more than a week. It was real chaos. There were so many people and there were big line up for food, wash-room etc. We could not sleep or for that matter do anything constructive during those days. There were so many people with injuries narrating their escape from the hooligans. During the stay at the camp, my one year old daughter contacted diarrhea. She could not eat or drink and was de-hydrating. One of my friends who came to see us at the camp volunteered to take my daughter to a nearby hospital and she was on saline for the next two weeks.In the mean-time my mother and my in-laws were able to board a bus and catch the next cargo ship that was leaving to Jaffna with the Tamils who were affected by the riots.

My daughter got better after couple of weeks and I was able to send my wife and her to Jaffna via an Air-force plane. With the help of my friend, I came to Canada. My wife and the daughter joined me in Canada in November of that year. It has been almost twenty-five years ever since and my wife refuses to set foot in Sri-Lanka again as the memories are too painful. I was there in 1994 for eight days due to some work commitments, if not I would have never gone back to that country. The killings of innocent Tamils still continue, as long as the power hungry Sinhalese politicians show their venom in promoting communal violence. It will take a miracle for the Tamils and Sinhalese to live in harmony.

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