On July 24, 1983,
following a regular visit to me, my father was returning home
to Trincomalee. I woke up around 5:30 AM in the morning on that
day, and rode my bicycle with my father to drop him at the bus
stand at Chulipuram junction. The first bus was a CTB (Ceylon
Transport Board) bus, and fortunately, he was able to catch it.
No one knew at the time but it actually saved his life. The next
bus was a mini bus, which is usually operated by individual owners.
Unfortunately, my best friend, Gobi’s, father got on this
Around 8:30 AM, people
in my village started to panic as news of Sinhala army killing
men in the bus heading to Jaffna began to spread. Sinhala army
means the Sri Lankan army. Almost everyone in my village called
them as the Sinhala army. Our family was shock stricken. We didn’t
know what happened to my father since he left around 6:00 AM and
the incident happened around 7:00 AM.
Later, we learned
that Sinhala army in a military truck from the Mathakal camp went
through Chankanai and to Manipay was indiscriminately firing on
both sides of the streets. When the Sinhala army men arrived at
Manipay, they stopped a bus with passengers. The soldiers asked
everyone inside the bus to get down. When the passengers got down,
the soldiers asked the males to line up on one side and the females
on the other. Then soldiers started to spray bullets from their
automatic rifles and around 10 Tamils men were killed and rest
of them was injured. Sinhala army randomly also shot everywhere
they went in Jaffna that day. The CTB bus escaped the Sinhala
army firing in Manipay and Jaffna, and my father returned to home
However, my best
friend was not fortunate enough like me. His father, Mylvaganam,
was killed by the Sinhala army. His father was a very nice and
soft-spoken person who worked in a bank in Jaffna. When his dead
body was brought back to home, I went to my friend’s home
with my grandfather. My best friend Gobi was shocked and crying
all the time. His father’s body was brought in and placed
on ‘paadai’ which was constructed with coconut leaves.
It was not even possible to get a decent coffin at that time because
all the stores were closed due to the random attacks on Tamil
civilians. I still remember the sad day, and I can completely
understand the pain my best friend and his family went through.
The Tamil community always kept very tight relationship. I think
there were around 200 people at my friend’s house that day.
Everyone was fearful, angry, and talking about the riots and the
Sinhala military atrocities all over the Island.
Around a week later,
many of my uncles and their families returned from Colombo. They
arrived at Kankesanthurai via ship. Almost every one lost their
belongings and went through severe hardship in escaping from the
riots in Colombo.
I used to play cricket
and soccer at a community center close to my home. We used to
have two playgrounds- one for school kids between the age group
of 12 – 16 years and another for above 16 years. Many youths
used to play in the second ground. After the massacres and riots,
the youths stopped playing. They secretly talked in small groups
and they started to disappear one by one. They were joining Tamil
armed groups to fight against the Sinhala army. In the coming
months, Sinhala military surrounded my village several times as
they beat, killed and captured randomly youths and brought them
to Colombo in buses.
My friend Gobi and
I continued to study and grow up in the same village. The Sinhala
army round up stopped once the Tamil fighters restricted their
movements. However, this led to army shelling and aerial bombings.
Several things have changed however the Sinhala army atrocities
remained unchanged. After years of losing relatives and friends
and escaping from Sinhala army shelling, it became the normal
way of life in Jaffna. Sadly, it still continues.