I was working
for Ministry of Fisheries and was stationed at Hambantota working
as a government servant. I used to come to Colombo for weekends.
I had some good Sinhalese friends. Some of them belong to JSS.
They warned me that there was another communal trouble in the
making and it will be staged on August 1st, 1983. And it is ready
go with twenty four hours notice.
I did not
take this warning or advise seriously because I used to work for
an armed force and was under the impression I will not be affected.
On July 23, 1983 I went to meet my wife, who was living in Bambalapitya
with her friends. When I approached there house, I could see some
thugs looting the next door and walking towards the house my wife
used to live. I tried to look for my wife; there was no sign of
her. In this chaos I managed to meet one of her friends, close
to Galle road as I was retreating and she told me that my wife
had gone to work. Most of the occupants of the house had gone
to safe places.
I went looking
for my wife at her work place. In the bus there was chaos, people
were scared the rowdies searching the bus for Tamils, luckily
nobody noticed that I am Tamil. Some of the Tamils were dragged
out of the bus and beaten and their belongings were taken away
from them. In spite of these events, I managed to reach my wife
at her work place. We both left her work place and proceeded to
Mt. Lavinia, where my cousin was living. On our way we could see
thugs were gathering on the roads and some of the Tamils were
dragged out of the house and beaten and robbed.
When I reached
my cousin’s house, they were all scared and did not know
what to do and we had no place to go for safety. There was this
Sinhala judge living next door to my cousin’s house. In
the meantime the mobs had reached our house, we ran to the backyard
of the house. I could hear the mob speaking of burning the house
in Sinhalese. I managed to communicate with the next door neighbor
and arranged shelter for my cousin and her children at least for
the next two days. Now we were unable to enter the house, our
only option was to scale the sidewall and enter the neighbour’s
house so the mob could harm them.
our turn to go somewhere for safety but nowhere to go, by this
time the mob had broken the front door of my cousin’s house
and had been broken into. I could hear the mob’s lynching
cry “kill the Tamils”. We had only one option to scale
the back wall into the waste land. We scaled the wall and hiding
behind our perimeter wall. About half an hour past, some Sinhalese
women came from adjoining land and offered to help us and offered
to provide shelter and promised she will arrange with the police
to escort us to safety and until then we could stay at their house.
As we did not have any choice, with great reluctance we went into
their house. They gave us food and shelter, but we were not in
a mood to appreciate their hospitality, still we brought ourselves
to thank them for their good deed.
unfolding and now the mob cry had died down, also we heard Police
siren and announcing that, those who are displaced from their
homes to come to the police station and they had setup refugee
camps for them. I discussed with the owner of the house and arranged
to go to the refugee camp. He promised me he will get help from
the police. True to his word, he arranged the police to pick us
up at dawn, and also coordinated with my cousin and children,
so that they too are picked. As promised police came to the house
and picked us up and took us to the Ratmalana refugee camp.
two days at the Ratmalana refugee camp. Then came Friday 25th
July 1983. We heard that we could charter a plane to go to Jaffna.
So we decided to venture outside to the bank to get money for
our flight, with one of my friend, who was doing business and
he had a certain taxi driver who used to work for my friend. The
taxi driver came to the camp and I, my wife and my friend and
his brother and another Katubedde student left the camp, leaving
my cousin and her children behind in the camp.
Dehiwala junction, all hell broke loose, we could not proceed
to Wellawatte bank and had to abandon the taxi. My friend went
with the taxi driver, that was the end of him we later came to
know he was killed by the same taxi driver and robbed my friend
of his untold amount of money. My wife and I, along the two boys
were stranded in the middle of nowhere. The two boys wanted to
seek refuge in the church. I was not sure whether that was a good
move but they refused to heed to my advice. Unfortunately we were
never to hear from them again, we came to know these two individuals
were stabbed to death and burnt alive inside a parked car at the
church premises. So now my wife and I were the only ones left.
In this chaotic moment I could only think we should get back to
the camp, but also thought how we were going to get to the camp
safely. The Ratmalana airport road was famous for its thugs and
their attitude towards Tamils.
In the mean
time I noticed every one passing that road were panicked and running
for their lives, Sinhalese as well as Tamils. There were two old
gentleman walking and suddenly one of them dropped dead, because
of a heart attack. Also in this mêlée army personnel
arrived and started shooting in the air. I went to help that old
gentleman, my wife beside me and trying to get some help for the
old man. Nobody came to the aid of this dying man. I left him
and thinking what we can do next. In the mean time I met an army
soldier and asked him in Sinhala what all these shooting and panic
was about. He answered me “the tigers are here”, immediately
my reaction was this is an orchestrated play, but now we have
to escape this lynch or genocide of Tamils. We took a van to go
to Ratmalana camp, inside the van most of them were scared to
death and some are uttering death threats to the Tamils and Tigers.
in the van I realized we should go to Mount Lavania police station.
We got down at the police station halt and started walking towards
the police station as we approached the entrance, somebody shouted
at us “do not step in or else we will shoot you”,
I was shocked and my wife was in tears and scared. I told the
first policeman “we need protection from the mob and need
a ride to the camp”. The police officer insisted that they
cannot help us and turned us away at gun point. We left them in
peace and now I am thinking our survival is very thin, only god
can save us.
our journey once again in a van; still the crowd did not recognize
us as Tamils. When we got down the van the conductor of the van
told me “sir I know who you are be careful, this place is
god forsaken” in Sinhala. We started walking towards the
camp and we could see mobs coming with machetes, swords etc roaming
around. We stopped and the fear is dripping as sweat down my body
and I was holding my wife’s hand tight, stood there gazing
the distant danger and peril. While we stood there, a C.E.B vehicle
passed us, immediately we waved at them to stop the vehicle. Thank
god, they stopped the vehicle and asked them, whether they could
help us. The man in the front seat of the vehicle immediately
asked me; “are you Tamils?”, I said “yes”.
Immediately a big silence fell in the air. Then he told me “do
you realize, we are Sinhalese” and I replied “yes”.
Then he told me “now that you told me the truth, we will
give you a ride”. Finally God answered. The mob stopped
our vehicle and asked the occupants “are there any Tamils
inside”. Everybody in the vehicle said “no”
in chorus. We were allowed to continue our journey to the camp
after our ordeal we were shipped to KKS in “Lanka Kalyani”
with full army protection in C.T.B buses. At the port some of
the port workers harassed us, telling us to go to India and never
to come back. After three days of hazardous journey and humiliation,
we arrived home. On that day I decided this is not a country for
me to live or raise my children in and we should have our own
for permanent residence in Canada and my wife and I along with
our 3 month old daughter, immigrated to Canada and are living
happily ever since. However, I am still worried about the thousands
of unfortunates still living in a failed state, which is bent
on the genocide of Tamils.
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