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Rasiah Rasarathnam

I am sixty-eight years of age, married and have two children. I am a Hindu and now a retired Tamil Canadian. At the time of the event, I was working in a good department in Colombo. I was living in Wellawatte with my family, who were studying at the Bambalapitya Hindu College. They were eleven and nine years old at that time.

On the 23rd of July 1983, I got the news that some shops owned by the Tamils were looted and damaged. Owners were attacked by the Sinhalese mobs as retaliation for what had happened in Jaffna on the previous day. I told my children to stay home and I went to work by bus. My wife asked me not to go to work, but I did not want to stay home as I had a lot of work to do. By the time I reached my office everything was normal and I didn't find any problems at that time. My office was at Sir Sillaimpalam Mawalle in front of the lake house. At around 10 o'clock we heard some noise outside our office and the news spread. Our office was on the 2nd floor of the building. So everyone at the office started to go to the windows facing the street. I also went there to watch what was happening outside. I saw lot of people with clubs and stopping traffic and talking to the people who were inside the vehicles. Some of them were pulled out of the vehicles and assaulted and the cars were overturned and set on fire. I saw a policemen standing at the street junction and they didn't take any action to prevent them from attacking the public. I got scared and went to my seat. I didn't want to watch any more.

Lots of friends came to me and asked me how I was going back home. I didn't have any answer. I was so worried about my wife and children at home. I didn't have any way of finding out their situation. I didn't have a telephone facility at home. There were four Tamil workers in my office. My boss a deputy commissioner came to me and told me not to worry and offered to take me home. He was a Sinhalese named Ananda. He took us in his official jeep. When we got out of our office, on the road we were stopped and he managed to tell the mob that we were going on an official business and they let us go. We took high level road to go to Mugegoda to drop off one of our friends. On the high level road we saw a number of cars burning and lot of people were running with blood pouring from their body. I really did not want to see that scene. I was so scared and I closed my eyes. After dropping the first person at Mugegoda, we had to go to Dehiwala. On our way a police officer stopped our jeep and wanted a ride up to the Dehiwala police station. My boss was very happy to give a ride and he was seated in the front seat.

After dropping my second friend and the police officer in Dehiwala, I was the last person in the jeep with my boss and the driver. We took Galle road to go to Wellawatte. On our way we didn't see anything unusual. When we came to our street, 33rd lane, St. Lawrence Ave. 55th lane where my house was situated we saw some of the houses were damaged. I was so scared and very worried about my family. My boss dropped me at the gate of my house and told me to call him if I needed help. I thanked him and went inside and found the house was locked. I tried to call my wife and there was no response. I panicked, I didn't know what had happened. Luckily I heard a voice from the rear door and someone told me that my wife and children are safe and they were with them. So I went there and I was told that a bus load of things came at the junction and damaged houses close to the junction. At that time an army officer who was also a Tamil living at Halmdon Lane came to help his brothers who lived in front of our house chased the hooligans and as a result our house was saved. After that we were there for another two days.

We managed to feed our two children with food which was available at home. My wife and I didn't eat for two days. On the third day I went out in search of food but all of the shops were closed. Only a bakery owned by a Sinhalese was left opened. I managed to get a loaf of bread and came home. I managed to feed my children. The next day we decided to go to the camp which was arranged at the Bamblapitaya Hindu College and went there in an auto rickshaw. On that particular day we heard about five or six people who in the camp went to Kirilppone to check their houses and never returned. Everyone said they were killed. I decided not to go home. We left everything in our house and gathered only few clothes. Then one of my friends who was living with us in our house came there in search of us. He was from Mannar and he told me that a Sinhalese friend who was the house keeper in Mannar is going to there next day in his van and he can help us to go to Mannar. The next day he came to the camp to take us to Mannar and we went to without any incidents. From Mannar, we went to Jaffna by bus.

My children's studies were disturbed. After six months I returned to Colombo. All our belongings at our house were taken. So I had to stay alone in the house and reposted back to work. The environment in the office was not as before. Some officers who were very friendly before seemed more hostile. But I had to manage because I had the responsibility to support my family back home. At that time good servants were allowed to get no pay leave up to five years to go abroad for jobs.

I applied for 2 years no pay leave and got a job in Saudi Arabia through an agent. I went to Saudi Arabia in June 1984. I worked there for four years after extending my no pay leave for another two years and came back to Colombo in June 1988. At that time my wife and two children were in Colombo living in another house and my children were going to B. Hindu College. Actually, my idea was to go back to Saudi Arabia after a month but my wife and children were not happy to allow me to go back because they missed me for four years. But they told me to try to go somewhere like Canada or Germany or U.K where we could safely reunited later.

I was on no pay leave, I decided to cancel my leave and join my previous job because I didn't want to lose my good job and my pension after retirement. I served the job for 24 years at that time so I went back to my office and continued my service in September 1988. In the meantime a friend of mine helped me to find a good agent who did oversea job postings. He managed to get me a job in Pingalap Island in the south pacific with a good salary. By the end of October I got a letter from Singapore stating that I have been appointed as a supervisor in a sugarcane factory and I should report for duty on the 3rd of December. I continued to travel around the world and finally made Canada my home. I sincerely thank Canada for accepting us and giving us a place to live. I was fortunate to escape the torture and discrimination but many were not. Thank you, Canada.

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