from the events of Black July and incidents in the subsequent
days, months and years were dreadful; I am very fortunate to live
to tell this ordeal.
Sunday, July the 24th 1983, our Sinhala landlord was speaking
to his relatives about the tension in Colombo after an attack
on SLA by Tamil militants. But when I asked the facts, they vacillated
to tell me because of their safety. The ambience was very quiet
and eerie in and around the house. I sensed something very bad
was going to happen and didn’t covet to turn the radio on
or get out of the house. The following day, the 25th of July 1983,
I got ready and went to catch the bus as usual. After I got on,
Tamil passengers and I were confronted by a group of Sinhala passengers.
They were calling us Kottiya(tiger) and terrorist. As they tried
to attack us with an iron bar and other sharp metal objects, Sinhalese
girls, who regularly travelled with me, quickly shoved me under
the seat. I didn’t want to come out as condition got most
unpleasant. I was crying and the bus began moving slowly albeit
the attacks in and around the bus. I could see some more thugs
got in the bus from one diminutive gap. They removed a gold ring,
chain and a wrist watch from a Tamil man and ripped his clothes
off. I could hear some Tamils were begging for their life by giving
away money. In return, they were kicked out of the bus however
I do not know what had happened to them.
was asking if any more Tamils were on the bus, then girls said,
“No!” As they got off, I came out of hiding only to
witness appalling scenes outside where people were being beaten;
houses being burnt; petrol being poured onto Tamil men before
being burnt alive. I was completely numb. I was shivering at the
thought of what would happen to me. I decided to ask the Sinhalese
girls to aid me to get to my work place. They rubbed off my pottu
(small red or black round dot worn by Hindu women on their forehead),
advised me to take the jewels off and keep them in the bag. We
started on foot and got there three hours later. There, it was
the same situation and some Sinhalese staff was petrifying us.
We couldn’t get out because of continuous attacks. A few
of us locked ourselves in the lunch room. We had no time to waste.
We decided to pretend as Muslims by putting the headpiece of our
sarees over our heads and leap out of the window to the main street.
We set out
on foot again. We went passed all the mobs. They were preventing
the vehicles from moving which they stole fuel from the cars to
raze the commercial establishments, schools and temples. We toddled
the distance of three miles with mass crowd of predominantly Sinhalese
and Muslims. Nearly everyone in the mob had iron rods, swards
and broken glasses. Some were asking moving people to show their
identity cards so that they can find out who were disguising their
identity. In that mix-up, I got separated from my aids and without
showing any swing or faint-hearted feeling I started walking towards
my uncle’s house which was the nearest to reach. I was so
faintish and stopped to take the weight off my feet merely to
glimpse at a truck full of Army cheering up all the thugs and
assisting them with looting the shops. It was with great difficulty
that I began walking again. In the end I got to my uncle’s
house. I was really dump struck to see two or three people were
set on fire live using petrol and old rubber tires.
some relieve that I survived but for how long ? Two of my cousins
and I were hiding in the kitchen but couldn’t guzzle anything.
No respite, and no sleep. We listened to the BBC world service
in the night and sobbed to hear that some Tamil prisoners eyes
were stabbed and had their eyeballs were pulled out. Also their
limbs were severed. As well, we heard that arrangements for the
Tamils to gather in refugee camps. So we went to Kathiresan Temple
in Bambalapitiya two miles from my uncle’s house. Much of
the people had similar stories to share. Meantime, my family in
Jaffna didn’t have a clue where I was. They came to conclusion
that something dreadful had happened to me. I managed to send
a message through ICRC in Colombo. After that I had to vacate
the camp and went to my uncle’s work place in Kotmale where
a ministerial level security prevailed. I stayed there till November
1983 and applied for a passport to escape the teardrop island
as tension prevailed within the city.
genocide, I faced many setbacks in my college life and work life.
The worst situation was when my home town, Jaffna, was declared
a security zone. My family lost their properties to the government
security forces and was forced to leave the town to live in the
nearby suburban area. In 1984 and 1985, the government assembled
vigilant groups and they were responsible for some of the worst
atrocities during the violence. Although Colombo remained calm,
there was widespread tension in nearby towns. On the 22nd of May
1985, my bro-in-law left his business and went to Jaffna taking
the Trincomale route. Later that night, I was informed by my sister
that he has been taken into custody between Vavuniya and Habarane
and was warned that government forces were looking for people
linked with him. Continuously, I was terrified and thus made my
mind up to leave the country. I didn’t have sufficient time
to plan a proper journey and had no time to worry about my dignified
job. I terminated my studies and left the country to escape the
arbitrary arrests, unacknowledged detentions, disappearances,
rape of women and extra judicial killings.
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