I would like
to share my fearful and horrified experience with the others on
this period of violence. I was living in Wellawatte, Colombo and
working at Longdon Place, Colombo. I was living with two of my
brother-in-laws in a room at Wellawatte.
23,1983 evening, after work, while we were walking along Borrella
- Narahenpita road, we saw lot of police and other security forces
lining up and in an aggressive mood. My friend, a Tamil as well,
and I wondered what happened? We were afraid to ask anyone.
Wellawatte safely. Then in the night we come to know about the
confrontation between the Army and the Tamil militants ( LTTE)
July 24, in the morning we were received some news about scattered
violence and burning of Tamil owned shops in Colombo.
It was an
indication that something big was going to erupt. We decided to
go to work and stay in safe places anywhere.
I was working
for a small company which did sub contract work for Mahaweli Scheme.
While we were at the office, by about Noon, our Chairman told
us that we couldn’t get out. We were two Tamils in there.
There was violence all over and the Tamil people were killed everywhere.
Police and Army were waiting and watching, but not taking any
action to stop it.
told us how on his way to the Mahaweli office, he saw one of his
Tamil friend Draftsmen, lying on the ground bleeding, after being
chopped up by the sword from the rampaging mob. Some Tamil engineers
were killed and their cars were burnt.
he closed his office and sent all the Sinhalese staffs. We two
Tamils were remaining unable to get out. The Chairman was waiting
for us to make a decision. We both requested him to leave us in
the office quietly. We told him that we can survive without food
for few days. As the washroom were in good condition, we told
him that we could attend to nature's call and drink water to cover
up our thirst and hunger.
to our request promptly. In addition to this, he talked to the
next door house, who were very reliable people, to provide us
at least one meal a day without being known to others. They helped
us, and they were a gem of a people. A good human being knows
the pain of others. They were Sinhalese people.
were inside, the same day the Sri Lankan government declared curfew,
at about 2.00 p.m and asked the people to be inside their homes.
This was announced through radios and TV. Though it was declared
officially to show the world, but not implemented on the ground.
We could see from our hideout, the mobs moving in vehicles, walking
in big groups, carrying dangerous weapons, shouting and rampaging.
Lot of Sinhalese people moving on the road with vehicles and walking
about and “site seeing”, the burning of Tamil homes,
Tamil business establishments, destruction of other Tamil properties
and the dead and burnt bodies of innocent helpless Tamil men,
women and children.
to know later from the victims that police and army were just
waiting and watching, some instances they were helping the mobs.
27 the curfew was lifted and the Tamil people started coming out
of their hideouts into public places like schools, temples, churches
etc. and later the government announced these as temporary shelters.
These were fully crowded and had no washroom facilities. People
were unable to attend to nature's call (washroom needs) for day,
they were unable to get out of the shelters due to fear being
get killed and as a result went with no food for days.
also came to us on July 27 and escorted us to a refugee shelter
which was a very crowded school. Within couple of days around
20,000 refugees arrived. There was a shortage of everything. No
food, no water, no washroom facilities and no clothes to change.
Later, after a week’s time the food situation was improving,
but not the washroom facilities.
29 I wanted to go to my room to get some clothing. I managed to
go to my room, but was unable to return back. The violence again
started and lot of Tamil people were killed. However, we somehow
managed to arrive at the refugee shelter safely. More new people
arrived at the shelter after the new rise of violence.
there was an incident that happened in our shelter and people
were running about in fear and as a result got injured. Among
the injured were some Indian nationals. Indian Nationals were
also targeted deliberately by the organized mobs. Among the refugees
there were injured people who were afraid to go to hospitals,
lying there in agony.
weeks, few thousand refugees were transported to another shelter
due to the large volume. After one more week, charity organizations
started transportation of refugees to our Tamil homelands, to
the North, slowly.
were suffering in the refugee camps Sri Lankan President, Julious
Jayawardena, was challenging the Tamils in his infamous speech,
“If you want war, we can have war with you, if you want
peace that also we can give it.”
gave more fuel to the violence and many more Tamils were killed
as a result.
interesting part I should mention here is that after we left our
office hideout, the mob came the next day in search of us, while
the office was functioning with the Sinhalese staffs. Seeing the
dangerous weapons and the aggressive behaviour of the mobs, even
the Sinhalese staffs ran away into hiding. This was told to us
when we returned back to work.
are lucky to be in Canada now, at least in my later part of my
life, a safe country with good and upright people. Canada gave
us new life. Most Tamils who are in Canada now, might have died
long ago if they stayed in Sri Lanka. We are very grateful to
Canada, their people, and their leaders.
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