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Selvan Mather

My name is Selvan Mather. I remember July 23rd very well. On my way to work in London, I tuned into the World Service News on the radio only to hear that there were a lot of incidents in Colombo and suburbs. The day before in Jaffna, thirteen soldiers were killed in an ambush and this was the price the Tamils had to pay for being in Colombo.

My parents and sisters were living down Ratnakara Place, Dehiwela. My eldest sister is married to a Sinhalese, who later I found out to be the person who cared and took charge of our family. If not for his care, I would have lost faith in all.

I rang my parents the same morning. However, the phone kept ringing without any answer. So I kept trying again and again. Later on, I managed to get hold of my sister and her voice was not that good. I just asked her why there was no answer. She responded that she and Upali had to move our parents and sisters to a safer location. I asked her what had happened and she said that the house was burnt down and all the property was either looted or burnt by mobs. They were directed to our house by a thug who lived down the same road as it had very valuable items that were later looted and the house burnt to ashes. Interestingly, our house was painted green because my parents always voted for the United National Party. However, on this day, it was the government of J.R.Jayewardene (UNP leader) who let it all happen. J.R.Jayewardene (President of Sri Lanka during the riots) did not even apologize to the Tamils for his lack of support. That was the turning point for me.

A BBC series called “Siva’s People” telecasted Black July and our house was shown on it. I could not even recognize the house that I grew up in. I must say that the mobs did a great job- it was completely burnt down to the ground. My parents hid in our next-door neighbours toilet. They could not handle seeing their own house being burnt in front of their own eyes. My parents had to run out of the house in the clothes that they were wearing and that was all they had left. Never did I see any bitterness in my parents , but I knew that my father was not the same again.

I grew up with very good Sinhala friends in the Peradeniya campus. They called me and apologized for the terrible things that had taken place in Colombo. In fact, they even took lots of food to my parents who were hiding in another Sinhala house in Dehiwela. My parents did not even know this family but they cared for them for a few days, till Upali took charge of them. I got my parents and sister to come down to the UK. They could have stayed here but they only came for a short period just to make me happy. They returned back to Colombo. However, I just did not feel the same since this incident. My younger sister got married in 1986 and I did not even want to go to Sri Lanka- that’s how hurt I was.

The lessons have not been learnt and the troubles are still going on all fronts. I will never blame the Sinhala people as they could not help for the bad behaviour of the mobs. We have to move on and see that this beautiful country can get back to normal and our people live with each other in peace.

Since then I have been to Jaffna twice and my eyes were full of tears to see how much suffering the people were going through for their daily survival. May the good Lord take over and help people to understand that life is more important than power and making money out of this terrible crisis. We also must not forget that this has now been going on for almost 25 years.

The sooner we all do the right things the sooner this beautiful paradise will come up from this terrible mess.

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