My name is
Kandasamy Sivapargasam. I was the former Chief Editor of Express
Newspaper Ceylon Ltd, which published Virakesari and other such
newspapers. It was the most prestigious Tamil newspaper in Sri
As a journalist
in Colombo, we were under very tiring conditions. As the government
took action to obliterate any support in the fight for a separate
state, we had to be very careful in collection or presentation
of news. The environment was not conducive for an independent
journalist to act and write as an independent journalist. Many
ministers reprimanded journalists when they were merely presenting
the facts. If they continued in writing against the government,
they were imprisoned without charge.
Jayawardene’s statement in the days leading up to Black
July. By stating that he did not care about the opinion of the
Jaffna (Tamil) people, he was stating that he did not care what
happened to an important section of the population. He was giving
the Sinhala people advanced permission to take the law into their
own hands and behave as they saw fit against the Tamil people.
This kind of attitude has prevailed for a long time in government.
In 1981, Sinhala government ministers were directly involved in
the burning of the Jaffna Library. The same type of government
involvement was evident during the Anti Tamil Pogrom of 1983.
They did not take any action to protect the Tamils. The army and
police largely turned a deaf ear to their cries. The government
should have taken firm measures to stop the killing and looting.
However, they left us to our own fate and to mercy of Sinhala
was very badly affected. We were home Sunday night. The reporters
kept me informed of the situation. As I was getting to leave the
next morning, I got call from my friends and others that it was
pandemonium in the streets. Within moments, we heard someone yell
that men holding dangerous weapons were coming towards the area.
I ran to the top of the house and I saw the group of men holding
petrol cans, iron bars and chain. I quickly locked and bolted
the doors. The house was owned by my aunt who lived there for
nearly 50-60 years. We had difficulty in persuading her to leave
with us. Finally, we ran out the back. At that time, my aunt’s
daughter and another Tamil neighbor, who was an Army officer’s
wife, ran out with their children. We went across the street to
our Sinhala neighbor’s house. She was shocked to see us.
She quickly hid us in the dog kennel. There was 17 of us. As we
sat in the kennel, we could still see our house in the distance
up above. The thugs climbed up the walls and began breaking everything
to get in. They set our car on fire and then our entire house
on fire. However, they were still looking for us.
time, our neighbor, the Army officer, arrived in a truck along
with two others to check on us. He got us inside the truck but
the mobs was ready to pull us out and slaughter. The army men
threatened to shoot if they attempt to block them. Finally they
stepped away. They saved our lives. I am quite certain if they
did not arrive – we would have died that day.
us the military police headquarters. On Friday, there was a rumor
that was spread all around Colombo that Tigers were going to attack.
The Army and Police were put on alert to fight against any Tiger
invasion. They fanned out protection to protect the building.
We were told to stay in our room.
As I stood
in front of the door, an Army officer came and pointed the gun
at me. He was only three yards and ready to pull the trigger.
He asked, “Why should we protect you and when the Tigers
are here to attack?” I was frightened but kept quiet. Luckily,
a Muslim commander came by and ordered him to put it down. When
I went back into the room, I heard the other Army officers scolding
us. We knew we were not safe any more. Soon after, we went to
my Managing Director’s house.
Friday incident, I had decided I must leave the country. Since
I was a journalist, I knew we would not be safe. Through the help
of friends who worked within the American Embassy, I was able
to convince the Embassy to pull me out of Sri Lankan and provide
me refugee statues. By the end of 1983, my family and I were safely
settled in Massachusetts.
When I look
back with on Black July, it brings me deep sadness. It led me
to leave Sri Lanka. It was also a dark time in the history of
Tamils in Sri Lanka. Many were helpless. The government involvement
in the events of Black July was visible through the lack of action
to protect the Tamils.
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