|25 YEARS LATER|
|Thursday, 24 July 2008|
Exactly 25 years ago this day the City of Colombo was in flames, its skyline obliterated by billowing black smoke as if to cast a veritable black mark on the conscience of an entire nation which for just a brief moment lost all sanity and bearings, the consequences of which we are carrying to this day.
The fateful landmine in Tinnaveli that claimed the lives of 13 soldiers triggered the worst communal riots witnessed in the country irreversibly changing the course of its history.
The events that unfolded brought out the best in humanity with a large number of Sinhalese risking their own lives to protect their Tamil brethren while it also brought out the animal to the fore in some.
State-sponsored mobs went on the rampage on a looting spree while Tamil homes were attacked and set ablaze. Colombo was the scene of anarchy and mayhem as the rabble took full control, with the then Government totally abdicating its responsibility allowing the mob rule to hold sway.
The carnage spread to other parts of the country with armed goons - some said to have been encouraged by the ruling party potentates - going berserk in a spree of murder and arson.The conflagration continued for two whole days before the Head of State appeared on national television, not to express remorse and commiserate with the innocent victims, but to make tacit justification for the dastardly crimes as ‘justifiable anger’ of the majority community.
Some Government leaders are said to have remarked that “this will teach a lesson to the Tamils”.
Many books have been written since then on the pogrom that was unleashed on the innocent Tamil community with tacit support from the Government of the day. Many questions too have been raised as to the true identity of the real perpetrators and the inciters.
Lists were in possession of the goons beforehand which also lent credence to claims that the attacks were not spontaneous. There was extensive research too conducted on the whole national question and the chain of events that led to the holocaust and the underlining reasons as to why a minority of the Sinhala community acted in the way they did.
Whatever may have been the driving force for this outrage the country as a whole was placed on the dock and we were caste out like a pariah by the international community.
It was left to subsequent Governments and particularly the painstaking work of the late Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar to redeem the country from this shameful blot on its conscience and sanitise its image before the international community.
Black July however had left its bitter scars on the national psyche. There was a mass exodus of Tamils to Western countries which in the end resulted in a powerful diaspora that combined to fund the war chests of the LTTE, which became a more powerful outfit afterwards.
It also paved the way for foreign involvement in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka marked by the induction of a foreign army in the country. It also saw the creation of a vociferous support flank to the LTTE in Tamil Nadu.
It is to the eternal credit of the majority community that it had put behind that dark chapter and acted in a mature way as seen from its collective conduct to the more serious provocations such as the attacks on the sacred Sri Maha Bodhi, the Sacred Tooth Relics and countless other attacks on civilians targets including the Central Bank bomb blast in 1996.
It is also an indication that the majority is prepared to accept Tamils as their brothers and sisters and live together in amity as one community despite this single abberation that cast a pall over the Sinhalese as a whole.
The Government to its credit has succeeded in harnessing this goodwill and have taken meaningful steps to give the minorities their rightful place in the national polity with power sharing as the ultimate goal.
The restoration of the civil adminstration in the East and entrusting it to an organisation that was once an arch enemy of the State based on the self same notions of discrimination is itself a great achievement of the Government leading to amalgamation of all ethnic groups as a cohesive unit.
It is the hope of all that this unity and brotherhood would be cemented in more tangible forms in the future so that we could all forget that day of infamy in Black July as a bad dream.(Courtesy : Daily News )
|Last Updated ( Monday, 09 March 2009 )|
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