Black July 1983: The Genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka

July 25, 2018 Asia , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

Reuters photo



Kumarathasan Rasingam



Tamils all over the world will be commemorating the 35th anniversary of the Holocaust of 1983 where the Tamils’ shops, offices and restaurants in the capital’s crowded city centre and main streets were burnt while the police looked on, thousands of houses ransacked and burnt, sometimes with women and children inside.



25th July was the fateful day for Tamil people in Sri Lanka for it left them without a State. Tamils’ fear in 1977 when the elected Tamil leadership under Samuel James Veluppillai Chelvanayakam Q.C unequivocally declared “There is only one alternative and that is to proclaim with the stamp of finality and fortitude that we alone shall rule over the land our forefathers ruled. The Tamil nation must take a decision to establish its lost sovereignty on its homeland on the basis of right to self-determination.’


The real erosion of democracy in Sri Lanka actually began in 1956 with attempts through pogroms in 1956, 1958, 1971, 1977, and 1981 using hoodlums to intimidate and silence the Tamil people in their legitimate constitutional demands, closing all avenues to discussion and debate.


The Vaddukoddai Resolution was unanimously adopted at the First National Convention of the Tamil United Liberation Front, held at Vaddukoddai on May 14, 1976.



The Sri Lankan Government, in order to suppress the legitimate demand and struggle for self-determination, passed the sixth amendment to the constitution of Sri Lanka.



Sri Lanka’s Sixth Amendment: A Violation Of UN Charter And Fundamental Human Rights


The late President JR Jayewardene of Sri Lanka, after allowing and being complicit in the massacres of Tamils in the 1977 and 1983 pogroms and justifying them as a normal reaction of Sinhalese to take revenge on innocent Tamils, hurriedly passed the 6th Amendment to the constitution in August 1983 to stifle the voice of Tamils. The Amendment’s important sections are under:


Article.157 “No political party or other association or organization shall have one of its objectives or aims in the establishment of a separate state within the territories of Sri Lanka”


“No person shall directly or indirectly in or outside Sri Lanka, support, espouse, promote, finance, encourage or advocate the establishment of a separate state within the territory of Sri Lanka which if found guilty could strip his/her civic rights, etc.


Penalties include: Loss of civic rights citizenship, confiscation of moveable and unmoveable properties etc. There is also a provision “requiring elected members of parliament to take oaths swearing allegiance and loyalty to the unitary constitution of Sri Lanka.”


The security forces have gone berserk each time a soldier was killed in attacks and counter attacks between them and the LTTE – going for innocent bystanders, setting the place on fire and destroying everything in their path leaving behind only “rubble and “devastation”.


“I am not worried about the opinion of the Jaffna people now.. Now we cannot think of them. Not about their lives or of their opinion about us…The more you put pressure in the north, the happier the Sinhalese people will be here… really if I starve the Tamils out, the Sinhala people will be happy.”

— From an interview with J.R. Jayewardene by Ian Ward. London Daily Telegraph, 11 July 1983.




The International Commission of Jurists Review declared in December 1983:


“Under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, acts of murder committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such are considered as acts of genocide. The evidence points clearly to the conclusion that the violence of the Sinhala rioters on the Tamils (in July/August 1983) amounted to acts of genocide.”


In 1985, Leo Kuper commented on the failure of the United Nations Sub Commission on Human Rights to condemn the genocidal attack on the Tamil People:


“….there were also political currents observable in the alignment of members, though I could not altogether fathom the geo political considerations involved. In the end a very mild resolution was passed calling for information from the Sri Lanka government and recommending that the commission examine the situation at the next meeting in the light of the information available. There was, however, only a bare majority for the resolution (10 for, 8 against and 4 abstaining). It is unfortunate that the United Nations did not take a firm stand at this stage…”Leo Kuper in Prevention of Genocide, 1985.




Massacre inside the maximum security prison in Welikada


Selvarajah Yogachandran, popularly known as Kuttimuni, a nominated member of the Sri Lankan Parliament, one of 52 prisoners killed in the maximum security Welikade prison in Colombo two weeks ago, (on July 25) was forced to kneel in his cell, where he was under solitary confinement, by his assailants and ordered to pray to them. When he refused, he was taunted by his tormentors about his last wish, when he was sentenced to death. He had willed that his eyes be donated to some one so that at least that person would see an independent Tamil Eelam. The assailants then gouged his eyes…He was then stabbed to death and his testicles were wrenched from his body. This was confirmed by one of the doctors who had conducted the postmortem of the first group of 35 prisoners.” (Madras Hindu, 10 August 1983)


“The most brutal and obviously well organised massacres took place within the confines of a prison located in the capital city. A prison is by definition a high security establishment, this is particularly so of the Welikade Prison which even by official terminology of the Sri Lankan government, is a ‘maximum security’ establishment. Yet not one but two gruesome massacres occur within its walls in the space of a week!..” (R.K. Karanjia in The Blitz, 6 August 1983)


The post mortem inquiry into the death of the Tamil prisoners at Welikade returned a verdict of homicide. Amnesty International reported in June 1984:


“Amnesty International has itself interviewed one Tamil detainee who survived the killing and has received a sworn statement from another survivor, both of whom state that some prisoners who had come to attack them later told the surviving detainees that they had been asked to kill Tamil prisoners. According to the sworn statement: ‘We asked these people as to why they came to kill us. To this they replied that they were given arrack by the prison authorities and they were asked to kill all those at the youth offenders ward (where the Tamil prisoners were kept).”




Black July 1983 – as reported by the International mass media



The Economist – August 29, 1983:

“For days the soldiers and policemen were unengaged or, in some cases, apparently abetting the attackers numerous eyewitnesses attest that soldiers and policemen stood by while Colombo burned.”


The Daily Express – August 29, 1983:

“A tourist told yesterday how she watched in horror as a Sinhala mob deliberately burned alive a bus-load of Tamils … there was no mercy, women, children and old people were slaughtered. Police and soldiers did nothing to stop the genocide.


The International Commission of Justice reported in March 1994:

The scale and size of terrorism in Sri Lanka is not such as to constitute a public emergency threatening the life of the nation …. and so does not justify the measures permanently derogating from the rights guaranteed by the Covenant particular, the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1979 infringes many of Sri Lanka’s obligations under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, while no emergency has been officially proclaimed… and some of the provisions would be an ugly blot on the statue book of any civilized country… if terrorism is to be contained or eliminated the legitimate expectations of the Tamil community must be met…”



Sri Lanka; one island with two nations; – separated by: history, language, culture, territorial homeland, way of life; traditions.


Tamils are still waiting for Justice and Accountability for the crimes committed against them since 1948.


A Struggle for Freedom is not Terrorism.






Kumarathasan Rasingam

Kumarathasan Rasingam

Kumarathasan Rasingam, a Human Rights activist and former President of the Tamil Canadian Elders for Human Rights Organization, migrated to Canada from Sri Lanka in April 2011.

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