AUGUST 1981 TO JULY 1983
Going by the advice of the mediators, the T.U.L.F. had staked much on the success of the D.D.C.s. It had also persuaded a large section of the militant movement to back the D.D.C. proposals. The government's failure to deal honestly in this matter and on the other hand its own pursuit of terror against Tamils were to create a rapidly deteriorating situation between November 1982 and July 1983. It is an irony of Ceylonese politics that the T.U.L.F. and the C.W.C., representing Plantation Tamils and under Thondaman, should look upon the main author of present problems, the U.N.P., as offering the best of solutions. In this vain hope the T.U.L.F. remained silent waiting for the goods. The groundswell of Tamil opinion would not have tolerated the T.U.L.F. backing the U.N.P. in the Presidential elections in October 1982 and in the referendum. By calculatedly not taking a stand, the T.U.L.F. helped Jayewardene's U.N.P. to win both the Presidential elections and the referendum which was in any case won by widespread cheating. At the end of a series of broken promises, the U.N.P. pleaded once again that to keep its hitherto unhonoured promises to the Tamils it needed to win both elections and retain its parliamentary majority. The referendum which took place in December 1982 was in effect an undemocratic exercise depriving the people of this country of their right to choose their representatives. The excuse for this was that the government had discovered an undisclosed Naxalite  1 plot. For this service to the U.N.P. in helping it to deprive the people of this country of their right to elect, the T.U.L.F. and the C.W.C. were rewarded with the July 1983 race riots followed by the sixth amendment expelling the T.U.L.F. from parliament. The C.W.C. was saved by its control over labour in a crucial sector of the economy as well as by India's entry into the affairs of this country. For a political party, to lose its combativeness and remain passive amounts to suicide. This was the fate of the T.U.L.F.. In many ways the challenge facing the Sinhalese in the South with the rapid rise of the J.V.P. in 1987 would have close parallels with the experience of the Tamils after 1977 -- particularly during the period under consideration.
While the T.U.L.F. was waiting in vain, every new issue brought forth a spontaneous outpouring of public spirit, led by the university students. These protests were non-violent and were often against actions of the government under the P.T.A.. The spontaneous character of these protests was different in quality from the stage managed affairs of the militant groups after 1985. The militant groups did benefit from the activities of the students before July 1983 and there was widespread public sympathy for the militants as "our boys". But those with a base, such as within the student community, could and did criticise the actions of the militants. The militants too had to take serious note of such criticism. Many observers feel that if this trend had continued, there would have been a militant movement accountable to the public and, therefore, amenable to public control. The July 1983 riots and the adoption by India of the militant groups changed all this. With material help from India, the militant groups became purely military organisations, accountable to the R.A.W. and not to the Tamil public. The latter became everyone's plaything.
There have always been those who argue that to build up resentment by provoking the worse instincts of the state is good for revolutionary fervour. But the misery, suffering, fanaticism and hysteria let loose by such a course on both sides of the division can hardly encourage democracy and freedom for those who survive. This appears to be a lesson ill-digested by the Tamils whose tragedy the South seems set to re-live. The failure of the community to clarify the moral issues would ultimately have a corrupting influence on the young who dedicated themselves to freedom.
3.2 Through the Eyes of the Saturday Review
What follows will be a run through the main events of this period as recorded by the Saturday Review, a weekly published in Jaffna. The title dates refer to the date of publication. It is appropriate to quote this paper, because itreflected the sense of buoyancy felt in Jaffna during this period, punctuated by doubt and foreboding.
May 15, 1982:
"Undergraduates and students in the North and East boycotted lectures and classes yesterday (14 May) to protest the continued detention without trial, of Jaffna University undergraduate Apputhurai Vimalarasa for over a year at the Panagoda Army Camp. The undergraduates in the University of Colombo too joined in the protest by boycotting lectures in the afternoon while telegrams asking for the release of Vimalarasa have been sent to President J. R. Jayewardene by undergraduates of the other Universities."
Students distributing leaflets in connection with this protest were arrested by the police in all Tamil districts. On 17th May the undergraduates organised a massive demonstration in Jaffna defying a police ban.
May 29, 1982:
Under the front page headlines "Jaffna violence takes on a new ugly dimension", the Saturday Review reported the first well-publicised political killings: "Political youth violence which began seven years ago with the killing of the then pro-government Mayor Alfred Duraiyappah on 27 July, 1975, has been following a predictable course ever since, assumed a new dimension on Wednesday 26th May when a popular social worker and a Tamil liberation activist, P. Iraikumaran (27) was gunned down along with his friend T. Umakumaran (28) at Alaveddy, by a gang of seven youths. Alaveddy, a village about ten miles from Jaffna town is in the Kankesanthurai constituency represented by Tamil United Liberation Front leader A. Amirthalingam.
"Iraikumaran, a Cultivation Officer, was the Organising Secretary of the Thamil Ilaignar Peravai Viduthalai Ani (Tamil Youth Front Liberation Wing). He had previously been a member of the youth front aligned with the T.U.L.F. and had edited a pro-T.U.L.F. paper Ilaignar Kural (The Voice of the Youth) in 1976." Iraikumaran had been a critic of the T.U.L.F.'s after breaking away from the party when it accepted the D.D.C.s. Other sources confirmed later that militants aligned with Uma Maheswaran were responsible for the killings. One killing began as a misadventure. The other followed as a cover up. The Saturday Review had neglected to commit itself to its readers on whether or not the "new dimension" was part of the "predictable course". These were still the early days of internecine killings. Press-men did not yet find themselves writing under duress. The Saturday Review published a powerful editorial in the same issue:
"The political heat, denied an external outlet, is turning inwards now. Violence of course is at all times destructive, but violence is now changing direction. It is becoming self-destructive. In fact there is a new terrifying chill in the political wind. The air is getting hotter with a new political intolerance. Brother is turning against brother; guns taught to shoot at targets, find that the targets are no longer there. A society which learnt to put up with killings, by looking over its shoulder and recognising a goal at a distance thought there was a thing called justifiable homicide, as in law. Now they don't see the goal anymore. It has been politically vitiated...
"The killing of Iraikumaran and Umakumaran, as we see it is more than mere killings: it is more than terrorism. It shows all the portents of a new ugly face in the Tamil man's political life. A society, bereft of a rationale for homicide, is now turning to suicide...
"The truth is that there is a new underground force in the making, an underground force without ideals, which if allowed unchecked could even bring about a state of civil strife in Jaffna, and plunge the whole peninsula into chaos. This has to be nipped in the bud, and if there is one leader who has sufficient weight and authority to do this, it is Mr. Amirthalingam."
There was to be civil strife which reached a feverish height with the L.T.T.E.-T.E.L.O. clash in late April 1986, 47 months later. There was a state of prolonged chaos. When this happened there was no dilemma for the editorial writers of the Saturday Review, or for any other journal in Jaffna. If they did not take a holiday, as they did, they would have been regarded as mad men "turning to suicide". The new forces were not without ideals. In the case of the L.T.T.E. these ideals had the character of religious devotion. But these had little to do with Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality.
The editorial writer quoted above reflects the popular attitude to violence amongst Jaffna men. They would maintain that they did not like violence, except that it was sometimes necessary. They would personally avoid killing. Except for medical men and scientists working on vivisection, those involved with killing, such as butchers and dog catchers, were categorised as being from so called low caste groups, as in Sir Thomas More's Utopia. (Thomas More knew little about India, which makes his ideas all the more remarkable.) They had the authority of the Mahabharata, where the men who killed in battle were regarded as a caste group - namely the Kshatriyas. Even as the militant groups grew in strength and despite the talk of "our boys", for the upper reaches of Tamil society they remained essentially an alien caste group. The elite, both locally and abroad, who provided material and moral support for the militants, could frequently be heard saying unashamedly, sometimes referring to the Mahabharata, that it may be the business of the fighters to obtain freedom; but the business of ruling, however, must be in the hands of those who are wise and educated. The latter often meant the sons of the elite who were abroad. The militants of course were aware of this and for many of those who had sacrificed successful careers at school, this was hard to bear. Thus the Jaffna man's ambivalence towards violence also extended to an ambivalence towards the militants, who in turn felt that others were trying to use them. This may partly explain the cynicism and hatred of the L.T.T.E. towards the civilian population which reached new heights in 1987. The editorial writer, like everyone else, was moved to questioning and doubting over the two killings in May 1982. Yet, like others, he avoided answering the question whether there was a rationale for homicide that does not lead to suicide. Note also the hope reposed on Amirthalingam in a dark moment.
The Saturday Review of 5 June, 1982 said that following the mass protests, Vimalarasa who was not tried for over a year, was brought before the Court of Appeal by the army authorities on Monday, 31 May. A bench consisting of Justices Seneviratne and Abeyawardene gave time till 19 July for the State to file affidavits and fixed the trial for 26 July.
The issue of 12 June announced that Vimalarasa and nine other detainees had been released on 7 June, two days before the T.U.L.F. leader Mr. Amirthalingam was to meet President Jayewardene on the matter. The paper speculated that this move to steal the wind from Amirthalingam's sails may have been in order to woo the Tamils directly before the President's first official visit to Jaffna. Another probable reason was that having been pressurised into going to Court, the government may have discovered that its case was weak. This was often the case with arrests under the P.T.A.. This victory gave the students a new prestige.
5 June, 1982:
Under the heading Tiger File, The Saturday Review reported the incident which heralded India's role in this country's affairs. It quoted the Indian Express of 21 May, which reported the incident of the 19th at Pondi Bazaar on its front page: "According to the police, there was a confrontation between two groups, and in the process, Prabhakaran (28) alias Karikalan and Sivakumar (24) alias Raghavan opened fire with unlicensed revolvers on Mukundan (Uma Maheswaran) and Jotheeswaran (22). Jotheeswaran sustained four bullet injuries in his leg and was admitted to the Rayapettah hospital. Mukundan escaped in the melee. On hearing gun-shots, Deputy Inspector Nandakumar of the Pondy Bazaar Crime Detachment rushed to the spot with his staff and arrested the culprits."
The Saturday Review further added that Uma Maheswaran who had got away on his motorcycle was captured after a massive police search at a railway station on 25 May. Two revolvers and a vial of cyanide were found on his person. The incident represented the bitter split between the Liberation Tigers and P.L.O.T.E. that was now surfacing openly. Many Tamil Nadu politicians and lawyers got into the act trying to patch up the split. The militants went along expressing regret over the incident together with a desire for unity. The PTI quoted both parties as feeling that continued disunity between them could only jeopardise their real object of achieving Tamil Eelam. Uma Maheswaran who had been a surveyor by profession, expressed appreciation for the way the Tamil Nadu police had treated them. When he required some books on surveying, the Tamil Nadu police had brought them to him after a prolonged search in several bookshops. It all looked homely enough. "Boys will be boys. They will shake hands and be friendly in the interests of a higher cause," was the general feeling around. The Saturday Review reflected the public view in expressing a hint of satisfaction that powerful attempts at obtaining extradition by the Sri Lankan government were failing. It quoted the SUN's front page headline: "TAMIL NADU POLITICOS GIVE PATRONAGE TO TIGERS: TREMENDOUS FINANCIAL BACKING AND 'SAFE HOUSE': M.G.R.'s life too threatened by terrorists". That was six years ago. The naive belief that the central government in India was bowing to Tamil Nadu pressure seemed a satisfactory explanation to both sides in Ceylon. We all lived in a cynical world where everyone thought he could cleverly use the other to get his own ends. Many Tamils thought they could use India to get Eelam. Who was master of the game would emerge much later. But for the moment all eyes were on the two boys - both makers and victims of history. We could thumb our noses at the Sinhalese. It was a time for some rejoicing. Tomorrow would take care of itself.
12 June, 1982:
An excerpt from an appreciation to the late Bishop Leo Nanayakkara by P. Arulanantham reads thus: "In 1973-75 there were many destitutes on the streets of Badulle, most of whom were persons displaced from the tea estates. Bishop Leo was the organiser behind the organisation of the Beggar Rehabilitation Camp, with the help of official and private bodies who were willing to help. He was a practical man. Bishop Leo was a champion of the oppressed. He studied the problem of insurgents taken into captivity in 1971 and took practical measures to help them. He consistently expressed the view that the Tamils and the Tamil language should enjoy equal rights in this country."
3 July, 1982:
"Three policemen and a Police driver were shot to death by unknown gunmen who ambushed a Police jeep at Nelliady junction in the Point Pedro area, Jaffna, at about 7:30 p.m. on Friday the night of July 2. The dead policemen were Gunapala, Arunthavarajah, Mallawaratchi and Ariyaratne (driver). The O.I.C., Point Pedro, Inspector I. Thiruchittampalam and Constables Sivarajah and Ananda were admitted to Jaffna hospital with injuries. The assailants are believed to have escaped in a passing car."
The editorial commented: "If the killed are those who become victims of circumstances, the killers are themselves victims of circumstances. If a government cannot find ways to stop creating and fostering these circumstances, that government had failed in its duty by all its citizens."
That was obviously true. Most Tamils then thought that such sentiments represented the end of the matter as far as they were concerned. Then again they were depending on a provenly undependable government to wake up and deliver the goods, thus being party to the drift.
The issue of 18 September in its lead story stated that the General Council of the T.U.L.F. was likely to take a decision that would enable the Tamils to keep away from the Presidential elections altogether. The issue of 25 September gave an instance of the kind of interference with the process of the law by the government that increasingly made Tamils sympathise with militants.
25 September, 1982:
"The Mallakam Magistrate, Mr. C. V. Wigneswaran, discharged Lieutenant Mandukodi de Saram and Privates K. J. Silva and R. T. Silva on 22 September, on the instructions of the Attorney General Mr. Shiva Pasupati. The three army men were earlier remanded and then bailed out in connection with the shooting of a lame youth Kandiah Navaratnam at Atchuvely on the night of 20 February."
16 October, 1982:
The following is an exerpt from an article by Dayan Jayatilleke on the J.V.P.'s stand on the National Question (the Tamil - Sinhalese division). The J.V.P. (Peoples' Liberation Front) leader Rohana Wijeweera was one of the contestants of the Presidential Elections: "He (Wijeweera in a public speech) accused the U.N.P. government of sending 'innocent' police and military men to their deaths. He also accuses the S.L.F.P. of promising Swaraj (Own Rule) through its spokesman K. B. Ratnayake, to the Tamils... Comrade Wijeweera also proceeds in the course of his masterly analysis of the National Question, to provide his audience with the doubtless useful and very relevant data that five top police officers are Tamils. In fact he is kind enough to provide his young Sinhalese audience with their names in what he fondly supposes is a Tamil accent. Rohana's boast that his is the only party to hold meetings in the North, is in the same spirit as that of a gangster who boasts that he and his boys were tough enough to go into the North side of the town, i.e. territory controlled by another gang, and return in one piece. In other words he is telling his constituency that it is he and his party, rather than the U.N.P. and S.L.F.P., that are tough enough to deal with the Eelam threat."
23 October, 1982:
The Saturday Review reported an attack by a militant group on a police station. The group was later identified as the L.T.T.E. (Tigers): "Three policemen on duty at Chavakachcheri Police Station were shot dead in a lightning dawn attack by a party of armed youth on Wednesday, October 27th. About 12 hours later the Police imposed an instant 12 hour curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. in the Jaffna district creating panic and confusion among the public. Guns and ammunition were also stolen at the Police Station along with some files. The weapons consisted of two sub-machine guns, nine rifles, 19 repeater guns and two shot guns. The dead men are P.C. Kandiah of Mirusuvil, P. C. Karunanadan of Uduvil and P. C. Tillekeratne of Kegalle. A remand suspect in a murder case who happened to be under lock-up at the Police Station, Kandiah Selvam, also died in the cross fire.
"P. C. Jayatilleke who had jumped down from the upper storey of the Police Station was injured by the fall. He had been admitted to the Jaffna General Hospital along with Sergeant Kandiah who suffered gunshot injuries. Two more remand prisoners, Karthigesu and Aiyathurai were also wounded. It is believed that there was an exchange of fire for about 15 minutes... It is believed that two of the youths have been injured and that one of them could have died. Army personnel who went to Chavakachcheri after the attack discovered spent cartridges and unexploded bullets."
Papers in the South added that the attackers had to leave abruptly as one of the policemen took up a hidden position and started sniping at the attackers.
The security forces in the North had not yet been brutalised to a point where their reflex action would be to go about on a rampage killing prisoners and civilians at random.
The same issue of the Saturday Review announced in its lead story that, having won the presidential elections (J. R. Jayewardene, U.N.P., 52.91%; Hector Kobbekaduwa, S.L.F.P., 39.07%. Mrs. Bandaranaike was prevented from appearing or canvassing for the SLFP because of a questionable suspension of her civic rights.), the government was planning to hold a referendum in order to extend the life of the parliament by six years. The referendum to be held before Christmas would seek a simple yes or no from the voters. This surprise move came at a time when the country at large was expecting general elections to elect a new parliament. The move was deceitfully packaged to attract the support of Tamils who had been repeatedly tricked. The story went: "Speculation is rife in Jaffna that the T.U.L.F. leader, Mr. Appapillai Amirthalingam, may be offered high office in the Government that would eventually lead to the formation of a National Government in the country... Certain constitutional changes that require a two-thirds majority are believed to be under contemplation that would facilitate this process. The holding of a referendum seeking the extension of the life of the parliament by six years from August 1983 and a complete revamping of the Cabinet and Parliamentary Group are believed to be steps that will help in this direction... It is believed that such a government that will cut through party differences and draw in talent from non-U.N.P. sources could not only help in the continuity of the government's economic programme but solve the vexing 'TAMIL PROBLEM' as well."
Thus the government which had repeatedly dishonoured its word to the Tamils was now inviting the Tamils to trust it once more in order to cheat the entire country of their right to elect.
The paper was soon undeceived as it started publishing protests from all over the country. The Civil Rights Movement (C.R.M.) in three statements referred to the "dangerous and unprecedented nature of this step which threatened the very basis of democratic parliamentary government founded on periodic elections of the people's representatives." It pointed out that "the move was in breach of Sri Lanka's obligations under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights." Ceylon had only the previous year celebrated 50 years of universal adult franchise.
R. P. Wijeratne writing from Colombo said: "The bizarre spectacle of honourable ministers and M.P.'s of the governing party being submitted en masse to the indignity of handing over undated letters of resignation to their leader is further evidence of this kind of cynicism. Apart from the mutual distrust revealed by these arrangements, the complete surrender of wills and independence by representatives elected by the people, to a leader however estimable, will certainly not enhance their prestige and standing in the eyes of the people."
In a telegram to the President, the C.R.M. pointed out that the referendum was neither free nor fair, because an emergency was in force, under which several opposition newspapers (including Aththa) had been prevented from publication and had had their presses sealed.
In a letter signed on behalf of the M.I.R.J.E. (Movement for Inter Racial Justice and Equality) by its president Fr. Paul Caspersz, a doughty fighter for minority rights, an appeal was made to the T.U.L.F.. It was asked to refrain from being drawn into discussions with the government on the national question until the conclusion of the referendum and to participate actively in a campaign for the preservation of the fundamental rights of the people to elect their own M.P.'s. It further deplored efforts at that juncture by the government to place before Tamil-speaking people, token concessions as solutions to their problems and considered such overtones opportunistic and intended to compel the T.U.L.F. to soft-pedal its campaign against the Government's proposal at the referendum.
This provided an opportune moment for the T.U.L.F. to take up a principled stand and resume its combative role. A principled stand could have meant only one thing - totally to oppose the fraud the government was trying to inflict on the entire country. This would have given both the Tamils and the T.U.L.F. a new prestige countrywide. Mr. Amirthalingam could be combative when he wished to. But since the late 1970's the party organisation had been in a deeply frozen state, with the younger elements slipping away into militant ranks. When the matter of the referendum was brought before parliament, the T.U.L.F. showed its lukewarmness by speaking against it while at the same time not registering a single protest vote. The same puzzling attitude was displayed by the T.U.L.F. during the general strike of mid-1980, which the government put down with large-scale repression. In support of the strikers, university members, teachers and trade unionists organised a one-day hartal and march in Jaffna. The T.U.L.F. declined to join. When questioned, a very senior T.U.L.F. member replied that the matter was a "Southern problem". Here was a classic instance of divide and rule. The T.U.L.F. had voluntarily submitted the Tamils to ghetto politics, when with a little vision it could have enhanced respect for the Tamils. The government kept the T.U.L.F. quiet by means of a few perks for parliamentarians and the promise of "jam tomorrow" for the Tamils. But as in that famous song "Tomorrow never comes", the result was a dangerous isolation of the Tamils, putting them entirely at the mercy of the government. The T.U.L.F. is a product of Tamil society. The preoccupation of its elite has not been with doing the right thing or the principled thing, but with doing what seems clever and convenient. Thus at that time (1988) when people should have been trying to restore democracy by forging links with all democratic sections in the South and by improving Sinhalese-Tamil relations, they seem to have been holding onto another will-o-the-wisp. The only idea coming from the Tamil elite today was a plea to India to negotiate with the L.T.T.E. - meaning, give them (the L.T.T.E.) something so that they would be left alone. As an eminent public man put it in words that cannot mean anything: "The Tigers and the Indian Army are our two precious eyes. We cannot be without either one of them." This is the counterpart of the T.U.L.F.'s stand in the early 1980's.
13 November 1982:
The Saturday Review quoted a press report, according to which President Jayewardene told his District Ministers that he had an assurance from the T.U.L.F. leadership that it would not actively canvass against the referendum. The Saturday Review further said: "An interview the Secretary General of the T.U.L.F. (Tamil United Liberation Front) and Leader of the Opposition, Mr. A. Amirthalingam, gave a Colombo week-end paper recently fuelled speculation that the T.U.L.F. leader may be offered high office in a "National Government" as forecast by the Saturday Review in its issue of 23 October.
"Mr. Amirthalingam made it quite clear, in the course of the interview, that the T.U.L.F. will not boycott Parliament nor join any so called 'common front' in campaigning against the referendum." Mr. Amirthalingam further added: "Even if the Government carries the referendum through, we will remain in Parliament until August 3, 1983 when this term runs out. At this point the General Council will decide as to who should represent the T.U.L.F. in parliament for the extended period."
Thus it appeared to the T.U.L.F. leadership that it could imitate the undemocratic example set by President Jayewardene, who had obtained undated letters of resignation from his parliamentary group to set up a tame parliament after the referendum. It seemed a bargain to the T.U.L.F. -- the price was for it to remain non-committal. To be doubly sure, the government did some arm twisting as well. The same issue reported that the Government had ordered its officers in the North and East to turn down all requests by T.U.L.F. M.P.s - the small mercies afforded to keep them in hope: "Education authorities in the North and East were summoned to Colombo to be told bluntly not to oblige the T.U.L.F. M.P.'s requests for transfers and appointments... Meanwhile the appointments of 15 bank employees recommended by the T.U.L.F. M.P. for Vavuniya, Mr. T. Sivasithamparam, have been cancelled." All requests to the Education authorities were to be reported to the head office in Colombo, so that M.P.s wanting favours would have to go to the government directly.
Looking back one can hardly understand why the T.U.L.F. subjected itself and the Tamils to this loss of self-respect and humiliation on the basis of promises that were not likely to be honoured. A dedication to principle could have saved the Tamils from the calamity that was to come. The betrayal of democracy by the T.U.L.F. at this point may be compared with that by well-heeled Tamil gentlemen in Parliament voting for the bills of 1948 which made plantation workers of Indian origin, also fellow Tamils, non-citizens. At that time Mr. S. J. V. Chelvanayakam, the founder of the T.U.L.F., did the honourable thing in passionately opposing that bill. But the old habit of the Tamil elite being voluntary slaves to the Sinhalese ruling class, from whom they received patronage, had not changed.
27 November, 1982:
In the meantime things were taking a different turn, involving spontaneous mass protests over the detention of several prominent Tamils on suspicion of being involved with militants: "Tamil politics entered a new mass agitational phase in Jaffna this week, following the arrests and questioning of several Roman Catholic, Methodist and Anglican priests in connection with terrorism and the Neervely Bank robbery of 1981 and the peremptory ascribing of guilt to the members of the clergy by the State-controlled and other media in Colombo.
"Whole-day protest fasts and sit-ins are being held throughout the peninsula with the Tamil United Liberation Front itself actively mounting a chorus of protests. On Tuesday 30th, there will be a collective one-day fast in both the North and the East, demanding an end to the arbitrary detention of the priests and University Assistant Lecturer Nithyananthan and his wife Nirmala, the abolition of the prevention of Terrorism Act and an end to State terrorism."
The arrested priests were of course the Rev. Fr. Singarayar, the Rev. Fr. Sinnarasa (both Roman Catholic), Rev. Jeyatilakarajah (Methodist) and the Rev. Donald Kanagaratnam (Anglican, Vavuniya). Dr. Jeyakularajah (Puttur Mission Hospital), brother of the Rev. Jeyatilekarajah was also arrested. The Rev. Kanagaratnam, formerly principal of the Pilimatalawa Theological seminary, was released shortly afterwards. He had resigned his principalship at the seminary after some Sinhalese members made an issue of his refusal to raise the national flag on Independence Day 1978 on the grounds that the Tamil speaking part of the nation had suffered grievous oppression during the 1977 race riots. He had then gone on to found Unity House in the border area of Vavuniya to work for Sinhalese-Tamil amity. He had good personal relations with the Sinhalese of that area. Rev. Singarayar was finally released after the July 1987 Accord. The rest had escaped to India from Batticaloa prison. They and Fr. Singarayar had narrowly escaped during the two prison massacres in July 1983.
On the lighter side, soldiers who had been sent to search the home of the Nithyanandans, in the same compound as that of Nirmala's parents, Mr. & Mrs. Rajasingam, were asked to wait there. The soldiers felt bored, having nothing to do. They went about plucking flowers and made a large garland, which was then presented to the cow tied in the compound.
Previously, in the issue of 20 November, 1982, the Saturday Review had strongly protested the slanderous allegations being made with impunity against those arrested, in the Southern press, with a lead piece titled "STOP THIS PEN AND DAGGER JOURNALISM."
11 December, 1982:
Writing in the section "Political Causerie," the Colombo based columnist Gamini Navaratne, dealt with President Jayewardene's allegation of a "Naxalite Plot," as the excuse for holding the referendum in place of the General Elections. The alleged Naxalites were a group of Mrs. Bandaranaike's S.L.F.P., which led the presidential campaign of its candidate Mr. Hector Kobbekaduwa. According to President Jayewardene's information, this group had planned to assassinate him, a few other Ministers, Mrs. Bandaranaike's son Anura and the Armed Services Chiefs, among others. According to him, they would thereupon do away with the constitution and imprison Mrs. Bandaranaike. Except for farcical dramas like the questioning of Mr. Kobbekaduwa, nothing was ever proved then or in later years.
Gamini Navaratne referred to several instances where members of the U.N.P. had openly indulged in violence and where no action had been taken: after the 1977 elections, in June 1981 during the D.D.C. elections, in August 1981 when communal violence had been unleashed in many places including the plantations and after the Presidential elections. The persons who attacked the meeting of the Sinhala Balamandalaya had no action taken against them, even after they had been identified by others. Navaratne added: "Unless action is taken against them, could sections of the opposition be blamed if they regard the latest coup allegation as a cover for the Government, while keeping the S.L.F.P. machinery effectively strangled, to distract people's attention from the looming economic crisis, instil fear in their minds about a "Naxalite", (that is Communist) threat and stampede them into saying "Yes" at the Referendum by clever manipulation of the state-monopolised mass media?"
Protest against the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the recent arrests reached a high point in Vavuniya when steel helmeted police used batons and tear gas inside St. Anthony's Church at Rambaikulam on 15 December.
18 December, 1982:
"Hundreds of girls, women, children and men - including Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and Christians - began a protest fast on Wednesday on the church premises. As scheduled, a silent march headed by school-girls with mouths gagged and wearing black badges had just come to the road when police pounced upon them, dragged the girls by their hair, and kicked and baton-charged them when they defied police orders to disperse. The baton charge took place when the girls sat on the ground refusing to move. Then the police stormed into the church and baton charged protestors who sought refuge there.
"Nine people were arrested including the Gandhiyam's Dr. Rajasundaram, Mr. M.S. Kandiah (Social Worker, 75 years old), T.E.L.F. Secretary M. K. Eelaventhan, Dr. K.S.N. Fernando and David Naganathan. Tension was high in Vavuniya following the Police rampage and all shops put up their shutters."
Dr. K.S.N. Fernando was a Sinhalese doctor attached to Vavuniya hospital and a dedicated human rights activist. He was subject to much abuse by Sub-Inspector Gunasinghe for being an alleged traitor and was badly assaulted by the policeman who also took revenge on him for having earlier filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court. After his arrest Dr. Fernando was at one point beaten unconscious. The Sub-Inspector who indiscriminately assaulted participants, also threatened to kill a Kumarasinghe if he was there. Kumarasinghe was a Sinhalese activist for the Movement for Inter Racial Justice and Equality (M.I.R.J.E.) in Vavuniya.
The government's handling of these protests was fuelling Tamil anger without in any way reducing the momentum of the protests. The spate of public protests continued. The students of the University of Jaffna organised a large demonstration on 26 January, 1983, followed by a 4 day fast starting on 1 February, 1983.
The results of the referendum were announced on 23 December, 1982 the day after polling. The "Yes" vote to extend the term of the government came to 54.66% of the valid votes, with the "No'' vote amounting to 45.34%. Of registered voters, 70.7% voted as opposed to 80% in the Presidential elections. But that was not the whole story. The Government had used its machinery, both official and unofficial, to perpetrate election fraud on an unprecedented scale. This was a country where elections had traditionally been reasonably clean. It was some time before the details came out.
In his book, "Sri Lanka: The Holocaust and After", (Marram Books, London, 1984), L. Piyadasa rightly argues that, in a country where voter participation has been traditionally high, as much as 86.7% in 1977, the natural instinct of the people would have been to say that they wanted elections to elect their own representatives, even if only to return the U.N.P. with a massive majority. This consideration itself made the result of the referendum highly improbable. All indications are that there were many untoward happenings starting with the partiality of the police. Piyadasa rightly argues:
"Moreover, opposition polling observers were, in a large number of carefully checked cases, prevented by threats of murder or of having their homes burnt, by false arrest, assault and robbery of documents, (e.g.: identification) from functioning as polling observers. Officially appointed presiding officers were intimidated and manhandled when they challenged impersonators or tried to stop thuggery within polling booths by legally unauthorized persons. Many voters were prevented from voting freely or voting at all. This was done openly, with police connivance or collaboration, by U.N.P. thugs in many ways, including compelling voters to show how they had marked their papers and preventing people known to be members of "Vote NO" groups and parties from leaving their homes. Very prominent in the organising and carrying out of the violence and intimidation were Paul Perera (who was not long afterwards nominated to be an M.P.), and a gun wielding M.P., Anura Bastian, whom the President appointed Deputy Minister in charge of the Home Guards soon afterwards! There was impersonation on a scale never before attempted in Sri Lanka. In one polling booth, the Presiding Officer had counted one person voting 72 times, and had officially reported this to his superior. In most of the country it required real courage to vote "No" in these conditions."
There were other minor miracles too. In Mrs. Bandaranaike's electorate Attanagala, she as the leader of the S.L.F.P. decided to withdraw all her observers and party agents from her electorate. This was after her agents were brutally and repeatedly beaten up and threatened with death. In this electorate where she had received a massive majority in 1977, the "Yes" votes counted after the polling were 35,747, as against 22,531 for Jayewardene at the presidential election!
In the Jaffna district, the voter turn out was 290,849 - 60% of registered voters - of whom 91.3% voted "No," no that is, to extending the life of the parliament. The voter turn out was 46% for the presidential elections. The voter turn out would certainly have been much higher if the T.U.L.F. had actively campaigned for the "No" vote. The registered voters in Jaffna numbered 493,705. The voting population in Ceylon was 8,148,015. The majority claimed by the government was 535,240. All Tamil districts voted for having General Elections: Vanni - 64.9%, Trincomalee - 56.4%, and Batticaloa - 60.1%; so did, in general, the districts of the deep South, despite the intimidation: Kalutara - 50.4%, Galle -52.6%, Hambantota - 55% and Matara -49.2%. It is these last named districts that form the base for the J.V.P.'s current (1988) insurgency against the government. The government's proposal to continue the present parliament for another term received its highest support, with the malpractices, in the areas with a high estate Tamil population whose leader Mr. S. Thondaman was a minister in the government: Nuwara Eliya - 72.7%, Badulla - 69.9%, Kandy - 62.2%, and Matale - 73.5%. This was an irony, in view of the legislation against this community in 1948/49 by a U.N.P. government of the time.
It may be mentioned that the vote in the Laggala electorate in the Matale district was challenged. The Sun had reported on 23 December, that the voters had been cut off from their polling stations as a result of floods and earthslips. But out of an electorate of 35,129, 26,115 registered their votes at the referendum, as compared with 17,354 at the presidential polls!
In the Tamil districts, the low voter turn out (60-70%), together with the somewhat indecisive vote (except in Jaffna), can be attributed to the failure of the T.U.L.F. to form a common front with the parties wanting general elections and mounting a campaign to underline a sense of urgency. The excuse normally offered by the T.U.L.F. and Mr. Thondaman's C.W.C. (Ceylon Workers Congress representing Tamil Plantation Workers) for neither campaigning against nor supporting the government, is that the former coalition government of Mrs. Bandaranaike which included the two major Left parties, the L.S.S.P. and the C.P., had completely ignored them. This was true. But at the same time the present U.N.P. government only listened to them nominally. It had already showed a tendency to use race riots as a political weapon in August 1981 in which many of the victims were plantation Tamils supporting the C.W.C.. President Jayewardene, while blaming some of his own party in moving words, did nothing to discipline them. The unkindest cut of all was to come in July 1983. The only real option that had been open to the T.U.L.F. and the C.W.C. was to take a principled stand on behalf of the democratic rights of the whole country and oppose the government. This would have increased their prestige throughout the country and possibly brought them out of marginal patronage politics into national politics. The position of the Tamils too would have been rendered more secure in the long run.
To many it would seem unbelievable that the T.U.L.F. under a once combative leader like Amirthalingam, should sit back and allow things to drift waiting for the promised jam. The T.U.L.F. too had reflected the general lack of conviction about democracy amongst the Tamil elite, whose public conduct was for the most part based on patronage. Although not very evident at that time, the T.U.L.F.'s inactivity during the referendum had cut it adrift from its political base. The Jaffna voter had shown that he had a mind of his own by registering a 91.3% vote against the government's proposal. Despite the T.U.L.F.'s lukewarmness, 60% (14% more than in the Presidential elections) had taken the trouble to go and register their opinion. For a political party to indulge in secret talks without actively articulating the feelings in its own constituency, spelt political suicide.
President Jayewardene could now afford to treat the Tamils and their representatives with contempt. As far as his immediate ambitions were concerned, he had the Tamils in his pocket, as he did his party's M.P.s. The Tamils were now subject to his whims and his irresponsibility. He was not going to give them jam. He was going to give them cake in the sense in which Marie Antoniette meant it, when the Parisians asked for bread.
1 January, 1983:
Little attention was paid to the vote in the deep South at this time. In a post-mortem of the referendum by Staff Writer Suresh in the Saturday Review, it was pointed out that the electorates of 5 Cabinet Ministers, 5 Deputy Ministers and 19 U.N.P. M.P.s "voted clearly for a dissolution of the present government." Most of those were in the deep South.
But in early 1983, with the Tamils in the President's pocket and the South under the heel of the Police and the U.N.P. goon squads, the fraud was accepted meekly. Given the situation of burning anger and humiliation below the surface in the South, a mounting insurgency in the North and the government's control over the media, the government with its characteristic irresponsibility and cynicism, found it very natural to direct Sinhalese feelings to find release in an orgy of anti-Tamil violence.
8 January, 1983:
The Saturday Review sensed the new mood of repression. In its lead piece titled "WE SMELL DANGER," it had this to say: "We have been tipped off by friends from various quarters, some of them surprising quarters close to government decision making processes, that we are now under very close surveillance and scrutiny and the axe might fall on us any time."
In a climate of increasing repression in the South, which began with the break up of the 1980 general strike and the advent of the multi-nationals which began to disrupt life even in remote villages, the Left felt helpless. The only Sinhalese area where there was some active opposition to the state was in the Moneragala District, where some Leftist groups were helping the villagers to resist the takeover of common lands by sugar multinationals, through protest campaigns. For this reason, many Left leaning persons and organisations in the South were looking to the North for inspiration, where there was popular resistance to the government. The Ceylon Teachers' Union (with 47,000 members) and the Revolutionary Marxist Party, had in June 1982 issued statements opposing the extradition from India to Ceylon of Mr. Prabhakaran and Mr. Uma Maheswaran, arrested in India a few weeks earlier.
22 January, 1983:
The Saturday Review carried an interview with Bala Tampoe, General Secretary of the C.M.U. (Ceylon Mercantile Union) which contained this extract:
But he said he could already see young men who had neither names nor labels, but only lessons and experience, who were converging to form a new radical opposition to the oppressive government. "It is such earlier unheard of people like Kuttimani and Thevan who have the stuff in them to form a truly revolutionary force." Though most of the Leftists are demoralised after the debacle in the Presidential and Referendum polls, Mr. Bala Tampoe is very optimistic. He said: "I see history as waves. So far we have been in the receding wave. But even in the gloomy oppressive atmosphere of Jayewardene's rule, I can now see an advancing wave that will soon shatter all tyrannical forces ahead of it."
19 February, 1983:
The following appeared in a Saturday Review article by a Southern Leftist, Kusal Perera:
The Left would have to fight for a broad unity among the working class at factory level on transitional demands, where the right of self-determination of the Tamil people would be included. The Tamil Trade Union Federation will have to come out of hibernation and join actively any such working class unity.
In short, the Left and the Tamil militants will have to forge a massive anti-government mass-movement with the working class at the head of it. That would be the only process of achieving an Eelam, for separation to be possible under this crisis ridden, capitalist, semi-dictatorship.
Another left party, the N.S.S.P., a break away group of the old L.S.S.P., led by Vasudeva Nanayakkara and Vikramabahu Karunaratne, made a considerable impact in Jaffna and even acquired a following amongst students. It advocated self-determination for the Tamils. Its base in the South too was small, but was concentrated in certain areas. Its leader, Mr. Nanayakkara, later fought a remarkable by-election after the July 1983 violence, which got the government truly worried. Unlike the old ways of fighting elections, the N.S.S.P. laid down its policy towards Tamils clearly before the Sinhalese constituency. The threat was taken so seriously that President Jayewardene himself made a campaign appearance. There was a high incidence of state thuggery. Many believe that Mr. Nanayakkara actually won the by-election.
However the Left was too divided at this time to make an impact. It could not decide on a single candidate for the Presidential elections. It was mainly romanticising about future possibilities, often put forward as certainties, as in Bala Tampoe's case, cited above. However the interest shown by the Left in the South helped to give the Tamil militants a Leftist image.
The Saturday Review's issue of 19 February, 1983, also reported a court-room drama which made a powerful impact in this country as well as amongst Tamils living abroad:
This happened on Thursday when Senior Defence Counsel N. Satyendra, concluding his voire dire proceedings of the Neervely Bank Cash Robbery told court: "As regards my clients, the accused, I wish to state publicly from this Court of record, that in the presence of those individuals who belong to my community and who have been prepared to sacrifice what is perhaps the most precious possession of any individual - his very life - for the cause of liberation of their people, I feel humble."
The accused in this case are: Navaratnarajah, Thangavelu (Thangadurai), Selvarajah Yogachandran (Kuttimani), Siva Subramaniam Sri Sabaratnam (Thevan), Nadarajah (Sivapalan Master), Sundaram Sri Sabaratnam, who is absconding and Vaithilingam Nadesadasan."
It was this group from which the T.E.L.O. claimed its antecedents and was led by the third named Sri Sabaratnam. Kuttimani and Thangadurai died during the prison massacre of 25 July, 1983. What would not have been dreamed of by the public at this time was that the T.E.L.O. leader would be killed 39 months later on the orders of the leadership of Mr. Prabhakaran's Tigers.
5 March, 1983:
The unprecedented court drama had its second act on 24 February, 1983 when the first accused, Thangathurai, made a moving statement before the court. Subsequently the six accused were sentenced to life imprisonment on two counts and 15 years of rigorous imprisonment each on two other counts. The presiding High Court Judge was Mr. C. L. T. Moonemale. Thangathurai's speech may have been a historic speech had his political heirs become successful. At that time it had an effect on the Tamils from which all militant factions benefited. The third anniversary of the Welikade prison massacre took place shortly after the decimation of the T.E.L.O. by the Tigers which rekindled some of the scenes of the July 1983 anti-Tamil pogrom. In several places attempts to distribute leaflets commemorating the prison massacre in which Kuttimani and Thangathurai died were stopped by the Tigers.
Thangathurai's moving speech in Tamil eloquently recalled the historic experience of the Tamils and contained these lines: "We are not lovers of violence nor victims of mental disorders. We are fighters belonging to an organisation that is struggling to liberate our people. To those noble souls who keep prating terrorism, we have something to say. Did you not get frightened of terrorism when hundreds of Tamils got massacred in cold blood, when racist hate spread like fire in this country of yours? Did terrorism mean nothing to you when Tamil women were raped? When cultural treasures were set on fire? When hundreds of Tamil homes were looted? Why, in 1977 alone 400 Tamils lost their lives reddening the sky above with their splattered blood. Did you not see any terrorism then? It is only when a few policemen are killed in Tamil Eelam and a few million rupees bank money robbed that terrorism strikes you in the face... But my fervent prayer is that innocent Sinhalese people should not have to reap what power hungry Sinhalese politicians have sown. These tribulations are a boon bestowed by God to purify us. The final victory is ours."
At this point student unrest in all of Ceylon's Universities was taking shape. What must have disturbed the government was the co-ordination between the student bodies of the different universities. This was sundered in the climate of racism following the July 1983 disturbances. However this did not bring peace to the Universities in the South which came to be known as more closed than open. The mood of racism fostered by the government, accompanied by frustration with the government itself, provided fresh opportunities for the J.V.P. in the coming years. However, the mood at that time was captured in a report in the Saturday Review: "Repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act". This was one of the main demands of undergraduates of all universities and university campuses in Sri Lanka who carried out a one-day token boycott of lectures on 24 February. The undergraduates have also demanded that the government keep its hands off the Universities. This demand refers specifically to the statement made recently by University Grants Commission (U.G.C.), Chairman Dr. Stanley Kalpage, that legislation is on the way to take over the administration of the universities and his threat that the U.G.C. would cancel the scholarships and loan facilities of students who go on strike... The third demand of the undergraduates was that students of the Kotelawala Defence Academy should not be admitted to the University of Colombo.
12 March, 1983:
This issue reported mounting unrest in Jaffna over the detention of three students. It went on: "Meanwhile a wave of discontent is sweeping the University Campuses throughout the country. The Colombo University strike went into the second week while undergraduates at Peradeniya, Kelaniya, Ruhuna and Batticaloa began boycotting all classes on Monday protesting the 'Police brutality' unleashed on the strikers at Colombo and Sri Jayewardenepura Universities."
Around this time events were gaining a new momentum. On 4 March two Army vehicles were ambushed near Kilinochchi injuring five soldiers. On 14 March Government Officers wielding clubs and batons, claiming to act on the orders of the Assistant Government Agent set fire to 16 huts belonging to hill country Tamils in a refugee settlement at Pankulam, Trincomalee District. The refugees were supported by Gandhiyam. This was a sign that the state was preparing to use an iron fist against communities, as opposed to individuals as in the past.
On 5 April 1983, a march organised by students protesting the P.T.A. was beaten and broken up by a Police tear-gas attack. The marchers had initially avoided a Police cordon by starting from the Cathedral grounds instead of the grounds of St. James' Church, Main Street, as earlier announced. (The news that was immediately alarming was the government crackdown on Gandhiyam.)
9 April 9, 1983:
"Gandhiyam Society, the only major voluntary service organisation engaged in community development projects in Tamil areas in Sri Lanka and the only active body looking after Tamil refugee resettlements, was raided by a combined team of Sri Lankan Army, Police and Criminal Investigation Department officials on Wednesday, 6th April at 10:00 a.m. The Organising Secretary of Gandhiyam, Dr. S. Rajasundaram, was himself taken away to an unspecified destination. Since there was no warrant for his arrest and since no reasons were given, it is believed that he was taken into custody under the notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act."
30 April, 1983:
The death of Navaratnarajah in Army custody further aroused Tamil indignation over the treatment of prisoners under the P.T.A.. The lead story in the Saturday Review read: "There were twenty-five external injuries and ten internal injuries in the deceased Navaratnarajah's body. The contusions in his lungs could have been caused by blows. I am of the opinion that death was due to cardio-respiratory failure, due to multiple muscle injuries and contusions of the lungs. In my opinion, adequate treatment from an institution would have saved his life." So said Dr. N. Saravanapavananthan, A.J.M.O., submitting his medical report in the inquest of 28-year old Navaratnarajah of Trincomalee who died in Army custody at the Gurunagar Army Camp, Jaffna, on the 10th of April. Navaratnarajah was arrested two weeks previously on suspicion under the P.T.A.."
N. Saravanapavananthan, Professor of Forensic Medicine, Jaffna, is one of those souls as unbending as his native palmyrah. He can be trusted never to compromise his professional judgement. After the inquest on Navaratnarajah was completed, the police searched the documents in the mortuary for the file. But Prof. Sara had taken the precaution of keeping the file in a safe place. He was an old hand at this work. In 1971 as Judicial Medical Officer in Galle during the Sinhalese youth insurgency, he could not be prevented from exhuming a whole heap of bodies near Giniganga - bodies of youngsters massacred en masse by security forces. The I.P.K.F. was compelled to treat him with respect, even when on an occasion he reversed the opinion of another doctor in the case of a rape complaint. The same issue of the Saturday Review reflected the feeling of alienation felt by the Tamils in a hard hitting editorial, titled "AWAY WITH THIS ABOMINABLE ACT". It contained these words:
"The first of such laws was promulgated in the very year of 'freedom' - the Citizenship Act No. 18 of 1948, which effectively excluded a section of the Tamils from citizenship. Then came the Indian and Pakistan Residents (Citizenship) Act No. 3 of 1949 and the Ceylon (Parliamentary Elections) Amendment Act No. 48 of 1949 which disenfranchised a large section of Tamils. Then came the Sinhalese Only law in 1956, making every Tamil in this country, irrespective of what doctorates some of them held, virtual illiterates in their land of birth. The Prevention of Terrorism Act is now over three years old. What has the government achieved by it up to now?"
30 April 30, 1983
This issue highlighted the detention and torture of senior Architect, Arulanandam David, President of Gandhiyam, at Panagoda military barracks. In a telegram sent to the president, Lawyer Kumaralingam stated that detainee Rajendran was passing blood and was suffering from frequency of micturation. Lawyers gained access to David through a court order after David had been forced to sign a confession under torture.
The same issue also drew attention to countrywide repression. A meeting of the Civil Rights Movement held on 15 April 1983 and presided over by its Chairman Bishop Lakshman Wickremasinghe expressed concern at the growing indications of police misconduct. It listed in particular: assaults against journalists at Kotmale; assault and unlawful detention of a 17-year-old boy at the Kandy police station; assaults against women strikers at Ekala; assaults against students at Jayewardenepura; death of a suspect held in police custody at Matale; assault against pavement hawkers in Colombo; and assault against former M.P. Mrs. Vivienne Gunawardene.
Following the announcement of local government elections three U.N.P. men in the North were shot dead (Ratnasingam, Rajaratnam and Muttiah). This brought to five the number of U.N.P. men killed (with Thiagarajah in 1981, and Thambapillai in November 1982). In a leaflet by the L.T.T.E. claiming responsibility for these killings the T.U.L.F. was branded as an evil force which was Eelamist only in connection with elections. The L.T.T.E. called for a boycott of the elections scheduled for 18th May, causing some leading T.U.L.F. candidates to withdraw and U.N.P. members to leave the party. At one meeting (8 May) when militant youths fired into the air, everyone, including the speakers on the platform, ran away except for the T.U.L.F. Secretary General and Leader of the Opposition, Mr. A. Amirthalingam.
14 May 1983:
This issue of the Saturday Review had this to say: "Tamil Undergraduates and a few Tamil lecturers fled the University of Peradeniya on Thursday and Friday following assaults by some Sinhalese undergraduates. Some Tamil students have been admitted to Kandy hospital with injuries. A few days back a student group had staged a Tamil translation of Jean-Paul Satre's "Men Without Shadows". The torture and cruelty by the Nazi soldiers of French resistance fighters was suspected of being portrayed in a way as to resemble local conditions. Later pamphlets issued by the L.T.T.E. were found pasted on the Science Faculty walls".
Another provocation for the violence seems to be the tarring of the English and Sinhalese lettering at the entrance to the University. This incident was suspected of having been engineered. A long standing tradition at the Faculty of Engineering held when Sinhalese students protected fellow Tamil students. Elsewhere Tamil students were told: "No campus and no Eelam for you bastards."
The turn out for the local polls on 18 May was low for reasons varying from support for the L.T.T.E. to fear. The L.T.T.E. went beyond the boycott call and attacked a polling booth: "About 64 houses, three mini-buses, nine cars, three motor-cycles and 36 bicycles were set on fire by Army men on a rampage at Kantharmadam in Jaffna on Wednesday the 18th evening and night as soon as a state of emergency came into force a 5:00 p.m.. This is believed to be the Army's "reply" to the killing of Corporal Jayewardene by militant youths at a polling centre in the vicinity an hour earlier."
21 May, 1983:
The army had now accepted collective reprisals as a weapon. In two months the army would take on unarmed civilians. The Saturday Review contained a report by Dr. M. S. L. Salgado, J.M.O., Colombo, indicating that the Gandhiyam secretary Dr. Rajasundaram had almost certainly been badly assaulted and tortured.
The incidents at Pankulam and Kantharmadam marked a conscious new trend in the government's thinking. What took place at Kantharmadam was not a spontaneous action. It was systematically done after a senior officer arrived and gave an order. With the exception of one goat there was no loss of life. The crossing of the Rubicon which set the stage for indiscriminate mass killing came with the announcement by a Defence Ministry spokesman that: "The armed forces and the police in the North are to be given legal immunity from judicial proceedings and wide ranging powers of search and destroy". The University students in Jaffna came to the fore in collecting money and materials and providing relief for the victims at Kantharmadam.
4 June, 1983:
The lead story in the Saturday Review quoted the statement published in the Sun: "Under such circumstances soldiers were compelled to react as during a war particularly in their role of fighting armed terrorists who had no compunction about killing servicemen or members of the public. In view of this it has been felt that police and service-men in the North should be given the freedom of the battlefield rather than having their morale sapped through conflicts with legal niceties. This is not a peacetime situation and the police and services must be provided with adequate safeguards when attempting to control the problem".
The new immunity was Emergency Regulation 15A of 3 July 1983 which allowed the security forces to bury or cremate bodies of people shot by them without revealing their identities or carrying out inquests. It was widely believed that these new powers were a direct reaction to the evidence proferred by A.J.M.O. Dr. Saravanapavanandan at the inquest of Navaratnarajah who died in army custody. This was not an issue connected with the "freedom of the battlefield." It was murder of a helpless captive. In general Tamils became both angry and frightened. They rightly believed that the government was arming itself with powers for some course of action that went beyond dealing with an admittedly deteriorating law and order situation.
Almost 12 hours after the government's announcement of tough new measures under the Public Security Act, Mr. Thilagar, a hospital employee and U.N.P. candidate for the municipal elections was shot at 6:15 a.m. on 4 June, at the Jaffna hospital. If the government was heading towards lighting the tinder, the militants were determined to help things along.
The same issue of the Saturday Review also carried news of an army rampage in Vavuniya: "Service personnel destroyed the Gandhiyam farm at Kovilkulam, about one and a half miles away from Vavuniya town on Wednesday 1st June. The rampaging servicemen who came in trucks destroyed the crops and huts and set fire to the farm buildings and vehicles. Three tractors and a van were burnt."
This happened after a four man guerrilla group flung bombs at an airforce jeep and then opened fire, killing airmen U. L. M. Perera and W. A. Gunasekera. This happened at the vegetable market where the airmen were shopping. It may be noted that this incident took place before the announcement of new measures and there was no loss of civilian life. The guerrillas were later identified with a group within the P.L.O.T.E..
The 4 June issue further reported that on 30 May, Sabaratnam Palanivel, a young van driver of Valvettithurai was dragged into the Valvettithurai army camp and shot dead by Corporal M. Wimalaratne. This happened around 4:30 a.m. when Palanivel was driving home after taking some relatives who wanted to catch the Trincomalee bus. Later an army truck ran over the dead body. This was the last time army offenders were brought before a Magistrate. Hence forward the situation in the country was to be qualitatively different. During the course of the Tamil insurgency, every death up to this time was an issue that aroused keen concern. Over the next five years, both freedom and value of life would continue to decline, not only in the North, but also in the South.
11 June, 1983:
A last plea for sanity was contained in a telegram sent to President Jayewardene on behalf of the Civil Rights Movement, by its secretary Desmond Fernando. The subject was the new powers being granted to the security forces. Bishop Lakshman Wickremasinghe, the president of the C.R.M. was to die a broken man on 23 October, the same year - broken by the blood letting that was to envelope the whole country. The C.R.M. felt a frequent need to refer to the events of 1971 involving the Sinhalese youth insurgency, which led to its formation when the Left government of Mrs. Bandaranaike was in power. This was because Jayewardene's chosen tactics to dismiss the counsels of the C.R.M. was to brand it a Communist or Communist inspired (and hence subversive) organisation. That was how the destructive mind of the government worked. Quoted below is an extract from the telegram, published in the Saturday Review of 11 June, 1963:
"The granting of such powers will create again the excesses of 1971 when similar powers resulted in deaths under torture, indiscriminate killings and execution without trial by security forces, which usurp functions of courts in determining who is a terrorist and who is not; and leading to slaughter of many never established to have been involved in insurgent activities. Revocation of this horrifying regulation was one of the main demands of the CRM at its inception in 1971.
"... It must guarantee that all such persons are dealt with by due process of the law and in keeping with the fundamental principles of justice... for otherwise a government would be flouting the principles of justice that are vital to democracy in the very act of claiming to defend democratic institutions.
"The Working Committee of the C.R.M. also points out that the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights which Your Excellency's Government has signed specifically provides that the right to life and the right to protection from torture cannot be derogated from even at a time of emergency threatening the life of the nation."
This plea came against a background of racist attacks throughout the country. The situation in Trincomalee was particularly grim, where the Saturday Review of 11 June reported one killing and several bomb attacks. The fact that these racist attacks were taking place while there was a curfew on, strongly suggested the connivance of the armed forces.
The situation there was to get worse in the weeks to come. In one incident several Tamil passengers travelling in a van were attacked and burnt with the van. Several Tamils who experienced these harrowing days in Trincomalee said that during curfew, racist hoodlums would attack them at home, and if they tried to flee, the security forces would shoot them as curfew breakers. It was clear that the government had decided to use brazen force to drive away Tamils from several areas of the North and East where they felt relatively safe. Especially targeted were the Trincomalee District and the settlements where Tamil refugees from the 1977 violence had after several years of hard work become economically stable. There was the chilly nip of unreason in the air.
On 2 July, 1983, the Saturday Review was sealed by the state just before its front and back pages could be printed. With all its shortcomings it had been a voice of humanity. Before the referendum fraud of December 1982, it had done for the whole country a courageous service, which the press in the South was constrained from doing, by giving articulation to a wide spectrum of voices from around the country protesting at the deception. It had done much to secure an impressive vote in Jaffna against the government, despite the T.U.L.F.'s silence. Henceforward to stand up for reason and humanity in Ceylon, was to become several times more dangerous - in the South as well as in the North. Shortly after the July 1983 violence, Mr. S. Sivanayagam, the paper's editor, would seek exile in India.
When the paper resumed publication several months later, its role would be very different, one of its main tasks being to catalogue a seemingly endless series of gory happenings. Constraints on press freedom would come from unexpected quarters. The old interest in political debate and development issues would be vastly reduced. One would miss contributions from readers on the importance of the Palmyrah Palm, heritage matters, problems of the Vanni farmer etc.. The optimism and the sense of forward movement were gone. Many of the lights had gone out. The sins of omission and commission had much to do with this. Even as the paper was being sealed, it was preparing for a future that was qualitatively different. The unpublished issue of 2 July, 1983 had the following lines from its future editor, Gamini Navaratne, B.Sc. (Econ.) London, author of "The Chinese Connexion," and for 30 years a Westminster style lobby correspondent: "If I have my own way, I will send most of the present politicians to the moon. That's where they really belong." That was saying a lot about the future.
We see that during the years 1977-83 there were two main currents in the Tamil community outside the scope of parliamentary politics. One was to build up village level organisations of communities, economically viable and conscious of their dignity and rights as persons and communities. Their main weapon was to express, nonviolently, a feeling of public anger and outrage when this dignity was violated. Such a tendency was represented in Jaffna by the activities of the students.
The other tendency was represented by the L.T.T.E. and sections of the P.L.O.T.E.. Their hit and run attacks against the state, especially the police and the armed services,were creating a momentum of their own. This tendency underwent rapid expansion after July 1983, marginalising the people. Groups such as the E.R.O.S. and the E.P.R.L.F. concentrated mainly on grass-roots work amongst the masses before July 1983, and did continue with this for a time afterwards. But with India's entry and its adoption of the militant groups, all of them became primarily military organisations.
The failure of the Tamil leadership during this period was its lack of determination to move decisively to resolve both intellectually and in practice its ambivalent attitude towards violence. The murder of Dr. Rajasundaram during the second Welikade prison massacre of 27 July 1983 marked the end of an era. Much imaginative and dedicated work by individuals who gave all they had was forgotten. By 1988 few lips would utter the name of Dr. Rajasundaram. We are without a sense of history or a sense of gratitude. That explains what became of us. There is something fatally sick in a community that expends inordinate emotion on every passing scene, forgetting the last and unable to make the connections with the events that had gone before. A return to sanity will also involve a sober evaluation of our past. Many believe that if the July 1983 violence had not intervened, the first tendency would have overcome the second.[Top]Next||Previous||content