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Black July 1983: Dedicate ourselves not to repeat the mistakes of the past

Jul 26, 2010 6:21:35 AM- transcurrents.com

by National Peace Council

On July 23, 1983 an anti-Tamil pogrom took place in various parts of the country in which innocent Tamil persons, their homes and businesses were attacked and destroyed. This violence, over a period of a week, took place with the participation of sections of the then government in retaliation for the killing of the 13 soldiers who were caught up in a land mine blast. Many innocent Tamils who lived in Colombo and elsewhere faced terrible atrocities. This violence escalated by stages into full scale war.

In the past several years, the week of Black July was acknowledged and commemorated by civil society, and sometimes even by the government. But this year it has received very little attention. The readiness of society to put behind the events of July 1983 would be appropriate if reconciliation in the country after the war were truly taking place. Sadly no reconciliation between the two communities has taken place yet. Reconciliation can take place only by acknowledging the truth and the reality of the past and present.

The need to remember the innocent victims is all the more necessary because so far there has been no progress at all on finding a political solution to the issues that gave rise to Tamil militancy and war, no transparency where it concerns detained LTTE suspects, no transparency in the take over of lands in the North for military purposes, renewed police registration of Tamil persons in Colombo, new restrictions placed on NGO work in the North and inadequate resources for the resettlement of the displaced in the North in their original habitations where most of them earned a living as farmers or fishermen.

Over a year has now passed since the end of that war. During the past year, there have been many beneficial effects of the end of war. Most roads have been reopened and there is free access to nearly all parts of the country to ordinary citizens. Economic life has revived with the return of some agricultural lands and seas to productive activities. Many members of the diaspora have been able to return and visit their relatives or engage in economic activities. However, the failures of the present cannot and must not be glossed over. Reflecting on the failures of the past can be useful in living better in the future.

We all like to forget the unpleasant but it will be difficult for the victims to forget. There have been similar pogroms committed by the LTTE against members of other communities, Sinhalese and Muslim. We should dedicate ourselves not to repeat such actions in the future. The National Peace Council would like to propose a memorial or remembrance service for all innocent victims who suffered and a common day of remembrance for the innocent victims of all communities who suffered death as a result of the ethnic conflict in its various manifestations