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INDICTMENT AGAINST SRI LANKA: Genocide '83

On 24 July 1983, and in the succeeding weeks, around two thousand Tamils were killed - some were burnt alive - over a hundred thousand were rendered homeless...

83naked1.JPG (15018 bytes)
Sinhala mob dancing around a Tamil youth, stripped naked, before pouring petrol and burning him to death, Colombo, 23 July 1983

On 24 July 1983, and in the succeeding weeks, around two thousand Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka were killed. Some were burnt alive. Over a hundred thousand were rendered homeless.

''Considerably more people died during the recent violence in Sri Lanka than the 380 deaths the government there has admitted to, according to an aid organisation. Dr.Sjef Teuns, General Secretary of Novib, the leading private development aid organisation in the Netherlands, said between 1000 and 2000 people lost their lives. He returned to Netherland on Saturday. He accused the Sri Lanka government of serious human rights violations against the Tamil population and called the Dutch government to reconsider its development aid policy towards the country.'' (London Times, 22 August 1983)

''Estimates of the number of persons killed in the week of violence vary. Official estimates are just under 400 killed. These estimates are conservative. Unofficial estimates are as high as 1500 to 2000. It is probable that many bodies were not at first discovered because they were burned in houses. Also some bodies were hidden and buried privately by people who were frightened by the prospect of further reprisals should the bodies be discovered, or scared to attract attention to themselves by reporting the deaths. At the date of our departure from Sri Lanka, September 1st, there were many people still missing or not accounted for.'' (Patricia Hyndman, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of New South Wales and Secretary, Lawasia Human Rights Standing Committee Report -Democracy in Peril, June 1985)

''The police and the government made no attempt to stop or hinder small gangs of men who went about with lists, burning the houses and flats (in Sinhala owned dwellings only the contents), grocery stores, pharmacies, textile shops, tailoring establishments, restaurants, bookshops, hardware shops, lawyers offices, studios... as well as tourist hotels. They also burnt trucks, vans and cars. They went for only those things which were owned by (Tamils)... They did this expertly.... within sight of President's House in the administrative and business centre, a few yards away from the Prime Minister's official residence, near the UNP headquarters, in blocks immediately adjacent to or opposite major police stations - taking care, on a hot, dry morning, not to start fires which would spread to adjacent Sinhalese owned or state property. Accidents and violations of 'discipline' were few.'' (Sri Lanka - The Unfinished Quest for Peace - L.Piyadasa, Marram Books, 1988)

"Motorists were dragged from their cars to be stoned and beaten with sticks during racial violence in Colombo, the Sri Lanka capital yesterday (24 July). Others were cut down with knifes and axes. Mobs of Sinhala youth rampaged through the streets, ransacking homes, shops and offices, looting them and setting them ablaze, as they sought out members of the Tamil ethnic minority... A Sri Lankan friend told me by telephone last night how he had watched horrified earlier in the day as a mob attacked a Tamil cyclist riding near Colombo's eye hospital, a few hundred yards from the home of Junius Jayawardene, the nations 76 year old President. The cyclist was hauled from his bike, drenched with petrol and set alight. As he ran screaming down the street, the mob set on him again and hacked him down with jungle knifes.." (London Daily Telegraph, 26 July 1983)

''Pillars of smoke and flame rose over the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo yesterday as mobs attacked the minority Tamil community and looted their homes and stores...Some of the worst rioting erupted in the morning only 200 yards away from President Jayawardene's house... All over the city by mid-morning lorries jammed with young men shouting anti Tamil slogans, were moving into Tamil areas and into shopping centres picking out Tamil shops... Petrol was siphoned from cars into buckets and plastic bowls to speed the work of arson.. By noon Colombo resembled a city after a bombing raid. Smoke obscured the sun, main roads were blocked by burnt out vehicles.. The rioting surged into the heart of the city. In area after area Sinhalese rioters systematically picked out Tamil homes and shops, whether occupied or empty, and looted and destroyed them...'' (Guardian, 26 July 1983)

''A tourist told yesterday how she watched in horror as a Sinhala mob deliberately burned alive a bus load of Tamils... Mrs.Eli Skarstein, back home in Stavanger, Norway, told how she and her 15 year old daughter, Kristin, witnessed one massacre. 'A mini bus full of Tamils were forced to stop in front of us in Colombo' she said. A Sinhalese mob poured petrol over the bus and set it on fire. They blocked the car door and prevented the Tamils from leaving the vehicle. 'Hundreds of spectators watched as about 20 Tamils were burned to death'. Mrs. Skarstein added: 'We can't believe the official casualty figures. Hundreds may be thousands must have been killed already." (London Daily Express, 29th August 1983)

''Eye witnesses and victims reported that on the streets cars were stopped by gangs and the people inside were asked whether they were Sinhalese or Tamil. Some Sinhalese words are extremely difficult for people who do not speak the language fluently to pronounce, people were tested by being made to pronounce these words. The mobs were also demanding to see identity cards to establish whether or not people were Tamils... People identified as Tamils as a result of the questioning were told to get out of their cars and their cars were set alight... In cases where any resistance was offered, killings were likely to take place... It was reported by many people that in some instances students from Buddhist schools followed on behind the first rioters and that some Buddhist monks were seen amongst the gangs'' (Patricia Hyndman, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of New South Wales and Secretary, Lawasia Human Rights Standing Committee Report -Democracy in Peril, June 1985) ...continued....

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