"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 


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Audio Visual Presentation: Genocide '58 in Sri Lanka
J.R.Jayawardene, Sinhala Opposition Leader reported in Sri Lanka Tribune, 30 August 1957 - later President of Sri Lanka during Genocide'83 "...The time has come for the whole Sinhala race which has existed for 2500 years, jealously safeguarding their language and religion, to fight without giving any quarter to save their birthright... I will lead the campaign..." -
Virginia Leary: Ethnic Conflict and Violence in Sri Lanka - Report of a Mission to Sri Lanka on behalf of the International Commission of Jurists, July/August 1981 "...(In 1958) hundreds of persons, primarily Tamils, were killed in this first episode of communal violence. Over 25,000 Tamil refugees were relocated from Sinhalese areas to Tamil areas in the North. The government was criticised for failing to declare a state of emergency early enough..." -
Walter Schwarz: Tamils of Sri Lanka, Minority Rights Group Report 1983 "...(In 1958) passing cars and trains were stopped by mobs and their (Tamil) occupants butchered, houses were burnt with people inside and there was widespread looting..." -
Professor Howard Wriggins: Ceylon - Dilemmas of a New Nation, Princeton University Press "The (Tamil) Federal Party's annual public meeting was called for late May (1958). The conclave was to decide whether or not to undertake a Satyagraha campaign now that the (Sinhala) Prime Minister had withdrawn his support from the agreement he had endorsed a year before (the Bandaranaike Chelvanayagam Pact).

The outbreak of violence began when a train, presumed to be carrying Tamil delegates to the meetings, was derailed and its passengers beaten up by ruffians. The next day Sinhalese labourers set fire to Tamil shops and homes in nearby villages where they lived intermingled with Sinhalese...

Arson and beatings spread rapidly to Colombo. Gangs roamed the districts where Tamils lived, ransacking and setting fire to homes and cars, and looting shops. Individual Tamils were attacked, humiliated and beaten. Many were subjected to torture and some killed outright...

Some ten thousand Tamils were reported to have fled their homes to seek safety in improvised refugee camps... Many fled to the North by sea.."


1. Excerpts from Tarzie Vittachi: Emergency 1958 - The Story of the Ceylon Race Riots, Andre Deutsch, London 1958

2. Excerpts from the The Fall and Rise of the Tamil Nation by V.Navaratnam, published by the Tamilian Library, Montreal and Toronto - 1995 (purchase inquiries to P.O.Box 70, La Prairie, Quebec, J5R 3Y1, Canada) 

3. On Genocide'58 - Senator S.Nadesan Q.C. [Speech delivered during the course of the debate on the State of Emergency in the Second Senate on June 4th, 1958]

"..The Tamils are the pawns in a political game. It does not matter to anybody how we suffer, how we feel, so long as in this game one Sinhala party is the victor and the other Sinhala party is the vanquished. That is all. That is why I ask you not to make us pawns in your game.... Every Tamil man, woman and child is willing to go...We do not want language rights from you. Please have Sinhalese only. We only want the right to live in our areas. We want the right to be able to walk the streets without being molested. Those are the rights we want. We will look after our language... The elementary duty of a Government is to afford protection to its subjects, and the duty of the citizens is to be loyal to that Government. The moment that Government fails to afford that protection, it forfeits its right to that loyalty and affection. This Government has forfeited that right. "

Excerpts from Tarzie Vittachi: Emergency 1958  (see also full text in Word format and in HTML)

There was evidence of method
  Murder stalked the streets in broad daylight
Prime Minister Bandaranaike fuels the murders
Hindu Priest burnt alive
Hundreds of acts of arson, rape, pillage, murder
Gangs of hoodlums worked according to a predetermined pattern
Governor General says attacks carefully planned

"What are we left with (in 1958)? A nation in ruins, some grim lessons which we cannot afford to forget and a momentous question: Have the Sinhalese and Tamils reached the parting of ways?"


In the north and the east other voices which had been shouted down a year before began to be heard again. The conviction grew that Mr Bandaranaike had never intended to implement the B-C Pact and that therefore the Federal Party had been bamboozled into calling off the massive satyagraha they had planned for August 1957.

Mr Bandaranaike's sudden volte face on April 9, when he broke up the pact which he himself had forged, set the pendulum of popularity swinging back in favour of the Federalists. They appeared once more in public as the aggrieved party. Mr Chelvanayakam was seen again as the martyred victim of the Government's duplicity.... It was in this atmosphere that the Vavuniya Convention was prepared. The Federal Party Chiefs, sensing the mood of the moment, went all out to make the convention a key event. Special arrangements were made in advance for the transport of delegates and supporters from every part of the island. Extra bogeys were attached to the train from Batticaloa... On May 22, five hundred thugs and hooligans invaded the Polonnaruwa station, and smashed up the windows of the Batticaloa train in their frantic search for Convention-bound Tamils. The General Manager of Railways, Mr E. Black, said:

'According to the information we have-telegraph wires too have been cut-passengers entraining from Batticaloa were alarmed at threats that a gang was to attack them as they were under the impression that most of the passengers were going to the Federal Convention at Vavuniya. At Welikande, all but one of the passengers got off the train in fear. The train went on to Polonnaruwa with the one passenger. At midnight, as the train steamed in, the gang set about the train and the lone passenger. The train was stopped and left for Colombo at 7 a.m. this morning without a single passenger. The incident occurred at midnight. The passenger was sent to hospital by the Railway Officers there. A Railway Official was sent from Colombo today to hold an inquiry.'

The Observer reported this incident in more detail on May 24:

'On Thursday night, passengers were intimidated into getting off at Welikande as news had reached them that a gang of men were on the way to prevent them from making the trip as they felt that passengers must be prevented from getting to Vavuniya for the Federal Convention.

One passenger however continued the trip but was severely assaulted at Polonnaruwa station. A gang of men, alleged to have numbered nearly 5oo, got on the train at this station, smashed windows, went from carriage to carriage looking for passengers, damaging railway equipment as they did so.

They found one passenger who cowered in his seat, pleading with them to leave him alone as he did not belong to the community they were looking for.

"You are all the same", was the reply and they began assaulting him. He was later despatched to hospital.

All telegraph wires had been cut and there is still no communication between Polonnaruwa and Colombo. The train which should have arrived in Colombo that morning, left the station at 7 a.m. in the morning and arrived in Colombo late last evening. Meanwhile a Board of Inquiry has been despatched to Polonnaruwa by the General Manager.'

On the night of the 23rd at 9.15 p.m. the Batticaloa- Colombo train was derailed at the 215th mile on the Batticaloa-Eravur line. Two men, Police-Sergeant Appuhamy and railway porter Victor Fernando, were killed in the wreck. Many others were injured, some of them very seriously. Hoodlums, on the watch for Vavuniya-bound passengers, attacked the wrecked train. Fortunately there were only forty-seven people on that train. The wreckers had made a serious miscalculation. There were very few Tamils on board. And it was the Sinhalese who suffered most.

At 6 p.m. on May 24 a crowd-nearly a thousand strong- again invaded the premises of the Polonnaruwa railway station. They assaulted everybody in sight, including Sinhalese travellers and railway officials, and damaged a good deal of railway property.

Assistant Superintendent of Police Johnpillai who was travelling on leave to Valaichenai at the time, was beaten up at Giritale. Timely arrival of police patrols saved his life. Mr Johnpillai, who was in a critical condition, was rushed to hospital together with several others who had suffered at the hands of the goondas.

That night police sources reported that after an armed party had cleared the crowd out of the railway station things were reasonably quiet. But the Railway Department took the precaution of cancelling, immediately, all trains which were scheduled to run between Batticaloa and Colombo.

Polonnaruwa Aflame

Polonnaruwa town was buzzing with people and carefully calculated rumours. They huddled en masse in the streets, exchanging stories of a threatened Tamil invasion from Trincomalee and from Batticaloa. Labourers from the Land Development Department, the Irrigation Department and from the Government farms who made up the Sinhala Hamudawa were constantly on the rampage, raping, looting and beating up Tamil labourers and public officers. The rumours that a Tamil army was marching to destroy Polonnaruwa gave the roughnecks a heroic stature. More veerayas (heroes) joined in to share the glory of saving the ancient Sinhalese capital from the Tamil hordes as their ancestors had done a thousand years before them.

A notable feature of these activities was that the Sinhalese colonists who had settled in the area for some years, and therefore had some stake in general orderliness, took no part in the rioting. The vast majority of the Hamudawa were imported Government labourers and the rest were recently arrived squatters who had no roots yet in the area.

Many of these labourers were marked 'present' on the check-rolls while they were busy marauding in the town area. It would have taken a brave supervising officer to refuse to mark their attendance. Some of these men, in fact, had their attendance marked simultaneously in two places-on the check roll at their work places and on the register of the remand jail after they were arrested.

There was evidence of method

There was some evidence of method in all this madness-it was crudely but effectively planned. The rioters had arranged signals-one peal of a temple bell to signify police, two to signify army and so on. They also had a simple system of hand signals to give their associates in the distance such information as which way a police patrol went. The element of planning was even more evident in the agent provocateur system which was widely used. Many thugs-some of them well-known criminals -had shaved their heads and assumed the yellow robes was bhikku. 

A taxi driver known to the police as a bad hat of a stopped on the road. He had a shaven head. Under the cushions of the seat they found two soiled yellow robes. Police reports record that two 'monks' arrested for looting and arson were car-drivers by 'occupation'. These phoney priests went about whipping up race-hatred, spreading false stories and taking part in the lucrative side of this game-robbery and looting. 

Whenever the police went after a looter with a shaven head he disappeared into a house and came back in the invulnerable robes of a monk. Monks were ordained in Polonnaruwa in those few days faster than ever before in the history of Upasampada, the Buddhist ordination ceremony. They paid no attention to the sacrilege they were committing in the sacred robes that the Buddha Himself had worn. This menace became so bad that the police took a decision to arrest every man with a shaven head. They later discovered that a few innocent Muslims had fallen into their net.

All this went on while Polonnaruwa had no government nor even a Government Agent of its own. The Government Agent of Anuradhapura, Deryck Aluwihare, had been ordered to look after both provinces in perhaps the toughest assignment ever given to a young Civil Servant. With the assistance of a few civil administration officers, a small police force under A.S.P. Bertram Weerasinghe and a small army unit of fifty men (and with no orders yet from Colombo), he was flying between Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, trying to maintain order. He had asked for reinforcements from Colombo but the Government seemed reluctant to take the situation in the North Central Province seriously.

Community life in Polonnaruwa was completely disorganized. The bazaar was seething with frenzied hatred. The first task of the administration, or what there was of it, was to provide a refuge for the Tamils whose lives were in danger- it was quite impossible to protect isolated people with the meagre means at their disposal. The Government Agent organized a refugee camp hard by the Kachcheri. Refugees streaming into the camp soon disorganized the rudimentary sanitary arrangements which had been provided.

Before very long the goondas turned their spite against the Tamil officials in the Government offices. Government Agent Aluwihare then set up a refugee camp for them in an isolated Irrigation Department bungalow, stationing five policemen there for their protection. The people, the Government Agent and the refugees knew deep within themselves how vulnerable they were. How could five policemen defend this house against hundreds of hoodlums demented by blood lust?

The situation of the refugees became worse when the merchants, under threat of reprisals from the goondas, refused point blank to sell foodstuffs to the officials looking after the refugees.

A quick decision was taken. Army personnel commandeered whatever provisions were needed under the Government Agent's receipt. 

The thugs displayed a temerity which was quite unprecedented. They had complete assurance that the police would never dare to open fire. The Apey Aanduwa (The government is ours) bug had got deep into their veins. As the situation deteriorated, desperate measures were needed. The ringleaders of the racial revolt and people suspected of using their position and influence to stir up trouble were arrested. Among them were half a dozen chairmen of village committees and a few other parish pump politicians. The goondas had developed a slick technique of throwing dynamite. They carried it in the breast pockets of their shirts, with the fuse hanging out. As the 'enemy' approached they struck a match, lit the fuse, pulled out the stick of dynamite and flung it at point-blank range.

Murder stalked the streets in broad daylight

On May 24 and 25 murder stalked the streets in broad daylight. Fleeing Tamils, and Sinhalese who were suspected of having given them sanctuary, had their brains strewn about. A deaf mute scavenging labourer was assaulted to death in the Hingurakgoda area-just to see what had made him tick. The goondas burnt two men alive, one at Hingurakgoda, and the other at Minneriya.

On the night of May 25, one of the most heinous crimes in the history of Ceylon was carried out. Almost simultaneously, on the Government farms at Polonnaruwa and Hingurakgoda, the thugs struck remorselessly. The Tamil labourers in the Polonnaruwa sugar-cane plantation fled when they saw the enemy approaching and hid in the sugar-cane bushes. The goondas wasted no time. They set the sugar cane alight and flushed out the Tamils. As they came out screaming, men, women and children were cut down with home-made swords, grass-cutting knives and katties, or pulped under heavy clubs. 

At the Government farm at Hingurakgoda, too, the Tamils were slaughtered that night. One woman in sheer terror embraced her two children and jumped into a well. The rioters were enjoying themselves thoroughly. They ripped open the belly of a woman eight months pregnant, and left her to bleed to death. First estimates of the mass murders on that night were frightening: 150-200 was a quick guess on the basis of forty families on an average of four each. This estimate was later pruned down to around seventy, on the basis of bodies recovered and the possibility that many Tamils had got away in time.

The hoodlums were now motorized. They roamed the district in trucks, smashing up kiosks and houses and killing any Tamils who got in their way.

On the morning of May 26, the expected Emergency had not yet been proclaimed. The situation in Polonnaruwa seemed beyond hope. Government Agent Aluwihare, ASP. Weerasinghe and their colleagues had not had a wink of sleep or rest for four days. They had been promised army reinforcements and Bren guns but there were no signs of their coming.

The refugee camps were now overcrowded. 

"On May 22nd, five hundred thugs and hooligans invaded the Polonnaruwa station, and smashed up the windows of the Batticaloa train in their frantic search for Convention-bound Tamils." The Observer reported this incident in more detail on May 24th:

'On Thursday night, passengers were intimidated into getting off at Welikande as news had reached them that a gang of men were on the way to prevent them from making the trip as they felt that passengers must be prevented from getting to Vavuniya for the Federal Party Convention.'

'A gang of men, alleged to have numbered nearly 500, got on the train at this station, smashed-windows, went from carriage to carriage looking for passengers, damaging railway equipment as they did so.'

On the night of the 23rd at 9.15 pm the Batticaloa Colombo train was derailed at the '215th mile post on the Batticaloa -Eravur line… Hoodlums, on the watch for Vavuniya bound passengers, attacked the wrecked train.

At 6.00 pm on May 24 a crowd -nearly a thousand strong - again invaded the premises of the Polonnaruwa railway station…

Labourers from the Land Development Department, the Irrigation Department and from the Government farms who made up the Sinhala Hamudawa (armed thugs) were constantly on the rampage, raping, looting and beating up Tamil labourers and public officers. The rumour that a Tamil army was marching to destroy Polonaruwa gave the roughnecks a heroic stature. More veerayas (heroes) joined in to share the glory of saving the ancient Sinhalese capital from the Tamil hordes as their ancestors had done a thousand years before them. The vast majority of the Hamudawa were imported Government labourers and the rest were recently arrived squatters who had no roots yet in the area.

Prime Minister Bandaranaike fuels the murders

"If there had been any chance whatever at this stage of keeping Sinhalese tempers under control it vanished completely following the Prime Minister's broadcast call to the nation of May 26…

By a strangely inexplicable perversion of logic, Mr Bandaranaike tried to explain away a situation by substituting the effect for the cause. The relevant portion of the speech was:

"An unfortunate situation has arisen resulting in communal tension. Certain incidents in, the. Batticaloa District where some people lost their lives, including Mr D.A. Seneviratne, a former Mayor of Nuwara Eliya, have resulted in various acts of violence and lawlessness in other areas-for example Polonnaruwa, Dambulla, Galawela, Kuliyapitiya and even Colombo."

"The killing of Seneviratne on May 25 was thus officially declared to be the cause of the uprising, although the communal riots had begun on May 22 with the attack on the Polonnaruwa Station and the wrecking of the Batticalos-Colombo trail and several other minor incidents.

"No explanation was offered by the Prime Minister for singling out (the Sinhala sounding) Seneviratne's name for particular mention from the scores of people who had lost their lives during those critical days."

"…Colombo was on fire. The goondas burnt fifteen shops in the Pettah and a row of kiosks in Mariakaday. Looting on a massive scale took place in Pettah, Maradana, Wellawatte Ratmalana, Kurunegala, Panadura, Kalutara, Badulla, Galle, Matara and Weligama.

"The cry everywhere in the Sinhalese districts was 'avenge the murder of Seneviratne’. Even the many Sinhalese who had been appalled by the goonda attacks on Tamils and Tamil owned kiosks, now began to feel that the Tamils had put themselves beyond the pale. Across the country, this new mood of deep-seated racism surged. The Prime Minister's peace call to the nation had turned into a war cry.

Hindu Priest burnt alive

"Another vicious story, fabricated by a ghoul with a keen sense of melodrama, careered through the country leaving a trail of arson and murder after it. A female teacher from Panadura, the story went, who was teaching in a school in the Batticaloa District, had been set upon by a gang of Tamil thugs. They had cut off her breasts and killed her. Her body was being brought home to Panadura for cremation."

On the morning of May 27, the Panadura townsfolk whispered it around that the mutliated body had been brought home. In the bazaar there was sudden pandemonium. The goondas intensified their depredations. They ransacked Tamil-owned shops and beat up shopkeepers and passersby.

A gang of goondas rushed into the Hindu temple, and attempted to set fire to it. In their frenzy they were clumsy and failed to get the fire going. But they had a more interesting idea. They pulled an officiating priest out of the Kovil and burnt him into a cinder.

The story of of the mutilation and murder of a Panadura teacher gained such currency that the Ministry of Education despatched a senior Inspector of Schools to investigate. His report: there was not an iota of truth in the story. He also discovered when he checked through the records, that there was no female teacher from Panadura on the staff of any school in the Batticaloa district.

Hundreds of acts of arson, rape, pillage, murder

"As panic spread, doors were closed in Sinhalese as well as Tamil homes. The Tamils closed their doors to escape murder, rape and pillage. The Sinhalese closed their doors to prevent Tamils running into their houses for shelter…

"Yet another fiendish rumour had been circulated to inflame the Sinhalese. This was the story of the 'Tar Baby'. In Batticaloa, it appeared, a Sinhala baby had been snatched from its mother's arms and immersed in a barrel of boiling tar. The atrocities increased with alarming rapidity.

"Among the hundreds of acts of arson, rape, pillage, murder and plain barbarity some incidents may be recorded as examples of the kind of thuggery at work."

"In the Colombo area the number of atrocities swiftly piled up. The atmosphere was thick with hate and fear. The thugs ran amok burning houses and shops, beating-up pedestrians, holding-up vehicles and terrorizing the entire city and the suburbs."

"Another Tamil officer, working in the same Government department was unfortunate. The thugs stormed into his house and assaulted, his wife and grown-up daughter in the presence of his little child. His mind cracked under the shock. In the French liner Laos which took the family away to safety in Jaffna he insisted on reciting large chunks of the Bhagavad Gita to the captain of the ship. All his formal education - he is a Cambridge scholar- had proved useless to him in the face of disaster. His broken mind reached out for the only solace a man has when his own ingenuity and ability have proved futile."

"At Wellawatte junction, near the plantain kiosk, a pregnant woman and her husband were set upon. They clubbed him and left him an the pavement, then they kicked, the woman repeatedly as she hurried along at a grotesque sprint, carrying her swollen belly."

Gangs of hoodlums worked according to a predetermined pattern

"While the Prime Minister was telling the citizens' delegation that it was an 'exaggeration to call the situation an emergency' in every village from Kalawewa to Nalanda, people's houses were in flames.

"When an eye witness reached Dambulla it was still intact. In a few minutes a factory-new Ceylon Transport Board "Special' arrived, loaded with 'passengers'. They disembarked and swiftly set about their business: in ten minutes, six houses were blazing. And hell spread through the bazaar."

"The rioters continued their battle in the streets. Fresh fires broke out in Wellawatte, Maradana and Rettah. Looting continued apace.

"Gangs of hoodlums in the Ratmalana area appeared to be working according to a predetermined pattern. Thugs disguised as policemen went round Tamil houses warning the residents that the police could no longer guarantee their safety and advising them to take refuge in the police station. Nearly 10,000 people left their homes in terror.

Then the 'policemen' returned, some now in mufti, others still in uniform, to ransack the empty houses. When they had left the scene, hard on their heels came the 'firing squads'. They came in vehicles in twos and threes. A bottle of petrol was flung into the house. A stick of dynamite was dispatched after it and another house was burning. Others less efficiently equipped, zealously collected whatever furniture was, left behind and used it as firewood to get the flames going.

Governor General says attacks carefully planned

..."News trickled out from Queens House that the Governor General had announced, off the record at the press conference, that the riots had not been spontaneous. What he said was: 'Gentlemen, if any of you have an idea that this was a spontaneous outburst of communalism, you can disabuse your minds of it. This the work of a master mind who has been at the back of people who have planned this carefully and knew exactly what they were doing. It was a time bomb set about two years ago which has now exploded.'...

What are we left with (in 1958)? A nation in ruins, some grim lessons which we cannot afford to forget and a momentous question: Have the Sinhalese and Tamils reached the parting of ways?"


Excerpts from the The Fall and Rise of the Tamil Nation by V.Navaratnam [see also Book Note]

"...The Convention at Vavuniya concluded with the Federal Party girding up its loins for a long-drawn struggle. That struggle perforce was to be carried on in the Tamil country. The experience of the Galle Face Green and the City of Colombo was still fresh in the mind, and served as a warning that however much non-violent that Party may try to keep its campaign the Singhalese side had no respect or appreciation for any such restraint. But notwithstanding all the peaceful intentions of the Party, the rabidly nationalist forces in the SLFP Government took to pre-emptive mob action immediately after the Vavuniya Convention ended.

It may be well to keep in mind again that the victory of S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike in 1956 marked the beginning of a new era in the political history of the country. It is the era of the common man….The new era also saw the emergence of a new instrument of state power. Ultra nationalist Members of Parliament and political leaders among the Singhalese took to organizing mobs into private hoodlum armies of their own. For all intents and purposes they have virtually become a recognized institution for well over a quarter of a century since 1956. They were and are being used to crush the Tamils, and they have been used to destroy the trade union movement.

If the non-violent civil disobedience campaign contemplated by the Trincomalee Resolution was rendered unnecessary by the signing of the B-C Pact in 1957, the Vavuniya Resolution to go ahead with the campaign in 1958 was thwarted by the Government unleashing mob violence and by invoking the Public Security Act to proscribe the Federal Party and place its leaders under preventive detention. It looked as though the intervening period of some ten months had been utilized to mobilize the hoodlum army and have them ready for action.

On the day following the Vavuniya Convention the goon squads of the Singhalese hoodlum army took over the task of dealing with the Tamils. They went on a rampage of senseless destruction and wanton brutality. Starting first with the Pettah in Colombo, where most of the Tamil business houses and shops were concentrated, they attacked, smashed, looted, applied the torch and destroyed shops, houses, buildings and vehicles. They beat up and thrashed every Tamil they could lay their hands on. By nightfall the mob violence spread out to every corner of the City of Colombo and its suburbs.

The next day I noticed that the local thugs had taken over the situation and kept my house under observation, possibly for loot. With the help of a Singhalese lawyer friend of mine I escaped with the family to take shelter in a relative's home on the other side of the Supreme Court Building abandoning my wrecked house. The relative's house was in the Muslim quarter of Hulftsdorp and was therefore relatively safer.

Dr. E. M. V Naganathan came to visit me in the evening with Balasubramaniam, a young officer in Government service with strong Federal Party sympathy. He insisted on going to my wrecked house to retrieve some essential articles without heeding my -protests. An hour later he returned with his clothes drenched in blood that was streaming from head injuries. His car was smashed. A few hoodlums had attacked with burning bricks soaked in petrol. He and Balasubramaniam had given chase to the ruffians with hockey sticks in their hands, but the ruffians disappeared into the maze of the District Court Buildings.

That night a mob of about 40 or 50 thugs attacked my residence at Hulftsdorp in Colombo although it adjoined the Ministry of Justice and Supreme Court Buildings and entrance had to be gained through the Court gates. They hurled at least 25 Molotov's cocktails (petrol bombs) calling out my name with every throw. The front part of the house was smashed, and the furniture, doors and frames caught fire and burned. My wife and I and a house- aid by the name of Muthusamya brave man of the Thevar clan of Tamils, were the only adults in the house. We gathered our little children, all 14 to 1 1/2 years of age, and telling them to run wherever they could if anything happened to us, we ourselves took our position by the door leading into the living room ready to face the worst. The mob, however, made no attempt to enter the house but passed on when their ammunition was exhausted.

I learned later from a mutual friend that the attack on my house was planned and organized by a Member of Parliament at a Buddhist Temple in Maradana. I guess he had instructed his men not to cause bodily harm to the inmates while attacking my house. This friend, himself a Singhalese Buddhist of the finest quality and refinement, had made several attempts to warn me in advance but was unable to contact me owing to my absence in Vavuniya.

I rushed Dr. Naganathan to Dr. Sulaiman's Private Hospital at Grandpass and had him attended to. In that Hospital I saw sights which God forbid any man to see. Victims of Singhalese mob violence were writhing in agony, not just fighting to retain life. They bore eloquent testimony to the type of horrible brutality and torture which some human beings could inflict on their fellow human beings. Who can help developing a,bitterness of feeling against those who could inflict all this suffering for no reason except that the victims were Tamils?

In three days the mob violence against the Tamils engulfed all parts of the country and was not abated by any official action. It was not until the Prime Minister was prevailed upon by the Governor General Sir Oliver Goonetilleke, whom some prominent Tamil citizens of Colombo had interviewed, that action was taken.

The Prime Minister S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike then invoked the Public Security Act and declared a State of Emergency under which the Army and Naval Forces were called out to restore law and order. An island-wide curfew was clamped down, and eventually the situation was brought under control by the firm and disciplined action of the then security forces. By which time...more than 20,000 Tamils had become homeless refugees - men, women, children and babes in arms, crowding in two refugee camps in the City of Colombo. Their lives were in such constant danger from the mobs that they were evacuated by ships to their homeland in Trincomalee and Jaffna to save their lives.

A retired senior Police officer, who came to visit some of us later in our detention camp, tearfully described some of the things he saw on one of the refugee ships. In one place on the open deck he saw a father trying to force a small piece of dry bread down the throat of a month-old baby for want of any other nourishment. It was a piece from a half-loaf which the father had managed to save in camp for more than a week. Our visitor was so carried away by his anger against the perpetrators of the violence which caused so much misery that he said things which need not be repeated in print. But these are the feelings which gave rise to the Tamil freedom fighters one generation later.

Curiously, under the peculiar brand of democracy practised in Ceylon the perpetrators of the violence, those who organized and incited the mobs, continued to be beyond the reach of the long arm of the law, but the heavy hand of repression fell on the representatives of the victims...

Under the Emergency Power which the Government armed itself with, the Federal Party was proscribed, publication of the Sutantiran newspaper was banned, and Party Headquarters and the Sutantiran Press and Office closed and sealed, and the Party leaders were all placed under arrest. The Members of Parliament belonging to the Party were arrested when they were on their way home after leaving Parliament. Chelvanayakam, Naganathan and V. A. Kandiah, whose residences were in Colombo, were placed under house arrest in their own homes. Police guards were posted at their houses to guard the places round the clock. The leaders who resided in Mannar, Jaffna, Trincomalee and Batticaloa were similarly placed under house arrest and their homes guarded by the Police.

The Members of Parliament who were arrested on the road on their way from Parliament and whose normal residences were not in Colombo, and I whose residence in Colombo had been wrecked and made uninhabitable, were all held in a special detention camp under heavy Police and military guard. A Government bungalow at Stanmore Crescent off Bullers Road in Colombo usually reserved as a residence for a Supreme Court Judge was converted into a Detention Camp for the seven of us, namely, C. Vanniasingham (M. P, for Kopay), N. R. Rajavarothiam (M. P. for Trincomalee), V. N. Navaratnam (M. P for Chavakachcheri), C. Rajadurai (First M. P. for Batticaloa), A. Amirthalingam (M. P. for Vaddukoddai), G. Nalliah (Senator) and me.... The house arrest and detention lasted for three months, June, July and August, 1958. During that time the voice of the Federal Party was not heard in Parliament."

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