Black July 1983 PEACE: Ora et Labora

28 July 2018 12:00 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The day our greatest feat of communal hatred was shamefully exhibited to the whole wide world

 

 

The spirit of oppression and counter defiance continues to remain in a subtle way in the minds of people to date
  

We remembered 70 years of our Independence this year. Our ethnic struggles spanned 60 years since 1958 and 35 years since 1983.  

 

Thirty-five years ago on Friday, July 27, 1983, a rumour spread like a wildfire through the city of Colombo, that the LTTE had infiltrated Colombo!  


There were chaos and utter panic in the city. Fear gripped the people, offices closed, transport ground to a halt. In some IDP complexes, crackers were lit, people came out of some IDP centres on to the streets, hoping to cheer the liberators!  


It was only a rumour! While there was panic on the part of the majority community, there was a spirit of jubilation among the common minority folk.  


There were no liberators and so they slunk back into the IDP centres. In the North, it was on this same day July 27, eight years earlier, that Jaffna Mayor Alfred Durayappah was assassinated on the steps of the Ponalai Vishnu Temple in 1975!


This spirit of oppression and counter defiance continues to remain in a subtle way in the minds of people to date.  


There is no great change in attitudes, in spite of all our religious asseverations, there is mistrust, suspicion, pride and unwillingness to reach out to one another.  


Today violence, robbery and murder are taking place even in places of religious worships.  


Is it because we have glorified some parts of our history and forgotten some good and noble qualities of our Kings? We all know of the battle of the Kings – Dutu Gemunu and Elara. Dutu Gemunu and Elara are slain.  


What do we know about the Elara Sohonna [Elara’s Tomb]? The royal funeral was King Dutu Gemunu’s greatest tribute to the fallen King!   


On the spot where his body had fallen he burnt it with the catafalque and there did he build a monument and ordain worship. And even to this day the Princes of Lanka when they draw near to this place, are wont to silence their music because of this worship [MW. XXV. 71 – 74. ]  


The Dakkhina Viharaya was thought to be the Elara Sohonna for a long time! Now, we do not know where it is!  


This may or may not be the place, what is important is the magnanimous gesture of the King Dutu Gemunu to honour the fallen King Elara – his enemy.  

 

On the spot where Elara’s body had fallen King Dutu Gemunu burnt it with the catafalque and there did he build a monument and ordain worship.

 


What an example for us to emulate today to ensure respect and dignity of all sons and daughters of Sri Lanka.  


In 1948 our forefathers united and strove for our Independence from colonial domination. Ceylon was now free to develop and impact our part of the world.  


The Colombo Plan an intergovernmental effort to enhance human resource development in the Asian nations was conceived in January 1950 and formally launched in July 1951 in Colombo.  


Present at these strategic meetings was Lee Kwan Yew the founding father of Singapore.  


He saw the blueprint for the development of his little nation! He dreamed a big dream and made his pluralistic citizenry realize the dream of “unity in diversity”!  


Did Singapore take away our birthright?  
With her struggles and Independence in 1965, that little dot in Asia has earned the status of a 1st World nation.  


Singapore - a little bigger than the City of Colombo, having four official languages is a multi-faith, multi-ethnic, a vibrant economy exuding a proud united Singaporean national spirit, an example to all nations!  


While other nations were experimenting with the legacy of the Colombo Plan agenda to build up their nations, we had divisive policies that led to the infamous 1958 Racial Riots [May 22-27]. We followed with the JVP Insurrection April to June 1971. There was our comeback to communal conflicts Aug 12 -20 1977.  

 

There is no great change in attitudes, in spite of all our religious asseverations, there is mistrust, suspicion, pride and unwillingness to reach out to one another. 

 


Following this was our greatest feat of communal hatred which was shamefully exhibited to the whole wide world from 24 to 30 July 1983 when many parts of our motherland were filled with fears, tears and smoke – Black July!  


If the noble teachings of our religions cannot speak, let the stones and statues speak.  


All who travel to Jaffna on the A 9 highway, have seen or should see the King Pandara Vanniyan statue in the Vavuniya Kacheri premises.  


He was one of the last warrior Northern Kings who prevented the colonial forces from entering the Vanni.  


This same King is revered highly by the Sinhala people as Vanni Bandara Deio whose name is used in incantations for blessings and protection. Can we not use these beliefs to enable adherents of diverse faiths to reach out to one another in comradeship as fellow citizens of a united Sri Lanka.  


Why have we not honoured real-life heroes like Ven. Ananda Himi of Madukanda, who has donated blood 50 times for largely Tamil people? What about the 300 seamen from the Poonewa Camp who responded when the Vavuniya Hospital was filled with over 3,000 injured evacuees from the Vanni and there were no blood donors to help in such a humanitarian crisis to save lives at the end of the war in 2009.  


What about the unknown elderly couple who led a former Defence Minister and party through the jungles to safety in Vavuniya, after their chopper crashed in the Vanni area? What un-applauded sacrifice, courage and service!  


Recently, a Whatsapp clip of an ITN Over The Shoulder programme featured Mr Dharmasiri Bandaranayake.  


Bandaranayake’s strong and emotional condemnation of the burning of the Jaffna Public Library evoked many painful memories in one’s mind.  


He specifically mentioned the untimely demise of the late Rev. Dr H.S. David. This illustrious priest scholar’s heart could not cope with the senseless, horrendous act, where his lifetime labour of love was burning under the night skies of Jaffna.  

 

Jaffna Public Library


He died of a heart attack with a phone in hand!  
It was one of Jaffna’s darkest nights [1 June 1981] and a permanent indelible black spot in Sri Lanka’s history! How can this happen? Why has it happened?


Going back to the Jaffna Library burning, let us take a mental journey to the Christu Seva Ashram, Chunnakam.  


Here another Tamil Christian leader Sevak Sam Annan quietly and secretly started collecting debris from the burnt library and piling it inside the Ashram premises! This happened sometime during the IPKF occupation of Jaffna.  


It was also at this time that ola-leaf manuscripts, ancient jars, pottery and other artefacts exposed to the elements near the telecom buildings were being salvaged by the IPKF and taken for safekeeping to India!  


Later Sam Annan succeeded in erecting a Calvary Hill of Forgiveness near the entrance of the Ashram!  


This saintly man of God turned the piles of rubble into a serene hill of contemplation.  


What should we do to those who seek to destroy us and all that is ours? We need to forgive. Father forgive them for they know not what they do.  


As a Christian, he was able to relate and direct the hopeless, helpless situation to Jesus Christ his and our Suffering Servant Lord!  


Today this silent sentinel of peace and reconciliation stands as “Jaffna’s grieving heart”!  


It is a transformed micro representation of the debris of the old Library!  


So, the original bleeding heart of the Library is mysteriously enshrined in the Ashram! There it stands hidden from the gaze of many and unknown to many of our citizens.  


It is only God’s grace and love that can help us and our nation to overcome evil! So as Christians we also pray and actively work, worship and many times walk to promote the cause of peace and reconciliation in our land!  


We remembered 70 years of our Independence this year. Our ethnic struggles spanned 60 years since 1958 and 35 years since 1983.  


As we are in the Black July Week and the Black Friday, July 27, 1983, what can we do to bring about a difference?  


Is there something you need to do personally? The time has come for all of us to walk our talk on behalf of our motherland or it may be too late for change! Ora et Labora!  

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