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38th anniversary of Black July marked across Tamil homeland

Demonstration were carried out across the North-East to mark the 38th anniversary of Black July, paying tribute to the thousands of Tamil lives lost during the state-sponsored anti-Tamil pogroms of 1983.   

At the time of the anti-Tamil pogroms, Sinhala mobs armed with electoral rolls targeted Tamil homes and businesses, looting and ransacking their property. Driven from their homes, particularly in Colombo, over 3,000 Tamils were massacred, prompting the exodus of thousands more to the North-East.

Despite Sri Lankan security forces banning demonstrations in some places, protests were carried out in multiple districts including Jaffna, Amparai, Vavuniya and Mannar. Last night, posters that were put up across Jaffna by the Tamil National Cultural Council to remember Black July, were torn down by Sri Lankan security forces.

Jaffna

The demonstration in Jaffna was organised by the Tamil National People's Front (TNPF), which commemorated the victims of the massacre and reiterated ongoing calls for an international investigation into the numerous episodes of violence against Tamils in the North-East and across the island.  

Protestors held banners and chanted “Black July… Tamil genocide day!”, “get out, get out… military get out” and “release the political prisoners!”.

The protesters also paid tribute to the 53 prisoners who were slaughtered by Sinhala inmates at Welikada prison whilst prison guards watched on.   

On the 25th July 1983 Sellarasa “Kuttimani” Yogachandiran, leader of the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO) and Ganeshanathan Jeganathan, a political writer, had their eyes gouged out in mockery before being killed by Sinhalese inmates at the high security Welikada prison in Colombo. A total of 37 Tamil prisoners were murdered the same day, and 18 more were killed two days later.

Demonstrators also called on the Sri Lankan government to provide information to the families of the disappeared, regarding their relatives who were forcibly disappeared by the state's security forces and paramilitary forces.

Jaffna Municipal Council also marked the 38th anniversary of Black July, with Mayor of Jaffna, Visvalingam Manivannan leading the commemoration. Members lit candles and laid flowers in a tribute to the victims of the brutal violence.

Amparai

A protest organised by the TNPF was carried out in Kalmunai, Amparai today.

The protest was led by TNPF MP and General Secretary, Selvarajah Kajendran, who was joined by the TNPF’s Amparai district co-ordinator, Thushanan. Locals who joined the protests also held banners with the TNPF members urging justice for the Black July anti-Tamil pogroms, enforced disappearances and to allow self-determination for Tamils.

Parliamentarian Kajendran insisted that the international community should help deliver justice for the ongoing repression and massacre of the Tamil people on the island.

Vavuniya

A demonstration was organised by the TNPF in front of the Vavuniya Old Bus Stand. Protestors carried banners and chanted slogans such as “We will not forget… we will not forgive. We need justice for the genocide”, “Where are our relatives?” and “July pogroms… Tamil genocide” in memory of the massacred 53 political prisoners at Welikada prison and the civilians massacred at the time.

The protest was attended by TNPF MP and leader Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, lawyer Kandeepan Thangarajah, the relatives of the disappeared in Vavuniya and other locals.  

Ponnambalam stated, “The 1983 pogroms was an occasion where the oppression of Tamils peaked. Tamils experienced the destruction of the Tamil nation and genocide of Tamils since 1948. It was not just in 2009, or 1983. This genocide against Tamils has been ongoing and it is vital that when an international investigation is undertaken, that crimes of July 1983 are just one facet and that the crimes [from 1948] are documented.” The parliamentarian stressed that the Black July events were most notably carried out with the aid of the government at the time of the anti-Tamil pogroms.

Mannar

A protest was held today to mark Black July at 9:30am in front of the Mannar District Secretariat. Demonstrators tied their mouths with a black piece of cloth and listed 15 demands. They carried banners and carried out a silent protest.

Some of the demands set out by the protestors included, “Do not increase fuel prices and essential commodities’ prices”, “Deliver immediate justice to the relatives of enforced disappearances”, “Do not suppress democratic protests and falsely prosecute people under the guide of COVID-19”, “Repeal the Kotelawala Defence University Bill”, “Release all political prisoners”, “Stop media repression”, “Repeal the PTA” and “Stop land grabs in the North”.

Read more in our feature: Black July - 38 years since the pogrom

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