May Is Another Black July for Eelam Tamils

Tamils throughout the world, remember the victims of Black July ’83.

Twenty-six years ago, the state-sponsored pogrom against Tamils in Sri Lanka resulted in the deaths of 3000 people, and property damages of over $300 million U.S.

The days between July 24 and July 30, 1983, were tragic, and unforgettable, for the Tamils. The May 2009 war, which killed nearly 40,000 Tamil civilians, was record high, beating the July ‘83 holocaust. For the Sri Lankan government, it is victory, but for Tamils, it is the month to reflect and remember. Now May is, to Tamils, like February is to Black people around the world. Tamils the world over observe this occasion with rallies, vigils, and prayers.

Tamils around the world have been organizing peaceful rallies, and other events, to reflect and remember the massacred Tamils. The Tamils were killed by the Sri Lankan armed forces, with no mercy whatsoever, even when they were given promise that they would not be killed if they sought refuge in the designated zone which was recognized as ‘safety zone’.

Within five months, Tamils were killed day and night, up until May 19th, of 2009. After the Sri Lankan president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, came to power in 2005, he said he would crush the Tamil Tigers (LTTE), and pledged that he would set out the ‘Mahinda Chinthana,’ which would outline how his government would rule the country. After he came to power, he became wild, and ordered his armed forces to eliminate the LTTE in the eastern part of the island.

East remains dangerous for people to live

Mahinda’s armed forces went on a rampage in the East in 2006 with the guise of fighting the LTTE in order to gain full control of the sluice gates of the reservoir in Mavilaru. The use of ‘Operation Watershed’ to gain the control of the sluice gates of the reservoir, was successful, after the LTTE fighters denounced the war saying that they lifted the ban for access to the reservoir.

The Mahinda administration even annulled the cease fire agreement signed by the former Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, and the LTTE leader, V. Pirapaharan, which came into effect in 2002. The Sri Lankan armed forces even took the lives of employees of INGOs (International Non-Governmental Organizations), as well as local employees of NGOs, academics, businessmen, journalists, etc.

The government took decisive action against the foreign agencies, which were working in the Tamil areas, and ordered them to vacate. The government opened up a confrontation with the aid of agencies and media outlets. But the LTTE leadership kept saying that they were sticking to the 2002 ceasefire agreement. They even announced that the Sri Lankan government was the one which unilaterally breached the agreement, but the LTTE was respecting it.

The LTTE even took control of Sampur, in the Trincomalee district, but after mounting pressure from the international community, the LTTE had to return to their original barracks, after bringing the areas under their full control. When the Sri Lankan armed forces were launching massive military operations, the LTTE was maintaining silence and retreating from the Sri Lankan armed forces.

The Tamils around the world were hoping that the LTTE leadership was tactically withdrawing for a day to come. But, the eastern military operation, instigated by the Sri Lankan armed forces, drove over 300,000 people to seek refuge. Many of them are still alive, under pathetic conditions, even after the government announced that they brought the eastern province from the LTTE.

Nearly four years have passed after capturing the East, but the economic and security situations remain a grave concern. Unidentified men, as usual, kidnap people and they are taken to secret locations. Women are still facing difficulties, but the reports of these abuses have been kept silent. The eastern province has been given control of the pro-government paramilitary, the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP).

The Sinhala colonization is on the rise in the aftermath of the so-called liberation of the East from the LTTE. This has predominantly taken place after chasing the inhabitants off the land to refugee camps, making them displaced people who wander around without the right to own their own lands. Another event that is taking place is that the government is sponsoring to build Buddhist temples in the liberated areas. Other than that, there are no prospects for the people who inhabited the land.

Eastern victory led to Northern military overtures

Upon completion of the so-called liberation of the Eastern military operation, the Mahinda administration immediately turned their guns toward capturing the North, especially the Vanni, which was the headquarters of the LTTE. There, the LTTE was having a de facto government with police, the judicial system, custom offices, etc., similar to a parallel government, resembling the way Colombo was ruling the rest of the island.

Tamils were hoping that the Vanni would be the graveyard for the advancing Sinhala armed forces. But the LTTE was still maintaining the policy of retreating, except against defensive attacks. The LTTE never launched offensive attacks, even though they did have the military prowess to launch such military offences against the advanced armed forces. This shocked the Tamils. One by one, the Sri Lankan armed forces captured the areas of Vanni.

Within the five months of military offensives, especially from January 2009, the Sri Lankan armed forces gained control of over 10,000 square kilometres of landmass of the North. Over 350,000 Tamils, who were the residents in the control of the LTTE, had no choice but to go with the flow. They were butchered like animals being hunted for meat, despite the continuous call from the international community, to put a halt to the fighting, in order to secure the release of the civilians.

The Sri Lankan government even offered to declare a ‘safe zone’ and asked the people to move in to the region, but, the government did not respect it, saying that they had to launch shelling and aerial bombardment since the LTTE fighters too sought refuge in the area, in the cover of civilians. Upon considering the massive sufferings of civilians, the LTTE leadership formally announced that they silenced their guns to safeguard the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

Even after the LTTE silenced their guns, the Sri Lankan armed forces crushed to death thousands of Tamils, as well as LTTE fighters, who meant to surrender to the Sri Lankan armed forces with white flags. Even the LTTE’s senior political leaders were shot to death at gunpoint, after they were given promise that they could surrender with a white flag.

The military operation came to a complete stop by May 19, 2009. On this day, the Sri Lankan armed forces announced that they found the dead body of the LTTE leader, Pirapaharan from the Nanthikadal lagoon in Mullaitheevu. With the end of this military operation, the Mahinda administration announced a great victory and said they defeated the LTTE, which was a calling on a military outfit in the island with conventional military power with naval, air, and land forces, as well as the ferocious ‘Black Tigers’ who sacrificed their lives for the cause of Tamil Eelam by detonating bombs in their bodies.

Victory for Sinhalese and Grief for the Tamils

In the final phase of Eelam War IV, the Sri Lankan government announced victory, but the war wounded the Tamils, leaving 40,000 of their beloved ones dead. Mahinda won both presidential and parliamentary elections for the second consecutive term. The Mahinda administration, so far, has not offered a political solution to the Tamils’ grievances. Rather, the government is making anti-Tamil activates, such as deploying Sinhala families, to occupy the residences and properties belonging to the Tamils in the North as how they do it in the East. They are building Buddhist shrines, establishing military camps, and deploying more troops in the Tamil areas. All these are taking place in the time the government is celebrating the victory over the LTTE.

As their future becomes futile, Tamils feel that they are insecure in their traditional homeland. Anti-Tamil cultural events are on the rise in the Tamil homeland. Young people have been given drugs in order to ruin their future, and many other anti-social events have taken place with the support of the Sri Lankan armed forces. The Tamil paramilitaries, which are supporting the government, help these anti-social activities. Kidnappings, raping, and killings are back to normal in the Tamil areas. In the recent past that was common during the war time. This is the ground reality, in the Tamil areas, and Tamils are still facing a security threat in Colombo and other Sinhala areas.

During this grave environment, the Mahinda administration is planning widespread celebrations to mark the first anniversary of the end of the Eelam War IV. The government announced a week of celebrations to honour soldiers, starting May 12, including a victory parade in Colombo, the capital, on May 20. The government said that during war heroes’ week the army also planned to hold religious ceremonies and raise funds to help disabled soldiers.

In the meantime, Tamils, who fell victims to the State-sponsored terrorism, have already started peaceful rallies and prayers to reflect and remember the people who died. Tamils around the world have started rallies and other forms of gatherings from May 1st. Many Tamil organizations are announcing and holding week-long rallies, vigils, and prayers for the dead people, and they will continue until May 19th.

Tamils who live around the world, including Australia, Great Britain, Canada, Germany, France, India, Norway and the U.S., are wearing black clothes to mourn the people killed by the Sri Lankan army, as a remembrance. They are also seen wearing red ribbons to symbolize the innocent blood spilled in the war crimes against Tamil people.

The protesting Tamils urge that the international community should not maintain silence. As the first anniversary of the war comes to an end, Tamils around the world are united in their grief for those innocents who became victims of war crimes, and they urge the international community not to forget the war crimes committed by Sri Lanka, and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The Tamil National Alliance, which is the largest Tamil political party, urged the Tamil people to mourn and hold silent prayers, on May 17, to mark what it called a day of “catastrophe.” The TNA said: “During the height of the war several thousand Tamil people were killed and hundreds of thousand others suffered heavy losses and were forced to flee their homes…This catastrophe is one of the worst in world history.”

Tamils were describing the July ‘83 holocaust as the worst they had seen in their history, but the Tamils came up with no words to describe the war of 2009, and tens of thousands of people were butchered all alone in the month of May, 2009, which broke the previous record catastrophe of July ’83. Sri Lanka is celebrating the death of Tamils, with a large Sinhala crowd, as a military victory, but for Tamils it is the month to reflect and remember. This is the month for them to unite and foster their support in obtaining their freedom. It is the time to make a vow to put pressure upon the international community to investigate the genocide of the war, conducted by Sri Lanka, and to punish the perpetrators, in the same way Slobodan Milosevic was punished by the International Court of Justice.

Satheesan Kumaaran writes on Sri Lanka and be reached at: Read other articles by Satheesan.