Forty years after Black July, remembering not allowed in Colombo
by Melani Manel Perera

Nationalists and police attack rally held to promote national unity and commemorate deadly anti-Tamil massacres in 1983.

Colombo (Asia News) – Yesterday, police broke up a rally in Colombo marking the 40th anniversary of Black July when ethnic Tamils were the victims of mass violence, with hundreds of deaths, following an ambush against Sri Lanka’s military that left 13 soldiers dead.

The memorial event was organised by the North-South Brotherhood and the Socialist Youth Union, centred on the theme “Let us not allow division, and fly together”, but instead protesters who claimed to be from a racist organisation, the Sihala Ravaya, attacked it near Colombo’s Borella cemetery.

In Purahala, north-east of the capital, police in riot gear also attacked protesters, sparking complaints from rally organisers who said that the security forces were undermining national unity and preventing people from expressing their right to their opinion.

For organisers, the rally was simply meant to remember the people killed in 1983 in the North and the South by lighting lamps, but another group, the Sihala Urumaya blamed the organisers. For the latter, events such as this, “which take money from non-governmental organisations, ought not to be approved."

As for police, they made no effort to stop counterprotesters who came to Borella to attack the rally, claiming instead that the rally itself was an illegal demonstration.

Some human rights groups reported violence at their offices. “We cannot allow what happened in 1983 to happen again in this country,” rally promoters said. “No matter how many obstacles we face, we shall resist.”