A Book For All Sri Lankans : “Lest We Forget: the tragedy of July 1983”

In magerata on July 25, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Update II : දේශපාලුවා (Deshapaluwa) has some points that he / she would like answered. I am sure there are many in his shoes seeking the same. So if anyone could answer him, civilly, please do. Thanks

Update: Sanjana Hattotuwa let me know that there an extensive collection of material at Groundviews regarding the same subject. It is a collection of works by poets, writers, senior Government Ministers and Members of Parliament, renown scholars, human rights defenders, civil society activists, artistes, senior civil servants, a former Secretary of Defense and others. Of course many bloggers are there too. If you think it is not a place to visit, please think again. You will at least learn what and how others think. I visit Grounviews regularly and disagree with authors most of the time, nicely. Perhaps they need education too, and to do that you need to read and respond. Please visit Sanjana also mentioned that this book and many others like this could be borrowed and bought at Social Scientists Association (SSA) library and bookshop. (The main website throws a warning flag but I have visited this link and found no harm)

How ever much we rant, real peace will not come if we do not accept the reality, and face it. Sri Lanka is in a greater need to shed race differences and accept all Sri Lankans to be the same. There are elements who believe that certain fractions of our society does not matter. They do matter, very much. Perhaps just like all parts or our bodies. Every part is necessary to form the body of Sri Lanka. Also there will be growths that need to be removed constantly, just like we trim our nails or nose hair. We do not cut off a hand just because of nails nor we cut off our noses because of the nose hair : likewise we should not treat any fraction of  society similarly. If we cut off any section, we will be a disabled society. We need everyone in order to live in harmony and to develop the country. Every human is no less or more than ourselves and need to be treated such.

I am a reader of many blogs published by Sri Lankans and I do post comments where ever I am allowed to : while I am happy with most responses I get, some throws me off. It is just multi point of views but many fail to express them in civilized manner, including me. All the politically energized commenters want only his or her view and actually look down on others and use filth to respond to a comment. At this point the original subject is forgotten and the battle of the pens show, how ugly we could get. At this point you realize the mountainous work ahead to bring everyone together. It is yet comforting to know, that we can do this.

Very recently I visited Redwood Forrest National Park. We had many wondrous hikes and during one I hurt my ankle. A day later, we were to do the most strenuous hike and I was not very sure of taking part in the hike. After contemplating for a while, I decided to take part. I spent most painful four miles or so of walking in my life, but the pain gradually disappeared and I completed one of the best hikes. I also managed to see touch decades old redwood trees, that only grow in this area, reaching into the sky as much as 115 meters or higher. I think even if it is hard, we need to work at it to bring everyone together. Let us start reading and listening to others, how ever hard it is.

So reminding of misdeeds and good deeds should go hand in hand. I think the following book accomplishes a part ot that. The picture of the naked man, on the cover, I will never forget. I do not want anyone to experience than man went through. It just blows my mind how cruel we could be towards other human beings. I think most of us show more love to our dogs than to our fellow humans.  It is important that we all work towards making people understand that we all are the same.

I was reminded of the book by one Rajiva Wijesinha, and it is special to me because my family knows many of the authors, and I remember Richard De Zoysa, specially, who departed us when I was only a tiny kid. My family remembers him as a one fine young man.

lest we forget

The book was published to commemorate the horrid and heroic events that took place July 1983. It was released on the 25thanniversary  by the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies. According to my source, the book is available from International Book House at 151 A Dharmapala Mawata, Colombo 3. Further information may be obtained from the publisher at or 037-2225884 or 011-2330742. It Cost Rs: 600.00

Table of Contents



Political violence and the future of democracy in Sri Lanka – Gananath Obeysekere

The Bang and the Whimpers – Rajiva Wijesinha

1983 Anti-Tamil riots and militarization of the ethnic conflict – Kethesh Loganathan

The Massacres at Welikade – Rajan Hoole

Peradeniya – Towards Collapse? – Qadri Ismail


Jean Arasanayagam


1958…. ’71…. ’77…. ’81…. ’83….

Kamala Das

A Certain Defect in the Blood

Richard de Zoysa

Apocalypse Soon


Animal Crackers

Basil Fernando

Just Society

Yet Another Incident in July 1983

Yasmine Gooneratne

Big Match, 1983 

Arjuna Parakrama

Wesak is here again


The Lost One – Nirmali Hettiarachchi

Action Stations – Rajiva Wijesinha


TULF equals Terrorists – Cyril Mathew

SLFP’s nationalisation policies hit the Sinhalese businessman – Ranil Wickremesinghe

National Guilt and Expiation – Lakshman Wickremesinghe

A Diary of Society and Politics, 1983 – Rajiva Wijesinha

  1. This book may also be available at the Social Scientists Association (SSA) library.

    As you perhaps know, another diverse collection of text and video content is on Groundviews. As noted on the site, this content was submitted to Groundviews in July 2008, 25 years after the riots of 1983 and 50 years after those in 1958 and came from award winning poets and novelists, bloggers, senior Government Ministers and Members of Parliament, renown scholars, human rights defenders, civil society activists, artistes, senior civil servants, a former Secretary of Defense and others. See

    • Thanks a million, Sanjana. I will edit to add the the groundviews collection. It is very hard to explain to people that we could be different and same at the same time. Many in bodies, one in mind applies to the Buddhism I practice. But then we have to be able to look into the other ones eyes and see ourselves reflected. As hard as I try, sometimes even I fail to grasp it. Only the education will lead to it. Thank you for the visit and the tip.

  2. Thanks in turn to the pointer to the book. I flagged SSA because its library is one of the best I have come across for this kind of tome, and I’ll certainly pick it up for reading myself.

    Reg. the violence, aside from agreeing with you, it is perhaps the smallest differences that lead to the greatest violence. I believe we can and must be better than what we were, and still are.

  3. Thanks for bringing up this subject. This subject highlights the hypocrisy of the NGO’s in Sri Lanka.

    1983 July will never be forgotten, it is there in the fabric of our society we cannot deny that it never happened.

    But what I would like to show is , the hypocrisy surrounding the analysis of this event.

    The sufferings of Tamils during 1983 black July has been analyzed and highlighted, in many ways. How many of those studies show that many Sinhalese protected and sheltered Tamil victims during this time? Has there been any study done on this aspect? If not why? These people risked their own lives to assist their Tamil neighbors in need, is it such a negligible social coincidence?

    You have also listed many material written on this subject alone.

    Can you or Sanjana honestly tell us who sponsored these write ups? Which international agencies and governments gave money for these studies and how much did the author receive?

    Why cant those facts be included on the book?

    Thank you for showing us the list, I’m sure there are hundreds even thousands more sponsored writeup on Tamil grievances and how the Sinhalese oppression of Tamils evolved in to terrorism.

    The argument is so unfair and totalitarian that these people even forget that their thesis is only one theory on the evolution of Tamil terrorism in Sri Lanka.

    There is another much more coherent theory that shows how the colonials promote Tamil racism and how Tamils were privilaged under the colonial rule and how this evolved into racism and Terrorism.

    You might disagree , but it is a theory and their are facts to support it.

    My question is this how many studies, or books on this theory has the NGOs sponsored?

    I am willing to bet it is “0”.

    Where is the fairness and equal rights and toleration of opposing ideas?

    The people in NGOs are either blatant hypocrites, or are just after the Money, or both.

    • Hi Deshapaluwa,
      I see your points and have wondered myself about them. Many people use the events for their benefit and other political ends. Like you said, there were many Sinhalese people who bet their lives to save their Tamil neighbors. The reason those stories are never told or minimized because then the sensationalism is lost and their purpose goes astray. I know people in the forces these NGO’s blame, who rescued civilians from LTTE clutches. I would like to add, none of these NGO’s mention about how the Sri Lankan government treat Karuna. He may be an oppertunist but decided to give up his opev evil ways. I am yet to read some one praising our Government for that episode.
      I think us Sri Lankans failed to properly portray the true horrors of the 30 year war imposed upon us Sri Lankans. Sri Lankans also failed to show how good people they are too, all the while LTTE’s propaganda machines continued to propagate what was beneficial to them. I am certain that we all are better than those LTTE and certain NGO’s portray us as. Sri Lanka is still being used, by people like Ban Ki Moon, to divert the attention from massacres happening due to more powerful of the world, and to leverage favors within the security council. Politics will always be politics. We need to find the best way that makes every Sri Lankan feel at home in Sri Lanka.
      What is the best for Sri Lanka, is to walk forward, together. Dialog among good people like us will help us to achieve that goal. I am going to add information about your comments to the post. Thank you for your comment.

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