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Visu Varatheswaran

During Black July, I was working as a Cadet Engineer on MV Lanka Rani which was owned by the Ceylon Shipping Corporation. I saw my neighbor's house in Kotakena looted by local thugs around 10 AM. We informed the police about the incident however nobody came to provide help. All the valuables were cleared out of the houses as if the land lord was evicting someone out of their rental house. The neighbor was wealthy Indian Tamil and owned a few stores in Colombo. He escaped through the backyard with his small child and wife.

My nerves were on ends as I watched law and order break down into chaos every where in the city. With reluctance and fear, I left my house as well. As I hurried to the road, I witnessed people stealing, breaking into houses, burning houses and killing others. I was very fluent in Sinhala and so I was able to understand the comments among the looters. They couldn’t carry all the looted items so some of them even asked me to help them carry TVs, furniture, rice bags and potato bags up on their shoulders and heads. Beside a Nescafe Coffee shop, I saw group of people breaking down and burning a store as a Army truck passing by filled with looters waved and yelled, "Victory for Armed forces". I went closer to the store and one person told me in Sinhala that we must find a Tamil and throw him in the fire. I am also agreed.

As I kept walking, I saw a burning car close by Kochikada police station. Lots of people gathered around and I heard them say that they burned a rich Tamil business man alive who lived on a nearby street.

Next day, I heard that some of my friends from Moratuwa campus ended up in Sarasthy hall as a refugee I stopped by and dropped some can foods there. I heard two students from Moratuwa University were beaten to death close to their boarding house in Dehiwala. I knew them since we used to leave our valuables in their room whenever we went for swimming in the beach nearby.

Later, I went to Ceylon Shipping Corporation head office and talked to some of the employees there. The personnel manager, Neil de Silva begged to all staff not to engage in any of the violence and save the reputation of Shipping Corporation. I was transferred to different ship, Lanka Muditha because Lanka Rani was taking refugees to Jaffna. I saw loads of Tamils shipped to Jaffna in cargo holds and deck.

Before I left that, I saw a co-worker was shivering in front me inside the Port Authority. He wanted to hurt me, but he froze and turned away.

At that point, I totally lost hope and confidence of living in Colombo. Before Black July, I have traveled to several countries in the world by ships, but I never wanted to leave Sri Lanka for greener pastures. But after Black July, I left the country and landed as refugee in the West.

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