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S. K. Mahalingam

The 1983 riots made a deep and painful mark on my life. Though I was in Trincomalee, relatively safe from the horrors Tamils were facing in the South, it is unforgettable since I lost my brother in the violence.

My brother, S.K Patakunarajash, was 54 years old. We grew up together in Jaffna. After his marriage, he moved to Colombo where he worked in a travel agency company. On the first day of Black July, he was home with his wife and two children. His older son had moved to France while his two other daughters were living in Jaffna with their families. Though, he heard of the violence and saw smoke in the far distance – they remained at home, hoping for the best. Suddenly, mobs were surrounding the area. As they saw the men approaching the house with machetes and rods, they ran to the back of the house. He helped his wife and two children jump the back wall and escape out onto the streets. However, he did not escape in time. They never saw him again.

The next day I received a call from a family friend who was a Police Officer. He informed me of my brother’s death. I was speechless. I could not believe it. I kindly asked him to retrieve the body so that we could hold a funeral but even that was not possible. It was too risky to hold such events and it was best that no one even returned to the house.

After living in the refugee camps, his wife and children made their way to Jaffna on ship. After which, their son called them to live with him in France.

The police officer did file an affidavit of the family experience. Though a court date was initially set, the charges simply dropped by other authorities.

The situation in Sri Lanka only got worse afterward. As my children began moving out of Sri Lanka, I left as well in 2002.






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