riots, my family was living in Colombo. I was the eldest of four
children. My father was a lecturer at the Medical College. We
were targeted in the 1977 riots however it was not to this extent.
I heard my father say many times that Tamils had been facing racially
motivated problems as far back as Independence. With Black July,
we truly felt scared to be Tamil.
It all happened
quite quickly. I remember that my father was in the backyard when
the thugs were storming through the lanes with weapons on hand.
My little sister was nearby. As I looked out the window, a man
ran up to him and began swearing in Sinhala. He was yelling that
the dirty Tamils should leave Colombo. He cornered my father and
was ready to kill him when my sister ran in front. She cried that
he was her father in Sinhala. My heart stopped beating at that
moment. He was shocked by my sister’s action and slowly
put down his machete. He finally cursed and told them to get lost.
With that word, my father grabbed my sister and ran. I cannot
imagine what I would have happened if my sister did not try to
As he and
few others prepared to burn our house, everyone managed to escape
and hid in various parts of the areas. Looters scrambled though
the house taking what they can before it was set on fire. That
day, the house my father built for us was burnt to the ground.
The house we grew up in was completely gone and we were homeless.
in the evening, the looting continued however the streets were
clear of the thugs. I later learnt that my mother tried asking
the Sinhala neighbor for protection however they turned her away.
Out of sheer desperation, she walked to the Police station and
begged for help. She explained that all the Tamils in the area
were hidding and awaiting help.
Finally around 10pm, the Police arrived. They made a loud announcement
at that they would provide protection. Slowly, people started
to come out. I rejoined with my family. We were all sent on a
lorry to a camp set up at the Ratmalana Air Base.
my parents and many other parents overcome with complete sadness
when they arrived there. It finally hit them as to what had happened.
Two hundred Tamils were all cramped into a space that could only
hold seventy five. There was not any place to sleep nor was there
any food to eat. Visitors were not allowed inside the area nor
any NGOs which attempted to help us. If someone wanted to give
us food, they had to throw packages over the fence.
were given the option to leave, we took it. I did not have much
choice. We lost everything. When arrived on ship in Jaffna, there
was a huge crowd awaiting to help and support us. We then made
our way to Velanna which was my mother’s village.
riots, the Medical school requested my father to return. He hesitantly
accepted the offer however he went back by himself. Soon after,
my parents sent me to India to pursue my studies and protect me
from any troubles Tamil youth were facing at the time.
I met my wife and a few years later I moved to Canada. When I
look back to my memories of Sri Lanka, it is always bittersweet.
I still miss our house and the life we had. The feelings of betrayal
will never wash away.
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