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Siva Sivaramalingam

My name is Siva Sivaramalingam. At the age of 12, my father died and I was forced to leave for Colombo in search of a job since I was the eldest in the family. I was able find a few jobs but I got tired of simply making ends meet. In 1983, after many successful business ventures, I was managing partner of New Colombo Stores in Wellawatte, finance director of Harris Export Ltd- a tea export business and partner of a pawn brokering business in Maradana. Business was booming.

On July 24th, 1983, I knew there is going to be a communal riot in Colombo. I received some information and I was very alert. My business establishment was in front of the Wellawatte Police Station. The O.I.C. was known to me personally very well. On July 25th morning, I consulted him and asked for his advice. He advised me not to open the shop and in case of any trouble requested the employees to leave the shop immediately. At that time there were 24 employees working in two sections – grocery and fancy goods.

I went to the shop and told the manger not to open the shop and in case of any trouble the employees should leave the premises immediately through the back door. I removed all the important documents and cash and deposited them at Bank of Ceylon.

While getting out of the Bank, I noticed big smoke in the air towards Krillapore. On inquiry, I learnt Raja Press was in flames. Straight away I went to my home at High Street. It is about 10 am in the morning and the trouble started everywhere. Being a leading noted supermarket in Wellawatte “Colombo Stores” was looted and burned first. According to my information, outsiders came in a van. They started looting and then set fire to the building. Eerily, police force was deaf and blind to these activities. I lost more than two million rupees on that day.

Mr. Gator S.P. was my front door neighbour. He called me over the phone and requested my family and I to come and stay at his place. My wife and children have already gone to another place. However I went to his place for safety. At that time, I decided that Colombo was no longer my home and wanted to go to Jaffna as early as possible.

My eldest son had a Visa to go to the States and thus I sent him right away. The rest of us went to Point-Pedro in my own car. We left very early morning immediately after curfew was lifted at 4 a.m. We were at home by mid afternoon. Although, we were far from Colombo and I still do not sleep at night for another week.

In the meantime, my brother-in-law who was working in the Royal mint in Ottawa, tried to sponsor my family and I to Canada. Newsweek International magazine also gave publicity to damage done to my Business - New Colombo Stores.

At that time, I decided to start a business in Point Pedro and live in my village Thurnalai. However, I wanted to send my second son to Canada. He went for the interview at the Canadian Embassy in Colombo. In the course of the interview, he showed the “Newsweek” report to the officer who interviewed him. He received the visa and the Visa officer asked my son whether his parents were not willing to come to Canada. He told the officer that they have gone to Jaffna and started a business there.

I started the same type of business with the same name and same employees. I could not continue the business due to various problems. I was forced to close in 1987. I decided to migrate to Canada in the year 1988. I went for an interview at the Canadian Embassy. The Visa officer asked me only one question: “Have you decided to leave Sri Lanka now?” I said yes. My visa was granted and I migrated to Canada in 1988.

I joined the franchise business “Seven Eleven” as management trainee and then moved on to a Security firm. Though I have retired, I continue to work as a business consultant for a few companies.

Siva Sivaramalingam was the founding member of the Canadian Tamils Chamber of Commerce. His involvement in many community organizations such as the Senior Tamil Center and the Advisory Council of the Scarborough Hospital lead him to acquire an award from the Ministry of Citizenship and the “Queen Golden Jubilee Medal” by the Federal Government for his significant contributions.

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