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Ramasamy Kanapathipillai

I was working for Ministry of Fisheries and was stationed at Hambantota working as a government servant. I used to come to Colombo for weekends. I had some good Sinhalese friends. Some of them belong to JSS. They warned me that there was another communal trouble in the making and it will be staged on August 1st, 1983. And it is ready go with twenty four hours notice.

I did not take this warning or advise seriously because I used to work for an armed force and was under the impression I will not be affected. On July 23, 1983 I went to meet my wife, who was living in Bambalapitya with her friends. When I approached there house, I could see some thugs looting the next door and walking towards the house my wife used to live. I tried to look for my wife; there was no sign of her. In this chaos I managed to meet one of her friends, close to Galle road as I was retreating and she told me that my wife had gone to work. Most of the occupants of the house had gone to safe places.

I went looking for my wife at her work place. In the bus there was chaos, people were scared the rowdies searching the bus for Tamils, luckily nobody noticed that I am Tamil. Some of the Tamils were dragged out of the bus and beaten and their belongings were taken away from them. In spite of these events, I managed to reach my wife at her work place. We both left her work place and proceeded to Mt. Lavinia, where my cousin was living. On our way we could see thugs were gathering on the roads and some of the Tamils were dragged out of the house and beaten and robbed.

When I reached my cousin’s house, they were all scared and did not know what to do and we had no place to go for safety. There was this Sinhala judge living next door to my cousin’s house. In the meantime the mobs had reached our house, we ran to the backyard of the house. I could hear the mob speaking of burning the house in Sinhalese. I managed to communicate with the next door neighbor and arranged shelter for my cousin and her children at least for the next two days. Now we were unable to enter the house, our only option was to scale the sidewall and enter the neighbour’s house so the mob could harm them.

Now it’s our turn to go somewhere for safety but nowhere to go, by this time the mob had broken the front door of my cousin’s house and had been broken into. I could hear the mob’s lynching cry “kill the Tamils”. We had only one option to scale the back wall into the waste land. We scaled the wall and hiding behind our perimeter wall. About half an hour past, some Sinhalese women came from adjoining land and offered to help us and offered to provide shelter and promised she will arrange with the police to escort us to safety and until then we could stay at their house. As we did not have any choice, with great reluctance we went into their house. They gave us food and shelter, but we were not in a mood to appreciate their hospitality, still we brought ourselves to thank them for their good deed.

Night was unfolding and now the mob cry had died down, also we heard Police siren and announcing that, those who are displaced from their homes to come to the police station and they had setup refugee camps for them. I discussed with the owner of the house and arranged to go to the refugee camp. He promised me he will get help from the police. True to his word, he arranged the police to pick us up at dawn, and also coordinated with my cousin and children, so that they too are picked. As promised police came to the house and picked us up and took us to the Ratmalana refugee camp.

We spent two days at the Ratmalana refugee camp. Then came Friday 25th July 1983. We heard that we could charter a plane to go to Jaffna. So we decided to venture outside to the bank to get money for our flight, with one of my friend, who was doing business and he had a certain taxi driver who used to work for my friend. The taxi driver came to the camp and I, my wife and my friend and his brother and another Katubedde student left the camp, leaving my cousin and her children behind in the camp.

While passing Dehiwala junction, all hell broke loose, we could not proceed to Wellawatte bank and had to abandon the taxi. My friend went with the taxi driver, that was the end of him we later came to know he was killed by the same taxi driver and robbed my friend of his untold amount of money. My wife and I, along the two boys were stranded in the middle of nowhere. The two boys wanted to seek refuge in the church. I was not sure whether that was a good move but they refused to heed to my advice. Unfortunately we were never to hear from them again, we came to know these two individuals were stabbed to death and burnt alive inside a parked car at the church premises. So now my wife and I were the only ones left. In this chaotic moment I could only think we should get back to the camp, but also thought how we were going to get to the camp safely. The Ratmalana airport road was famous for its thugs and their attitude towards Tamils.

In the mean time I noticed every one passing that road were panicked and running for their lives, Sinhalese as well as Tamils. There were two old gentleman walking and suddenly one of them dropped dead, because of a heart attack. Also in this mêlée army personnel arrived and started shooting in the air. I went to help that old gentleman, my wife beside me and trying to get some help for the old man. Nobody came to the aid of this dying man. I left him and thinking what we can do next. In the mean time I met an army soldier and asked him in Sinhala what all these shooting and panic was about. He answered me “the tigers are here”, immediately my reaction was this is an orchestrated play, but now we have to escape this lynch or genocide of Tamils. We took a van to go to Ratmalana camp, inside the van most of them were scared to death and some are uttering death threats to the Tamils and Tigers.

While travelling in the van I realized we should go to Mount Lavania police station. We got down at the police station halt and started walking towards the police station as we approached the entrance, somebody shouted at us “do not step in or else we will shoot you”, I was shocked and my wife was in tears and scared. I told the first policeman “we need protection from the mob and need a ride to the camp”. The police officer insisted that they cannot help us and turned us away at gun point. We left them in peace and now I am thinking our survival is very thin, only god can save us.

We continued our journey once again in a van; still the crowd did not recognize us as Tamils. When we got down the van the conductor of the van told me “sir I know who you are be careful, this place is god forsaken” in Sinhala. We started walking towards the camp and we could see mobs coming with machetes, swords etc roaming around. We stopped and the fear is dripping as sweat down my body and I was holding my wife’s hand tight, stood there gazing the distant danger and peril. While we stood there, a C.E.B vehicle passed us, immediately we waved at them to stop the vehicle. Thank god, they stopped the vehicle and asked them, whether they could help us. The man in the front seat of the vehicle immediately asked me; “are you Tamils?”, I said “yes”. Immediately a big silence fell in the air. Then he told me “do you realize, we are Sinhalese” and I replied “yes”. Then he told me “now that you told me the truth, we will give you a ride”. Finally God answered. The mob stopped our vehicle and asked the occupants “are there any Tamils inside”. Everybody in the vehicle said “no” in chorus. We were allowed to continue our journey to the camp safely.

Three days after our ordeal we were shipped to KKS in “Lanka Kalyani” with full army protection in C.T.B buses. At the port some of the port workers harassed us, telling us to go to India and never to come back. After three days of hazardous journey and humiliation, we arrived home. On that day I decided this is not a country for me to live or raise my children in and we should have our own country.

We applied for permanent residence in Canada and my wife and I along with our 3 month old daughter, immigrated to Canada and are living happily ever since. However, I am still worried about the thousands of unfortunates still living in a failed state, which is bent on the genocide of Tamils.

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