Sri Lankan government organise police attack on remembrance of 1983 pogroms

July '83 commemoration

A remembrance event for the July 1983 pogroms, which was organized in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Sunday, July 23, was attacked and forcibly stopped by the police. The 1983 pogrom against Tamils are regarded as a significant turning point in Sri Lankan history, as it played a role in driving many young Tamils towards armed militancy.

It is crucial to recognise that the events of 1983 were not mere spontaneous “riots” or clashes between Tamils and Sinhala, as the government and its supporters usually propagate. Substantial evidence has emerged since then, pointing to how the pogrom was organised by hard-core right-wing elements within the government, particularly involving the leaders of the right-wing United National Party (UNP). Gangs of hooligans went on a rampage against the Tamils living in Colombo, resulting in numerous deaths and the destruction of properties and businesses owned by Tamils. Tens of thousands were displaced, marking the beginning of the first wave of Tamil refugees leaving the country.

At the time, the then president and UNP leader, J. R. Jayewardene, not only failed to take immediate action but also refused to condemn the attacks. Current President Ranil Wickremesinghe is his nephew and was a minister, at that time. The UNP, which was dubbed by the people as the “uncle-nephew party,” has consistently avoided accepting any responsibility or involvement despite overwhelming evidence. So far, no official inquiry has been conducted, and no one has been brought to justice.

This state-sponsored attack outraged not just the people in Sri Lanka but also people across the world. Back then, the Militant (now CWI) in Britain, played a role in helping to organise protests in London, led by then Militant-supporting Labour MP Dave Nellist. ….

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