July 25, 2012
An Article from the Asian Human Rights Commission
Sri Lanka: On The 23rd Of Black July, One Man Destroyed His Nation Basil Fernando
Many things are said about Black July, 1983. That there were many culprits who caused the havoc that virtually destroyed the image of Sri Lanka and which gave justification for a prolonged period of violence. However, there was one man who was the creator of this havoc. It was then-President of the country, Junius Richard Jayawardene. His work of destroying the fabric of Sri Lankan democracy started from the very first day after he won the election as the leader of the United National Party, in 1977. His very first act as the Prime Minister elect was to grant a “holiday to the police”. That holiday lasted for two or three weeks. That was the first act done to intimidate his political opponents. With an ambition to hold onto power and not to give up what he had won, he knew one of his major strategies needed to be to launch a period of violence in order not to allow space for internal challenges from disaffected democratic forces. That process went on through various kinds of initiatives, which are well-recorded. The 1982 referendum was a major assault he made on the electoral politics in Sri Lanka. He was seriously pursuing his ambition to “close the electoral map” of Sri Lanka for some time. By 1983, he was fully aware of the dissatisfaction among the democratically minded sections of society due to the erosion of democracy that he was causing. He needed a lot more violence and he was looking for events that could enable the unleashing of greater violence. That opportunity came when the news of thirteen soldiers being killed in the north arrived. He was aware that the discontent was growing in the armed forces. He also knew that there were suggestions to have a common funeral for the...