25 YEARS SINCE ‘BLACK JULY’ – Tamil vigils in London and Washington

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A candlelight vigil organised by the British Tamils Forum in association with the Tamil Councillors Association was held on Wednesday, 23 July, between 8pm and 10pm, at the Parliament Square.

This was to mark respect and in remembrance of over 3,000 Tamils who were killed as part of the Sri Lankan State sponsored riots back in 1983.

July this year marks 25 years since this genocide and 50 years since the 1958 communal riots in Sri Lanka.

In the United States, People For Equality and Relief in Lanka (PEARL), an advocacy group composed of over 1,800 Americans concerned about the crisis in Sri Lanka, organised a protest rally and vigil in Washington DC on Thursday at 12 pm to remember the victims of Black July 1983.

PEARL said that ‘organised mobs backed by the Sri Lankan government killed approximately 3,000 Tamil civilians, displaced several thousand Tamils and destroyed over $300 million worth of Tamils’ property.’

The rally was held at the Russell Senate Park, at the intersection of Constitution Avenue and Delaware Avenue, Washington DC, according to the organisers.

It was followed by a silent vigil to remember the victims and honour the survivors of Black July.

The vigil started at 3:30 pm.

Survivors of Black July spoke about their experiences during the pogrom and testimonials of survivors were read at the event.

Also in a commemorative statement posted on the Tamil Nation website, Nadesan Satyendra said: ‘Black July 1983: the Charge is Genocide…

‘July 1984, Revised July 2008

‘25 years after Genocide ’83 – “… I don’t think the people in the North and East are subjected to any injustice… In any democratic country the majority should rule the country. This country will be ruled by the Sinhalese community which is the majority representing 74 percent of the population…” Sri Lanka Army Commander Lt. General Sarath Fonseka On Democracy and “Multi Ethnic Plural Society” – 19 July 2008

‘ “A (Sri Lanka) government spokesman has denied that the destruction and killing of Tamils amounted to genocide.

“Under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, acts of murder committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such are considered as acts of genocide.

“The evidence points clearly to the conclusion that the violence of the Sinhala rioters on the Tamils amounted to acts of genocide.” International Commission of Jurists Review, December 1983.’

Meanwhile in Sri Lanka, Tamilnet reported yesterday that a Tamil trader was shot dead by unidentified armed persons Wednesday morning in front of his shop located near Siththivinaayakar Temple at Ve’ppankulam along Vavuniyaa-Mannaar road, Vavuniyaa police said.

The victim has been identified as Mookan Suresh, 33.

The victim’s body was handed over to the Vavuniyaa general hospital for post-mortem examination and inquest by the Vavuniyaa Magistrate.

Meanwhile Police spokesman in Colombo Ranjit Gunasekara, Senior Police Superintendent had told media that the dead trader was a former member of the Peoples Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE).

An upcountry Tamil trader residing in Dehiwala in Colombo for more than 20 years was abducted by unidentified persons Tuesday night when he was in his shop selling greetings cards.

His shop is located along Galle Road in Dehiwala, according to complaints lodged by his relatives with the Dehiwala Police and human rights groups.

The victim has been identified as Sinniah Thevanayagam, 38, a native of Matale in the central province and a father of three children.

Dehiwala Police has been conducting inquiry.

Kaaththaankudi police recovered the body of a young Tamil woman with gun shot wounds on the forehead in Poonochchimunai village in Batticaloa district on information given by the residents of the village, Kaaththaankudi police said.

She had been shot and killed Wednesday early morning, the police added.

The victim whose identity is not known appears to be around 18-years-old, according to police.

Kaaththaankudi police, who conducted preliminary inquiries into the killing, handed the body over to Batticaloa Teaching Hospital mortuary for post-mortem examination to be held.

Two Tamil labourers working in a shop along Galle Road in Dehiwala in Colombo were abducted by a group of persons dressed in police uniform Monday night.

The gang arrived in a white van and forcibly took Muthukumar Selvakumar and Palaniyaandi Shanmugarasa from the shop, according to complaints lodged by the owner of the shop with the Dehiwala Police and humanitarian organisations.

Dehiwala Police has been conducting inquiry into the alleged abduction, police spokesman Ranjit Gunasekara, Senior Superintendent of Police told media Tuesday evening.

Three Tamil youths were taken into custody by the Kandy Police Monday evening on receipt of information that they had been taking photograph of the Kandy Teaching Hospital.

They had been residents of Ampaarai and Kalmunai, police sources said.

The youth had been taking photograph of the hospital when the police team rushed to the spot on a message sent by the hospital authorities.

They are being detained in the Kandy Police station and being interrogated by the Terrorist Intelligence Division, police sources said.

Sri Lanka Army (SLA) launched a large scale cordon and search operation from Tuesday morning till evening covering areas west of A9 Jaffna-Kandy road blocking all the roads leading to the main road, local residents said.

Residents were not allowed to leave their homes during the search.

Kerudaavil, Manthuvil, Kodikaamam, Meesaalai, Changaththaanay and Va’r’a’ni areas between Chaavakachcheari and Kodikaamam were the places where the SLA cordon and search took place.

The roads leading to Jaffna-Kandy road were all blocked using large logs and stones.

School children and government officers were allowed to use a few chosen roads.

People in large numbers trying to use these selected roads were subjected to rigorous checking and kept waiting for hours before they were allowed to proceed.

No information is available of anyone arrested in the search this morning.

A similar SLA cordon and search was launched Monday on the eastern side of the A9 Jaffna-Kandy road covering areas from Chaavakachcheari town up to Kodikaamam.

Intensive cordon and search operations were launched Saturday and Sunday in these areas following the killing of two SLA soldiers last Friday in Thenmaraadchi.

Last Friday unidentified armed men shot dead two SLA soldiers in two separate attacks in Madaththadi and Vempiraay residential areas in Chaavakachcheari in Thenmaraadchi around 7:00pm and 7:30pm.