Black July, catalyst of Sri Lanka conflict

30th Anniversary of Black July, catalyst of Sri Lanka’s decades-long conflict

By Tamil American Peace Initiative

July 23, 1983 also known as Black July, marks the beginning of a tragedy in Sri Lanka, where thousands of Tamil civilians were beaten and killed by rioting Sinhalese acting with government impunity. It is important to remember and reflect upon the horrors of that period, as well as the full-scale ethnic conflict that Black July catalyzed. In doing so, we must learn and grow from past transgressions so they are not repeated.

The Tamil American Peace Initiative (TAPI) remains gravely concerned about the lack of reconciliation efforts in Sri Lanka, and how President Rajapaksa’s heavy-handed authoritarianism is not only failing to resolve many of the underlying causes of the decades long conflict, but it is exacerbating it. From the continued stifling of the press to gender, religious and ethnic based violence with impunity, to heavy-armed occupation of Tamil areas, the harsh lessons of the past have demonstrably not been learned.

Furthermore, and despite past assurances, the government is actively considering diluting or repealing the 13th Amendment in an effort to cripple the Northern Provincial Council in advance of its first elections, scheduled to take place in September. The same powers that were devolved and enjoyed by the non-Tamil provinces for the past 25 years are mistakenly viewed with suspicion when it comes to the Tamil dominated province. After all, the government continues to boast the elimination of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the successful rehabilitation of its remaining cadre.

“The government’s mere consideration of weakening 13th Amendment should be appalling to democratic nations across the globe,” said TAPI Executive Director, Dr. Karunyan Arulanantham. “How can Sri Lanka achieve real reconciliation and be considered a true democracy when it is actively working to prevent an entire province and subset of people from having any semblance of autonomy and political voice? In reality, weakening or the repeal of this amendment will only exacerbate tensions and divide the country further. This is just one more piece to add to an ever-increasing trove of evidence revealing the government’s efforts to continue consolidating power and prevent ethnic minorities, Tamils in particular, from having any meaningful political representation.”

TAPI is closely following developments surrounding the 13th Amendment and hopes the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, will address in her August trip to Sri Lanka how broken promises for a reasonable amount of political autonomy in traditionally Tamil regions will greatly undermine the prospect for a fair and peaceful resolution to the ethnic conflict.

About TAPI

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The Tamil American Peace Initiative was formed by a group of Tamil Americans to help bring lasting peace, justice, democracy, good governance and economic development to Sri Lanka; to focus attention on the destruction of Tamil communities and culture caused by almost three decades of war; and to demand an end to the continuing oppression of Tamils on the island.

Contact T. Kopper at tkopper@podesta.com or +1.202.879.9384 for additional information or to arrange an interview with Dr. Karunyan Arulanantham (Full Text of Media Release by Tamil American Peace Initiative)