Here is the first of our reminiscences, reflections, and articles about Black July. As we said before forgetting dooms us to repeat the mistakes of the past; instead there is an urgent need to understand the past and learn from it – in order to ensure that there are no more Black Julys. There are still many stories from that time, and many modern insights, that have not yet been heard. That is why we would like to contribute to this process, and that is why we are asking for you to send us your pieces of writing about Black July.
If you have personal stories about July of 1983, or the role it played in your families’ history, or if you have experience of something similar from another country from which you think lessons can be learned, or if you simply feel you have something to say about memory, history, and understanding, then please email us here.
This was sent in by an anonymous volunteer from Colombo. All names have been changed:
July 1983 is known in Sri Lanka as ” Black July ”
That month saw a confrontation between the Sinhalese and Tamil communities leading to violence throughout the nation.
In the provincial town of Matale where Dr Jesan had his medical practice and a clientele of loyal patients built up over many years, the unrest was provoked by bigots and political stooges who incited the populace to target the Tamil citizens of the town.
Dr Jesan was an English speaking Tamil Christian, which was abhorrent to the troublemakers,and he and his family closed up their home and fled to Colombo the capital city with the help and connivance of loyal friends, some of them Sinhalese Buddhists and some Christians.
Dr Jesan was received in Colombo by his friend Mr Guneris and his family who were English speaking Sinhalese Buddhists. The Jesans and the Guneris’s were family friends and Mr Guneris had a large house in the city where comfort and security was provided, mostly under cover on account of the violence in the immediate neighbourhood. There they remained for several days until refugee status was arranged by a foreign embassy for the Jesans who finally left Sri Lanka, leaving Mr Guneris to tie up the loose ends.
Mr Guneris was communal in his outlook and actively supported anti-Tamil and anti-Christian views. Fortunately, his views never got in the way of his personal relationships!