Kesera Wittachy

Kesera Wittachy (42 years) Zürich, Switzerland ‘’What I remember most were the pyres; they used to put people in top of each other and put petrol and burn and that gives off a funny taste…. the smell. It’s like rosewater with burning hair and that taste that stays with you for years, months you just don’t get rid of it. Every time I have a nightmare and I see this, I don’t see pictures actually, I get a taste in my mind. When I think back it’s the taste of the burning bodies that I get.’’ Kesera, then 12 years …

Tharmini

Tharmini (40 years) Paris, France ‘The 1983 ethnic riots…. the Government directed by Sinhala chauvinism and the members of parliament were behind this pogrom, as well as behind the planned murders of the Tamil prisoners by the Sinhalese prisoners. I don’t believe in just saying, …the Sinhalese, the Sinhalese, pointing out to a common Sinhalese person and attacking him for this…but it is the chauvinistic Sinhalese Government spurred by a hatred of minorities, which even continues until this day, that is behind all this’’ Tharmini was just 10 years old when the 83’ riots broke out, and was living in …

Shobasakthi

Shobasakthi (46 years) Paris, France ‘‘When I looked out through my cell window again, I saw the jailors Rogers, Samitharatne and Palitha leading the Sinhala prisoners, who were leaping down the stairs like fishes jumping into rain – filled pools. Death was descending. Rogers opened a cloth bundle and flung out weapons, and the prisoners grabbed at them howling ‘Jayaveva’. The whole building was filled with screams of pain, howls of ‘Jeyaveva’ and the crowing of victory. 25 July 1983 was death day.’’* – Shobasakthi reading from his novel, ‘Mmmm’ Shobasakthi speaks to us about a very important day in …

Abdul Gaffar Mohamed Rafeek

Abdul Gaffar Mohamed Rafeek (53 years) Zürich, Switzerland “The atrocities that happened at that time cannot be expressed by words; escaping the situation was the only priority in our minds at that time. It was a dangerous and sad period. When each year the situation arises for us to revisit it during the month July, comes sadness, lethargy and yearning! ‘’Somewhere riots had broken out and the people were all running amok, scared to even divulge their identities. We were young at that time so we did not take it that seriously but the bus driver’s foresight was to drop …

Pushparani

Pushparani (63 years) Paris, France ‘’In 86’ I arrived in Colombo on my way to France. I stayed with a Sinhalese family. They were very caring. I still remember how they served me with fish curry and hoppers. Also, they had only one room and they gave it to me while they slept outside. Their house was small and they used to live in a ‘Thottam’ (Watte). When I came there initially I was a bit scared. On my way there we had to come through some paddy fields and we asked for directions from the farmers. They were very …

Patrick B. Yogarajan

Patrick B. Yogarajan (31 years) Germany/ Switzerland This short video captures a part of Patrick’s everyday life as he traces his memories of first hearing and seeing images of the 83’ pogrom as a 6 year old at an exhibition organised by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The images of gore were what stayed in his mind and he sometimes struggles with the thought that he has failed to fulfil a part of his duty by leaving Sri Lanka and questions whether things would have ended differently if he had stayed back. Patrick is studying for a Master …

Pathmapraba

Pathmapraba (47 years) Davos, Switzerland ‘In July 83’ we arrived in Kankesanthurai and went to our home in Point Pedro. In one month all our belongings arrived from Colombo. This is when it struck me that we will not be going back again. This was difficult for me…. Life in Jaffna is very different to the life we lived in Colombo. I could not accept this change all of a sudden.’’ Pathmapraba who was 17 at the time of the riots, used to live down Muhandiram Lane in Colombo, while her father was employed as a personal accountant for Upali …

Ponnambalam Murugaverl

Ponnambalam Murugaverl (49 years) Bern, Switzerland ‘’In 83’ we used to go to Sockan Master to prepare for our exams and on that day we had a class in the morning; it was very early since I remember the dim morning light. When we arrived Master told us, ‘Thambi, it is not possible to conduct classes today and I am unable to give you any details but the situation is not good to conduct lessons and it is better that you all go safely. There has been some problem down Palali Road. We should not be talking about it now.’…. …

Jenny Jeyachandran

Jenny Jeyachandran (53 years) Paris, France ‘’In 1983, we had paddy fields in Kitulwatte, Trincomalee, nearby the Sinhala colonies. We would come home to the town after working in the fields. There was a common caretaker for the land. Nearby the main road there was a canteen run by a Tamil. We would all drink tea and leave for home when the bus arrived. Near this canteen there was a house with a 1-½ year old child and its parents, a young couple. When the riots broke out, the Sinhalese people there, not the original residents but the colonised people, …

Delon Madavan

Delon Madavan (32 years) Paris, France ‘ The first question that people ask me is, ‘do people in France know what happened to us? The fact is that even me… I don’t really know…, so I understand that as a researcher, among the different things that we have to do is try to work to conserve this memory of what happened.’’ Delon was born in the 80s in France and does not know about the 83’ pogrom from his parents. Nevertheless, he recalls the experience of a good friend who experienced it and noted that it is part of a …

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