Lakshman Gunasekara witnessed the burning of shops belonging to Tamils in Colombo during the “Black July”. He recalls a particular Tamil Thosai cafe on Galle Road in Bambalapitty, which was set on fire.
“On Monday, the 25th when I first saw the black clouds in the sky, I thought they were monsoon rain clouds. They were so thick and spread across the sky. Then the radio reported rioting, and I realized that what I was seeing were the smoke of fires along the Galle Road. When I reached Bambalapittya junction, I saw the flames stretching out on both sides of the Galle Road all the way towards Wellawatte”.
A few days later he took a bus from Colombo to Bandarawela to search for the pregnant wife of a Tamil friend whose home there had been attacked while the husband was in Colombo. He traced the lady, who was over 8 months pregnant, and had been in hiding in a Church, and brought her back to Colombo.
“We had to take several buses along the route because there were no direct Colombo buses due to different curfew times along the way. She was terrified, and I held her closely to comfort her as we went through many checkpoints, and we pretended that she was my wife with my child. It was a harrowing, risky journey, and then she stayed a couple of days at my mother’s home in the outskirts of Colombo until curfews were lifted, and she was able to be reunited with my friend”.
“Later when I began doing work with the Tamil refugees, some of my Sinhala colleagues criticized me and others of my group, and said that we were also Tamils”.
“I feel ashamed of what has happened during “Black July”. It should not have happened, and it should not happen again!” Gunasekara emotionally recounts, tears in his eyes.