Dear sangam Editor,
I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate Mr Ana
Pararajasingham on his excellent article entitled, "STATE
TERROR" "BLACK JULY OF 1983 REVISITED
I wish to take this opportunity to add my personal involvement in being
made aware of the early beginnings of anti Tamil ethnic consciousness in
the army in 1966. I was appointed as one of a specially selected group
of Crown Counsel to prosecute the perpetrators of an attempted coup that
year. This was ostensibly a coup against the U N P. This was the time
when PrimeMinister Dudley Senanayake was engaged in attempting to
effectuate the Senanayake Chevanayakam Pact. This was a time when the
Federal party stood with the government. These moves towards
reconciliation with the Tamil leadership were deeply resented by the
rank and file of the vast Sinhala segment of the Army. Frustrated by the
efforts of Mr Senanayake to placate the Tamils, a host of non
commissioned officers planned an overthrow of his government.
Ironically, Mr J R Jayawardena, as the all powerful Minister of State,
was one of the prime targets of this coup. Equally ironically, Mr
Jayawardena had his hand deep in making sure this prosecution succeeded.
He personally approved the selection of Crown Counsel to prosecute and
selected the Police officers to investigate the case. The known
brutality of the officer selected to do the initial investigation
resulted in two suspects committing suicide to avoid state terror
against them. Another irony, but this was state terror aimed at those
who sought to get rid of J R himself.
The underlying theme of those planning the coup was that the army should
be made a pro- Sinhala establishment with virtually no Tamil
involvement. Tamil commissioned officers were resented and were
petrified of these elements. One such officer, Captain Wignaraja,
a Sandhurst product, who gave a statement to the police outlining the
activities of these sordid conspirators, refused to testify at the
preliminary hearing before Magistrate, Mr P B S David. He
denied making any of the statements he made to the police, through
fear of reprisal He was shaking with nervousness on the witness
stand when confronted with his previous statements to the police.
"I would never have said any such thing," he proclaimed, while
he looked at the accused with a benevolent smile on his face and in a
tone loud enough for all the accused to hear.
The only commissioned officers charged in this poorly planned venture
were Captain Sigera, a known racist, and General Udugama who was not
that associated with racism in the army. The only non Army officer
accused was the Reverend Gnanaseeha Thero, a well known advocate
of Sinhala supremacy, who had written many articles on that subject.
Even though nearly all were Indicted, they were all ultimately acquitted
and made commissioned officers by Mrs Bandaranaike's succeeding
government. I had resigned as Crown Counsel and come to the US
soon after they were Indicted. Sinhala supremacy was raising its
head increasingly. The ultimate acquittal may have again been a
reflection of that despicable trend.
Barrister at Law, Middle Temple, London
Former Crown Counsel, Ceylon
B A [Law] Cantab [Cambridge University, England
M A Cantab
L L M Stanford Law School, California