Tuesday, 30 March 2004  
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Govt. yet to pay compensation to July '83 victims

Though one and a half years have elapsed since the Presidential Truth Commission on Ethnic Violence recommended the payment of compensation to victims of the major ethnic violence of July 1983, the Ranil Wickremesinghe government had failed to pay the recommended compensation to the victims, Tamil political sources said yesterday.

Widespread destruction and damage to life and property unleashed on the Tamils occurred in July 1983, during the tenure of the then UNP Government headed by President J.R. Jayewardene. July 83 was preceded by the burning of the renowned Jaffna Public library on the night of 31.

May 1981, blamed on the Police deployed for the Jaffna DDC elections of 4. June 1981. July 83 saw the massacre of 53 political prisoners at Welikada Prison, who were brutally done to death in two days of violence on 25 July and 27 July, 1983. Kuttimani appointed as Member of Parliament, while in prison, was amongst the 53 who met with gruesome death inside the prison.

While there were widespread reports of complicity by the then UNP Government, which included Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, in the July 1983 riots, the Presidential Truth Commission headed by former Chief Justice Suppiah Sharvananda and comprising S.S. Sahabandu, PC and M.M. Zuhair, PC blamed the then UNP for failing to prosecute those responsible for the burning of the Jaffna Public Library, and the Welikada Prison massacre, though evidence was available.

"The Truth Commission appointed by President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga in July 2002, recommended the payment of nearly Rs. 123 million for the victims of the widely condemned race riots, considered the turning point in the struggle for Tamil Eelam.

President Kumaratunga in October 2002 tabled the Commission's recommendation for payment of compensation before the Wickremesinghe Cabinet but the Cabinet took no steps thereafter to pay the compensation to nearly 1023 victims.

Tamil political sources pointed out that it was most disappointing that the Wickremesinghe administration did nothing to relieve the pain, suffering and trauma that the Tamils of this country underwent at the hands of UNP hoodlums in July 1983.

At least, the compensation determined by Kumaratunga's Commission could have been paid by the Wickremesinghe government, they pointed out.

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