Rasanayagam’s Last Riot by Ernest Macintyre
A POLITICAL FICTION FOR THE THEATRE
The drama describes a tragic incident that took place during the black July that was resulted from the LTTE operations in Jaffna. Thirteen soldiers were killed by the LTTE in Jaffna in the month of July in 1983. As a result the provoked thugs in Colombo started a riot in the city and launched a great massacre of the Tamil civilians.
Naturalization – People of various races and different cultures should be mixed together with friendship and cooperation.
Racism is baseless.
Friendship surpasses divisions.
For a problem to be solved it should be discussed directly.
simple but conversational language
Rasanayagam is a Tamil person from Jaffna. Philip Fernando is a Sinhalese person living in Colombo. Both are close friends as from their university life. Philip is married to a Tamil lady called Sita. Philip and Sita belong to the Colombo middle class and Rasanayagam’s origin is in Jaffna. They experienced several anti-Tamil riots in Sri Lanka. During all these periods Philip supplied shelter to Rasanayagam. The July of 1983 is a black spot in Sri Lanka. The political thugs in Colombo launched a great massacre and violence upon the civilian Tamils in Colombo. This drama opens out in that
Rasanayagam escaped the mob’s attack on many occasions through his correct pronunciation of Sinhalese words. But he chose to reveal his identity during the ’83 riots at the cost of his life. Macintyre deplores the Sri Lankan English educated middle classes of both communities who insulated themselves from the ground reality and the build-up of
tensions since independence. He also exposes the close affinity between the upper middle classes of both ethnic groups and observes how while earlier generation of leaders were all part of the elite, the newer generation of Tamil came from the grass root level.
Rasanayagam studied at Peradeniya University with Philip Fernando and the present Colombo D.I.G. Philip is married to Sita who is a Tamil lady. Philip and Sita belong to the middle class and they live in Wellawatte in Colombo.
Rasanaygam comes to Philip’s house during the racial riot which is called the black July. He had experienced several anti-Tamil riots in Sri Lanka. Every riot provided an opportunity for these old friends to socialize and go on a drinking spree during the curfew hours. Between 1956 and 1983 there were at least six major race riots and Philip gave refuge to Rasanaygam on all these occasions, protecting him from mobs bent on violence. Strangely, during these ‘get-togethers’ both of them discussed every topic except the reasons underlying the conflict, a sensitive issue they discreetly avoided.
A similar relationship prevailed between Phillip and Sita, a westernized Tamil woman who is married to him. Macintyre also uses marriage as an analogy here to describe the relationship between Sinhalese and Tamils who have lived in one country, Sri Lanka, which both have inherited over the centuries – two peoples who despite complex differences
have subsisted together. This time Philip and Sita decided to leave the country and go to Australia since they
reckoned this time the situation would be too crucial. But they were waiting for their friend, Rasanayagam as usual, coming seeking their protection. He arrived in the place in time.
In the first scene of the drama they are preparing to go to Australia as the anti-Tamil racism is at a high point in July in 1983 which was later called the black July. In the meantime they are expecting Rasanayagam who is seeking their shelter from the Sinhalese racist rioters. We can hear an argument between Philip and Sita. Sita says that there should be a face to face discussion over the ethnic problem and blames Philip that he just spends time with Rasa taking drinks.
While they are talking Rasa enters. And they start chatting. But they hear the noises of the rioters in the street. Meanwhile their friend, the Colombo D.I.G gives them a call and warns them about the dangerous situation of the area. He advises Philip to send Rasa out for his protection.
Philip is sure that Rasa can defend as he faced several riotous situations and could save himself. Philip had taught him to pronounce the Sinhalese word, baldiya which means bucket during the rag season at the university. But this time Rasa could not pronounce the word correctly so he was killed by the rioters in the street.