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31 January 1996

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A suicide bomb explosion by the LTTE at the Central Bank building in Colombo kills more than 100 civilians. Approximately 1,300 others are wounded.
Human Rights Watch, World Report: Sri Lanka, 1997; Fifty dead in Sri Lanka suicide bombing, BBC News, 31 January 1996.

“If Velupillai Prabhakaran thinks that by these acts he can stop our military offensive, he is dreaming. We say quite clearly that these acts will make us even more determined to destroy terrorism,” Anuruddha Ratwatte, Deputy Defence Minister.

“It had to be the Tamil Tigers. Who else would have done such a thing like this?” Brigadier Sarath Munasinghe, Sri Lankan military spokesman.

“Deliberate arbitrary killings of civilians escalated sharply in 1996. Bomb attacks attributed to the LTTE on Colombo’s Central Bank building on January 31, and on a crowded commuter train in July, claimed a combined total of at least 160 civilian lives and injured some 1,550 people,” Human Rights Watch, 1997 World Report.

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One comment for “31 January 1996”

  • priyanthi said,

    My father had worked only in one place in his entire life – the Central Bank. So it had a special place in my life. Omnipresent as I was growing up. I was little when it was in the Hemas Building in York Street. And then it moved to this swanky new building with its three towers – and as my father progressed up the hierarchy in the Bank from being Director Bank Supervisor to Senior Deputy Governor, his office moved up floors too, till he was finally at the top of one of the towers, at the end of a corridor hung with photos of former governors, with a view that stretched our vision of the horizon and allowed us to see miles along the coast and across the ocean. When the suicide bombing happened he had already retired and I had just gone to work in London. It was almost like my family home had been blown up.

    In London, soon after, on February 9, 1996 there was an IRA bomb in the Docklands – I seem to remember that four people died. Londoners were in shock. I read the papers and shrugged my shoulders. What were they going on about – over a hundred people had died in the Central Bank bomb, over a thousand were injured, and here they were getting excited about four dead men! But they were four dead men too many. The Sri Lankan situation had reduced my perception of the value of human life to a question of numbers.

    A few weeks later I was scheduled to make a speech at St James Palace to raise funds for the British Charity that employed me and which had Prince Charles as its patron. I wanted to speak about the Central Bank bomb, about the Sri Lankans who died, and about the Sri Lankans who – despite these risks and these dangers – bravely got on with their lives. The organiser of the fundraising event was aghast. The British audience did not necessarily want to know the difficulties and dangers of living in countries like ours – they wanted a positive view of “helping people help themselves”. I refused to participate. Others intervened and I told my story like it was.

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