It has been 42 years since the burning down of the Jaffna library that had one of the largest collections of books in South Asia.

It was rebuilt and opened in 2003.

Yesterday (01), an event took place at the library to remember its founder K.M. Chellappa and catholic priest Fr. Hyacinth Singarayar, who died of a heart attack after seeing the arson attack.

Chellappa donated his property and a large number of books in 1933 towards the building of the library.

Fr. Singarayar was a teacher of St. Patrick College, Jaffna at the time.


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Portraits of both were garlanded and tributes paid by the library’s staff, led by chief librarian Rajini Nadaraj, and the patrons.

The burning down of the Jaffna library was also remembered by relatives of missing persons, who are on a campaign for justice for nearly 3,000 days now.

Before the arson attack, the Jaffna library housed more than 97,000 valuable books written in Tamil, English, Sinhala, Sanskrit, Dutch, French and Latin languages.

It was burnt down when Cyril Mathew and Gamini Dissanayake, ministers of the then J.R. Jayewardene regime, were in Jaffna for campaigning at district development council elections.

Prime minister at the time was Ranasinghe Premadasa, the father of opposition leader Sajith Premadasa, and Ranil Wickremesinghe was the cabinet minister in charge of youth affairs.



Ranil tendered an apology in 2018


Participating in the budget debate in 2018, Wickremesinghe tendered a public apology for the destruction of the Jaffna library during a UNP regime.

Mobs of UNP supporters from the south and paramilitaries set fire to the Jaffna library during three days of lawlessness after three policemen were gunned down at a rally of the opposition TULF.

Also destroyed were the Eelanadu newspaper office, TULF office, a kovil and hundreds of shops and houses.

None of those responsible have been brought before the law so far.


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