February 03, 1985

Article at Nadesan on Authory

TAMILS OF SRI LANKA: Legitimate Expectations *

The Tamils of Sri Lanka are an ancient people. Their history had its begin­nings in the early settlements on the rich alluvial plains near the southern ex­tremity of peninsular India. It was here that the Tamils erected their first ci­ties about three thousand years ago.

The words in use amongst the early Tamils show that they had "kings" who dwelt in "strong houses" and ruled over small "districts". They had "laws" and "customs". They had "medicines", "towns", "boats", and "ships". All the ordinary and necessary arts of life, including "agriculture", "spinning", "weaving", and "dyeing" existed amongst them.[2]

It was a Dravidian civilization which traced its own origins to the people of Mohenjodaro in the Indus Valley around 2500 years before the birth of Christ. It was a civilization which, in the succeeding centuries, absorbed the Aryan influences from the north of India, but at the same time evolved its own rich identity and, in turn, made its own contribution to what is, in the end, a common and shared Indian heritage.

they were a sea-faring people...

The Tamils were a sea-faring people. They traded with Rome in the days of Emperor Augustus. They sent ships to many lands bordering the Indian Ocean and with the ships went traders, scholars, and a way of life. Tamil in­scriptions in Indonesia go back some two thousand years and the French ar­chaeologist Jean Filliozat has concluded that some of them may be dated as belonging to the second century before Christ. The oldest Sanskrit inscrip­tions belonging to the third century in Indo China bear testimony to Tamil influence and until recent times Tamil texts were used by priests in Thailand and Cambodia. The scattered elements of ruined temples of the time of Mar­co Polo's visit to China in the 13th century give evidence of purely Tamil structure and include Tamil inscriptions.

who settled in Sri Lanka as well...

The island of Sri Lanka, which was separated from the Indian sub-continent by less than thirty miles of water, was not unknown to the early Tamils and it was here that the Nagadipa kingdoms were established around three thou­sand years ago. Geography plays a silent but basic role in the affairs of a peo­ple, and Sri Lanka provided no exception to this rule. Its location near the large land mass of the Indian sub-continent and its strategic situation in the vast expanse of the waters of the Indian Ocean have influenced its past and continue to influence its present.

and, today about 45 million live in South India and around three million reside in Sri Lanka ...

And, today about 45 million Tamils live in South India and around three million reside in Sri Lanka. The Tamils of Sri Lanka constitute about one fifth of the 15-million population of Sri Lanka, whilst somewhat less than three quarters are Sinhalese. In Sri Lanka, the Tamils live largely in the north and east and on the tea estates in the central hills, while the Sinhala people live in the south, the west, and in the centre as well. The two peoples speak two different languages and, by and large, belong to two different religions. A large number of Tamils are Hindus and the overwhelming majority of the Sinhala people are Buddhists.

the Sinhala people trace their origins to the arrival of prince Vijaya around 2500 B.C. ...

The Sinhala people trace their origins to the arrival in Sri Lanka of Prince Vijaya from India, about 2500 years ago, and the Mahavamsa, the Sinhala chronicle of a later period (6th century A.D.) records that Prince Vijaya ar­rived on the island on the same day that the Buddha attained Enlightenment in India.

first settlers?...

The question as to whether it was the Sinhalese or the Tamils who were the first settlers of Sri Lanka remains one of controversy, not so much because of the paucity of direct historical evidence, but because of the partisan passion of some scholars who appear to believe that the problems which confront the people of Sri Lanka today can be resolved by proving that either the Sinha­lese or the Tamils were the "first arrivals", presumably on the basis that the descendants of those who arrived first would then have the "right" to throw the descendants of those who had arrived later into the Indian Ocean, so that they may find their way back to India. Alternatively, perhaps, the descen­dants of the "first arrivals" would have the "right" to regard the descendants of the later arrivals as invaders, who should be conquered and treated as a subject race. Does it really matter whether it was the Tamils or the Sinhalese who were the first settlers?

chauvinism has not always clouded scholarship ...

But chauvinism has not always clouded scholarship. The words of the emi­nent Sinhala historian and Cambridge scholar, Paul Peiris represent a more dispassionate view:

"... it stands to reason that a country which was only thirty miles from India and which would have been seen by Indian fishermen every morning as they sailed out to catch their fish, would have been occupied as soon as the continent was peopled by men who understood how to sail ... Long before the arrival of Prince Vijaya, there were in Sri Lanka five recognized isvarams of Siva which claimed and received the adoration of all India. These were Tiruketeeswaram near Mahatitha; Munneswaram dominating Salawatte and the pearl fishery; Tondeswaram near Mantota; Tirkoneswaram near the great bay of Kottiyar and Nakuleswaram near Kankesan-turai. Their situation close to these ports cannot be the result of accident or caprice and was probably determined by the concourse of a wealthy mercantile population whose religious wants called for attention ..."[3]

The Oxford scholar, M.D. Raghavan, was moved to conclude that the "si­tuation of these large and ancestral shrines in widely separated parts of Sri Lanka is an obvious index to the range of distribution of the Tamils over Sri Lanka from very early ages." [4]

and Prince Vijaya, together with his ministers and retainers married Tamils...

The Sinhala chronicle, the Mahavamsa, also records that a few years after his arrival in Sri Lanka, Prince Vijaya and his followers married Tamils from the Pandyan Kingdom in South India:

"The Ministers, whose minds were eagerly bent upon the consecrating of their lord and who, although the means were difficult, had overcome all anxious fears about the matter, sent peo­ple entrusted with many precious gifts, jewels, pearls, and so forth, to the city of Madura in South India to woo the daughter of the (Tamil) Pandu king for their lord, devoted as they were to their ruler, and they also sent to woo the daughters of others for the ministers and retainers. When the messengers were quickly come by ship to the city of Madura, they laid the gifts and letters before the king. The king took counsel with his ministers, and since he was minded to send his daughter to Lanka, he having first received also daughters of others for the ministers of Vijaya, nigh upon a hundred maidens, proclaimed with beat of drums: "Those men here who are willing to let a daughter depart for Lanka shall provide their daughters with a double store of clothing and place them at the doors of their homes. By this sign shall we know that we may take them to ourselves."

admittedly, at the time of Prince Vijaya, the Sinhala language was yet unborn...

And admittedly, Prince Vijaya who came from India did not speak the Sin­hala language - it was not a language that was known on the Indian sub-con­tinent at any time. It was a language that was to take shape and form in Sri Lanka in the succeeding centuries but at the time of Prince Vijaya, it was a language that was yet unborn.

the culture of the early Tamils found expression in the Sangam litera­ture ...

The culture of the early Tamils found expression in the rich Sangam litera­ture of 100 B.C. to 300 A.D. - a literature which was clearly preceded by several centuries of civilization. Tamil is one of the oldest languages of the world and it flowered both in South India and in Sri Lanka. It is a language that has given the world the distilled wisdom of the Kural - in respect of which it has been said: "... there hardly exists in the world a collection of maxims in which we have so much lofty wisdom." [5]

The epic story of Kannagi and Kovalan in Chillapathikaram synthesizes "a description of the triple monarchy of the Tamils, their historical greatness, their principal cities, the lives of the peoples of the five regions, and their characteristic music and song and dance".6 And the poetry of Manimekalai was later described in the Mahavamsa, the Sinhala chronicle, as being among "the greatest of the classical epic poems of Theravada Buddhism".

.and the songs of the Saivaite saints and the Vaishnavaite Alvars ...

And in response to the invasions of the Tamil kingdoms of South India around 400 A.D. from the North of India, and the challenge of Buddhism and Jainism, came the inspired Thevarams of the Tamil Saivaite saints, the Diivya Prabandhams of the Vaishnavaite Alvars and later the Thiruvasagam of Mannikkavasagar, which moved both heart and mind and dissolved them in a higher divinity. The Indian scholar Santhanam has remarked that these outpourings in song constituted the great turning-point in the history of Tamil.

"While all other Indian languages became subordinate dialects of Sanskrit, Tamil asserted its individuality so vigorously and triumphantly that it was recognized as the fit vehicle of the most profound religious doctrines in the Vedas and Upanishads."

and the philosophy of Saiva Siddhantam ...

And through the vehicle of the Tamil language, came Savaism, a religion, which the Oxford scholar G.U. Pope, who spent a lifetime as a student of Tamil, later described as "the most elaborate, influential, and undoubtedly the most intrinsically valuable of all religions" of India. The religious philo­sophy of Saiva Siddhantam had its roots in the Thirumanthiram of Thirumu-lar, which appeared around 100 B.C. and witnessed a stupendous develop­ment under Meykandar in the 13th century. Meykandar's Sivajnana Bod-ham expounded the relationship between Pasu, Pathi, and Pasam, and it is an exposition which has defied true interpretation in any language other than Tamil. Many have regarded Saivaism and Tamil as being almost syno­nymous, and that one cannot exist without the other. It has been rightly said "Thamilum Saivamum, Saivamum Thamilum".

at the same time, growth of Buddhism and the Sinhala language in parts of Sri Lanka...

At the same time, Buddhism, which had sprung from Hinduism in India about five hundred years before the birth of Christ, and which did not sur­vive on the Indian sub-continent, did survive and flourish in the central and southern parts of the island of Sri Lanka. The four noble truths enunciated by the Buddha took root amongst sections of an island people who were pro­tected to some extent from a resurgent Hinduism which absorbed Buddhism in India. In India, Pali, the language of Theravada Buddhism, also died away by the end of the 12th century, but in Sri Lanka, from Pali came the birth and growth of an indigenous language - the Sinhala language, whose script, how­ever, bears some striking similarities to the script of early Tamil. The teach­ings of the Buddha were closely interwoven with the culture and the lan­guage of the Sinhala people, and the Sinhala Buddhists of Sri Lanka have rightly taken pride in having nurtured the growth of Buddhism as a world re­ligion.

early political history, when kingdoms existed, but nations were yet un­born ...

The early political history of the people of South India and Sri Lanka, in the centuries before the advent of the European powers, is largely a chronicle of the rise and fall of individual kingdoms. Sometimes they fought against out­side invaders and sometimes they warred against each other. The society was feudal in structure. Land was the dominant means of production. Kingdoms existed. Nations were yet unborn. The loyalty of a people was to their king or chieftain, and it was this which held them together. There was more than one Tamil "kingdom" both in South India and in Sri Lanka, just as there was more than one Sinhala kingdom in Sri Lanka. Sometimes alliances were made to defeat a common enemy. Again, as in Europe before the Industrial Revolution, marriage was one way by which a kingdom was enlarged or strengthened. Sinhala kings often married Tamil princesses. The pace had been set by Prince Vijaya himself.

the industrial revolution and the growth of nations in Europe ...

In Europe, the industrial revolution, which brought with it the steam engine, the growth of easier communications, and the shift from land to other means of production, led to the break-up of feudalism and the birth of nation states. The bourgeoisie constituted the new power elite, and it was they who gave leadership and expression to national sentiment. The boundaries of many nation states were settled painfully, after many wars spread across more than two hundred years. And the continuing struggle of the Basques in Spain, of the Croats in Yugoslavia, show that the process is not yet over.

and, the mercantile expansion of the European powers, which inhibited the organic growth of nations in Asia ...

But the same industrial revolution which led to the birth of nation states in Europe, also fuelled the mercantile expansion of the European powers and the colonization of Asia. The Portuguese arrived in Sri Lanka in the 16th century, and the 17th century saw the advent of the British, the Dutch, and the French to the Indian region. It was a colonization process which inhibited the organic growth of nation states in the Indian region, and state boundaries in India and Sri Lanka reflected, more often than not, the power wielded by the foreign ruler.

colonial rule, economic servitude, and emigration of Tamils to work and serve in foreign lands ...

In India and Sri Lanka, British rule brought with it economic servitude, and Tamils, who had in earlier times gone abroad as traders and scholars, now went to work and serve in foreign lands. Tamils from South India emigrated to work on the plantations in Sri Lanka, in Malaysia, and in Mauritius. Others emigrated to Fiji and further afield. They left their homeland, which was under British rule, so that they might somehow eke out an existence abroad. Some died on the way, in the ships that transported them. Others died on the plantations where they were called upon to work. Many went as indentured labour to take the place of slaves - slavery itself had been abolish­ed by the British Parliament in the 1830s. In Sri Lanka, by 1911, the popula­tion of Tamils on the plantations in the central provinces had increased to more than five hundred thousand, and exceeded the number of Tamils resi­dent in the North and East and who traced their origins to beyond 2500B.C.. Again some Tamils from Sri Lanka settled in Malaysia and served as teachers and public servants.

Tamil cultural renaissance of the 19th century ...

The strength of the culture of a people is rightly measured by its response to invasion by aliens from a foreign land. It was under British conquest that the Tamil cultural renaissance of the second half of the 19th century gathered momentum.

It was a cultural renaissance which had its beginnings in the discovery and the subsequent editing and printing of the Tamil classics of the Sangam pe­riod, which had earlier existed only in palm-leaf manuscripts. Arumuga Navalar in Jaffna, in Sri Lanka, published the Thirukural in 1860 and Thirukovaiyar in 1861. Thamotherampillai, who was born in Jaffna, but who served in Madras, published the grammatical treatise Tolkapiyam by collating ma­terial from several original ola-leaf manuscripts. And it was on the founda­tions laid by Arumuga Navalar and Thamotherampillai that Samintha Aiyar, who was born in Tanjore, in South India, put together the classics of Tamil literature of the Sangam period. Saminatha Aiyar spent a lifetime re­searching and collecting many of the palm-leaf manuscripts of the classical period, and it is to him that we owe the publication of Chilapathikaram, Manimekali, Puranuru, Civakachintamani, and many other treatises which to­day have become a part of the rich literary heritage of the Tamil people. Another distinguished son of Jaffna, Kanagasabaipillai, served at Madras University, and his book "Tamils - Eighteen Hundred Years Ago" rein­forced the historical togetherness of the Tamil people and served as a valua­ble source book for researchers in Tamil studies in the succeeding years. It was a cultural renaissance in which the contributions of the scholars of Jaffna and those of South India are difficult to separate. And it was a renaissance which brought a new awareness to Tamil people everywhere - a new aware­ness of the richness of their literature and the grandeur of their past.

... linked with a revived interest in Saivaism ...

Not surprisingly, it was a renaissance which was also linked with a revived in­terest in Saivaism and a growing recognition that Saivaism was the original religion of the Tamil people from pre-Aryan times. Arumuga Navalar esta­blished schools in Jaffna, in Sri Lanka, and in Chidambaram, in South India, and his work led to the formation of the Saiva Paripalana Sabai in Jaffna in 1888, the publication of the Jaffna Hindu Organ in 1889, and the founding of the Jaffna Hindu College in 1890.

In South India, J.M. Nallaswami Pillai, who was born in Trichinopoly, pu­blished the Sivajna Bodham in English in 1895, and in 1897 he started a monthly called Siddhanta Deepika, which was regarded by many as reflec­ting the 19th-century "renaissance of Saivaism". A Tamil version of the journal was edited by Maraimalai Atikal, whose writings gave a new sense of cohesion to the Tamil people - a cohesion which was derived from the redis­covery of their ancient literature and the rediscovery of their ancient reli­gion.

led to a rising Tamil consciousness ...

It was a cultural renaissance which brought the Tamil people increasingly to­gether and which served to underline their oneness. Culture is the distilled essence of the way of life of a people, and it reinforces the unity and identity of a people. It is related to the way in which power is shared amongst them and it provides the cohesive basis for the exercise of power by them, as a peo­ple. The cultural renaissance of the 19th century led to an increasing Tamil togetherness and was linked to the thrust for political power that was to fol­low.

married to the larger struggle for freedom from a foreign ruler ...

And for the Tamils of South India and Sri Lanka, who were after all colonial servants of an imperial ruler, the thrust for political power sought to marry a rising Tamil nationalism with the immediate and larger struggle for freedom from the foreign ruler - a struggle which encompassed the whole of India and Sri Lanka.

a feeling that the Tamils were a people, but that they belonged to India as well...

In South India, no one exemplified the marriage of this duality more effecti­vely than Subramania Bharathy, whose songs in Tamil stirred the hearts of millions of Tamils, both as Tamils and as Indians. The words of Bharathy's Senthamil Nadu Enum Pothinale continue to move the hearts of the Tamil people today. It was his salute to the Tamil nation that was yet unborn. His Viduthalai was the joyous song of Indian freedom, and there he reached out beyond the Tamil nation to the day when Bharat would be free. To Bhara­thy, freedom was not a mere cliche, to be parroted by the elite few. He sought to raise the consciousness of his own people by his ceaseless campaign against casteism and for women's rights. The Bharathy birth-centenary cele­brations of 1982 served to underline the permanent place that Bharathy will always have in the hearts of the Tamil people, whether in Tamil Nadu or in Sri Lanka, because Bharathy reached out to that which lies deep down in their consciousness - a feeling in their hearts, in their being, that they were Tamils, but that they also belonged to India.

And, in the years after the First World War, Mohandas Karamchand Gand­hi and Jawarhalal Nehru reached out to the underlying unity of India and sought to weld together the many nations of India into a larger whole. It was an attempt to reach out to a unity which was deeper than the superficial unity created by the territorial boundaries imposed by the imperial ruler, which was deeper than the unity of expedience which the freedom struggle dicta­ted, and which was derived from the larger unity of a Hindu way of life.

but, there is a difference between the unity of convicts seeking to escape from jail and the unity of free men ...

But the attempt to unite the nations of India did not entirely succeed. The as­sessment of Pramatha Chauduri who wrote in Bengali in 1920 is not without significance today:

"... You have accused me of "Bengali patriotism". I feel bound to reply. If it is a crime for a Bengali to harbour and encourage Bengali patriotism in his mind, then I am guilty."

"But I ask you, what other patriotism do you expect from a Bengali writer? The fact that I do not write in English should indicate that non-Bengali patriotism does not sway my mind. If I had to make patriotic speeches in a language that is the language of no part of India, then I would have had to justify that patriotism by saying it does not relate to any special part of India as a whole. In a language learnt by rote you can only express ideas learnt by heart..."

"It is not a bad thing to try and weld many into one, but to jumble them all up is dangerous, because the only way we can do that is by force. If you say that this does not apply to India, the reply is that if self-determination is not suited to us, then it is not suited at all to Europe. No people in Europe are as different, one from another, as our people. There is not that much difference between England and Holland as there is between Madras and Bengal. Even France and Germany are not that far apart... If you ask why this simple truth is not evident to all, the answer is: because of circumstances. The whole of India is now under British rule... therefore, the main link between us is the link of bondage, and no province can cut through this subjugation by its own efforts and actions... So today we are obliged to tell the people of India: "Unite and Organize".. People will recognize the value of provin­cial patriotism the moment they attain independence... Then the various nations of India will not try to merge, they will try to establish a unity amongst themselves... To be united owing to outside pressure and to unite through mutual regard are not the same. Just as there is a difference between the getting together of five convicts in a jail and between five free men... Indian patriotism then will be built on the foundation of provincial patriotism, not just in words but in reality ... " [7]

the growth of the Dravida Kalagam in South India ...

In the Madras Presidency, which was the largest province of British India, and which included parts of that which is Andhra, Karnataka, and Kerala to­day, the Suya Mariyathai Iyakam (Self-Respect Movement) of E.V. Rama-samy Naicker, which started initially in the early 1920s, as a social reform movement aimed at a castless society, developed later into a vehicle of a ri­sing Tamil consciousness, which sought to link together the people of South India into a Dravidian federation. In 1927, Ramasamy Naicker took over the leadership of the South Indian Liberal Federation, commonly called the Justice Party. The establishment of Annamalai University and later the Ta­mil Isai Sangam were linked with the increasing political influence of the Jus­tice Party in the Madras Presidency. The students at Annamalai University were to become the political leaders of the Tamil people in the years to come, and as early as 1926 Sankaran Nair, a nominated member of the Council of State in Delhi, pleaded for self-government to the ten Tamil districts of the Madras Presidency, with its own army, navy, and air-force.

At the Justice Party confederation held in Madras in 1938, Ramasamy Naicker put forward his demand for Dravidanad. This was two years before Mohamed Ali Jinnah set out the formal demand for Pakistan at the Lahore conference, and in 1944, the Justice Party changed its name to Dravida Kalagam, and C.N. Annadurai functioned as its General Secretary. These were the early manifestations of a Tamil nationalism, which influenced Tamils outside India as well. Ramasamy Naicker visited Malaysia in 1929, and his visit led to a proliferation of Tamil associations, dedicated to religious and social reform - associations which were often led by journalists and teachers. And the writings of Annadurai and the leaders of the Dravida Kalagam marked a watershed in the literary heritage of the Tamil people.

and in Sri Lanka, the Sinhala Maha Sabha ...

In Sri Lanka, too, in the early 20th century, the increasing togetherness of the Tamil people came to be subsumed under the imperatives of the struggle for independence. Tamil leaders such as Ponnambalam Ramanthan and Ponnambalam Arunachalam worked together with their Sinhala counter­parts in the Ceylon National Congress, but it was not long before the growth of a separate Sinhala nationalism and a separate Tamil nationalism came to be reflected in the political arena.

The thrust of Sinhala nationalism led in the mid 1930s to the formation of the Sinhala Maha Sabha, in some ways not dissimilar to the Self-Respect Move­ment of Ramasamy Naicker in South India. And the Leader of the Sinhala Maha Sabha, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, stated in 1939:

"We, the Sinhala Maha Sabha, saw differences amongst our own people -caste distinctions, up-country and low-country distinctions, religious dis­tinctions, and various other distinctions - and we therefore felt that we should achieve unity, which is the goal of us all."

the Tamil Congress demand for balanced representation ...

At the same time, the thrust for the exercise of social power by the Tamils led in the early 1940s to the formation of the Tamil Congress with the demand for balanced representation. It was not a demand for a separate state. It was not a demand for a federal constitution. It was a demand for equitable parti­cipation for Tamils in elections to a legislature constituted within the frame of a unitary state. It was a demand intended not merely to protect the Tamil minority, but to secure a constitutional framework which would permit the selection of a Tamil as the Prime Minister. It was a demand that failed, and many years later, the leader of the Tamil Congress, G.G. Ponnambalam, re­marked: "If I were a Sinhalese, I would have been the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, but as a Tamil, I can only aspire to be President of the United Nations Organization". It was a statement jocularly made, but it focussed attention on a perceived line of separation - a Tamil, however skilful and able he may be, cannot occupy certain positions of power, "because he was a Tamil", and the arithmetic of power in a "democracy" was against him.

independence from British rule in 1947/1948 ...

In August 1947, the British quitted the Indian sub-continent and handed over power to two independent states, India and Pakistan. And six months later, the British transferred power in Sri Lanka to a Sinhala Prime Minister, who appeared on independence day in February 1948 in tropical Sri Lanka, clad in a morning coat with tails and wearing a top hat. Sri Lanka was granted independence as a consequence of the success of the Indian freedom struggle, and this again underlined the basic geographical link between the affairs of Sri Lanka and India.

with the departure of the British, organic growth of nations ...

With the departure of the British, the growth of the separate nationalisms of the Indian region gathered momentum. In India, this manifested itself in the demand for linguistic states within the larger Indian federal Union. It was a demand that was initially resisted by the central government in New Delhi, which failed to recognize that the unity of free men cannot be forged in the same way as the unity of those who had sought to escape from jail. Andhra Pradesh, which today has N.T. Rama Rao as its Chief Minister, was the first linguistic stated to be established in independent India. Others were soon to follow - Maharastra, Karnataka, Kerala, Gujerat, and Haryana - but not without protracted struggle and agitation.

and the creation of the linguistic state of Tamil Nadu ...

And Tamil nationalism in India found expression in the demand for a sepa­rate state, outside the Indian Union - a demand of the Dravida Muntera Kalagam, which was formed in 1949 and which was led by C.N. Annadurai. It was a demand which was given up in 1963, but the Dravida Munetra Kalagam itself won popular support amongst the Tamils of South India, captured power in the Madras State Legislative Assembly, and the linguistic state of Tamil Nadu was created, albeit within the federal Union of India. It was a victory which marked the coming into being of the Tamil nation on the Indian sub-continent.

"... In order to mould the masses into a self-conscious people, the leadership of the party (the D.M.K.) has inculcated a sense of pride in the language, li­terature, history, heroes, race, and culture of the people. The party has moulded the people into a nation... '

... but in Sri Lanka, repression of Tamils within the frame of a unitary con­stitution ...

Whilst in India, a rising Tamil nationalism was contained, within the frame of a linguistic state in a federal union, in Sri Lanka, one of the first steps of the Sinhala government, after independence, was to utilize the framework af­forded by a unitary constitution to introduce legislation which deprived al­most one half of the Tamils of Sri Lanka, who worked on plantations, of their citizenship and their right to vote. These laws were enacted despite the fact that a pan-Sinhala Board of Ministers had, in 1943, prior to independence, proposed to the British government a parliament for independent Sri Lanka of 101 seats, of which 14 seats were allocated for plantation Tamils. The safeguards contained in section 29 of the unitary Constitution, which prohi­bited the enactment of any law which would impose disabilities or restric­tions on the members of any community or religion, were circumvented by enacting laws which on their face applied to all persons equally, but which were in fact implemented in a discriminatory manner.

"The real purpose of these Acts was to disenfranchise the plantation workers in the up-coun­try Kandyan areas, where they might have been in danger of swamping the electorate... In re­vising the electoral registers for the central Ceylon districts for 19S0, Tamil names were quite simply left out, leaving the onus on anyone who wanted his name reinstated to prove his citi­zenship under the new rules ..."[9]

"... the result today is a wholly arbitrary deprivation of the fundamental right to the citizenship of one's country for a group of people almost all of whom were born there, who have lived there all their lives, who have never been anywhere else and have no other allegiance, and who have made an immense contribution to that country's wealth, while being themselves allotted only a derisory share of it ..."[10]

... coupled with proportional representation in the legislature for the Sin­hala majority...

Further, although the plantation Tamils were disenfranchised, their num­bers were nevertheless taken into account for the purposes of delimitation. The Sinhala majority was, in effect, given proportional representation in the legislature, at the expense of the Tamil minority. The demand of the Tamil Congress was given effect to - in reverse.

"... In 1948, at independence, the Tamils had 33% of the voting power in the legislature. Upon the disenfranchisement of the estate Tamils, however, this proportion dropped to 20%. The Sinhalese obtained more than a 2/3 ma­jority in the Parliament, making it impossible for the Tamils to exercise an ef­fective opposition to Sinhalese policies affecting them ..., [11]

and state-sponsored colonization of the traditional homelands of the Tamils...

These were naked acts of discrimination and oppression and came in the wake of continued state-sponsored colonization of the traditional home­lands of the Tamils of Sri Lanka. During the period from 1936 onwards, when land alienation and settlement was in the hands of Sinhala Ministers, systematic state-aided colonization deprived the Tamils of their traditional homelands in the eastern parts of the island. In the Trincomalee district, in 1921, a mere 3% of the population were Sinhalese: by 1946 their numbers had increased to 20% and in 1971 to almost 29%. Again in Batticaloa and Amparai, in 1921, 4.5% of the population were Sinhalese: by 1971 their numbers had increased to almost 18%.

"... Tamils have objected to State colonization schemes which import large numbers of Sinha­lese into traditional Tamil areas. The Tamil concern about colonization is related to insecurity about their physical safety and to fears that Tamils will become a minority in their traditional homelands. The government maintains that since Sri Lanka is a single country, citizens may freely move into any part of the country, and that it is necessary to transplant some populations to more productive areas. The Tamils answer that they are not opposed to individual migra­tion, but only to large-scale government colonization schemes which change the ethnic com­position of an area ..." [12]

which led to the demand for a federal constitution in Sri Lanka ...

That which is separately treated tends to become separate, and the discri­minatory acts of the Sinhala government reinforced the growth of Tamil na­tionalism in Sri Lanka. And in 1949 a new Tamil political party, the Thamil Arasu Katchi, also known as the Federal Party, was formed. It was commit­ted to securing a federal constitution for Sri Lanka and "the establishment of one or more linguistic states incorporating all geographically contiguous areas in which the Tamil- speaking people are numerically in a majority as federating units enjoying the widest autonomous and residuary powers, con­sistent with the unity and external security of Ceylon ".[13]

and the success of the Thamil Arsu Katchi in 1956 and the coming into being of the Tamil nation in Sri Lanka ...

The Federal Party, led by S. J. V. Chelvanayagam, won massive popular sup­port amongst the Tamils resident in the North and East of Sri Lanka at the General Elections held in 1956, and continued to do so at every succeeding general election thereafter. In the same way as the victory of the Dravida Munetra Kalagam at the polls in the Madras Presidency in 1967 marked the coming into being of the Tamil nation on the Indian sub-continent, the victo­ry of the Thamil Arasu Katchi in 1956 in Sri Lanka marked the coming into being of the Tamil nation in Sri Lanka - a nation constituted of the Tamils li­ving in their traditional homelands in the North and East of Sri Lanka. And the demand for a federal constitution was a demand that was intended to protect the continued existence of the Tamil nation within the framework of a united Sri Lanka - a Tamil nation which felt that its continued existence was endangered by the actions of the ruling majority. Subsequent events proved that the perceptions of S.J. V. Chelvanayagam were right. And the Thamil Arasu Katchi was destined to play a role in Sri Lanka not dissimilar to that of the Dravida Munetra Kalagam in South India.

at the same time, rise of Sinhala nationalism ...

At the same time, 1956 witnessed the maturing of a Sinhala nationalism, which led to the success of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike's Sri Lanka Freedom Party at the polls. It was a party which campaigned on the basis of an appeal to Sinhala Buddhist sentiment and with a promise to make Sinhalese the of­ficial language of the country "within 24 hours". The success of Dravida Munetra Kalagam ofAnnadurai in South India, the Thamil Arasu Katchi of Chelvanayagam in Jaffna, and the Sri Lanka Free­dom Party of Bandaranaike in Sinhala areas, represented not dissimilar stages in the organic growth of Tamil and Sinhala nationalism in the Indian region. It was a growth which was interwoven with the increasing economic burdens cast on increasingly larger sections of the electorate in economies which, as late comers, had to buy and sell in a global market dominated by the "already" developed countries of the world. As the economic cake grew smaller in relation to population, the discrimination against the "minority" increased, and as discrimination increased, a separate "identity" took shape. And, not surprisingly, the Dravida Munetra Kalagam, the Sri Lanka Free­dom Party and, to a lesser extent, the Thamil Arasu Katchi felt the need to proclaim "socialism" as the economic panacea to win electoral support.

Sinhala as the only official language ...

One of the first acts of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike's government in 1956 was to enact that Sinhalese shall be the sole official language. And this was done al­though, in 1944, before independence, the legislature had enacted that both Sinhala and Tamil should be official languages. The deliberate "downgrad­ing" of the Tamil language was perceived by many Tamils as a symbolic in­sult - more than that, it was also regarded as being intended to eventually erase the separate cultural identity of the Tamil nation in Sri Lanka. But the passing of the Sinhala Only Act was not only a matter of sentiment. It served to deprive thousands of Tamils of employment in the public sector - and, more importantly, open up thousands of job opportunities for Sinhala youth who did not have the benefit of an English education. And Tamil Members of Parliament, who staged a peaceful protest outside the premises of Parlia­ment, were set upon by Sinhala goon squads and assaulted, whilst the police looked the other way. It was the first physical assault on the Tamils of Sri Lanka.

abrogation of Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam Pact...

One year later, in 1957, after prolonged discussions, the Sinhala Prime Mi­nister and the leader of the Federal Party signed the Bandaranaike-Chelva­nayagam Pact on matters relating to the colonization of the traditional homelands of the Tamil people, the establishment of regional councils in the North and East of Sri Lanka, and the use of the Tamil language. But within weeks the Sinhala leader unilaterally abrogated the agreement at the "re­quest of the Sinhala people", and the campaign against the agreement was led by President Jayawardene, who was then functioning as the leader of the opposition and who declared:

"The time has come for the whole Sinhala race, which has existed for 2500 years, jealously safeguarding their language and religion, to fight without giving any quarter to save their birthright... I will lead the campaign..." [14]

attacks by Sinhala goon squads in 1958 ...

And when, in the face of the unilateral abrogation of the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam Pact, the Federal Party sought to organize peaceful protest movements in the North and East against the use of the Sinhala language in the traditional homelands of the Tamil people, thousands of Tamils in Co­lombo, Kandy, Amparai, and elsewhere in the South of Sri Lanka were set upon by Sinhala goon squads in "retaliatory" attacks. Tamil homes were looted. The estimated death toll in the riots of 1958 was of the order of 1,000.

"... Passing cars and trains were stopped by mobs and their occupants butchered, houses were burnt with people inside, and there was widespread looting ,.."[15]

"Hundreds of persons, primarily Tamils, were killed in this first episode of communal violence. Over 25,000 Tamil refugees were relocated from Sin­halese areas to Tamil areas in the North. The government was criticized for failing to declare a state of emergency early enough ..."[I6]

and by the Sinhala Army in 1961...

The Federal Party recommenced negotiations in 1960 with the new Sinhala government, headed by Mrs. Srimavo Bandaranaike, who had been elected after general elections following the assassination of S.W.R.D. Bandara­naike in September 1959. But the negotiations proved abortive, and in April 1961 thousands of Tamils performed satyagraha in Jaffna. They were set up­on by the Sinhala Army and brutally assaulted.

"... the military, without any warning and without informing the satyagrahis assembled at the Jaffna Kacheri that an emergency had been declared, assaulted the men mercilessly, bundled the women into trucks... the military also vented their wrath on a large number of push cycles and even on some motor cars... the army covered itself with glory when under the cover of darkness and armed with modern weapons, it routed a band of unarmed satyagrahis in what will go down in history as the "Battle of Jaffna"... Immediately the "Battle of Jaffna" was over, the army proceeded to waylay and assault all and sundry on the roads of Jaffna on the ground that they were breaking a curfew order, of .which most of them were unaware ... "[I7]

And an opposition Sinhala Member of Parliament stated in Parliament in May 1961: "This is not a question of an army man here and there, after li­quor, indulging in excess. No, there is some plan, some purpose. There is an indication that they are going on instructions and preparing for some trouble because the purpose of the government in imposing an emergency and al­lowing army and navy personnel to behave in that fashion is to intimidate... the Tamil minority in this country. That is the fact. That is the purpose."

abrogation of Senanayake-Chelvanayagam Agreement of 1965 ...

In 1965, yet another Sinhala Prime Minister, Dudley Senanayake, assumed office and once again the Federal Party negotiated and entered into an agreement which undertook to give a measure of regional autonomy by esta­blishing District Councils, but three years later the Sinhala Prime Minister reneged on his promise, again at the "request of the Sinhala people". And in a "democracy" in a unitary state, the will of the permanent majority pre­vailed.

autochthonous constitution of 1972 without participation of Tamil re­presentatives ...

The 1970 general elections saw a new government installed in power, headed this time once again by Mrs. Srimavo Bandaranaike. It was a govern­ment which commanded an unprecedented majority of over 75% of the seats in Parliament and immediately set up a Constituent Assembly to draft a new Constitution. The Federal Party initially participated in the delibera­tions and moved resolutions intended to secure a federal constitution for Sri Lanka. But these resolutions were defeated and the party thereupon refused to take any further part in the proceedings of the Constituent Assembly.

The Constituent Assembly, however, proceeded with its deliberations and in 1972 adopted a new autochthonous constitution, which made a break in legal continuity and which sought to derive its legitimacy from the will of the people as expressed by the Constituent Assembly - a Constituent Assembly which did not any longer include the representatives of the Tamil people. The 1972 Constitution was in no way the expression of the will of the Tamil people.

repealed even the limited safeguards for minorities contained in the 1948 Constitution...

The 1972 Constitution went further and repealed even the limited safe­guards for minorities contained in the Constitution of 1948 - safeguards which had become an embarrassment to the Sinhala government in conse­quence of the Kodiswaran case:

"The Bandaranaike government had directed that unless a Tamil public servant passed a pro­ficiency test in Sinhala in stages over three years, his annual increment would be suspended and he would eventually be dismissed. Mr. Kodiswaran, a Tamil in the executive clerical ser­vice, declined to sit for the exam, and in 1962 his increment was stayed. He sued the govern­ment on the ground that the regulation was unreasonable and illegal, as the Official Language Act of 1956 transgressed the prohibition against discrimination provided for in section 29 of the Constitution. The trial judge, the most senior in the judicial service, upheld the plea. But his judgment was set aside on appeal in the Supreme Court on the ground that a public servant could not sue for his salary. Mr. Kodiswaran appealed to the Privy Council in London, which set aside the Supreme Court's decision on suing for a public servant's salary and directed that the Supreme Court should now rule on the constitutional question. The Ceylon government thereupon abolished appeals to the Privy Council, thereby disposing of Kodiswaran's case. And the Republican Constitution of 1972 did away with the safeguards for minorities enshrin­ed in the original section 29."[I8]

standardization of admissions to Universities ...

In the meantime, in 1971 the new government standardized admissions to the University and effectively reduced the number of Tamil students enter­ing Universities. The percentage of Tamil students entering engineering courses fell from 40% in 1970 to 13% in 1976; in science faculties the per­centage fell from 35% in 1970 to 15% in 1978; and in the medical faculty from 50% in 1970 to 20% in 1975.

"Nothing aroused deeper despair among Tamils than the feeling that they are being systematically squeezed out of higher education. They have com­plained particularly of the system of "standardization" in force after 1972, in which marks obtained by candidates for university admission are weighted by giving an advantage to certain linguistic groups and/or certain districts"[19]

It was a step taken by the Sinhala government in the aftermath of an armed uprising by Sinhala youths in 1971 - an insurrection which revealed wides­pread discontent at the failure of the government to resolve the problem of increasing unemployment. Around 10,000 Sinhala youth were killed during the insurrection. And the Tamils of Sri Lanka were not unmindful that the problem of unemployment was something that concerned the Sinhala peo­ple as well.

"... It is true that unemployment is something which concerned Sinhala youth as well - con­cerned them to the extent that thousands were prepared to die, and did in fact die, in the at­tempt to change the economic structure which existed in 1971. But there is this significant dif­ference. In Sri Lanka, state power has at all times been concentrated in and derived from the centre, and during the past several years this has meant that such state power has been in the hands of the Sinhala majority. And it is not surprising that those who enjoyed state power in a parliamentary democracy tended to extend their patronage to their own electoral areas. At a time when more than 60% of the economy is state-owned, one consequence has been that the public sector has become an almost closed avenue for employment, in so far as Tamils are con­cerned ... (and) it is not without significance that no Tamil either participated or died in the in­surrection in 1971. They continued to live with their feelings of disaffection. Their failure to participate was not because that unemployment was less acute in the Tamil areas. They did not participate because national feelings which spring from a common language and culture continue to remain a potent force in the political arena - more potent than that which springs from divisions of class ..."[20]

Young Tamils were driven to the streets, without prospects of further educa­tion and without prospects of employment, and compelled to seek a political solution for that which had become an existential problem.

at the same time, growing togetherness between the Tamils of Sri Lanka and the Tamils of Tamil Nadu ...

The continued repression of the Tamils of Sri Lanka by successive Sinhala governments was not without an answering response from their brothers and sisters in Tamil Nadu, who were linked by a common culture and a common language - a link that was furthered by The International Association for Ta­mil Research, which held its first international conference seminar in 1966 in Malaysia.

It was a conference that was attended by Tamil scholars from more than twenty countries, and the late Father Xavier Thaninayagam from Sri Lanka, who himself had researched at Annamalai University in Chidambaram and later served in Malaysia, and whose contributions to Tamil studies will al­ways remain monumental, commenced his introductory remarks from the chair with a quotation from Thirumular:

"Ennai Nandragha Iraivan, Padaithanan Thannai Nandragha Tamil Cheiyumaru".

These were words intended to reiterate the underlying unity of Tamils every­where. The conference was addressed by the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, M. Bhaktavatsalam:

"As the leader of the delegation from Tamil Nadu, whose language and culture have been per­meating throughout the East and West in days of yore, I deem it a great privilege to be able to address you on this historic occasion... In those early days, when maritime trade of the Tamils extended up to China, Malaysia must have played a very important role as the centre of trade for ships from Tamil Nadu going to countries such as the Philippines, Cambodia, Java... The ancient Sangam classic, Pattinappalai, refers to the variegated merchandise which we impor­ted from places like Java, Sumatra, Malaysia, and China and to the assorted goods which were exported from Tamil Nadu to these countries... the world-famous temple of Angkorwat bears witness to the architectural grandeur of Tamil Nadu, which has spread... it gives me great plea­sure to propose that the Second Conference be held at Madras early in 1968 ..."[21]

a growing togetherness, reinforced by the Second International Confe­rence Seminar of Tamil Studies in Madras in 1968 ...

And so it was that the 1966 Conference was followed in 1968 by one in Ma­dras, in Tamil Nadu. It was a conference that was attended by almost 500 delegates from forty countries, 203 of whom were from Tamil Nadu and 49 from Sri Lanka.

"To run concurrently with the Second International Con­ference Seminar, a World Tamil Conference, aimed at a wider audience and planned with a view to making an appeal of a more popular nature, was ar­ranged by the Government of Tamil Nadu, by this time under the leadership of C.N. Annadurai (of the Dravida Munetra Kalagam). A leading part in the organization of this World Tamil Conference was played by M. Karanunidhi (who later himself served as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu)... statues often important figures in the story of Tamil culture and history were unveiled on the Marina Beach, Madras. These were Thirivalluvar, Auwai, Kamban, G.U. Pope, Robert Caldwell, Bharathi, Bharathidasan, V.O. Chidambaram, Veeramamunivar, and Kannagi..."[22]

... and, the Fourth International Conference Seminar of Tamil Studies in Jaffna, in 1974, which ended in death for seven Tamils ...

The Fourth International Conference Seminar of Tamil Studies was held in Jaffna in January 1974. It was a Conference that was organized amongst great difficulties and without the support of the Sri Lankan government, which was headed at that time by Srimavo Bandaranaike. Many Tamil scho­lars from Tamil Nadu were refused visas for entry into Sri Lanka. Restric­tions were placed on those who would be permitted to speak at the public meeting at the conclusion of the Conference Seminar. The police, fearing that Era Janarthanam, a Tamil scholar and a Member of the Legislative As­sembly of Tamil Nadu belonging to the Dravida Munetra Kalagam, may speak, moved into the assembled crowd with tear gas and seven Tamils were killed as a direct result of the police attack. And the government of Sri Lanka refused to hold an independent judicial inquiry into the conduct of the po­lice.

The police action was in keeping with the increasingly belligerent attitude of the Sinhala government. But it served to unite the Tamils of Sri Lanka with their brothers and sisters from many lands, who bore witness to the brutality of the police attack in January 1974, and Era Janarthanam and many others who were present at the Fourth International Conference of Tamil Studies, continue to lend support to the cause of the Tamils of Sri Lanka even today. It also served to solidify opinion amongst thousands of Tamil youths that their future lay in obtaining freedom - at least from the Sinhala army and the Sinhala police force.

rise of Tamil militancy...

The years after 1974 witnessed the consequences of the failure of peaceful protest and parliamentary agitation to secure a fair deal for the Tamil peo­ple. It witnessed the rise of sporadic violence against the state and its per­ceived agents by isolated groups of Tamil youths. The response of the Sinha­la government was one of repression, and the era of detention without trial and questioning under torture began. It was a repression which increased the reactive violence - and did not quell it.

"If Sri Lanka is not to experience communal violence or terrorism and counter-terror on a scale which would invite comparison with Northern Ireland or Cyprus, there will have to more readiness for compromise and moderation than has yet been shown... Is it too late for an attempt to evolve an inter-communal approach to the language question and the related matters of education and employment? It would be a pity if Sri Lanka's leadership waited for bombs to explode and for the prisons to fill up again before conceding that the Tamils need reassurance that they have a place in the future of the island." [23]

The words of Walter Schwarz soon proved to be prophetic.

formation of TULF and demand for separate state in 1976 ...

These were the events that led to the formation of the Tamil United Libera­tion Front in 1976, with the Federal Party as its leading partner, and the Vaddukodai resolution of 1976, demanding the creation of a separate state for the Tamils of Sri Lanka.

a demand that came after 25 years of negotiation for a federal constitu­tion ...

The demand for a separate state came after more than 25 years of negotia­tion: it came after more than 25 years of refusal on the part of successive Sinhala governments to share power with the Tamil people within the frame­work of a federal constitution: it came 17 years after Tarzie Vittachi had re­marked after the attacks on Tamil civilians in 1958:

"What are we left with? A nation in ruins, some grim lessons which we can­not afford to forget, and a momentous question: Have the Sinhalese and Ta­mils reached the parting of ways?"[24]

The TULF contested the general elections of 1977 on the basis of setting up a separate state of Eelam and it obtained the support of large sections of the Tamil people in the North and East of Sri Lanka.

1977 manifesto of United National Party ...

At the same 1977 general elections, it appeared that President Jayawar-dene's United National Party had acquired some understanding of the issues involved - its manifesto declared:

"The United National Party accepts the position that there are numerous problems con­fronting the Tamil-speaking people. The lack of a solution to their problems has made the Ta­mil-speaking people support even a movement for the creation of a separate state. In the inte­rest of a national integration and unity so necessary for the economic development of the whole country, the Party feels such problems should be solved without loss of time. The party, when it comes to power will take all possible steps to remedy their grievances in such fields as 1.Education, 2.Colonization, 3.Use of Tamil Language, 4.Employment in Public and Semi-Public Corporations. We shall summon an All-Party Conference as stated earlier and implement its decisions."

Many Tamils resident in the South of Sri Lanka voted for the United Na­tional Party and helped President Jayawardene to win more than four fifths of the seats in the legislature and defeat Mrs. Bandaranaike's Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).

1977 communal violence ...

Soon after the new Government assumed duties in July 1977, an incident between certain members of security forces and some Tamils in a carnival in Jaffna sparked off widespread violence against Tamils, both in Jaffna and elsewhere.

"... The trouble began in Jaffna, capital of the Northern province, when Sinhala policemen, believed to have been loyal to the defeated Sri Lanka Freedom Party of Mrs. Bandaranaike, acted provocatively by bursting into a Tamil carnival. In the violent altercation that followed the police opened fire and four people were killed. A wave of rioting followed, spreading quickly to the south. Among 1,500 people arrested were several well-known Sinhalese extre­mists, accused of instigating violence against Tamils. Martin Wollacott reported in the Guar­dian from Sri Lanka (27 August 1977): "It looks very much as if disgruntled Freedom Party leaders in many places saw an opportunity to embarrass the government and, with the collu­sion of some Freedom Party police appointees and of local gangsters, organized and encou­raged the attacks on the Tamils".[25]

... which brought together the Tamils of the North and East with those who worked on the plantations ...

And in 1977, for the first time, the attacks were directed not only against Ta­mils from the North and East of Sri Lanka, but also against Tamils on the plantations. More than 14,000 Tamils entered refugee camps and more than 2,000 Tamil families of southern origin sought permanent sanctuary in the traditional home lands of the Tamils in the north and east. These were events which served to increase the togetherness between the Tamils of the North and the East and the Tamils who worked on the plantations. The govern­ment appointed a commission to investigate the incidents and this helped to assuage feelings to some extent, although, in the event, the recommendation of the Commission that compensation be paid to the victims, was not carried out.

constitutional amendment declaring both Sinhala and Tamil as national languages ...

In 1978, the Sri Lankan Constitution was amended and both Sinhala and Tamil were declared "national languages". The language provisions in the new Constitution went further than the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam Pact of 1956 and the Dudley Senanayake-Chelvanayagam agreement of 1965. And this was not without an answering response from amongst the Tamil people:

"... Clearly there were no instant solutions for the accumulated problems of centuries. But at least the President of this country has taken an initial first step in endeavouring to bring our peoples together... Solutions will have to be worked out and balances will have to be struck in the process of a working partnership. Let us not cooperate out of fear or compulsion. On the other hand, let us not fear the prospect of working together to find some answers at least to the problems that all of us face in Sri Lanka... In so far as the Sinhala community is concerned, I be­lieve that more and more of them have begun to realize that separation can come in this coun­try only by the acts of the Sinhala community alone, acts which make it impossible for any self-respecting Tamil to be a part of Sri Lanka and to publicly acknowledge his loyalty to this coun­try ... The Sinhala community, by virtue of the very fact that it is the majority community, car­ries the heavy responsibility of securing a climate where the members of the minority com­munity are encouraged to live with self-respect, where they are encouraged and given confi­dence to found their families, plan their future, and look upon Sri Lanka as their motherland. Justice is not only a matter of enacting suitable laws. Where liberty and justice die in the hearts of men, no law and no constitution can be of any avail... The future then lies in our own hands. The people of Sri Lanka have in their own hand the power to shape that future, and in the final analysis everything depends on what they themselves want to do..."[26]

but failure to take effective action in respect of admission to Universi­ties ...

But despite its election pledges the government failed to right the unfairness of the "standardization" process which excluded some of the brightest Tamil students from Universities and sent them to join the swelling ranks of the mi­litant Tamil political groups.

recourse to the Prevention of Terrorism Act...

And in July 1979, the Prevention of Terrorism Act was enacted to curb the rising acts of militancy and violence by young Tamils in their traditional homelands in the North and East. It was originally intended to be in opera­tion for one year, but later extended for further periods, and in 1982 it be­came a permanent enactment. It was an Act which conferred on state autho­rities draconian powers of detention and investigative interrogation. It was a harsh Act, which was harshly implemented.

"... Under this law, a person can be detained for 18 months without trial, and court decisions to transfer suspects to the custody of the judiciary can be re­versed by Parliament. The brutal manner in which the Act has been en­forced, as well as the widespread killings and torture by the security forces, have been investigated and condemned by international human rights or­ganizations such as Amnesty International and the International Commis­sion of Jurists, as well as other observers ..."[27]

Presidential Commission and Development Councils ...

The United National Party failed to summon the Round Table Conference as it had pledged to do in its election manifesto, and it may well have been that the outbreak of violence in 1977 and the consequent exacerbation of feelings had something to do with this failure. However, in 1979, President Jayawardene appointed a Presidential Commission, which included a repre­sentative of the Tamil United Liberation Front, to report on the establish­ment of District Development Councils and the decentralization of the ad­ministration.

but, time was running out...

But clearly, time was running out.

"... As early as 1928, the Donoughmore Commission recommended the establishment of Pro­vincial Councils on the ground that it was desirable that a large part of the administrative work of the Centre should come into the hands of persons resident in the districts and thus more di­rectly in contact with the needs of the area. Twelve years later the Executive Committee of Lo­cal Administration, chaired by the late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, considered the proposal of the Donoughmore Commission, and in 1940 the State Council (the legislature) approved the establishment of Provincial Councils. The war intervened and nothing was in fact done, but in 1947, on the floor of the House of Representatives, the late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike again declared his support for the establishment of Provincial Councils."

"In 1955, the Choksy Commission recommended the establishment of Regional Councils to take over the functions that were exercised by the Kacheries, and in May 1957 the government of the late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike presented a draft of the proposed Bill for the establishment of Regional Councils."

"Subsequently, in July 1957, the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam Pact made provision for di­rect election to Regional Councils and also provided that the subjects covered by Regional Councils shall include agriculture, cooperatives, lands and land development, colonization, and education. The Pact, however, did not survive the opposition of sections of the Sinhala community which included the United National Party... In July 1963, the government of Mrs. Bandaranaike declared that "early consideration" would be given to the question of the esta­blishment of District Councils to replace the Kacheries and the government appointed a Com­mittee on District Councils and the report of this Committee containing a draft of the pro­posed Bill to establish District Councils, but again nothing was in fact done."

" In 1965, the government of the late Dudley Senanayake declared that it would give "earnest consideration" to the establishment of District Councils, and in 1968 a draft Bill approved by the Dudley Senanayake Cabinet was presented as a White Paper, and this Bill provided for the establishment of District Councils... Ironically enough, this time around, the opposition to the Bill was spearheaded by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, which professed to follow the policies of the late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, who himself had in 1940,1947, and again in 1957, sup­ported the establishment of a decentralized administrative structure... and the Bill was with­drawn ..."

"More than 50 years have passed since 1928 and we have moved from Provincial Councils to Regional Councils and from Regional Councils to District Councils, and now we appear to be moving from District Councils to Development Councils. We have had the "early con­sideration" of Mrs. Srimavo Bandaranaike and the "earnest consideration" of the late Dudley Senanayake. There has been no shortage of Committees and Commissions, of re­ports and recommendations, but that which appears to be lacking was the political will to implement that which nobody denies is fair and right. In a parliamentary democracy where political parties vie with one another to bid for the support of the people at the broadest common denominator, the highest bidder no doubt wins, but often the long-term losers are the people themselves. This is a process which has its own dynamics... effective manage­ment and essential fairness are not always the result of a public auction... The Presidential Commission provides a forum which can be utilized to bring our peoples together, but... time is running out ..."[28]

Development Councils without funding and without power ...

The Presidential Commission was unable to reach unanimity and the repre­sentative of the TULF presented a dissenting report. The Development Councils which were eventually established failed to devolve power. Patricia Hyndman from Lawasia commented in 1983:

"The present government has set up District Development Councils with the stated aim of de­centralization. Unfortunately, inadequate implementation of the scheme has meant that the desired devolution of power has not been forthcoming. A government agent described the Councils to the delegation in the following terms - they have no funding, they have no po­wers, and, more important, the scheme is not one of devolution; what has been done is rath­er to bring all village councils to a central spot."[29]

burning of the Jaffna public library ...

The elections to District Development Councils in May/June 1981 were disrupted by incidents of violence by Tamil militants. One of the Tamil UNP candidates was killed. Unidentified gunmen fired shots at an election mee­ting and two policemen were killed. The response of the State security forces was to unleash an unrestrained attack on the civilian population of Jaffna.

"...a large group of police (estimated variously from 100-200) went on rampage on the nights of May 31-June 1 and June 1-2, burning the market area of Jaffna, the office of the Tamil Newspaper, the home of the member of Parliament for Jaffna, and the Jaffna Public Li­brary...the destruction of the Jaffna Public Library was the incident which appeared to cause the most distress to the people of Jaffna., .the 95,000 volumes of the Public Library destroyed by the fire included numerous culturally important and irreplaceable manuscripts..."[30]

organized attacks on Tamils in central and south Sri Lanka...

These incidents in Jaffna were followed in August 1981 by organized attacks on Tamils in central and south Sri Lanka.

"... August incidents of violence centred on three specific areas: the gem mining area of Ratnapura, Negombo near the capital city of Colombo, and the plantation towns in central Sri Lan­ka. Before the violence was brought under control...at least 10 Indian Tamils had been killed, numerous Tamil shops and businesses burned, and more than 5,000 Indian Tamils had fled to refugee camps... It was widely reported that attacks in Negombo as well as an attack against passengers on a Jaffna to Colombo train were made by organized gangs. Tamil sources stated that it could not be ruled out that people close to the government were behind the organized violence. They also claimed that the police and the army did not intervene to prevent attacks until the declaration of the state of emergency many days after the attacks began..."[31]

increasingly wide-ranging retaliatory attacks ...

And in 1982 and early 1983, the sporadic attacks by Tamil militant groups on police stations and banks were followed by increasingly wide-ranging re­taliatory attacks by state security forces on innocent Tamil civilians.

at the same time continuing dialogue with TULF, which offered no answers to basic Tamil grievances ...

At the same time, commencing in late 1981, President Jayawardene en­gaged the TULF in a continuing dialogue, but without resolving any of the underlying grievances of the Tamils of Sri Lanka. Standardization of admis­sion to universities continued. The language provisions of the Constitution were not implemented. Employment opportunities for Tamils in the public sector decreased rather than increased. Inquiries were not held into police and army excesses. Compensation was not paid to the victims of attacks by organized Sinhala goon squads. And no attempt was made to discipline or control government supporters who indulged in openly racist propaganda.

President Jayawardene: "we cannot think about the lives of the Tamil people..."

On the 11th of July 1983, the elected President of Sri Lanka gave expression to the policy of his government in respect of a section of his electorate. Presi­dent Jayawardene, vested by the Sri Lankan Constitution with the executive power of the State, announced to the world:

"I have tried to be effective for sometime but cannot. I am not worried about the opinion of the Tamil people now".

He said at one time his party had been anxious to apply policies in the nor­thern region in such a way as to attract popular support there. "Now, we can­not think of them. Not about their lives or of their opinion about us. Nothing will happen in our favour until the terrorists are wiped out. Just that. You cannot cure an appendix patient until you remove the appendix". He went on: "The more you put pressure in the north, the happier the Sinhala people will be here... really, if I starve the Tamils out, the Sinhala people will be happy" [32]

The government of Sri Lanka was frank. On such occasions, it should be ta­ken at its word. In the perception of the government, the claims of the Tamil people had assumed a dimension that demanded a response - but, strangely, a response which did not have regard for the lives of the Tamil people or, for that matter, their opinion.

Industries Minister: "terrorism must be stopped by terrorism"...

President Jayawardene's Minister if Industries, Cyril Mathew, was some­what more explicit when he had declared in Parliament in 1981:

"Terrorism cannot be stopped and has never been stopped by means of the law. Terrorism has been stopped by terrorism. In no other way is it possi­ble.."

The government of Sri Lanka was set on the path of finding a "military" solution. The legitimizing propaganda was that "terrorism must be stopped by terrorism". But what was the nature of the so-called terrorism which the government of Sri Lanka sought to eradicate?

...but ICJ: "if terrorism is to be contained, legitimate expectations of the Tamil community must be met..."

The International Commission of Jurists Report on a mission to Sri Lanka in January 1984 stated:

" ...The Tamil Tigers are, it is conceded, only a tiny group of violent youths in a fundamentally peaceful population of nearly 15 million. They have taken, on the average, around 16 lives a year, almost all among people whom they either see as their armed oppressors or as traitors to their own community, and entirely within a few small areas in the Island. By comparison the toll of deaths from terrorism in Northern Ireland over the same period - 217 members of the security forces and 275 civilians - has averaged 90 per annum in a population just one tenth the size of Sri Lanka: that is, a rate per capita 57 times as high....the scale and size of terrorism in Sri Lanka is not such as to constitute a public emergency threatening the life of the nation..and so does not justify measures permanently derogating from the rights guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights., if terrorism is to be contained or eliminated the legitimate expectations of the Tamil community must be met.."[33]

Tamils of Sri Lanka: their legitimate expectations..

And in 1983, 35 years after independence from British rule, what were the legitimate expectations of the Tamils of Sri Lanka, who numbered around three million and who constituted one fifth of the island's population? What were the legitimate expectations of a people who were bound together by a common language and a common culture and many of whom continued to reside in their traditional homelands in the north and east of Sri Lanka?

reassurance that Tamils had a place in the future of the island...

It was a legitimate expectation of the Tamil people that the government of Sri Lanka would have acted on the comments of Professor Virginia Leary in the 1981 International Commission of Jurists Report that:

"The tension between the ethnic communities creates an extremely danger­ous situation in Sri Lanka, which may escalate into major violence in the Is­land and negate all efforts to develop the Island economically... As a mini­mum, the Tamils are entitled to protection of their physical security within Sri Lanka. This protection can no longer be taken for granted..."

and endeavoured to create a climate where the Tamil people yvere encouraged to live with self-respect, where they were encouraged and given confidence to found their families and look upon Sri Lanka as their motherland

recognize that the Tamils constituted a nation...

It was a legitimate expectation of the Tamil people that the government would give effect to Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that:

"All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, so­cial, and cultural development".

and act on the 1981 International Commission of Jurists Report that:

"The Tamils could be considered to be a "people". They have a distinct lan­guage, culture, a separate religious identity from the majority population, and to an extent, a defined territory... The application of the principle of self-determination in concrete cases is difficult. It seems, nevertheless, that a credible argument can be made that the Tamil community in Sri Lanka is en­titled to self-determination. Self- determination does not necessarily mean separation.... What is essential is that the political status of the "people" should be freely determined by the "people" themselves.

and recognize that the Tamils of Sri Lanka constituted a nation and deal with them on that basis.

It was a legitimate expectation of the Tamil people that the government would recognize that Sri Lanka constituted a multi-national state and that there­fore there was a need for two nations to share power within the frame of a federal constitutional structure.

...repeal of Sinhala Only Act...

It was a legitimate expectation of the Tamil people that the government would act on the 1981 International Commission of Jurists Report that:

"Policies concerning the use of Sinhala, inter alia, have seriously lessened the opportunities of Tamils for government employment. The government should adopt a system for recruitment for government service which pro­vides equal opportunities for all persons, regardless of ethnic origin".

and repeal the Sinhala Only Act and adopt a system of recruitment for go­vernment service which provided equal opportunities for all persons, regard­less of ethnic origin.

stop state-sponsored colonization of the traditional homelands of the Tamil people...

It was a legitimate expectation of the Tamil people that the government would act on the 1981 International Commission Report that:

"the government should give renewed attention to Tamil concern over go­vernment-sponsored colonization schemes which bring large numbers of Sinhalese into Tamil areas and thus change the ethnic composition in such areas. This is particularly important in view of the insecurity of Tamils due to communal violence against them in areas where they are a minority".

and stop state-sponsored colonization of the traditional homelands of the Tamil people.

secure that admissions to universities were on merit and not on implicit racial quotas...

It was a legitimate expectation of the Tamil people that the government would act on the 1981 International Commission of Jurists Report that:

"The Government should re-examine its policies on university admissions with a view to ba­sing admission on merit rather than on racial grounds. Tamil and Sinhalese young people alike will then have equal rights to university education on the basis of capacity rather than on race. One of the major points of tension among many Tamil youths has been the implicit racial quo­ta under present university admission policies which has barred many competent youths from pursuing higher education".

and secure that university admissions werebasedon merit andnot on implicit racial quotas.

resolve ethnic conflict on the basis of the rule of law ...

It was a legitimate expectation of the Tamil people that the government would act on the 1981 International Commission of Jurists Report that:

The long-term solution to the ethnic conflict in the interests of the entire population can only be achieved on the basis of respect for the rule of law and relevant human rights standards. It is regrettable that certain government and United National Party actions, such as the actions and remarks of certain government and party members, the actions of security forces, the stripping of the civic rights of Mrs. Bandaranaike, the Parliamentary vote of no confidence in the Leader of the Tamil United Liberation Front, as well as the adoption of the Terrorism Act have under­mined respect for the Rule of Law in Sri Lanka".

and seek to resolve the ethnic conflict on the basis of respect for the rule of law. ...direct its security forces to act according to law...

It was a legitimate expectation of the Tamilpeople that the government would act on the report of Orville H.Schell, former President of the New York City Bar Association, current Chairman of the Americas Watch Committee, and Head of the Amnesty International 1982 fact-finding mission to Sri Lanka that:

"...The Government (of Sri Lanka) has repeatedly denied that its security forces violate fun­damental rights. However, as head of an Amnesty International fact-finding mission in Janua­ry 1982,1 received first-hand evidence that incommunicado detention under the Prevention of Terrorism Act was widespread and that the army and the police regularly tortured political suspects and carried out political killings in June 1981.."

and direct its security forces to act according to the law.

repeal provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act which offended accepted principles of the rule of law...

It was a legitimate expectation of the Tamil people that the go vernment would act on the 1981 International Commission of Jurists Report that:

"The South African Terrorism Act has been called 'a piece of legislation which must shock the conscience of a lawyer'. Many of the provisions of the Sri Lankan Prevention of Terrorism Act are equally contrary to accepted principles of the Rule of Law".

and repeal the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act which offended accepted principles of the Rule of Law.

hold independent inquiry into acts of murder and arson by the security forces...

It was a legitimate expectation of the Tamil people that the government would have acted on the 1981 International Commission of Jurists Report that:

"A primary concern of the government should be the physical security of the minority Tamil population and the avoidance of future communal violence so frequently directed against Tamils in the past... In this regard the govern­ment should pursue a vigorous policy of investigation and prosecution of po­lice officers responsible for the burning of many areas in Jaffna in May/June 1981..."

and on the comments of the Head of the 1982 Amnesty International Mis­sion to Sri Lanka that:

"It is regrettable that the government did not institute an independent inves­tigation to establish responsibility for these killings (in May/June 1981) and take measures against those responsible. Instead, one police officer involved was promoted and emergency legislation was introduced facilitating further killings..."

and have held an independent and impartial inquiry into the incidents of murder and arson by the security forces in the traditional homelands of the Tamilpeople in May/June 1981.

reinstate the world-famous Jaffna public library that was burnt down by the security forces...

It was a legitimate expectation of the Tamil people that the government would have acted on the 1981 International Commission of Jurists Report that:

"The government should lead a major national and international effort to re­build and develop the Jaffna Public Library destroyed by arson by police in June 1981. Such an effort would evidence the respect of the government for the cultural rights of the Tamils, help to remedy a serious injustice done to the Tamil community, and contribute to restoring Tamil confi­dence in the Government".

and reinstated the Jaffna Public Library.

if the government becomes a law breaker, it breeds contempt for the law...

It was also a legitimate expectation of the Tamil people that the government of Sri Lanka would recognize the wisdom of the words of United States Su­preme Court Justice Brandeis in 1928:

"Our government is the potent and omnipresent teacher..for good or ill it teaches the whole people by example. Crime is contagious. If the govern­ment becomes a law breaker, it breeds contempt for the law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.."

expectations which were not fulfilled...

But these "legitimate" expectations of the Tamils of Sri Lanka in 1983 - ex­pectations which were founded on those rights which spring from the inhe­rent dignity of man and which were further legitimized by the support of in­dependent and impartial observers of the Sri Lankan scene - were not ful­filled. The government of Sri Lanka, on its own admission, was no longer concerned with the lives or the opinion of the Tamil people. And a fortiori, it was no longer concerned with their "legitimate expectations".

but towards "military solution"...

And two weeks after President Jayawardene's announcement a vicious planned attack was launched on the Tamils of Sri Lanka. It was an attack which has gathered momentum in the succeeding months and which seeks to annihilate and absorb the Tamils of Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan government is today engaged in the pursuit of a military solution to the Tamil national question - a solution which refuses at every turn to recognize the existence of two nations in Sri Lanka and the need to structure a polity where both nations may live with dignity and with self-respect. The Sri Lankan govern­ment seeks to subjugate the Tamils of Sri Lanka and bend them to its will.

The independent Minority Rights Group, whose sponsors include Gunnar Myrdal, Lord Goodman, and Milovan Djilas, reported in September 1983:

"The present conflict has transcended the issue of special consideration of minority rights and has reached the point where the basic human rights of the Tamil community - the rights to life and property, freedom of speech and self-expression, and freedom from arbitrary ar­rest have in fact and in law been subject to gross and continued violations. The two commu­nities are now polarized, and continued repression coupled with economic stagnation can only produce stronger demands from the embattled minority, which, unless there is a change in direction by the central government, will result in a stronger Sinhalese backlash and the possibility of outright civil war".

...and what wrong have the Tamils of Sri Lanka done?...

And so, the Tamils of Sri Lanka have asked themselves, what is it that they have done that has led to this attempt to subjugate them? What wrong have they done? Was it wrong for those who were workers on plantations and who had contributed much to the prosperity of Sri Lanka, was it wrong for them to ask that they should continue to be citizens of the country in which they were born? Was it wrong for them to demand that they should not be de­prived of the right to vote, that they should not be rendered stateless? Was it wrong for the Tamils of Sri Lanka to demand that land which had been theirs for more than two thousand five hundred years should be regarded as their traditional homelands? Was it wrong for them to protest against the syste­matic state-aided colonization of their traditional homelands? Was it wrong for them to protest against the promulgation of the Sinhala Only Act, which deprived them of employment in the public service? Was it wrong for them to feel that the down-grading of their language was yet another step in wiping out the identity of the Tamil people? Was it wrong for them to feel that this was yet another step in the adaptation of the Hitlerite doctrine that the role of a minority is to serve the majority? Was it wrong for them to demand a federal constitution as a way of protecting their national identity? Was it wrong for them to protest against a discrimination which prevented their children from entering universities even when they were more qualified than the Sinhala children who were granted admission?

The Sinhala people lacked the confidence of a majority...

And, if all this was not wrong, then the inference is irresistible that, although the Sinhala people constituted around three quarters of the population of Sri Lanka, they have lacked the strength to be just. They have been unable to act with the confidence of a majority. They have been afraid to be fair. They have been afraid of the stubborn refusal of the Tamils to be absorbed and "integrated", and in their fear they have periodically raped, killed, and plun­dered. They rejected every attempt to devolve power on regional councils because they were afraid to share power with the Tamil nation. They did vio­lence to truth and to language when they insisted on calling federalism, sepa­ratism. They were caught in a vicious circle of their own creation:

"...without concessions towards self-government through decentraliza­tion, the original demand for "fair shares" develops gradually into a de­mand for independence, as moderate leaders come under pressure from extremists. On the other hand, concessions towards autonomy are re­garded by the government in power as the thin end of the wedge..."[34]

they were afraid...

The Sinhala people were not afraid of a Tamil minority which constituted a mere one fifth of the Sri Lankan population. But they did not see the Tamils of Sri Lanka alone: they saw the 45 million Tamils of Tamil Nadu also. Their fear was a function of geography. It was compounded by that which they were encouraged to believe was history.

Their beliefs constituted a part of the mythology of a growing Sinhala na­tionalism - a mythology which was nurtured by the Sinhala elites as a way of securing their own power within the structural framework of a dependent neo-colonial economy, which, given the microscopic size of the Sri Lankan market, inevitably led to increasingly closer links with the centres of power in the industrially developed Western world, and a corresponding separation of the Sinhala elites from their own people. It was a mythology which fed on the latent fear of the Sinhala people of the Tamils of Tamil Nadu, and which sought to annihilate and absorb the Tamils of Sri Lanka by seeking to "assi­milate" and "integrate" them in a unitary state. If the Tamils were not willing to be absorbed, then they must be annihilated, presumably in the belief that if a sufficient number are annihilated, the remainder would either leave the country or become more pliable, and therefore more easily "integrated".

that which is separately treated becomes separate...

But that which is oppressed becomes consolidated. The repressive acts of successive Sinhala governments have shown the Tamils of Sri Lanka that it mattered little whether they were Indian Tamils, Jaffna Tamils, Estate Ta­mils, Trincomalee Tamils, Batticaloa Tamils, Kandy Tamils, Badulla Ta­mils, Nuwara Eliya Tamils, or Colombo Tamils. That which did matter was that they were Tamils. The Tamils of Sri Lanka have been educated about their Tamil identity.

"National and class divisions are unimportant until we make them relevant. And so it is with any other divisions within humanity. We are all human beings, whatever our colour, sex, age, occupation, religion, language group, weight, height, intelligence - definable as human beings different from other species. Our identities are in themselves irrelevant for social distinctions until we make them relevant. We identified black people as Negroes, whatever their age, reli­gion, occupation, capabilities, or self identities. Then the tables were turned and they said, "Yes, I am a Negro, but let's make this as clear as possible by translating it into English and making the dichotomy clear: "You are white, I am black". Dark-skinned human beings, the same as others, make one of their identities (poor, American, blue collar, man or woman, southerner) relevant as a weapon in their fight for their individual self-determination".[35]

In the end, national self-determination is but the resultant of the struggle for individual self-determination, for individual freedom. And the nationalism of the Tamils of Sri Lanka is the resultant of the quest for individual growth in the face of a continuing Sinhala discrimination.

...and what is a nation?...

And what is a nation? "The simplest statement that can be made about a na­tion is that it is a body of people who feel that they are a nation; and it may be that when all the fine-spun analysis is concluded this will be the ultimate statement as well".36 It "is a grand solidarity constituted by the sentiment of sacrifices which one has made and those that one is disposed to make again. It supposes a past, it renews itself in the present by tangible deed... it is no­thing but a choice, a plebiscite every day".37

nations are not for all time...

Of course, nations are not for all time. They had a beginning. They will end. A nation is a historical category. But, nationalism has not yet fulfilled its his­torical role. That which the study group of the Royal Institute of Internatio­nal Affairs said in 1939 remains true today:

"the nation is the political unit, and nationalism the group symbol of the present stage of civili­zation. Those who believe that they have found some better type of group to replace the nation will continue to work for it and to condemn the nation by comparison with it. Meanwhile those concerned with the conduct of international affairs in the present epoch can only take the na­tion as a fact (without assuming that it will be eternal) and work to harmonize the divergent points of view of different nations and to diminish the extent and frequency of resort to vio­lence".[38]

end of era of nationalism is not remotely in sight...

"The reality is quite plain - the end of the era of nationalism so long prophe­sied is not remotely in sight - indeed nationess is the most universally legiti­mate value in the political life of our time".[39]

And Karl W. Deutsch's words in 1953 retain their relevance today:

"..that the difference in poverty is so great, that the world's poorest people are so numerous, comprising as they do, more than one half of mankind, these are perhaps the fundamental facts behind much of today's nationalistic insistence on national separateness ..and not before the vast poverty of Asia and Africa have been reduced substantially, not before that, will the age of nationalism and national diversity begin to die.."[40]

In the end, the eradication of the vast poverty of Asia and Africa can itself come about only through the political channel of nationalism and the energy that it releases.

the Tamils of Sri Lanka constitute a nation...

The togetherness of the Tamils of Sri Lanka is rooted in a common history, a common culture, and a common language. It springs from a commonpast. It has been hammered into shape by the discrimination of a shared present - a discrimination which treats separately and which has inevitably nurtured that which was separately treated It is a togetherness which has been given strength and direction by a growing conviction and, more than that, a grow­ing faith that the Tamils of Sri Lanka will, together, shape a common future, where they and their children and their children's children may live in equali­ty and in freedom. It is a togetherness which seeks to cry out aloud, in pain and in Joy- "yes, we too are a people". Today, the Tamils of Sri Lanka, wherever they may reside, constitute a nation.

not only a "people", but also a subjugated people...

The Tamils of Sri Lanka are not only a "people" within the meaning of that expression in Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but by any test they are, today, a subjugated people, living in fear for the safety of their lives and their property, and deprived of the effective use of their vote by an amendment to the Constitution which is in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and which has ren­dered vacant the Parliamentary seats of their elected representatives.

right of self-determination...

And it is the inherent right of a subjugated people to free themselves from an alien subjugation. It is a right of self-determination which the international community has come to recognize as one of the peremptory norms of gene­ral international law. In the words of Dr. Hector Gros Espiell in his report for the United Nations Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities for the Implementation of United Nations Resolu­tions Relating to the Right of Peoples Under Colonial and Alien Domina­tion to Self-Determination:

"Today, no one can challenge the fact that, in the light of contemporary in­ternational realities, the principle of self-determination necessarily pos­sesses the character of jus cogens (that is a "peremptory norm of general in­ternational law".

And whatever may be limits of the right of self-determination in internatio­nal law, it is nowhere denied that it includes the right of a subjugated people to free themselves from an alien subjugation.

and the response of the international community...

And so today, it is the legitimate expectation of the Tamil people that the re­sponse of the international community to the events in Sri Lanka would be predicated upon the recognition of certain frames, which no longer admit of any doubt:

— that the Tamils of Sri Lanka constitute a people with a common language, a common culture, a shared history, and a traditional homeland

— that the Tamils of Sri Lanka are a subjugated people

— that the refusal of successive Sri Lankan governments to share power within the frame of a federal constitutional structure constitutes, by itself, an act of subjugation

— that the continued failure of the Sri Lankan government to offer a politi­cal solution which recognizes the existence of the Tamil nation and which seeks to share power with that Tamil nation constitutes evidence of the intent of the government to annihilate and absorb the Tamils of Sri Lanka

— that the conduct of the Sri Lankan government since President Jayawar-dene's 11th July 1983 declaration that the Sri Lankan government was no longer concerned with the lives or opinion of the Tamil people, proves that it is set on the path of a "military solution" and that it seeks to subju­gate the Tamil nation

— that the continuing and systematic violations of human rights by the Sri Lankan government and its agents are a part of this process of subjuga­tion and constitute proof of such subjugation

— that the failure of the Sri Lankan government to hold independent and impartial investigations into the allegations of organized violence against the Tamils of Sri Lanka, supports this conclusion

— that the territorial sovereignity of the Sri Lankan state cannot, in interna­tional law, prevent the intervention of the international community to se­cure the observance of human rights and to secure the freedom of a peo­ple subjugated by an alien government

— that, on the contrary, international law casts a duty on the international community to intervene on humanitarian considerations and give the thick edge of action to those rights which spring from the inherent dignity of man.



(1)    Paul Sieghart: Sri Lanka: A Mounting Tragedy of Errors - International Commission of Jurists and Justice, March 1984.

(2)    Robert Caldwell: A Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian or South Indian Family of Languages, London, Trubner, 1875.

(3)    Paul E. Pieris: Nagadipa and Buddhist Remains in Jaffna: Journal of Royal Asiatic So­ciety, Ceylon Branch, Vol. 28.

(4)    M.D. Raghavan: Tamil Culture in Ceylon, Kalai Nilayam Press, circa 1968.

(5)    Albert Schweitzer: Indian Thought and its Development.

(6)    X.S. Thaninayagam: Tamil Culture and Civilization, Asia Publishing House, 1970.

(7)    Pramatha Chaudhuri: Bengali Patriotism - Sabuj Patra 1920: translated and reprinted in Facets, September 1982.

(8)    Ajit Singh Sarhadi: Nationalisms in India - The Problem, Heritage Publishers, Delhi, 1975.

(9)    Walter Schwarz: Tamils of Sri Lanka, Minority Rights Group, 1983.

(10) Paul Sieghart: Sri Lanka, A Mounting Tragedy of Errors - International Commission of Jurists and Justice, March, 1984.

(11) Virginia Leary: Ethnic Conflict and Violence in Sri Lanka - Report of a Mission to Sri Lanka on behalf of the International Commission of Jurists, July/August 1981.

(12) id.

(13) Resolution at National Convention of the Thamil Arasu Katchi, August 1956.

(14) Ceylon Daily News: 13th June 1957.

(15) Walter Schwarz: Tamils of Sri Lanka, Minority Rights Group, 1983.

(16) Virginia Leary: Ethnic Conflict and Violence in Sri Lanka - Report of a Mission to Sri Lanka on behalf of the International Commission of Jurists, July/August 1981.

(17) Senator Nadesan: Senate Hansard 2nd May 1961.

(18) Walter Schwarz: Tamils of Sri Lanka, Minority Rights Group, 1983.

(19) id.

(20) N. Satyendra: Tamils of Sri Lanka and the Presidential Commission: Sri Lanka Tri­bune, 13th October 1979.

(21) Proceedings of the First International Conference Seminar on Tamil Studies, 1966, IATR.

(22) Proceedings of the Second International Conference Seminar of Tamil Studies, 1968, IATR.

(23) Walter Schwarz: Tamils of Sri Lanka, Minority Rights Group, 1983

(24) Tarzie Vittachi: Emergency 1958, Deutsch, London, 1958.

(25) Walter Schwarz: Tamils of Sri Lanka, Minority Rights Group, 1983.

(26) N. Satyendra: Ceylon Daily News, 10th April 1979.

(27) Walter Schwarz: Tamils of Sri Lanka: Minority Rights Group, 1983.

(28) N. Satyendra: Tamils of Sri Lanka and the Presidential Commission: Sri Lanka Tri­bune, 13th October 1979.

(29) Patricia Hyndman: Communal Violence in Sri Lanka, July 1983 - Report to Lawasia Human Rights Standing Committee.

(30) id. footnote (16).

(31) id.

(32) London Daily Telegraph: 11th July 1983.

(33) id footnote (10).

(34) id. footnote (18).

(35) Dov Ronen: The Quest for Self Determination, Yale University Press, 1979.

(36) Rupert Emerson: From Empire to Nation, Cambridge Mass., 1953.

(37) Ernest Renan: Que'est-ce qu'une Nation? Paris, 1982.

(38) A Report by a Study Group of Members of the Royal Institute of International Af­fairs, London, 1939.

(39) Benedict Anderson: Imagined Communities - Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, Verso Editions, London, 1983.

(40) Karl W. Deutsch: Nationalism and Social Communication, Cambridge Mass., 1960.


*Paper presented by Nadesan Satyendra at the Second Consultation on Ethnic Violence, Development and Human Rights, organised by United Nations University, International Peace Research Institute and Netherlands Institue of Human Rights (SIM) at Utrecht, 1-3 February 1985 and published in Netherlands Human Rights Institute SIM Special No.5