The Tamil Home Land
The Tamil people of the island of Ceylon (now called Sri Lanka) constitute a distinct nation. They form a social entity, with their own history, traditions, culture, language and traditional homeland. The Tamil people call their nation 'Tamil Eelam'.
As a nation, Tamils have the inalienable right to self-determination, a universal principle enshrined in the U.N. Charter that guarantees the right of a people to political independence.
Apart from the right to self determination, the Tamil Eelam may also be justified in terms of international law under the concept of reversion of sovereignty and the concept of effectiveness.
Before a succession of western nations (including the Portuguese, Dutch and the British) ruled the island, there were two distinct kingdoms on the island, the Tamil Kingdom in the north and the Sinhala kingdom in the South.
For ease of administration, the British amalgamated the two distinct nations into a single entity with its capital in Colombo. The British gave Ceylon independence in 1948, handing over control of the entire island to a Sinhalese government, based in Colombo, which renamed the island Sri Lanka.
The Sinhala state's oppression of the Tamil people began in various forms almost immediately, attacking everything that defined the Tamils as a nation.
A series of laws that discriminated against Tamils were implemented. These included making Sinhala, instead of English, the only official language of the country, i.e. Tamils could not be employed unless they learnt Sinhala. The educational structures were altered to restrict Tamil admissions to higher education. Investment in Tamil areas was minimised.
Recruitment of Tamils into the security forces was restricted. The Sri Lankan security forces are almost exclusively Sinhalese. The security forces have been responsible for and continue to carry out human rights abuses and atrocities against Tamil civilians on a genocidal scale.
Sinhala colonisation of traditional Tamil areas was started in the fifties, and was intensified in the eighties with the security forces wiping out Tamil villages and replacing them with Sinhala settlements. Colonisation continues unabated.
Anti-Tamil rioting, with the active participation of the Sri Lankan security forces, has claimed thousands of Tamil lives. Thousands more suffered torture and rape.
As the Tamil people sense of helplessness deepened, Tamil politicians advocated a separate Tamil state. In 1977, the Tamil United Liberation Front resolved in its Vaddukoddai Resolution to campaign for political independence on the basis of the Tamil nation's right to self- determination.
At the general elections of 1977, the TULF demanded a clear mandate from the Tamil people to launch a national campaign to establish the sovereignty of the Tamil homeland. These elections were effectively a referendum the Tamil speaking people voted overwhelmingly in favour of secession.
The Tamil call for independence was met by island wide anti-Tamil rioting. The Sri Lankan government forced all elected MPs to take an oath that they would not seek a separate state.
With all democratic ways to achieve equality having failed repeatedly, an armed struggle for independence began, led by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). International Law recognises that the armed resistance of the Tamil people to Sri Lankan rule is lawful and just.
Today, the LTTE has evolved into a military and political organisation representing the aspirations and hopes of the Tamil people.
The island of Sri Lanka (known as Ceylon until the promulgation of the new Republican Constitution in 1972) is the historical homeland of two ancient civilizations, of two distinct ethno-national formations with different languages, traditions, cultures, territories and histories. The history of the Tamils in the island dates back to pre-historical times. When the ancestors of the Sinhala people arrived in the island with their legendary Prince Vijaya from the `city of Sinhapura in Bengal' in the 6th century BC they encountered ancient Dravidian (Tamil) settlements. Even the Sinhala historical chronicles - Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa - document the existence of Dravidian kingdoms of Nagas and Yakkas before the advent of Sinhala settlers in the island. In an attempt to distort the authentic history of the original settlers, the Buddhist monks, who wrote the historical chronicles, depict the ancient Tamils as 'nonhumans' as `demons possessing super-human powers'. Though the question of original settlement is obscured by legends and mythologies, modem scholars hold the view that the Tamils were indisputably the earliest settlers. Because of the geographical proximity of southern India to the island, it is highly probable that the Dravidian Tamils were the original inhabitants before the sea landing of Prince Vijaya and his crew from northern India.
The Buddhist historical chronicles record the turbulent historical past of the island from 6th century BC, the history of great wars between Tamil and Sinhala kings, of invasions from southern Indian Tamil empires, of violent struggles for supremacy between Tamil and Sinhala kingdoms. The island was ruled by Sinhalese kings and by Tamil kings at times and the intermittent wars compelled the Sinhala kings to move their capital southwards. From the 13th century onwards, until the advent of foreign colonialism, the Tamils lived as a stable national formation in their own kingdom, ruled by their own kings, within a specified territory of their traditional homelands embracing the northern and eastern provinces.
Marco Polo once described Sri Lanka as the island paradise of the earth. The British colonialists called it `the pearl of the Indian ocean'. Separated from the southern coast of India by only a twenty-two mile stretch of water, the island has a territorial area of 25,332 square miles. For centuries before colonial penetration, the island had a traditional self-sustaining economy with a reputation of being the granary of the East. The mode of economic production in the pre-colonial epoch was feudal in character. Structured within the feudal mode, the economic organisation of the Tamil nation had a unique set of relations of production characterised by caste stratification with its hierarchy of functions. The extensive hydraulic agrarian system with its network of tanks and canals for which the mediaeval Ceylon was famous, had fallen out of use and was decaying and disappearing under the thick jungles in the north as well as in the north central provinces. The Sinhalese feudal aristocracy, by this time, had moved to the central highlands and established Kandy as the capital.
When the Portuguese first landed on the island in the beginning of the 16th century, they found two ancient kingdoms, the Tamils in the north-eastern region and the Sinhalese in the south, two distinct communities of people with different cultures constituting themselves as separate nations ruled by their own kings with sovereign state structures. The Portuguese entered into treaties and then fought battles and finally in the battle of 1619 they conquered the Tamil kingdom and hanged the Tamil king Sankili Kumaran. Yet the Portuguese and the Dutch, who came after them, governed the Tamil nation as a separate kingdom, recognising the integrity of the Tamil homeland and the ethnic identity of the Tamil people. In 1796 the British colonial empire took control of the island from the Dutch and in 1833 imposed a unified state structure amalgamating the two national formations irrespective of the ethnic differences. Thus foreign colonialism laid the foundation for the present national conflict. Though the British, for administrative purposes, created a unitary state, they recognised that the island had been the homeland of two separate nations. In 1799 Sir Hugh Cleghorn, the first Colonial Secretary observed in the well known 'Cleghorn Minute', `two different nations, from very ancient period have divided between them the possessions of the island: the Sinhalese inhabiting the interior in its southern and western parts from the river Wallouve to that of Chillow, and the Malabars (the Tamils) who possess the northern and eastern districts. These two nations, differ entirely in their religion, language and manners.' Though the Sinhalese and the Tamils have an ancient past with deep historical roots buried beyond the Christian era and possess elements of distinct nations, the island of Sri Lanka, in the course of history, developed a heterogeneous culture. There are other ethnic groups living in the island, of which the Muslims and the plantation Tamils constitute themselves as significant communities of people with distinct cultural identities.
The Sri Lankan Muslims, whose origins can be traced back to the 10th century, arrived in the island as traders from Arabia. The Muslims adopted the Tamil language as their mother tongue and settled down predominately in the eastern region and in the southern districts. Though they embraced Tamil language and shared a common economic existence with the Tamils as a peasant community in the east, it is their religion, Islam, which provides them with the consciousness of collective cultural identity as a distinct ethnic group.
The effects of Portuguese and Dutch colonial rule on the island's pre-capitalist economic formation are minimal when compared to the profound effects of British colonial domination. The most significant event of British colonial rule was the imposition of an exploitative plantation economy.
It was in 1815, with the conquest of the Kandyian kingdom by the British, the painful history of the Tamil plantation workers begins. It was during that time the British colonialists decided to introduce the plantation economy in the island. Coffee plantations were set up in the early 1820s, a crop which flourished in high altitudes. Speculators and entrepreneurs from England rushed to the newly conquered mountain areas and expropriated vast tracts of land, by deceit, from the Kandyian peasantry. The Kandyian peasants refused to abandon their traditional subsistence holdings to become wage earners on these new capitalist estates. The pressure exerted by the colonial state to draw the labour power from the indigenous Sinhalese peasantry did not work. The British colonial masters were thus compelled to draw on their limitless reserves of labour from India. A massive army of cheap labourers were conscripted from southern India who, partly by their own poverty and partly by coercion, moved into this Promised Land to be condemned to an appalling form of slave labour. A notorious system of labour contract was established which allowed hundreds of thousands of Tamil labourers to migrate to the plantation estates. Between the 1840s and 1850s a million people were imported. The original workers were recruited from Tamil Nadu districts of Tinneveli, Madurai and Tanjore and were from the poor, oppressed castes. This army of recruited workers were forced to walk hundreds of miles from their villages to Rameswaram and again from Mannar through impenetrable jungles to the central hill-lands of Ceylon. Thousands of this immiserated mass perished on their long hazardous journey, a journey chartered with disease, death and despair. Those who survived the journey were weak and exhausted and thousands of them died in the nightmarish, unhealthy conditions of the early plantations.
The coffee plantation economy collapsed in the 1870s when a leaf disease ravaged the plantations. But the economic system survived intact with the introduction of a successor crop tea. Tea was introduced in the 1880s on a wide scale. The tea plantation economy expanded with British entrepreneurial investment, export markets and consolidated companies transforming the structure of production and effectively changing the economic foundation of the old feudal society creating a basis for the development of the capitalist economic system. Though the plantation economy effectively changed the process of production, the Tamil labourers - men, women and children - were permanently condemned to slave under the white masters and the indigenous capitalists. The Britishplanters who brought the Indian Tamil labourers into Sri Lanka deliberately segregated them inside the plantations in what is known as the `line rooms'. Such a notorious policy of segregation 4 ondemned the Tamils permanently to these miserable ghettos, isolated them from the rest of the population and prevented them from having their own land, building their own houses and leading a free social existence. British colonial rule built up the Tamil plantation community within the heartland of the Kandyian Sinhalese andmanipulated the Tamil-Sinhala antagonism to divide and rule. Itrduced to conditions of slavery by colonialism, the Tamil plantation workers toiled in utter misery. Their sweat and blood sustained the worst form of exploitative economy that fed the English masters with the surplus value and enriched the Sinhala land owning classes.
The impact of British colonial domination on the indigenous Tamil people of the northern and eastern provinces had far reachhip- effects. On the political level, British colonial rule imposed a unified administration with centralised institutions, establishing a singular state structure. This forceful annexation and amalgamation of two separate kingdoms, of two nations of people, disregarding their past historical existence, their socio-cultural distinctions and their ethnic differences are the root causes of the Tamil-Sinhala racial antagonism.
Ihe Tamil social formation was constituted by a unique socioeconomic organisation, in which feudal elements and caste systems weir lightly interwoven to form the foundation of this complex society. The notorious system of caste stratification bestows, by right of birth, privilege and status to the high caste Tamils. The mostl exploited and oppressed people are from the so-called depressed castes who eke out a meagre existence under this system of sauvery. Privileged by caste and provided with better educational facilities by foreign missionaries, a section of the high caste Tamils adopted the English educational system. A new class of I nalish educated professional and white-collar workers emerged and became a part of the bureaucratic structure of the civil service. The English colonial masters encouraged the Tamils and provided them with an adequate share in the state administration under a notorious strategy of divide and rule, that later sparked the fires of sinhala chauvinism.
The Tamil dominance in the state administrative structure, as well as in the plantation economic sector, the privileges enjoyed by the English educated elites and the spread of Christianity are factors that propelled the emergence of Sinhala nationalism. In the early stages, nationalist tendencies took the form of Buddhist revival, which gradually assumed a powerful political dominance. Under the slogan of Buddhist religious renaissance, a national chauvinistic ideology emerged with strong sediments of Tamil antagonism. The Buddhist religious leadership attacked both the Tamils and European colonialists and spoke of the greatness of the Sinhalese Aryan race.
Anagarika Dharmapala, a Buddhist thinker, wrote in his popular work, 'History of an Ancient Civilization', 'ethnologically, the Sinhalese are a unique race, inasmuch as they can boast that they have no slave blood in them, and were never conquered by either the pagan Tamils or European vandals who for three centuries devastated the land, destroyed ancient temples and nearly annihilated the historic race. This bright, beautiful island was made into a paradise by the Aryan Sinhalese before its destruction was brought about the barbaric vandals....'
The Sinhala national chauvinism that emerged from the Buddhist religious resurgence viewed the Tamil dominance in the state apparatus and in the plantation economy as a threat to 'national development'. Such anti-Tamil antagonism articulated on the ideological level began to take concrete forms of social, political and economic oppression soon after the island's independence in 1948 when the state power was transferred to the Sinhala ruling elites.
Sri Lankan State Oppression
1958 - Pogrom
1961 - Satyagraha
1972 - 1976 - Detention and Torture.
1974 - International Tamil Conference
1977 - Poqrom.
1979 - Torture Camp
1981 - Burning of PUBLIC LIBRARY
1981 - Local Election
1983 - Pogroms and Torture camps Massacre
1983 - JULY EXPLOSION.
PREVENTION OF TERRORISM ACT (PTA).
Destruction of Places of Worship
Buddhism used for Oppression
Destruction of national identity
Sri Lankas Constitution
1958 - Pogrom
In 1958 the Tamils faced a major violence. Over 100,000 Tamils fled for safety to their Traditional Homelands. The violence was mainly by the Sinhala people against the Tamils living in their midst. The violence was facilitated by the inflammatory speech of Mr. Bandaranayake and the failure on the part of Mr. Bandaranayake to take steps to arrest the violence. Though the Police did not actively take part in the violence, mostly they failed to take steps to stop the violence. Only after the emergency was declared and the armed forces called in the violence was brought to a halt. The scar of violence and humiliation could not be erased. The nature of violence was so brutal the continued Stay in the South for Tamils seemed impossible. There was arson murder rape and any brutality you could name. They even burnt a Hindu priest alive. All because Tamils protested against injustice. Since the means of livelihood depended on the affluent South Tamils returned though slowly. back to top †
1961 - Satyagraha
In 1961 Police and Army personnel unleashed violence on Satyagrahis protesting on the imposition of Sinhala language as the official language in the Tamil areas. Almost 100% of the Tamils cannot understand the Sinhala language in the North or East. The violence by the Police and Army would appear to be on the orders of the Government. back to top †
1972 - 1976 - Detention and Torture
From 1972 youths were arrested detained and tortured by the Police. Youths were protesting at the imposition of higher standards for the entry into the University for Tamils. Over 40 youths were held without trial sometimes over a period of 4 years. These detentions were reported by the Amnesty International in their Mission Report in 1975. back to top †
1974 - International Tamil Conference
Even large cultural celebrations were not free from the interference by the Government/Police action. In January 1974 Police disturbed the final sessions of the 4th international Conference on Tamil Research,8 persons died. The brutality with which the conference was disturbed by the police is one of the sears of violence against the Tamil people which is not forgotten. Government even declined to appoint a commission to inquire into the incident. back to top †
1977 - Poqrom
In August 1977 the Tamils faced the largest violence so far. This would appear to have been unleashed because of the overwhelming support by the Tamil people for the formation of a separate state. The hands of many Government supporters were seen in many instances of violence. The explosion of violence took place on the 19th. August soon after the speech of Mr. Jayawardane, then Prime Minister, in the Parliament on 18th August 1977 offering 'war' to the Tamil people, was repeated every half-an-hour on the Government controlled radio. This was similar to what Mr. Bandaranayake did in 1958. In 1977 even the Plantation workers were not spared. Their line rooms were burnt, their little possessions were looted, their women were 'gang raped'. Evidence of some most brutal 'gang rapes' have been recorded before the Commission that inquired into the events of 1977. Again hundreds were killed and over 200,000 fled for safty to Traditional Homelands of Tamils. Over 40,000 of the Plantation workers became destitute and refugees. Nearly 100 Hindu Temples were destroyed. Tamils have lost several hundreds of millions rupees worth of property. The most significant fact in 1977 pogrom was the participation of security forces. In the South, Sinhalese people carried out the attack which the security forces encouraged or failed to stop. In the North and East the security forces were the attackers. The radio net work of the Police was used to incite violence all over the Island. Thus Tamils were no longer safe even in their own Traditional Homelands. back to top †
1979 - Torture Camp
1979 - Torture Camp No solution to the problem by peaceful means gave rise to several youth groups embarking on alternative solutions. Violence as a means of solution was not over ruled by them. Youth violence in the cause of freedom was seen since then. Such violence brought forth more violence by the Police/Army. Police force has been the main target for the Tamil Youths. On 11th July 1979 Mr. Jayawardane gave a 'Hitler like' order to his commander to eradicate terrorism within six months. Police made a start by killing 3 youths and placing 3 others on 'disappeared' list. Police/Army set up a torture camp in the same residence as the commander (who is now Commander of the Army). Hundreds of youths were rounded up and many were tortured. The Commander would appear to have reported successful completion of task. back to top †
1981 - Burning of PUBLIC LIBRARY
On 31st May 1981 after an incident in which some unidentified persons opened fire at Police personnel at an election meeting, the Police went on the rampage and burnt a part of Jaffna town, the house of the member of parliament and the office of the TUFF. The Police desecrated a Hindu Temple and fire to it. Police assaulted any man on the road. The fury seemed to have cooled. On the 1st June, Inspector General of Police, Secretary to the Cabinet and Secretary to the Ministry of Internal Security are presumably sent by the president to study and help to bring the situation under control and report. However, on the night 1st June, Police personnel have set fire to the PUBLICLIBRARY. They have carefully selected the section which stored boots thus destroying the best library in the Tamil areas and irreplaceable documents relating to Tamil Culture and History were destroyed. The public library which is just opposite the Jaffna Police Station has not attracted the Police when they went on rampages before. They normally reached for the liquor shop in the bazaar to encourage them in their missions. Who ordered or prompted the destruction of the PUBLiC LIBRARY? Only the Police can answer? May be few others who were in Jaffna too can answer. We can only hazard a guess. If there is one event which has the greatest impression or scar in the hearts of the Tamils it is this destruction of the PUBLIC LIBRARY. While someone attempted a "Cultural Genocide" or the obliteration of the History of the Tamil people, they have made their resolve to be free irreversible. The thinking men on the night of 1st June did not fail to destroy the only Tamil Daily printed in the Tamil areas, not in fury but in cold blood. No inquiry what so ever was held to find out the culprits of the events of 31st May to 4th June 1981. But Mr. Gamini Dissanayake, Minister of Mahawelel Development, conceded in the Parliament that Police burnt the PUBLIC LIBRARY. 1981 - Local Election
On the 2nd of June 1981, Government Ministers Cyril Mathew and Gamini Dissanayake were in Jaffna to assist in the elections. On the 3rd.night 4th.morning 4 persons were shot and killed by Army/Police. There would appear to be orders to arrest the leader of the Tamil People. Mr. Amirthalingam Secretary of TULF and three other Members of Parliament were arrested and taken to an Army Camp. There would appear to have been a big plan to rig the Election, which proved fruitless. A no confidence motion brought against these two ministers has not yet been debated. back to top †
1983 - Pogroms and Torture camps
In 1983 the scale of violence seems to escalate beyond anyone's expectation. However, there emerges a planned violence against the Plantation Tamil Refugees and the-Tamils in Trincomalee. Soon after a confrontation between some unknown youths and the Army; as was expected, the Army went on a rampage and burnt over 60 houses in a village. Looted some of the houses, burnt a part of Jaffna bazaar (for the third time) and assaulted people on the road and even fired into the Jaffna Hospital. In June 1983 Army/Police burnt the Vavuniya Town (It was burnt by the Police in 1977) Army/Police destroyed the office of the Gandhiyam society and burnt the orphanage managed by Gandhiyam and three tractors and two lorries belonging to Gandhiyam. Gandhiyam Society is the main organisation helping the Plantation Tamil Refugees of August 1977 and August 1981 pogroms. The government failed to help the refugees to start a new life after the pogroms. It is only voluntary organisations which helped them. The Government wanted to destroy organisations helping the refugees. The East too were attacked by the Sinhalese people or Army/ Police. back to top †
1983 - Trincomalee Massacre
Trincomalee was singled out for attack in June/July 1983. The pattern is for the Army/Police to go to Tamil village and search for knives or implements and take them away and the Sinhalese people with arms attack the Tamil villagers. Upto the 3rd July, (a) 214 Houses were burnt.
(b) 24 Shops were burnt.
(c) 19 were killed.
(d) 8 Hindu Temples were burnt. (e) 1 Christian Ashram was burnt. Any one who went to the help of the Tamil victims too were attacked as in the case of Thirunavukarasu (a Tamil) who helped victims of an arson on van with people to get medical assistance was killed, His wife and four year old daughter too met with the same fate. Where Tamils resisted the Security forces came in and arrested them or burnt their houses. Sometimes when the forces arrest Tamils they handed them over to the Sinhalese people; Some Tamils met with death as in the case of Sabaratnam who was chopped to death. A high ranking Naval officer 'Sivanathan (a Tamil) dared to arrest Sinhalese hooligans and hand them over to thePolice. On his return to his quaters he was assaulted by his co-officers and was hospitalised. Sivanathan is one of two percent Tamils in the Armed forces. back to top †
1983 - JULY EXPLOSION
13 Army personnels were killed in a bomb incident which is believed to be in retaliation to kidnapping of three Tamil girls by the Army.The Army went on the rampage on 23rd/ 24 th July and shot people at randam and killed several people including 6 children and an old man of 83. The Army went on the rampage again on 26th/27th and killed many more people including a University lecturer, Women and students.The estimated killings in Jaffna now is 100. Trincomalee
Trincomalee was again selected for attack. On 26th/27th the Navy went on the rampage and burnt over 200 houses and killed several people. The estimated deaths ranges from 300 to 400. Colombo
Colombo was chosen for a well planned attack. The attackers were led by a person with a list of Tamil establishments and Tamil houses and they were destroyed by violence or arson systamatically from 24th July onwards. The armed forces and Police not only failed to stop the violence but were seen encouraging and cheering the Sinhalese people engaged in the attack. Again the characteristic brutality was evident. Several persons were burnt alive or hacked to death only because he or she was a Tamil. The death in Colombo and suburbs is estimated at 800 to 1000. Almost all Tamil establishments were destroyed and most of the houses owned by the Tamils were attacked, looted, or burnt. The attack is not over, or mopping up teams are seen to function where ever there has been some omission. Any Tamil who dared to go out was in danger.
The Plantation areas too were subjected to attack. Kandy Badulla ,Nawalapitiya, NuwaraEliya, Matale, Gampola and Monaragala were some of the towns subjected to heavy attack. Most of the Tamil establishments and houses near towns were destroyed. Even a Catholic Institution functioning in Badulla was destroyed. The death toll is estimated at 30. Massacre in prison
There were over 70 political prisoners in Welikada in Colombo. On the 25th July 37 of them were massacred by government Agencies including the Army. The deaths included Kuttimani who was nominated as Member of Parliament by the Tamil United Liberation Front.
On 27th July a second Massacre was carried out in which 19 people were killed including Dr.S.Rajasundaram, the Secretary of Gandhiyam Society, an Organisation which was working among the refugees of 1977 and 1981 pogroms. It is quite apparant that the youth leaders were selected for this massacre and the massacre is not by fellow Sinhalese prisoners as claimed by the Government. Who did this ?
We have reports that several active members of the ruling party were the organisers. In some areas it is alleged that even Members of Parliament have been the organisers. It is believed that a Cabinet Minister, a close friend of the President, has masterminded these atrocities.
Over 55,000 people are in Camps in Colombo alone and they are moving to North or East which they believe is more secure than Colombo; at least they are returning to their homelands though it is occupied by the Army. Nearly 50,000 people are displaced in the up-country and most of them are in several refugee camps, most of them would have no place to go to.
It is expected that over 100,000 person will move from the South to the Traditional Homelands. The total number of people displaced is estimated at 250,000. After pogroms in 1958,1977 and 1981 most of the Tamils who were displaced returned for want of opportunities of earning a living in the North or East which continue to be neglected areas under successive Sinhalese Governments. The attack in July 1983 would make it difficult even though the option could be starvation. back to top †
PREVENTION OF TERRORISM ACT (PTA).
In June 1979 the Government introduced a South African style Prevention of Terrorism Act. Under Which Act a person could be detained without trial for a period of 3 months at a time totaling to 18 months. Offences not known to ordinary laws of the country were also introduced. For example if a person knows the whereabouts of terrorist (terrorist not defined in the Act.) and if such person fails to inform the Police he commits an offence punishable with a minimum of 5 years jail term. If the "terrorist" stays with any person for a night such person is guilty of harbouring, punishable with a maximum of twenty years jail term. Mr. David an Architect, President, and Dr. Rajasundaram, Secretary, of Gandhiyam too are detained under the PTA and tortured in Army Camps for confessions. Charges have been framed against them. Dr.Rajasundaram was murdered in prison by government agencies on 27th July 1983. For the operation under this Act normally army camps were used for detention and they were notorious for their "torture cells". In one Army camp they had even built in rings and other implements for torture. There are nearly 70 Tamil Youths under detention most of them without any charge against them and all of them faced torture-, The subject of PTA and its operation has been critisized by International Commission of Jurist in a Report, by Prof. Virginia A. Leary, Professor of Law, University of New York at Buffalo (Published in 1981). The Human Rights Violations including torture and disappearance are also the subject of report by Amnesty International (Published on 6th July 1983). back to top †
Destruction of Places of Worship
In 1958, some Hindu Temples were destroyed. In 1977 over Hundred Hindu Temples have been destroyed. 1981 at least one Temple was set on fire. In 1983, at least 10 Hindu temples have been 8 of which in Trincomalee during June 1983. Famous and ancient Mariamman Temple at Matale was also destroyed. In Trincomalee, Sinhalese people have also burnt a Christian Ashram. In 1976, 9 Tamil speaking muslims were shot by the Police in e mosque. So long as the people are Tamils they face the danger irrespective of their religion.
Buddhism used for Oppression
Apart from destroying or attacking religious institutions and places of worship, there were attempts to start new Buddhist symbols or places of worship without any regard or respect to other religions. In 1957 the grateful public of Colombo who were associated with St. Joseph College, Colombo wished to errect e statue for Fr. Legog, who had rendered Yomen service to the College and the Public. The day before the statue was to be installed 'some one' placed a statue of Buddha et that place. Thus they prevented a statue being erected for Fr. Legog. The Government will do nothing to rectify the situation. The Buddha statue remains there. In 1981, in Vavuniya, when Tamils intended to place a statue in memory of great Tamil Leader again a Buddha statue was placed thus frustrating the object of the Tamils. Now the Government is building a Buddhist Shrine. And there are other and similar examples of, religious oppression or humiliation. Buddhism is the privileged religion receiving protection end promotion en terms of the Constitution. The Buddhist religion is being used as an instrument of Tamils and other religious minorities. back to top †
DESTRUCTION OF NATIONAL IDENTITY
It is now apparent that the Government and the Sinhala people behind the Government are working towards elimination of National Identity of the Tamil people, firstly by destroying any claim to any separate area, secondly by destroying culturally and finally by Physical liquidation. The Massacre in June and July should act as a warningto the world at large. 'So far, several countries who are aware of the oppression and violence against the Tamils while sympathising with the plight of the Tamils were of the opinion it is only an "internal matter". Some Governments even help in the development of Sri Lanka. In particular they are helping to develope the Mahaweli basin, the completion of which scheme will inevitably lead to the destruction of the TAMIL NATION. Sri Lanka Government is building Army camps in the entire North and East for the purpose of oppression of the Tamil people. It was reported that a new large camp was started in the North. Only a few months back an Army camp was started in Batticaloa District in the Eastern Province. While countries in the world are giving aid for "development" Sri Lanka Government is spending money for the oppression of the Tamil People, and the destruction of their National Identity. Will it be unreasonable to expect the countries who help Sri Lanka to refrain from aiding directly or indirectly the destruction of the National Identity of the Tamil People? back to top †
Sri Lanka's onstitution
Sri Lanka has a beautiful Constitution. The Constitution has all the desirable provisions relating to Human Rights. But it is not observed as far as Tamils are concerned. One example is worthy of note. Gunapalasingam (a Tamil) was arrested by mistake on 16th April 1981 by the Army and tortured and he became a mentally sick man after his release. He was having treatment in hospital for nearly 4 months, When he left Hospital for the last time he instituted an action for the violation of fundamental Rights under the Constitution, His application was dismissed since it was failed after one month of the torture. It did not really matter; he committed suicide even before he heard the result of his application.
Tamil Eelam - A Reversion to Sovereignty
The island of Sri Lanka, then known as Ceylon, was ceded to the British Crown in 1802 by the Treaty of Amiens of that year. The map of Ceylon attached to the Treaty of Amiens call the Arrow Smith Map of Ceylon depicts the Island of Ceylon as two (if not three) different countries- a Tamil country composed of the Northeast and a Sinhala country composed of the South West and central parts. In an oft quoted minute, Sir Hugh Cleghorn wrote in June 1799 to the UK Government:
"Two different nations from a very ancient period have divided between them the possession of the Island. First the Sinhalese, inhabiting the interior of the country in its Southern and Western parts, and secondly the Malabars who possess the Northern and Eastern Districts. These two nations differ entirely in their religion, language and manners." (Malabar meaning Tamil).
Also an illustrious Chief Justice, Sir Alexander Johnstone wrote on 01.07.1827 to the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland thus:
"... I think it may safely be concluded both from them and from all the different histories which I have in my possession, that the race of people who inhabited the whole of the Northern and Eastern Provinces of the Island of Ceylon, at the period of their greatest agricultural prosperity spoke the same language, used the same written character, and had the same origin, religion, castes, laws and manners, as that race of people who at the same period inhabited the southern peninsula of India..."
The Cleghorn Minute of 1799 and the Arrow Smith Map of 1802 are official proofs that the Island of Ceylon consisted of two separate countries. We quote Sir Alexander Johnstone's letter merely to show to what conclusions even a Chief Justice had come to on the basis of evidence he had.
It is important to remember that the British Government became masters of the whole island only after the fall of the Kandyan Kingdom in 1815 and the Vanni Chieftains in 1818 and looked at this Island from the distant West as a geographical unit and not as political or national states.
It was only in 1833 that the administration was unified under a single machinery. It would be appropriate here to mention that though the British Government unified the administration in 1833 it incorporated the different native administrative structures that existed earlier, with the Kachcheri system which it introduced. This shows that the British did not want to make a break with the past. Local and customary laws were allowed to govern relations amongst members of the community. The Roman Dutch Law, introduced by the Dutch in the maritime areas, was continued as the common law of the Island. This is very instructive. No system of law that existed before the RDL could cover the entire Island. This is again testimony to the fact that the Island was not one country.
The new class of English-educated elite could not bridge the differences between the two peoples in the Island and convert them into a homogenous single nation. In our view this is an impossible task.
The proceedings before the Donoghmore and Soulbury Commissions are an eloquent testimony to the failure of attempts to create a homogenous single "Ceylonese" nation. Needless to say with the departure of the British in 1948 the Tamils in this Island were left to the mercies of the Sinhalese, thanks to the inequitable constitution that was adopted. It is also relevant to mention that Lord Soulbury who headed the last Royal Commission on constitutional reforms, regretting, said that, had he had the experience which he later acquired in regard to the affairs of Ceylon, the would have made other recommendations.
Apart from incorporating the native administrative system of the different areas into the Kachcheri system introduced by the British, they were careful not to disturb the existing power balance between the different racial groups. In the Legislative Council membership was based on communal representation and there was an agreed proportion between the Sinhalese and the Tamils. Over the times this was changed and during the days of the Legislative Council (1924 to 1931) the proportion between Sinhalese and Tamils was 2:1. There were 16 Sinhalese members to the 8 Tamils. Further, the representation in the legislature was subject to the Devonshire formula that no single community should be in a position to out vote all the others combined.
The Donoughmore Constitution, for reasons best known to itself, made a declaration that territorial representation promoted national thinking but community based representation promoted thinking along communal lines. Very curiously Governor Sir Andrew Caldecot and the Soulbury Commissioner, as well as the Colonial Office, thought in identical terms. They gave no explanation for dropping the clearly enunciated Devonshire formula adopted fro multiracial colonies as well as proportional representation agreed to between the Sinhalese and the Tamils.
However, upon independence in 1948, the British Government did persuade the Sinhalese only Board of Ministers to accept the principle of a non-discrimination clause in the Constitution. Accordingly Article 29 of the Soulbury constitution granted powers to the Parliament to make laws for peace, security and good Government and specifically denied capability to the Parliament to make laws discriminatory to, in favour of or adverse to any one community which were not equally applicable to the other communities.
This provision in the Constitution was accompanied by a solemn assurance from the floor of the House by the then undisputed leader of the Sinhalese, the late Rt. Hon. DS Senanayake, that no harm would befall the Tamils by their joining the Sinhalese in working the constitution.
The Privy Council had held that this Article 29 was an entrenched clause and rendered the constitution and not the Parliament sovereign. This provision together with the assurance by Rt. Hon. DS Senanayake, makes the polity of the Dominion of Ceylon a conditional polity. The condition is obviously an assurance of the ethnic majority that they will not avail themselves of the numerical superiority to discriminate against the Tamils.
However on innumerable occasions this condition was violated and serious acts of discrimination did take place. That definitely gives the junior partner, the Tamils, the right to opt out of the polity.
Be that as it may, in 1970, an ingenious device was resorted to deprive the Tamils of the constitutional safeguards and the characteristics of the conditional polity. Three Sinhalese political parties acting in coalition called upon the people to give them a mandate (in the 1970 General Elections) to scrap the dominion polity and create a brand new Republic of Sri Lanka. Of course the response of the voters to the call for a mandate was magnificent but only from the seven Sinhalese provinces.
The voters of the Northern and Eastern Provinces summarily rejected the call for a mandate. The voting figures are given below:-
The Response for the call for the mandate-General Elections-1970 Northern Province (13 electorates)
Total votes polled 334,360
Votes granting mandate 16,179
Eastern Province(9 electorates, 11 seats)
Total votes polled 342,518
Votes granting mandate 79,323*
Total of total votes polled 676,878
Total of votes granting mandate 95,502
Percentage secured for the mandate 14%
* includes Sinhalese voters who were brought into colonization schemes after 1948.
It was a Constituent Assembly which did not have the support of the Tamil people, and from which the representatives of the Tamil people walked out, which enacted the autochthonous Republican Constitution of 1972. It was a constitution which has no legal continuity with the past. The Tamil nation did not consent to its enactment. Once there is a break in legal continuity the sovereignties of the inhabitants of the Island until then under eclipse so to speak, appear once again. Hence the sovereignty of the Tamil nation which was ethnically, geographically and linguistically separately identifiable and distinct, revived. The legal and constitutional deficiencies in Sri Lanka's claim to encompass the North and East should now be apparent. Sri Lanka is no successor to the earlier polities of the British dominion. Sri Lanka was constituted without the authority of the people of the North and East.
The alleged territorial jurisdiction and sovereignty for the whole Island claimed by the Sri Lankan Government are constructed on a false premise. Sri Lanka has no legitimate or legal claim to encompass the North and East, the homeland of the Tamils-Tamil Eelam. Historically the territory called Jaffna Patam that belonged to the Tamil Nation lay in the northern and eastern portions of Ceylon form the limits of Puttalam and Mannar to the Kumbukkan Oya.
In his July 1983 Report on 'Ethnic Violence, the Independence of the Judiciary, Protection of Fundamental Rights and the Rule of Law in Sri Lanka-Fragile Freedoms?' Mr. Timothy J. Moore, M.P. of the Australian Section of the ICJ commented:
'The proponents of Tamil Eelam argue that the northern and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka coincide with the historic boundaries of the kingdom of Jaffna and argue a case that seeks to establish that sovereignty over these territories was never ceded to any conqueror and that, even if such concession had been made at any time in the past, the unilateral renunciation of links with the United Kingdom which took place at the assumption of office by the government of Mrs. Srimavo Bandaranaike in 1972 resuscitated the Tamil sovereignty which had merely laid dormant until then... In the abstract theory of international law, it would appear that the Tamils have at the very least, an arguable case, and possibly a sustainable one.'
It is our submission that the Government of Sri Lanka is suffering from want of legitimacy over the northern and eastern provinces and the ongoing war is one born out of the legitimacy crisis. So it is our submission that liberal and democratic forces of the world must begin to realise the incompatibility of keeping the Tamil nation and the Sinhalese bound together and accept the position of the Tamils and decide to de-recognise the northern and eastern provinces as part of Sri Lanka. In the circumstances the insistence by certain sections of the international community on 'unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka' is untenable and works against the legitimate aspirations of the Eelam Tamil Nation.
The above paper was presented by International Federation of Tamils at the seminar TOWARDS A JUST PEACE (organised to examine the issues that confront the struggle of the people of Tamil Eelam and suggest steps to a just peace in the island of Sri Lanka), 15th February 1992 at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.