Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

The Tamil Homeland

by Wakeley Paul, Esq.

The indisputable fact is that the East has been a Tamil region for several hundred years. The area remains part of the Tamil homeland despite the colonization efforts by Sinhalese leaders, efforts designed to alter this hardcore reality and annex the region by government decree.

 

Batticaloa TRO poetry contest for 5th graders, 2007
Batticaloa TRO poetry contest for 5th graders, February 25, 2007

Sinhalese Academics like  Justice Raja Wannasundera and  President’s Counsel H.L. de Silva contest the fact that the erstwhile Eastern Province  is, in fact, part of 'THE TRADITIONAL TAMIL HOMELAND.'

H.L. de Silva supports his contention that the East is not part of the Tamil homeland by virtue of the fact that this phrase was rejected, and the phrase “AREAS OF HISTORICAL HABITATION OF THE TAMIL SPEAKING PEOPLE” substituted for it,  in the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord of 1987. What de Silva conveniently ignores is how this change came about.

What was the status of the Eastern Province in the seventeenth century? None of the local Kings, namely the kings of Kandy, the kings of Kotte or the kings of Jaffna, effectively exercised control of this region when the British arrived in 1786. This was a region largely unoccupied until the Tamils started to settle here before the British arrived. The Muslims followed, mainly as traders, and later settled down permanently. The Muslims spoke Tamil because that was the primary language spoken in the region by the majority Tamil community. The Sinhalese were a miniscule minority who spoke both Tamil and Sinhalese in order to function in this dominantly Tamil region.

J.R. Jayawardena, one of the island's most anti-Tamil leaders, was determined to contest the Tamils' right  to this region. He persuaded the much less experienced Rajiv Gandhi, who initially dropped food supplies to help the Tamils, to join him in an  effort to oppose the Tamil movement for separation. It was Jayawardena who persuaded Gandhi to avoid classifying the NorthEast as the TAMIL HOMELAND, despite the fact that the TULF had won the preceding election on a platform of separating the NorthEast from southern Sinhalese domination with an overwhelming majority of the Tamil vote.

To combat this powerful trend toward the assertion of Tamil rights, Jayawardena passed the Prevention of Terrorism Act,  which was used to brutalize and terrify the Tamils in the NorthEast who stood for separation.

The indisputable fact is that the East has been a Tamil region for several hundred years. The area remains part of the Tamil homeland despite the colonization efforts by Sinhalese leaders, efforts designed to alter this hardcore reality and annex the region by government decree. Driving out the Tamil population at the point of a gun, military occupation, state-financed colonization and electoral gerrymandering cannot alter this reality in one or two generations.

Enforced occupation by government decree does not alter the prescriptive rights previously acquired by the Tamils and those who followed them, the Tamil-speaking Muslims. A homeland does not only become a homeland by thousands of years of occupation. Like the Law of Prescription, an area becomes one's homeland by traditional occupation over a much shorter period of time. Tamil habitation as the overwhelming majority of the population since before the seventeenth century fulfills that requirement.

The claims by the Sinhalese colonists to be natives of this region are at best an oddly fragile claim. The Wannasunderas and Silvas refuse to admit that their arguments to the contrary are totally unproductive. They cannot make their misfortune respectable by repetition.

The image that the Sinhalese have sought to make of themselves as the 'super-stars' of the East through colonization has turned them into nothing more than a side-show freak in this region and that is how their status shall remain, despite every effort to change the East's demography and occupy this territory with armed immigrants.