Ilankai Tamil Sangam

23rd Year on the Web

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

An Appeal to the International Community

by Nadodi, December 4, 2007

Isn't it democracy if the people who lost their lands to the colonial powers try to get them back? They do not ask for even one inch of territory that is not theirs.

We appeal to the conscience of the International community to take action to stop the Genocide of the Tamil Nation in the Island of Sri Lanka.

The governments of the world, and the UN, are not unaware of what is happening in the island but, for political expediency and geopolitical interests, are not doing anything other than to say that there is no military solution to the problem, and that there should be negotiations.

But what negotiations is the question? What is there to negotiate?

Most governments have representatives in the island. They know exactly what is happening, but it is easier to take the side of a fellow government, irrespective of the facts. Besides, Tamils have issued press releases, appeals to the UN, open letters, demonstrations, and petitions, to explain the circumstances. The events of 9/11/.2001 made it easy for anyone to attach the terrorist label to an organisation. There has been, and there is, state terror against Tamils which the Liberation Fighters are fighting to stop, and to get freedom for Tamils. Separate countries have been formed in East Timor, Kosovo, Eritrea/Ethiopia and numerous other instances, including the break up of the Soviet Union, as a result of fights for liberation, with UN interference, or pressure from the big powers. Are Tamils of Sri Lanka lesser human beings than in those cases?

Truth is said to be the first casualty of war. The government has unlimited resources to carry out false propaganda, which the Liberation Fighters cannot match.

The Sinhalese majority government has just announced an increase in defence expenditure for 2008 for weapons and air strikes, of about 40% over that for 2007, which in itself was a substantial increase over the previous year.

President Mahinda Rajapakse has said, "The Tigers (Tamil Liberation Fighters) have demonstrated that they will never be ready to surrender arms and to arrive at a negotiated settlement." Obviously! They would only surrender arms once a settlement is arrived at. The LTTE are surely aware that two written pacts with two different Prime Ministers from the two major parties were abrogated unilaterally by those Sinhalese Prime Ministers. They are also aware how the terms of the CFA were not implemented in full, and neither were the matters agreed at subsequent peace talks with the two major Sinhalese parties.

Tamils will not have unconditional negotiations. It would be a waste of time to negotiate without knowing what it is that one is going to negotiate about.

Tamil representatives have a mandate from the Tamil Nation since 1976 to get a separate State. However, all the Tamil parties and all groups of liberation fighters jointly spelt out their four aspirations at the Thimpu talks held under the auspices of the Indian Government in 1985. Only one of these aspirations is partially settled.

The other three are recognition that:

  1. Tamils are a Nation. (They are in fact one, since they fulfill all the attributes of a Nation as defined by the UN covenants).
  2. There is a Tamil Homeland (this was implicitly accepted in the two pacts entered into between the Tamil Leader and two different Sinhalese Prime ministers, and,
  3. 3. Tamils have the right to self-determination. There should also be agreement that there will be total Equality in all respects, Justice and Dignity amongst all occupants of the island. Any agreement should be underwritten by the UN or major world powers.

There is already the framework for an Interim Self-Governing Authority submitted by the LTTE to the Government of Sri Lanka, which can be a starting point. There is also a proposal by ex-President Chandrika and another by the Sinhala majority UNP government which could also be revived. The current Sinhala majority government could also come up with a new proposal.

A well known Sinhalese historian, Late Mr. Adrian Wijemanne once told me,

"Why negotiate over what is yours? I am a Sinhalese Nationalist as much as you are a Tami Nationalist. I must have my Sri Lanka and you, your Eelam. The two countries should sign a friendship pact, and I should be able to visit you in Jaffna and you should be able to visit me in Colombo."

Background to the Sri Lankan Conflict

Sinhalese historian Paul Peiris opined that Tamils occupied the island long before the advent of Prince Vijaya, the founder of the Sinhala race. As evidence he has mentioned the existence of five ancient Hindu temples (Ishwarams for worship of Lord Siva) in various parts of the island, long before Vijaya's arrival.

At the time of the arrival of the first colonialists there were three separate Kingdoms in the island, one of which was the Tamil Kingdom, and the other two Sinhalese.

Portuguese conquered only one of the Sinhalese Kingdoms in 1505 and the Tamil Kingdom in 1619, over a century later. These colonies changed hands to the Dutch and then to the British, The second Sinhalese Kingdom was conquered by the British in 1815.

The first British Colonial Secretary to visit the island Sir Hugh Cleghorn made a minute in 1799 which said,

" Two different nations from a very ancient period, have divided between them in possession of the island (Ceylon), First the Sinhalese inhabiting the interior of the country in the southern and western parts from the river Wallouve to that of Chilow, and the Malabars (Tamils) who possess the northern and eastern districts. These two nations differ entirely in their religions, language and manners"…."

All colonial powers administered the three Kingdoms separately, till the British for administrative convenience brought all of them into one administration in 1833.
The two pacts signed by the same Tamil leader with the Sinhalese leaders, first with Bandaranaike in 1957, and later with Dudley Senanayake in 1965 in an attempt to find a solution to the ethnic problem recognised that the Northern and Eastern provinces were Tamil Homelands, where the language of administration and courts were to be Tamil, and devolution of some powers was to be given. Unfortunately however, both pacts were unilaterally abrogated by the Sinhalese leaders due to opposition from the party not in power at that time.

The fact that during all the anti-Tamil riots of 1956, 1958, 1961,1977,1980,1981 and the pogrom of genocidal proportions in 1983, Tamil refugees living outside the Tamil homelands were sent by ship and armed conveys or fled on their own to the Northern and Eastern provinces where it was felt that they would be safe, is further evidence of the existence of a Tamil homeland. The Indo-Sri Lanka Accord signed between Sinhalese President Jayewardene and Indian Prime Minister explicitly mentioned that the Northern and Eastern provinces were the "historical habitat of the Tamil speaking people of Sri Lanka" which included the Muslims who also speak Tamil. The two provinces were merged till a referendum that was to be held at some later date. This referendum was never held. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution to give effect to the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord remains largely unimplemented. In as much as the Sinhalese speak of their Sovereignty and territorial Integrity, Tamils too can speak of their Sovereignty that they lost to the Portuguese and the territorial integrity of the Tamil Kingdom. Under the current government, a pliant Supreme Court has held that the merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces was not valid, creating a new controversy. Another hallmark of the pliant Supreme Court was the decision that the P-TOMS Agreement, signed between the then Government and the Liberation Fighters after several months of negotiation and pressure by major powers to jointly engage in Tsunami reconstruction and relief, was also invalid.

Sri Lanka became independence in 1948 and the Constitution drafted by the British provided a second chamber, appeals to the Privy Council from decisions of the Supreme Court, and Clause 29 in the Constitution which gave a certain amount of protection for the minorities. Lord Soulbury, the architect of the constitution, was to regret later that, had he foreseen what was going to happen, he would have recommended a federal type of government.

Under universal franchise and the first-past-the-post elections, the Sinhalese who today make up 74 percentage of the population, naturally had a substantial majority in the Parliament and Senate. This made Sinhalese have a permanent majority in Parliament. Despite the assurances given to the minorities, Sinhalese used this majority to practice majoritarian hegemony against the minorities.

The Tamils initially opted to live in one country with Sinhalese with greater representation for minorities in Parliament. In the aftermath of the passing of the Citizenship Act disenfranchising about a million Tamils who had been brought from India to work in the plantations in the early 1980s (known as up country Tamils), the Federal Party (F.P.) was formed in 1949. At the next elections in1952, only two members of the FP were elected, indicating that Tamils still preferred to stay in a unitary state. After facing increasing discrimination and oppression, in 1956 Tamils voted overwhelmingly for the FP. The two prominent senior members of Parliament who contested on the ticket of a party that stood for separation not only lost, but even forfeited their deposits. Thus at that stage Tamils preferred a Federal government to separation.


It was after -

  1. The communal riots of 1956,1958,1961 encouraged by the government and armed forces, during which Tamil lives and property were lost, Satyagrahies (nonviolent Gandhian-type demonstrators) were beaten up and Tamil members of Parliament and leaders were imprisoned.
  2. The armed occupation of Tamil areas for two years from 1961 with the Prime Minister at the time stating "Yes. It is an army of occupation."
  3. The unilateral abrogation by the Sinhalese leaders of the two pacts signed with Tamils.
  4. More colonization and ethnic cleansing of the Tamil areas.
  5. Introduction of standardization of entry to universities, whereby Tamil students had to obtain more marks than Sinhalese to enter Universities;
  6. Introduction of the 1972 Constitution without the participation of Tamil representatives; changing the name of the country to Sri Lanka, a Sinhala name; converting the country to a republic; giving pride of place to Buddhism (virtually making it the State religion); severing defence ties to Britain; and eliminating the second chamber, appeals to the Privy Council, and Section 29 giving protection to minorities.
  7. Breaking up the International Conference for Tamil Research by the police and the killing of nine participants.
  8. Declaration of Annuradhapura (an area surrounding a Buddhist temple) as a sacred area, resulting in the demolition of Hindu temples in its vicinity.

- that all Tamil parties joined together and formed the Tamil United Liberation Front and passed the now famous "Vaddukoddai Resolution" in 1976 which requested Tamil representatives to form a separate state covering the Northern and Eastern Provinces, the traditional homelands of the Tamils. At last the worm had turned. It is this mandate that the Liberation Fighters are carrying out.

The current Tamil representatives in parliament are members of the Tamil National Alliance which won 22 of the 23 seats contested.

Throughout the ages, in all continents, there have been Freedom or Liberation Fighters. Some including George Washington were called terrorists or other terrible names. Terrorists are not born, but made due to circumstances. History is replete with people who were once called terrorists later being called "His Excellencies."

Because of State terrorism, the only way to carry out the mandate is by fight against that state terrorism.

Democracy

We all know what democracy is. The west and its friends have been spending billions of dollars and sacrificing hundreds of thousands of lives to install democracy in other countries. Under democracy one carries out the wishes of the people. Isn't it democracy if the people who lost their lands to the colonial powers try to get them back? They do not ask for even one inch of territory that is not theirs.

Sinhalese governments shout from the roof and the treetops that they are democratically elected governments. They are democratically elected by the Sinhalese people. Similarly Tamil representatives are elected by the Tamil people. The parliament of Sri Lanka will always have a permanent Sinhalese majority. When one speaks about the government of Sri Lanka, he is speaking about the Sinhala majority Sri Lankan Government.

Some of the actions of the Sinhalese majority governments against Tamils.

  1. As mentioned earlier, one of the first acts of the new Parliament was to pass a Citizenship Act under which nearly a million up country Tamils, (brought by the British from India to work in the plantations in the early 1880s) and who had voted at the first elections in independent Ceylon, were deprived of citizenship and their votes, thereby reducing the number of Tamil members in Parliament by about 40%. Later, an agreement was signed with India under which India agreed to take 525,000 of these people, with Sri Lanka taking 375,000. The fate of the balance 100,000 was left in limbo.
  2. Successive Sinhalese governments engaged in aggressive state-sponsored colonization of the Tamil homelands, particularly in the Eastern Province, with Sinhalese settlers and driving out Tamils and Muslims. They broke up the contiguity of the Northern and Eastern provinces. The government broke the contiguity by driving Tamils out of Manal Arum and settling 25,000 Sinhalese families, mainly convicted criminals. Place names and street names were changed to Sinhalese names, and Buddhist temples built and Buddha statutes installed in several places...
    The Sinhalese population of the Eastern Province which, according to the Department of Statistics, was only a little over 9% in 1947, a year before independence (it was 4.2%in1924) increased to a current figure of above 30% as a result of intense colonization.
  3. Industrial and infrastructure development of the Tamil Homelands were neglected.
  4. The emblem of the Sinhala lion carrying a sword was made the flag of the country, with two small stripes included later, to pacify the protests of the Tamils and Muslims.
  5. A Sinhalese National Anthem was introduced.
  6. Sinhalese was made the official language of the country in 1956. This severely affected the education and employment opportunities of the Tamil-speaking people. Though some recognition was given to Tamil later, after the signing of the Indo –Sri Lanka Pact in 1987, the provisions of that Act are still not implemented fully.
    The latest statistics show that Tamil speakers who are 26% of the population hold only 8.3% of public service jobs. The military is almost 99% Sinhalese and of 36,031 police employees only 231 are Tamils and 246 Muslims. In Wellawatte, a town in the capital Colombo where 21,417 of the total population of 29,302 are Tamil-speaking, the number of Tamil police officers is 6 out of a force of 156.
    Not only did the Tamils lose employment opportunities, but Sinhalese officials who do not know Tamil have been posted in areas where the local population cannot communicate with them. The better administrative jobs were given to Sinhalese. Even now one hardly sees Tamil names in appointment to senior positions.
  7. Regulations were introduced for the use of Sinhala only in all courts in all parts of the island.
  8. Sinhala mobs, watched by the Prime Minister, attacked Tamil leaders and continued to do so throughout the country in 1956.
  9. Following the National Convention of the Federal Party in the North in May 1958, communal attacks took place, encouraged by the government. Heavy loss of life and property took place and Tamils became refugees outside the Tamil areas. Emergency was declared only after a few days, when India and the Governor General pressurised the government. Tamils were sent by ships and army conveys to the Tamil homelands.
  10. When regulations were introduced for use of Sinhala only in all courts of the island in 1960, Tamils carried out Satyagraha (non-violent demonstrations) in Tamil areas. Tamil parliamentarians were taken into custody. Satyagraha continued and the demonstrators were beaten up by the police and properties and vehicles damaged by the armed forces and police. Tamil areas were under army of occupation for the next two years and the government admitted that it was so.
  11. In 1970 selective standardization was introduced restricting the number of Tamil students admitted to Universities by requiring them to score more marks.
  12. Parliament introduced a new constitution in 1972 without participation of Tamils and Anuradhapura was made a sacred city about which earlier reference was made. This totally alienated the Tamils.
    In 1977 Sinhala mobs carried out communal attacks, mainly against Up Country Tamils with active participation by politicians and Buddhist monks, leading to hundred of deaths and nearly 200,000 fleeing for safety to the Tamil Homelands and India. Over 40,000 became refugees. Nearly 200 Hindu temples were destroyed.
  13. In 1978 the government, which had come to power citing the problems faced by Tamils and promising redress, introduced a new Constitution, again without participation of Tamils, declaring the country a "Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka" with an executive President with wide powers, proportional representation in Parliament and the creation of a Ministry for Buddha Sasana, virtually making Buddhism a state religion. J.R. Jayawardena became the first Executive President and said that he had "the power: to do anything except change a man to a woman." Tamil protests brought out communal attacks against them.
  14. In 1979 the Parliament enacted the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and declared a State of Emergency in Tamil areas. The military occupied the Jaffna Peninsula, the Cultural capital of Tamils, burnt and destroyed shops in Chunnakam, a nearby Town. There was a spurt in arbitrary arrests, killing of youth and setting up of torture camps, disappearances of youth arrested without warrants or need to be produced in front of a magistrate. International Jurist Paul Seigart called the PTA the worst regulation of its type in the civilized world, including South Africa.
  15. In 1981 police and army rampaged through Jaffna in the presence of senior members of the cabinet. The Public Library with over 95,000 rare books and manuscripts, many of which were irreplaceable, was burnt down, the Jaffna business area was looted, and the house of the M.P. for Jaffna burnt down. Arbitrary arrests, detention, torture,an increase in disappearances of Tamil youth activists including clergy took place. From June to August island-wide Sinhalese riots against Tamils occurred.
  16. In 1982 Jayawardena re-elected in a referendum that saw widespread fraud and violence. He increased the posting of the army in the Jaffna Peninsula, resulting intensified search and destroy operations and harassing of the civilian population.
  17. In 1983 the army burnt down Jaffna town again, attacked civilians, and destroyed property.
    In July as a result of continued STATE TERRORISM, Liberation Fighters ambushed and killed 13 soldiers. This resulted in an island-wide pogrom of Genocidal proportions against Tamils, resulting in more than 3000 deaths, and millions of dollars worth of property, businesses, and infrastructure lost. Police and security forces either stayed silent and /or encouraged the rioters, many of whom were led by Buddhist monks. The selection of victims using electoral lists indicated planned attacks. Rioting spread island-wide. 95 % of property owned by Tamils outside Tamil areas was destroyed. Many shiploads of Tamils fled to the Tamil homelands.
    President Jayawardena, who was supposedly president of the whole country, said in a statement to the Daily Telegraph of U.K on July 11th, "I am not worried about the opinion of the Tamil people. Now we cannot think of them, not about their lives, or their opinion. The more you put pressure in the north , the happier the Sinhalese people here. Really if I starve the Tamils out, the Sinhala people will be happy."
    A combined force of prison officials and Sinhala Prisoners slaughtered 53 Tamil political prisoners awaiting trial and held in the maximum security prison in Welikade.

This was the beginning of the war of Liberation which continues today.

According to a later statement by ex-President Chandrika Kumaratunga in the run-up to her first election as President, 800,000 victims of this violence have fled the country as external refugees to various parts of the world, and nearly one million have became internal refugees, many of them displaced numbous of times. The magnitude of the problem will be realised as this is out of an original indigenous Tamil population of a little over two and a half million.

The war continues despite attempts by Norwegian facilitators to bring peace with ceasefires and peace talks.

Continued...Part II