Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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A Memorandum from the Tamils of Ceylon to All Delegates Attending the 20th Commonwealth Conference

by SJV Chelvanayagam, September 1974, transcribed by N. Ethirveerasingam

Thirty-four [34] years ago the case was made for self-determination, even before the Vaddukkoddai Resolution in 1976.

Full text of memorandum here.

Violations of the Human Rights of the Tamils and the role of the International Community.


"The Tamils have been subjected to violence in 1956,1957,1961 and 1974."
"We conclude by merely listing the other means whereby the Tamils are put to grave hardships:

  1. Denial of equal opportunities of employment to Tamils in government Service and Government controlled corporations.
  2. Sustained propaganda against Tamils through government approved school text-books.
  3. Continued Police and Army action in Tamil areas.
  4. Denial of the right of peaceful assembly.
  5. Denial to many Tamils and Tamil leaders the right to leave the country.
  6. Absence of effective provisions in the Constitution protecting the fundamental Rights of minorities.
  7. Arbitrary arrests and detention (at the moment there are 42 Tamils under such detention) and
  8. Cruel and inhuman treatment at the time of arrest and during detention.
  9. The grant of the foremost place to Buddhism and imposing on the State a constitutional duty to protect and foster religion.
  10. Denial of the right of representation to 50,000 in the Kankesanthurai Electorate by maliciously refusing to hold the by-election for the last two years.

"Sri Lanka is today a State with two nations and the Tamil nation there in seeks its right of self-determination.  The Tamil problem is not an internal affair. The late Shri Rajagopalachchari, the First Governor General of India has stated: 'Most private wrongs are done within family walls, and most public wrongs within the borders of States.  If world opinion is to consider state frontiers sacrosanct then there will be no chance for world progress as a whole; tyranny would have received a world charter.'

Any attempt therefore, to regard the Tamil question as internal affair of the State of Sri Lanka, would amount to an evasion of recognizing the political and social realities in the country.  There is little doubt that the situation, fraught with many dangers, is gradually getting out of hand and is one for which there are unfortunately many parallels.  From all accounts, the Tamils of Ceylon are beginning to despair of obtaining their right , through discussion, compromise, and peaceful means; tensions and frustrations are beginning to crystalise around issues which sooner or later are likely to lead to a point of no return.

Therefore, it is our hope that the problems of the Tamils of Ceylon will receive sympathetic consideration of the delegates assembled at this conference and that they will use their good offices to help in the solution of this problem."

S.J.V. Chelvanayagam

NOTE by N. Ethirveerasingam in 2001.
Mr. Chelvanayagam's appeal to the Commonwealth Conference was not tabled at the conference.  After twenty 27 years we are in a worse position as predicted.  A solution at that time would not have resulted in the deaths, rapes, detentions and embargo resulting in sufferings and death that has taken place since 1974 and continuing in ever increasing extent and intensity.

Without international mediation, the atrocities committed on the Tamils of Ceylon by the Government and the armed forces of Sri Lanka will increase.  Twenty five years from now, we will wonder why, like the 1974 Commonwealth Conference, the international community, the current Commonwealth and the United Nations sat and watched the majority community decimate the minorities.


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