Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Is Sri Lanka a Country or an Island?

by Oor Kuruvi, October 19, 2008

In our writings, discussions, representations, and deliberations we must be careful to use certain words which form part of our vocabulary and express exactly what we mean to others.

At this time,

  • when there are references to Sri Lanka being a country, and questions are being asked whether other countries can interfere in this "country";
  • when Tamils are referred to as citizens of the country - when it suits the so-called Sri Lankan government, of course, and not when they are bombed, shelled, abducted, tortured, raped, denied homes, food and medicines;
  • when almost every country including the Sinhala government in the island (with tongue in cheek), speaks of a political solution and not a military solution;
  • when for over 60 years since independence the conflict has not been solved;
  • when the current Sinhala government came in with  a mandate of a “Chinthanaya”(chinthani in Tamil);
  • when those fighting for freedom against state terrorism are themselves called terrorists;
  • when the current Sinhalese government appointed an All Party Representative Committee (APRC) to find a political solution to the national question, to which the 22 MPs  representing Tamils were not even invited;
  • when the APRC has been meeting for three years and is still not able to produce a suggested solution;
  • when the President forced the Chairman of the APRC to announce an "interim solution (the President’s own), at the beginning of this year, based on the full implementation of the 13th Amendment, but even that too is not yet complied with;
  • when the President has formed another All  Party committee (APC) , (again only to please the outside world) to which he has again not invited the members of the Tamil Party mentioned earlier, but invited a paramilitary party now working with government which has only one parliamentarian nominated by the government;
  • when the President has said that he will recognize all Buddhist temples, even those built illegally;
  • when the Army commander says that the island belongs to the Sinhalese and the minorities should not make undue demands, and no one has contradicted him as yet—

We Tamils should stand up and be counted.

In our writings, discussions, representations, and deliberations we must be careful to use certain words which form part of our vocabulary and express exactly what we mean to others.

1.Our Fighters are not terrorists, tigers, separatists, rebels or even the LTTE. They are Freedom Fighters.

2. Freedom Fighters are fighting against Sinhala State terrorism and for the Liberation of our “homelands” as specified in the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord. Our homeland is where Tamils flee when attacked by Sinhala goondas [hoodlums], or where they are sent for safety by the government in Power. The Tamil homelands are the areas which the armed forces have no compunction against shelling and bombing.

3. The Government of Sri Lanka does not deserve the dignity of that name. Call it the Sinhala Majority Government of the island. You might add “hegemonic” for good measure.

4. Tamils insist on Democracy. Who is ruling in the island of Ceylon (or Serendib) are Sinhalese who are ruling over their lands and our homelands by default of the British, when they left the island, and by force thereafter. Tamils wished to stay together in a united country till 1956 and thereafter under a Federal system where there would be Equality and Dignity and Justice.

5. It was only in 1976, 28 years after independence, that the Tamils decided wanted to live in their homelands separately, as they had done from times immemorial, and gave that mandate to their elected representatives. Democracy would have implemented the wishes of the people. 

6. In1948 and later in 1965, Tamils entered into Pacts with Sinhalese leaders of the time to live together in one island and the conditions for doing so. If either of the Pacts had been implemented, the agony and destruction that has followed would not have happened. Both Pacts were unilaterally abrogated by the Sinhalese leaders. 

7. For those amongst us who do not know and those around us where we live, some lessons in history should be given.

From times immemorial there have been three Kingdoms in the island called Ceylon (later renamed Sri Lanka by the Sinhalese majority governments), all of which had Territorial Integrity and Sovereignty. During short periods following wars, a Sinhalese king or Tamil King ruled over the entire island.

Therefore, there was no country called Sri Lanka until very recently, only an island called Ceylon and other names prior to that.

8. At the time of the advent of the first colonial power, the Portuguese, there were three separate kingdoms, each with a king and well demarcated borders. (a) A Tamil Kingdom in the North and East. Now referred to as the Tamil Homelands, (b) A Sinhalese kingdom in the coastal areas, also known as the maritime provinces, (c) A Sinhalese Kingdom in the hilly areas in the center called the Kandyan kingdom (the last four kings of which were Tamils).

The Portuguese conquered the Maritime Sinhalese Kingdom in 1505. They conquered the Tamil Kingdom 104 years later. The Dutch took over from the Portuguese, and the British from the Dutch. The Kandyan Kingdom was captured by the British only in1815. This is irrefutable proof that Ceylon was not a country, but an island. There were three separate countries before these conquests .

This is not unusual. There are several islands in the world where there are more than one country. The British isles are made up of the countries of England, Scotland, Wales sharing one island. Brunei and Borneo share one island. Haiti and the Dominican Republic share an island, and so on. 

All colonial powers administered the countries they conquered separately, till the British in 1833 brought all three countries under one administration for convenience.

When the British gave up the island, they should have restored the three Kingdoms back to the original occupants—the Tamil and the Sinhalese nations. Lord Soulsbury, the architect of the independent constitution of the island, said he later regretted that he had not made a different arrangement. He was misled by Sinhalese leaders, and naïve and trusting Tamil leaders.

These facts must be made known to the International Community.