Ilankai Tamil Sangam

26th Year on the Web

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

History in a Nutshell

by Tamil Centre for Human Rights, Paris, September 9, 2007

Chronology of events in Sri Lanka from 1505 to 2006.

1505     The Portuguese arrived in Ceylon during the existence of three sovereign kingdoms, one Tamil Kingdom in Jaffna, and two Sinhala Kingdoms in Kotte and Kandy.  

The island was divided into three kingdoms, a Tamil kingdom in the North East, the Kandy kingdom of the highlands and the Kotte kingdom situated in the South.

1619     Tamil sovereignty ended in June when the Portuguese defeated the Tamil King, and the Jaffna Kingdom became a Colony of the Portuguese.

1658     The Dutch arrived in Ceylon and the Jaffna Kingdom became a Dutch Colony.

1795     The British arrived in Ceylon and the Jaffna Kingdom became a British Colony.

1802     Ceylon became a British Crown Colony.

1833     For the first time in over 2,500 years of its recorded history, the entire island of Ceylon was brought under a single administration based on the recommendations of the Colebrook-Cameron Report.  

1862     Tamils from Southern India were brought as labourers to work in the tea plantations in the hill country by the British. During the same period Tamil labourers from South India were taken to work in the sugar cane plantations in South Africa, Mauritius and in many other British colonies.

1885     Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan ­ Tamil leader called for increased representation in Legislative council for Tamils.

1915     In June, Sinhala Buddhist-Muslim riots in Ceylon. Riots spread from the central province to the western and northwestern provinces.  

There were heavy casualties amongst the Muslims. According to available records, 36 Muslims were killed and 205 Muslims were injured and raped. Nearly 85 mosques were damaged and more than 4,075 Muslim-owned shops were looted by the Sinhala rioters.  

1919     The Ceylon National Congress (CNC), the first full-fledged "Nationalist" political party was formed by a celebrated Tamil, Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam.

1921     Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam quit the CNC, denouncing it as a party representing mainly a section of the Sinhalese.

1927-1931 Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan and Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam had talks with Sinhala leaders when the Donoughmore Commission announced its recommendations in 1927. The talks ended in a failure as the Sinhala leaders ignored the aspirations of the Tamils.

1944     The first Tamil political party, “All Ceylon Tamil Congress-ACTC” was founded by G. G. Ponnambalam to champion the cause of the Tamils against Sinhala Buddhist domination.

1947     The United National Party (UNP) was formed.

The first constitution of Ceylon was adopted by an Order in Council rather than by a Constituent Assembly. It was known as the (Lord) “Soulbury Constitution” which remained in force until 1972.

1948     The British left Ceylon ­ independence was granted to “Ceylon” and the power to govern Ceylon was handed over to the Sinhalese who were numerically superior.

After the stringent 15 November 1948 Citizenship Act and the laws of disenfranchisement were enacted and adopted, the Tamils of Indian origin Tamils in the hill country (plantation Tamils) were deprived of selecting their representatives to the Parliament. More than a million plantation Tamil workers were rendered stateless.  

1948-50 The Government launched massive Sinhala colonisation schemes in the Eastern province. Gal oya in Batticaloa, Allai and Kathalai in Trincomalee were colonised under pretexts of development.

1949     Dissension with the “Tamil Congress” party led to the formation of the “Tamil Federal Party” (FP) under the leadership of S. J. V. Chelvanayagam.

1951     S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike broke away from UNP and forms the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).

1956     On 14 June S. W. R. D. Bandaranayake father of President Chandrika Kumaratunga proclaimed the “Sinhala Only Act” which made the Sinhala language the only official language of Ceylon.

The peaceful Satyagraha campaign staged by the Tamils to protest against the “Sinhala Only Act” at the Galle Face Green, in front of the Parliament in Colombo was brutally savaged by Sinhalese thugs with the connivance of government. The outbreak of first anti-Tamil riots in the island. More than 150 Tamils were burnt or hacked to death and million rupees worth of properties belonging to Tamils were looted and destroyed.












1957     Soon after the “Sinhala Only Act” was passed in Parliament, talks were initiated between the Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and the Federal Party leader S. J. V. Chelvanayagam.

On 26 July an agreement known as "Band Chieva" pact was signed between Bandaranayake and Chevanayagam. This agreement was based on a quasi federal system devolving certain powers to the Tamils in the North East provinces.

Within a week of signing the “Banda-Chelva” pact, it was unilaterally abrogated by the Prime Minister Bandaranaike due to vehement protests staged by the UNP, Buddhist clergy and SLFP. J R Jeyawardena of United National Party-UNP undertook a march to Kandy in protest against this pact.

1958     Anti-Tamil pogrom broke out in the island. Many Tamils were massacred and million of rupees worth of properties belonging to the Tamils were looted and destroyed.












1965     Dudley Senanayake leader of the UNP formed the government with the help of the Federal Party and other parties.

Talks were held between the Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake and S. J. V. Chelvanayagam.

On 24 March, an agreement known as "Dudley-Cheva" Pact was signed between Dudley Senanayake and S. J. V. Chelvanayagam.

The agreement was abandoned without being implemented due to opposition from the SLFP, the Buddhist clergy, and UNP backbenchers.

1971     Armed revolution by the Janata Vimukthi Peramuna was suppressed by Srimavoa Bandaranayke. Thousands of Sinhala JVP youths were killed.

Talks were held between various Tamils leaders and Srimavo Bandaranayake on constitutional amendments.

No agreement was reached but the Sinhala leaders went ahead undeterred with their republican constitution amending the minimum safeguards granted to Tamils by the earlier constitution.

1972     Ceylon became a “Republic” on 22 May and Ceylon was officially renamed as the “Republic of SRI LANKA”

The United Front government enacted a Sinhala-Supremacist "Republican Constitution" for the country, which made Buddhism the state religion.

Formation of Tamil United Front (TUF) comprising Federal Party led by, S. J. V. Chelvanayagam, Tamil Congress (TC) led by GG Ponnambalam, and Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) led by Savariamoorthy Thondaman.

State discrimination against Tamil students' admission to Universities reached the peak with the introduction of "Standardisation". University admission based on merit was abandoned deliberately to stop Tamil students entering Universities.

A youth group comprising self-sacrificing and disciplined youths named Tamil New Tigers (TNT) was formed by Mr. V. Pirabaharan to fight for the right to self-determination of the Tamils in the North East.

1974     On 10 January, Sinhalese Police unleashed an unprovoked violent attack on those attending the prestigious “4th Tamil Research Conference” in Jaffna, leaving nine innocent civilians dead.  

1975     On 5 May the Tamil New Tigers -TNT was renamed as Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam ­ LTTE. Mr. V. Pirabaharan was named the Chairman and military commander of the LTTE.

1977     In July, Tamil United Liberation Front-TULF, contested and won overwhelmingly at the Parliamentary election giving them a mandate to establish the “Right to Self-determination” of Tamil Eelam in the North East. J. R. Jeyewardena of UNP became the Prime Minister, with a five-sixth majority in the Parliament. The TULF became the major opposition party in the parliament.

Talks took place between Prime Minister J.R. Jayawardena and the Tamil United Liberation Front. No agreement was reached. Anti-Tamil pogrom occurred immediately after elections in the areas where Sinhalese were in the majority killing hundreds of Tamils.




















1979     The government enacted the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), banning the Tamil militant organisations. On 11 July, the Jaffna peninsula was brought effectively under martial law under Public Security ordinance. Anti-Tamil pogrom broke out in the island. Many Tamils were killed and properties belonging to Tamils were looted and destroyed.














1981     In June, another anti-Tamil pogrom was unleashed. Increased military repression in the North. The Jaffna Public Library was burnt down by the Sri Lankan armed forces, allegedly under the direction of two senior government ministers, Gamini Dissanayake and Cyril Matthew. 95,000 volumes of books including numerous culturally important and irreplaceable manuscripts and the buildings were totally destroyed by arson. The Jaffna city market, the office of the Tamils daily newspaper “Eelanadu”, the office of the political party TULF, etc were burnt down by the Sri Lanka security forces.  
















1982     Government sponsored a Sinhala settlement in the Tamil populated Mullaitivu.

1983     Major anti-Tamil pogrom took place in July all over the island with the buoyed up support of the government. During the four days riots, more than 6,000 Tamils were killed and over 250,000 were rendered refugees. Thousands of Tamils fled the country and went to India and to Western countries. Billions rupees worth of Tamils properties was looted and destroyed by the Sinhala rioters.

Between 27-28 July, fifty-three Tamil political prisoners were massacred inside the walls of the Welikadai prison in Colombo by the Sinhala inmates. The government masterminded this massacre and the Sinhala attackers were released from the prison and were rewarded with houses and properties in the Sinhala settlements in the Tamil homeland.

Hundreds of youths joined the LTTE movement and the TULF Members of Parliament sought asylum in India.

J. R. Jeyawardena’s government enacts the 6th amendment to the constitution and rejected the right to self-determination of the Tamil people in the island on 8th August. This amendment outlawed the mandate voted by the Tamils in 1977 general election. The Sixth amendment and the Prevention of Terrorism Act in 1979 along with the Emergency Law provisions became the instruments through which repression was unleashed on the Tamil people.

















1984     Beginning of EELAM WAR-I.

1985-87 State repression and counter attacks intensified in the North East resulting in all-out war between the Sri Lankan state and the LTTE. LTTE effectively took control of the Jaffna peninsula and other Northern areas.

1986     In November, talks between the LTTE representatives and President J. R. Jeyawardena took place through the mediation of the Indian Prime minister in Bangalore, India.

1987     On the 29th July 1987, a peace accord known as “Indo-Lanka” pact was signed between Sri Lanka and India. Even though this accord purported to bring an end to the island’s ethnic crisis, it was signed by India and Sri Lanka without any consultation with LTTE and the Tamils of the North East of the Island.

The LTTE’s first public meeting was held in Suthumalai on 4 August 1987. The LTTE Leader Mr. Pirabaharan’s speech in this meeting became known as the “Suthumalai Declaration”. 

1989     Talks between the LTTE the President Premadasa took place in Colombo. LTTE’s chief negotiator Dr. Anton Balasingham, Mrs Adel Balasingham and many other LTTE high-level leaders took part in the talks.

1990     Beginning of EELAM WAR ­ II. Hostilities broke out again between the Sri Lankan forces and the LTTE. Economic blockade was imposed causing severe shortage of food and medicine in the North

1994     The People's Alliance led by Chandrika Kumaratunge won the Parliamentary elections with the pledge to "end the war and bring peace". The LTTE unilaterally announced a temporary ceasefire to welcome the change of government.

Talks between the LTTE and the PA government led by President Chandrika Kumaratunga commenced in Jaffna. Kumaratunge won the Presidential election. LTTE chief negotiator Dr. Anton Balasingham, and many other LTTE high-level leaders participated in the talks.

1995     On 5 January, the Government of Sri Lanka (President Chandrika) and the LTTE (Leader V. Pirabahakaran) signed an agreement for cessation of hostilities. The Government announced lifting of the economic embargo on some items only on paper, but the embargo continued. Later Chandrika government argued that there was no such thing as an economic embargo in the Tamil region. This was considered by civil society and the international humanitarian organisations as an “Utter lie with hidden agenda”.

The LTTE gave a two-week ultimatum in March to the government to implement what they had promised to the civilians. This ultimatum was later extended by another three weeks until April 19th. Talks ended in failure.

Government launched a major offensive in July in several parts of the Jaffna peninsula after imposing a press censorship. This was the beginning of EELAM WAR-III.

2001     The LTTE have announced unilateral cease-fires many a time. One lasted for four months. President Chandrika’s government refused to reciprocate the cease-fire declared by the LTTE and opted to continue with its military agenda.

The Tamil political parties formed a front known as the “Tamil National Alliance (TNA)” and contested the Parliament elections in the North East on the 5th December 2001 and won in 16 electorates. TNA’s Election manifesto.

In December, the UNP government headed by the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe came into power with the mandate for peace and negotiations with LTTE. The LTTE declared a one month cease-fire and it was renewed. The government also declared one month cease-fire and renewed it.

2002     LTTE released 10 prisoners of war as a gesture of good will for peace.

The Norwegian government re-activated its peace role. The Norwegian delegation led by Deputy Foreign Minister Vidar Helgesenand and Mr. Eric Solheim met with the LTTE chief negotiator Dr. Anton Balasingham in London and the Prime Minister and other ministers in Sri Lanka.

On 21 February, an historic agreement, a “Memorandum of Understanding” was signed between Mr. V. Pirabaharan, the leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam ­ LTTE, and the Sri Lanka Prime Minister Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe. This MOU was worked out under the facilitation of the Norwegian government.

2003     As there is non implimentation of the out come of talks, in May, the peace talks between the LTTE and the government Sri Lanka came to a halt.

In November, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) submitted its proposals for Interim Self-Governing Authority – IGSA in the North East region to the Sri Lankan Government through the Norwegian facilitators on November.

This proposal was totaly ignored by the Singhala leaders.

2004     In the General elections the political party "Tamil National Alliance (TNA)" won overwhelmingly in 22 electorates in the Tamil region, North East.  

Their election manifesto stated, "Accepting LTTE’s leadership as the national leadership of the Tamil Eelam Tamils and the Liberation Tigers as the sole and authentic representatives of the Tamil people, let us devote our full cooperation for the ideals of the Liberation Tigers’ struggle with honesty and steadfastness".  

2005     In November, Mahinda Rajapaksa won the Presidential election with the support of the Sinhala extreme political parties.

2006     In February, and October. 1st round of peace talks in Geneva was after two and a half years of interval. As there is non implimentation of the agreement signed in the 1st round of peace talks in Geneva, once again the 2nd round of peace talks came to a stalemate in October.


Peace talks between

Tamil and Singhala leaders since 1927


Ramanathan brothers had talks with Sinhala leaders when the Donoughmore Commission announced its recommendations in 1927

Sinhala Only Act.

Talks between S. W. R. D. Bandaranayake, Prime Minister and S. J. V. Chelvanayagam was leader of Federal Party 

Talks on Banda Chelva pact

Talks between Dudley Senanayaka, Prime Minister and S. J. V. Chelvanayagam was leader of Federal Party

Talks on Dudley Chelva Pact 

Tamils leaders (TULF) and Srimavo Bandaranayake on constitutional amendments

J.R. Jayawardena and the TULF leaders

Many between TULF and JR

Thimpu – LTTE was one of the parties 

LTTE & J. R. Jeyawardena Bangalore

Indo-Sri Lanka accord (It was signed without the concern of the Tamils)  

LTTE & President Premadasa

LTTE & President Chandrika

2002-2003 May  
LTTE & Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe 

2006 February & October  
LTTE & President Mahinda Rajapaksa