N. Ethirveerasingam Ph.D
Honourable High Commissioner Ms Linda Duffield
February 8, 2001
Honourable Ms Duffield,
Re: Proscription of the LTTE
I am a Sri Lankan citizen now resident in the US. I wish to appeal to the United Kingdom not to jeopardize the Tamil's struggle in Sri Lanka to regain their lost rights. As you are aware the successive governments in Sri Lanka, dominated by the Sinhalese, have systematically usurped the rights of the Tamil people, which they had at the time of independence from the United Kingdom in 1948.
The Tamil people accepted the constitution drafted by the United Kingdom (Lord Soulbury) at independence, primarily because it contained a protective clause [Section 29(2)], and also because it provided recourse to the Privy Council in the event the protections afforded by this constitution were violated. The Privy Council and the British Crown were thus the guardians of this covenant. Tamils trusted and accepted that assurance.
Prof. G.L. Peiris, the Minister of Constitutional Affairs of Sri Lanka, himself, publicly acknowledged this fact, as reported in the Ceylon Daily News [March 12, 1997]. He had said,
“…[A constitutional] safeguard was provided for the minorities by Article 29(2) of the Soulbury Constitution. It prevented parliament from conferring benefits on the majority community and imposing disabilities on the minorities. The Privy Council in Bribery commissioner vs Ranasinghe had ruled that Article 29(2) cannot be amended even with a two-thirds majority. It was on the basis of this safeguard that the Tamils acquiesced in the granting of independence in 1948.”
The successive governments in Sri Lanka systematically violated Section 29 of the Constitution. The Citizenship Laws (1948 and 1949) and the Official Language Act of 1956 (among many other Acts) were express violations of the UK drafted Constitution of Ceylon.
In 1962, S. Kodeswaran, a government employee, sued the government on the grounds that the Official Language Act of 1956 violated Section 29 of the constitution. Judge O.L. de Krester upheld Kodeswaran’s plea and ruled that the Official Language Act contravened Section 29. The Government appealed to the Ceylon Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court failed to consider the constitutional issue. Kodeswaran appealed to the Privy Council. In 1969, the Privy Council set aside the Supreme Court’s decision and directed the Supreme Court to rule on the constitutional question. (72 New Law Reports, p.337.)
Kodeswaran’s case never came before the Supreme Court again. Instead, Mrs. Bandaranaike’s government, which came to power in 1970, abolished appeals to the Privy Council (by Act No.44 of 1971). In 1972, Section 29 was abolished with the repeal of the Soulbury constitution and enactment of the Republican constitution. This too was an unlawful act, because the Privy Council on another matter had ruled as follows:
“They [Section 29(2)] represent the solemn balance of rights between the citizens of Ceylon, the fundamental condition on which inter se they accepted the constitution; and these are therefore unalterable...”
(Bribery Commissioner v. Ranasinghe - l964).
The United Kingdom failed to intervene to protect the rule of law when these events occurred.
Recognising the reality as demonstrated by the tragic events and attempts at negotiation since 1956, the only Tamil leadership that can effectively negotiate with the Sri Lankan government, to bring about a just and unalterable solution, based on the right to self-determination, is the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The United Kingdom would fail the Tamil people, once again, if it proscribes the LTTE.
N. Ethirveerasingam, Ph.D.