|Frequently Asked Questions & Statements
It is a small island. Why do you want to divide it?
The island may be small, but it is inhabited by two distinct nation groups, occupying geographically well demarcated areas.
At the time of the first colonial invasion in 1505 there were separate Tamil and Sinhala Kingdoms. The British colonial dispatch of 1779 (the Cleghorn minutes), among many other historical documents, confirms it.
All three colonial powers (the Dutch, Portuguese and the British) administered the Tamil and Sinhala areas separately until 1833. It was only in 1833 the two territories were combined for the colonial administrative convenience.
As a small island with two nation states Sri Lanka will not be unique. There are several islands (some smaller than Sri Lanka), that have two states. There are also several independent nations (with full membership in the UN) that are smaller than the proposed state of Tamil Eelam - both in land mass as well as the size of population.
One year after independence, the Sinhala dominated government disenfranchised over a million Tamils, the net effect of which was a reduction of Tamil representation in the parliament by 40%, and an increase of Sinhala representation to from 60% to 80%.
The Sinhala dominated government pursued a vigorous plan to colonize Tamil homelands with Sinhala people. In the Eastern Province of the Tamil homelands the percentage of Sinhala people increased from 8.4% at independence to 27% as of now.
Sinhala was made the only official language for the entire island, and discriminatory policies were adopted against Tamils in education, employment and industrial and agricultural development.
In spite of this, the Tamils, during the first 30 years of independence, tried not to seek separation. At the first two elections after independence, the Tamils elected a party that stood for a unitary government. At the subsequent elections the Tamils elected a party that sought a federal solution.
In all these elections, they resolutely rejected a party that stood for secession.
It was in 1977 - 30 years after independence - after years of continuous discriminations, oppression, communal attacks and broken pacts - that the Tamils elected a party that sought a mandate for separation.
The demand for separation was a last resort effort.
Back to the Top
You are fighting a democratically elected government. Why not solve this democratically?
In a homogenous country the power changes hands at different times, between parties differing only in political philosophies.
In a heterogeneous country, where strong ethnic differences prevail and elections are contested on ethnic lines, the numerically larger nation becomes a permanent majority, and the numerically smaller one becomes a permanent minority.
In the island of Sri Lanka, under the current political setup the Sinhala nation is a permanent majority (with all the powers), and the Tamil nation is a permanent minority (without any power).
Despite this disadvantage, and in a climate of ever worsening misuse of power by the Sinhala nation, the Tamils tried to secure their equitable rights democratically and within the system.
The constitution of the country was changed in 1972 to remove even the meager safeguards the Tamils had. In the new constitution, Buddhism was given “pride of place” and Sinhala language was entrenched as the only official language. The constitution was changed again 1978 reiterating these.
The Tamils, having failed to secure their rights in the new constitutions, did not participate in the writing of these constitutions.
For the first 40 years, the elected Tamil parties tried democratic methods to reverse the trend.
They tried Ghandian type non-violent protests, and the Sinhala government responded with state aided physical attacks on all Tamils. Major attacks took place in 1956, 1958, 1961, 1974, 1977, 1979, 1981 and 1983, in addition to numerous small scale attacks.
They tried negotiations with the ruling parties. Written agreements and promises were never kept, and two treaties were publicly revoked.
The Tamils resorted to armed insurrection only after all democratic methods over a 35 year period failed.
Tamils did not elect the Sinhala government in power. After 1977, having given a mandate for separation, they do not consider the Sinhala government as representing them.
Back to the Top
This was not an accord between the Tamils and the Sinhalese.
It was a pact between India and Sri Lanka, where in the discourse on unrelated matters of bilateral interests, Tamil strife was covered.
The accord had neither Tamil input nor Tamil assent.
The resultant Provincial Councils, created by the thirteenth amendment to the Sri Lanka constitution, granted Tamils no more power than municipal councils in the western nations.
The pact, in spite of having accepted the northern and eastern provinces of the island as the historical habitat of the Tamil speaking people, provided for a referendum in the eastern province only, to decide if it should merge with the northern province. If a referendum was needed at all it should have been held in the entire “historical habitat of the Tamil speaking people” to decide if it should remain as one unit. Having altered the ethnic composition of the eastern province by a vigorous colonization scheme, the proposed referendum is a diabolic attempt to carve out the eastern part of the Tamil homelands.
In spite of these drawbacks all Tamil parties, including the LTTE, accepted this accord initially.
The LTTE stopped all its military activities and started handing over their weapons to the Indian army.
The Sinhala government, on the other hand, violated the promises and assurances in the pact, both in spirit and in letter.
The general amnesty granted to all militants were denied to two regional commanders of the LTTE and twelve other LTTE cadres, who on being arrested committed suicide.
The government accelerated the colonization program, and also opened new army camps and police stations in the Tamil homelands, all manned by Sinhala personnel.
The Indian government tried to intervene but their efforts were thwarted.
The LTTE was compelled by these actions to withdraw its support of the Indo-Sri Lanka accord.
Back to the Top
The LTTE is a freedom movement.
Historically, freedom movements have been labeled as terrorist organizations by the oppressors
From George Washington to Mahatma Gandhi to Nelson Mandela, all freedom fighters have been called terrorists.
“Terrorists” have in their lifetime become “His excellencies.”
Back to the Top
Any killing is wrong and immoral, but is an integral part of war.
LTTE has not engaged in any killing that is not justifiable in the context of war.
The LTTE do attack security forces and government installations. The LTTE has killed the “home guards”, who are a civilian force armed by the government, who terrorize and kill innocent unarmed Tamil civilians. They have also killed armed Sinhala settlers brought in by the government under the colonization schemes, to occupy Tamil villages and homes forcibly evacuated by the government forces.
The number of civilians killed by the LTTE in this war is less than 5% of the total, whereas the government forces are responsible for over 95% of the civilian deaths.
Back to the Top
It is in the interest of the Tamils and the LTTE to have the Muslims on their side (both are Tamil speaking and the majority of Muslims live in the Tamil homelands.)
It is noteworthy that the LTTE has an agreement with a Muslim delegation led by Dr. Baddudin Mohamed (an ex cabinet minister), outlining the position of the Muslims in the future independent state of Tamil Eelam.
It is also in the interest of the government to break the harmony between the Tamil speaking Hindus, Christians and Muslims, particularly in the context of the proposed referendum.
The government has thus engineered several incidents to break this unity.
The creation of the armed Muslim home guards is one.
The attack on the mosques (where none of the perpetrators were caught or identified) is another. It is a strange coincidence that the attacks on the mosques took place, while the defence minister (the late Mr. Wijeratne) and the trade minister Mr. Munsoor were touring the Middle Eastern Arab countries seeking military and financial help.
It is the government that indulges in ethnic cleansing - chasing Tamils out of their villages and homes in the eastern province to be replaced with Sinhala colonists.
Back to the Top
If the LTTE does not have the support of the people, how could they have lived among them and fought the armies of two governments for this long?
An Indian commander during the IPKF occupation stated at a press interview that the LTTE enjoys the support of 95% of Tamils. This same Indian commander reaffirmed it later in a book he wrote about the war.
When the ex-President Jayewardene was asked, “How is it that you are prepared to hold elections in the South while there is fighting going on against the JVP, but not prepared to hold them in the north?”, his reply was, “In the south the insurgents do not have the support of the people, while in the north the LTTE has the support of the people.”
Soon after withdrawal of the IPKF, the LTTE had offered to face a free and fair elections under international supervision, but the government was not prepared to accept this challenge.
The LTTE will never give up fighting.
Since September 1990, there have been at least 12 occasions where the LTTE leadership, including Mr. Prabaharan, have publicly declared their willingness to participate in unconditional talks and their willingness to accept something other than separate Eelam.
The government on the other hand has refused to accept these overtures, and have laid an impractical and unrealistic precondition - that the LTTE should surrender their arms.
It doesn’t take a genius to infer the result of such a suicidal gesture - surrender of arms by the LTTE.
Several governments (Canada, Norway, Australia, etc.), parliamentary groups (from Canada, UK, etc.) and other intermediaries (A group of four Nobel Laureates, Carter Foundation, the Quaker Organization, etc.) have offered to mediate.
All of these offers have been accepted by the LTTE, and every one of these offers have been rejected by the Sri Lanka government (except this year.)
Back to the Top
Sangam Research with J.M. Rajaratnam