By: T. Sabaratnam
days after Pirapaharan founded the LTTE, the Tamil United Front held its
first national convention at Pannakam in Vaddukoddai in the Jaffna
Peninsula. It passed the
historic 'Vaddukoddai Resolution' affirming the mandate that the voters of
Kankesanthurai gave overwhelmingly in the 6 February 1975 by- election
for the establishment of a separate state for the Tamils.
This convention resolves that restoration and reconstitution of the
Free, Sovereign, Secular, Socialist State of TAMIL EELAM, based on the
right of self determination inherent to every nation, has become
inevitable in order to safeguard the very existence of the Tamil Nation
in this Country.
exhaustive, 21-paragraph resolution declared that the Tamils had the
right to reconstitute themselves into a separate state because they
satisfied the elements required to be considered a separate nation.
The resolution stated that in clear terms before resolving to set up a
The first National Convention of the Tamil United Liberation Front
meeting at Pannakam (Vaddukoddai Constituency) on the 14th day of May
1976, hereby declares that the Tamils of Ceylon by virtue of their great
language, their religions, their separate culture and heritage, their
history of independent existence as a separate state over a distinct
territory for several centuries till they were conquered by the armed
might of the European invaders and above all by their will to exist as a
separate entity ruling themselves in their own territory, are a nation
distinct and apart from Sinhalese and this Convention announces to the
world that the Republican Constitution of 1972 has made the Tamils a
slave nation ruled by the new colonial masters, the Sinhalese ,who are
using the power they have wrongly usurped to deprive the Tamil Nation of
its territory, language, citizenship, economic life, opportunities of
employment and education, thereby destroying all the attributes of
nationhood of the Tamil people.
Chelva proposed the resolution and M. Sivasithamparam of the All Ceylon
Tamil Congress seconded it. Thanthai Chelva told the convention that he
considered himself the fit person to propose the resolution because he
had tried to work out a reasonable formula to accommodate the Tamil-speaking people
within the constitutional fabric of united Sri Lanka. He
I am sorry to admit I have
failed. From 1948 until
recently, I placed before the Sinhala leaders what I perceived as the
only possible, workable solution for the problem of the Tamil speaking
people- the formation of a federal region in a united Sri Lanka. They
rejected it. Through two pacts and a series of agreements, I tried to
lay the foundation for a decentralized administrative structure. That
effort failed. Now we are left with no other option but to part company
and establish for ourselves a separate state.
Chelva spoke in this emotional speech about the two pacts he
two Prime Ministers. The first was with Prime Minister S. W. R. D.
Bandaranaike in 1957. The pact contained three important arrangements that
provided safeguards for the Tamil-speaking people. They were:
Tamil as a National Language without disturbing the position enjoyed by
Sinhala as the official language and using Tamil as the language of
administration of the northern and eastern provinces.
Setting up a
regional council for the north and two or more regional councils for the
east and permitting two or more regional councils to amalgamate even
beyond provincial limit.
colonization schemes under the subjects reserved for the regional councils and
giving the councils the power to select allottees and the personnel
employed to work in those schemes.
This pact, known as the 'Bandaranaike–Chelvanayagam Pact,' was torn up by Bandaranaike due to the pressure exerted by the Buddhist priests and politicians.
second pact, known as the 'Senanayake–Chelvanayagam Pact,' was with Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake in
1965. Elements of the pact with
Bandaranaike were the basis for this pact. Thanthai Chelva made use
of this pact to make two matters explicit. They concerned the use of
Tamil as the language of administration of the north and the east and
the procedure to be followed when allocating land under colonization
schemes. They are:
Tamil would be
the language of administration and record in the northern and eastern
proceedings would be conducted and recorded in Tamil in those provinces.
should be observed in allocating land under colonization schemes in the
northern and eastern provinces was laid down as follows; (a) In the
first instance it should be granted to the landless persons in each district; (b) Secondly, to the Tamil-speaking persons residing in the
district; (c) Thirdly, to other citizens in Ceylon, preference being
given to Tamil citizens in the rest of the island.
Chelva, in his speech at Vaddukoddai, also admitted the failure of his policy of cooperating with one
or the other section of Sinhala leaders to help form governments in
return for the implementation of the fundamental arrangements embodied
in the Bandaranaike–Chelvanayakam Pact. In March 1960, he helped the
Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) to defeat the UNP government of Prime
Dudley Senanayake on the undertaking that when the SLFP returned to power it
would implement the Bandaranaike –Chelvanayakam Pact. The SLFP government
that came to power following the July 1960 election did not honour that
understanding. Instead, Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike pursued a Sinhala chauvinistic policy and implemented the Sinhala Only policy
vigourously. Then in 1965, Chelvanayagam switched sides and helped Dudley
Senanayake to form the national government on the basis of the pact he
signed with him. Senanayake too let the Tamils down.
told the convention the nine major acts of discrimination successive
Sinhalese governments had perpetrated on the Tamils since independence.
They were included in the resolution as:
was the most provocative speech. He structured it in a manner that it
would rouse the youth. In the first part, he reminded them of the past
glory of the Tamils. He told them that Tamils lived as an independent
nation in the north-eastern portion of Sri Lanka. Since the dawn of
history, he said, the Sinhalese and Tamil nations had divided Sri Lanka
between themselves, the Sinhalese living in the Southern and Western
parts of the island and Tamils inhabiting the northern and eastern
regions. Tamils had resisted Sinhala invasions and intrusions and had
driven them away whenever they tried to impose their rule on them.
lived as an independent nation when the Portuguese landed in the island
in 1505. The Jaffna Kingdom was in control of the north-eastern parts
regions of Sri Lanka. The western and southern regions were under the Kotte
Kingdom and the central hills were ruled by the Kandyan Kingdom. The
Portuguese conquered the Jaffna Kingdom in 1619 and Kotte before that.
They did not capture the Kandyan Kingdom. The Portuguese ruled their
Tamil and Sinhala possessions separately, thus maintaining their separate
Dutch captured the Portuguese possessions and the British who ousted the
Dutch also ruled the Tamil regions and Sinhala regions separately. The
British joined the territories of the Sinhalese and the Tamil kingdoms
in 1833 on the recommendation of the Colebrook Commission. It was done
for administrative convenience.
British, when they granted independence to Sri Lanka in 1948, should
have handed over to the Sinhalese and the Tamils their respective
territories. They did not do it. They handed over the entire country to
the Sinhalese and they, using their numerical majority, reduced the
Tamil nation to the position of subject people.
devoted the second part of his speech to sketching the nature and shape of
the Tamil Eelam they proposed to establish. Its territory would be
Northern and Eastern provinces. Tamil-speaking people living in the
northern and eastern provinces would be the citizens of Tamil Eelam.
Tamils living in any part of Sri Lanka and Tamils of Eelam origin living
in any part of the world could opt for citizenship of Tamil Eelam.
said Tamil Eelam would be a democratic state with decentralized
administration where religious or territorial communities would be free
of domination by others. It would be a secular, socialist state. Tamil
would be the official language and the rights of the Sinhalese would be
protected on a reciprocal basis with the Tamil-speaking minorities in the
vowed that an action plan to launch a struggle to win the sovereignty
and freedom of the Tamil nation would be formulated soon and exhorted
the youth to be ready for the freedom struggle.
who had gathered in great numbers, gave a full-throated response:
are our commander,
the date of the freedom struggle.
are ready to sacrifice our lives.
Emotion-chocked youths ran to the dais and carried Amirthalingam on their
are our commander. Give us the order.
Uma Maheswaran and most of the leaders of the militant movements were
present at the Vaddukoddai Convention. It was intended as a delegates
conference of the TUF, but large crowds gathered. Processions went from
many villages shouting slogans calling for Tamil Eelam. Guards placed at
the gates were powerless to prevent the processions from entering the
convention ground. They went round the grounds shouting, “We want Tamil
Eelam. We are ready to sacrifice our lives to achieve it.” There was
euphoria in the air. Jaffna had never witnessed such a scene before.
announced that, in keeping with the resolution which had authorized the
launching of the freedom struggle, the name of the party, Tamil United
Front, would be changed to Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF). “We
are now a liberation organization," Thalapathy Amirthalingam
thundered. Youths, in an emotional upsurge, shouted back, “We are ready
for the struggle. Launch it now.”
expected the Action Committee to meet immediately and work out a plan to
launch the freedom struggle. The Action Committee did meet and after a
lengthy discussion decided to issue a leaflet explaining the Vaddukoddai
Resolution and called upon the people to boycott the Republic Day
celebrations. Youths were not pleased. Some youths went in a delegation
and asked Amirthalingam: Is this the freedom struggle you promised?
patient,” Amirthalingam told them. “We must first prepare the
prepare the people, Amirthalingam and four other Members of Parliament -
V. N. Navaratnam, K. P. Ratnam. K. Thurairatnam and M.
Sivasithamparam - distributed in Jaffna bus station on May 21 the leaflet
calling the people to boycott the next day’s Republic Day celebrations.
Police arrested them. Amirthalingam was taken to his home in Pannalai
and his house searched.
prime minister, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, and her government made the
Vaddukoddai Resolution a national issue by accusing the TULF of trying
to establish a separate state. The prime minister told a public meeting
at Dambulla Maha Vidyalaya on May 23: The Federal Party has been
campaigning for quite a long time for a separate state and on that
pretext, they have been attempting to create disharmony in the country.
I had to take the stern action to protect the Republican Constitution
and maintain peace and harmony in the country.”
an effort to divide the Tamils, the government released Sivasithamparam,
a member of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress, and indicted the rest of
those arrested before the
High Court. The government also decided to try the four leaders at bar
before three High Court judges instead of before a jury. This gave the TULF
leaders an opportunity to exhibit the solidarity of the Tamil community
and to challenge the legality of the Republican Constitution. A record
61 lawyers, led by Queen’s Counsel G. G. Ponnambalam, appeared for the
way of preliminary objection, the lawyers challenged the Emergency
Regulations under which the four leaders were arrested and the
Republican Constitution under which the court inquiring the case was
constituted. They refused to plead to the charge and made a statement
from the dock;
court is constituted under a constitution which is not valid. I am not
pleading guilty or not guilty to the charges.
argued the first part of the preliminary objection he raised which said
the Emergency Regulations under which the arrests were made were
invalid. The argument was based on a technical error in the declaration
of the state of emergency. Under the Soulbury Constitution, which was in
effect until May 22, the decision whether the state of emergency existed
in the country was to be made by the Governor General. Under the Republican
Constitution which came into effect on May 22 the decision was the
responsibility of the Prime Minister. Hence, the Emergency that was in
force before May 22 lapsed on May 22 when the Republican Constitution
was promulgated. All arrested under the Emergency Regulations declared
before May 22 had to be released.
argued the second part of the preliminary objection which said the
constitution under which the court was constituted was invalid. He based
his arguments on two grounds. The first was that the Soulbury Constitution
provided for amendments and not wholesale replacements. Attorney General
Siva Pasupathy submitted that the government party, the United Front, had
obtained a mandate from the people for the enactment of a new
constitution. Tiruchelvam countered this by submitting that the
replacement of the constitution was not a major campaign issue.
second ground Tiruchelvam urged was more important. He said, even if the
government had obtained a mandate from the people to replace the constitution,
the mandate was from the Sinhala people and not from the Tamils. He submitted
that the Tamil people constituted a separate nation and, since 1956, they had
voted for a federal constitution.
court held with Ponnambalam on the first objection. It ordered that the
emergency regulations ceased to be in force on May 22 and the accused
should be released. It made use of that order to wriggle out of the
second objection concerning the validity of the constitution. It said
since the emergency regulations under which the court was constituted was
invalid, the court had no authority to make a ruling on the validity of the
This ‘wriggling out’ demonstrated the unwillingness of the judiciary to take bold decisions to safeguard the interests of the Tamil people. The decision by the 5-member bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Victor Tennekoon on the appeal Attorney General filed against the High Court order on the emergency regulations added to the disillusion of the Tamil people about the judiciary. The Attorney General told the Supreme Court that that the High Court order would have far-reaching consequences as the security forces had taken action on the belief that the emergency regulations were valid. The Supreme Court overturned the High Court order to help the government.
Trial at Bar and the appeal lasted until February 1977 and TULF leaders
forgot about the freedom struggle. Not the militants. They were
serious about the mandate. They were determined to launch the freedom
struggle. They were making their own preparations; collecting money and
arms, recruiting cadres and training them.
the end of 1976, police searches for the militants had intensified.
Kumarasuriyar was constantly nudging the police to root out the
militants. He had secret planning sessions with Bastiampillai and
Pathmanathan in his Wellawatte home. Militant groups found their
movements restricted and Pirapaharan had to change his hideouts very
often. The militants were thus forced to destroy the police network.
was also keen to launch the freedom struggle. Though he was meeting
Amirthalingam and V. N. Navaratnam and urging them to launch the freedom
struggle, he was convinced that the TULF was not taking matters seriously. He
readied the LTTE to take on the task. As an initial effort, he decided
to undertake two efforts:
To destroy the network of
informants Inspectors Bastiampillai and Pathmanathan had assiduously
To kill the police officers
investigating the Duraiappah murder and collecting information about
built an intelligence wing in the LTTE to collect information about
police informants and investigators. He also incorporated intelligence-gathering as part of the training program for cadres.
Fresh recruits were used to gather intelligence before they were
given their place in attack groups.
first police informant Pirapaharan picked to kill was N. Nadarajah,
owner of the Petrol station in Urumpirai and SLFP organizer. He was
picked because he had passed information to the police about Sivakumaran.
That was the first murder committed by the LTTE. Pirapaharan did not
take part, but two of his colleagues went to Nadarajah’s house, called
him out and gunned him down.
set the scene for the year 1977, the year Tamil people ratified the
Vaddukoddai Resolution and gave the TULF the people’s support to establish
the separate state of Tamil Eelam.
Will be posted on:
Introduction Part 1
Introduction Part 2
Chapter 1: Why didn’t he hit back?
Chapter 2: Going in for a revolver
Chapter 3: The Unexpected Explosion
Chapter 4: Tamil Mood Toughens
Chapter 5: Tamil Youths Turn Assertive
Chapter 6: Birth of Tamil New Tigers
Chapter 7: The Cyanide Suicide
Chapter 8: First Military Operation
Chapter 9. TNT matures to LTTE