by S. Makenthiran, B.A., FCCA.
The Sinhalese-dominated Sri Lankan government stands indicted of genocide and other crimes against humanity against the minority Tamils who are some of the original inhabitants of the island. The following facts from the date of independence, prove beyond doubt the ethnic cleansing and efforts to eliminate the Tamil presence and culture perpetrated by successive Sinhalese regimes. These need to be presented to the world community and World Court for adjudication as crimes against humanity:
In 1948, the very year that the British handed over the Ceylon Government (now named Sri Lanka) to the Sinhalese majority without any solid safeguards for the minorities, the Sinhalese-dominated government passed an obnoxious law rendering half the Ceylon Tamil population stateless in the land of their birth. Out of about two million Tamil people in Ceylon at the time of independence, over one million Upcountry Tamils, who had lived in Ceylon for generations, were deprived of their citizenship by the Ceylon Citizenship Act. To add to this crime, immediately thereafter, the Sinhalese government disenfranchised these Tamils by depriving them of their voting rights in passing the Ceylon Elections Amendment Act.
The Upcountry Tamils leaders carried on a peaceful satyagraha protest against this racist state policy, but it was ignored by the government and was unsuccessful. The first Prime Minister of Ceylon, D.S. Senanayake is responsible for these crimes.
The Sinhalese-dominated government is guilty of land grabbing, by forcing a planned colonization of the traditional homeland of the Tamils in the Northeast and by settling Sinhalese from the South in Tamil lands from independence up until the present day. For example, in the Tamil village of Manalaru, the Tamils were uprooted, it was renamed Welioya, and Sinhalese convicts were settled. The protests by Tamils and their leaders have been ignored and the Tamils who are the original inhabitants have been deprived of their lands, reducing the latter to the position of a minority in parts of their own homeland.
The Sinhalese government passed the Sinhala Only Act in 1956 making Sinhala the only official language and depriving the Tamil language of its status as an official language. The Tamil language spoken by the Tamils and Muslims was the mother tongue of one-third of the people of Ceylon, but it was suppressed by the Sinhalese. S.W.R.D. Bandaranayake, who was a rabid Sinhala rubble-rousing Prime Minister, is responsible for this crime. The Tamil leaders carried out a peaceful opposition to this discriminatory law, but they were violently suppressed.
To add to this, in 1956, the Sinhalese mobs attacked and drove out Tamils from their villages in the Gal Oya Valley in the Batticaloa District. This was the commencement of Sinhala mob terrorism against the unarmed Tamils.
The Sinhala government stopped giving employment to the Tamils in civil service jobs, the largest source of non-agricultural employment on the island, and squeezed out Tamils already in service, to strangle the community economically. Those Tamils already in the government service were deprived of their pay raises unless they passed Sinhala proficiency tests.
In 1957 the Tamil leader of that time signed the Bandaranayake-Chelvanayagam Pact with the Sinhalese government to devolve power to regional councils. The Pact was unilaterally and dishonestly abrogated by the Sinhalese government.
In 1958 Sinhalese mobs and criminals unleashed terror against the Tamils all over the Sinhalese provinces. Tamils were massacred, their houses burnt, people burnt live, women were raped and tortured. Over 100,000 Tamils fled to their traditional homelands in the Northeast. Tamils were defenseless and attacked even in their homeland. Thus started Sinhala mob terror with the connivance of the Sinhala state.
In an unprecedented case of ethnic cleansing by the Sinhala state, Mrs. Srimavo Bandaranayake, the then Prime Minister, indulged in mass deportation of the stateless and disenfranchised Upcountry Tamils to India. In this crime, the Indian government colluded with the Ceylon government, against the opposition of the Tamils of Ceylon, by signing the Srimavo-Sashtri Pact in 1964. Half million Tamils were thus forced out of Ceylon to India.
In 1965, the same Tamil leader signed the Chelvanayagam-Senanayake Pact for a second time with the Sinhalese government, to devolve power to district councils. This Pact was also unilaterally and dishonestly abrogated by the Sinhalese government.
In a blatant act of dicrimination against Tamil youth, in 1970, Tamils students were barred from higher education, by a scheme of standardization. Tamil students were required to score higher marks than the Sinhalese for admission to university.
In 1974 the Sinhala state unleashed police violence against the Tamils who had gathered to hold the Tamil Research Conference in Jaffna, killing nine and wounding many. In 1976 the Sinhalese police opened fire at a mosque killing many Tamil-speaking Muslims. These acts demonstrated the growing use of direct state violence against minorities.
In 1977 the UNP government under the anti-Tamil Prime Minister J.R. Jayawardena unleashed mob violence against the Tamils particularly in the plantations, massacring hundreds of innocent people. Nearly 40,000 Tamils were made refugees and destitute and many fled to India. Nearly 100 Hindu temples were destroyed with the active involvement of Sinhalese politicians.
In 1978 the Parliament enacted the notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act and the armed forces were given a free hand to kill Tamil youth. Torture camps were set up and Tamils disappeared in large numbers.
The government set up Sinhalese and Muslim Home Guards to oppress Tamils. These thugs, with the support of the Sinhalese armed forces, committed horrible atrocities on unarmed Tamils civilians.
In 1981, the Sinhalese armed forces rampaged in Jaffna, killing and setting fire to buildings, including the historic Jaffna Public Library and its 94,000 valuable books. This was an act of cultural genocide carried out by two extremist Sinhala ministers, Athulathmudali and Cyril Mathew, present in Jaffna at that time.
Tamil students in the University of Peradeniya were attacked to prevent the educational advancement of Tamil youth.
In the 1980s and 1990s Tamils were arrested in large numbers and held without trial for long periods in violation of human rights. Many were tortured and many disappeared.
In July 1983 the Sinhala state under J.R. Jayawardene organized and committed a pogrom against the Tamils all over Sri Lanka. 53 Tamil prisoners were slaughtered in Welikade Prison. Over 3,000 Tamils were massacred, 90 % of industrial property owned by Tamils was destroyed and a high percentage of private property. Tamil women were raped and men burnt alive. Hundreds of thousands of Tamils fled by land and sea from the Sinhalese areas to their traditional homeland in the Northeast. 200,000 Tamils fled to India.
From 1983 onwards, under successive Sinhalese leaders like J.R. Jayawardena, Premadasa, and Chandrika Kumaratunga, the Sinhala armed forces continued a reign of state terror in the Tamil areas. Mass arrests, killings, disappearances, torture, rape, burning of houses, destruction of schools, hospitals, businesses, shops, temples and churches resulted in Tamils getting thrown into destitution. Tamil villages were bulldozed and the army followed a scorched earth policy in the Tamil homeland.
The massacre of Tamils by the Sinhala state and mobs are too numerous to give in detail. The Sinhala armed forces, Home Guards and mobs, have systematically and continuously slaughtered Tamils over the years in Jaffna, Palali, Nedunthivu, Valavettiturai, Kilali, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Kokkadicholai, Mannar, Bidunuwewa, Kanchirankuda, to name just a few. Some of the criminals responsible for these crimes have been rewarded with ambassadorsí posts.
Long distance shelling and bombing through the 1980s and 1990s killed thousands and completely destroyed the infrastructure of the North and much of the East.
The Sinhala government imposed an inhuman economic embargo on the Tamil provinces preventing the supply of food, clothing, medicines, building materials, fuel and other basic necessities. People were dying, but the Sinhala state prevented help from international bodies.
As a result of Sinhala terrorism, 800,000 Tamils fled from Sri Lanka to India, the U.K., Europe, North America, Australia and Africa. One million Tamils became internally displaced and most of them became homeless. Hundreds of thousands of Tamil children have been made orphans and destitute. Thousands of Tamils have been maimed and lost their limbs.
The Sinhala-dominated state has uprooted hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians from their traditional homes, and continues to occupy those homes and lands on the pretext of requiring them for High Security Zones. Even after two and a half years of cease-fire, the Sinhalese armed forces and state are occupying Tamils homes, hospitals, schools, places of worship and public places in large areas, and forcing thousands of Tamils to live as destitutes.
The Sinhalese police and army have also been guilty of large scale sadistic torture of Tamil girls and women. These again are too numerous to enumerate. Vijitha was tortured by the Negombo police by inserting Chilli powder into her vagina and made to suffer till she became unconscious. Rathykala of Polonnaruwa, Krishanti of Jaffna, Sivamany and Wijikala of Mannar, Arshadevi of Colombo, Sarathambal of Pungudutivu, Ida Hamalitta of Pallimunai, Koneswari of Amparai, are some of the hundreds of Tamil women, gang raped and tortured by the Sinhalese armed forces. Many of them like Krishanthi, Koneswary and Sarathambal were slaughtered in cold blood, after the gruesome acts, to cover them up. Most of the cases of rape have not been brought to light. The culprits escape punishment due to the Sinhala state patronage.
Numerous cases of rape of Tamil women and gruesome torture of Tamils have come up in the Sri Lankan courts and have been reported in the media. A British Medical Organisation reported after interviewing some Tamil men released from detention, that some young Tamil men in detention have been raped and sexually molested by Sinhalese army and police.
The Sinhalese state carried out forced strerilisation of Plantation Tamils to reduce their numbers. Due to abject poverty, 230,000 Tamil children are estimated to be employed in Sinhalese homes as domestic servants and exposed to abuse.
Almost every single Tamil in the Northeast has been displaced at some time during the 20 years of war, many multiple times. In 1995 when the Sinhalese occupied Jaffna Peninsula, the entire population of the peninsula ( around 800,000) were reported to have fled other, many to Vanni and other areas. Tamils from all the 8 districts of NE province suffered forced displacement during the war from 1983 to 2002. The figures must be staggering. As an example, I was informed reliably that in my own village Kurumpayiddy near Palaly airport, there is not a single house left.
These crimes against humanity continued to be committed by the Sinhalese government and thugs from independence in 1948, and even after the cease-fire signed in February 2002 by the LTTE leader Prabaharan and the Sri Lankan UNA Prime Minister. It is estimated that over 80,000 Tamil civilians have been slaughtered by the Sinhalese.
The devastation to the Sri Lankan Tamil people caused by the Sinhalese pogrom can be seen from the fact that, since independence, the Tamil population has been reduced by about 30 %. Figures for the Tamil population forced out of Ceylon or killed by the Sinhalese, have appeared now and then in the media.
At the time of independence in 1948, the Tamil population of Ceylon was 1 million Ceylon Tamils and a little over 1 million Upcountry Tamils, out of a total population of 8 million. That is, Tamils were then 26 % of the population.
Today, out of a total population of over 19 million, Tamils should have numbered about 5 million. However, according to statistics put out by the SL government, there now are only 12 1/2% Ceylon Tamils and 5 1/2 % Upcountry Tamils for a total of 18 % -- about 3 1/2 million. That means the Tamil population in Sri Lanka has been reduced by about 30 % (1.5/ 5.00 = 31%).
The loss can be accounted for as follows:
Expatriation under Srimavo-Sashtri Pact 500,000
Fled to India 200,000
Fled to Canada 300,000
Fled to UK 150,000
Fled to rest of Europe 150,000
Fled to Australia and other parts of the world 100,000
Killed by the Sinhalese ~80,000
Killed due to lack of food, shelter and health care - unknown
TOTAL TAMIL REDUCTION 1,480,000
Is this not proof of ethnic cleansing? These are all fair estimates, but seem to be close to the realities.
These crimes by the Sinhalese state and personnel committed against the Tamils need to be taken up before a World Court or International Tribunals, and the criminals responsible tried for genocide and crimes against humanity.
Posted October 14, 2004