Introduction by Sachi Sri Kantha
In Colombo and elsewhere, the banal editorials and newspaper supplements marking the 57th Independence Day [February 4th] of Sri Lanka have been written and ink haw been wasted, as usual.
Every year carries quite a number of anniversaries. This year is not an exception. Two exceptional anniversaries [which fall in a noticeable round-figure number] in the island’s history are apt for remembrance this year. First is the quincentennial [500th] anniversary of the first landing of a Portuguese fleet under the command of Don Lourenco d’Almeida. The second is the 90th anniversary of Sinhalese-Muslim ethnic riots on the island at the height of the First World War. Both events had serious repercussions for the relationships and conflicts between the Sinhalese and indigenous Tamils.
As a tutorial lesson to the younger generation of Eelam Tamils, and also to the Tamil language-challenged international journalists who now cover the Sri Lanka beat, I present the complete text of a pamphlet ‘A Statement on Eelam: Co-Existence – Not Confrontation’, which was authored by S.Kathiravelupillai in 1973 [then the Federal Party Member of Parliament, representing the Kopay electorate]. This pamphlet appeared when Sri Lanka reached 25 years of independence. In context, this document was almost Eelam’s historical equivalent of Jefferson’s ‘The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America, July 4, 1776’. Kathiravelupillai even predicted "a new militancy among the Tamil youth" who "believe in confrontation which will inevitably become an international problem in the future." His prophecy has indeed come true, and what he stated on the Sinhala-Tamil gulf 32 years ago still remains true in 2005.
Mr.Sivasubramaniam Kathiravelupillai (1924-1981) was a respected Tamil legislator, author and translator in the 1960s and 1970s. In the second half of the 1960s and the whole of the 1970s, he functioned as the leading theoretician of the Federal Party. He also represented the Kopay electorate in the Jaffna peninsula from 1965 until his untimely death on March 31, 1981 in Madras, at the age of 56 years. While being held in detention in 1961 for participating in the Federal Party’s satyagraha campaign, Kathiravelupillai translated the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayam into Tamil.
In the pamphlet on Eelam – only 1,277 words of text – presented below, Kathiravelupillai’s lucidity of thought shines remarkably. If something is missing altogether, I can only mention that the position of Muslims has not been stated. One should comprehend that Muslims [being traditionally, Tamil language speakers] have been identified as Tamils by Kathiravelupillai; and considering the hidden animosity of feelings between Sinhalese and Muslims in Sri Lanka, Kathiravelupillai’s assumption was not wrong or mistaken.
Quite a number of international journalists – who had covered the post-tsunami realities [since January 2005] of the island – seem at a loss to comprehend the mental barriers which block and restrict closer cooperation between the Sinhalese and Tamils. These running Johns and running Janes of media conglomerates visit the scenes of tragedy for a couple of days and, after making their by-line reports, retreat to their safe big city perches. These journalists first need to do their homework and study the island’s cursed history, as presented by Kathiravelupillai. I have only made marginal revisions in the text for spelling [Kathiravelupillai has used the spelling, ‘Elam’ for Eelam] and printer’s slips.
A Statement on Eelam: Co-Existence - Not Confrontation
by S.Kathiravelupillai, MP for Kopay
Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, is the island home of two nations – the Sinhalese and the Tamils. They differ from each other by history, territory, language, religion, culture and traditions. This is the undisputable fact of over two thousand five hundred years of Ceylon history. The Cleghorn Minute of 1797 records, ‘Two different nations, from a very ancient period, have divided between them the possession of the Island. First the Cinhalese inhabiting the interior country in the Southern and Western parts from the river Wallouwe to that of Chilaw, and secondly the Malabars (Tamils) who possess the Northern and Eastern districts.’ From these earliest times the Sinhalese and Tamils have maintained their separate identities and territories. Particularly the Sinhalese have always excluded the Tamils from their body politic in their struggle for existence and identity. Dutu Gemunu (circa 200 BC), the national hero of the Sinhalese, could not sleep in peace with the Tamils ruling all around him. Even as late as the 16th and 17th centuries when the Portuguese came to Ceylon and conquered the Tamil Kingdom, the Sinhalese did not think that ‘Ceylon’ was being invaded by a foreign power, nor did they even go to the help of the Tamils as a neighbour might have, having their own security and that of the whole island in mind. Rather, they appear to have had a secret satisfaction at the conquest of the Tamil Kingdom. A Sinhalese historian of today, Dr.G.C.Mendis writes, ‘The Tamil Kingdom in the North grew in power until it extracted tribute from the South. Further, Fifteenth century Tamil influence over the Sinhalese court was considerable and Ceylon may have come under the rule of Madura or Tanjore, but for the timely arrival of the Portuguese.’
After the Portuguese, the Dutch took over the Sinhalese and Tamil Kingdoms of the South and North, leaving the Kandyan Sinhalese Kingdom free. The British succeeded the Dutch and, finally, in 1815 took over the Sinhalese Kingdom of Kandy. In 1833 the British erased the boundaries between the Sinhalese and Tamil states and brought the whole island under one unified administration. This was done in spite of the protests of the Sinhalese of the Kandyan State. Thus the Sinhalese and Tamils, as enslaved peoples, found themselves shackled together by foreign rule and remain to this day so shackled together, unwilling and inspite of Independence. Neither nation has accepted these British shackles, and today these shackles restrict the freedom and sovereignty of each and more particularly of the Tamils as the Sinhalese, by virtue of their numbers in parliament and an army of occupation in the Tamil country, are able to rule over the Tamils. The Sinhalese and Tamils as two peoples or nations have never mutually consented to become one people or one nation nor amalgamate the two territories into one state on any mutually agreed basis.
Sinhala Rule and Confrontation
The Sinhalese mind has not basically changed even today. Rather it has progressed from fear and exclusion to discrimination, aggression, genocide and the creation of a neo-colonial empire over the Tamils and the Tamil country. The Tamils are still referred to as Para-demila (foreign Tamil) and Kalla-thoni (illicit immigrant) and even the Marxists who sport international philosophies are quick to march the streets of Sinhala country shouting such slogans as ‘Masala vadai appitta eppah’ (We don’t want Masala vadai; a snack prepared by the Tamils). Our twenty five years of independence have seen the expansion and domination of the Sinhala rule over the Tamils and Tamil country.
To the Sinhalese, too, the Tamil presence is a larger restriction on their freedom and sovereignity than was the link with the British Crown imposed by the Soulbury Constitution, now overthrown. Nevertheless, the Sinhalese by legislative and administrative acts explicated the new philosophy of one state, one nation, one language, one religion. A permanent and irremovable Sinhalese majority ruled in the name of democracy so that the effect of all decisions enured to the benefit of the Sinhalese majority and to the detriment of the Tamil minority and not equally to both majority and minority. Thus the following may be listed as some of the major effects and results of Sinhalese rule.
(1) One million Tamils were excluded from citizenship and rendered stateless by the Citizenship Act 18 of 48.
(2) These one million Tamils were by Act 48 of 1949 denied the right to vote which right they enjoyed before independence.
(3) Tamil territory was colonised with Sinhala colonists by the State with State funds, and illegal squatting on Tamil territory by Sinhalese was encouraged and finally regularised while Tamil squatters on such Tamil territory were driven out by force and Emergency Regulations were framed for punishing them. Land is not given to registered Tamil citizens in colonisation schemes.
(4) Tamils were excluded from the public service in large numbers to which they had access earlier on the basis of merit and also dismissed or not confirmed for lack of proficiency in Sinhala.
(5) The use of forece on the Tamils as a political weapon to obtain subservience.
(6) The stationing of an army of occupation in the Tamil territory.
(7) Sinhala alone was made the official language of the whole island including the Tamil country.
(8) Buddhism alone was given State patronage under the new Constitution.
(9) Tamil students qualified on the basis of merit were excluded from admission to the university by racial discrimination and manipulation of marks.
(10) Deliberate neglect and refusal to develop the Tamil territory.
(11) The neglect of Tamil education, particularly of the students in the estate areas and the closing down of Tamil streams and schools in the Sinhalese territory.
(12) The imposition of the Sinhala language as the medium of instruction for Tamil students even in the Tamil territory, together with unconscionable conversion of Tamil Hindus into Buddhists in return for education and schooling.
(13) The neglect of the Tamil workers in the estates to the point of starvation and death.
(14) An agreement with India to repatriate Tamils from the estates in the Sinhalese territory to India, which agreement was unilaterally interpreted as providing for compulsory repatriation even against the will of the Tamil worker.
(15) The Tamils have no share in the government of the country.
Against all this is now emerging a new militancy among the Tamil youth who say that the programme of their elders has not brought the desired results. This youth believe in confrontation which will inevitably become an international problem in the future.
Pancha Sila or Co-existence
For over twenty-five years the Tamil people committed to non-violence based on the Ahimsa of Buddha, Christ and Gandhi have sought understanding, dialogue and adjustment; but all assurances, agreements and pacts have been dishonoured. This has awakened the Tamils to the reality of their history of over two thousand five hundred years. The Tamils have come to realise that their ‘right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness’ now depends on the restoration and reconstitution of the Tamil State of Eelam in Ceylon. Two subject peoples shackled together only since 1833 by the British have not really come together as one people or one nation. The last hundred years of British rule saw the unconscious creation of a myth by the English-educated Sinhalese and Tamils who entered the political arena that there was one country, one nation and one people, though multi-racial, but struggling for freedom from British rule. The British left this country in 1948, but the shackles and the myth remain. Full freedom, independence and the mutually unrestricted exercise of sovereignity for both people, the Sinhalese and the Tamils, now depend on the restoration and reconstitution of the Sinhala and Tamil States.
Wise Sinhalese leadership should understand the problem in its full magnitude. The Sinhalese, would not really desire to rule over and run an empire over the unwilling Tamils and be guilty of neo-colonialism and aggression. The restoration of the Tamil State by mutual agreement will be a triumph for both people and for human values. On the other hand, a confrontation between the two nations can defeat the very security, and therefore the existence and identity of the Sinhalese nation, particularly as foreign intervention in such confrontation will become inevitable. A restored and reconstituted Sinhala State which excludes the Tamil presence is to the best guarantee of the existence, identity and security of the Sinhala Nation. So also of the Tamil Nation. The Sinhalese will cease to have problems of illicit immigration, citizenship, language, religion, competition in employment, trade, industry, higher education, etc. In short, the Sinhala ideal of one country, one nation, one language, etc. can only be realized in a restored and reconstituted Sinhala state. So also, by the restoration and reconstitution of the Tamil State alone will the Tamil nation survive and preserve its identity and the Tamils secure their ‘right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness’ and be masters of their own destiny. Pancha Sila or Co-existence is thus the only solution to the problem of the two nations in Ceylon. It recognises not merely the facts of two thousand five hundred years of Sinhalese and Tamil history; but also the fundamental right of the Tamil people to self determination; of Tamil Eelam; to separate statehood. It unshackles the two nations and sets them both free.
Posted February 4, 2005