Ceylon History - Events of Significance

by S. Thillairajah

[Please consider this chronology a work-in-progress and send any suggestions for inclusion or revision to sangameditor@hotmail.com...Editor]

300 BC         Buddhism brought into Lanka from India
600 AD Mahavamsa origin claim
1505 Portuguese Arrival
1519 Chankili I becomes King of Jaffna
1591 Portugese declare Chankili Kumauran - Chankili II - Governor of Jaffna
1621 Portuguese conquer & occupy Jaffna kingdom
1623 Chankili II executed in Goa by Portuguese
1658 Dutch capture maritime provinces, including Jaffna, from Portuguese
1796 British take Ceylon from Dutch
1799 English translation of Swiss soldier J. Burmand's Memoire which comes to be know as the "Cleghorn Minute."  The Minute mentions that "from time immemorial Sinhalese and Tamils have divided rule of the island between the two of them."
1803 The Treaty of Amiens confirms Ceylon as a British possession, the Dutch retain Batavia in return
1813 American mission founds the "Batticatta Seminary" (which later came to be "Jaffna College") at Vaddukoddai
1815 Kandyan Kingdom cedes to British
1833 Under Colebrooke - Cameron Reforms, the island becomes administratively unified (all three kingdoms captured by colonists at different times), the North and East Provinces made integral parts of Ceylon & English made the language of administration
1834 Arrival of first plantation workers from India
1847 Arumuga Navalar leaves Jaffna Central College, protesting against the admission of a low caste (Nalavan) by Peter Percival, the school Principal.
1879 Ponnampalam Ramanathan nominated to the Legislative Council
1895 Ponnampalam Arunachalam nominated to the Legislative Council
1915 Major Sinhalese – Muslim riot took place
1919 Ceylon National Congress formed, with Ponnampalam Arunachalam as one of the founder members
1920 "Manning Reforms" recommends abolition of community (group) representation and introducing of territorial representation, fiercely protested by Tamils and other minorities
1921 Ponnampalam Arunachalam resigns from Ceylon National Congress, following controversy over non-allocation of the Western Province (Colombo) Legislative Council seat promised earlier
1922 Sir James Pieris and .J. Samarawickrema give written undertaking to Sir Ponnampalam Arunachalam to support the creation of a special seat, for the

State Council, for the Tamils in the Western Province

1923 "Manning Reforms" retracted, and community (group) representation re-introduced in modified form
1924 Sir Ponnampalam Arunachalam dies
1928 Donoughmore commission comes to Ceylon, and recommends universal franchise as well as territorial representation
1930 Sir Ponnampalam Ramanathan dies
1931 The Tamils boycott the general elections
1932 G.G. Ponnampalam forms the Tamil Ceylon Congress
1933 Rasanayagam publishes his book History of Jaffna under the British
1936 G.G. Ponnambalam demands 50-50 representation – 50 % of seats in the legislature for the majority Sinhalese, with the other 50% to be reserved for all minorities put together, namely Tamils, Muslims, Indians, Burghers, Malays and Europeans
1936 Entirely Sinhala cabinet and government installed, under the executive committee system of the Donoughmore Constitution
1940 D.S. Senanayake, as Minister of Agriculture, starts the state-aided colonization of Sinhalese in the Eastern province

J.R. Jayawardene demands federation between India and Ceylon.

Board of Ministers asked to draft a new constitution for an independent Ceylon, independence to be granted after World War II

1944 J.R, Jayawardene proposes a resolution in the State Council for " Sinhala and Tamil to be made Official Languages and Media of Instruction" after independence

Introduction of free education at State-aided, private English schools.

Formation of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress under G.G.Ponnampalam’s leadership

1945 Soulbury Commission accepts the (pan-Sinhala) Board of Ministers’ draft Constitution, making slight modifications
1947 Ceylon granted independence by the British Crown
1948 Independece, under Soulbury Constitution, celebrated on February 4th

Passing of the Citizenship Act no. 18 0f 1948, takes away existing citizenship from almost a million (more than 10% of total Tamils) 'Plantation' Tamils

1949 Enactment of the Ceylon Parliamentary Elections Act, depriving the 'Plantation' Tamils of their voting rights - the universal franchise they had enjoyed for more than 20 years

Major colonization scheme (Gal Oya development), launched by Prime Minister D.S.Senanayake, in several districts of the Eastern Province, part of the Tamil homeland.  This was followed by subsequent colonizations, including Padaviya, Kantalai, Trinciomalee and Vavuniya areas, all vital parts of the Tamil homeland

1951 S.W.R.D Bandaranaike leaves the United National Party (UNP), and forms his own party, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP)
1952 D.S. Senanayake dies, and his son, Dudley Senanayake, becomes Prime Minister
1953 Dudley Senanayake resigns following an all-island general strike (hartal).

Sir John Kotalawala (a Senanayake cousin, also from the UNP) becomes Prime Minister

1954 Kotalawala declares his government’s intent to give 'parity of status' to Sinhala and Tamil as official languages
1955 SWRD Bandaranaike announces SLFP’s language policy as Sinhala, with "reasonable use of Tamil"
1956 J.R. Jayawardene proposes a "Sinhala Only" policy.  The UNP Kelaniya Convention adopts a resolution to make Sinhala "the only official

language", pre-empting Bandaranaike's Sinhala Only campaign

SLFP wins general elections with a Left party coalition, the "MEP" (Mahajan Eksath Peramuna) in majority.  Bandaranayaike becomes Prime Minister.

Passage of the "Sinhala Only" Act no. 33 0f 1956 on June 5.

Tamil leaders who staged a peaceful protest (satyagraha) outside the Parliament were insulted, kicked and dragged to the Beira Lake, by an unruly Sinhalese mob organized by the SLFP government.

Nationalisation of transport, and formation of other State Corporations and commercial enterprises.

Sinhalese mobs attack and drive out Tamil families from their villages in the Gal Oya Valley in the Batticaloa District, burning their houses.

1957 Passage of the "Tamil Language (Special Provisions )" Act no. 28 of 1958, specifying regulations governing "reasonable use of Tamil" in the North and East provinces, which has been implemented only in default
1958 The Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam Pact signed on July 26.

SWRD Bandaranaike literally tears up the B-C Pact at the urging of a group of monks instigated by J.R. Jayawardene.

Following the National Convention of the Federal Party (FP), anti-Tamil riots encouraged by the government take place throughout the country.  More than 100,000 Tamils flee to their traditional homelands in the NorthEast by boat.  Government declares Emergency from May to February.

1959 Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike assassinated by a Buddhist monk.

Dahanayake, MP from Galle, acts as Prime Minister until elections take place

1960 Dudley Senanayake’s UNP government defeated at general elections..

Srimavo Bandaranayake becomes Prime Minister.

Switch of government administration to "Sinhala Only".

Nationalization of schools.

Declaration of Anuradhapura as a "Sacred City", and demolishing all Hindu temples in the locality.

1961 FP calls a peaceful hartal (satyagraha) in the North and East.

Sri Lankan military moves into Tamil areas, and the army and the Sinhala Police unleash violence on Tamil MPs who staged a peaceful protest against the Language of the Courts Act, which imposed ’Sinhala Only’ in the northeast courts.

FP MPs arrested and detained for six months

1962 Tamils stage a massive civil disobedience campaign, paralysing the civil administration in the North.

C. Kodeswaran, a Tamil Public Servant, successfully sues the Ceylon Government for denying him his annual salary increment on the grounds of non- proficiency in Sinhala –the now official language.

Unsuccessful coup against Srimavo Bandaranaike government attempted by about 30 British-trained army officers

1964 Signing of the Srimavo-Sastri Pact on citizenship rights of 'Plantation' Tamils - an agreement to evacuate 500,000 of these Tamils to India
1965 Signing of the Senanayake- Chelvanayagam Pact.

Federal Party (FP) supports the UNP to form a national coalition Government

1969 Federal Party withdraws support to government
1970 Sirimavo Bandaranaike wins elections becomes Prime Minister and forms government with support of LSSP and CP
1971 Insurrection of the Sinhala youth - the Jatika Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP). resulting in more than 3000 Sinhla youth murdered by the Bandaranaike Government.

Government.  Introduction of "Standardisation of Education" Bill, intended to restrict the number of Tamil students entering the university on the usual merit basis

1972 Adoption of a republican constituion on May 22nd, using a constituent assembly which Tamils boycotted, with primacy for Buddhism and eliminating the safeguards available to minorities under Section 29 of the Soulbury Constitution

Introduction of standardisation, requiring Tamil students to score higher marks than their Sinhalese counterparts to gain university admissions

Colvin R. de Silva cautions Mrs. Bandaranayake, stating " one language, two nations – two languages,one nation"

Velupillai Pirabakaran forms the Tamil New Tigers (TNT)

1974 Lanka Police go on rampage at the World Tamil Research Conference held in Jaffna, killing nine and wounding many
1975 Jaffna Mayor Alfred Duraiappah, who collaborated with the Sinhala SLFP, assassinated by TNT
1976 Vaddukoddai Resolution, passed by Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), calls for the of a separate state of Tamil Eelam covering the North and East Provinces

TNT transformed into Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)

1977 UNP, led by J.R. Jayawardene, wins elections by a landslide.

Sinhala mob violence against 'estate' Tamils turns into islandwide communal riots, triggered by inflamatory speeches by J.R.  More than 1,000 Tamils killed and many thousands rendered homeless.  Raping of Tamil women and looting of Tamil properties encouraged by Sinahalese politicians and armed forces

1978 Second Republican constitution - with an executive president with extraordinary powers.

All Supreme Court and High Court judges dismissed under Article 163 of the new constitution.

Intensification of state-aided colonisation of Sinhalese in the Eastern Province under the Accelerated Mahaveli River Development Scheme

1979 Enactment of the "Prevention of Terrorism (PTA) Act."

Sri Lankan police destroy Tamil shops in Chunnakam (in the Jaffna peninsula) soon after the enactment of the PTA.

J. R. Jayawardene declares war against the Tamils, moving Sri Lankan armed forces into the North.

Increase in arbitrary arrests, disappearances and killing of Tamil youth in Jaffna, setting up of "torture camps."

1980 Passing of the District Development Act
1981 District Councils elections held in the NorthEast.

Burning of the Jaffna Public Library by Sri Lankan forces.

1981 National Referendum utilized by J.R. Jayawardene to extend life of parliament, thus avoiding elections

1982 Nov 27: day the first LTTE fighter fell in combat
1983 LTTE ambush SLA forces on July 22nd and kill 13 soldiers on the Jaffna-Palay Road in Thinneveli.

Island-wide anti-Tamil pogrom in which more than 4,300 Tamils were massacred.

On July 25 and 27, Tamil political detainees, held in the Welikade maximum security prison, were slaughtered by a carefully conceived plan, executed by combined forces of prison guards and Sinhalese prison inmates.

Sinhalese army brought into the NorthEast in larger numbers.

J.R. Jayawardene’s "All Party Conference’ ends in failure.

Passage of Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, making it an offense to espouse the creation of a separate state

1984 Tamil residents in the "Manal Aru" area in Mullaitivu District chased out by the Sri Lankan Army, large numbers massacred, and the vacated area colonized with some 25,000 Sinhalese settlers.  The river itself and the area then given the Sinhala name "Weli Oya."

Increased number of sl army camps set up in Tamil areas, and declared "Security Zones", curtailing civilian movement, and stifling their economic activities.

Prabaharan builds a national liberation army and the basic structures for a separate state, as well as mobilizes the Tamil people.  The 1983 pogrom and collective punishment meted out to the people by the police and the army drive the people behind Pirabharan.

India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), Central Intelligence Bureau (CBI), "Military intelligence", and the "Q Branch", Tamil Nadu’s intelligence agency monitor the Tamil militant groups from the beginning of the Eighties.

1986 Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL)'s "scorched earth" policy becomes explicit with the economic blockade, shelling and aerial bombing against Jaffna and the North intensified.
1987 Jaffna burns again.  Some 850,000 Tamils driven to starvation, due to GOSL’s blockade of food, fuel and medicine.  Massive military offensive by air, sea and land; bombing even temples designated as "safe areas, and wanton

destruction of houses, hospitals and schools.  Thousands of Tamil civilians killed and more than 4,000 youth taken hostage.

SLA resorts to large scale use of Tamil civilians as "human shields," in an effort to protect the advancing Sri Lankan army.

India intervenes with airlifting of food and emergency supplies, countering GOSL’s economic blockade and intensified bombing of Jaffna. 

Indo-Sri Lanka Accord signed by J. R. Jayawardene and Rajiv Gandhi. Indian Peace-Keeping Force (IPKF) lands in Jaffna.

India flies Pirabakaran to New Delhi, in an effort to twist his arm to accept the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord.

13th Amendment to the Constitution to implement the Accord passed in November - setting up of provincial councils, and the temporary merger of the North and East Provinces.

1988 September – IPKF - LTTE war results in Indian occupation ofthe NorthEast, saturating the region with some 100,000 IPKF troops.

Provincial Government elections, and setting up of an EPRLF government in the NorthEast with Varatharaja Perumal as Chief Minister.

December – Ranasinghe Premadasa elected president, promises to send the IPKF back to India.

1989 April - Pres. Premadsa and the LTTE agree on ceasefire and sending IPKF back to India.

December- IPKF begins pulling out from the NorthEast.

Premadasa’s All party Conference comes to nothing, similar to J.R. Jayawarene’s 1983 "All Party Conference’

Commencing from this year, LTTE, commemorates Heroes' Day on the 27th of November

1990 Feb 23 – Premadsa begins talks with LTTE

Mar 13 - India completes IPKF pull-out

EPRLF-controlled NorthEast Provincial government dismissed, and Varatharaja Perumal moves to india

Jun 11 - Talks fail , Eelam War II declared, launched, under Premadasa, and Defence Minister Ranjan Wijeratne

GOSL makes formal declaration of economic embargo against NorthEast

1991 March 2 - Defence Minister Wijeratne killed in bomb explosion, at Havelock Road in Colombo, allegedly by the LTTE. Rumours still persist of a conpiracy by Premadasa’s group to prevent Wijeratne’s ascention to power.

May 22 - Rajiv Gandhi killed in a bomb exolosion in Tamil Nadu, allegedly by the LTTE.  Rumours still persist that several Indian interests were involved in the assassination

1992 Athulathmudali (opposition party leader) murdered by a gunman, allegedly sent up by the LTTE.  Rumours still abound that this was done by gang members sent by his own party's inner circle.
1993 Assassination of Pres. Premadasa in Kotahena, Colombo
1994 Opposition (UNP) leader and presidential candidate Gamini Dissanayake and 50 others killed in a bomb explosion at a political meeting.

General elections. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge canvasses on a 'peace platform' and wins presidency at head of PA party.

LTTE declares a unilateral cease-fire for a week, and calls the GOSL for peace talks.

Cessation of Hostilities Agreement signed, providing for a 72 hours notice abrogation.

1995 Chandrika’s govt fails to implement promises given to LTTE.  Four rounds of peace talks, from January to April 10, prove meaningless

March 16 - LTTE express concern over non-fulfillment of agreements reached at previous rounds of talks

April 19 - LTTE withdraws from the peace talks, pointing out GOSL’s inaction, blows up two Navy vessels in the Trincomalee port, killing 12 sailors

Eelam War III launched with Chandrika’s uncle, Ratwatte, as the Defence Minister after LTTE gives notice of abrogation to SL Government

uly 9 - SLA launches "Operation Leap Forward," pouring thousands of troops into the North

July 11 - Chandrika announces that a "comprehensive set of proposals for devolution of power to the North and East" would be presented within a fortnight, but continued the military operations, aiming to "liberate the people of the North from the LTTE."

July 13 - Navaly Church bombing kills 121 civilians, and seriously wounding more than 2,000 from SLA indiscriminate shelling.

September 21 - Within a few hours of imposing a military censorship, Sri Lankan war planes indiscriminately bomb civilian targets in the North, killing more than 100 civilians including 30 schoolchildren in Nagarkovil

All-out assault on Jaffna by Sri Lankan armed forces in "Operation Riviresa."

October 31 - Entire population of Jaffna flees, and the army takes the empty Jaffna city and the Peninsula.  Human crisis of enormous proportions.  Humanitarian agencies warn of danger from hunger, malaria, and other epidemics.

Dec 05 - Colonel Ratwatte, Minister of Defense, raises the lion flag in Jaffna city, captured after a fierce 50-day offensive which flattened much of the populated area

1996 GOSL puts out its draft "devoluton proposals" for a political settlement of the conflict.  These proposals are watered down in the subsequent period.

Military attacks continue with ferocity.

1999 Chandrika survives an assassination attempt, a bomb attack at an election meeting, and suffers an eye injury. Same day there was an attempt, another bomb attack, to assassinate Ranil Wickremasinghe, the opposition leader, at a UNP election meeting
2000 LTTE declares unilateral ceasefire – Negotiations with chandrika Kumaratunga under PA government (lasting 4 months)
2001 May - Elephant Pass, the biggest military base in the entire island, over-run  by the LTTE who then made their way to the outskirts of Jaffna city and came close to destroying the heart of the SLA.  Indian response to the GOSL's appeal for military assistance lukewarm and was to offer to evacuate the troops.

LTTE attack on Katunayake International Airport, which seriously affects SL economy.

December - LTTE declares unilateral ceasefire

2002 UNP (UNF) wins general elections, defeating Chandrika’s coalition (UPFA).  Ranil Wickremasinge takes over as Prime Minister.

February 23 - Ceasefire agreement (MOU) signed by Ranil Wickeremasinghe and Velupillai Pirabakaran.

September 16 - Peace Talks between UNF government and LTTE commence in Thailand.

Oslo Declaration (statement), where LTTE offers to explore alternatives to separation

2003 April - LTTE puts peace talks in abeyance, citing GOSL’s action in regard to resettlement of refugees and dismantling of High Security Zones of SLA

Tokyo conference of donors' consortium, where $ 4.5 billion pledge for reconstruction and development, subject to satisfactory progress in peace talks.

October 31 - LTTE submits its Interim Self-Governing Authority (ISGA) proposals.

Chandrika uses ISGA proposal as evidence of UNF government weakness, and takes over the Defence, Media and Interior Ministries in November, with the intent to dissolve Parliament and call a general election.

Nov. 27 - Pirbakaran declares on Heroes' Day that "If the Sinhala chauvinistic ruling elites continue to deny the rights of our people and oppose reconciliation and if the conditions of oppression continue, we have no alternative other than to secede and form an independent state invoking the right to self-determination of our people."

2004 Feb. 7 - Chandrika dissolves Parliament.

March - Eastern Province Commander Karuna breaks ranks with LTTE.

Parliamentary elections held in April. UNF party loses its majority, and Chandrika’s UPFA (SLFP & JVP) forms a minority government.

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) win 20 seats at the general elections, well over the majority from the NorthEast. Tamils thus overwhelmingly endorse the representation of the LTTE and the ISGA proposals

Chandrika and the UPFA make concerted efforts to break up the TNA and get the 5 TNA MPs from the Batticaloa and Amparai Districts to function as a separate group, but fail in their attempt

SL defence for 2005 increased from Rs 52.08 billion –($526 Million) in 2004 to Rs 562.98 Billion, an 8.1 % increase despite the ceasefire.

Nov. 27 - Pirabakaran delivers his Heroes' Day speech, the day following his 50th birthday, "urged the government to resume the peace negotiations without conditions, based on our proposal for an Interim Self-Governing Authority. If the Government of Sri Lanka rejects our urgent appeal and adopts delaying tactics, perpetuating the suffering of our people, we have no alternative other than to advance the freedom struggle of our nation".

Dec 26 - Tsunami hits Sri Lanka, with 2/3 of total casualties from NorthEast.


Posted March 10, 2005