Speech during Senate debate on the State of Emergency 1958

by Senator Somasunderam Nadesan QC, June 4, 1958

“..The Tamils are the pawns in a political game. It does not matter to anybody how we suffer, how we feel, so long as in this game one Sinhala party is the victor and the other Sinhala party is the vanquished. That is all. That is why I ask you not to make us pawns in your game. … We are willing to go. Every Tamil man, woman and child is willing to go…We do not want language rights from you. Please have Sinhalese only. We only want the right to live in our areas. We want the right to be able to walk the streets without being molested. Those are the rights we want. We will look after our language… The elementary duty of a Government is to afford protection to its subjects, and the duty of the citizens is to be loyal to that Government. The moment that Government fails to afford that protection, it forfeits its right to that loyalty and affection. This Government has forfeited that right. “

Somasunderam Nadesan Q.C. - painting in oils by Jayalakshmi Satyendra

Somasunderam Nadesan Q.C. – painting in oils by Jayalakshmi Satyendra

SENATOR NADESAN; Mr President, it is perhaps very difficult for one who has been, to some extent, an eye-witness of some of the happenings during the past few days to adopt an objective attitude in respect of the problem with which we are confronted. Perhaps the hon. Leader of the House is aware that I have personally seen a little too much, and gone through a little too much, to adopt an altogether detached attitude in respect of this debate.

The hon. Leader gave us some incidents of mob violence in all parts of the country – a catalogue of them, shall I say. That catalogue, I find, does not include a number of incidents to which I personally was an eye-witness. I do not propose to harrow hon. Members of this House by giving them details of those incidents. But I would be failing in my duty if I do not refer to certain other matters, so that hon. Senators might have an appreciation of what happened in this country. But that part of the story I propose to leave to the last.

I would only say that the tragic events of the past few days have set back the clock of Ceylon’s progress not by ten or fifteen years but by a hundred years. I will only say, at this stage, that I never believed till now that our people are capable of such wantonness and such inhumanity as I have witnessed.

I realize that at a time like this the most useful course would be not to say anything that would increase the already existing tension but to endeavour to reduce it and to create an atmosphere of security in which the staggering problem of the rehabilitation of the refugees could be solved and some scheme evolved whereby people could live in safety in all parts of the Island; or, if that cannot be done a scheme be devised whereby people who cannot live together without fear may live apart without danger to person and property.

During the past few days Government spokesmen have been frantically attempting to discover alibis for the present state of affairs. References have been made by my hon. Friend who spoke last to the activities of certain political parties who are adding fuel to the fire. All that may be true. I do not doubt what my hon. Friend said. But the solution to the problem is not so simple.

The Government is making all sorts of dark suggestions about known and unknown organizations and even about foreign help and foreigners having a hand in the matter; it is searching for the causes of the present problem everywhere without looking into its own ranks for the real substantial cause of this national tragedy. If it does so, it will find that the present Government is the major single factor which has contributed and caused the present disaster.

We all remember the election campaigns of two years ago. The M.E.P. went to the polls and their entire election campaign was one of rousing concentrated communal passions. There is not the slightest doubt that the U.N.P. too, attempted to rouse communal passions – maybe in defence, so that they themselves may return to power on the wave of communal passions.

Hon. Senators will remember how one of the present Ministers of this Government went round the countryside saying that the U.N.P. Government had offered the Sinhalese man’s mat to Suppiah to lie on and allow Nalliah to pluck his eye and Subramaniam to wring his neck. That is the type of communal propaganda indulged in by members of the M.E.P. and by their Ministers. We cannot forget that.

In several election speeches members of the M.E.P. and U.N.P. told the Sinhalese that the Tamils were their enemies and that they had to protect the Sinhalese people, their language and their religion. That was the climax two years ago.

We all thought that that was a temporary phase and that once the elections were over, Members of the Government themselves would make every endeavour to put down this very monster which they reared.

References were made during that  time to historical conflicts between the Sinhalese and the Tamils on a number of election platforms. References were made to the battle between Dutugemunu and Elara. Images were taken in procession. That is how the communal passions of the people were roused.

It is on this wave of communalism – miscalled nationalism – that the Government came into power. If afterwards every effort was made to bring about harmony, that in itself would have been a mitigating circumstance so far as the Government was concerned.  But what happened?

After this Government was formed, it introduced the “Sinhala Only” Act. It is the legitimate right and duty of every Tamil citizen of this country who considers that Act as iniquitous, to oppose it. That is a democratic right. Merely because the Tamils had, what you might call, the impudence to stand up and protest against that Act, Dutugemunu societies and other societies were formed all over the country to protest against the Tamil people daring to express their disapproval against what they considered an iniquitous piece of legislation. Racial passions were roused all over the country.

You will remember agitators, some of them donning the garb of religion, going round the country, running riot, rousing communal passions. Nothing whatsoever was done to prevent it, although I pointed out to more than one Member of the Government that there was a salutary provision in Section 120 of the Penal Code under which any attempt by any person or persons to raise discontent or disaffection amongst the Queen s subjects, or to promote feelings of and hostility between different classes of such subjects, could be brought before court and punished.

No steps of any kind were taken in respect of these people. What is more, some of these men who roused communal passions had the active confidence of the Government – some of them donning the garb of priests had the active confidence of the Government.

This atmosphere of communal tension and strife was heightened even by responsible Ministers. It was only the other day, during the strike of the public servants, that a responsible Minister referred to them as “pare demalu”, and his remarks were reported in the papers. I do not want to mention names as no useful purpose will be served by doing that. The newspapers, of course, have contributed their quota towards stirring up communal passions.

I will go further and mention an incident that occurred later. That same Minister invited me to go along with him for some tea. I turned round and said: “You have made such remarks. How dare you ask me to tea?” He then said that there was some little misunderstanding but did not reply when I asked him why he did not, under those circumstances, contradict the newspaper story.

A number of people had heard the Minister uttering those remarks and I have verified what happened. I am perfectly satisfied that that statement was made. After all, so many persons have lost their lives and grim tragedy is stalking this land. We need not be very particular with regard to this particular matter. I am aware of the sense of responsibility called for in a matter like this and I have satisfied myself that the Minister did utter those remarks.

Of course, the newspapers reported the various outpourings of these individuals, so that the whole country was afflicted with this poisonous communal canker – a canker which breeds murder as we all know. This was the explosive atmosphere which had been created by various people. The M.E.P. gentlemen were the chief culprits responsible for the creation of communal passions in this country.

I am not underrating the efforts made by others towards the creation of this poisonous communal atmosphere. The U.N.P. on the eve of the last elections, came out with similar hate propaganda. In fact, I believe there was competition between the two parties as to who could hold out the most blood-thirsty promises to attack the Tamil man most.

I believe with regard to the strife and disorder that developed in June, 1956, in my speech of 9th May, 1956, I quoted copious extracts from the speeches made by Sir Ukwatte Jayasundere, Sir John Kotelawala and various other U.N.P. leaders about the Tamils. I also quoted speeches made by Members of the M.E.P. Government. I do not desire to repeat those quotations. Any hon. Senator interest in them can look up my speech and read the newspaper quotations of speeches made by various communists.

But even in such an explosive atmosphere we thought that this Government would show itself capable of maintaining law and order. If the Government had shown itself capable of facing up to that situation, this tragedy would not have overtaken us.

After all, a man may be worried about his language but he is more concerned about his right to walk the streets unmolested, to attend to his work without being thrashed. He is more concerned about the security of his home and children. If an innocent person cannot walk on the public highway and attend to his lawful avocations without being robbed of his wristlet, without being humiliated and thrashed, it means that such a person is not living in a civilized society. It means that the civil administration has collapsed and that the country has relapsed into a state of barbarism.

Well, in this connection, if I may say so, this Government has not only shown itself incapable of maintaining law and order, it has also gone further. At the very outset of assuming the reins of Government, it had actively encouraged the disregard of law and order.

I shall give an instance. I am going into all these things because the Members of this Government must realise, even at this point of time, what the real causes are. It is not yet too late for them to repent, to be penitent, to reform, instead of trying to find scapegoats from all over the country. The Members of this Government are the real culprits in this matter.

What happened on 6th June 1956 when the “Sinhala Only” Bill was being debated in Parliament? The members of the Federal Party, exercising their undoubted constitutional right, wanted to protest against the imposition of this Bill. Parliament was surrounded by a vast crowd of people. The members of the Federal Party said that they would sit in silence on the Galle Face Green, which, is public property and contemplate the sea. It was a silent protest which they were entitled to make.

Any person can sit on the Galle Face Green and look at the sea. That is his own business. It may be that it is not a very effective way of protesting, but undoubtedly it is a democratic right which any citizen can exercise. They were seated there on the Galle Face Green, and Parliament was sitting solemnly listening to the Prime Minister. Troops and police were drawn round the place.

What happened? Hooligans, in the very presence of Parliament House, under the very nose of the Prime Minister of this country, under the very eyes of the police and military drawn up there, set upon those innocent men seated there, bit their ears and beat them up mercilessly. Not one shot was fired while all this lawlessness and violence to persons were let loose. The police did not shoot. The military did not shoot. Why? Orders had been given: “Do not shoot, just look on.”

Thereafter, on that day, 6th June, every Tamil man was wet upon and robbed. He was beaten up. His fountain pen and wristlet were snatched away. He was thrashed mercilessly, humiliated and sent home. The police were looking on while all this was happening before their very eyes.

Shops were looted, innocent passers by were thrashed and robbed, but the police did nothing. The police set to work only after the victims of these cowardly assault had been left lying on the road. They took the assaulted and robbed persons under their protection and left the hooligans and thugs free to go their way beating up and robbing other innocent Tamil people. The offenders got away scot free! If the wristlet watches of the Tamil clerks are taken away by the mob, that does not matter. That is the attitude adopted by the Government.That was what happened on 6th June.

Why did that happen? All that happened because specific instructions had been given to the police that they should not shoot, should not arrest, should not deal with the lawlessness and disorder that was let loose. They were told that so long as no person was murdered, it did not matter! Any atrocity less than murder was to be permitted! Those were the instructions issued.

In other words, the rowdies and hooligans were given a free hand to assault, humiliate and rob any innocent Tamil walking the roads on that day. That was the attitude taken up by a Cabinet composed of Sinhalese Ministers and one other Minister who, for all practical purposes, was himself a Sinhalese. If we recall what happened on 6th June, can we be surprised at what is happening today?

Very well, we will leave that story. I can quote innumerable instances which occurred on 6th June. These people were instigated by some Members of Parliament, who belonged to that Party at that time. They were heading the gang of hooligans.

The Prime Minister made a remarkably wonderful speech on that occasion. He came, he smiled and he told the crow, “Don’t do that. Rain is coming down. They will be cooled in no time.” That was the type of appeal he made. If Sinhalese men were being thrashed by Tamils and their ears bitten, I wonder whether the grime Minister would have adopted the same attitude. He smiled and said, “The rain is coming down. Do not be boisterous. This is all right.” That is how this Government started off its career.

Then various other things happened. Take even the historic march to Kandy which the U.N.P. staged. No doubt the U.N.P. had degraded into a communal organisation and at that time they were planning to play out the M.E.P. by being more communal. The only method of successfully deceiving the Sinhala masses was by competing with each other: if one party said, “We will kill the Tamils”, the other party could go one better and say, “We will eat the Tamils.” In other words, it was a competition as to who would hold down the Tamils most. And the party which was going to hold down the Tamils most was going to have the support of the Sinhalese masses.

This competition started and the U.N.P. wanted to have a march to Kandy. Anyone who wants to march can do so. However much we may not like any man, that is a democratic right he has. Then what happened at Gampaha? Hooligans and some M.E.P. stalwarts came and lay themselves on the road and obstructed the march. And what did the police do?

Instead of clearing the road, putting the people lying on the roads in jail and allowing these people to march, they said: “Don’t march. All of you should get back because the mob has got hold of the road and you cannot march. They are lying on the road.”

In this country when you want to march in a particular direction you cannot do so because there is mob rule and the other fellow will not allow you to do so. Moreover, the Government does not provide you with the minimum security to enable you to march.

Then the Federal Party started its anti-Sri campaign. When the Ceylon Transport Board buses went there, they were worried that Sri buses would  run in Jaffna. So they thought they should get tar and brush and obliterate the Sinhala Sri. That was complete defiance of law and order. If you get hold of C.T.B. vehicles and start writing on them, you commit an offence. If a man commits an offence, you must prosecute him and send him to jail, but it is a laughing matter for this Government. It says: “Do not prosecute. Let them paint.”

In fact, the police were sent to enable them to paint. Then, inevitably, retaliation took place in the south. They started applying tar on all Tamil boards in the south of Ceylon and wiping out Tamil characters on all Tamil boards, private and public. What did the Government do? Government provided police escorts to enable this to be done peacefully.

It has a distorted view of the breach of law. The painter is not committing a breach of the law, so it sends a police constable in order to see that the other fellow does not prevent him from painting. The constable goes behind him and looks on. That is the type of protection given to the law breaker by this Government!

Take the other case. Men in robes – I will not call them Buddhist priests. I am told that people have shaved their heads and put on robes. They must be thugs wearing the robes of priests. It is not fair that I should say anything disparaging against the clergy who, even at this late hour, are practising maithriya. These men who have put on these robes have been going to every Tamil shop from Pettah down to Mount Lavinia distributing intimidatory leaflets saying, “If you do not clear out, we will chase you out.”

This is intimidation, pure and simple, but they are accompanied by police officers to see that they are not assaulted. In other words, it is intimidation by these people under the aegis of the police. Leaflets are distributed and people are frightened. Some thought that that was some kind of bluff and said, “How do we know this was seriously meant?” But the way that the tarring campaign was conducted in the south of Ceylon showed that there was a widespread organisation behind it.

They distributed intimidatory leaflets and the M.E.P. provided them with police escort to see that there was no breach of the peace. Mr President, when you insult a Tamil and if he thrashes you, it is a breach of the peace; and the police intervene and get hold of the Tamil man! But to give these hooligans, thugs in robes, the right to intimidate the Tamils, police protection was given. That is this Government’s idea of maintaining law and order!

Then there was the boycott of Tamil shops. A number of shops were closed in Mount Lavinia, Panadura, Kalutara and also in Veyangoda, the Prime Minister’s own constituency, long before these incidents, as a result of the boycott.

Incidentally, I was very nearly assaulted at the Refugee Camp some three days ago. I could not understand it. There was a dead set by the refugees. “Get out” they said. The military fired, I went off and slept at home. I went back in the evening and the man who led the gang to assault me said, “I am sorry. Do you not remember me? About a month ago I and my father and a number of Veyangoda traders came to your house?” I said that I remembered that.

One month ago, these Veyangoda traders came to my house and told me: “We do not mind the boycott. We have been living for 50 or 60 years in that constituency. We do not even know Jaffna. We have been supporting this Prime Minister in his election campaign. We went and told the Prime Minister that we were not worried about the boycott but people were marching up and down hurling insult at us, at our women. We cannot bear to hear those insults, so please see that some protection is given to us. When we said that to our Prime Minister, he said, ‘Will you all go and perform satyagraha in Mr Chelvanayakam s verandah?”

When they came and told me this story I had immediately got hold of the telephone and rang up the Prime Minister. I told him: “This is what you seem to have told these men. Surely, you are their representative. They all voted for you. The mere fact that the Federalists are carrying on this agitation does not mean that you should not protect these people”.

He said: “Legalistically, Nadesan, you may be right. Everything will be all right. The whole thing will die down. If I give a police constable to watch them, what will happen is that these people’s houses will be burnt down. The whole thing will die down.” I conveyed to to those who had come to see me what the Prime Minister told me.

So, these people closed their shops and went away. Tragically, this man’s brother was killed, was shot down, and the result is the man thinks that I have caused the death of his brother. I only communicated to him what had happened but he was dead set against me in that camp. After all is said and done, can you blame that man? His brother is dead and that is all that matters to him.

What is this Government worth? What, I ask, is any Government worth if a boutique keeper, who must be at his place of business, is not allowed to carry on his business unmolested? The people declared a boycott and ordered the boutique closed. It is for you to offer him protection to carry on his business unmolested. The rowdy and the hooligan was not brought to book.

This is also what happened in Mt. Lavinia, Panadura and in a number of places. I told the Prime Minister that it was time he applied Section 120 of the Penal Code and brought the miscreants to book, that he should charge them and put them in jail. But he was then talking something about democracy and freedom of speech. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom to rouse passions. Can anything be more inhuman than that?

The suffering of the Tamil man is not a joke. A man being slapped is not a joke. But when these things were told the Prime Minister, he laughed it off and said that matters would adjust themselves. This is no laughing matter.

Anyway, that is the context, and it is in that context that the Federal Convention met at Vavuniya. The Federal Party is a political body and its members are entitled to hold their meeting. Why should anyone be annoyed about it? They are entitled to pass resolutions. If they attempt to implement some of those resolutions and if they break the law, you are entitled to charge them in a court of law and imprison them, charge them for sedition and behead them, or do anything you like with them. That is a different matter.

Merely because a convention is held there, why should thugs at Polonnaruwa be organized to thrash people who travelled in the Batticaloa train? Why should they do that? People are entitled to travel by train to a convention. This was an organized attack. Who organized it?

The Ministers must interrogate very carefully those who are opposed to the Federalists at Polonnaruwa. What happened? People came there and Tamils were thrashed. Some other people wanted to get into a train and come for this meeting but the train was derailed, resulting in loss of life. Of course, a large number of people who died were Sinhalese, because very many people, through fear, did not get into the train.

I do not desire to go into the details of what happened at Polonnaruwa. I happen to know a little more than the hon. Leader with regard to what happened at Polonnaruwa. Those things are not in the police dossier which he read out to us. So, I will just ask the hon. Leader to check on the information I have given him.

Then, on Monday starts the trouble in Colombo. People are assaulted and their wristlets and belongings taken. Shops are looted and set on fire. The real attack started after 4.30 p.m. I toured the Pettah from 1 o’clock to 4 o’clock and the situation did not appear to me to be so bad, though the whole atmosphere was tense. In any event, a number of police officers came to me and said that anything could happen. I made an appeal that a state of emergency should be declared on that day.

Advice was given to the Government by a number of responsible people that the curfew should be imposed on that very day, but nothing happened. Most criminal of all, the police had been given specific instructions not to shoot; and when looting took place they did not shoot (even in the air), when thrashing of innocent people took place they did not shoot, when people were plundered of their wristlets and belongings they did not shoot; they were watching.

Then, of course, the Military is called to go round – just to go round. I do not know why they go round: They just go round in trucks; they cannot shoot )again not even in the air). That is the situation.

Even on that Monday, if we had a Government which was determined to govern, the situation might have been brought under control. Hon. Senators might remember that sometime ago I said on the floor of this House, in connection with the anti-Sri campaign, when the Government was not taking any action. “For God’s sake, govern or get out.”

If these people were not prepared to govern, they should have got out. Instead, they pretended to govern. On that Monday all these things were happening, with the police under orders not to shoot, and looting was going on merrily. I daresay this looting in the Pettah had very little to do with the language issue. This may have been the work of hoodlums and rowdies.  Those busy in the under-world were in action. They probably thought, “When we have a Government which will not shoot, why not help ourselves as much as we can?”

Even on Monday night, when endeavours were made to have a state of emergency declared, the Government said, “No, the thing will die off.” Can you have a more miserable misjudgment of the whole situation in which the lives and fortunes not only of a community but of the entire country is involved?

Then, finally, a state of emergency was declared from 12.15 p.m. on Tuesday and the military and navy went round. But a large number of people, these hoodlums, thought they were merely going round like the police had done on the previous day. They probably thought, “The edge has been taken off the police, and these people are merely going round, just travelling round, as on the previous day.” Even after the military came out it took the people some time to realize that they meant business; it was only when shooting did take place in the evening that the people realised that the military meant business.

The rest of the story I do not wish to relate. All I wish to say is that the inability of this Government to assess the situation properly, its incapacity to enforce law and order, the levity with which it treated Tamil thrashings, not only at that time but earlier too, have created the impression in the minds of the people that this Government does not mind plunder and looting. That is one of the main causes of these troubles.

The emergency was declared at 12.15 p.m. on Tuesday, 27th May, 1958. I now wish to relate certain incidents, keeping out the details, so that hon. Senators may know in perspective what is happening in the country after the emergency was declared.

I happen to be associated with the board of Management which runs a college called the Colombo Hindu College. It was established in 1952 or 1953. As there was no space inside Colombo, we acquired some land outside the municipal limits of Colombo and put up a building. At that time the Sinhalese and Tamils were living like brothers  up to a point – and we were foolish enough to imagine that that state of affairs would continue.

We acquired 22 acres of land behind the Irrigation Department quarters, near the present P.W.D. Waterworks Section Boragamuwa Road. It is behind Sir John Kotelawala’s bungalow; as a matter of fact, Sir John himself laid the foundation stone of the college building. We built one wing of that college at a cost of nearly 61/2 lakhs. Around that locality a number of Tamils had purchased land and put up houses with loans from the Government. Some 50 or 60 families including Mr P. Sri Skandarajah, District Judge, Jaffna, were living there.

On Tuesday, at noon, the emergency was declared, and the curfew was imposed at night. I rang up the office of the Deputy Inspector—General of Police and told an officer there that I would like to go and see one or two resident—masters at the Colombo Hindu College and find out what had happened there. To cut a long story short, I went down to Ratmalana along with a police officer from the D.I.G.’s office.

Earlier I had spoken to the teachers. They said that they had a few guns and were able to defend themselves; that some thugs had come that way, but when they fired at them, the men had run away. They were rather worried about the Tamil families who were residing in the locality; some police constables had come there, and they had seen the people leaving their houses and going away.

When I went to the spot, I found nobody there. The doors were open but there was nobody in. I immediately hurried back, got into the police van and went to the Mount Lavinia police station. It was then about 12 midnight. There were hundreds and hundreds of people, men, women and children, near the Mount Lavinia police station, some of them were sleeping on the road.

A good many of them were residents of those houses at Ratmalana. I asked them what had happened, and why they had left their houses and run away. Every one of them had the same story to tell. They had never intended to leave their homes, but at 7 p.m. some police vans and lorries had come from Mount Lavinia and the police had gone from house to house saying:

 “Look here, tonight we are expecting an invasion of this place. We cannot afford you protection. If you want to be protected, get into the vans with whatever articles you need. We will take you to the Mount Lavinia police station and protect you there”.

That is the contribution which the police in certain areas had made. As a matter of fact, I say that the police themselves are rank racialists or agents of some organization.

To complete the story, I went to Ratmalana three days later, that is, on 31st May, after I heard that looting had taken place. One of the refugees had built a beautiful house in Ratmalana, and he was very keen to see it. I took him to the place with a guard. Imagine the pathetic look on his face when he found the whole house had been burnt down after it had been looted. One of the beds was still in smoke. He said he had a cow in the garden, but there was no trace of it. The whole place had been burnt down. Had he stayed in his house, he would have defended it easily, for he had a gun, and nothing would have happened. But the police themselves had spread a story and brought them to the police station. There are a number of similar incidents which I could narrate. If hon. Senators care to visit that place, they will be horrified to see what had happened.

When I came home that night I immediately tried to contact the authorities. As a matter of fact, I contacted His Excellency the Governor General and told him what had happened. I asked him whether he could arrange to send two platoons to Ratmalana, so that these families may be protected. I was asked to get in touch with a certain army official. Eventually, arrangements were made to send two platoons to the place where these houses were and to consolidate the position there.

In the morning of Wednesday, at about 6 o’clock, the Principal of Colombo Hindu College and I got into our cars and proceeded in the direction of Ratmalana. The principal went ahead, and I followed. He somehow passed through, but fifty yards from the police station my car had to stop, because there was a surging mob of C.T.B. employees who had struck work for the day. I was told that there was some police firing the previous day, and these men were on strike.

Every car had been stopped, looked in and then allowed to proceed if the men were satisfied that the occupants were not Tamils. Some cars were halted on either side of the road. We had no option but to go forward.

There were crowds of men all over the place. The car in front of me jammed its brakes and stopped. My car also stopped. The driver of my car was a Sinhalese, and when he was questioned by the mob, he said that I, too, was a Sinhalese. Apparently, the men were satisfied, and I was allowed to go. I went straightway to the Mount Lavinia police station.

Then I asked the Inspector and the officers, who were there, who all these people were and what they were doing in the police station premises. There was a firing party at the police station. I asked the officer what he was doing. Then the Officer-in-Charge – I do not want to mention his name – took me aside and said:

“Mr Nadesan, it is not that we cannot fire; we can fire but this is an infuriated mob. Only the army can save the situation. If the army opens fire it would be different. We do not have sufficient men here and our lives may not be worth anything if we open fire. These men are clamouring that these refugees should be sent out of the police station.”

The officer then went on to tell me that with a great deal of difficulty he managed to get bread at Rs.2 a pound. After some time, bread was not available even at that price. All that the mob wanted was to see that the refugees were sent out. In fact, it was the refugees who paid for the bread. The boutique-keepers in the vicinity were asked not to sell bread to these people. There were about a thousand refugees at the time. Something had to be done about them.

I contacted certain people and told them that there was a matter of paramount importance which must be attended to immediately. I requested that a detachment of the army be sent at once because these people would die if such help was not forthcoming.

Having said that I went up to the refugees and addressed them. I told them that the plan was to take them to the Colombo Hindu College. I was almost thrashed for making that suggestion. Their reaction was that they would go nowhere towards Colombo. “You do not know what we have suffered,” they added.

Would you believe that in that crowd, seated on the ground in a steady drizzle that night, was Mr R. R. Selvadurai, a former Permanent Secretary to the Minister of Justice, whose house had been burnt down and furniture damaged? He lives at Templar’s Road, Mt. Lavinia. He had run away from home and taken refuge at the police station. He was there the whole of that night. He told me: “Mr Nadesan, you do not know what we have been through. Please take all these people away from here.”

I do not want to go on with all these details. I do not want to weary the House with all the details as to how I was able to come through that howling mob and how it was possible to rescue all these people. All those matters will not be of any particular interest to hon. Members of this House. It may be that some day people will get to know all the hazards that we had to go through during this national tragedy.

It may be of interest to know how we were able to get away from this mob. Some time after this disturbance, a man in the garb of a priest got together all these hoodlums inside the premises of the Ceylon Transport Board and began holding a public meeting. He started telling these people how these refugees should be thrashed.

Just at that time, the police officer brought word to us that that was the best time for us to get away. That is how two or three of us got away from there and were able to make the necessary arrangements to house these refugees.

We were told that that was the crucial time to get away because the moment the meeting was over the crowd would set upon the police. By that time the military detachments were on their way. The howling mob was still there.

Here were a body of C.T.B. employees, members of the working-class movement, members of trade unions, members of the proletariat, howling and screaming that these refugees should not be given shelter at the police station premises. As a matter of fact, Senator Cooray came and assisted us as best as he possibly could. I understand that he has had several nuisance calls threatening him for giving such assistance. That is the position that we have to face up to. There is no use mincing words about all these incidents.

Finally, with the assistance of the military these people were escorted into Saraswathie Hall. It is, as hon. Senators know, not a very large hall. We organised the refugee camp at Saraswathie Hall. We got hold of volunteers who helped us to the best of their ability with food parcels, and so on.

At this stage, a very interesting thing happened which hon. Senators should know. After these 1,000 people were brought here and the necessary arrangements were being made by volunteer workers, suddenly we found refugees coming under police escort from all over the place: 200 people from Bambalapitiya, 300 from somewhere else, 400 from Wellawatte, and so on.

The police had conveniently made this a dumping ground for the Tamil residents of various areas. In other words, instead of informing the Government of the position and getting the the Government to do something about the refugee problem, the police thought that this was a convenient way of dealing with the situation.

In a matter of hours, the numbers swelled from 2,000 to 3,000. Very soon we found that there was no accommodation for all these refugees. The only thing left for us to do was to break the wall which separated the Hall from the Temple. Of course, the people there started protesting but we told them that the military were then in charge and these people had to be accommodated.

Then the numbers increased to 5,000 and we had to break another wall. Before long the problem became almost impossible and we had to appeal to the Governor-General for help. We told him that unless he intervened, the situation would become impossible. He did intervene and some relief was given. In spite of the refusal of the Hon. Minister of Education, Mr Dahanayake, it was possible to get Royal College released for the housing of these refugees. The number by that time had risen to 5,000.

From then onwards every volunteer organisation rendered invaluable service and the number of refugees kept increasing as people came in from all over the place, from Nugegoda, Mirihana, Kirilapone and elsewhere. What is important to note is that in more than 50 per cent of these cases the refugees came to the camp at the instance of the police, who went from house to house and said that they could not afford these people any protection. In other words, the refusal by the police to protect these people aggravated the problem immensely.

Whereas there were only 2,000 or 3,000 refugees at the outset, purely as a result of Police action, the number rose to nearly 10,000. Most of these refugees were victims of terror and fear. With a little persuasion and the restoration of confidence in them, the police could very well have kept them in their homes. Once they were terror-stuck, nothing would send them back. No amount of talking would make them go back to their homes. They plainly told us that they did not want their jobs. They were determined not to go back to their homes. They were too panic-stricken. No jobs, no homes, no future here – that was the mental attitude of these persons in these refugee camps.

They had undergone a terrible ordeal. You cannot blame them. I spoke to one refugee. He said: “Where am I to go? My house has been burnt down. I dare not go back to my job.” I am only describing this side of the story because I am personally aware of and have seen things for myself.

A large measure of the blame for all that happened must be laid fairly and squarely on the shoulders of this Government. The Government cannot deny that. It is no use trying to put the blame on this person or that. The Government must realise even now that it is its fault. After all, realisation is necessary because this is not the end of the story. This is perhaps the beginning of the story. Even at this stage, if the Government can show that it is capable of determined action, that it is really desirous of preserving law and order, then there is some little hope.

The position is still tense. Only three days ago, after all the refugees had come in on Monday, some people came to me and asked me whether they could go back to work. I said: “If you feel like it, why not? Try it and see.”

A number of them went to work. Out of them, one person was assaulted by peons in his office; and another was relieved of Rs.20 in his purse. This is what is happening even now in offices and in buses and trains. One would have thought that workers who belong to trade unions, who are familiar with Marxist principles, would not have given in to communal feelings, but I am sorry to say that in buses even they have taken a hand in shoving off Tamils from the vehicles.

No protection is given. In Sinhalese areas a Tamil man cannot venture out without running the risk of being insulted and bodily harmed.  It is not that the Sinhalese man is a particularly vicious animal. No, I do not say that. But certainly there are vicious animals who are roaming free in Sinhalese areas, rousing up the common people with vicious propaganda.

I do not know whether hon. Senators are aware of the circumstances that led to the events in Mt. Lavinia and Ratmalana. A person in priestly garb went about the place telling the Sinhalese people that in Jaffna a Sinhalese woman had been set upon, raped, her breasts cut off, the Tamil “Sri” branded and then crucified! That is the story that was spread in those areas. But today that man, that criminal, that murderer is walking freely on the roads in this country. That criminal is free to continue rousing people and inciting them to commit murder.

Another incident. A person who had travelled 170 miles from Tissamaharama to Panadura in the Indian High Commissioner’s car – the High Commissioner did not want to say anything in this connection – told us that he had not seen any Tamil boutique which had not been attacked. At Panadura, he had witnessed the ghastly spectacle of a man being set on fire. Do you mean to tell me that in this land of Buddhism, of Ahimsa and Maitriya, the ordinary Sinhalese people, the villagers, the town dwellers were so inhuman as to behave in this way, unless they had been roused by rabble rousers and monsters in human form? These rabble rousers are the criminals behind this trouble but they have not been brought to book and punished.

There is another side to the story. In many places, Sinhalese villagers have given help and succour to Tamil people in distress. They have taken them into their houses. Everyone of those Sinhalese who had given a refugee to Tamils out of common humanity and decency was harassed by the hooligans. They were threatened that their houses would be stoned if they did not hand over the Tamils. Finally, as they themselves were exposed to great danger, the police were contacted and the refugees handed over to their custody.

As I said, perhaps the only slightly hopeful sign in the entire episode has been the fact that a large number of individual citizens, both here and in the North and East, Sinhalese and Tamils, have been coming to the rescue of the people in trouble, but they were not able to render any assistance as a result of they themselves being threatened.

I referred to the Refugee Camp here, and hon. Senators might have read in the newspapers that about 4,500 people were sent away to Jaffna by steamer. There again, if I am not letting out any secret, the entirety of the operation was rendered possible on account of the invaluable assistance rendered by His Excellency the Governor-General.

I might also say, for humanitarian reasons, on a number of occasions in respect of big matters and small matters, say, the transport of a man or his wife and children from one place to another, or the rescuing of someone who was in danger or was being threatened by the mob, no man was too small or too big for His Excellency in rendering whatever assistance he could personally render himself, apart from the help rendered by the administration.

And I am voicing the sentiments of a large number of refugees in saying that it was indeed a fortunate circumstance that at a crucial juncture in the history of this country, a person of the capabilities and ability of His Excellency the Governor-General, with his advice and guidance, was available to the Government. If not for that, the position would have been far more disastrous. One thing I must say. If not for his assistance, the 1,000 refugees at the Mount Lavinia police station would, by now, have been massacred.

Having said that much, I must also say one thing with regard to the police. The police force, except in certain notable exceptions, has on this occasion been partisan. I am sorry to have to say that some members of the police have been utter racialists and communalists – of course, not all. If all were so, it would have been an impossible position. As a matter of fact, hon. Senators will be surprised to learn that the military actually arrested three police officers while they were looting.

These police officers are the people who have done the greatest possible damage in going round and spreading stories, putting people in vans and taking them to the police stations and exposing their belongings to be looted.

In this connection, a police officer stationed outside the Colombo municipal limits has been carrying on a systematic campaign against the Tamils. He was preaching from the police station premises itself saying:

“Have you not heard the latest? The Tamils in Jaffna have actually killed a number of Sinhalese, disembowelled them, cut the bowels in the shape of “Sri” and posted them to people in all parts of the country.”

As a result of the trouble which he has been creating, there were a number of people in his area who wanted to run away. I did not want these people to get into refugee camps. There was a particular road in this policed area in which there were as many as 70 Tamil houses. So, I got all these people to get into some Tamil houses and increase their number from 20 to 25 in each. I myself contacted the Governor-General and asked for military assistance.

Although it was outside the municipal limits. a platoon was sent for the protection of these people. As many as 2,000 people were living in that area and that did not suit this particular police officer who has been carrying on a systematic campaign for getting the people out. So, baulked of his designs, he started operations within the Colombo municipal limits.

There was a certain gentleman with 12 children. His daughter was married to a doctor. His daughter and some of the children had taken refuge in another house, but because his daughter was to travel by BOAC plane yesterday to Singapore to join her husband, the father naturally wanted to keep these people with him in his house. He approached me and explained his difficulty . I asked him to employ two or three labourers to guard the house because that was the proper thing to do.

I also asked the Wellawatta A.S.P. to see to it that this area was properly patrolled in the nights. This area did not lie within the jurisdiction of the particular police inspector I mentioned about. It was within the municipal limits. He had nothing to do with it and he could not go there without military personnel.

But would you believe it, he got hold of two military officers, came to this area, got hold of the three Sinhalese men who were watching this house, pummelled them, rushed into the house, knocked at the door of the bathroom, went inside the bathroom, because the man he wanted was in it, and before he could even put on his clothes he was arrested on the ground that he was breaking the curfew, that he was employing three Sinhalese thugs to loot Tamil houses, and that he was a receiver of loot!

He was marched, thrashed on the way and taken to a place in Kohuwela, where one of the watchers was asked to thrash him. The police inspector told the watcher, “If you do not hit him, I will hit you.” So, the watcher, to save himself, hit his employer hard. He was taken to this particular police station and locked up. That happened about 9 o’clock that night.

Fortunately, the son of this particular individual, who is working in the Bank of Ceylon, had the common sense to get the assistance of military personnel and, on the pretext that his sister was having some heart ailment they got into a car and went up to Dr Karunaratne’s house. From there they telephoned me at about 10 o’clock that night saying that their father had been taken with these three people to a particular police station outside municipal limits. I immediately telephoned the Mount Lavinia police station and made inquiries.

Somebody said the man was there but that he was a person who employed looters. I said he was a respectable man and there was no reason at all for him to employ persons to loot, but he said that nothing could be done because the inspector was out.

I got into my car and went to the police station with my son, and asked to see the inspector. I was told the inspector was out. I asked the sergeant who his superintendent was and asked him please to allow me to use the telephone, whereupon he said it was only for official use.

In the meantime, the man was in the lock-up, badly assaulted. The three Sinhalese labourers were themselves mauled. I told them to give me half an hour and asked the policemen not to thrash them any more.

I then went back to my house, telephoned the superintendent, and insisted that he should go to this police station immediately which he said he would do. I myself went back to the police station.

When I arrived there this particular gentleman, who was in the lock-up, told me to be careful because when the sergeant had told the inspector, on his return, that I had come there, the inspector had asked him to put me also in the lock-up.

When I went there, I was told that the inspector wanted to see me. I then told the inspector that it was I who asked this gentleman to employ these labourers ‘to guard him. The inspector said that one of them was an I.R.C. When I asked him when that was, he said, “Five years ago.” I said this gentleman was in the bathroom when he was dragged out. The inspector then said I was wasting my time and his and that he was very tolerant with me. “After all,” he said, “we are defending your people here.”

I waited till the superintendent arrived, and when he arrived this man was released. I said I was not going to take this man and go away alone. I insisted that the three Sinhalese labourers, too, should be bailed out, and they were bailed out.

This is an incident within my personal knowledge. This sort of police terrorism is going on. The police are contributing their own quota to this problem. We are fighting thugs, but here are police thugs. I am told in various areas even Sinhalese people have been got hold of and treated in this fashion.

I have brought this matter to the notice of the authorities but yet this officer is operating in this police station. It is not a matter I could have brought to the notice of the Governor-General; so, I brought it to the notice of the proper authorities – the Hon. Minister of Justice knows that – but every one of them merely said, “I will look into it” or “I will consider it; I will do this and that.”

In the meantime, this hooligan of an Inspector is operating for the purpose of driving the Tamils from these areas; and if he cannot succeed to do so by one method, he adopts the other method. He gets hold of a respectable man who is 54 years old and assaults him. People are now frightened as to what will happen to them as a result of police thuggery.

I must say that, with a few significant exceptions in the higher ranks and perhaps in the lower ranks too, the police are a thoroughly demoralized lot.  I must at this juncture pay a tribute both to the army and the navy.

Whatever people may say in any part of the Island, including Jaffna, I say that they have done a magnificent job. If not for the army and the navy, the entirety of Colombo and a number of other places would have been a shambles.

They have done their duty without fear or favour. So far as the administration of the refugee camps is concerned, the job done by the army and the navy has to be seen to be believed. The problem of the evacuation of the refugees from these camps was in their hands, and the promptitude with which it was done was a masterly bit of work. Maybe they cannot fight battles. I myself was one who poked fun at them.

But I know now of what use the army and the navy, properly disciplined, can be to us, particularly with a Government like this which can never, with its civilian forces, maintain law and order. It gives me great pleasure, on a melancholy occasion like this, in the midst of a national tragedy and calamity, to be able to give this praise where it is really due.

During the last two years, intense propaganda of a racial type has been carried on by a number of speakers. During the last few months, this campaign was intensified. Boycott campaigns were carried on. A boycott campaign was organized by no less a body than the Eksath Bhikkhu Peramuna, who are one of the prime supporters of the present Government, and its activities in respect of this campaign appeared in the newspapers.

I ask, has one single Minister of this Government, has one single Member of the Government party, ever got on a public platform and condemned these activities? Has one of them preached co-operation, amity and friendship between the races? Why not? You who are now talking of friendship, what is the contribution that you have made towards friendship and amity in the last two years? People have been clouted, shops have been boycotted, many have been waylaid, and various other things have happened. Have any one of you appealed to the crowd not to do this?

On the Monday afternoon, when crowds were on the rampage, when things were happening in the Pettah, did some responsible Minister, or even a Member of the Government, walk up to the place and say: “This is not correct. You know very well what damage has been done in all parts of the Island because people believed these rumours, and you know that the rumours are false”?

Have you ever in your propaganda, in the newspapers which are now under your control, or in any other way – for instance, through your radio – said that these were false stories, that nothing has happened, that rumours were being spread merely to instigate the people?

On the contrary, the Government itself has believed these rumours. It was said that Kankesanturai Airport had been demolished. But nothing of the sort had happened. Some building in Kankesanturai had been demolished, and the rumour was spread that the airport had been destroyed.

Why do you not nail a false rumour to the counter? When there is no truth whatever in a particular rumour, why is not your Sinhalese radio, your Sinhalese newspapers, used to contradict it? You are incapable of governing this country.

You are imbeciles if you do not realize that once false rumours are set abroad and are not denied, a serious situation will be created. When this campaign was launched against the Tamils, it was your duty to carry on a counter propaganda saying that the Tamils should not be treated in that way, that they form part and parcel of the population of this country.

I do not want to make comparisons, but I have found that whenever racial passions went high, respectable Tamils used to go into the crowds – it happened at the Grand Bazaar, Jaffna – and ask the people not to make such utterances. Of course, they were not always successful, but that is a different matter. But in the case of this Government, was it not really secretly conniving at what was happening all these years?  Was the Government thoroughly petrified and incapable of any action?

But one thing is now clear: this Government must be in a position to convince the people – by its actions and not by brave words – that it is capable of maintaining law and order. How is it going to convince the people? That is what is worrying me, because nobody has confidence today of this Government’s ability to maintain law and order. That confidence has been shaken. How is that confidence to be restored? The only sure method of restoring confidence is for this Government, in the interests of the people of this country, to resign wholesale and reconstitute an all-party Government with fresh blood.

We know that looters and others are lying in wait till the emergency is over to start again their nefarious activities. A number of them are now under detention. In other words, you have created another set of people – men who are I.R.C.’s – who have a grievance against the Tamils because they are being detained as a result of the emergency. They are waiting to wreak their vengeance on the Tamils who, they feel, are responsible for their incarceration. So that, we have to be convinced that law, order and security will be maintained in this country.

If it cannot inspire that confidence, I beg of this Government to make the necessary arrangements – even by direct appeal to the Tamils – to at least evacuate their women and children to Tamil areas. They must be safeguarded. It is criminal to allow this sort of thing to start once again for they will all be massacred. Let the Tamils go back to Jaffna. Let the Sinhalese come back from the North, and the East if they have not already done so. That is essential.

This should be only a temporary measure. I do not say that it should be a final and permanent arrangement. This should be done before the Government is able to control the situation with the aid of its civilian force. I do not mean the military force to which Senator de Souza referred. That force has now taken complete control. When that force is removed, will you be able to control the situation without experimenting with the lives of people?

In any other country in the world a Government which created a situation of this nature would not have lasted 24 hours. The Government should inspire confidence in the Tamils if they are to continue to remain in Colombo, if the refugees who have gone to Jaffna are to come back here, when racial passions are roused to this extent. Racialists are still going round the countryside stirring the passions of the people.

Some of the racialists were found yesterday in the Mount Lavinia Magistrate’s Court bailing out the offenders who had got into trouble as a result of listening to them. These racialists are on the rampage. They are saying that the Tamils who were living in Wellawatte and Mount Lavinia have been dealt with, and that they are waiting to complete their victory over the Tamils in other areas.

We are now concerned with this problem and how to solve it. If there is a Government that can inspire confidence by its actions and conduct, it is a different matter. But this Government has systematically failed us for the last two years. So, it cannot inspire confidence in the minds of the people of its ability to maintain law and order.

What happened to the Principal of Royal College? After all, he is not a Tamil. The poor man pleaded and said he was a Sinhalese. Those who dealt with him were the Pettah thugs. In reply to his pleading, all that the thugs said was, “This is all very interesting but why are you going in a car and why are you wearing trousers?” In other words, they were not at all interested in the language riot but in some other thing.

So, the position, if anything at all, is more explosive than what it was on Monday because a number of elements have been rounded up who are swearing vengeance. There are still some extremist racial elements who are very angry that the Tamils in Wellawatte and other places have not yet capitulated.

I want to give you two illustrations to show you what can really happen when communal passions are roused and hatred is promoted among the people. At the time of this scandal, when refugees were housed at Saraswathie Hall, a number of buses were plying up and down that road. Two or three Sinhalese people who were travelling in one of these C.T.B. buses had heard some of the other travellers saying: “It would be a wonderful thing to throw a bomb into that place because all the Tamils are concentrated in that one spot. They could be finished with at once. There is no point in waiting. We must finish with them.” That is how people feel when malicious propaganda and the most disgusting rumours are disseminated all over the country.

After all, how can these people be satisfied when they have been told of the atrocities committed in Jaffna? They have been told that women’s breasts have been cut, that people have been crucified, that young girls have been raped. Those are the stories. They are all false: but those are the stories that have been told. These stories have enraged the people. They are naturally out for blood. Take the police inspector’s story about the entrails being cut and made into a “Sri” sign. These are the things that have made beasts of men.

I will give you another illustration. There are a number of Sinhalese servants, both girls and boys, employed in Tamil houses. Suddenly, the parents of these servants have come down and requested that they be released. In one particular case, two persons stated that the Tamil army would soon be coming from the North and the children must be saved. They did not want to lose their children. Another story current is that Indian troops are landing at the Kankesanturai Airport.

It is an impossible position. You cannot argue against them. Then, there is all this talk about a pirate radio. I tried to convince people that this has nothing to do with the Federal Party. There is no underground organization which is doing all this. All that the Federal Party did was to conduct some peaceful satyagraha and get thrashed for doing it. I explained that the pirate radio was the work of some Muslim gentleman from Kandy and that it has already been seized. Even if you explain things to the people, they will tell you that there is another pirate radio. It is an impossible position. In other words, the people themselves, the ordinary Sinhalese man and the ordinary Tamil man, are the victims of malicious rumours.

Unfortunately, these rumours are readily believed. What is one to do in that situation? What is the use of our venerable bhikkhus trying to stop the spreading of rumours? No doubt, people have a lot of respect and regard for them. Some of them have done a lot to tell the people that the situation should not be misjudged. They should have intervened at the very outset. All this talk about maithriya and the sayings of the Buddha should have started earlier. Active campaigning should have begun at that time. I am glad that, even at this late stage, venerable priests have exhorted the people not to meet hatred with hatred. As a matter of fact, we cannot believe some of the stories that have been told. It has been stated that at Padaviya all the colonists ran away because 4,000 soldiers of the Tamil army invaded the colony.

There was no Tamil army and nobody invaded the place. No amount of talking can convince people. Suddenly, there is an influx of about 200 people from Wellawatte and other places to the refugee camp. When you ask them why they have come, they tell you: “In a day or two Parliament will be meeting and the curfew will be lifted. As soon as that happens, we will be set upon again.” If you try to explain things to them, you  run the risk of being assaulted. They will look upon you as some stooge of the Prime Minister.

As a matter of fact, when the Government Agent of the Northern Province came down to Colombo three days ago, he wanted to see the Camp. I took him round and he suggested that it would be a very good thing if we could get certain forms filled up. I got the form cyclostyled by our volunteer organization and distributed it among the people.

Half the people filled up the form but the rest of them refused to do so. There was organised resistance to filling up that form. Later on, we went to find out why it was not filled up. The people felt that if the form was filled out they might not be sent back to Jaffna because the Colombo addresses were asked. It was thought that this form was only a ruse to send them back to their homes in Colombo. This is the mental state.

People believe that the Tamil armies are invading the Sinhalese areas; that the airport has been captured and that Krishna Menon is bringing out a Punjabi regiment. The pirate radio of the handy Muslim gentleman did a tremendous lot of havoc at Chavakachcheri. All sorts of things have been said. That is the state of the country today.

This is a time of serious national emergency. As I stated at the very beginning, the clock of Ceylon’s progress has been put back not by ten years but by a hundred years. I therefore suggest the formation of a National Government whose responsibility will be to put the country first and all other interests afterwards. Unless that is done, there will be no safety. Of course, if that is not done, the next best thing I can suggest is that the people must be permitted to go back to their respective areas, so that they may live in peace and security.

I also wish to tell the Government that there is no safety here for a Tamil even as there will be no safety for a Sinhalese man in the Northern Province. Sinhalese refugees have already come in from the Tamil areas. Some of them may not have suffered any injury but they might have heard of stories of injuries done to other Sinhalese. These stories will undoubtedly spread. You know a story might start in one way and end up in another way. Why, Mr President, certain persons had gone round saying that I had been shot. It was a minor incident. The military personnel fired into the air to warn off a mob but the story had gone round that I had been shot. These rumours spread causing suffering and devastation, as we all know it only too well.

Mischief makers, once friends of this Government – I do not know whether they still are – will start spreading diabolical stories calculated to rouse the hatred of Sinhalese and incite them to attack the Tamils.

All these thousands of refugees who have gone to Jaffna in their turn will not just keep quiet. They might rouse the feelings of the Tamils there by relating all the stories they have heard and it will be absolutely impossible for them to carry on their normal lives here unless a National Government is formed for some time to restore some sort of peace and amity.

I would venture to suggest, with very great respect to this Government, that the worst is not yet over. The worst is still to begin. Let it not be complacent. Let it not think the situation is under control. Let it not make the historic mistake which its Prime Minister made when on Monday, May 26th, the first day, he said:

“I request all to remain calm and not listen to various rumours that may be spread. There have been a few unfortunate incidents in the Batticaloa district where four people have lost their lives. There has been a little unrest in the Polonnaruwa area, but everything is quiet there now … I feel sure that these few isolated incidents are the work of irresponsible criminals and will be condemned by all sections of the People of Ceylon.”

That is what he said – that the situation was under control – but even as the was speaking, the situation got completely out of hand. Members of this Government should realise this: Let us not be complacent; let us not raise false hopes in the hearts of the people; let us not ask them to continue working in an atmosphere of tension. We cannot ask them to do that under the present set-up of the Government. They just cannot do that under these circumstances, and the best thing is to let as many people as possible to get back to their respective areas.

I believe, if the Government will exert itself and place trains, vehicles and other modes of transport at the disposal of these people, at least the women and children may be evacuated to safer places. If any person wants to stay back and work, let him do so at his own risk. Those who desire can give up their public service jobs and go back. Let them go back. As a matter of fact, an engineer who went back to work returned and said: “How can I go back. My own peon has assaulted me. I cannot face him.” In the Ratmalana Workshop, a junior engineer, Mr Selvanayagam, was set upon by his own employees and thrashed mercilessly. He was taken away unconscious.

I do not know whether he is alive or dead. What is the use of all these slogans asking people to return to work? Under the present circumstances, there is no question of their going to work. Life will not be worth anything in any part of the country.

To my mind, without a positive assurance of security, without proof that this Government will rule even-handedly and justly, nothing will happen except further chaos if this emergency is removed. So, before removal of this emergency, steps must be taken for the safe evacuation of the people. Once that is done, responsible-minded people can sit down and work out solutions to the vast problems that will remain to be solved if this country is to prosper..

…This is no laughing matter. You cannot say, “Oh, no boy, this is all right.” You cannot treat this problem in that way. This is a serious matter. This is a human problem, and a problem of this nature can be solved and must be solved in a way acceptable to the Tamils and the Sinhalese. The Sinhalese masses have been roused to the pitch that they do not want to see a Tamil here. Send the Tamils off if you cannot afford them protection. Can you imagine any part of the world where police officers go round saying, “Leave your houses and go to the police station,” so that the belongings of the owners may be looted? That is the protection given to the Tamils in these areas; nothing more than that.

As I said, I have been in the thick of it. So, it is rather difficult for me to take a detached view. But to the best of my ability I have presented as fair a picture of what has happened, of the problem as. it exists, and I would only make one final appeal to the Government. Please do not be complacent. Please do not go about telling people that things are normal, that things are settling down. Things are not settling down. You are on the brink of catastrophe. At any moment an explosion of a greater magnitude than has occurred can take place. The situation is further complicated by reason of the fact that there are certain mischievous elements who are attempting to fish in troubled waters.

You may perhaps not know that, even as I am talking to you here, Mr J. R. Jayewardene, a member of the United National Party, is busy in the Greenlands Camp recording statements from Sinhalese refugees as to what happened elsewhere. Why is he doing that? He did not come to the Tamil refugee camp to find out shat happened. He must be having some purpose. Why is he doing this? What benefit is he going to get there from? We have suffered more by this national catastrophe because we had larger numbers; being surrounded by a still larger number of people, perhaps we have suffered more than the Sinhalese people.

If there were 10,000 Sinhalese in the North, they also would have suffered as much as we have suffered here. If they did not suffer so much, it is because they are less in numbers.

So, why is Mr J. R. Jayewardene doing this? What is his object? What profit does he hope to reap by that? There are people like that who think this is a wonderful occasion for the overthrow of this Government, even at the risk of human suffering. It may be that they themselves will raise a campaign and say that the Government has sacrificed the Sinhalese for the benefit of the Tamils, to show that they have saved the Sinhalese and not the Tamils, and that they will be firmer with the Tamils.

The Tamils are the pawns in a political game. It does not matter to anybody how we suffer, how we feel, so long as in this game one party is the victor and the other is the vanquished. That is all.  If you cannot form a National Government composed of all the parties – the United National Party, the Lanka Sama Samaja Party, and all the other parties –  you are heading for trouble.

We are willing to go. Every Tamil man, woman and child is willing to go. If tomorrow you say that you will give us the transport, we are prepared to get back. If you are not going to give us confidence and the protection, we will never come back. That is the position. We will never come back. We are willing to go. You cannot blame us for it. You must be thankful to us.

We do not want language rights from you. Please have Sinhalese only. We have finished. We only want the right to live in our areas. We want the right to be able to walk the streets without being molested. Those are the rights we want. We will look after our language. No Tamil worthy of his name is ever going to study the Sinhalese language. You have stamped it out.

I do not for a moment say that the Members of this Government are a set of wicked people. I do not say that at all. But certainly by their inaction, by their vacillation, by their weakness, by their incapability to maintain law and order, they have brought about a disastrous situation.  Now, all we ask you to do is this. In the name of humanity, please see to it that the rest of us who are left behind are enabled to go back to the various parts of the island where we can be safe among our own people. Thereafter, we will meet and, perhaps, in an atmosphere where there is no fear, in an atmosphere where we feel that our nearest and dearest are secure, we will discuss the problems that arise for solution.

I thank hon. Senators for the patience with which they have listened to me. Perhaps the picture I have painted may not be in the correct perspective in certain respects. But I have endeavoured, as correctly as I can, to put forward a position for your consideration. … The elementary duty of a Government is to afford protection to its subjects, and the duty of the citizens is to be loyal to that Government. The moment that Government fails to afford protection, it forfeits its right to that loyalty and affection. This Government has forfeited that right.

Index to materials on Senator Somasunderam Nadesan QC: http://tamilnation.co/nadesan/index.htm

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