By KT Rajasingham, ‘Asian Times,’ Singapore, 2002
Sri Lankan President JR Jayewardene, outlined his plans to appoint district ministers for all the 24 districts. It is believed that earlier in August 1978, in the course of a conversation with Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) leader S Thondaman, Jayewardene outlined his plans to appoint district ministers. He explained that it was a means to take the administration closer to the people. There was to be one minister for each of the 24 districts. He further said that he had already discussed this with A Amithalingham, and if the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) agreed, he was prepared to give three district minister-ship positions to the TULF Members of Parliament (MPs).
On October 5, Jayewardene announced the names of the first badge of district ministers, but kept the post of the district minister for Jaffna on hold, until the indication from the TULF was forthcoming. It was informed that, Jayewardene offered three District Ministry portfolio to the TULF and also informed that, though the TULF Members accept the District Ministry, they can continue to remain in the opposition.
It is understood that, earlier, Amirthalingham demanded to have five district ministry positions for the TULF, but as Jayewardene offered only three, the TULF did not come forward to take up any. Subsequently, the government filled the vacancy for the district minister for Jaffna. It also appointed Vaithilingham Duraisamy as secretary to the district minister. Duraisamy was a former diplomat and a defeated candidate in the Kayts electorate in the parliamentary elections held in 1977, and also a candidate who contested against the TULF.
Jayewardene appointed the following MPs – Sinhala, Muslim and a Tamil – as district ministers for the Tamil districts in the North and Eastern provinces:
- Ukku Banda Wijekoon (United National Party MP for Dambadeniya) – Jaffna
- Abdul Razak Mansoor (UNP MP for Kalmunai) – Mullaitivu
- Gamage Don Mahindasoma (UNP MP for Kekirawa) – Vavuniya
- Mohamed Ehuttar Hadjiar Mahroof (UNP MP for Muthur) – Mannar
- Hewa Gajaman Paththinige Nelson – Trincomalee
- Mylvaganam Canagaratnam (UNP 2nd MP for Pottuvil) – Batticaloa
- Petikirige Dayaratna (UNP MP for Ampara) – Ampara
Jayewardene invited S Thondaman to join his cabinet. Thondaman said: “If you invite, I will, but there are [a] few hitches.” Thondaman explained that he could not be bound by UNP policies in matters of citizenship and labor. He explained to the president that he owed his position to the CWC and its policy was to obtain citizenship for the stateless Tamils of the Indian origin and also to find better working conditions for them. “If you would allow me to follow my own policies in these two matters, then I will have no hesitation in joining your cabinet,” he said.
Jayewardene agreed and Thondaman asked Jayewardene’s permission to obtain the required approval from the CWC’s Working Committee.
Meanwhile, Amirthalingham met Thondaman at his residence and gave his approval. They discussed the CWC-TULF relationship and agreed to go ahead with as much flexibility as possible. The Executive Committee of the CWC met on September 5, 1978. While the Committee was deliberating the issue, Thondaman made the members understand that, a strong-willed Sinhalese leader was needed to solve the stateless problem of the plantation Tamils. He said that Jayewardene was such a leader with a vision and his hand should be strengthened.
The Executive Committee of the CWC unanimously approved Thondaman taking up a ministerial portfolio and joining Jayewardene in his cabinet of ministers. The Committee adopted a resolution authorizing him to join, which was as follows:
“The Executive Committee of the CWC, conscious of the fact that the people of Indian origin, the bulk of whom are plantation workers, have been effectively denied participation in the mainstream of the national life and in all avenues of human development for the past thirty years, by the disfranchisement and other acts of discrimination by successive governments, reiterates that the isolation of and the discrimination both in law and practice, against this community should end forthwith, thus removing the impediments in the way of this community’s integration with the rest of the society.
“The Executive Committee notes with satisfaction, the active participation of the CWC Political Wing in the deliberations of the Select Committee for the revision of the Constitution and the support given to the bill in the National State Assembly.
“While acknowledging that the new Constitution has not sufficiently met all hopes and aspirations of the minorities, the Executive Committee recognizes the fact that, as far as the stateless persons are concerned, the new constitution is an improvement and a step forward, and for the first time, it affords the people of the Indian origin the opportunity to come into the mainstream of national life.
“In this context, the invitation extended by His Excellency JR Jayewardene to the CWC Political Wing to join the cabinet is a step in the right direction.
“The Executive Committee therefore, resolve to authorize and direct the Political Wing to cooperate and meaningfully participate in the government of His Excellency JR Jayewardene and accept the invitation to serve in the cabinet.”
Thondaman was given the portfolio of Rural Industrial Development and was sworn in as minister on September 7, 1978.
After the swearing-in ceremony, Thondaman called on Mahanayake Theroes (Chief Prelates) of Malwatte and Asgirya Chapters. Both Buddhist Chief Prelates, expressed their happiness, when Thondaman paid his obeisance with respect to the religious order. The Chief prelates chanted Prith and blessed him. Pallipane Chandananda Thero, the Mahanayake of the Asgiriya Chapter, told the Tamil minister: “We must not forget that even though we belong to different races, we are children of Sri Lanka.”
Thondaman in his reply said that, he was aware of it and had worked tirelessly for the welfare and progress of the country. “My people toil daily from dawn to dusk for the prosperity of Sri Lanka,” he said, making a request to the Chief Prelate that, “they should be allowed to work for Sri Lanka as equal citizens”.
Subsequently, Thondaman gifted a silver plated bell to the Kandy Dalada Maligawa (The Temple of the Tooth Relic). The bell was taken in a colorful procession of dancers, drummers and elephants. Thondaman, MS Sellasamy, General Secretary of the CWC and V Annamalai, the former nominated MP (1965-1970), marched at the head of the procession. The education minister and Diywadena Nilame (lay chief of the temple) Nissanka Wijeyaratne, received Thondman and his people at the entrance of the Temple. After paying homage to the sacred tooth relic, Thondaman said: “Hindus worship the Lord Buddha as reincarnation of Lord Vishnu. To Hindus Buddhism is not a foreign religion.”
When the second MP for Pottuvil, Mylvaganam Canagaratnam of the TULF, crossed over to the government side and took up the portfolio as the district minister of Batticaloa, the Tamil militants did not take it as an appropriate act of a Tamil politician. Uma Maheswaran and Prabakaran, the leaders of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) went to Colombo to take revenge against the alleged betrayal by Canagaratnam. On January 27, 1978, they shot at Canagaratnam while he was coming out of his home in Kollupitya, Colombo. Though he survived the gunshot injuries in the beginning, he died some months later. He said in his police report that two Tamil boys had shot him, one lean and tall and the other short and plump.
The lean boy was Uma Maheswaran and the plump one was Prabakaran. They aimed at Canagaratnam’s head, but the bullets hit his shoulder.
After Canagaratnam’s death, On November 25, 1980, his sister Ranganayaki Pathmanathan was nominated by the UNP, as the second MP for Pottuvil. She was also later appointed district minister of Batticaloa.
On May 2, 1978, Weerawanni Samaraweera, the UNP MP, raised the attempted shooting incident of Canagaratnam in the floor of the parliament. He alleged that the attempt on his life was taken by the militant Tamil youths, only a few weeks after Amirthalingham had called Canagaratnam a traitor, when he crossed over to the UNP. Then, Amirthalingham raised a point of order and the speaker ordered Weerawanni Samaraweera to withdraw his statement. Then the Sinhalese MP challenged Amirthalingham to condemn the murder.
Amirthalingham told the House that, the MP had created a parliamentary history by calling an opposition member to make statement in the House. The government members of parliament joined Weerawanni Samaraweera and shouted down Amirthalingham. He quietly told the members that, however loud they shout, they could not either intimidate him or his party. He however told the House, that his party was concerned about the shooting and condemned it.
On July 29, 1978, the TULF convention was held in Avarangal, Puttur. Delegates who participated in the convention had heard hints of the meeting that the TULF leaders had with Jayewardene on June 10, when the president invited the TULF to accept the district minister positions.
During the convention, that majority of youth delegates expressed their dissatisfaction and frustration over the manner in which the TULF leadership conducted themselves and the freedom struggle. On July 30, nearly 1,000 youths marched to the convention venue at Avarangal, a section of them from Atchuvely on one side and another group from Puttur, the southern direction of Avarangal, defying a police ban on processions. They shouted slogans urging the leaders to set up the separate state of Tamil Eelam, without any further delay. They marched to the stage, where the leaders were seated and shouted at them: “Do, or allow us to do it, in our own way.” One of the youth leaders, who climbed on the stage, shouted: “Our TULF leaders are traitors. Resign your parliamentary seats immediately and declare the separate state of Tamil Eelam.”
The convention center was emotionally charged and the tension was electrifying. It took a couple hours to bring order and discipline. The convention elected M Sivasithamparam, as the President and A Amithalingham, as the Secretary General of the TULF; because after Chelvanayakam passed away, Amithalingham held the post of president, jointly with Thondaman and Sivasithamparam. At the Avarangal convention, the Party’s constitution was amended to have a single president, instead of three.
The TULF Youth Front brought in two resolutions at the general council. The first resolution asked the TULF MPs to constitute themselves into a Tamil Eelam National Council and undertake the task of drafting the Tamil Eelam Constitution. The parliamentarians skillfully amended the wording of the resolution by inserting words: “Council be set up at the proper time when the necessity arose.” The Second resolution called upon the TULF parliamentarians to bring a vote of no confidence on the government. The resolution was found wanting in tact and diplomacy and was defeated.
In the meantime, a security hunt by the government forced the militants to scatter from their traditional hide-outs in the Jaffna peninsula. LTTE used this opportunity to send trainees to follow the Eelam Revolutionary Organization of Students (EROS). With the assistance of EROS, Uma Maheswaran and another LTTE cadre went to Lebanon for a three months of training.
By this time, the London representative of the LTTE had decided to bring into the Tiger Movement, a London-based Sri Lankan Tamil, who was a Marxist, committed to the cause of Tamils’ independence. Until then, he was operating out of his flat in London, writing Tamil and English pamphlets for anyone or any group that approached him. He was eager to play an active role in the Tamil liberation activities. He was the indomitable Balasingham.
Anton Stanislaus Balasingham was the former sub-editor of Virakesari – one of the pioneer Tamil daily newspapers, published from Colombo. He later joined the British Council, Colombo as its translator, finally moving to London, to further his education. He joined the South Bank Polytechnic and while in London, met the young and energetic Australian nurse Adele Ann, while his first wife was undergoing treatment for an illness. After his first wife succumbed to her illness, he married Adele.
About his first wife’s illness, Adele wrote: “His concern for righteousness and goodness was literally put to test, when his first wife became extremely ill with chronic renal failure, ending with her requiring life sustaining haemodialysis. The emotional and mental strain of observing and caring for his beautiful young wife teetering on the brink of death by chronic disease, invoked in Bala profound philosophical introspection about the self and human world.
Adele said of her marriage to Balasingham: “In that union, I married the collective consciousness and history of a people: a man who embodied the Tamil psyche with all its strength and weakness, greatness and failings.” (“The Will to Freedom” by Adele Balasingham – pages 19-23.)
Balasingham, according to Adele, was introduced to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and its leadership,by its London representative, Krishnan, and the spokesman R V Ramachandran, alias Anton Rajah. In 1979, he wrote the first theoretical work of the LTTE in the English language, “On the Tamil National Question”, and followed it up with “Towards Socialist Tamil Eelam” in Tamil. The Tamil book was an instant hit in Jaffna, in the midst of the Tamils. He was held in high esteem by the LTTE leadership and agreed to go to Madras (Chennai), in India, to conduct political classes to the LTTE members.
It was at that time that Uma Maheswaran returned after three months of advanced army training in Lebanon. By that time, a serious showdown emerged between the two senior leaders of the LTTE – Prabakaran and Uma Maheswaran. Accordingly, Uma Maheswaran, the Chairman of the Central Committee of the LTTE, an unmarried man, was charged with having a sexual relationship with the earliest female cadre Urmila, a divorcee. The dispute between the two leaders centered around Urmila, who helped the LTTE in its typing and other activities.
Earlier, Uma Maheswaran and Urmila were both youth wing leaders of the Tamil United Liberation Front. Both were inducted into the LTTE by Prabakaran, to promote international propaganda works of the organization.
Both of them, along with a few other LTTE cadres, lived in a house in Chennai. According to reports, the cadres had seen Uma Maheswaran and Urmila in a sexually compromising position and they reported the matter to Prabakaran. In the beginning Prabakaran refused to believe it, but later as the cadres persisted that they were speaking the truth for the good of the organization, he began to believe the story. Subsequently, Prabakaran and other leaders of the LTTE were compelled to come from Jaffna to investigate the matter.
When Prabakaran drew up the Constitution of the LTTE, it was made clear that family life and love affairs were impediments to revolutionary politics. The codes of conduct were viewed as crucial and essential to the discipline and integrity of the organization to which the members had committed themselves. Anyone who violated these moral codes was subjected to disciplinary action. A sexual affair meant the violation of the moral code of conduct. Therefore, the allegation leveled against Uma Maheswaran according to the rules of the LTTE was a serious crime. When the Uma Maheswaran-Urmila affair was brought to the notice of Prabakaran, he gradually became convinced on the strength of the truth in the allegation. He told Uma Maheswaran, when he met him, to resign and leave the LTTE along with Urmila, but Uma Maheswaran refused. Prabakaran began complaining about Uma Maheswaran as unworthy of being leader of the Eelam cause. It was an embarrassing experience for Prabakaran to inform his colleagues that the chairman of the revolutionary organization was having illicit sex with one of the female members of the movement.
In a later interview, Prabakaran never mentioned Urmila by name and simply accused Uma Maheswaran of having violated the LTTE’s conduct code. “It was a problem between the individual and the Tiger movement,” he said in 1984. “I am in no way responsible for the problem. It was Maheswaran who created the issue. A leader of a revolutionary movement should commit himself totally to the discipline of the organization. If the leader violates the basic rules and principles, then there will be chaos and the organization will crumble.” (“Tigers of Lanka from Boys to Guerrillas” by Narayan Swamy – page 67.)
While the LTTE was plagued with the issue of Uma-Urmila sex affair, Balasingham and Adele arrived in Madras in the latter part of 1979. When the couple flew into Madras, there was excitement and expectancy.
During those days, it was believed that, Tamil Nadu was the safe-haven for the Tamil militants. For the LTTE cadres, according the LTTE sources, it was not only a safe refuge, but also a secure base, a place they could live, organize and plan without fear. The Southern shores of Tamil Nadu was just 22 miles by boat and LTTE had Ottees (coxswains in Tamil) who could clear this distance in two-three hours time in their high mechanized boats, fitted with several outboard boat-engines.
Adele wrote in her recently published book, “The Will to Freedom”‘ that on their arrival from London at the Meenambakam airport, Madras, they were met by Krishnan, the LTTE representative in London, who was incidentally in Tamil Nadu, who booked them in a hotel in Madras.
She writes: “I really had no idea of what to expect from the LTTE leaders when I first met them. Of course I knew of their militant revolutionary activities and I wholeheartedly supported their armed resistance campaign. LTTE workers in London told me that the central figure of the Tamil resistance movement, Velupillai Pirabakaran was indefatigably dominated by and committed to the political objective of the liberation of his oppressed people and he firmly believed the establishment of the separate Tamil state, as the final and the only solution to the Tamil national question. That he had been a strict disciplinarian was legendary, even in those very early days.”
Velupillai Prabakaran was born on November 26, 1954 in Valvetithurai, a coastal village, three miles on the west coast from Point Pedro. This coastal town was famous for its smuggling and brisk trading activities with people in the Coromandel coast, in Southern India. Though the residents were fishermen, the majority of them were involved with the smuggling of opium, gold, silk saris and other exotic items from India. This practice has continued for many centuries. A closely-knit coastal town, it was impossible for strangers to enter or leave unnoticed.
The majority of the Valvetithurai men had additional wives and families in the coastal areas of South India. Youths from Valvetithurai used to go to these cities to see newly released Tamil movies and return in the morning by speed-boat, without being accosted or interrupted by the Indian or Sri Lankan naval petrol boats. Prabakaran’s father Velupillai started his life as a clerk in the government service, at the young age of 19 and ended up as a district land officer, before retiring from government service, when he was 58 years old. Prabakaran had his early education at Batticaloa, in the Eastern province and later joined the Chidampara College, in his hometown Valvetithurai. In the school days, he was an average student and did not show any keen interest in his studies. He studied up to his General Certificate of Education – Ordinary level, which was equivalent to Grade 10.
When he was just 16 years old, he joined the revolutionary organization and was deeply involved in its activities. One day, early in the morning at about 3am, a pose of policemen surrounded his house to arrest him. He managed to escape and left his house and thereafter, it was told, he never went back to his house again.
When he organized the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, Baby Subramaniam (alias Ilankumaran), joined him in 1976, followed by Kumrappa and Pandithar in 1977. Kith (alias Sthasivam Krishnakumar), Gopalasamy Mahendrarajah (alias Mahataya) and Raghu joined the LTTE in 1978. All of them were from Valvetithurai and were very successful commanders. Unfortunately, Mahathaya (alias Gopalasamy Mahendrarajah) – “the ill fated deputy leader of the LTTE,” according to Adele Balasingham – was executed for treason in 1944. Except for Baby Subramaniam, who is still one of the active leaders of the LTTE, the others all were martyred and are annually remembered during the Heroes’ Day celebrations, held every November by the liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
It was Prabakaran who invited Balasingham to Madras. Adele describes the historic first meeting between Prabakaran and Balasingham, as follows: “The first meeting with Pirabakaran [sic] (who was accompanied by one of the earliest LTTE cadres, Baby Subramaniam) took place in the middle of the night. We waited all day in our shabby little room, sweating it out in the Chennai humidity, before we met Pirabakaran. As naive novices to the underground game, we had no idea that we would have to wait till dark to meet him, nor did we expect that the meeting would be very late at night. But for Pirabakaran, a stickler for security, moving around under the cover of darkness had become a necessary habit. His attention to such problems as security was indicative too of the seriousness with which he reviewed his commitment. That was okay with me. Given that he had been wanted in Sri Lanka for the past seven years – since the age of sixteen – and in a situation where interested parties would have no qualms in finishing off committed persons of liberation struggles, such as he, it was fair enough for him to maintain his security. Clearly, the struggle was a serious matter for him.”
She continues the description of the personalities: “Quietly and without fanfare, late in the night, two young men appeared at the door, one dressed in the national dress of a white verti [a Tamil waist cloth] and the other in trousers and a light colored printed shirt. I must admit that I was taken aback by how young and innocent these two terrorists looked. Indeed their appearance belied their reputation. Both were short, neat little men, who looked like butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths. Baby Subramaniam carried a bag full of all sorts of documents and political literature. This short slightly stocky man in the national dress of a white verti and lugging a bulging, over-stuffed bag, or brief case, which appeared too heavy for him to carry, became a trade mark image of Baby Subramaniam. Pirabakaran was not so encumbered. His style was different. Meticulous grooming is Pirabakarans hallmark. Dressing is an event for Pirabakaran, not a necessary practice to be completed and out of the way quickly. But Pirabakaran’s young face was clear and bright and his huge black eyes penetrating. Indeed one gets the feeling that he is peering right through to your soul and it is the depth in his eyes, which mirrors his mind and thinking too. On several occasions in our long relationship, Pirabakaran’s eyes have told many stories. Only a careful observer would have noticed the bulge from the weapons they had tucked into their waist and covered by the shirts that hung loosely over them. Cleverly too, the button disguised a row of press studs sown underneath which allowed them to tear open their shirts, giving them easy and quick access to their weapons.”
About the meeting of Prabakaran and Balasingham, Adele writes: “The first meeting between these two, now historical figures, whose lives became intertwined, Pirabakaran and Bala, was essentially a mutual sizing up exercise. One could see Pirabakaran scrutinizing Bala’s face. This rigorous facial scan by Pirabakaran’s eyes is a common aspect in dialogue with him and there is a no way untruth or deceit can creep into conversation when these probing eyes are watching every word.”
She continues: “The meeting went off successfully. But, although they liked each other from the outset, it took many years for both to cultivate a unique friendship, based on profound mutual understanding. I too liked Pirabakaran and he didn’t show any open suspicion of me.”
After Balasingham flew back to London, Prabakaran kept on pressing charges against Uma Maheswaran. However Uma Maheswaran maintained that his differences with Pirabakaran arose over LTTE’s attitude toward the TULF, which Uma thought become ineffective after the 1977 parliamentary general elections. Uma Maheswaran in an interview said: “I felt that when our basic problems remained to be solved, TULF had no business to discuss development program with the government. Prabakaran was supporting the TULF move. Since I did not see eye to eye with him on this, I left the LTTE in 1979.”
Uma Maheswaran departure from the LTTE was not that simple. The majority judgment went against the couple’s explanation and the Central Committee of the LTTE decided that Uma Maheswaran should resign. He categorically rejected the decision and was subsequently expelled. But Uma Maheswaran did not give up, continuing to claim himself as the leader of the LTTE. Uma Maheswaran suddenly disappeared, along with some of the arms from the hideouts.
Prabakaran was very angry over the weapons. LTTE constitution barred those who leave or its ex-members from forming a new group. Here was the man who was the chairman of the LTTE, now working against the constitution of the very organization he headed. The enmity of the both Prabakaran and Uma Maheswaran reached alarming proportion.
After the split, Uma Mahesawarn came under great pressure from friends, both in Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu, to end the dispute with Prabakaran by giving up claim to the LTTE’s name. Eventually, he gave up his claim in order to inaugurate his own People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE). After organizing his new organization, Uma Maheswaran opposed TULF for taking part in the District Development Council elections.
It was later learnt that Uma Maheswaran and Urmila returned to Vavuniya and that Urmila became seriously ill with hepatitis and died in Gandhi Illam, a charity organization run by Dr Rajasunderam.
In July 1979, the government enacted the infamous Prevention of Terrorism Act and declared the state of emergency in the Tamil areas from July 11, 1979. The TULF did not attend parliament, but issued a statement opposing the bill. The SLFP opposed the bill in the Parliament.
Jayewardene, who pledged to form a Dharmista (righteous government), decided to adopt military-adventurism to impose a solution to problems faced by the Tamils. He gave a free hand to the armed forces to deal with the Tamils in the North and Eastern Provinces. Every soldier deployed in the Tamil regions, considered himself as the survivor of the Sinhalese chauvinistic regime and had the authority to shoot and kill any one in the Tamil regions.
On April 2, 1981, S Kathiravetpillai, the TULF MP for Kopay died. The TULF nominated Murugesu Alalasunderam as their MP for Kopay and he took oath as MP on 23 July 1981.
Already, the Prevention of Terrorism Act was in full swing in the Jaffna peninsula and on April 5, 1981, Thangathurai, the leader of the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO), and one of his deputies, Sellathurai Sivasubramaniam (alias Thevan), were both apprehended at Manalkadu, a coastal fishing village in the Point Pedro East area, while trying to flee to India by boat. The third person, Kuttimani, tried to shoot himself, but was overpowered and taken into custody and detained in Colombo under the act.
Jayewardene had his “Man Friday” in his cabinet, the inveterate anti-Tamil champion, Cyril Mathew, the minister of industries. Several pamphlets, anti-Tamil speeches of the Minister and booklets that contained incitements to violence against the Tamils were published and distributed by the Ministry of Industries as government publications. He was the author of a book entitled “Sinhalese! Rise to Protect Buddhism” and a series of his inflammatory speeches made in 1979 were collected together in the pamphlet “Who is the Tiger”, which was passed from hand to hand. Other writings indicate the character of the political climate being created by Colombo politicians and the media. A vicious pamphlet entitled “The Diabolical Conspiracy”, published in 1980, accused Tamil teachers of giving high marks to Tamil students, thus allowing them to enter university in preference to Sinhalese students. This is “a burning question … exploding within the hearts of Sinhala students, parents and teachers”, it stated. Another document denounced Tamil plantation workers, warning “that Sinhala culture, Buddhism and the up-country villagers will all vanish”. It went on to attack Tamil traders, declaring that “the wholesale and retail trade … is now completely in the hands of Indian nationals”. Cyril Mathew, one of the two ministers dispatched to Jaffna, was notorious for his anti-Tamil racism, spearheading a virulent anti-Tamil program. He frequented Jaffna peninsula and stayed with the armed forces.
Meanwhile, five parliamentary by-elections were held during this period. The first one was on November 11, 1977, for Dehiwela, after the death of S Jayasinghe, the minister of fisheries. His daughter, Sunethra Ranasinghe was the UNP candidate and three others contested. In the four cornered competition, Sunethra Ranasinghe convincingly won the seat with a majority of well over 10,000.
When JR Jayewardene took up office as president on February 4, 1978, he vacated his Colombo-South seat and the by-election was held on March 21, 1978. Anura Bastian, the UNP candidate won the seat.
When DG Albert Silva, MP for Galle, was unseated on an election petition filed by Dr W Dahanayake, a by-election was held on December 20 1979 and Dahanayake won as a UNP candidate by a convincing majority of 13,012 votes.
The by-election for Anamaduwa constituency was held after SLFP Member Sadhatissa Waddigamangawa was unseated in an election petition and debarred for contesting the seat again. At the by-election, Soak Wadigamangwa, the UNP candidate won the seat.
Finally, in the by-election held for Kalawana electorate, the communist party candidate, Sarath Muttetuwegama won the seat.
On February 14, 1980, the Sri Lankan president made changes to his cabinet. KW Devanayakam, who was earlier minister of justice was made minister of home affairs and the former education minister and minister of higher education Nissanka Wijeratne was sworn in as the minister of justice. Ranil Wickremasinghe, the youngest member of the cabinet when he was sworn as a minister of youth affairs and employment on October 5, 1978, was given the additional charge of education. The president himself took on the role of ministry of higher education.
The former TULF MP from Batticaloa, Chillier Rajadurai, who crossed over to the government side on March 23, 1979, and was appointed as minister of regional development on April 5, 1979, with the additional responsibility of looking after Hindu religious affairs, continued with the same portfolio in the reshuffle. From 1956, Chelliah Rajadurai was the MP representing Batticaloa seat in the Eastern province as one of the leaders of the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi and in the 1977 general election, he was elected on the TULF ticket.
Since from the beginning, Rajadurai was at logger heads with Amirthalingham and the rivalry between both were historical and long-standing. Even in the 1977, general elections, Amirthalingham was responsible for nominating Kasi Anandan as the second Tamil candidate in the ITAK ticket, to contest in the Batticaloa two-member seat, much against the protestation of Rajadurai, the local man of the area and a veteran leader and the sitting MP. Rajadurai felt that it was calculated attempt by Amirthalingham to weaken him and be rid of him in the elections. After the elections Rajadurai stopped attending the Working Committee meetings of the TULF and started distancing himself. Similarly, after the 1977 general elections, Amirthalingham began to ignore Rajadurai and Rajadurai was forced to take a decision about his political future. He began to attend public receptions and function held for the government ministers, which was against the TULF rules. He was asked to explain about his behavior, but refused to respond.
Earlier, in 1975, Rajadurai underwent a similar bad patch within the party and he approached this writer through his mentor and advisor ST Sivanayakam, the Editor of Dinapathy. He was willing to leave the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi due to rivalry with Amirthalingham and was ready to join the SLFP, the ruling party at that time. I met Felix Dias Bandaranaike, who had the best regard for me and T B Ilangaratne a senior minister and the senior leader of the SLFP, regarding Rajadurai. They showed eagerness in receiving Rajadurai in the SLFP fold, but I insisted that as a veteran ITAK MP, he should be given a responsible cabinet ministerial slot. After the meeting with Srimavo Bandaranaike, they came back to report to me that Rajadurai would be given a ministerial portfolio only in the next reshuffle of the cabinet and not immediately. If he joined the SLFP immediately, they told me, his case would be considered at the next reshuffle. The two Ministers were unable to give a precise date as to when the next reshuffle would take place. As I was not happy with the response I had with the two SLFP Ministers, I advised Rajadurai, not to resign from the ITAK, but continue for a better opening in the future. The better opening was provided to him by Jayewardene and he was made a full-fledged minister, with cabinet ranking.
On April 17, 1982, Subramaniam Sivanayagam in his editorial in the Saturday Review, “Two Cheers for the Hindu Conference”, wrote: “Chelliah Rajadurai is a politician with a tarnished political image. There is no need to be polite about it and hush the fact that is already well known. The convening of the World Hindu Conference in Sri Lanka by his ministry now gives him the opportunity to exercise his very pleasing prose style in public, to be applauded, garlanded, photographed and come slap-bang into the lime light – the kind of opportunity that all our dear politicians would love dearly.”
Earlier, on December 28, 1978, United Left Front parties planned a token strike. This strike was meant against the price increase introduced by the government on essential and scarce food items. The ULF also wanted to have the strike against the government’s attack on the democratic rights of the workers. The government warned state and corporation employees that they should refrain from participating in the trade union activities. Government warned that should they participate, it would be assumed that they had vacated their posts. After that warning, the token strike fizzled out.
In the meantime, Dr NM Perera, the Leader of the Lanka Samaja Party and a veteran Marxist, died on August 14, 1979. Again, the Leftist parties mounted their challenge to the government. They organized the strike in July 1980. The government met this challenge head-on by threatening to dismiss any worker who failed to turn up for work. In that event, by July 18, 1980, some 40,000 government employees and several thousands in the private sector, who participated in the strike, in defiance of a ban on strike in the essential services, were considered to have vacated their posts. Subsequently, majority of them gradually regained their job and that was the last major trade union activity during the Jayewardene’s entire regime, organized by the leftist political parties.
At a cabinet meeting held on March 19, 1981, the government decided to advance the date of the election to the District Development Councils in May. Accordingly, government scheduled June 4, 1981, as the date for the polling in the elections for the District Development Council. Jayewardene offered a modicum of autonomy through these councils.
The District Development Council Elections were hoped to be a sort of a general elections. But it fizzled out after the SLFP walked out while the District Development Council Bill was debated in the parliament, and subsequently they boycotted the elections.
Jayewardene decided to put forward UNP candidates to contest in the DDC election in the Jaffna district. “As a prelude to the District Development Council elections, there had been a major change of policy in the UNP vis-a-vis the TULF. Up to this time, the general opinion within the government was that the TUF was too formidable to challenge electorally within the Northern province. But after the Prime Minister’s seemingly triumphant visit Jaffna and the Northern province in January 1981, JR Premadasa began to fancy the chances for the establishment of an electoral bridgehead there. Over the next few weeks several cabinet ministers visited the Jaffna peninsula and other parts of the Northern province.” (“JR Jayewardene of Sri Lanka: A Political Biography – Volume Two: From 1965 to His Retirement (1989)” by KM de Silva & Howard Wriggins – page 519.)
The Ceylon Workers Congress contested the District Development Council elections, along with UNP, in the plantation districts up-country. He urged the president that UNP should not contest the TULF in the Northern and Eastern provinces, but without success. He also viewed with disappointment the visits of the government ministers Cyril Mathew and Gamini Disanayake to the North to campaign against the TULF.
President Jayewardene wanted to show the world that, the majority of Tamils did not approve the separate state. Therefore, through his “Man Friday” – Cyril Mathew – and his lieutenant Gamini Disanayake, the minister for Mahaweli developments and land, he organized Tamil candidates to participate in the forthcoming District Development Council elections, on the United National Party Ticket. Jayewardene also tried to portray to the world that, TULF was not alone the exclusive representatives of the Tamils and therefore, he selected A Thiagarajah, to contest on behalf of the United National Party and to lead its candidates in the District Development Council election for the Jaffna district. He was earlier MP from 1970-1977, from the Vaddukoddai constituency, who defeated Amirthalingham of the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi’s Thalapathi (Commandant) in that election held in 1970. While he was an MP he supported the 1972 constitution and voted in favor of it.
The Tamil militants threatened all those Tamil candidates who came forward to contest on the UNP tickets, for several personal considerations and publicly called on them to give up their contest on behalf of the UNP. On May 24, 1981, two unidentified assailants went on bicycles and fired at A Thiagarajah as he was about to get into his motor jeep. He subsequently died in the hospital of cardiac arrest. Thus a painful page in the struggle for the Tamil Eelam ended.
On May 30, 1981 a high powered government delegation along with the two notorious ministers, the secretary and additional secretary of the ministry of defense and the secretary to the cabinet were in Jaffna, to take any “on the spot decisions” to subdue the TULF, the Tamil militants and the ordinary Tamil voters, through their campaign of terror and intimidation.
The government dispatched a large contingent of about 500 policemen to Jaffna city for special election duties, while there was already a large contingent of police available in the city. The real purpose only emerged later.
Jaffna city became tense when at a TULF election meeting on May 31, presided over by Rajah Viswanathan, the Mayor of Jaffna, was disturbed by gun shots. As the meeting was in progress, some Tamil militants shot the three police constables on duty. Two of them died instantaneously, the third one sustained serious gun-shot injuries. But no one ever claimed responsibility for the shooting that took place in a climate of provocation and intimidation, whipped up by intimidation by the UNP gang sent to Jaffna for the election. It was alleged that the gunman, were most probably from the Peoples’ Liberation Organization for the Tamil Eelam (PLOTE). These shootings triggered a wave of police brutalities.
Half an hour after the shooting, a posse of policemen, who came to the site of the killing, went wild after retrieving the dead bodies of the police constables. They began torching the Temple, adjoining houses, and passing motor vehicles. They drove to the Jaffna Bazaar and set fire to rows of shops. Several commercial establishments and a section of the Jaffna Modern Market building in the heart of the city was burnt down by the police.
At midnight, a group policeman went and surrounded the house of V Yogeswaran, TULF MP for Jaffna, which was located on First Cross Street, and set it on fire. Yogeswaran and his wife, who were in the house at the time, managed to flee for safety.
The government armed security personnel and the police continued their attacks. It was widely rumored that these attacks were personally directed by the two senior ministers of the Jayewardene’s cabinet – Cyril Mathew and Gamini Disanayake.
On the same night, the Jaffna Public Library, which had a collection of over 97,000 valuable books, including old manuscripts and documents, depicting the heritage and the history of the Tamils, was burnt to ashes.
Earlier in 1619, when the Portuguese captured the Tamil Kingdom, the Commander of the Portuguese Army, Filipe De Olivera burnt down the Saraswathy Mahal – the oldest library of the Tamils, that had precious and valuable historical documents regarding the origin of the Tamils and the Dravidian ancestry. Once this was burnt down, he razed over 500 Hindu Temples in the region, leaving the Tamils without any authentic documents of their antiquity. It was the biggest cultural genocide ever undertaken by any Western colonial forces against any country in the Asian continent.
The Sri Lankan government ministers were similarly evil-minded by erasing the collection of books in the library. This was done with the evil design to decimate the Tamils of their historical past and their national identity.
Jaffna has been an important Tamil cultural centre for centuries. Nothing, however, can be done about the thousands and thousand of priceless Tamil books, manuscripts and ola (dried palm leaf documents written by stylus) that went up in flames in 1981. The destroyed articles included memoirs and works of writers and dramatists, who made a significant contribution toward the sustenance of the Tamil culture and those of locally reputed medical physicians and politicians.
The Tamil community saw this mass-scale destruction as a direct blow to Tamil culture and to their intellectual development, which was the one mode of progress for the Tamil people considering the lack of physical resources. Among the destroyed books were rare documents and scrolls of historical value. Some books such as Yalpana Vaipavamalai’s “The history of Jaffna” were literally irreplaceable, as the library contained the only existing copy. Also, destroyed were the works and manuscripts of the universally acclaimed philosopher, artist and author, Ananda Kumaraswamy and prominent intellectual Professor Issac Thambaiya.
The library, which was inaugurated in 1841, had grown over the years, moved into a permanent building in 1934 and in 1950 it was moved into a more spacious building. It moved again into a spacious permanent two story building, constructed on South Indian architectural lines in 1966. The Jaffna Library had one of the finest collections in South Asia and was known throughout the world. It was popular among intellectuals, teachers and students, both Sinhalese and Tamil, and was used extensively by ordinary people. Its destruction was an outrage aimed against the cultural heritage of the country’s Tamil nationals and deliberately calculated to inflame communal sentiment.
A group of racist thugs, instigated by the United National Party (UNP) government, carried out the arson. Eyewitnesses at the time reported that, uniformed police accompanied by the gang brought from the south of the island were responsible for the arson. They arrived by truck in the dead of the night of May 31, 1981, and set fire to the library buildings.
The fire provoked widespread anger in Jaffna, setting off three days of mayhem. Four Tamils were taken from their homes by police and killed. Sinhalese thugs also set fire to the head office of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) in Jaffna and then looted about 100 Tamil-owned houses and shops, before setting them ablaze as well.
On the same night, the police surrounded the office of the local Tamil Daily newspaper ‘Eelanadu’ and ordered the staff to go outside the office. By that time the editorial staff were busy with their last minute report of the police atrocities of that day. Goplaratnam, the Editor of Eelanadu had just finished his editorial on the day’s destruction and sent it for composing. But the police party, after chasing all the staff from the building, set fire to the printing press and the office building of the newspaper.
Thugs also demolished a number of statues of Tamil cultural and religious figures, erected at the main road junctions in the town. The majority of these statutes were erected by Alfred Duriayappa, the former Mayor of Jaffna. It was rumored that on the direction of the government “high-ups” the security personnel drove around the city and attacked numerous residents in the middle of the night. The city residents on the following day, reported of hearing repeated burst of sporadic gunfire and screaming of civilians from different areas in the city. Later, when the hospital reports become available, it became clear that four innocent civilians were shot dead and several others sustained serious gunshot injuries.
The violence in the Jaffna city continued from June 1-3, but gradually it spread to other parts of the district. Shops, houses, and a section of the famous and second-largest week-day market in Chunnakam, were burnt down.
A curfew was announced on June 3 in Jaffna. At about 3am on June 4, about 100 policemen went to Amirthalingham’s home at Pannakam and woke him up from his bed to inform him that they had orders from the Competent Authority to arrest him. He was taken to the army camp at Gurunagar, where he was told that he has been arrested for disrupting the democratic process connected with the District Development Council Elections.
The decision to arrest him was taken jointly by both Cyril Mathew and Gamini Dissanayake to help the UNP candidates in the election. They instructed Brigadier Weeratunge to order the arrest. But in the morning, JR Jayewardene telephoned Amirthalingham and told him that the arrest had been a mistake and as President, he had ordered his release.
Throughout the lead-up to the election, the government maintained a media blackout on the crimes being perpetrated in Jaffna by its thugs. On June 3, the presidential office issued a statement insisting that even though Jaffna was under the emergency rule, the election would go ahead. In an effort to make the Tamil nationals the scapegoat for its own thuggery, Prime Minister R Premadasa announced in parliament that a commission would be appointed to probe the deaths of the policemen and a UNP candidate. But there was no reference or mention about any official inquiry into the destruction of the Jaffna Public library.
The campaign of harassment and thuggery that followed was aimed at intimidating voters and providing a cover for the systematic stuffing of the ballot box to ensure the election victory of at least some UNP candidates. On election day, police detained three more leaders: VN Navaratnam, MP for Chavakachcheri; V Dharmalingham, MP for Manipay; and M Sivasithambaram, president of the TULF and MP for Nallur.
Meanwhile 150 Tamil officials retained by the Commissioner of Elections as presiding and counting officers to the District Development Council election in Jaffna were at the last minute replaced by Sinhalese loyalists hand-picked by the UNP high command and sent to Jaffna. The government made all the necessary arrangements to subvert the election in the very year it was celebrating the 50 years of the Universal Suffrage in Sri Lanka.
Despite the intimidation, government-sponsored state violence and ballot rigging, the TULF candidates managed to win the District Development Council election in Jaffna. TULF obtained 263,369 votes against 23,302 votes UNP polled and 21,682 votes were received by the Tamil Congress led by Kumar Ponnampalam. TULF captured all the ten seats in the Jaffna District Development Council’s election.
Former Senator Subramaiyam Nadarasa (popularly called Poddar Nadarasa due to the black spot mark in his forehead) was elected Chairman of the Council. Subsequently, the venue of the interaction changed to Colombo. The National State Assembly saw acrimonious scenes of government and TULF members trading allegations and counter allegations against each other. TULF won in all the six District Development Councils elections held in the North and Eastern provinces.
When the parliamentary session commenced on June 9, V Yogeswaran, the MP for Jaffna, recounted his miraculous escape, after his house was set on fire on the night of May 31. He told the House that, he has lost all his possession in the fire and that there was nothing left for him in his fire-scorched house. He said: “You have let loose – the government has let loose – on unarmed civilians, violence unparalleled in any civilized country, during peace time.”
In an exchange that followed, Cyril Mathew accused Yogeswaran of holding a meeting with the terrorists in his house, at the time the police attacked his house, but Yogeswaran denied the allegation. Then, V Dharmalingham, MP for Manipay said: “It was on the information given by Minister Mathew that his [Yogeswaran’s] house was burned. He seemed to have given such information to the police and the police burned down the house.”
Later, when the TULF gave notice of a no-confidence vote against the government, the government astonishingly introduced a vote of no-confidence motion against leader of the opposition, A Amirthalingham – an unprecedented move. Government MPs alleged that the leader of the opposition and the Secretary General of the Tamil United Liberation Front had slandered Sri Lanka abroad. The motion was signed by 36 UNP MPs.
On July 23, 1981, the no confidence motion against Amirthalingham was debated, when Dr Neville Fenanando, MP for Panadura, moved it in the floor of the House. When Amirthalingham tried to make personal explanation, he was greeted with boos and interruption by the government members. Fernando objected to Amirthalingham making personal explanation on the ground that, he could do so only with the indulgence of the House.
The House speaker, MA Bakeer Markar, refused to allowed Amirthalingham to give a personal explanation. Bakeer Markar was elected MP for Beruwala on September 21, 1978, after Dr Anandatissa de Alwis resigned the position on September 13, 1978, to take up the appointment as Minister of State, on September 14, 1978.
Subsequently, TULF MPs walked out of parliament as a show of protest. Amirthalingham was called a liar, a traitor and the supporter of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Maitripala Senanayake, the Deputy leader of the SLFP urged the speaker to rule the motion out of order. He submitted a point of order that the vote of no confidence on the leader of the opposition did not fall within the powers of parliament. He said that the leader of the opposition held his office according to parliamentary convention and he enjoyed the confidence of the members of the opposition. He said that since the motion could not bring any result, the speaker ought to overrule the continuance of the debate.
The speaker declined and said that the objection was raised too late and he could not do anything at that particular moment, other than allowing the debate to continue. The lone member of the Communist Party, Sarath Muttettuwegama, asked the speaker whether he was running parliament, or the government members. Amidst loud uproar from the government benches, members of the SLFP and the lone CP member, walked out of parliament.
When the entire oppositions walked out of the floor of the House, the government MPs had a field day. The government MPs charged that Amirthalingham spoke of Ahimsa and Gandhian philosophy in parliament, but showed a different face in the North and East and abroad. They alleged that he was instigating the youths in the North and East and slinging mud on the government and the Sinhala people while abroad. The government MPs said that he should be hanged publicly in the Galle Face Green, opposite to the parliament building, for his treasonable acts.
The leader of the CWC and a minister in the government, S Thondaman, opposed the motion and spoke against it. The debate continued until July 24.
On July 24, Yasapala Herath, the MP for Anuradhapura East said in parliament that M Sivasithamparam, the president of the TULF and MP for Nallur, operated a bank account to the tune of Rs 400 million of the Tiger funds, sent from United Kingdom, the United States, Norway and Denmark.
DM Chandrapala, MP for Kundasale, asked the government MPs: “What should we do to this so called leader of the Tamils? If I were given the power, I would tie him to the nearest concrete post in this building and horsewhip Amirthalingham, till I rise him to his wits. Thereafter, let anybody do anything he likes – throw him to Beira lake or in the sea, because he will be so mutilated and I do not think there will be life left in him.”
GV Punchinilame, MP for Ratnapura said: “There was punishment during the time of the Sinhalese kings. Namely, two arecanut posts are erected. The two posts are then drawn towards each other with a rope. Then tie each of the feet of the offender to each post and then cut the rope, which will result in the tearing apart of the body. These people should also be punished in the same way. The people of this country want and government is prepared to inflict punishments on these people.”
The no confidence motion was passed on July 24, 1981, by 121 votes in favor with two abstentions – S Thondaman and Shelton Ranarajah, the Deputy Minister of Justice. Though the motion was passed with such overwhelming majority, they could not do any harm to the position of Amirthalingham, as leader of the opposition.
Then they sought to convert parliament into a court, to pass sentence on the leader of the opposition according to the constitution, which stated that the judicial power of the people may be exercised through parliament. Later, the idea was dropped, but it created severe repercussion in the country.
Meanwhile, Cyril Mathew ordered 20,000 extra copies of the Hansard report, which carried his speech made in the vote of no confidence against Amirthalingham, and sent them out to temples, police stations, army camps, government offices and public organizations, together with a map showing how many sacred Buddhist places would be lost, if the Tamils achieved liberation. Prior to the vote of no confidence, posters in Sinhala, like “Sinhala People! Rise up against the Dravidians!!” appeared all over the country. Mathew urged the Sinhalese to colonize in the Tamil areas to safeguard the Buddhist Temples and the faith of the majority ethnic people. The government members emitted venom and their speeches incited violence in the country. All those calculated manipulations of the government leaders subsequently had their desired effects, inflicting collective punishment upon the Tamils.
It was in this atmosphere that the UNP, with the backing of the Buddhist clergy, set several groups of Sinhala thugs and hoodlums to unleash violence in the country and to physically attack Tamils, and destroy their homes and shops, not only in the north and east of the island, but also in the plantation districts in the central hills. The burning of the Jaffna Public Library, marked a turning point in the process, that led to the eruption of war.
The boarder villages along the Batticaloa-Amparai districts sustained the heaviest toll in retaliation to the inflammatory speeches in parliament, by the racist members of parliament. Those emotional speeches and the media coverage of those speeches, was an ingenious design that sparked racial hatred in the country. Looting and arson were rampant all over the boarder villages. A few thousand displaced Tamils in the border villages took refuge in government schools and Hindu temples.
In early September, a tourist bus carrying South Indian passengers on a pilgrimage to the Lord Skanda’s Temple at Katargama, South of Colombo, broke-down near Tisamahrama. One Indian pilgrim named Danapathi, was attacked and sustained stabbing injuries to which he later succumbed. The deceased was an important political personality in the regional political party called Dravida Munnetra Kalagam (DMK). The Tamil Nadu State Government condemned the brutal attack on one of its political figures and called for a day work-stoppage – Hartal – in Madras, India. This incident helped, in a way, to internationalize the ethnic anti-Tamil program, designed and manipulated by the members of the government of Jayewardene.
News of deteriorating situation and the escalation of tension in the hill countryside, where the Tamils of Indian origin lived and worked in the plantation sectors, reached the outside world. In August 1981, organized Sinhalese mobs entered the estate line-rooms of the plantation workers and dragged them out. They were beaten and driven away from their houses. Over 25,000 Tamil plantation workers were rendered homeless.
During that time, the leader of the Ceylon Workers Congress, S Thondaman, a veteran Tamil leader, was also a senior member of the cabinet of ministers in Jayawardene’s government.
Thondaman and MS Sellasamy, the general secretary of the CWC, on August 17 met Jayewardene at his private residence, Ward Place in Colombo, and told him bluntly that the attacks on Tamil plantation workers should be brought to an end forthwith, or else the Tamils in the plantation areas, who had lost their patience, were ready and capable, themselves of putting an end to this terror, and to the despicable thuggery unleashed by the Sinhalese hoodlums. Deputy Defence Minister TB Weerapitya, Defence Secretary Colonel CP Dharmapala, Coordinating Secretary General Sepala Attyagalle and Inspector General of Police Anna Senivaratne were all there when the CWC leaders made the representation to the president.
Thondaman was agitated when he spoke of the attacks and wanton destruction. Thondaman told the president, “Sir, mobs are attacking the Tamils in the up-country. The situation should be brought under control without any further delay. Already many valuable lives have been lost and millions of rupees worth of property lost.” He added bluntly to the president: “Things have been worsened since then. Mobs are going around attacking people. Plantation workers are being singled out and killed. We have evidence that rowdies and thugs are covertly enjoying the patronage of powerful personalities in the government.”
Thondaman was always a person with friendly tendencies, but he lost his composure and humility when he met the president. He said nonchalantly: “The time has now come, the people have exhausted their patience, we want an end to this reign of terror by the thugs. If you cannot put an end to this mob rule, say so. Then the people themselves will take necessary precautionary actions for the safety and security of both persons and properties.”
Jayewardene, caught up in his own vortex of manipulation, took personal control of the situation in the hill country region to put an end to the violence and disorder.
Later, on the invitation of Thondaman, Jayewardene toured Ratnapura and Balangoda districts, some of the worst affected areas in the plantation region. He addressed a meeting of the Tamil refugees. He expressed distress at the damages caused by the Sinhalese rioters. He said that he was ashamed of those Sinhalese-Buddhist elements who were involved in such beastly acts. He publicly chided them: “They are animals. They have behaved worst than animals. They have caused sufferings to hundreds of innocent people.”
Jayewardene, a seasoned political campaigner, had already admitted in one his interviews with News International in November 1981, when he spoke about his innate penchant qualities as follows: “I know that they say that I am a strategist and a schemer, but you cannot be a leader unless you scheme … not in politics or in war or in any human affair. Even a boxer has to scheme, and I was a boxer when I was young, you pretend to hit the face but you hit the stomach. Oh yes, you have to scheme.”
Therefore, those words in the midst of the displaced Tamil plantation workers might also be taken as the words of a schemer, and those of one who hits not in the stomachs but below the belt.
The Sri Lanka racial riot had unremitting repercussions in India. On August 19, 1981, in response to a “Calling Attention Motion” in Lok Sabah, PV Narisima Rao, the Minister of External Affairs, briefly described to the Members of the Lok Sabah, the origin of the incidents in Sri Lanka and said that it was a communal violence connected with the District Development Councils elections, held in June 1981, and that it had subsequently spread to Colombo and to the estate areas of central Sri Lanka.
“The main victims are the Tamils, the majority of whom are workers in the estates. There have been a number of deaths and numerous incidents of arson, looting and violence. Several thousands estate workers have been forced to abandoned their homes,” said Narisima Rao, India’s minister of external affairs.
The minister told the Indian parliament that, the Sri Lankan government had declared an emergency and was trying its best to bring the situation under control. He added: “as the situation in the country is not stable, and as confusion prevails, we have not yet been able to obtain detailed information as to how many Indian nationals have been affected.”
Rao, while explaining the Indian Government’s views on these events said: “These events are essentially an internal affair of Sri Lanka. Nevertheless, I am sure, the members of the House do share the concern of the government of India, over these developments, since they affect the large number of persons of Indian origin, and possibly some Indian citizens. It is therefore our hope that the government of Sri Lanka will succeed in its efforts to put an end to the present violence and to restore confidence, so that the present difficulties would soon be resolved and no shadows are cast on the traditional close relations which exist between India and Sri Lanka.”
These events again came up on September 11, 1981, in Rajya Sabah (Indian Upper House), in connection with the murder of the Indian pilgrim in south Sri Lanka. Rao told Rajya Sabah that the Sri Lankan president and the foreign minister had expressed their condolences and that arrangements were being made to fly the body back to Tamil Nadu. Commenting on the situation in Sri Lanka, Narasima Rao said: “While the recent developments are essentially an internal matter for Sri Lanka, we have been in touch with the government of Sri Lanka and expressed our concern about the recent developments. The government of Sri Lanka has kept us informed of the turn of events and steps taken by them, stating that they view these events with the utmost seriousness and are determined to restore normalcy.”
The same subject was taken up in the Indian parliament for the third time on December 18, 1981, again in the Rajya Sabah. The Indian minister of external affairs informed the House that, the August violence had affected several thousand persons of Indian origin. The police had reported seven deaths by violence, 196 incidents of arson, 35 incidents of looting, 15 incidents of robbery and seven incidents of injury. Explaining the attitude of the Indian government, Narasima Rao said: “The government of India has been in close touch with the government of Sri Lanka and have expressed our concern to them. It is understood that steps taken by the government of Sri Lanka to maintain law and order have yielded positive results. The government of Sri Lanka have also set up machinery for the rehabilitation of those affected by the recent disturbances.”
As far as India was concerned, the dividing line between internal affairs and the legitimate external concern of India was getting thinner and thinner.
Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip of Great Britain arrived in Sri Lanka for a one-week official visit, touring the country to participate as chief guests in the celebrations to commemorate the fifty years of universal franchise in Sri Lanka on October 21, 1981. After the main celebrations were over, the Royal visitors toured the Mahaveli scheme, the ruined cities in the North Central province and the construction site of the Victoria dam, which was being constructed by the British consortium of engineering firms.
Some strange developments that have impacted upon the political make-up of this country up to now took place and need to be mentioned. Eighteen applications were received in response to a notice under Section 7 of parliamentary Elections Act published on January 20, 1982. Of these, three applications were accepted by the commissioner of elections for recognition. The recognized political parties and the symbol allotted to them were as follows:
1. People’ Liberation Front – Janata Vimukthi Perumuna (JVP) – Bell.
2. Nava Sama Samaja Party (NSSP) – Umbrella.
3. Democratic Workers Congress (DWC – Political Wing) – Ladder.
Through this registration the JVP, led by Rohana Wijeweera, opted to participate in the mainstream of democratic politics and shed terror and violence.
On February 2, 1982, the Sri Lankan government accorded a red carpet welcome to the visiting Indian president Neelan Sanjiv Reddy. On March 2, Srimavo Bandaranaike made a pilgrimage to India and met the Indian premier Indra Gandhi. But nothing tangible was reported, when Srimavo Bandaranaike emerged after the meeting with Indra Gandhi. On March 11, 1982, The Prevention of Terrorism Special Provision Amendment Bill, making it a permanent feature of the legislation, was passed in parliament, with 127 voting for and 12 against
Meanwhile, as stated in earlier paragraphs, serious differences of opinion developed among the leaders of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and that of Uma Maheswaran. This led to a serious cleavage and the formation of another militant organization, namely the Peoples’ Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) under the leadership of Uma Maheswaran, the erstwhile leader of the LTTE. Even though the parting of ways of the LTTE leader and the military commander Velupillai Prabakaran had had it effects and serious repercussions, the Tiger supremo Velupillai Prabakaran managed to withstand blows and build up his militant organization, which in a short period of time grew from strength to strength, to withstand challenges forthcoming from the Sri Lankan Army and from the other militant organizations.
On January 2, 1982, a gunman believed to be Seelan of the LTTE, shot and killed Sivashanmugamoorthy (alias Sundaram) at the Chitra Press, located on the Hospital Road, Jaffna. Sivashanmugamoorthy was editor of the Tamil magazine Puthiya Pathai (New Way) and Uma Maheswaran’s right hand man, as well as the deputy of the PLOTE. Puthiya Pathai was always highly critical of TULF and the Tigers, who claimed responsibility for the murder and dubbed Sivashanmugamoorthy a traitor.
Subsequently, Uma Maheswaran went to India by boat, accompanied by Somasundaram Jotheeswaran (alias Kannan) and Thurairajah Sivaneswaran (alias Kaka). On 19 May, when Uma Maheswaran and Kannan were about to get on their motorcycle outside a restaurant at Pondy Bazaar in Madras, they saw Prabakaran and Raghavan. A few weeks earlier, according to reports, Prabakaran attempted to shoot Uma Maheswaran, when he came out of a cinema theatre, located on the Mount Road, Chennai.
Once he sighted Prabakaran, Uma Maheswaran was not prepared to take any chances. He pulled out his revolver, simultaneously Prabakaran too pulled his weapon, and both started firing at each other. Prabakaran, who was famous for his handling of weapons, fired at least six shots, but Uma Maheswaran managed to evade them and escape unhurt. But Kannan, however, was hit and was bleeding profusely when arrested by the Indian police.
After the shooting, Prabakaran and Raghavan tried to flee, but both ran into the crowd and were caught by the policemen, who rushed to the scene. Uma Maheswaran managed to escape that day, but was tracked down six days later near a railway station and was overpowered. In the melee he had fired at a policeman who was pinning him down.
Prabakaran, according to the government of Sri Lanka, was a fugitive, wanted for 18 murders and two bank robberies back in Sri Lanka. Similarly, Uma Maheswaran was another fugitive, wanted in connection with nine murders and a bank robbery. The Sri Lankan deputy minister of defence TB Weerapitya announced one million Sri Lankan rupees as reward to the Tamil Nadu police for making the arrests. The Sri Lankan government dispatched Rudra Rajasingham, the inspector general of police, to Madras, Tamil Nadu, to negotiate with the authorities for the deportation of the two arrested most-wanted fugitives.
In connection with the arrest of Prabakaran, Baby Subramaniam contacted P Nedumaran, who had split from the Indian National Congress and formed his own political party – the Tamil Nadu Kamraj Congress (TNKC). Nedumaran, a courageous fighter for the Tamil cause, positively responded to the request of Baby Subramaniam. He organized an all-party meeting on June 1. He urged the Tamil Nadu government and the central government in New Delhi not to deport Uma Maheswaran and Prabakaran to Sri Lanka.
The Tamil militants won influential support in India. Through Nedumaran and other contacts and connections, they established relationships with leading politicians and gained the sympathy of MG Ramachandran, the matinee idol and the chief minister of Tamil Nadu and M Karunanidhi, the leader of the opposition and the leader of the Dravida Munnetra Kalagam. These two politician brought to the attention of Indra Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, in two separate interviews, the perilous situation of the Tamils in Sri Lanka and urged her not to deport the arrested Tamil militants. She subsequently rejected Jayewardene’s demand for the extradition of the wanted militants.
In Jaffna, the news of the arrests was received with anxiety and shock. SC Chandrahassan, lawyer and the son of late SJV Chelvanayakam, rushed to Madras on the personal request of T Velupillai, the father of Prabkaran. Meantime, Sri Lankan newspapers carried items about the visit of Rudra Rajasingham, the Sri Lankan Inspector General of Police, a Tamil, and the details of his effort to arrange the deportations of the fugitives to Sri Lanka.
On August 6, the Madras Court released both the accused on conditional bail and ordered them to stay in different cities in Tamil Nadu. Accordingly Prabakaran was assigned Madura and Uma Maheswaran Madras. Prabakaran stayed with P Nedumaran and Uma Maheswaran with Perum Chitranar in Madras.
The Sri Lankan Inspector General of Police flew back to Colombo empty handed. On June 25, 1982, Subramaniam Sivanayagam, the editor of the Saturday Review, in his editorial head-lined “Too Many Hosannas too soon”, wrote: “A Tiger’ in the hand is worth five in a foreign cage! That must have been the solemn thought in the mind of Sri Lanka’s first ever Tamil inspector general of police, Rudra Rajasingham, when he returned, virtually empty-handed from Madras, a few days ago. Just over two months in the IGP’s chair, the failure of Operation Recovery Tiger‘ was no discredit to him however. The dice were loaded too heavily against him and the Sri Lankan government from the beginning itself – a cold fact which should have been taken into account by the police and authorities in Colombo.”
“When the Daily News announced the capture of Prabakaran in Tamil Nadu, it quoted an un-named senior policeman as saying: “His arrest is a very significant break-through, the best we’ve had in years.” Mark the words: “the best we’ve had in years.” Who were the “we”? It was an unwarranted claim that displayed extreme naivety on the part of the senior policeman’ whoever he was.”
The report continued: “Here was a youth taken in by the police of another country, not because of any alleged terrorism or because he was a freedom fighter for Tamil Eelam, not because they wanted to do the work which the Sri Lankan Police should have done, but simply because he was guilty of a breach of peace on their own soil. The poor Pondy Bazaar Policemen, who arrested Prabakaran, did not even know who they were catching – whether it was a cat or a tiger – until the arrested man calmly announced his own identity. For a youth with Prabakaran’s tough reputation, to submit meekly to arrest and hand over his visiting card’ was an act that needs some pondering over. And if Uma Maheswaran, who according to the Sun report had two revolvers and a vial of cyanide poison, did not make use of any of the three, but used only his head and submitted to arrest, that needs thinking over too.
“All these apart, the authorities should have known how the dice were loaded against them in other respects as well. Firstly, the two countries are not bound by any extradition treaty. Secondly, political criminals are as a rule not extradited. Thirdly, the government of India is under no obligation to go Tiger-hunting unless the Tigers break the Indian law. Fourthly, a terrorist in one man’s political language may be a freedom fighter in other man’s language.
“Fifthly, as a well-known authority on international law put it: ‘So long as International law provides no remedy against abuses of governmental power, international society cannot be regarded as an institution for the mutual insurance of establish governments.’ In fact, abuse of governmental power is even worse than political crime by individuals. To quote the authority again, ‘It is doubtful whether states wedded by their law and tradition to the principle of non-extradition of political offenders will acquiesce in any conventional regulation impairing asylum hitherto granted to political offenders. Such acquiescence on their part is unlikely at a time when the suppression of individual freedom and the ruthless persecution of opponents in many countries tend to provoke violent reactions of a treasonable character against the governments concerned.’
“As the Dharmapada said: ‘Every action has a reaction” army and police terror, mob attacks, arbitrary arrests, inhuman acts, torture, sadism are not the kind of actions that will provoke no reactions. What does one expect victims of such actions to do? Go on picnics?”
The main militant leaders continued their stay in Madras and Madurai as instructed by the court in Madras. After seven months of stay in Madurai, Prabakaran decided to go back to Jaffna. He asked Nedumaran whether he could leave. Once Nedumaran consented, the LTTE leader disappeared. The police refused to believe that Prabakaran, who was under their surveillance, had escaped to Sri Lanka. They launched a customary search for him in Bangalore and Pondichery, but by then Prabakran was in Jaffna.
In the meantime, On January 12, 1982, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in its Tamil language broadcast, Thamil Osai (Tamil Voice), carried the news item and the implication of the Pongal Day Unilateral Declaration of Independence by the London based Tamil Coordinating Committee. Krishna Vaikunthavasan was the president and the convener of the London based Tamil Coordinating Committee. This organization resolved in August 1980, to make the Unilateral Declaration of Independence of Tamil Eelam and the formation of a government in exile, on January 14, 1982, on Pongal Day, which is the beginning of the Tamil solar new year. When the proposed day was nearing, the Tamil United Liberation Front dissociated itself with the proposed UDI for Tamil Eelam and with the formation of the Tamil Eelam Government in Exile.
The president of the Tamil United Liberation Front, M Sivasithamoaram and leader of the opposition Amirthalingahm in a joint statement, said: “No one can arrogate to himself the right to take any action fraught with serious consequences to the Tamil people in Ceylon.”
In a strongly worded statement dated November 26, 1981, made in connection with the Unilateral Declaration of Independence of Tamil Eelam, a move by the London based Tamil Coordinating Committee (TCC), following the decision of the Working Committee of the TULF to dissociate itself from the UDI move, further stated: “We are fully convinced that this is ill-advised and will not advance the Tamil cause one wee bit.
“We informed them that the fate of the Tamil nation had to be decided by the people themselves and that no one can arrogate to himself the right to take any action fraught with serious consequences to the Tamil people in Ceylon. Again, when this matter was raised at a conference of the Overseas Tamils in January 1981, at Medora, in India, we categorically rejected any such adventurist action and requested them to drop this move.
“When the Secretary General of the TULF met the members of the TCC in London in June 1981, they were informed that, the TULF dissociated itself from the proposed action on the principle that a decision to declare independence had to be taken by the people through their accredited representatives with a full realization of the consequences of such action and not by a group living thousands of miles away insulated from the effect their action and responsible to no one for what they did.
“If, in spite of those repeated warnings and advice, anyone takes it upon himself to indulge in an action, for which he has no authority from the people concerned, the TULF has to make public its dissociation from such declaration on behalf of the Tamil Nation, who gave the TULF their mandate to win their freedom, which objective the TULF is pursuing with full sense of its responsibility.”
The Sun newspaper in its December 21, 1981 edition, in its editorial “Government in Exile” wrote: “The London Tamils are obviously out to create chaos in Lanka and the government is determined not to be caught napping. It is determined to crackdown on any form of violent activism that may be launched by Tigers in Sri Lanka, to coincide with this new London offensive.
“We commend the TULF for its forthright condemnation of both the London Tamils and the UDI. The TULF knows that this is a campaign planned to jeopardize the new and friendly dialogue now proceeding between itself and the ruling party.
“The government has decided to extend the state of emergency in the wake of the much publicized sinister plan of the Tamil Coordinating Committee in London, for the Unilateral Declaration of Independence of a state of Eelam on January 14. The ill conceived crusade for a separatist state is now old hat as far as Tamils of Lanka are concerned. It is only a few misguided groups living abroad and out of time with the aspirations of their people that still demand it.
“The futile exercise to establish a government in exile’ which these political opportunists styling themselves as Tamil Coordinating Committee are intent on, is a fleeting dream induced perhaps by the cold and hardships of the on-setting severe winter in that part of the world.”
A storm of controversy followed the proposed Declaration of the Tamil Eelam Independence on January 14, 1982.
Krishna Vaikunthavasan in his capacity as Convener of the Tamil Coordinating Committee, told the press that the TCC had decided not to indefinitely postpone the announcement of UDI as reported in some section of the press. He stressed that the only decision that was taken at the informal meeting of the TCC held on January 12, 1982, was not to take any action in regard to UDI in London, on January 14, 1982.
The “D-day” January 14, 1982 passed without incident. On the appointed day, the American Tamil delegation led by T Sri Kanthan and accompanied by R Shanmugalingham, Duraisamy Chanmugam and Thilaiampalam Srikanthan, the so called delegation from “Independent Tamil Eelam – 1982” visited the office of the United Nations on January 14, 1982 and presented the “Declaration of Independence for Thamil Eelam.”
This news item appeared in the Tamil Times in February 1982. The news was very misleading, as the TCC had decided to postpone the UDI in their informal meeting held on January 10, 1982, and so it is not clear why the American Tamil delegation went ahead with the presentation of the Independent Tamil Eelam Declaration.
The convener of the TCC said that the date of the declaration had been postponed until 4 July 1983. He circulated a working paper called “Interim Provisional Government of Tamil Eelam” to be formed before 4th July 1983. The circulated working paper soliciting the views was dated September 24, 1982 and was signed by Krishna Vaikunthavasan, Convener Tamil Coordinating Committee and by MK Eelaventhan, Organizing Secretary, Thamil Eelam Liberation Front, located at Martin Road, Jaffna. The text of the working paper is given at the end of this chapter as foot note.
On July 5, 1982, a World Tamil Eelam Conference was held in the town of Nanuet, located in the suburban area of New York, in the United States. The Conference was attended by the representatives of the various Tamil militant groups, expatriate communities and the Tamil political leaderships. Over 200 participants came from various places, from Sri Lanka, India and countries in Europe.
The TULF Leader A Amirthalingham also participated in the conference, where he opposed the resolution calling for the setting up of the interim provisional government of Tamil Eelam.
He told his hostile audience, including Krishna Vaikunthavasan, that it was easy for people living abroad to recline in their easy-chairs and pontificate. He continued: “We realize the great responsibilities we face. We cannot be irresponsible in what we do. Please place yourself in our position before pelting stones on us. We are human, prone to errors. Even Mahatma Gandhi admitted that he did make mistakes. If at any stage, I feel that I have lost the confidence of the Tamils, I will step down and hand over the reins of the office to whosoever has the confidence of the Tamils.”
He went on explaining the practical difficulties in the establishment of the separate state of Tamil Eelam. “If we are reasonably sure – or at least 50 percent sure – that we can achieve our objective, we can certainly take the risk.”
He went on and said that he was responsible for the lives and the well-being of the Tamils living in Sri Lanka. He questioned what the good of liberation is if there are no people to enjoy that liberation. He went on to say that Bangladesh liberation, which was cited as example by many, had caused the death of three million people, the total number of Tamils living in Sri Lanka.
There was continuous interruption when Amirthalingham was speaking and there was cross talks between Amirthalingham and Krishna Vaikunthavasan. At one point, Krishna Vaikunthavasan told Amirthalingham to say such things to the face of JR Jayewardene, to go to hell.
Amirthalingham’s weakness was his temper. He retorted: “If I did, it is not Jayewardene who will go to hell. It will be the Tamil people who will end up there.”
Amirthalingham explained to the delegates the intention of the TULF. He explained why he was carrying on a dialogue with Jayewardene. He said it was not because of the love for him, but because of the love he had for the Tamil people. He said that he decided to cooperate so that he could run the District Development Councils, because such an institution provides the nucleus for autonomy. The conference resolved to set up a Tamil Eelam Liberation Council to lobby the international community to coordinate the activities of the groups committed to Eelam and to usher in the birth of the new nation.
Subsequently, Krishna Vaikunthavasan was in Madras in the first week of November 1982 as the guest of P Nedumaran, the leader of the Tamil Nadu Kamraj Congress.
On November 5, suddenly the Indian government, under Section 3 of the Foreigner Act 1946, ordered that Krishna Vaikunthavasan to leave India forthwith.
The Sun newspaper published from Colombo, in its issue dated November 11, 1982, under the headline “Minor demo at Madras Airport – India Deports Vaukunthavasan,” and reported as follows:
“Eelam activist Krishna Vaikunthavasan, a Lankan residing in London, was taken into custody by the Madras Police on Saturday and deported from India on the same day.
“The deportation came in the wake of a telex message to the Madras authorities from the Indian government, that the 61-year-old barrister be immediately sent out of the country, in the interest of the general public of India.
“Sun learns that the swift action by the Indian authorities had come following intelligence reports that Vaikunthavasan was hoping to announce the formation of an interim provisional government in Madras.
“This move by the Indian government have resulted in the cancellation of a meeting which had been organized by P Nedumaran, leader of the Kamaraj Congress Party later in the day.
“Vaikunthavasan who had torn up his Sri Lankan passport on arrest by the Madras Police, claiming that he did not belong to the country, was however provided with another emergency passport to enable him to enter England.
“Immediately prior to his departure, a few persons had staged a demonstration outside the Madras airport.
“Lanka’s deputy high commissioner in Madras, Newton Samarasinghe told Sun that on Saturday he had been informed that that the Lankan national Vaikunthavasam was to be deported. Later he had issued an emergency passport to the London based activist who had been deported on the same day.”
Indian Foreign Minister Narashima Rao at the time said: “India’s policy on the agitation in Sri Lanka for a separate Tamil state is well known. We have consistently maintained that this is an internal problem for Sri Lanka to resolve. My government scrupulously abides by this position. May I point out that we arrested the terrorists who were involved in a shoot-out in Madras last year and they are currently being tried under Indian Law. We also requested a prominent Tamil activist Vaikunthavasan to leave India when we learnt that he was trying to set up a self-styled government in exile.”
Meanwhile, the minister of justice with the view to safeguard and protect the police officers who were involved in the attacks of the Tamils in the 1977 racial riots, introduced a legislation in parliament that came into law on May 20, 1982 . This was an attempt to prevent private litigation against those responsible for the August-September 1977 racial violence in the country.
The Sansoni Commission appointed to investigate into the 1977 racial violence reported numerous incidents of attacks by the police on Tamils. Also, the commission heard evidence that the police were present on several occasions, where the mob attacked innocent Tamils, and that those police officers took no action to prevent the violence. The Sansoni Commission presented this evidences to the government, who failed to take any action against these police officers.
The government in the meantime promoted several officers against whom clear cases of misdemeanor were established by the Sansoni commission. The government approach was considered startling and revealing. Therefore the government adopted the Indemnity Act of 1982.
This blanket indemnity gave immunity to all those ministers, government officers, police, armed personnel and others, who acted under illegal authority during the disturbances.
The legislation revealed clearly the government’s hand in the anti-Tamil programs. This was a calculated attempt by the government to safeguard the wrongdoers with impunity.
Interim Provisional Government to Thamil Eelam – Working Paper
(To be formed before 4th July 83)
Provisional Governments have been formed from time to time in recent world history. The People of Thamil Eelam exercised their right to self-determination by the Resolution of the Tamil United Liberation Front in 1976. This Resolution was confirmed and ratified by the people as a whole at the General Election of 1977, which in face was a plebiscite. Thus juridically Thamil Eelam had come into existence. Since Thamil Eelam came into fruition it had existed only by the operation of a constitutional dictum and a legal fiction.
It is appropriate that this interim provisional government of Thamil Eelam be formed in Thamil Eelam itself. As has been declared in the TULF election manifesto in 1977, the Government will be a genuinely democratic, socialist and secular, sovereign.
Again as promised in the 1977 TULF election manifesto, a constituent assembly will be elected and convened. A Constitution will be drawn up and adopted.
Representatives from every sector in Tamil Society will be in the Interim Government such as the workers and peasants, the youth, the intelligentsia, etc.
The Thamil government naturally has to be formed in Thamil Eelam. If this is not possible in the immediate future, then the next place would be India (Madras) or Boston, or Paris. In his brave address to the Massachusetts State Assembly in May 1979, welcoming the State’s Declaration in favor of the EELAM Tamils, M Sivasithamparam, the TULF president acknowledged that the Massachusetts state was the first international recognition that our Thamil State had received.
The provisional government once established will seek recognition of the state of Thamil Eelam among the chancelleries of the world by sovereign states, which are specifically committed to recognize nascent states which have exercised their self-determination in accordance with the charter of the United Nations. To start with, Thamil Eelam has won recognition from the state government of Massachusetts. This is a pointer and an incentive to other constituent states or sovereign states or groups or organizations of states to emulate this beginning and do likewise. Thus it is clear that the law is on our side because of the right of self-determination. There can be no doubt about the historical basis of our sovereignty. If the Sri Lankan government disputes, then it is an issue to be resolved in the United Nations or at the International Court.
In a sense, Thamil sovereignty cannot be reclaimed because it has not been lost. Only possession and the right to administer have been lost temporarily and they can be restored in compliance with international law.
The program of the Secular Socialist State of Thamil Eelam:
- Dismantle the military occupation of Thamil Eelam and establish a non aligned state.
- Set up a people’s assembly freely and democratically elected and based on universal franchise.
- Granting of citizenship and voting rights to all Tamils.
- Build an independent self sufficient, self supporting planned national ceremony:A. Agriculture
De-colonize the traditional homeland of the Tamils of Sinhala occupation. Organize collective farms. Eradicate outmoded property relations and carry out an equitable distribution of land. Induce the peasants to adopt modern agricultural techniques. Provide the people with modern methods of livestock farming.B. Industry
Exploit natural resources, expand the production of salt and other minerals, develop the fishing industry, explore oil and other minerals. Develop heavy industry as well as light industry. Explore and promote the utilization of all forms of energy including solar energy.C. Finance
Nationalize all insurance companies and banks so as to centralize banking operations, regulate economic activities and accelerate economic development. Establish a Thamil Eelam Central Bank and issue an independent national currency. Formulate and implement an appropriate tariffs policy to secure the domestic market for the nation’s agricultural, industrial and handicraft products. Formulate and implement an equitable and national taxation policy to administer and defend the country, carry out production and social functions.
Construct essential land, air, and sea transportation and communications to develop the nation’s import export trade. Prohibit the export of essential commodities and limit the import of luxury goods. Establish trade relations with all countries.
Make unutilized land state property. Nationalize all excess houses. Compensate citizens for nationalized property. Build appropriate modern houses to alleviate the shortage of housing for the masses.
- Develop Culture, Education, Technology and Public Health:A. Culture
Revitalized the Tamil culture so that it may regain its ancient position and earn the respect of the world. Ensure that the Eelam people glorify and eternally cherish the memory of the martyrs of the struggle for our independence. Establish closer political, linguistic and cultural contact with our great neighbor India and specially with Tamil Nadu.B. Education and Technology
Provide for universal free compulsory education. Grant student scholarships to pursue studies in the various fields of education abroad. Integrate education with a practical bias to increase production.C. Public Health
Render medical services free to all citizens. Promote traditional medicine such as Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani.
- Safeguard Social Rights:A. Workers rights
Abolish reactionary labor laws and promulgate a labor code to protect the rights of workers on the basis of full trade union rights.B. Women’s rights
Promulgate progressive marriage and family laws. Abolish the dowry evil by laws as well as by other means.Signed: Krishna Vaikunthavasan and K Eelaventhan