by MK Eelaventhan, February 24, 2019
Mr. Chelliah Kodeeswaran is not an ordinary individual but a unique personality. He challenged the atrocious Sri Lankan government against the Sinhala Only Act. By his legal action he has become part and parcel of history.
Kodeeswaran passed away on February 15th 2019 at the age of 85 at his Colombo residence. Unfortunately for us he was ailing for sometime. His body was taken to Trincomalee, the capital city of Tamil Eelam and the last rights were performed there in the presence of a large gathering. Though he was born in Jaffna Meesalai his heart was inseparably interlinked with Trincomalee. The man who holds Trincomalee holds the key to the Indian Ocean; this was uttered by no or lesser person Lord Wellington, the one-time Prime Minster of Britain.
Mr Kodeeswaran served as a clerk at the Kegalle Kachcheri where he challenged the Sri Lankan government against the atrocious Sinhala Only Act. He fought as an individual but fortunately legal luminaries like M. Thiruselvan QC, Ranganathan QC and Navaratnarajah QC backed him. At the district court level the district judge Crester gave a favorable verdict on behalf of Kodeeswarn challenging the Sinhala Only Act. Higher courts upheld these verdicts as well. When the Sri Lankan government challenged the verdict Mr Kodeeswaran took the case to Privy Council- London. There too, the Privy Council gave a favorable verdict to Kodeeswaran. This case lasted for many years but the Sinhala-dominated government changed the Sri Lankan constitution to declare Sri Lanka a sovereign republic. The Sri Lankan government argued that the Privy Council could not sit in judgment on an independent sovereign government.
When Sri Lankan government was granted independence in 1948 it was based on Soulbury Constitution based on the unitary constitution. At that time Mr GG Ponnambalam, one time leader of the Tamils uttered prophetically the Soulbury Constitution has come to bury the soul of the Tamils. He was criticized as a prophet of gloom but his political foresight was proved right. But Soulbury Constitution provided a political safeguard by incorporating Section 29 as an entrenched clause that will permanently safeguard the Tamils the minority.
But, events proved this Section 29 was only a paper guarantee that did not provide any genuine safeguard for the Tamils. The Sinhala Lion flag holding the sword was imposed on us against our opposition. Tamils of Indian origin were deprived of their citizenship and voting rights and were made political orphans overnight as the first act of Parliament after independence, cutting Tamil representation virtually in half. The upcountry Tamil representation that counted 8 members was virtually nullified.
The weightage given to the minority Tamils was converted as a weightage for the majority Sinhalese. Sinhala majority and their representation were increased. Followed by this, there was a determined calculated move by the successive Sinhala governments to deprive us by state-sponsored Sinhala colonization.
The contiguity of the Tamil Territory was broken. Trincomalee, the CAPITAL city of the Tamils is being forcibly occupied by the Singhalese.
Tamils are now made as the microscopic minority and our voice is not being heard at all. Counting of heads is leading to the cracking of heads. The brutal Sinhala majority continues.
The Sinhala Only Act of 1956 has completely blasted our future in the Island. Our non-violence struggle resulted in the genocide of the Tamils.
This vicious Sinhala Only Act, Mr Kodeeswaran challenged. Though he lost the battle, for no fault of his, he has become part of history.
Mr Kodeeswaran has a political vision to foresee that only an independent state of Tamil Eelam can deliver the goods. At a particular stage, he aligned with V. Navaratnam the brain of the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi in championing the cause of Eelam though he was a disciple of S.J.V Chelvanayagam.
Mr Kodeeswaran who started his career as a clerk – an obedient government servant – rose to the level of becoming a leading civil lawyer dealing with leading human rights cases. In spite of his political ideology the legal profession respected him for his honesty, sagacity and political conviction.
If Mr Kodeeswaran with all of his qualifications has represented Trincomalee as an MP the story of the Tamils would have been totally different. Unfortunately, for us the fate intervened and stood in the way of us having the right leadership.
In conclusion it can be said, as one of the pioneers in the Eelam freedom struggle- a beloved son of Trincomalee -the capital city of Tamil Eelam (The dream of the writer).
The Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam salutes him for all what he did, for the liberation of Eelam.
Former Member of Parliament- Si Lanka
Member of Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam Representing Canada
Comment by V. Thangavelu:
Eelaventhan is rewriting history or his memory is failing him. The statement “He fought as an individual but fortunately legal luminaries like M. Thiruselvan QC, Ranganathan QC and Navaratnarajah QC backed him” is false. It is true that Kodeeswaran was the petitioner in the case, but the legal challenge against Sinhala Only Act was mounted by the Arasanka Eluthuvignaiyar Sangam (AES). To the credit of Kodeeswaran it should be mentioned that when some members who came forward to file the case, backed out at the last minute. It was then that we approached Kodeeswaran who was working at the Kegalla Kachcheri. Without a word he came to Colombo and signed the legal documents necessary to file the petition. The District Court judge name is not Crester, his name is O.L. de Kretzer who belonged to the Burgher Community. That probably is one reason why he gave a verdict in favour of Kodeeswaran and declaring the Sinhala Only Act infringed Section 29(2) of the constitution.
At that time R. Balasubramaniam was the General Secretary of AES and it is he who toiled hard to do all the groundwork in connection with the case. Mention should be made of the fact that all the lawyers who appeared for Kodeeswaran did so pro-bono. After the trial commenced M.Tiruchelvam, QC fell ill and C. Renganathan QC filled his place.
The truth is GGP had no political foresight at all. After his 50:50 demand was rejected by the Soulbury Commission he never suggested any alternative like 60:40 representation in Parliament. The 50:50 demand which turned the Sinhalese (68%) on par with other minorities was doomed to fail ab-initio because of the undemocratic nature of the demand. Of course GGP went to London to plead for the rejection of the Soulbury Constitution, but while he was in London DS Senanayake tricked the Tamil legislators to vote in support of the Soulbury Constitution with a tongue in cheek statement in the State Council “D.S.Senanayake, the first Prime Minister of independent Ceylon, gave the following solemn promise to the Thamil and other minority communities “no harm need you (non-Sinhalese) fear at our hands (Sinhalese) in a free Lanka.” He was speaking in the State Council in October 1945 when all the Thamil members had unanimously voted for the acceptance of the Soulbury constitution in a White Paper.
“Do you want to be governed from London or do you want, as Ceylon, to help govern Ceylon? On behalf of the (Ceylon National) Congress (founded by Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam in 1919) and on my behalf, I give the minority communities the sincere assurance that no harm need you fear at our hands in a free Lanka.”
But DS Senanayake took the Tamils for a ride and he never meant to keep his word. In 1948, the very year of Independence, D.S.Senanayake blatantly went back on the promise and bared his true colours as an unrepentant champion of Sinhala chauvinism. He deprived 800,000 thousand Tamils of their citizenship by giving false promises that no harm will befall the minority communities at the hands of the majority Sinhalese. But 800,000 Tamils of Indian origin in the very same year of independence!
Later in 1949 the Ceylon Parliament passed the Ceylon (Parliamentary Elections) Amendment Act No.48 of 1949 which stripped the Indian Tamils of their franchise. Seven of the 95 MPs elected at the 1947 general elections were Indian Tamils Indian Tamils influenced the result in 20 other constituencies.
Ceylon Citizenship bill was passed on August 20, 1948, it was signed into law on November 15 of the same year, but GGP joined the cabinet and took oaths as Minister of Industries, Industrial research and Fisheries on September 3, 1948 just two weeks of the passage of the Bill! That is to say negotiations with DS for a cabinet portfolio commenced weeks before August 20, 1948.