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Tamilnation > Tamilnation Library> Eelam Section > The Murder of a Moderate - Political Biography of Appapillai Amirthalingam - T.Sabaratnam
TAMIL NATION LIBRARY: Eelam
From the Preface
Appapillai Amirthalingam, former leader of the moderate political party Tamil United Liberation Front, was murdered, first politically and then physically. The political slaying was by the Sinhala leadership and the physical by Tamil militants.
Both murders had a common effect - the elimination of Tamil moderates as a political factor. The Sinhala leadership executed the political killing by denying to grant the just demands of the Tamil moderates. The Tamil militants effected the physical elimination because, they felt, Tamil moderates were hindering the attainment of the goal of Eelam, a separate Tamil state.
The political slaying was effected though a series of surrenders and appeasements by the Sinhala leadership to Sinhala chauvinism and by a sustained campaign of justification of these surrenders by the portrayal of Tamil moderates as extremists.
The main instances of surrenders were: refusal to give a reasonable place to the Tamil language when the Sinhala Only Act was enacted in 1956; the tearing of the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact in 1958; dumping of the Senanayake-Chelvanayakam Pact of 1965; abandoning the SLPF-FP Agreement of 1969; the enactments of the constitutions of 1972 and 1978 which refused to accommodate Tamil demands; failure to make the District Councils of 1982 to work; refusal to honour Annexure-C worked out in December 1983 with India's good offices; abandoning of the All Party Conference in December 1984; and the failure to devolve the agreed powers to the Provincial Councils under the Indo-Lanka Accord on 1987.
These surrenders and campaigns of justification gradually eroded the constituency of the Tamil moderates and helped the growth of Tamil militancy. The moderation was gradually rendered marginal; irrelevant.
I watched, from the ringside, this tragic story unfold. I joined Lake House in March 1957 and, since then, covered the Tamil beat, first for the Tamil daily Thinkaran and then for the English Daily News. I kept in close touch with all of the characters - Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim - who played central roles in this drama. I had frequent sessions with most of these leaders where we discussed developments. I preserved my notes of these meetings and clippings of the events I reported.
The story I relate in this book is a narration of events I am personally aware, most of which I reported and some told to me under a ban, which journalists call "off- the record".
I must thank Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam, a prominent TULF member, for prodding me to write this book, Mrs. B. Roy Choudhury for editing it and my wife Pathmavathy for all of the encouragement and assistance.
I decided to tell this story through Amirthalingam's life because his story is the story of the TULF and the story of the Sinhala-Tamil conflict. His is also the story of the stifling of Tamil moderates and the tale of concern Sri Lanka's two mail political parties showed in wooing Sinhala chauvinism at the expense of Tamil interests and aspirations. This concern, this rivalry, this short-sightedness caused the great hardship Sri Lanka is passing thorough.
A sense of realization seems to be dawning among the Sinhala leadership of the mistakes they made in using the Tamil problem for their politics. The new leadership, President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and UNP leader Ranil Wichermesinghe, have displayed courage in approaching the Tamil problem in a more enlightened manner. But they too are under pressure. Whether they can withstand it is to be seen.
These statements may irritate my Sinhala friends. I plead with them to read this story before they condemn me. If this story helps the Sinhala people to be more accommodative, more realistic, more reasonable, this book would have achieved its objective: that of bringing peace to our motherland.
1, May 1996
A Short SummaryThe Sinhala Tamil conflict is essentially a dispute over the sharing of power. The dispute had its origin in the 1920s when the British colonial rulers introduced the elected representation system. The original quarrel was over the Colombo South seat which the Tamils claimed and the Sinhalese refused. This ended the trust the Tamils had in the Sinhalese, and the stalwarts who promoted Sinhala Tamil co-operation returned to Jaffna, dejected, frustrated. The Pan Sinhala Ministry of 1936 farther Welled Tamil fears.
This frustration led to the rise of the next phase, the 'fifty fifty'', a call for an equal share between the majority Sinhalese and the minority communities, Tamils, Muslims and Burghers .
That, too, was rejected. Then arose the federal call, a scheme for an autonomous unit for the Tamils in a united Sri Lanka (then Ceylon). When the Federal Party was formed in 1948 by S.J.V.Chelvanayakam, who broke away from the All Ceylon Tamil Congress, which championed the "fifty fifty" cause, but joined the D.S.Senanayake cabinet, the effort to weaken the Tamils through discriminatory measures had already begun. They were:
After the formation of the Federal Party, more discriminatory acts were added. These were:
The SetupIt was 10 a.m. on 13 July 1989 when the phone rang in the top floor of 342/2 Baudhaloka Mawatha, Colombo. Yogeswaran was quick to lift the receiver. He had been awaiting the call and was relieved when Aloysius confirmed that Visu, alias Rasiah Aravindarajah, one time Vavuniya leader of the political wing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), would be attending the 6 p.m. meeting with Tamil United Front (TULF) leaders Sivasithamparam and Amirthalingam, the president and secretary general. Peter Aloysius Leon was Visu's assistant.
Yogeswaran and the two LTTE men had had held four meetings since February to find ways to forge unity among the different Tamil militant groups.
Yogeswaran and his wife Sarojini shared the upper flat with Sivasithamparam. A 6 member security squad, drawn from the National Auxiliar Force and the Mahaweli Security Service occupied a room overlooking the balcony. Amirthalingam, his wife Mangayakarasi, and his colleague and politburo member Somasundaram Senathirajah, also known as Mavai, occupied the ground floor.
At 4 p.m. Yogeswaran went down to inform Tambyrajah Kandasamy, head of security, about the visitors.
"Do not search for Weapons,' he told Kandasamy.
The latter protested, saying, "You cannot trust these fellows, Sir. "
"They're our guests " Yogeswaran reminded him. "They'll feel insulted if we search them and would stop coming."
His visitors were late it was 6.40 p.m. when a yellow cab halted outside the steel gates. Satiyamoorthy, the officer on guard duty, demanded identification.
"We are from the LTTE," was the reply and a national identity card handed over.
"They're from the LTTE," Satiyamoorthy announced after he had scrutinized the card.
Kandasamy peered down from the balcony and ordered, Send them up. '
Yogeswaran met Visu and Aloysius as they were coming up the steps. Sivakumar, alias Arivu, the third member of the group, remained at the foot of the stairs. Yogeswaran welcomed his visitors warmly, and placing his hand over Visu's shoulder, ushered them into his living room. He sent a note to Amirthalingam through Raju, his servant informing him of the arrival of the LTTE men.
Amirthalingam was dressed to attend a dinner engagement at the Hotel Taj Samudra being hosted by Indian High Commissioner. When he and Sivasithamparam, who was there, rose to leave, Mangayakarasi restrained him, saying "Ravi's call will come through any minute now. Wait for a few minutes." Ravi, a doctor, was their second son and lived in London.
"I'll be back soon," Amirthalingam replied. "In case his call comes before I return, call for me."
Visu and Aloysius stood up when Amirthalingam entered. He patted Visu on the back, smiled at Aloysius, and sat down in the vacant chair between them. Sivasithamparam joined them a little later.
Yogeswaran introduced the visitors. The LTTE men said they were pleased to meet the TULF leaders Amirthalingam told them of the admiration and respect he always had for heroism, dedication and discipline of the LTTE.
"But," he added, "I prefer they adhere to accepted democratic traditions."
"May be we are ... old fashioned," chipped in Sivasithamparam, "but the world is old fashioned and we have to carry the world with us."
Everyone laughed and seemed relaxed. Then the conversation turned to the problem of forging unity among Tamil groups. Amirthalingam explained that the lack of unity was hurting the Tamil cause, that internecine fighting was eroding world sympathy. Unity, he said, was essential to consolidate the gains the Tamils had won so far. Conflict among the Tamil groups was giving the government an opportunity to delay the devolution process. He assured Visu that the LTTE would be accorded a pre-eminent position in any united arrangement and told him to convey his sentiments to the LTTE leadership and persuade them to come to an arrangement with other Tamil groups.
Visu responded favourably. He promised to place Amirthalingam's views before the LTTE leaders. The three TULF men felt encouraged.
Yogeswaran's wife Sarojini, came with refreshments. She had met both visitors during their earlier visits. When asked what they would prefer to drink, the LTTE men and Amirthalingam wanted tea, and Sivasithamparam and Yogeswaran, both heart patients, declined. Yogeswaran went into the kitchen to help his wife and then rejoined the group.
Visu and Aloysius finished their drinks and got up to place their tumblers on the table. Then, in a co-ordinated fashion, they pulled out their revolvers, spun around and fired at the three TULF men. Amirthalingam was hit on the head, Yogeswaran on his chest and stomach, and Sivasithamparam in his right shoulder.
The sound of gun shots shook the building. Kandasamy ran into the room and found Visu and Aloysius backing out, firing continuously. He took six shots at them with his .38 calibre service revolver. Nissanka, another guard who had been keeping a watch on the LTTE men, fired from the balcony. Both security men followed the fleeing assailants down the stairs, shooting as they went.
Nissanka ran out of ammunition and informed Kandasamy, who raced back to his room, clutched a repeater shot gun and several rounds of ammunition and joined the other guards. Both assailants had, by then, been shot. one fell by the side of the door and the other by the staircase. Sivakumar, the third, was pinned down by Satiyamoorthy but managed to wriggle out. He was shot down as he fled towards the gate.
Kandasamy ran back to the living room. He found Amirthalingam fallen across the cane chair in which he had been seated. He was at the edge of the chair, as though he had made an attempt to get up, but had failed. Yogeswaran was on the floor, bleeding from his chest. Sivasithamparam was leaning against the wall, blood gushing from his shoulder.
Kandasamy shouted to Nissanka, "Jump over the wall into the next compound and run to the Borella police." He next told Sarojini to ring the police.
She had been pouring out tea when she heard the gun shots and had run into the living room to find her husband on the floor, bleeding profusely from his chest. She lifted his head and cried, "What happened?"
"He tried to say something," she later said, "but words did not come out of his mouth."
She also saw Amirthalingam slumped across the chair and Sivasithamparam leaning against the wall. There was blood all around.
She phoned the police but was unable to reach the ambulance service number as the line was engaged.
Mangayakarasi and Mavai had also heard the shots And had rushed towards the front entrance. Mavai saw the gun battle between the assailants and the security men, turned and ran up by the rear staircase. He found three of his colleagues wounded and bleeding. He rang the police but, like Sarojini, failed to get through to the ambulance service.
Satiyamoorthy signalled a shell shocked Mangayakarasi to get inside. She retreated and went up the rear stairs. She found Sivasithamparam leaning against the wall, bleeding, her husband in the chair, his head tilted backwards. She lifted his head to place a pillow and found blood dribbling from his mouth.
"It was then that I saw the three holes in his head oozing blood," she told the magistrate later.
She looked up at Sivasithamparam. His look told her everything. She held her husband's head till the police arrived.
The police arrived within ten minutes of the incident. Some ran up the stairs to the living room while others cordoned off the building. They also put up road blocks and cordoned off the entire Borella area. Vehicles were also checked.
Colombo Judicial Medical Officer Dr. M.S.L.Salgado performed the autopsy on Amirthalingam and declared that death had resulted due to injuries to the head and chest. Deputy Medical Officer Dr.L.B.L.de Alwis conducted the autopsy on Yogeswaran and declared that his death was the result of five bullet injuries to the heart and liver.
The police took two pistols and a revolver from the dead assailants. They also raided a hideout at Narehenpita in Colombo and took vital documents into custody. They told the magistrate that as per the information they had been able to gather, the assassins had taken an early meal and had planned to leave Colombo for an unknown destination soon after the shooting.
Amirthalingam's killing emitted shock waves around Colombo and the country that night. The Indian High Commissioner Lekhan Lal Mehrotra was awaiting Amirthalingam's arrival at Hotel Taj Samudra where he was hosting a dinner in honour of B.G.Deshmukh, special envoy of Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who had flown into Colombo for talks with President Premadasa about the withdrawal of the Indian Peacekeeping Force (IPKF) stationed in Sri Lanka since August 1987.
Most of the invitees were seated when Finance Ministry Secretary B. Paskaralingam walked up to Mehrotra and whispered, "Amirthalingam has been shot."
Mehrotra was aghast. "When did it happen?"
"A few minutes ago."
"By whom?" asked Ranjan Wijeratne, Minister of State for Defence, who was seated next to Deshmukh.
"There's some confusion," Paskaralingam replied. "The police say the assassins have been shot. one of them resembles Yogi."
Wijeratne looked concerned and rose to phone Defence Secretary General Sepala Attygalle. He soon returned, visibly relieved, and announced, "No, it's not Yogi."
Wijeratne had reason to be concerned about Yogi who, along with LTTE theoretician Anton Balasingham, was engaged in talks with the government. They had been put up at the Galadari Meridian Hotel. Any involvement of Yogi in the shooting of the TULF leaders would have adversely affected the talks to which the government attached great importance
I received a phone call from the Sunday Observer editor Leslie Dehanayake around 8 p.m.
"Saba! Have you heard that Amirthalingam and Yogeswaran have been shot dead?"
The news was like a bolt from the blue. I was nonplussed and silent for a few moments. Then recovering, I asked, "When did it happen?"
"About half an hour ago." he replied, and added, "Siva, too, has been shot. His condition is serious and he has been rushed to the Accident Ward."
Dahanayake wanted me to follow the story. I dialled 697319. Someone lifted the receiver. When I mentioned my name, he sobbed.
The slaying produced an immediate reaction of revulsion and condemnation among Sri Lankan and Indian leaders Sri Lankan President Ranashighe Premadasa was the first to react. He announced the murder of the two politicians at a religious ceremony at Ampara, and called upon the gathering to observe a 2 minute silence. He also wished Sivasithamparam a speedy recovery.
He called the killings reprehensible and brutal. Later, while inaugurating the Presidential Mobile Service, he described Amirthalingam as a dedicated servant of the people who had tried to function within the framework of democracy.
"I take this opportunity to pay a special tribute to this great leader," he said. "Killing cannot solve problems, whether private or political. That is why we advocate non violence, to show the futility of violence and to direct our efforts at achieving peace in the country."
Opposition leader Sirimavo Bandaranaike called a meeting of the representatives of the United Socialist Alliance (USA), a grouping of three leftist parties, the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP) the Eelam Peoples' Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF), and her own party, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), at her office in the parliament building and got them to issue a joint statement of condemnation. She spoke highly of Amirthalingam. She said, "It's a pity that Amirthalingam had been killed at a time he had emerged a real national leader ... All these years he had been a fiery Tamil leader, concerned only about the rights of the Tamil people. Since February he had become a mellowed and mature Sri Lankan leader, with the interest of the nation as his prime concern. Since of late I had developed a very good working relationship with him."
The joint statement that she, Atauda Seneviratne of the USA, Dinesh Gunawardene of the MEP, and K. Yogasangari of the EPRLF, issued, read, "While unanimously condemning the cowardly and brutal attack by a group of assassins on Messrs Amirthalingam, Yogeswaran and Sivasithamparam on the night of July 13, the opposition views with profound shock and sorrow the untimely passing away of Messrs Amirthalingam and Yogeswaran following the murderous attack.
"We urge there be a full and impartial investigation into the circumstances of the attack and strongly deplore the attempt on the part of a section of the state controlled media to adversely affect the conduct of a proper investigation by making premature statements of a purely presumptive nature.
"It is noted particularly in recent years that the TULF leader had publicly opposed attempts by certain Tamil groups to espouse violence as a means of political and social change. He had spoken often of the imperative need for various communities who live in our multi ethnic, multi cultural nation to resolve their internal problems peacefully through mutual dialogue and live together as a united people.
"At this time of national crisis the death of a leader of his stature is a loss to the country."
The USA, which subscribed to the joint opposition statement, also issued a separate one. It said, "The attack is unmistakably an attack on the effort supported by the TULF towards achieving complete ethnic peace in Sri Lanka."
The three parties that constituted the USA also issued individual statements. The Communist Party statement said "The assassination of these TULF leaders is no doubt a blow aimed against the forces which stand for the peaceful solution to the ethnic issue within a united Sri Lanka."
The Lanka Sama Samaja Party statement said, "(The assassinations) are more to be deplored because the TULF has been in the recent months engaged in a strong effort directed towards the achievement of ethnic peace in Sri Lanka."
The Sri Lanka Mahajana Party statement said, "Mr. Amirthalingam, who was once a Leader of the Opposition in parliament, is a senior politician of our country who fought both inside and outside parliament for democracy and human rights."
The two organizations representing the people of Indian origin in Sri Lanka the Ceylon Workers Congress and the Democratic Workers Congress also condemned the killings. The CWC leader S. Thondaman, a cabinet minister since 1978, said in his statement, "Both of them had been gunned down mercilessly in cold blood by persons who had been received as guests for political discussions. Such assassinations and killings cannot solve the problems of the Tamils or the country."
DWC leader Abdul Aziz's statement said, "Whoever murdered Mr. Amirthalingam and Mr. Yogeswaran and injured Mr. Sivasithamparam of the TULF have committed a dastardly crime, not only against the Tamil community and their just cause, but have also dealt a blow to the spirit of moderation in our politics and in our country.
"Mr. Amirthalingam took up the cause of the just treatment of Tamils long years ago and suffered imprisonment. He also had the distinction of being the first minority person to be the leader of the opposition of the country.
"His commitment and his sense of sacrifice, in pursuance of his principles, was so devoted and great that he gave up not only the leadership of the opposition in parliament but also his own and his colleague's seat in parliament. He did this in order to keep erect his cause and his principles.
"His greatness lay in the fact that he conducted his struggle with non violence and preached the principles of peace and negotiation, rather than resorting to arms and weapons for securing his political objectives."
Even the smaller political parties issued statements condemning the killings.
"We condemn these monstrous crimes," said the statement of the Liberal Party, "against enlightened Sri Lankan politicians who fought for justice, freedom and dignity for the Tamil people at a time when genuine efforts are being made to bring about ethnic harmony, ... is a serious blow to all who are endeavouring to bring about peace."
The Eksath Lanka Janatha Pakshaya, in its statement, said, "The death of the two politicians was a loss to the Tamil speaking people at a time when genuine efforts are being made to bring about ethnic harmony. That was also a serious blow to all who were endeavouring to bring about peace."
North East Province Chief Minister Varatharaja Perumal, in his condolence message, said, "During the lifetime of Mr. S.J.V.Chelvanayakam, Mr. Amirthalingam was his chief lieutenant. Following Mr. Chelvanayakam's demise in 1988, Mr. Amirthalingam became the undisputed leader of the Tamil speaking people. He dominated the Tamil political scene till 1983. In fact he was the hero of the Tamil youth."
The Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization saluted the slain leaders for their selfless service to the Tamil people and prayed for the speedy recovery of Sivasithamparam.
Indian Minster of State for External Affairs Kanwar Natwar Singh issued a statement on behalf of the Indian government. "We condemn this dastardly act in the strongest possible terms," the statement said, and added that Amirthalingam had been working tirelessly for the betterment of the Tamil people.
On his return to Colombo from Ampara, President Premadasa issued a separate statement condemning the killings and announced that he had directed the Inspector General of Police to take personal charge of the inquiries.
There was a great deal of confusion about the political identity of the killers. Some said that Visu, who headed the LTTE political wing in Vavuniya after the disappearance of Dinesh, had left the movement. Others said that Visu was still with the LTTE. The LTTE London head office, however, issued a statement denying any involvement. It condemned the murders and charged that forces inimical to the then LTTE government talks had committed them to discredit the LTTE.
"The LTTE learnt with deep distress the tragic demise of the TULF leaders Amirthalingam and Yogeswaran. We suspect that diabolical forces are at work to discredit the organization and to disrupt the current peace talks between the LTTE and the government of Sri Lanka."
The LTTE denial failed to remove the doubts of the people about its involvement.
The great importance that the government attached to the current peace talks was reflected in the manner the government controlled newspaper, Daily News, treated the story on 14 July. It said, "The authorities were checking on the possibility that an attempt was being made to falsely father the killings on the LTTE, high ranking officials said.
"The TULF leaders were killed in Mr. Amirthalingam's Baudhaloka Mawatha home around 7.30 p.m. They had been expecting, what a senior policeman called, a 'purported LTTE delegation' to call on them."
The Daily News story was strongly condemned by the joint opposition of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the United Socialist Alliance (USA) and the Eelam Peoples' Revolutionary Left Front (EPRLF). They charged that an attempt was being made to influence the investigations.
At the weekly press briefings, the press kept probing Minister of State for Defence, Ranjan Wijeratne, about the progress in the police investigations.
In August 1989, Wijeratne brought Inspector General of Police Ernest Perera to meet the press. Perera said a person named William W. Mariyadasan of Anderson Flats, Narahenpita, had been arrested and that he had made a confession. He and Nadarajah Sathyananandan of Kashapa Road, Narahenpita, had identified the assassins when the inquest into their deaths were held on 21 July 1989. No relatives had come forward to identify or claim the bodies of the killers.
The IGP's replies failed to satisfy the press. At the October 1989 press briefing, Indian Express correspondent, Rita Sebastian, said that in the Tiger camps in Batticoloa she had seen photographs of the three assassins prominently displayed among LTTE heroes. She asked whether that amounted to the LTTE accepting responsibility for the killings. Wijeratne dodged the question saying that he would seek verification from Yogi of the information he had just been given. Yogi was in Colombo for talks with the government.
On 15 March 1990, the Lanka Guardian published the interview its editor Mervin de Silva had with LTTE deputy leader Gopalaswamy Mahendirarajah alias Mahattaya.
"If you stand for the multi party system, why did your men kill Amirthalingam and other TULF leaders?" de Silva had asked.
Mahattaya's reply was: "They were not killed because they held views different from that of the LTTE but because they were acting as the agents of India, in short, traitors, collaborators. In that background, the LTTE kills those who betray the cause ... In a national. struggle, the battle is everywhere, the traitor anywhere."
Mahattaya's interview was raised at the briefing of the 22 March 1990. Reporters read out Mahattaya's reply, as reproduced in the Lanka Guardian, and asked Minister Wijeratne for his comments.
Wijeratne replied, "I am unable to comment about it. I go by the evidence, by Mariyadasan's confession."
Reporter: "You had promised to ask Yogi about LTTE's involvement"
"I did not talk with Yogi after I made that promise," the minister replied.
Reporter: Yogi attended the All Party Conference in which you participated."
"I saw Yogi at the All Party Conference. I told him that I wanted to speak to him. But Yogi left before I could talk to him."
The press did not allow the matter to rest and reopened it again at the 5 April meeting. They again asked for his reaction to Mahattaya's interview as published in the Lanka Guardian.
"I do not go by press reports. I go by evidence. The evidence shows much more than meets the eyes," he said, and announced that Mariyadasan would be indicted in the courts soon. When pressed further, Wijeratne said that if Mahattaya had in fact made that statement to the Lanka Guardian then he would get the Criminal Investigation Department to question Mahattaya about it. He, however, added that Mariyadasan had in his confession said that the LTTE was not involved.
Mariyadasan was indicted in the Panadura High Court. The police produced the confession they obtained from him under the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act. The court accepted the confession as proper evidence and convicted Mariyadasan for 7 years rigorous imprisonment. But the Appeal Court held the confession inadmissible and discharged him on 9 February 1995. It held that the confession was in fact not given by Mariyadasan.
When the news of the shooting of the TULF leaders reached Trincomalee on the night of 13 July, Lt. General A.S.Kalkat, Commander of the IPKF, was in his office with Varatharaja Perumal, Chief Minister of the North East Province. The hard working Indian general pulled deep at his pipe and said, "Exploit." And Varatharaja Perumal's Eelam Peoples' Revolutionary Liberation Front exploited the situation to the full.
Sharing of PowerI put down the receiver and slumped into the nearest chair, shell shocked. Amirthalingam murdered? Tricked into death? I could not believe it. I closed my eyes.
A wave of embarassment swept me as I recalled my first encounter with Amirthalingam; how we, my friends and I, members of the Ariyali Development Society, had heckled Amirthalingam at a public meeting in early 1950.
The occasion was one of the monthly meetings organised by K. Kugathasan, founder of the above society, to which he invited speakers from different political parties. Amirthalingam was invited to speak on "Why Federalism?".
By way of introduction, Kugathasan said, "Our guest speaker, Amirthalingarn. was born on 26 August 1927 at Pannagam. I must mention two of his achievements: he was the first to enter the university from Victoria College and he is at present the leader of the Law College debating team. I must also mention here that Amrithalingam is a Marxist who has strayed in to federal camp. Before I invite him to display his debating skills, I would like to make one comment. Though he is a Marxist, he has been converted to federalism by Mr. S.J.V.Chelvanayakam. I wish Amirthalingam does not adopt Mr. Chelvanayakam's capitalist political thinking."
As Amirthlingam rose to speak, a section of the audience let out a shrill hoot. This did not seem to bother the young speaker. He waited and when the hooting subsided, he began, "Comrades, " but he was not allowed to proceed further. Another prolonged hooting followed. Again he waited and when it died down, he started, "Comrades of the human kind and friends of its predecessors."
A thunderous applause from the audience greeted his words but was greeted by derisive laughter from our end. All eyes turned towards us. Flustered, we fell silent.
'My friend Kugathasan said that I am a Marxist," Amirthalingam continued, "and wished that I continue to be a Marxist. To him and to you I say, I am a Marxist and will die a Marxist."
This time we joined in applauding. He had won us over.
Referring to the day's topic, he said, "I can answer the question you have posed me 'Why Federalism?' in just one sentence. Federalism is the known system of government that provides for the sharing of power by the various racial, linguistic and religious groups that live in a multi racial, multi lingual, multi religious society."
He looked around at the audience and then his eyes seemed to rest on us, the hecklers at the back.
"I want to ask you a question," he said. '4Won't the unitary system of government permit such a sharing of power?"
He himself answered in the negative and again asked, "Why do I say that'? I say that because of our past experience."
To reinforce his statement, he narrated three episodes from Ceylonese political history.
The first centred around the Ponnambalam brothers, Ramanathan and Arunachalam, grandsons of the first occupant of the Tamil seat in the Legislative Council of Ceylon, Gate Mudaliyar Arumuganathapillai Coomaraswamy. The Council had been established in 1833 to assist the Governor, through whom the British monarch ruled the island since it was annexed to the British Empire in 1798. It was made up of nine officials British) and six unofficial 3 Europeans, one Sinhalese, one Tamil and one Burgher. In 1889 a Kandyan and a Moor increased the strength of unofficials to eight and correspondingly the number of officials was raised to eleven.
Ramanathan, born on 16 April 1851, studied law in Colombo and was called to the bar. He was nominated to the Tamil seat by Governor Sir James Longden, which he resigned to take up the post of Solicitor General. He retired in 1905.
In 1910, Ordinance No. 13 introduced the elective principle for four elected seats two Europeans, one Burgher and one educated Ceylonese. This caused quite a stir and raised a ray of hope among the nationalists.
Ramanathan, after retirement, had been dividing his time between religious and educational work, and also in his house in Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu. In mid May, as soon as the Ordinance had been introduced, he began to receive letters from his friends and well wishers beseeching him to contest the Educated Ceylonese seat. Finally, when Hector A. Iayawardene, an eminent advocate, came down to Kodaikanal to persuade him, Ramanathan consented. His nomination papers were signed by leading Tamils and Sinhalese. The opposing candidate was Dr. Mark Fernando, a leading Sinhalese, of the Karawa caste.
In this election," Amirthalingam explained, "the agricultural caste of the Sinhalese, the Govigama, and the Tamils, the Vellala, joined hands to fend the challenge from the Karawa caste, a fact Ramanathan realised years later."
Ramanathan won by a wide majority and thus became the first elected Ceylonese member ofthe Legislative Council. A devout Hindu and nationalist, he identified himself with Buddhist revivalism and Sinhala nationalism and campaigned for Buddhism and the Sinhala language. He even travelled to England to campaign for the Sinhala cause, and on return, was drawn in a chariot from Colombo harbour to his home in Ward Place by Sinhalese leaders. The latter showed their gratitude by reselecting him again in 1916.
Amirthalingam then went on to explain how this ' Sinhala Tamil togetherness', which began as a caste collaboration, flourished for some years, promoted by common interests: the campaign for the greater Ceylonisation of the public services and the demand for more power for the Executive and Legislative Councils. Also, there was widespread discontent with the official majority and the extensive powers of the Governor.
To agitate for these specific demands, four different political organisations sprung up: the Ceylon National Association, which had initially been founded by Ramanathan in 1890 and was now revived in 1916, the Ceylon Reform League in 1917, the Jaffna Association and the Chilaw Association.
Arunachalam, Ramanathan's younger brother, entered politics at about this time. Educated at Cambridge, he was the first Ceylonese to enter the Ceylon Civil Service. On 2 April 1917, he was invited to deliver a lecture on "Our Political Needs". He argued that Ceylonese leaders should work for the self rule of the country. He concluded with the historic words, "We ask to bc in our country what other selfrespecting are in theirs self governing, strong, respected at home and abroad, and we ask for the grant at once of a definite measure of progressive advance towards that goal. Ceylon is no pauper begging for alms. she is claiming her heritage."
To achieve this goal of progressive advance to self rule, Arunachalam felt that the four associations must merge. At his initiative, a public conference on constitutional reforms was convened by the Ceylon Reform League and the Ceylon National Association on 15 December 1917, and a second one was held on 13 December 1918, where Arunachalam moved a resolution calling for the formation of a single organisation for the purpose of coordinating public opinion. He, however, encountered difficulties. Whilst the Ceylon Reform League had made territorial representation a fundamental of its demands, the Jaffna Association demanded the retention of the communal representation as the safeguard for the minorities. Arunachalam arranged a meeting between A. Sabapathy, president, Jaffna Association, James Peiris, president, Ceylon National Association, and E.J.Samarawickreme, president, Ceylon Reform League; it, however, failed to produce any agreement.
Later, Peiris and Samarawickreme wrote the following letter to Arunachalam:
Ceylon Reform League,
Dear Sir Arunachalam,
With reference to the suggestion of Mr Sabapathy that the words "on the basis of a territorial electorate" be omitted from the Resolution No. 4, we shall be obliged if you will point out to him that their omission will seriously affect our case for the reform as a whole. We beg to remind him of all that the promoters of the Reform Movement have said of the baneful effect of the present system of racial representation.
We have made the territorial electorate a fundamental part of our demands. The omission of the words especially after the publication of the draft resolutions will be construed a surrender of an important principle.
It must be borne in mind that the resolutions contain only the essential principles which we desire to assert. They do not constitute the complete scheme, and while we desire to avoid the introduction of details into the resolutions, we are anxious to do all that could be done to secure as large a representation as possible to the Tamils, when exceptional provisions consistent with the principles referred to come to be considered.
As presidents of the Ceylon National Association and the Ceylon Reform League, we pledge ourselves to accept any scheme which the Jaffna Association may put forward as long as it is not inconsistent with the various principles contained in the resolutions. We feel sure that nothing obviously unreasonable will be insisted on by the Jaffna Association. We are prepared to pledge ourselves to actively support a provision for the reservation of a seat to the Tamils in the Western Province so long as the electorate remains territorial.
We suggest that the resolution should be accepted by the Jaffna Association without any alteration and that they should leave it to us to negotiate with the Indians, Europeans and Burghers on the subject of special representation for them.
(Sgd.) James Peiris
President, Ceylon National Association
Amirthalingam also read the text of the letter
Arunachalam wrote to Sabapathy
Hon. Mr. A. Sabapathy,
Referring to your conversation with me on Thursday afternoon I enclose a letter from Messrs. James Peiris and R.J.Samarawickreme, Presidents of the Ceylon National Association and the Ceylon Reform League respectively, giving assurances which would satisfy your Association as the bona fide desire of the Sinhalese leaders to do all that can be done to secure as large a representation as possible to the Tamils, consistent to the principles of the resolutions adopted by the Committee with the concurrence of delegates from Provincial Associations.
The assurance means that you have three seats for the northern Province and two for the Eastern Province ( or more if you can get it), and that there will be one seat reserved for a Tamil Member in the Western Province on the basis of the Territorial Elcctorate, in addition to the chances of Tamils in other Provinces and in the Colombo Municipality. No doubt also, the Government will nominate a Tamil to represent the
Indian Tamils. Our Sinhalese friends are also willing to support the claim for a Mohammedan Member in the Western Province on the same footing, should the Mohammedans make such a claim. The conference is deliberately restricted to essential principles only, there being a conflict of opinion among the Sinhalese themselves on matters of details. Such details should be hereafter submitted to the government by the various interested parties.
I trust that nothing will now stand in the way of a large number of delegates from Jaffna (including yourself and Sir A. Kanagasabai) from attending the conference and making, common cause with the rest of the island. I understand that the Governor is coming to Jaffna on the 15th. You and Sir A. Kanagasabai could return by the evening train on the 14th or perhaps on the 1 3th by which time we hope to pass at least half the resolutions.
Yours very truly
(Sgd.) P. Arunachalam
On the assurance that the Sinhala leadership would back a Tamil candidate for the Western Province seat, members of the Jaffna Association attended the inaugural meeting of the common organization which had been named Ceylon National Congress in line with the Indian National Congress on 11 December 1919. Arunachalam was hailed the father of the new organisation and elected its first president. The Ceylon Daily News, the successor to The Ceylonese, which Ramanathan had founded and later sold to D.R.Wijewardene, wrote: "(The Congress) marks the first great advance in the growth of the democratic institutions in Ceylon. The Congress takes up the position of the only accredited mouthpiece of all classes. Those who have worked to bring it into existence have reason to be proud of its achievement."
The Ceylon National Congress achieved its first success within two years of its foundation, Amirthalingam recounted. In 1921 the Legislative Council was reconstituted to comprise 37 members 14 officials and 23 unoffficials, of whom 11 were to be elected territorially, 8 by special interest constituencies and 4 nominated.
One of the territorial seats was the city of Colombo, and Arunachalam) on the basis of the assurances the Sinhala leaders had given the Jaffna Association, asked for that seat. The Congress turned down the request and nominated Peiris. Arunachalam reminded Peiris of the pledge he himself had given. Peiris replied that the pledge was given by him as the president of the Ceylon National Association and that he was not bound by it as the president of the Ceylon National Congress. H.C.Pereira argued, "It may be that for political reasons, individual members with perfectly honest intentions, with the idea of maintaining unity, have entered into certain compromises and bargains with individuals of the North; the Congress knows nothing of all this."
Arunachalam was intensely distressed over this betrayal. He told the Times of Ceylon on 14 December 1921 that only those who had been in the inner councils of the reform movement could know the difficulty with which all communities were brought together on a common platform; the ceaseless toil and tact that were needed to remove ancient prejudices and jealousies, to harmonise dissensions and to create the indispensable basis for mutual trust and cooperation.
"This was rudely shattered by the conduct of a clique who had got hold of the Congress machine ... The clique imposed its will on a weak president of the Congress, Mr. James Peiris, and his colleague Mr. E.J.Samarawickreme and compelled them to repudiate solemn pledges given by them in writing in regard to the seat in the City of Colombo. A blow was dealt to the trust of the Tamils in the Congress and its leaders and spread to every other minority ... Mr. Peiris and his friends reduced the Congress from a National Congress to one representing mainly a section of the Sinhalese and destroyed the feelings of mutual confidence and cooperation between the various communities ..."
Amirthalingam said that Arunachalam resigned from the Ceylon National Congress and formed the Ceylon Tamil League. In his inaugural address to the Tamil League, Arunachalam said, "The League was brought into existence by a political necessity. But politics is not the raison d'etre of its existence. Its aim is much higher. The Committee and those responsible for the League consider that our aims should be to keep alive and propagate those ideals throughout Ceylon and promote the union and solidarity of what we have been proud to call Tamil Eelam."
Amirthalingam explained that the clique Arunachalam had referred was that of the Senanayake brothers F.R. and D.S. who had even campaigned that Sinhala electorates should elect real Sinhalese.
Arunachalam and Ramanathan did not contest the 1921 election to the reformed Legislative Council. James Peiris won the Colombo Town seat which Arunachalam had wanted reserved for the Tamils. In the Northern Province, A.Canangaratnam won the southern division, T.H. Sabaratnam, the eastern division, and S.Rajaratnam, the central division. Ramanathan was nominated to the Tamil seat.
Amirthalingam then reminded the audience that Canagaratnam was also from Ariyalai.
The Ceylon National Congress was not satisfied with the reformed Legislative Council. It attacked the new arrangement on two grounds: the veto power of the Governor and the retention of the communal representations E.W. Perera moved a resolution in the Legislative Council protesting against the extension of the communal principle. He called it the return to tribalism. In his reply, Ramanathan recalled the events that led to the formation of the Ceylon National Congress and its break up, and said, "I have something to say against the handful of would be leaders, who, because they have been gifted with considerable facility of expression and courage of conviction are preaching a kind of democracy which, though suited to the homogeneous conditions of western countries is by no means suited to the very different conditions of Ceylon. The democracy proper to Ceylon is the government of Ceylon by officials selected by the King and by representatives elected by the different communities who justly desire to protect efficiently their respective interests. The democracy of Ceylon should not allow one community to enslave the remaining five communities. My honourable friend, the member for 'B' Division of the Western Province (James Peiris) keeps harping that the vast majority of the pcople of Ceylon are Sinhalese, they must have an overwhelming voice in the government of the country. Is this glorification of the Sinhalese community to the detriment and degradation of the other five communities humane or just?" he asked. (The five communities Ramanathan referred to in his speech were: Tamils, Muslims, Indians, Burghers and Europeans.)
Ramanathan continued, 'Then, Sir, a man I may say he is my brother Arunachalam conceived the idea of forming a National Congress for Ceylon. The work was started in 1917, I believe, but what happened in the end of about three years afterwards? Sir Arunachalam was obliged to sever connections with the Ceylon National Congress. He resigned the presidentship; many other members also seceded, because a handful of men had seized the machinery of the Ceylon National Congress and were workings it for racial or personal aggrandizement. Sir An.oas,balc~.m publicly avowed that he retired from the Congrcs . ,,eLau e it vvas not worked for the benefit of all the communities of Ceylon and because a handful of its members were fighting for their own ends ... This amazing discovery came upon us with a shock."
Ramanathan then explained why they asked for communal representation. He said, "And if my honourable friend asks why it is that we want a communal representation, our answer unhesitatingly is: 'Because of your own conduct'. Had they played fair, had they continued to be just, had they been appreciative of all the interests of all different communities so that they could live together in amity and friendship in this glorious land, we would still have advocated territorial representation."
The second episode Amirthalingam related was about C.E.Corea, a strong supporter of the Ceylon National Congress. Corea rejected the offer of the presidentship of the Congress in 1924. In his letter of refusal, Corea stated, "I have reason to deplore the attitude of the Congress to the minorities. They have wrongly confused their national aspirations with communalism."
The Legislative Council was further expanded in 1924 and more power conferred on it. The number of unofficial members was raised to 37 and a provision was also made for the council to elect a vice president, the Governor being the president. Elections were held in 1925, and since the communal representation had been dispensed with, Ramanathan elected to contest the northern division of the Northern Province. He won with a huge majority. Waithylingam Duraiswamy won the western division, D.S.Rajaratnam, the central, T.M.Sabaratnam, the eastern, and A.Canagaratnam, the southern division of the Northern Province. James Peiris was elected the vice chairman.
Amirthalingam said that just before the 1925 election, another important development took place. The Kandyan wing left the Ceylon National Congress and formed the Kandyan National Assembly. It started a campaign of self government for the Kandyan areas.
'It is a strange fact of history," Amirthalingam said, "that while the Tamil leadership was trying to share power with the majority Sinhalese by an arrangement that would increase their numbers in the legislative body, the Kandyans realised that the effective means of sharing power with the dominant Low Country Sinhalese is through a constitutional arrangement that would ensure the Kandyans their due share.
' The Tamil leadership had slavishly accepted the British unitary model and was only thinking of ways and means of adjusting it to increase its share of seats in the legislature as the means of sharing power whereas the Kandyan leadership had looked into other systems of government, into federal models, as a devise of sharing power," Amirthalingam said.
He then explained how this slavish adherence to the British model led the Tamil leadership into ridiculous situations. The worst of them was the opposition to the adult suffrage and to infamous fifty fifty.
The Donoughmore Commission was appointed in August 1927 to report on the working of the 1924 constitution, the difficulties which would have arisen in administering it and to recommend on the amendments that should be made. The Commission was in Ceylon from 18 November 1927 to 18 January 1928, and produced its report on 26 June 1928.
The Tamil leadership argued for the retention of the system of communal representation, saying that territorial representation would result in the concentration of power in the Sinhala community. Witness after witness complained to the Commission that the Sinhala leadership could not be trusted as it was interested in accumulating all the power.
The Commission took the minority fears into consideration only to reject the demand for self govemment on page 31 of their report they stated, "Not only is the population not homogeneous, but the divergent elements of which it is composed distrust and suspect each other. It is almost time to say that the conception of patriotism in Ceylon is as much racial as national and the best interests of the country are synonymous with the welfare of a particular section of the people. If the claim for full responsible government be subjected to examination from this standpoint, it will be found that its advocates are always to be numbered among those who form the larger communities and who, if freed from external control, would be able to impose their will on all who dissented from them. Those, on the other hand, who form the minority communities, though united in no other respect, are solid in their opposition to the proposal ..."
The Commission made use of the fears of the minorities to recommend a system which retained the actual power in the hands of the Governor and his three officers while satisfying the Sinhalese with territorial representation and universal suffrage. The principal features of the Donoughmore Constitution were the replacement of the Executive and Legislative Councils by the State Council elected by adult suffrage and three of fixers of State: the Chief Secretary in charge of public services, external affairs and defense; the Financial Secretary in charge of the budget, accounting and financial affairs; and the Legal Secretary in control of civil law and order, justice and the drafting of legislation.
The Donoughmore Commission provided safeguards for the minorities b retaining considerable powers with the Governor and his three officials, by the system of committees which it thought should prevent the majority community from grabbing the entire power for itself, by giving weightage through the system of nomination and through the creation of an independent. public service commission.
She (~Ol<m}SSIOWL provided for a State Collncil of 61 nex to WP alerted on the territorial basis, 8 to be nominated to represent the unrepresented interests and 3 Officers of State.
There were two debates in the Legislative Council on the Donoughmore Commission proposal. The first was on 5 October 192S, three months after the report was published. E.W.Perera moved a motion saying that the Government by Committees was not suited to Ceylon and it was adopted by an overwhelming majority. D.S.Senanayake, who spoke in support of Perera's motion expressed his opposition over the granting of voting rights to the seven lakhs of Indian immigrant labour.
Govemor Sir Herbert Stanley suggested a compromise that British subjects domiciled in Ceylon be granted voting rights which was accepted by the Secretary of State for Colonies. With the amendment, Chief Secretary Sir Benard Bourdillon moved a motion on 5 December 1929, that the Donoughmore Commission recommendations be brought into operation. Ramanathan opposed the motion on two grounds: that it introduced universal suffrage and that it had done away with communal representation.
For his opposition to the introduction of the universal suffrage, Ramanathan gave the following reason: "... for the simple reason that ignorance must not be put on the same level with knowledge and that the ignorant, excitable man is an awful danger to the country, but the man with knowledge is a good asset to it."
Except E.W.Perera, who maintained his earlier position that the Committee System was not suited to Ceylon, C.W.W.Kannangara and all other Sinhala members voted for the motion. All Tamil members except the Batticoloa member E.R.Tambimuttu, Muslim members and the Indian Tamil members voted against. Nineteen voted for the motion and seventeen against.
The Legislative Council was dissolved on 11 April 1931, and election for the State Council held in June the S9,rs,e year. The Council consisted of 50 territorially elected representatives, eight nominated members and three officials. Nine of the 50 constituencies returned uncontested candidates; elections were not held in the four electorates in the Jaffna peninsula due to a boycott by the Jaffna Tamils. The election was spread over a week beginning 13 June. The State Council was constituted on 7 July 1931, when it divided itself into seven committees. Each of the seven committees elected its head and the seven heads formed the Board of Ministers.
The first Board of Ministers comprised Messrs D.S.Senenayake (Agriculture), D.B.Jayatilleke (Home Affairs), Peri Sundaram (Labour), C.W.W.Kannangara (Education), T.B.Panabokke (Health), Butwantudawe (Local Administration), and H.M.Macan Markar (Communications).
"It see.ned as though the system had worked as there were one Tamil and one Muslim in the seven member Board of Ministers," Amirthalingam remarked. The Jaffna Tamils gave up their boycott in 1934 and the four seats were filled by election in July. The new members were: G.G.Ponnambalam (Point Pedro), A.Mahadeva (Jaffna), W.Duriaswamy (Kayts) and S Natesan (KKS). The first State Council was dissolved on 7 December 1935, and the election for the second State Council was held on January 1936. Seven seats were uncontested. The State Council met on 17 March and elected W.Duriaswamy the speaker by a majority oftwo votes. Then the members were divided into seven committees and the committees elected their chairmen. Senanayake and Jayatilleke and their supporters had contrived to get a majority in each of the committees.
The Board of Ministers consisted of Jayatilleke (Home Affairs), D.S.Senanayake (Agriculture), Kannangara (Education), W.A.de Silva (Health), G.C.S.Corea (Labour), S .W . R. D . Bandaranaike, (Local Administration), J . L . Kotalawela (Communications) .
That ministry was called the pan Sinhala Ministry. What the Tamils feared had happened. The Sinhalese leadership had managed to grab the entirety of political power for themselves. The Sinhalese leadership had managed to put the ramils in their place', as D.S.Senanayake had earlier threatened," Amirthahngarvi said.
The Soulbury Commission condemned that manoeuvre in 1944. The Commission said that it was ill advised and that it had resulted in further arousing the suspicions and resentment of the minorities. S>X.G.Ponnambalam, who first entered ahe Statc Coullcil in 1934 from the Point Pedro constituency and won it again in 1936, capitalized on this suspicion and grievance and devised the infamous Fifty Fifty formula to prevent that happening in the future. Ponnambalam, a skilful criminal lawyer, a debater without equal in the State Council and a flamboyant and charismatic personality, took up the communal representation cause from •vhere Ramanathan and the Jaffna Association left.
The Jaf.4na ASSOC13,iOn? at a meeting or 2 January lg 1 S. had resolved that they should dcmand a representative system which maintained the proportion between the Tamil and Sinhala representatives, which in effect meant fifty fifty. Ponnambalam modified that cry to equal representation to the Sinhalese and all minorities. At the commencement of his campaign, Ponnambalam received considerable support from the Muslims, the Indian Tamils and the local British, specifically from the British owned Times of Ceylon. But rifts surfaced in a short time. In the Muslim camp, T.B.Jayah, a Malay, gave unqualified support but the Ceylon Moors Association led by Razik Fareed, and the All Ceylon Muslim League headed by Sir Mohamed Macan Markar, opposed the fifty fifty formula. Among the Indian Tamils, K.Natesa Iyer, backed Ponnambalam to the hilt. He used his influence with the Tamil daily, the Virakesari, to espouse his cause. But the section led by Abdul Aziz which was more socialistic in its approach demurred and later openly opposed the fiRy fifty formula. The British nominated members of the State Council, Messrs C.G.C.Kerr, M. J.Cary, H. E.Newnham, J.W.Oldfield and C. J .Black, were sympathetic to Ponnambalam's cause. In June 1937, when the pan Sinhala Board of Ministers was pressing for constitutional reforms, a secret conference of all minority communities agreed on the formulation of Ponnambalam's demand for fifty fifty representation. A memorandum was sent to Governor Sir Andrew Caldecott, signed by most of the members of the minority communities, including Arunachalam Mahadeva, the member for Jaffna, who later campaigned vehemently against the fiftyfifty formula. But rifts soon developed in the ranks of the Ceylon Tamils also.
Tambimuttu, the member for Batticoloa and the sole Tamil vvho voted for the acceptance of the Donoughmore Constitution, charted an independent course.
V.Nalliah, the member for Trincomalee and Batticoloa North. a staunch opponent of the British rule, stood for cooperation with the Sinhalese to rid the country of the British. Mahadeva turned out to be the biggest thorn. In 1942, Mahadeva was elected the head of the Committee for Home Affairs after Sir Baron Jayatilleke resigned his ministership to take up the post of Ceylon Government s Representative in New Delhi. His election as Minister of Home Affairs took the wind out of Ponnambalam's campaign of balanced representation. In addition,
Mahadeva became the sheet anchor for the campaign against the deinand fifty fifty. The British government, especialls Lord Soulbury who headed the commission that came to Ccylon in llecembef 1944 to discuss and examine proposals for constitutional reform and to advise the British government on the measures necessary svas convinced b) Mahadcva s election and the anti fifty fifhr campaign that the Sinhalese leadership xvas prepared to share power with the minorities.
To present the Tamil viewpoint before the Soulbury Commission, Ponnambalam founded the All Ceylon Tamil Congress in 1944. In his historic evidence before the Commission, Ponnambalarn argued tha. in a self governing Ceylon run by a majority elected on a territorial basis, the Sinhalese would be in a position to deny the nghts of the minorities, and the only way minority interests could be protected was through communal electorates that would assure a balanced representation in the legislature. He advocated that in order to attain the position of balanced representation the country should be divided into 100 territorial constituencies for a legislature of 100 members and that these constituencies should be demarcated in such a way that the Sinhalese elect 50 members, the Ceylon and Indian Tamils elect 25 and the other minorities the balance 25. The Sinhalese, naturally opposed the scheme as they Rormed 70 per cent of the population.
Ponnambalam was pushed to make this ridiculous demand because of his lack of foresight and initiative. He accepted slavishly the British model of government and tried to work out a scheme for the protection of the rights of the Tamils within that model. He svas not prepared to look out for other constitutional arrangements of power sharing effectivels implemented in the USA, USSR, Canadav Switzerland and many other countries," Amirthalingam said
Amirthalingam then read the relevant portion of the Soulbury Commission report which rejected Ponnambalam's fifty fifty demand. The Commlssion said: 5 we are not inclined to agrec that the system of representation recommended by the All Ceylon Tamil Congress contains the germs of development and see do not regard it as a natural evolution from the constitution of l921 and 1924. On the contrary rue would describe a system which purported to recompose ( ommunal representation in thc rigid form contemphated as static rather than dynamic and we should nor expect to find in it seeds of healthy and progressive advance towards parliamentary self government."
The Soulbury Commission report was submitted on 11 July 1945 and a White Paper on it was issued on 30 October 1945. Ponnambalam went to England to campaign against the report and met the Colonial Secretary and many members of Parliament. But the Board of Ministers decided to accept it, and D.S.Senanayake moved a motion in the State Council on 8 November 1945.
The motion read: i The FIouse expresses disappointment that His Majesty's Government has deferred the admission of Ceylon to a full Dominion status, but in view ofthe assurance contained in the White Paper of 31 October, 1945, that His Majesty's Government will cooperate with the people of Ceylon so that such status may be attained by this country in a comparatively short time, this House resolves that the constitution offered in the said White Paper be accepted during the interim period.'
The motion was debatef.~ for tWO days and was passed, with 51 voting for and 3 against. The three who voted against were: W. Dahanayake, Natesa Iyer and l . X. Pereira. Thus Ponnambalam's mission ended in failure as all Ceylon Tamil representatives had voted for the acceptance of the new constitution.
Amirthalingam commented, "It is tragic on the part of the Tamil leadership not to have realised the unworkability of the fifty flfty demand. It was more tragic that they failed to back the Kandyan demand for federalism and their demand for three administrative units the Kandyan zone comprising of the 5 Kandyan provinces, the Tamil zone comprising the north and east, and the Low Country Sinhala zone comprising the western and southern provinces.
Amirthalingam then related his third story, the story of the stripping of Indian Tamils of their citizenship and voting rights.
(The citizenship issue formed an important part of Amirthalingam's political platform because it was the reason behind the formation of the Federal Party.)
Amirthalingam said, 'The deprivation of the citizenship rights of Indian Tamil brethren is another strategy of the Sinhala leadership to weaken the Tamils of Ceylon D.S.Senanayake, the much acclaimed father of the nation, is at the bottom of this."
D.S.Senanayake had consistently opposed granting of voting rights to seven lakh Indian immigrant labourers brought to Ceylon by the British from the beginning of the nineteenth century to work first in the coffee plantations and later in the tea and rubber plantations He had stated his opposition as early as 1926, when he said at the second reading of the Bill relating to Indian labour that they were robbing bread and land from the indigenous people. He argued that they should not be regarded as permanent settlers though they had longstanding connection with Ceylon. Thev had retained Indian domicile and the Indian government had continued to have an interest in them. He advocated the adoption of special steps to bring a halt to the influx of the Indian labour. Senanayake went to the extent of opposing universal suffrage recommended by the Donoughmore Commission. During the debate in the State Council he said:
"I can say that there is not a single recommendation put forward by the Donoughmore Commission that is received with greater alarm than the recommendation for the extension of the franchise to those not domiciled in Ceylon. The Indian government did not want to disassociate themselves from their people who came out here. They wanted to protect them as Indians. The point I want to make is this. The Indian immigrants continue to be citizens of India and receive protection from the Indian government. It is too much for these immigrants to ask the right to influence the local government when they are receiving special privileges as citizens of another country."
But he accepted the compromise which granted vote to the Indian plantation workers who had Ceylon domicile of origin or were able to prove that they had permanently settled in Ceylon. Under this compromise 225,000 got their voting rights.
He argued that if all adults were given voting rights, most of the Kandyan electorates would return Indian Tamils and thus deprive the Sinhalese of those areas of representation. The British yielded and adopted the test of domicile as a compromise. The Indian Tamils wanted safeguards Written into the constitution. The Donoughmorc Commission did this by reserving 17 classes of bills to the Governor the most important being, "Any bill whereby persons of any particular community or religion are liable to any disabilities or restrictions to which persons of other communities or religions are also not subjected or made liable or are granted advantages not extended to persons of other communities or religions. '
The Soulbury Commission too provided a similar safety to the minorities in its recommendations. Among those were bills relating to immigrants and the right of reentry, the franchise and zany Bill, ants of the provisions of which have evoked serious opposition by any racial or religious cornmunity and which, in the opinion of the Governor General is likely to involve oppression or serious injustice to any such community."
In moving the motion of acceptance of the White Paper embodying the Soulbury Commission recommendations in the State Council on 8 November 1945, D.S.Ser.anayake spoke of the safeguards given to the minorities, No reasonable person can now doubt the honesty of our intentions. We devised a scheme vvith heavy weightage to the minorities; wc •1elibe! ately protected them against discriminatory legislation; we vested important powers in the Governor General because we thought that the minorities would regard him as impartial we decided upon an independent Public Services Commission and quoted by them as devises to protect the minorities."
The first member among the Tamils to participate in the debate, V. Nalliah, the Member for Trincomalee Batticoloa said, ;'1 am prepared to place my trust on the head of the Board of Ministers (D.S.Senanayake) ... As I am not prepared to create more discord I am not going to differ from the majority of the Sinhalese."
S. Natesan, Member for Kankesanthurai, said since the Commission had given its verdict and the majority communitv had given an assurance of fairplay, Tamils would trust the Sinhala leadership and go along with them.
A. Mahadeva, Member of Jaffna and the Minister of Home Affairs, said he was prepared to trust the Sinhala leaders and accept the Soulbury Commission recommendations.
The government enacted an order in 1946 which provided that every British subject resident in Ceylon for six months or who was otherwise qualified could vote and hold office. It was on that basis that the 1947 general election was held under the Soulbury Constitution which was drafted by the then Vicc Chancellor of the University of Ceylon, Sir Ivor Jennings, and sent to the British government as the Minister's Draft. Section 29 in the Soulbury Commission was7 in fact taken over in toto from the Draft. It stated:
(I) Subject to the provisions of this order, Parliament shall have power to make laws for the pcace, order and good government of the Island.
(2) No such law shall:
(a) prohibit or restrict the free exercise of any religion;or
(b) make persons of any community or religion liable to disabilities or restrictions to which persons of other communities or religions are not made liable; or
(c) confer on persons of any community or religion any privilege or advantage which is not conferred on persons of other communities or religions; or
(d) alter the constitution of any religious body except with the consent of the governing authority of that body;
Provided that, in any case where a religious body is incorporated by law, no such alteration shall be made except at the request of the governing authority of that body.
(3) Any law made in contravention of subsection(2) of this section shall, to the extent of such contravention, be void.
(4) in its exercise of its poxvers under this sectiom Parliament may amend or repeal any of the provisions of this Order or any other Order of His Majesty in Council in its application to the Island. Provided that no Bill for the amendment or repeal of any of the provisions of this Order shall be presented for the Royal Assent unless it has endorsed on it a certificate under the hand of the Speaker that the number of votes cast in favour there of in the House of Representatives amounted to not less than two thirds of the whole number of members of the House (including those not present).
In the 1947 general election for Ceylon's first parliament, the All Ceylon Tamil Congress contested nine of the total 89 constituencies which were to return 95 representatives. Eight of them vied for the seats in the Northern Province and the others in the Eastern Province. The Tamil Congress swept the Jaffna peninsula where it won six seats and one in the Eastern Province. Two independents won the Vavuniya and Mannar seats. All United National Party (UNP) Tamil candidates who voted for the Soulbury Constitution were defeated.
Ponnambalam, in a cable to the Secretary of State for Colonies, said that the election result showed that the Tamil people had rejected the Soulbury Constitution. D.S.Senanayake outsmarted Ponnambalam by making the two Tamil independents from the north C.Suntharalingam and C. Sittambalam his ministers. He, thus, effectively countered Ponnambalam's fifty fifty demand.
The election also dealt a severe shock to the UNP leadership of the south. The new party (UNP), which D.S.tSenanayake had formed in 1946 by bringing together the Ceylon National Congress and the Sinhala Maha Sabha of S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike, could muster only 42 seats.
The seats won by other parties were:
The poor UNP results put Senanayake into quandary. He had to rope in two independents and depend on the six nominated members. The Soulbury Constitution allocated six nominated seats to provide representation
End of Moderation
The election proved to Senanayake the power of the Indian Tamil vote. Six Indian Tamil members were elected to parliament and the Indian Tarnils were instrumental in getting some of the leftists elected. He realised that the future of the UNP was bleak if the Indian Tamils were permitted to vote in the elections. Shrewd as he was, he raised the communist bogey saying that if Indians were allowed to enjoy the voting right Ceylon would become a communist country.
The period of the State Council also saw the birth and growth of anti lndianism. This was aided by two sets of circumstances. The first was what was termed the 'Chetty crisis'. The Nattukottai Chettiars had migrated to Ceylon since 1820s and had carried on banking business till the British banks were set up in the 1840s. Thereafter, the Chettiar community changed its role to that of middlemen, They borrowed from the banks and lent to planters and businessmen at slightly higher interest. This went on till 1925 when one of the firms collapsed and the banks immediately stopped lending them money.
To get over the sudden scarcity of cash, Chettiar firms demanded repayment of their loans from their Ceylonese clients. The Ceylonese themselves were in financial straits owing to the global economic depression and defaulted nonpayment. During 1930 36 the Chettiars put the promissory notes in suit and foreclosed their mortgages. This resulted in intense anti Chettiar campaign.
The second was the emergence of the Sinhala middle class which clamoured for the Ceylonisation of all sectors of the economy. There was an outcry against arrack and toddy tavern renters mainly from the Baratha community from Tamil Nadu. Then, there was an agitation to send back the Malayalee harbour workers, government servants and even sanitary worker. There was also a boycott against Indian retail shops and Jaffna cigars.
In 1935 D.S.Senanavake was instrumental for the enactment of the Land Development Ordinance which provided for the alienation of crown land to 'Ceylonese' landless peasants and the middle class. "Ceylonese' was defined as a person domiciled in Ceylon and possessing a Ceylon domicile of origin.
A.E.Goonasinghe, who started the Labour Party and the trade union movement, entered the Second State Council on a communal platform. He persuaded the State Council to pass a resolution calling for the deportation of 15,000 Indians despite strong opposition from Tamil members. The next was the decision ofthe State Council in 1939 to deport all Indians appointed to government service after I April 1939, and to discontinue all Indians with less than ten years of service. This resolution was moved by D. S. Senanayake .
These acts perturbed the Indian residents in Ceylon and the Indian government. A two member delegation comprising of Vytilingam and Pereira was sent to Mahatma Gandhi to brief him on the plight of the Indian Tamils in Ceylon. Gandhiji sent Jawaharlal Nehru as his special emissary to talk to the Ceylon government and to Ceylonese leaders. Nehru arrived in Colombo on 18 July 1939. He met the leader ofthe State Council, D.S.Senanayake, and some ministers. Senanayake told Nehru that many educated Ceylonese were unemploved and they would revolt if foreigners were allowed to rob them of their jobs . Nehru's efforts at persuasion failed.
Nehru met the Indian organizations, separately and jointly and advised them to unite into a single organisation if they wele to preserve their rights and privileges. He also presided at the joint meeting where the Ceylon Indian Congress was born.
Gooncsinghe, who had captured the secretaryship of the Sinhala blaha ii,abhaf founded by Bandaranaike in 1937, stepped ~Xew his campaign against the Indians. At his instance, the government served notice to discontinue the services of 800 Indians in Colombo. The government issued a circular instructing the heads of government departments not to recruit Indians. The Galle Urban Council passed a resolution calling on the government not to employ Indians.
The Indian National Congress reacted by passing a resolution critising Ceylon's bid to deport Indians. The Ceylon Indian Congress followed suit. The Indian government also retaliated by imposing a ban on labour emigration to Ceylon. This put an end to the free movement of Indian labour between the two countries. Indians were told to decide between India and Ceylon and a vast majority chose Ceylon. This left over six lakhs of Indians on Ceylon's lap. They ceased to be migrant labourers and became permanent settlers.
This unexpected development upset the D.S. Senanayake administration.
A delegation led by D.S.Senanayake went to Delhi in 1940 to take up tlt;,nu, ttgr. Bandaranaike was a meanber of the delegation. The Ceylon Indian Congress too sent a team to present its viewpoint.
At the discussions D.S.Senanayake took the position that all Indian Tamils in Ceylon were Indian nationals and should be taken back by India. The Indian government declined to accept that position. It held that many Indians had settled in Ceylon for many years and had a right to continue to live there. Bandatanaike argued that Ceylon could not afford to have more than two lakh Indians and the balance should be taken back by India. Indian officials declined to accept that plea too. Peri Sunderam of the Ceylon Indian Congress argued that Indians with long residence had qualified to become Ceylon citizens and the choice should be left to them.
The D.S.Senanayake administration continued to enact laws discriminating against Indian Tamils. The Fisheries
Ordinance of 1940 stipulated that non Ceylonese should obtain license to fish in Ceylon's territorial waters. It enacted the Omnibus Ordinance in 1942 giving preference to the Ceylonese in running omnibus services.
The British granted independence to Ceylon in 1948 after obtaining a specific assurance that the interests of the Indian Tamils would be safeguarded But one of the first acts done by D.S.Senanayake was to disfranchise the Indian Tamil population by enacting the Ceylon Citizenship Act of 1948. He made use of a lacuna in the Soulbury Constitution which Left the question of Ceylon citizenship undefined. The Citizen,hip Act placed special restrictions aimed at excluding Indian ramils.
The relevant sections of the Citizenship Act read:
4. (1) Subject to the provisions of this Part, a person born on Ceylon before the appointed date (which was fixed as 15 November 1948) shall have the status of a citizen of Ceylon by descent, if (a) his father was born in Ceylon, or (b) his paternal grandfather and paternal great grandfather were born in Ceylon.
(2) ... a person born outside Ceylon before the appointed date shall have the status of citizen of Ceylon, if (a) his father and paternal grandfather were born in Ceylon, or (b) his paternal grandfather and paternal great grandfather were born in Ceylon.
5. (1) ... a person born in Ceylon on or after the appointed date shall have the status of a citizen of Ceylon by descent, if at the time of his birth his father is a citizen of Ceylon.
Citizenship by descent was conferred automatically on e Sinhalese, Ceylon Tamils and Muslims, but not on Indian mils or Indian Muslims. D.S.Senanayake, who presented the bill m parliament, said every country had the right to determine the persons who would be its citizens. He argued that the Indian immigrants brought to Ceylon by the British colonial rulers had no abiding interest in the country and regarded themselves as temporary residents. They had also deprived the real sons and daughters of the soil, the Kandyan Sinhalese, of their land and jobs.
Members ofthe Ceylon Indian Congress, the All Ceylon Tamil Congress, the Lanka Sama Samaja Party and the Bolshevik Leninist Party voted against the bill. The leftists accused Senanayake of weakening the Tamils. S.J.V.Chelvanayakam, the Tamil Congress MP for Kankesanthurai, in his speech prophesied, "Today, justice is being denied to the Indian Tamils. Some day, in the future, when language becomes the issue, the same fate would befall the Ceylon Tamils. Let us unitedly fight this injustice."
Tamil Congress leader Ponnambalam, in his speech, called Senanayake a racist. He said that the day was a black day for Ceylon.
The entire Tamil community in Ceylon, Indian and Ceylonese, were indignant about this mass disfranchisement. India, too, was annoyed and angry. The Indian government issued a statement criticising the bill. Nehru, India's first prime minister, condemned the legislation.
D.S.Senanayake made a shrewd move to mute the local and Indian dissent. He sent emissaries to Ponnambalam with the promise of two ministerial portfolios and a parliamentary secretaryship as the prize for joining his government. One cabinet portfolio was to be given Immediately and the other four months later when Sir Oliver Goonetillke left the cabinet to take up the High Commissionership in Britain. That caused a split in the party Ponnambalam and his followers were for acceptance. They argued that the acceptance of ministership would afford the Tamil Congress an opportunity go develop the Tamil areas. Chelvanayakam argued that their coining the government would give legitimacy to the Sinhala rule and bring to an end the Tamil campaign for weightage in representation.
Naganathan was then the secretary of the party. He summoned an emergency meeting of the General Council of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress in June 1948 to consider the offer of the UNP High Command. The meeting unanimously decided: "Only if an honourable adjustment on our twin political demands, namely, weightage in the representation for the minorities and a liberal modification of the citizenship acts (to do justice to the Hill Country Tamils) were accepted by the Senanayake government should the Tamil Congress Parliamentary Group be permitted to form a coalition government with the UNP."
At that meeting, Chelvanayakam argued that the Soulbury Commission had, in fact, granted weightage to the majority Sinhala community instead of to the minorities. Joining the cabinet, in that context, would amount to accepting the Soulbury Commission report, which the Tamil Congress had opposed and had obtained a mandate in the 1947 general election to oppose.
Ponnambalam was invited by Sir Oliver Goonetilleke for a meeting with Senanayake. Ponnambalam told Sir Oliver that he was bound by the General Council resolution.
"There won't be any difficulty in making the adjustments you wanton Sir Oliver said. "Join us Then with your additional strength in our party I can muster enough support to make the adjustments you require in regard to the two fundamental issues you raised."
Ponnambalam swallowed Oliver Goonetilleke's assurance. He asked and got the Ministry of Industries, Industrial Research and Fisheries. Ponnambalam, K.Kanagaratnam, T.Ramalingam and V.Kumaraswamy crossed over to the government. Chelvanayakam, Vanniyasingham and
V.Sivapalan refused to join. Naganathan, a senator, also joined Chelvanayakam's group.
For a number of months the two groups, both calling themselves the Tamil Congress, existed side by side. one was called the "Ponnambalam wing" of the Tamil Congress and the other the "Chelvanayakam wing" of the same party. Each expelled adherents of the other, both held committee meetings and public meetings, and issued statements to the press.
The first such committee meeting of the Chelvanayakam wing was held at Chelvanayakam's home in the second week of January 1949 where it was decided to hold public meetings and educate the Tamil people about the federal system of government which had worked well in other countries with plural societies in providing safeguards to minority communities. Chelvanayakam explained that such a set up was best suited to Ceylon wherry Tamils, the major minority community, occupied a distinct territory.
At that meeting was a young law student. His name was Appapillai Amirthalingam. He suggested that the inaugural public meeting be held at the Mavidddapuram Kandaswamy Kovil premises. This was accepted with acclamation. He said the historic temple which occupied a special place in the heart of Hindus was the best place to launch the campaign for federalism.
The inaugural public meeting was held on 13 February 1949. A special pooja was performed and the chief priest blessed Chelvanayakam and invited him to preside. Naganathan, the first speaker, told the gathering that all efforts of the Tamil leadership to win weighted representation to the Tamil community in parliament had failed. The Tamil leadership had fought for weighted representation because, within the unitary British model, that was the only way Tamils could share power with the Sinhala people. Since all attempts to work out some arrangement for the sharing of power had failed, they should look for some other constitutional model.
Vanniyasingham explained the new model they had decided to place before the Tamil people and said, "After careful thought we have decided to advocate the federal model as the one best suitable to the multi lingual, multi racial and multi religious Cevlon ;.. It is a well tested constitutional arrangement. It has worked well in many countries like the United StatedA Canada, the USSR, Switzerland, Australia and in India."
Amirthalingam spoke in behalf of the youth. He spoke of the past glory of the Tamils, of the richness of the Tamil language. He also spoke of the right of the Tamil people to preserve their rich heritage. He argued that federalism was the only political system that would permit them to live with dignity.
A prolonged applause followed Amirthalingam's speech. Chelvanayakam congratulated him for his oratorv and for the flow of words From tilat rn~ sting onv ds, Amlrtilaiingam emerged a crowd puller.
The Chelvanayakam group met every Thursday in Colombo for study and planning. Naganathan sloganized: Thursday nights are federal nights. It also organised several public meetings. The split in the Tamil Congress was completed in August 1949 with the introduction of the Indian and Pakistani (Residents) Citizenship Bill in parliament. This bill laid down the procedure and requirements the disfranchised Indian Tamils should satisfy to gain Ceylon citizenship. Qualifications specified were: seven years of continuous residence from 1 January 1939 for married persons and ten years of continuous residence from 1 January 1936 for unmarried persons.
Whilst introducing the bill in parliament D . S . Senanayake had said that the new legislation was intended to enable Tamil immigrants to gain Ceylon citizenship. Ponnambalam, taking his cue from that, said that the Tamil Congress should vote with the government as the bill provided for the regainment of the lost civic rights. Chelvanayakam took the opposite view. He said the bill was an inhuman piece of legislation which placed obstacles on the way rather than facilitating the regaining of citizenship. Five years of residence was the generally accepted requirement for citizenship in most countries. The government not only stipulated a longer period but also had asked for documents difficult to obtain. Most of the immigrants had shifted residence from estate to estate and as such it was difficult to prove continued residence. he argued.
The "Ponnambalam wing" voted with the government while the ' Chelvanayakam wing" voted against. The Ceylon Indian Congress and the leftist parties also voted against the bill. 'Ponnambalam expelled the Chelvanayakam group from the Tamil Congress and the Chelvanayakam group in turn expelled the Ponnambalam group.
Chelvanayakam was unhappy with this mud slinging match. He felt that the All Ceylon Tamil Congress, the organization hastily brought together just before the visit of the Soulbury Commission, was not enough to meet the needs of the changing scene. He persuaded his followers that a new party svas needed to preach their new message: federalism.
The new party named Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi (The Federal Party of Ceylon) was inaugurated at 9.30 am on 18 December 1949 at the Government Clerical Servants' Union Hall, Maradana. Naganathan, one of the conveners, welcomed the supporters and proposed that Chelvanayakam take the chair. Vanniasingham, the other convener seconded and the proposal was uananimously adopted.
Tracing the history of Ceylon from ancient times, Chelvanayakam said that the two nationalities the Sinhalese and the Tamils had lived in separate territories till the advent of the Portuguese. But now the people in power were talking only about the Sinhala nation as if it was the only one in Ceylon. And though during certain periods of historv Sinhalese kings had ruled Tamil areas a. d Tamil kmgs the Sinhala areas, that did not derogate from tne Sinhalese or Tamils their sovereignty. However, most of tile tints Talnil areas were completely independent of Sinhalese rule and were fully independent till tne British brought thc entire country under a unified single administration in 1833.
'The Britishers and the local reformists failed to realist the basic fact that Ceylon is not a homogenous state. It is a country inhabited by two separate nations the Sinhalese and the Tamils. The British model of unitary system, imposed by the colonial rulers, is totally unsuited. It is to the credit of the Taming leaders that they realised the inherent dangers of the unitary system. But they only concentrated in reducing the extent of the danger by advocating communal representation and balanced representation. But they failed to pay attention to the removal of the danger. The remedy thee were able to foresee was getting a better representation for the Tamils and other minorities. They failed to work out an alternate constitutional structure," Chelvanayakam said.
He then traced the political history of Ceylon since I 83 3 and showed how the Tamil share in the government had been progressively reduced. He said, "We were first denied our share in the government. Next our electoral strength was reduced by the denial of citizenship to OUf Indian Tamil brethren. Then they started reducing our territory bv stateaided Colonization. The federal structure Ovid get the Tamils their legitimate share in the government and put an end to the Sinhala attempt to grab our territory."
In conclusion, (Chelvanayaliam said, "The Upcountry Tamils have been made political outcasts. They have been made destitute. Winning back their citizenship rights would a cornerstone policy of the party we have founded today''
Naganathan moved the resolution for tile ~~or,llatlon of vhe nexv party.
The resolution read.
"This gathering of active workers in the cause of freedom for the Tamil speaking people in Ceylon, here met in conference at the GCSU Hall, Maradana, on the 18th December 1949, deeply conscious of the inferiority in status to which the Tamil speaking people in Ceylon are being increasingly reduced under the present unitary system of government which system of government is irrational and totally unsuited to a multi linguistic country and fully alive to the implications of the dangers inherent in the legislative and administrative policy of the government, which policy is manifestly detrimental to the future existence of the Tamil speaking people in the island as free and self respecting citizens and clearly realising that the only fair and democratic solution to these fundamental problems (consistent with the Island's unity) is the establishment of an Autonomous State for the Tamil speaking people of Ceylon within the structure of a Federal Union of Ceylon, hereby resolve to constitute itself as the llankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi and become the framework of the National Organisation of the Tamil speaking people of Ceylon, pledged to strive increasingly for the attainment of their goal of self government based on the principle of self determination of the Tamil speaking nation of the island."
A motion calling for the adoption of a draft interim constitution was also passed. The policy objectives contained in the constitution were:
(a) The recognition of the right of every Tamil speaking individual who has made Ceylon his home to full citizenship rights;
(b) The regeneration and unification of the Tamil speaking people of Ceylon by the removal of all forms of social inequalities and injustices, in particular that of untouchability which exists among a section of the people;
(c) The realisation of a socialist economy with equality of opportunity for education and employment without regard to caste, creed, race or sex;
(d) The promotion and maintenance of goodwill and friendship with the Sinhalese people in the interests of Federal unity and progress.
Chelvanayakam was elected the president and Naganathan the general secretary of the party.
About this time, D.S.Senanayake's government dealt another blow to the Indian Tamil community. An amendment to the election law passed by parliament restricted voting rights to citizens only.
The Ceylon Indian Congress, annoyed and angered by this, decided on a boycott of the implementation of the Indian and Pakistani (Residents') Citizenship Act. On their advice, over 90 per cent of the Indian Tamils decided not to apply for citizenship.
The Federal Party decided to join hands with the Indian Tamil and other Marxist parties that supported them and campaigned for the restoration of their citizenship rights. That brought the Federal Party and the Ceylon Indian Congress, the main organisation of the Indian Tamils, closer.
The Federal Party nominated Amirthalingam to attend the 1952 Hatton session of the Ceylon Indian Congress. He again participated in the 1954 session where he delivered an impassioned appeal for Tamil unity. He warned that the Sinhala leadership was all out to weaken the Tamil community.
"They have robbed your citizenship and they are robbing our lands. They have reduced our numbers and they are reducing our territory. We cannot permit this. Resist we must Resist we will," he said, amidst thunderous applause.