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Home > International Tamil Conferences on Tamil Eelam Freedom Struggle > > Second World Tamil Eelam Convention, 1984 > Tamil Liberation Struggle reaches Popular Stage
Satchi Ponnambalam (1984),
Proceedings of the Second World Tamil Convention
Nanuet, New York, U.S.A
Tamil Liberation Struggle Reaches Popular Stage
Justice Satchi Ponnambalam
From the time of independence in 1948, the chauvinism of the Sinhalese ruling class has been seeking to devour the Tamil nation by depriving and denying the fundamental ethnic, political, linguistic, economic, educational, employment and other rights of the Tamil people. The only systematised state policy of the Sinhalese governments over the last thirty five years have been to subjugate, oppress and terrorise the Tamil people.
Soon after independence, the Ceylon Citizenship Act ( 1948) was enacted depriving a million Tamils of Indian origin of their Ceylon citizenship. The following year, the Ceylon (Parliamentary Elections) Amendment Act (1949) was enacted depriving the Tamils of Indian origin of their franchise, which they had exercised in the 1930, 1935 and 1947 elections to the State Council. Having reduced one-half of the Tamil people a stateless and voteless humanity, the Sinhalese ruling class turned its axe on the Ceylon Tamil nation.
Reneging from a 1944 State Council Resolution to make Sinhala and Tamil as the official languages replacing English, the Sinhalese ruling class, in 1956 enacted the Official Language Act making Sinhala as the only official language of the country. Then, when the Tamil people, in the Kodeswaran language rights case appealed to the Privy Council in London against "Sinhala Only" as being in violation of Section 29 of the Constitution, the Sinhalese government abolished appeals to the Privy Council in 1971.
In the following year a Republican Constitution was enacted through an illegal Constituent Assembly, which abolished the Section 29 safeguards against discriminatory legislation contained in the independence constitution. The Republican Constitution declared Buddhism, the religion of the bulk of the Sinhalese as the state religion. In 1977, the Proscribing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam Act was enacted. In 1979, the Prevention of Terrorism Act was enacted to employ state terrorism on the Tamil people. Thus, the new status quo sought to be established by the Sinhalese ruling class was one of subjugation and national oppression of the Tamil people.
Over these years, the Sinhalese ruling class has retained control of the political system by whipping up anti-Tamil hatred and paranoid hysteria. Racist anti-Tamil politics became the sheet-anchor and the basic ideology of the state. The Sinhalese people were manipulated into this dark and narrow path of racism to serve the ends of the rulers and to ensure their political domination. The 5inhalese-Tamil conflict was created by the Sinhalese ruling class to further its hagemonist chauvinism and was developed as the major contradiction in the country. The position of the Sinhalese ruling class is that Tamil rights should be taken away, no concession should be made and any protest by the Tamils will be quelled by the Sinhalese military might. A situation created by injustice and living by injustice cannot welcome any solution based on justice.
From 1956 the Tamil people have been seeking solution to the national question on the basis of some form of autonomy. At the political level they rallied behind and voted in their thousands for the Federal Party at every election, seeking solution to the national question on the basis of a federal state structure. At the level of resistance and agitation, in 1961 the Tamil people launched direct action in the form of Satyagraha opposite the government Kacheries (District Administrative Headquarters) in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.
In the broad sweep of history, the civil disobedience campaign by peaceful satyagraha by the Tamil people in 1961 constitutes the first popular resistance against national subjugation and oppression.
The 1961 civil disobedience campaign, which lasted for about three months was an act of Tamil national protest against the oppressive policies of the Sinhalese government. Thousands of Tamil men and women squatted in front of government buildings and effectively paralysed the administration of the Tamil areas. The objective was to bring pressure to bear on the government to act justly by the Tamil people and to accept the Tamil demand for federal autonomy.
The Sinhalese government's response to the peaceful satyagraha of the Tamil people was the unleashing of Sinhalese military violence. Although there was no threat to public security, the government declared a state of emergency and dispatched the Sinhalese army to the Tamil areas with instructions to drive away the satyagrahis. The men of the army stampeded on the sit-down satyagrahis; brutally attacked them with rifles and bayonets, cracking the skulls and limbs of the non-violent protectors. Hundreds of satyagrahis were seriously injured.
This military terrorism of the oppressor against the non-violent protest of the oppressed to seek redress against injustice demonstrated to the Tamil people that the oppressor does not recognise any form of civilised non-violent democratic protest.
In the 1977 election, the Tamil people overwhelmingly voted for secession of the Tamil homelands of the North and the East and the establishment of the separate state of Tamil Eelam. Tamil resistance to oppression and state repression was taken up by the young militant nationalists, who formed themselves as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Knowing that the oppressor will never consent to a peaceful resolution of the Tamil national question and having learnt that peaceful protest will be replied with military violence, the Liberation Tigers resorted to guerrilla armed struggle to end the oppression and repression and establish the state of Tamil Eelam.
From 1977, the present government has been trying to pre-empt and outbid the Tamil separatist groundswell. That the Liberation Tigers were only the avant-garde of the Tamil people's resolve and struggle for national self-determination by secession and were advancing the people's resolve has been too difficult for the guilty political conscience of the oppressor to admit. While never adverting himself to the political question and showing no willingness to resolve the political issue, layewardene, as President branded the Liberation Tigers as "terrorists", enacted the Prevention of Terrorism Act in 1979 and sent the army to the Tamil areas, with a mandate, in his own words, to "wipe out the terrorists before 31st December 1979".
With the mandate from the Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to ''wipe out" i.e. to kill, the Sinhalese army resorted to state terrorism in the Tamil areas and killed several innocent Tamils. On the very first day of the army's arrival in Jaffna, the army and the police killed seven innocent young Tamils - Inpam, Selvaratnam, Parameswaran, Rajeswaran, Rajakili, E\alendran and Indrarajah. Hundreds of innocent young Tamils were arrested and subjected to barbarous torture. The army did not catch sight of a single ''Tiger" and the 31st December went by.
From that time, army occupation of the Tamil areas continues and institutionalised violence against the Tamil people prevails. Hence those who advocate or use violence in defence of their rights are not initiating violence but responding to it. But in the view of the Sri Lankan government, the Tamil people have no rights to defend and they must submit to military occupation and army tyranny.
The Tamil people however have recently broken their silence and become active participants in the liberation struggle. In retaliation to the savage killings of over 30 innocent people including women at the Chunnakam market, the Liberation Tigers ambushed an army convoy at Hospital Road, Jaffna, in the afternoon of 9th April 1984 and by setting off explosives from a parked van destroyed a military truck and inflicted heavy casualties on the army. Soon thereafter, the army went on wild rampage, shooting and killing people on the streets. With rocket launchers, the army fired and damaged the Catholic Church - Our Lady of Refuge. Rising up against the wanton and arbitrary killings by the army, the people took to the streets in numbers, erected road-blocks in several places and threw hand bombs when the army approached them. Seeing the mass indignation and defiance, the army retreated in several places.... The people have been brought to a stage of open defiance of the army by a government that does not admit of basic rights or freedoms of the Tamil people.