We, the Tamil delegation, being solely representative of the Tamil people
at the Thimpu talks, have given careful consideration to the proposals made,
on the 16th of August 1985, by the Sri Lankan Government delegation. We
state that we are constrained to reject the proposals as they fail to
satisfy the legitimate political aspirations of the Tamil people.
The Thimpu talks were convened at the initiative of the Government of
India. It was an initiative which we welcomed particularly in the context of
Prime Minister Shri Rajiv Gandhi's statement concerning the need to find a
just and lasting solution to the Tamil national question.
At the commencement of these talks in early July 1985, the Sri Lankan
Government presented certain proposals, which were in substance, a
repetition of the proposals by the Government to the aborted All Party
Conference in Colombo in December 1984. These proposals had been rejected by
the TULF and the action of the Sri Lankan government in placing similar
proposals once again at the Thimpu talks called in question the good faith
of the Government and its commitment to seek a just solution at these talks.
The intent of the proposals that were presented was clear. Although it
was stated that power would devolve on District Councils, in fact, the
District Councils were without executive power. Again, even their limited
legislative power to enact subsidiary legislation was made subject to the
control and approval of the President. Finally the funds to be placed at the
disposal of a District Council were to be determined at the discretion of a
commission appointed by the President. The proposals submitted by the Sri
Lanka Government did not devolve power from the centre: they reinforced the
power of the centre to manage the districts. The proposals constituted
evidence of the intention of Sri Lankan government to manage and control the
Tamil people even in the relatively insignificant functional areas where the
District Councils were given some jurisdiction.
We, the Tamil delegation, consisting of six organisations, unanimously
rejected these proposals because it was our considered view that any
meaningful solution to the Tamil national question must be based on the four
cardinal principles enunciated by us.
The talks were thereafter adjourned to the 12th of August 1985, on which
date the Sri Lankan Government made a statement setting out its
understanding of the four basic principles enunciated by us and the Sri
Lankan government denied that the Tamils constituted a nation, that the
Tamils have an identifiable homeland, and further that the Tamil people have
the right of self determination. The Sri Lankan Government further
questioned our right to represent or negotiate on behalf of the plantation
Tamils in the Island.
We responded by our statement of the 13th August 1985, and pointed out
that our demand for self determination had evolved and taken shape
historically through the determined political struggles of our people. We
stated that the Tamils of Eelam or Tamil Eelam, constituted a nation with a
common heritage, a common culture, a common language and an identified
homeland, and further that they were a subjugated people and as such they
had the inherent right to free themselves from an alien subjugation. It is
right of self determination that has come to be recognised as one of the
peremptory norms of general international law. We stated that in upholding
the right of self determination, we as a people have the liberty to
determine our political status, to freely associate or integrate with an
independent state or secede and establish a sovereign independent state. We
mentioned, however that the enumeration of the principles enunciated by us
did not entail that we were opposed to any rational dialogue with the
Government of Sri Lanka on the basis of such principles.
At the subsequent talks on the 13th and 14th of August 1985, the Sri
Lankan Government delegation failed to engage in any discussion concerning
the basic framework that we had enunciated. This was despite the
circumstance that the members of the Tamil delegation specifically requested
the Sri Lankan Government delegation to honour that which it had it had
stated in its own statement of the 12th of August i.e. to engage in a
'fruitful exchange' of views.
The Sri Lankan government delegation presented instead its so called
'new proposals' on the 16th of August 1985. These 'new proposals' are a
rehash of the earlier proposals with the right to certain District Councils
to function as Provincial Councils.
The 'new proposals' do not recognise that the Tamils of Sri Lanka
constitute a nation. The 'new proposals' do not recognise that the Tamil
speaking people have the right to an identified homeland. The 'new
proposals' do not recognise the inalienable right of self determination of
the Tamil people. And finally the 'new proposals' do not secure the
fundamental rights of the Tamil people and any solution to the Tamil
national question is inseparable from the resolution of the problems of the
plantation Tamils in the Island. And accordingly the 'new proposals' fail to
satisfy the legitimate political aspirations of the Tamil people.
We may add that the so called 'new proposals' are in fact nothing new. As
early as 1928, the Donoughmore Commission recommended the establishment of
Provincial Councils on the ground that it was desirable that a large part of
the administrative work of the centre should come into the hands of persons
resident in the districts and thus more directly in contact with the needs
of the area. Twelve years later the Executive Committee of Local
Administration chaired by the late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, considered the
proposal of the Donoughmore Commission and in 1940, the State Council (the
legislature approved the establishment of Provincial Councils. But nothing
was in fact done, though in 1947, on the floor of the House of
Representatives, the late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike again declared his support
for the establishment of Provincial Councils.
In 1955, the Choksy Commission recommended the establishment of Regional
Councils to take over the functions that were exercised by the Kacheries and
in May 1957, the government of the late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike presented a
draft of the proposed Bill for the establishment of Regional Councils.
Subsequently, in July 1957, the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam Pact made
provision for direct election to Regional Councils and also provided that
the subjects covered by Regional Councils shall include agriculture,
cooperatives, lands and land development, colonisation and education. The
Pact however did not survive the opposition of sections of the Sinhala
community which included the United National Party.
In July 1963, the government of Mrs. Bandaranaike declared that early
consideration' would be given to the question of the establishment of
District Councils to replace the Kacheries and the government appointed a
Committee on District Councils and the report of this Committee containing a
draft of the proposed Bill to establish District Councils but again nothing
was in fact done.
In 1965, the government of the late Dudley Senanayake declared that it
would give 'earnest consideration' to the establishment of District Councils
and in 1968 a draft Bill approved by the Dudley Senanayake Cabinet was
presented as a White Paper and this Bill provided for the establishment of
District Councils. This time round, the opposition to the Bill was
spearheaded by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party which professed to follow the
policies of the late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike who himself had in 1940, 1947 and
again in 1957, supported the establishment of Provincial/Regional Councils.
In view of the opposition the Dudley Senanayake government withdrew the Bill
that it had presented.
More than 50 years have passed since 1928 and we have moved from
Provincial Councils to Regional Councils and from Regional Councils to
District Councils and now from District Councils back to District/Provincial
Councils. We have had the 'early consideration' of Mrs. Srimavo Bandaranaike
and the 'earnest consideration' of the late Dudley Senanayake. There has
been no shortage of Committees and Commissions, of reports and
recommendations but that which was lacking was the political will to
recognise the existence of the Tamil nation. And simultaneous with this
process of broken pacts and dishonoured agreements, the Tamil people were
subjected to an ever widening and deepening national oppression aimed at
undermining the integrity of the Tamil nation.
The four basic principles that we have set out at the Thimpu talks as the
necessary framework for any rational dialogue with the Sri Lankan Government
are not some mere theoretical constructs. They represent the hard
existential reality of the struggle of the Tamil people for their
fundamental and basic rights. It is a struggle which initially manifested
itself in the demand for a federal constitution in the 1950s and later in
the face of a continuing and increasing oppression and discrimination, found
logical expression in the demand for the independent Tamil state of Eelam or
Tamil Eelam. It is a struggle in which thousands of Tamils have died and
many thousands more have lost their properties and their means of livelihood
- they have died and they have suffered so that their brothers and sisters
may live in equality and in freedom.
And so, we declare here at Thimpu, without rancour, and with patience,
that we shall speak at Thimpu, or for that matter anywhere else, on behalf
of the Tamil nation or not at all. And we call upon the Sri Lankan
Government to state unequivocally, whether it is prepared to enter into a
rational dialogue on the basis of the framework set out by the cardinal
principles enunciated by us at these talks.
There is one further matter of some considerable importance to which we
wish to refer and we propose to do that in a separate statement.