TAMIL EELAM - SRI LANKA
A Record of Broken Pacts & Evasive Proposals
Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism has been institutionalised in Sri Lanka and
today it has become more powerful than the politicians themselves. Indeed
even if the Sinhala politicians seek to settle the conflict, Sinhala
Buddhist chauvinism may try to prevent such a settlement. This is the
political reality that those who are aware of the Sri Lankan situation are
well aware of. This is the result of the grievous error committed by Sinhala
1956 for the
first time this 'communalism' was openly put forward for electoral gain.
This Sinhala chauvinism which was nurtured by Sinhala politicians for their
has grown into a
Frankenstein monster which now has the power to destroy and make
politicians. This we understand very well..."
Krishnakumar, June, 1991
1928 Donoughmore Commission
proposal for Provincial Councils...
1957 Bandaranaike- Chelvanayakam
Pact for direct election to Regional Councils...
Senanayake-Chelvanayakam Agreement for District Councils...
1970 Proposals by the Tamil Federal
Party rejected by Sri Lanka...
Commission to report on creation of District Development Councils...
1983 Annexure C
Proposals & All party Conference..
1985 Thimpu Talks...
Sri Lanka Peace Agreement..
1992/93 Parliamentary Select Committee Reports...
Peace Trap by Chandrika Government...
1995 Devolution Package
& Norwegian Peace Process...
The golden thread...
The record shows that
during the past fifty years and more, the Tamil people in the island of Sri
Lanka have been subjected to an ever widening and deepening oppression by
successive Sinhala dominated governments. Simultaneous with this process, the
record also shows that the dominant Sinhala majority has broken pacts and
dishonoured agreements entered into with the Tamil political leadership.
Furthermore, the 'proposals' placed by the Sri Lanka government, from
time to time, for the resolution of the conflict have consistently evaded
the central issue of the recognition of the Tamil people, as a people with a
homeland. They have, instead, adopted an assimilative approach, directed to
absorb the Tamil people into a Sinhala Buddhist Sri Lanka.
Professor Marshall Singer was right to point out in 1995 that...
"...One of the essential elements that must
be kept in mind in understanding the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict is that,
since 1958 at least, every time Tamil politicians negotiated some sort
of power-sharing deal with a Sinhalese government - regardless of which
party was in power - the opposition Sinhalese party always claimed that
the party in power had negotiated away too much. In almost every case -
sometimes within days - the party in power backed down on the
agreement..." - (Professor
Marshall Singer, at US Congress Committee on International Relations
Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific Hearing on Sri Lanka November
And so too was Neil Devotta in 2005...
"...Beginning in the mid-1950s Sri Lanka's politicians from the
majority Sinhalese community resorted to ethnic outbidding as a means to
attain power and in doing so
marginalised the country's minority Tamils...parties in power seek
to promote dubious conflict resolution only to be checkmated by the
respective opposition which typically claims that the proposed solutions
are bound to eventually dismember the island"
Neil Devotta in
From ethnic outbidding to ethnic conflict: the institutional bases for
Sri Lanka's separatist war, 2005
Commission proposal for Provincial Councils...
Even before Sri Lanka became independent (1948) and 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.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.
Chelvanayakam Pact for direct election to Regional Councils...
Subsequently, in July 1957, the
Bandaranaike- Chelvanayakam 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 led by Buddhist priests and which included the
opposition Sinhala United National Party led by J.R.Jayawardene (who twenty
years later, in 1977 became Sri Lanka's first executive President).
At the General Elections in March 1960 (after the death of
Mr.S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike) neither of the two Sinhala dominated parties, the
S.L.F.P. nor the U.N.P. won an overall majority in Parliament. The Federal Party
submitted to both the S.L.F.P. and the U.N.P. a statement of minimum demands.
The U.N.P. did not refer to these demands in the Throne Speech, the Federal
Party voted against the Throne Speech, the government was defeated and fresh
elections were called.
At the subsequent elections in July 1960, the Federal Party supported the
S.L.F.P. (led this time by Mrs.Srimavo Bandaranaike) on the basis of the
S.L.F.P. pledge to implement measures on the lines of the 1957
Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact. But the S.L.F.P. won the General Elections with
an overall majority and did not implement the agreement.
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 was published but again nothing was
in fact done.
1965 Dudley Senanayake-Chelvanayakam
Agreement for District Councils...
After the 1965 General Elections, a pact was negotiated to secure the support
of the Federal Party for the formation of a U.N.P.government led by Dudley
Senanayake. Following upon the
1965 Dudley Senanayake-Chelvanayakam Agreement, the UNP government 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 District Councils Bill in July 1968
and the Federal Party then withdrew from the government.
1970 Proposals by the Tamil
Federal Party rejected by Sri Lanka...
After yet another General Election in 1970, which was won by a large majority
by the S.L.F.P. led by Mrs. Srimavo Bandaranaike, a Constituent Assembly was
established to enact an authochnous constitution. The Federal Party submitted
proposals to the Ministry of Constitutional Affairs for:
1. A federal form of government with an autonomous Tamil state, an
autonomous Muslim state and three autonomous Sinhala states;
2. Tamil Language Regulation 1966 to be incorporated into the constitution;
3. Mother tongue to be the compulsory medium of instruction for all Tamil
The Federal Party withdrew from the Constituent Assembly in June 1971, after
its proposed amendment on parity of status for the Tamil and Sinhala languages
was defeated. The Constituent Assembly passed the new Constitution (which gave
Ceylon the Sinhala name 'Sri Lanka' and gave a dominant Constitutional role for
Buddhism) on 22 May 1972. The Federal Party parliamentarians boycotted the
Commission to inquire and report on the creation of District Development
In August 1979, Sri Lanka President J.R.Jayawardene appointed a
Presidential Commission to inquire and report on the creation of District
Development Councils. The Commission included, Mr.Neelan Thiruchelvam and
Professor Alfred Jeyaratnam Wilson who both had the support of the Tamil United
But though the Presidential Commission had been touted as a body which would
address the issues arising from the ethnic conflict, in the event, the
Commission concluded that the scheme that they had envisaged "would be
applicable to all of the 24 districts in the Island irrespective of their ethnic
composition" and was "not intended to provide a different political or
administrative structure for any particular part of the country."
1983 Annexure C
Proposals & All Party Conference
Genocide'83 and the death of thousands of Tamils at the hands of Sinhala
mobs in July/August 1983, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi sent her
representative, Mr.G.Parthasarathy for discussions with Sri Lanka and with the
Tamil United Liberation Front.
As a result of Mr. Parthasarthy's discussions, a
set of proposals were formulated. The Sri Lanka Government agreed to convene an
All Party Conference to consider these proposals. The proposals were submitted
as an annexure to a statement submitted by President Jayawardene to the All
Party Conference and came to be known as
Annexure "C" proposals..
But though President Jayewardene had agreed in discussions with
Mr.Parthasarathy that these proposals would form the basis of negotiations, the
Government of Sri Lanka failed to adopt these Proposals at the All Party
Conference discussions which commenced
in January 1984.
The All Party Conference dragged on till
December 1984, when the
Jayewardene Government presented proposals in the form of a draft 10th
Amendment to the Constitution and a draft District and Provincial Councils
Development Bill. The Sri Lanka proposals
merely extended the scheme of decentralization at District level to the
Provincial level with limited co-ordination. The
TULF rejected these proposals and the All Party Conference collapsed.
1985 Thimpu Talks...
In July and August 1985 the leaders of the Tamil armed resistance,
together with the Tamil United Liberation Front participated in talks with the
Sri Lanka government. The talks, sponsored by India, were held in Thimpu, the
capital of Bhutan with a view to resolving the conflict.
At the Thimpu Talks, the Sri
Lankan Government presented 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 by Sri Lanka at Thimpu was
clear. The unit of devolution was not even the province but the district.
Further, the District Councils were without executive power. 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 evidenced the intention of the 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. In the end, the
Thimpu Talks collapsed because even as the talks continued, Sri Lanka renewed
its military offensive in the Tamil homeland.
"19 December" Proposals...
After the collapse of the Thimpu Talks, India attempted
'indirect negotiations' - with Indian officials talking to the Sri Lanka
government and the TULF separately. The LTTE and the other militant groups (with
the possible exception of PLOTE) were not involved in these 'indirect
negotiations'. At the end of these 'indirect negotiations' on 30.8.1985
the Sri Lankan side presented a
Working Paper (Draft Framework of Accord and Understanding) which, it was
agreed by the Government of India, could serve as the basis for further
The Working Paper envisaged the creation of
separate Provincial Councils for the Northern and Eastern Provinces by amendment
to the Sri Lankan Constitution. Yet again, the Proposals refused to recognise
the existence of the Tamil homeland in the North-East. During October and
November 1985, India's Foreign Secretary, Romesh Bhandari, attempted to
secure the agreement of the Tamil militant groups to the Sri Lanka Working Paper
but not surprisingly failed.
In mid December 1986, Indian Minister of State Mr. Natwar Singh and Mr. P.
Chidambaram visited Colombo and fresh proposals were evolved (which came to be
known as the "December 19 Proposals").
These proposals involved the formation of a new
Eastern Province by excising Sinhalese majority areas (Amparai Electoral
District) from the existing Eastern Province, and the creation of two Tamil
Provincial Councils in the Northern and the reconstituted Eastern Province. The
Sri Lanka government agreed to consider a proposal for a Second Stage of
constitutional development which would provide for the Northern Province and the
new Eastern Province being merged.
However, soon after the return of the Indian Ministers, the Sri Lankan
Government expressed reservations and resiled from the December 19 position and
this is reflected in the exchange of
letters between India and Sri Lanka in February 1987. (see also
A booklet, published by the Indian intelligence sources in 1987)
Indo Sri Lanka Peace Agreement...
The events after the collapse of the Thimpu Talks reinforced the belief that
given Sri Lanka's intransigence, India had decided to adopt the soft option and
secure its own strategic interests, even if that be at the expense of the
aspirations of the Tamil people.
The Indo-Sri Lankan Peace
Agreement was signed on the 29th of July 1987 by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi
and President J.R. Jayawardene. It was
an agreement that went back even on the Chidambaram 'December 19' proposals.
The Agreement did not recognise the existence of an identified Tamil homeland
and resorted to the subterfuge of a referendum to evade facing the issue posed
by the demand for a merger of the North and East.
The Exchange of Letters
that preceded the signing of the Agreement declared that "Trincomalee or any
other ports in Sri Lanka will not be made available for military use by any
country in a manner prejudicial to India's interests" and that the " work of
restoring and operating the Trincomalee Oil Tank will be undertaken as a joint
operation between India and Sri Lanka."
In August 1987, the Sri Lankan Parliament passed the 13th Amendment to the
Constitution and the ancillary Provincial Councils Act and claimed that the
enactment of these laws fulfilled the promises made in the 1987 Indo Sri Lanka
Accord, to 'devolve power' on the Tamil people.
However, the 13th Amendment and the ancillary Provincial Councils Act was a
constitutional comic opera which created Provincial 'Ministers' without
executive power and at the same time a Provincial Governor, appointed by the
Sinhala President, who would exercise executive power in respect of provincial
matters - a Provincial Governor who was also the administrative head of the
provincial public service and who has control of the Provincial Finance Fund.
The architects of the 13th Amendment refused to break away from the path
trodden by successive Sinhala governments which have sought to divide the
Tamil people into smaller units and so eventually assimilate and 'integrate'
them into a homogeneous Sinhala nation - an assimilating path which had led
to confrontation and which had culminated in the armed struggle of the Tamil
people against that which they rightly regarded as genocide.
India and Sri Lanka sought to enforce the Indo Sri Lanka Agreement by resort
to force and the Indian Army was invited to the North-East by Sri Lanka
President Jayawardene. Initially, 1,700 Indian troops (the Indian Peace Keeping
Force - IPKF) arrived to enforce the pact. The Indian presence eventually grew
to over 100,000.
In December 1988, Sri Lanka elected a new President, Ranasinghe Premadasa. He
assumed office on 2 January 1989. President Premadasa was intent on securing the
withdrawal of the IPKF because of opposition by Sinhala militants (JVP) to
Indian presence in the island. The new
President engaged the LTTE in talks which commenced in April/May 1989 .
India commenced withdrawing troops in July 1989 and completed the withdrawal by
But with the departure of the IPKF,
President Premadasa dragged his feet
on the basic LTTE demands re the dissolution of the North-East provincial
councils (which had been elected under an electoral process rigged by the so
called Indian Peace Keeping Force), the holding of fresh elections and the
repeal of the 6th Amendment to the Sri Lanka Constitution. In June 1990, the
talks inevitably collapsed and the armed conflict resumed.
(see also Tamil
Times and the War on the People)
1992/93 Parliamentary Select Committee Reports...
Thereafter, yet another Sri Lanka President, D.B.Wijetunga, set in motion a
Parliamentary Select Committee to address the question of devolution. The Select
Committee sat for two years, issued an
Interim Report in 1992
and its Final Report in
The Select Committee proposals sought to impose a nine province pseudo
'federal' structure on the island - 'pseudo' because according to the Chairman
of the Select Committee, the report envisaged 'devolution of power' without
using the term 'federal in any manifest sense'!
The seven Sinhala provinces in the South were treated in the same way as the
two Tamil provinces in the NorthEast and that in itself was proof enough of the
meagre nature of the powers that may be exercised by each province.
Talks with Chandrika Government...
In August 1994, the newly elected Sri Lanka government led by Chandrika
Kumaratunga engaged the Liberation Tigers in talks yet again. But in an
interview with the Sinhala owned Sri Lanka Sunday Times, an year later, on 20
August 1995, Sri Lanka President Kumaratunga admitted:
" We conducted talks on the basis that the LTTE would not agree to any
peaceful settlement and lay down arms."
The attempted entrapment of the Liberation Tigers failed and the
'talks' collapsed on 19 April 1995.
Velupillai Pirabaharan, declared in an interview with the BBC
"... giving pledges and implementing those pledges are two different things.
In the past the Tamil people have been betrayed by previous Sinhala regimes.
Agreements were made but not implemented. Pacts were signed and abrogated. This
is our history. Chandrika's government is not an exception..."
Package & Norwegian Peace Process
On 3 August 1995, Sri Lanka President Kumaratunga released
a 'Devolution' package with the stated objective of ending the ethnic
conflict in the island. At the same time she reaffirmed her intention to wage
war against the Liberation Tigers and launched a
genocidal attack on the Tamil homeland
in the north of the island of Sri Lanka. The 'Devolution Package' appeared to be
no more than a peace mask to Sri Lanka's war face.
The 'new' proposals once again, refused to recognise the existence of the
Tamil homeland, rejected an asymmetric approach, continued to treat all the
provinces in the same way and to insist on a unitary state. In March 1997, the
Sri Lanka government released some chapters of the
new Constitution but held back on the provisions relating to devolution. In
October 1997, this was followed up with a
completed Draft Constitution. At the same time, Sri Lanka
intensified its genocidal war against the Tamil people.
In 2001, faced with the determined demand for recognition of the
right to self determination of the people of Tamil Eelam, attempts were made
to develop a constitutional theory of
'internal' and 'external' self determination - and
a conflict resolution
process was set in motion with Norway as the facilitator. But this too
Sri Lanka abrogating the
agreement in January 2008.
The golden thread...
A 'golden thread' runs through every single set of proposals from the 1928
Donoughmore Commission recommendations, through the 1957 Bandaranaike
Chelvanayakam Agreement, the 13th Amendment and
the Kumaratunga package (including the
Sri Lanka Constitution Bill of August 2000) - and that is the Sinhala
people's rejection of an asymmetric approach and the insistence that whatever
'devolution' or 'decentralisation' that was on offer was equally available to
the Sinhala provinces (which had never struggled or demanded 'devolution' or
'decentralisation') and to the Tamil areas in the North and East of the island.
Satchi Ponnambalam's comments in 1991 about the
1968 District Councils episode have a general relevance:
"...The (1968) District Councils episode and the fiasco in
which it ended brings into focus the significant realities of the Tamil
Firstly, it epitomizes the resort of the opposition Sinhalese
politicians to "false propaganda and the spreading of communal hatred", on any
measure even remotely connected to or ameliorative of the enslaved and deprived
of "birthright" condition of the Tamil people.
Secondly, that false propaganda will accuse the proposer of
any such measure as the author of a scheme "to divide the country to the
detriment of the Sinhalese", in order to heighten the controversy over it so
that the proposer himself would jettison it, as did Dudley Senanayake.
the vociferous Buddhist lobby consisting of the Mahanayakes, Bhikkhus and
the A.C.B.C. have become the keepers of the conscience of the Sinhalese nation
and the custodians of the Sri Lanka Government's positions over the Tamil
problem, which the two have created in the country.
Fourthly, the ultimatum threat of an influential section of
the Government Parliamentary Group to the P.M. to give up or face revolt shows
that the Sinhalese politicians do not divide on party lines on the Tamil problem
but on racial or ethnic lines and therefore it is not possible for the P.M. to
shore up support for his proposals even within the ranks of his own party
Fifthly, living up to Dudley Senanayake's predatory wish, the
Tamil people have "sent away ... the Tamil Congress and the Federal Party", but
have yet not regained their "birthright in Sri Lanka."
Lastly, and most importantly, the new status quo of the
Sinhalese and Sri Lanka Government - Tamil position of
rulers/ruled, overlordship/subjugation has come to be cast in such a rigid,
impenetrable and immutable mould that the Tamils have been left with no choice
but to break that mould by force to free themselves to be counted as humans;
otherwise, it was slavery, revolting to any civilized conscience...The Tamils
right and claim to the Eelam territory has to be bluntly, irrefutably and
crisply stated: the Eelam lands are inviolate and Tamil nation's sovereignty
over that territory is non-negotiable..
solution of self-determination has evolved and taken shape by the
compulsions of more than three decades of political struggles of the Tamil
people and their political leaders which ended in the ignominious failure to
arrive at any just solution by the process of negotiation between the two
parties. There lay in ruins the scrap-heap of broken pacts and dishonoured
agreements as to proposals for Regional Councils, District Councils, Provincial
Councils, Provincial/Regional Councils, District/Provincial Councils - all
tentative concepts and toothless bodies with no genuine devolved powers of
The record of broken
pacts, dishonoured agreements and evasive proposals reveals
consistent refusal to recognise the existence of the Tamil people as a
"people" with an historic homeland and the
to freely determine their political status - the right to freely
determine the terms on which the Sinhala people and the Tamil people may
each other in equality and in freedom.
In the end, it seems that it is the power that flows through the barrel
of the gun that will determine that which is just - as these conclusions by
Professor Marshall Singer in 1992 and 8 years later by the Centre for
Strategic & International Studies appear to suggest -
the combatants want a solution they will have to
abandon theory and deal with reality. The sooner
they do that the sooner there will be a
solution...The problem for the Tamils is that they
are not in any position either militarily or
politically to impose a solution to their liking...
I submit, given the fact that they are so splintered
both politically and militarily,
they would be lucky if they could get the Sinhalese
to agree to some very meaningful devolution of power
within the framework of the Provincial Councils..."
Marshall Singer in Alternative Solutions to the
"...the prospects for Sri Lanka's fragile peace
have been badly undercut. Reviving them will require a much more radical
approach to power sharing than the government has been willing to consider in
the past... A loose confederal structure, with some kind of explicit recognition
of the Tamils as a collective group within it and with stronger guarantees of
their inclusion in power at the national level, might be more successful. Two
draft Canadian constitutions proposed that certain legislative changes would
require a "double majority" of both English and French-speaking
parliamentarians; an analogous provision might be useful. Obviously, this type
of radical departure would be intensely controversial in the
Sri Lankan political mainstream. But half measures will only prolong the
US based Centre for Strategic & International Studies, June 2000