"...Enough is enough. I have not reached my 96
years in this world with my eyes shut. I have seen enough of the
Senanayakes, Bandaranaikes, Ratwattes, Kotalawelas,
Jayawardenes, Wickramasinghes, Premadasas, Pereras and Silvas.
There is no denying that they are all genuine, sincere patriots,
every one of them - but Sinhalese, not Ceylonese..."
leaders of Sinhala community prepared to share state power with
Tamils? Mr. V. Navaratnam, the only surviving founder member of the
Federal Party that provided political leadership to Tamils for more
than three decades since it was formed in 1949, and described as the
brain behind FP, shared with TamilNet his views on Tamil National
struggle. The doyen of Tamil politics who negotiated with the father
of the incumbent President Chandrika Kumaratunge and other Sri Lanka
leaders for sharing state power within a federal framework for
almost three decades turns 96-years this month in Montreal, Canada.
He also inked the Bandaranaiyake Chelvanayagam pact.
Navaratnam was Member of Parliament for Kayts in
Jaffna. Born in Karampon on 18th October 1910 in Jaffna and educated
in Ceylon Law College, he was an Attorney-at-Law for nearly 58
years. In 1956 he authored the book "Ceylon Faces Crisis," and in
"The Fall And Rise Of The Tamil Nation," a book that provides a
historic and detailed understanding of early negotiations between
the Sinhala and Tamil leaders from a Tamil perpective.
Despite his age, Mr. Navaratnam, keeps himself current with the
political events in Sri Lanka from his residence in Montreal,
TamilNet: As a co-founder of the Federal Party and as
participant in dialogues with Sinhala leaders for peaceful solution
in the 50s and 60's, could you share your views regarding those
Navaratnam: Earliest agreement between
Tamils and Sinhalese dates back to 1919, when
Ponnambalam Arunachalam [later Sir], a Cambridge educated
Tamil, founded the Ceylon National Congress and was elected its
first President. He led Ceylon's intelligentsia in its agitation
for political reforms under British rule. The Agreement of 1919,
between Ponnambalam Arunachalam on behalf of the Tamils, and
James Pieris and E.J. Samarawickrama K.C. on behalf of the
Sinhalese, provided for a Tamil seat for the Tamils of the
Western Province in the legislature. When it came up before the
Ceylon National Congress in 1922 for ratification before
forwarding it to Whitehall, a faction of the Sinhalese led by
H.J.C.Pereira opposed it arguing that it was an agreement
between individuals not binding on the Congress.
Thus ended the 1919 pact.
The next agreement was the Sinhalese-Tamil Pact of 1925, known
as the "Mahendra Pact". A delegation of the Ceylon National
Congress led by its President C.E. Corea, accompanied by his
brother C.E. Victor S. Corea, George E. de Silva, M.P.
Jayatilake, T.B. Jayah, M.A. Arulanandam, P. de S. Kularatne,
R.S.S.Gunawardene and S. Muttiah entered into a pact with a
Tamil delegation in Jaffna at Waithilngam Duraiswamy's residence
named 'Mahendra'. The parties agreed that in any future
Constitution, the proportion of representation in the country's
legislature should be one for Tamils and two for Sinhalese.
This agreement was placed before the general session of the
Congress in Kandy in 1925. Ratification was postponed for a
special session of the Congress. The next general session was
held in Galle in 1926 when C.E Victor S. Corea proposed
ratification of the 1:2 ratio agreement and pleaded not to
alienate Tamils by reneging. A dissident section of the Congress
led by Francis de Zoysa sabotaged it arguing that they were not
at a special session.
Towards the end of the second world war in the early 40's when
the prospect of the liquidation of the British Empire was in the
air, S.W.R.D. Bandranaike campaigned for Sinhala as the only
official language of Ceylon. The then powerful UNP leader of the
Sinhalese, Don Stephan Senanayake (father of Dudley Senanayake)
reprimanded Bandaranaike and got Ceylon's legislature, then the
State Council, to adopt a Resolution declaring that both
Sinhalese and Tamil should be the official languages of the
Ceylon. Bandaranaike, however, bided his time, seceded from the
UNP, and founded the Sri Lanka Federal Party (SLFP).
Independence was granted under the 1948 Constitution. But, when
S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike became Prime Minister in 1956, his very
first Government business was to get an
Official Language Act making Sinhala Only, passed in the
Parliament Chamber while outside the Parliament House hired
thugs and hoodlums had a field day,
thrashing and kicking Tamil Members of Parliament and their
supporters who were squatting on the Galle Face Green, in a non
violent, peaceful protest.
This was a blatant repudiation of what was virtually a
Sinhalese-Tamil Pact vested with the authority of Legislative
The most publicly noticed
reneging was that of the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact (B-C
Pact) of 1957 because it was an agreement which generated
high hopes for a resolution of the Self-determination demand of
Tamils. One Sinhala leader, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike of the SLFP,
was seen as conceding, while another Sinhala leader J. R.
Jeyawardene of the UNP, was sabotaging it.
TamilNet: What made Mr. Bandaranaike concede?
Navaratnam: It was the historic
Trincomalee Convention of the Federal party in August 1956. The
convention, consequent to passing of the Sinhala Only Act,
adopted a single Resolution giving an ultimatum to Colombo to
abolish the 1948 Unitary Constitution and replace it with a
Federal one within a year, providing for Tamil and Sinhalese
states as constituent units vested with autonomous and residuary
powers. The Federal Party threatened with continuous nonviolent
direct action if Colombo failed. In order to avoid direct
confrontation, Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike
into the B-C Pact providing for “Regional Councils” of a sort.
Even so, at the negotiating table there was opposition from a
Minister of his own Government. Philip Gunawardene, Minister of
Agriculture, and at that time an LSSP Marxist, refused to
concede any of the powers of his Ministry to the proposed Tamil
Claiming that Bandaranaike had sold the Country to the Tamils by
this Pact, J. R. Jeyawardene resorted to protest with a marathon
march from Colombo to Kandy to rouse the extreme nationalist
feelings of the Sinhalese Buddhists. In February 1958, a crowd
of Buddhist monks in saffron robes sat on the lawn of the Primie
Minister's residence, refusing to leave unless the B-C Pact was
abrogated. Bandaranaike emerged from his door with the document
and tore up the B-C pact. Ceylon's career of crises was well and
truly under way.
TamilNet: And your personal experience with the
then UNP leaders who followed?
Navaratnam: It is now 40 years since that
illfated day in 1965 when some of us were seated in the hall of
the Turret Road residence in Colombo of Dr. M.V.P.Peiris, facing
Dudley Senanayake, Esmond Wickramasinghe (father of Ranil
Wickramasinghe) and J. R. Jeyawardene and negotiating what came
to be known as the
Dudley Senanayake-Chelvanayakam pact (DS-C Pact), under
which the Federal Party of the Tamils agreed to supply the
numbers in Parliament which Senanayke needed to become Prime
Minister and form a UNP government. Dudley Senanayake in turn
promised the Federal Party to grant self-determination to the
Tamils through District Councils.
Towards the closing stage of the meeting, I raised the question
state-aided Sinhala colonisation of the Tamil Northern and
and asked whether the District Councils would be granted
exclusive control of Crown lands. Suddenly Dudley Senanayake
threw up his hands in the air and shouted: "Then where are my
people to go for land?" Silence fell in the room for a couple of
minutes, after which Esmond Wickremasinghe turned to me and
said, "Don't hold up the talks, Nava. I can suggest a formula
which will meet your concern." He took my sheet of paper on
which I was jotting down notes of the terms and wrote the clause
about priority being given to applications from the Tamil
provinces and only if there was dearth of sufficient numbers,
applications from other provinces would be considered. In the
end, this helped signing of the DS-C Pact, but not what Esmond
Having thus taken over the reigns of government as Prime
Minister, and having tied the hands of the Federal Party, Dudley
Senanayake lost no time in rushing through Parliament, and
government administrative machinery, measures which were
uppermost in the minds of Sinhala nationalists.
TamilNet: What measures?
Navaratnam: Dudley Senanayake forcibly
uprooted 525,000 upcountry Tamils who had laboured on the
plantations for generations and shipped them to India,
ostensibly implementing the Sirima-Sastri pact which his SLFP
predecessor Srimavo Bandaranaike had entered into with an
obliging Indian Prime Minister.
Dudley Senanayake nationalized the Port of Trincomalee in the
Tamil country of the Eastern Province, which paved way for
Sinhala colonization and the creation of a new Parliamentary
constituency of Seruwela (assented to by Tiruchelvam and
Amirthalingam) providing a seat in Parliament for the Sinhala
settlers in the Eastern Province, thus driving a wedge between
the Tamils and Muslims.
He dismissed three Government Servants, Pathmanathan,
Surendranathan and Kulamani from the Public Service for not
learning Sinhala, thus sending a message to all Tamils that his
Government meant business, in carrying out the Sinhala Only law
to the letter.
But when it came to implementing his promise of District
Councils granting self-determination to the Tamils
he reneged - true to the tradition of the Sinhala leaders.
He submitted a
White Paper in Parliament claiming to contain proposals for
District Councils. Upon scrutiny it was found that the
existing local government village committees had greater and
more meaningful powers than these District Councils.
TamilNet: How did you react after witnessing
the failure of these agreements and pacts?
Navaratnam: It was while addressing
during the debate in Parliament
White Paper that I made a call to the Tamil people never
again to enter into any agreements or pacts with Sinhala leaders
or governments and not ot expect the Sinhalese leaders to honour
their word. It is in the Hansard dated 11th June 1968. I
recounted in my speech the long history of the Sinahalese
chicanery on every single agreement or pact from the year 1919
to the last repudiation by Prime Minister Dudley Senanake in
1968. The hollowness of the proposals contained in the White
Paper dashed all Tamil hopes and made me call upon the Tamils to
work towards the establishment of a separate self-governing
Tamil State. Following that speech of mine in Parliament, Prime
Minister Dudley Senanayake withdrew the District Councils
proposals, the Federal Party Members of Parliament seceded from
the Government Parliamentary Group, and their Minister M.
Tiruchelvam left the Cabinet.
The failure of every
one of these long line of “Pacts” is always attributable to
the many divisions among the Sinhalese. When one party agrees to
condescend towards some solution on the Tamil problem , the
others will rise in unison to object and obstruct. They will
never compromise or agree on any decision when it comes to
solving the Tamil problem by consensus. It is not in the ethos
or in the political character of the Sinhala leaders and
governments to honour and abide by agreeements and pacts
conceding rights to the Tamils as a people.
It is pertinent here to recall the history of
1948 Unitary Constitution. When the Soulbury commission
submitted a draft constitution which contained
Article 29(2) as a safeguard for the Tamils and other
minorites, and Britain insisted that all the communities of
Ceylon must unitedly accept the constitution, there was utter
confusion among the leaders. One important section of Tamil
leaders was for rejection of the Soulbury draft.
D.S.Senanayake, S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike and other
leaders on the Sinhalese side, speaking in the State Council
debate in 1946, begged and pleaded with the Tamils to trust them
and join the Sinhalese in the acceptance of the British offer.
Even if they were not prepared to trust the Sinhalese, they
said, there was the Article 29(2) which would be a sure and
permanent safeguard for the protection of the Tamils and other
minorities for all time. Professor C. Suntharalingam trusted
Senanayake's assurances and voted with the Sinhalese on behalf
of the Tamils for the acceptance of the Soulbury draft. A series
of anti-Tamil policies and legislative Acts of Parliament by
both the UNP and SLFP governments under that Constitution
exposed the calculated deceit of the “trust us” mantra.
The culmination of Southern leaders' betrayal of trust came when
Colvin R. de Silva, the constitutions expert of the socialist
LSSP, spearheaded the drafting and setting up of
Srimavo Bandaranaike's Republican Constitution of 1972 which
repealed Article 29(2) and reduced Tamils to be eternally at
the mercy of the Sinhalese.
The 1972 Constitution and all constitutions that followed are
illegal ones. They are in blatant violation of the Supreme Law
of the 1948 Constitution, along with Article 29 which was
supposed to contain the safeguards and which had been declared
by Her Majesty's Privy Council in England, to be unalterable and
to be with entrenched powers. Yet, this was replaced by a
totally illegal constitution
which declared Ceylon a Republic, without Tamil mandate.
When I left the Federal Party, I founded the Tamils' Self-Rule
Party to work for the attainment of a separate self-ruling
independent Tamil State in the Tamil homeland of North-East
Ceylon. This inspired and influenced the young school-going
student Velupillai Pirapaharan and his friends to start the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam movement for the achievement of
the separate State. Federalism became a dead-letter to the
Tamils, since then, consigned to the dust bin in history.
Today the Tamils are not concerned or interested in whether
President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga's country should be
a unitary state or a federal one, whether the Executive
Presidency system should continue or be abolished, what system
of government is best suited for her country.
TamilNet: What do you think about the
between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers and
Joint Mechanism P-TOMS?
Navaratnam: I have no means of knowing
what realisitic conditions existed in the country which
persuaded the LTTE to disregard all this history and enter into
yet another Pact called Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) in February
2002. Nor do I want to know what made the LTTE acquiesce with
President Chandrika Kumaratunga in P-TOMS. But, of course, I can
see the value of the CFA and P-TOMS for being a de facto
recognition by both the UNP and SLFP Governments of the Tamil
State in North-East Ceylon which is a reality on the ground.
TamilNet: How do you view the forthcoming
Navaratnam: It is not the concern of the
Tamils whether Mahinda Rajapakse or Ranil Wickramasinghe will or
should win the Presidential election on November 17. All these
are matters which concern only South Ceylon. Let the Sinhalese
people sort it out and decide for themselves. It will be
inappropriate for the Tamils to use the Presidential election of
2005 as an occasion to demonstrate what they really are.
They are a
separate independant State centred in the Vanni with its own
Government, Police, a conventional Army and Defence Forces, a
separate economy, legal system, banking and administrative
machinery. Let the Tamils keep out of the election on November
17, and have nothing to do with events in South Ceylon. Enough
is enough. I have not reached my 96 years in this world with my
eyes shut. I have seen enough of the Senanayakes, Bandaranaikes,
Ratwattes, Kotalawelas, Jayawardenes, Wickramasinghes,
Premadasas, Pereras and Silvas. There is no denying that they
are all genuine, sincere patriots, every one of them - but
Sinhalese, not Ceylonese.
There is no need for the coalition led by the Prime Minister,
Mahinda Rajapakse, to circulate the message that the
Presidential election applies only to the Sinhalese part of the
country, namely, the south of Ceylon.
The South is only following what has been a regular Sinhalese
practice for over fifty years ever since the British pulled out
from Ceylon. It is like the SLFP-LSSP coalition led by Srimavo
Ratwatte Bandaranaike, the then Prime Minister, summoning a
so-called constituent assembly in 1972 consisting of members
elected by the Sinhalese electorates of South Ceylon only, and
deliberately drafting and enacting a brand new Constitution for
South Ceylon only.
I have been crying hoarse for forty years urging the Tamils
never again to trust Sinhala governments or to enter into
agreements and pacts bartering away Tamil interests and rights.
They can never make any decision for the solution of the Tamil
problem by consensus.
For all practical purposes, the citizens of Tamil North-East
Ceylon do not count at all. The Tamils come in only when their
help is needed by one or the other of the two major Sinhalese
political parties in their contest for the seat of power in
Colombo. In a tricky situation of uncertainty as to which way
the Sinhalese votes of South Ceylon may go, and knowing their
own people's, well known trait of "divunum paththatta hoyya"
(jump to the winning party), both the Sinhalese parties, the UNP
as welll as the SLFP, have always been in the habit of wooing
for Tamil votes promising the moon in return. Once their
objective is achieved with the help of the Tamil votes, and
having fulfilled none of the things promised to the Tamils in
return for their support, it has always been the parctice of
Colombo governments to kick the Tamils out and tell them to go
to hell. The forthcoming Presidential election on November 17th
is just another of such seasonal contests between the UNP and
TamilNet: What is your reaction to
recent stand taken by the European Union?
Navaratnam: One is unable to think of the
real reason for this Declaration. The declared reason, namely
violence and terrorism, cannot be the real reason because
Britain, which holds EU's presidency, itself resorted to
violence and terrorism to shoot and kill the last Tamil king,
Pandara Vanniyan, from behind a hiding place, seize his kingdom
and amalgamate it through Captain Colebrook with the Sinhalese
It is more obvious that the EU (or, rather Britain) has taken
this action at the behest of the Sinhalese Colombo Government.
The EU cannot pretend not to know that showing bias in favour of
one negotiating partner and prejudice against the other
negotiating partner is not the way to advance Peace Process.
The European Union (EU) countries of the Western World has now
thought it fit to insult the Tamils by making a public
derogatory Declaration about the LTTE. The EU is well aware that
in all Peace Process negotiations LTTE means the Tamils and
Tamils means the LTTE. For reasons best known to itself, the EU
declares that the Tamil representatives are no longer admissible
into its member states. Let the European Union's insult of the
Tamils during Britain's rotating Presidency be the last straw.