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Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home > Tamil National ForumSelected Writings - Brian Senewiratne > Letter to UK Prime Minister on the Critical Situation in Sri Lanka

Tamil National Forum

Selected Writings
Brian Senewiratne, Australia

Letter to UK Prime Minister
on the Critical Situation in Sri Lanka

20 May 2006

Honourable Tony Blair
Prime Minister, UK
10 Downing Street

Dear Mr Blair,

I am writing as the Patron of the Campaign for Truth and Justice which was formed when I visited London in March 2006. I am expressing my concerns at what is going on in Sri Lanka, not only in the Tamil North and East, but also in the Sinhalese South.

I am a Sinhalese from the majority community. I am not a member of the persecuted Tamil minority which has been facing serious problems at the hands of the Sinhalese-dominated Sri Lankan Government. My only interest is humanitarian, not political. I am a doctor of Medicine trained in your country (Cambridge University and London University). I spent some 15 years in Britain and know the British people well. I am quite certain that if they know the facts, as distinct from Sri Lankan Government propaganda, they will be outraged.

Although Sri Lanka has had half a century to sort out its problems, the basic problem was created by the British during 150 years of Colonial occupation (1796-1948). If Britain was the cause of the problem, Britain must also play a significant role in its solution. Unfortunately, this is not so. On the contrary, Britain is becoming part of the problem, indeed aggravating it and making it unsolvable.

I am not going to detail Sri Lanka’s colonial or post-colonial history – a subject on which I have addressed several meetings in your country, which included one on the Abuse of Democracy in Sri Lanka, a copy of which I will be happy to send you. Here I will deal with just a few points relevant to the current situation.

1. Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) was never a single entity. It consisted of three separate Kingdoms (Nations) for hundreds of years, a Jaffna (Tamil) Kingdom in the north, a Kandyan (Sinhalese) Kingdom in the centre and a Kotte (Sinhalese) Kingdom in the south. It was the British who, in 1833 (the Colebrooke-Cameron ‘reforms’, so-called), ‘unified’ the country for the administrative convenience of the colonial power. It was not merely a ‘unification’ but a centralisation of power, including developmental power, in the Sinhalese South and later, in Sinhalese political hands.

2. This colonial ‘experiment’ has failed (as it has in Malaya, India, and numerous other former colonial countries). While the failure in Malaya and India has been corrected (with the splitting of Malaya into Malaysia and Singapore (I might add that Singapore is one thirtieth the size of Sri Lanka), and India into Pakistan and India), the documented failure in Sri Lanka has not been corrected. It is this that has led to the disastrous civil war which has decimated Sri Lanka in the past two decades and is threatening the future and very survival of the country.

3. There has been a serious and very deliberate developmental neglect of the Tamil areas in the North and East at the hands of a succession of Sinhalese-dominated Governments since Independence.

In addition to developmental neglect, there has been serious and progressive discrimination of the Tamil minority in the use of their language (Tamil), education, job opportunities and even the right to exist, at the hands of every Sinhalese-dominated Government since Independence 58 years ago. This has been done by almost every Sinhalese political party for political gain – some 74% of the voters being Sinhalese.

4. A series of peaceful protests by the Tamils over three decades have been unsuccessful in getting the Sinhalese-government to address these problems. Peaceful Tamil protests have been crushed by armed force unleashed on the Tamils by the State (the Police and the Armed Forces), and Sinhalese hoodlums sponsored by the State.

A series of Pacts between Sinhalese political leaders and Tamil leaders have been unilaterally abrogated by the Sinhalese leaders in the face of virulent opposition by Sinhalese extremists and political opportunists who envisage multicultural, multireligious and multi-ethnic Sri Lanka, as a Sinhala – Buddhist nation. It is, in fact, the declared policy (even enshrined in the Constitution) to make Sri Lanka into a Sinhala- Buddhist Nation. If that is the policy (and it is), then there is no option to the establishment of a separate Tamil State, Eelam. Eelam is not the creation of the Tamils but of Sinhala ethno-religious extremism and chauvinism.

5. With the documented failure over three decades of peaceful protests to achieve anything, and the crushing of peaceful protests by armed force of the State, in the 1970s Tamil youths decided to exert the necessary pressure by taking up arms. The Tamil Tigers are not the cause of the problem but the result. The ‘cause’ has been Sinhalese anti-Tamil discrimination for political gain.

6. Faced with progressive discrimination, the Tamil people in the North and East voted overwhelmingly in the 1977 General Elections for a separate Tamil State, Eelam. It is not the Tamil Tigers who have asked for a division of the county, but the Tamil people, and for very good reasons. There is no evidence that the Tamil people have changed their mind in the past 30 years. On the contrary, the extensive violation of human rights to which the Tamil people have been subjected by Sinhalese governments and the Armed Forces (99% Sinhalese), has increased their resolve to free themselves from the ruthless regime which has the temerity to call itself their “Government”.

7. The violence of the Sinhala-dominated government unleashed on the Tamils over the past three decades is genocidal, as defined in Humanitarian Law and the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide (which was signed by the Sri Lankan Government). There is prima facie evidence, at the very least, that what the Sri Lankan Government is unleashing on the Tamils is Genocide. I will be making a Submission to the UN Human Rights Commission on this, a copy will be sent to the EU.

8. Britain and several other countries have exacerbated the problem by supplying weapons to one side (the Sri Lankan Government) and demonising and banning/restricting the movement, of the other (the Tamil Tigers). It is foreign-supplied bombs and shells, and foreign-supplied helicopters, bombers and multi-barrelled guns that have decimated the Tamil people, their lives, their homes and their property. What is being conducted is not just a war against the Tamil Tigers but a war against the Tamil people in the North and East to force them to accept a Sinhala-Buddhist nation. This ‘war’ now has genocidal characteristics. If this is being supported by the British Government (which it is), the British people must know about it.

9. I cannot see that banning one side to Peace negotiations (the Tamil Tigers), makes any sense. Countries that have taken this senseless decision (which, incidentally, Sri Lanka has not!), have opted out of assisting with peace negotiations. What these silly decisions do is to strengthen the hand of Sinhalese ethno-religious chauvinists and political opportunists in Sri Lanka, which makes the job of the Sri Lankan Government that much more difficult, in already difficult political negotiations. This is breathtaking international irresponsibility.

10. The Sri Lankan Government claims that the problem is “Tamil terrorism”. Any government’s condemnation of terror is credible only if it shows itself to be responsive to reasonable, closely argued, persistent, non-violent dissent. No Sinhala government since Independence in 1948 has been responsive to the reasonable demands of the Tamil people who form 12.5% of the country, and more than 90% of those in the North and East.

11. If negotiations are abandoned and Sri Lanka returns to war (as demanded by Sinhala extremists), it will be the economic end of that country, to say nothing of the destruction of Tamil lives and property in the North and East, and the lives of poor rural Sinhalese youths who ‘volunteer’ to join the Sri Lankan Armed Forces for their economic survival in poverty-ridden villages. This conflict has already cost some 64,000 lives (most of them Tamil civilians) and extensive damage to Tamil property. If war breaks out again, Britain and others might be able to sell more weapons (to both sides) but will have a case to answer for the destruction of Sri Lanka.

12. The Campaign for Truth and Justice, of which I am the Patron, is having a public meeting in Trafalgar Square in London on 21 May 2006. I am asking that this letter be circulated for signature by those who support the simple request that the Tamil people in the North and East of Sri Lanka be freed to live their lives with equality, safety, dignity and without discrimination and be allowed to develop the area in which they live. This will mean that the Tamil people must be freed from a brutal, irresponsible, and uncaring regime that has the gall to call itself their “Government”. An Australian politician who has never been to Sri Lanka added “…. you mean the Government of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. Excuse me while I laugh.” That summed it up admirably.


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