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Home > Tamil National Forum > Selected Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha > A Statement on Eelam: Co-Existence - Not Confrontation, 1973
Selected Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha
Kathiravelupillai's Eelam Statement, 1973
Black flags flown in Northeast on Sri Lanka's Independence Day
S.Kathiravelupillai, MP for Kopay, 1973
Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, is the island home of two nations – the Sinhalese and the Tamils. They differ from each other by history, territory, language, religion, culture and traditions. This is the undisputable fact of over two thousand five hundred years of Ceylon history. The Cleghorn Minute of 1797 records, ‘Two different nations, from a very ancient period, have divided between them the possession of the Island. First the Cinhalese inhabiting the interior country in the Southern and Western parts from the river Wallouwe to that of Chilaw, and secondly the Malabars (Tamils) who possess the Northern and Eastern districts.’
From these earliest times the Sinhalese and Tamils have maintained their separate identities and territories. Particularly the Sinhalese have always excluded the Tamils from their body politic in their struggle for existence and identity. Dutu Gemunu (circa 200 BC) the national hero of the Sinhalese could not sleep in peace with the Tamils ruling all around him. Even as late as the 16th and 17th centuries when the Portuguese came to Ceylon and conquered the Tamil Kingdom, the Sinhalese did not think that ‘Ceylon’ was being invaded by a foreign power not did they even go to the help of the Tamils asa neighbour might have, having their own security and that of the whole island in mind. Rather they appear to have had a secret satisfaction at the conquest of the Tamil Kingdom.
A Sinhalese historian of today, Dr.G.C.Mendis writes, ‘The Tamil Kingdom in the North grew in power until it extracted tribute from the South. Further, Fifteenth century Tamil influence over the Sinhalese court was considerable and Ceylon may have come under the rule of Madura or Tanjore but for the timely arrival of the Portuguese.’
After the Portuguese, the Dutch took over the Sinhalese and Tamil Kingdoms of the South and North, leaving the Kandyan Sinhalese Kingdom free. The British succeeded the Dutch and finally in 1815 took over the Sinhalese Kingdom of Kandy. In 1833 the British erased the boundaries between the Sinhalese and Tamil states and brought the whole island under one unified administration. This was done in spite of the protests of the Sinhalese of the Kandyan State. Thus the Sinhalese and Tamils as enslaved peoples found themselves shackled together by foreign rule and remain to this day so shackled together, unwilling and inspite of Independence. Neither nation has accepted these British shackles, and today these shackles restrict the freedom and sovereignty of each and more particularly of the Tamils as the Sinhalese by virtue of their numbers in parliament and an army of occupation in the Tamil country are able to rule over the Tamils. The Sinhalese and Tamils as two peoples or nations have never mutually consented to become one people or one nation nor amalgamate the two territories into one state on any mutually agreed basis.
Sinhala Rule and Confrontation
The Sinhalese mind has not basically changed even today. Rather it has progressed from fear and exclusion to discrimination, aggression, genocide and the creation of a neo colonial empire over the Tamils and the Tamil country.. The Tamils are still referred to as Para-demila (foreign Tamil) and Kalla-thoni (illicit immigrant) and even the Marxists who sport international philosophies are quick to march the streets of Sinhala country shouting such slogans as ‘Masala vadai appitta eppah’ (We don’t want Masala vadai; a snack prepared by the Tamils). Our twenty five years of independence have seen the expansion and domination of the Sinhala rule over the Tamils and Tamil country.
To the Sinhalese too, the Tamil presence, is a larger restriction on their freedom and soverignity than was the link with the British Crown imposed by the Soulbury Constitution, now overthrown. Nevertheless the Sinhalese by legislative and administrative acts explicated the new philosophy of one state, one nation, one language, one religion. A permanent and irremovable Sinhalese majority ruled in the name of democracy so that the effect of all decision enured to the benefit of the Sinhalese majority and to the detriment of the Tamil minority and not equally to both majority and minority. Thus the following may be listed as some of the major effects and results of Sinhalese rule.
Against all this is now emerging a new militancy among the Tamil youth who say that the programme of their elders has not brought the desired results. This youth believe in confrontation which will inevitably become an international problem in the future.
Pancha Sila or Co-existence
For over twenty five years the Tamil people committed to non-violence based on the Ahimsa of Buddha, Christ and Gandhi have sought understanding, dialogue and adjustment; but all assurances, agreements and pacts have been dishonoured. This has awakened the Tamils to the reality of their history of over two thousand five hundred years. The Tamils have come to realise that their ‘right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness’ now depends on the restoration and reconstitution of the Tamil State of Eelam in Ceylon.
Two subject peoples shackled together only since 1833 by the British have not really come together as one people or one nation. The last hundred years of British rule saw the unconscious creation of a myth by the English-educated Sinhalese and Tamils who entered the political arena that there was one country, one nation and one people, though multi-racial but struggling for freedom from British rule. The British left this country in 1948 but the shackles and the myth remain. Full freedom, independence and the mutually unrestricted exercise of soverignity for both people, the Sinhalese and the Tamils, now depends on the restoration and reconstitution of the Sinhala and Tamil States.
Wise Sinhalese leadership should understand the problem in its full magnitude. The Sinhalese, would not really desire to rule over and run an empire over the unwilling Tamils and be guilty of neo-colonialism and aggression. The restoration of the Tamil State by mutual agreement will be a triumph for both people and for human values. On the other hand a confrontation between the two nations can defeat the very security and therefore the existence and identity of the Sinhalese nation, particularly as foreign intervention in such confrontation will become inevitable.
A restored and reconstituted Sinhala State which excludes the Tamil presence is to the best guarantee of the existence, identity and security of the Sinhala Nation. So also of the Tamil Nation. The Sinhalese will cease to have problems of illicit immigration, citizenship, language, religion, competition in employment, trade, industry, higher education etc.
In short, the Sinhala ideal of one country, one nation, one language etc. can only be realized in a restored and reconstituted Sinhala state. So also, by the restoration and reconstitution of the Tamil State alone will the Tamil nation survive and preserve its identity and the Tamils secure their ‘right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness’ and be masters of their own destiny. Pancha Sila or Co-existence is thus the only solution to the problem of the two nations in Ceylon. It recognises not merely the facts of two thousand five hundred years of Sinhalese and Tamil history; but also the fundamental right of the Tamil people to self determination; of Tamil Eelam to separate statehood. It unshackles the two nations and sets them both free.