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PLANTATION TAMILS DEPRIVED OF VOTE
"In 1948, at independence, the Tamils had 33% of the voting power in the legislature. Upon the disenfranchisement of the estate Tamils (in 1950), however, this proportion dropped to 20%. The Sinhalese obtained more than a 2/3 majority in the Parliament, making it impossible for the Tamils to exercise an effective opposition to Sinhalese policies affecting them..." - Virginia Leary: Ethnic Conflict and Violence in Sri Lanka - Report of a Mission to Sri Lanka on behalf of the International Commission of Jurists, July/August 1981
"We do not accept... that there is any justification for denying civic and political rights to the million or so Tamils of Indian descent who work on the tea plantations." - Robert Kilroy-Silk, M.P. and Roger Sims, M.P United Kingdom Parliamentary Human Rights Group Report, February 1985
"The Committee notes with concern the uncertain situation of 85,000 Tamils of Indian origin living in Sri Lanka. They possess neither Indian citizenship nor Sri Lankan citizenship, have no access to basic services such as education, and do not enjoy their economic, social and cultural rights." - Concluding Observations of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on the Report submitted by Sri Lanka under Articles 16 and 17 of the Covenant - E/C.12/1/Add.24, 13 May 1998
From the point of view of the persons of Indian origin, the first Parliament under the Soulbury Constitution proved to be the grave-digger of their rights. This Parliament, in 1948 enacted the Ceylon Citizenship Act. Almost all Plantation Tamils were de-citizenised by a Provision that only people born in Ceylon, prior a particular date, November 1949, of a father born in Ceylon, could be recognised as a Citizen of Ceylon.
Then came the Indian and Pakistani (Residents) Citizenship Act, which purported to grant Ceylon Citizenship to people who were able to satisfy certain qualifications, namely, residence in Ceylon for a period of 7 years from 1st January, 1939, in case of married people, and for a period of 10 years (from 1st January, 1936) for unmarried people. They were also expected to have adequate means of livelihood. Their families should have been, normally, resident in Ceylon and they should be capable of observing the laws of Ceylon.
This Act was claimed, by the (Sinhala) Government, as one which would permit people of Indian origin to become Citizens of Ceylon. In point of fact, because of various procedural questions and administrative discrimination, the Act did not provide the necessary relief to persons of Indian Origin to acquire citizenship of Ceylon. As it turned out, of 850,000 persons, in respect of whom citizenship applications were made, only about 145,000 persons were able to acquire Ceylon citizenship. Applications of 700,000 persons were rejected...
While a battle was on in the Parliament, over the Citizenship Act, certain interesting developments, in respect of certain Tamil members of the then Parliament, took place. When the Ceylon Citizenship Act was passed in 1948, C. Suntharalingam, who was a Minister in the (UNP) Government of D.S. Senanayake, voted for the Citizenship Act, while G.G.Ponnambalam (Sr), who was then, the leader of the Tamil Congress, voted against the Act, and so did Ponnambalam's Tamil Congress Party. But, by the year 1949, G.G. Ponnambalam joined the Sinhala dominated Government of D.S.Senanayake.
When the Indian and Pakistani (Residents) Citizenship Bill came before the Parliament there were two Tamil Ministers in Cabinet of D.S. Senanayake. On the issue of this Bill, namely the Indian and Pakistani (Residents) Citizenship Bill, there was a split between the Tamil Members of the then Parliament. G.G.Ponnambalam, despite the pledge he had signed with the party representing the Plantation Tamil interests (i.e. the Ceylon Indian Congress as it was then known) in respect of Citizenship for the persons of Indian origin, voted for the Bill, while C. Suntharalingam voted against the Bill, and resigned his portfolio. The Tamil Congress broke into two and Mr. S.J.V.Chelvanayagam, with his supporters formed the Federal Party....
During the first Ceylon Parliament various developments, concerning persons of Indian origin, took place. The Immigration and Emmigration Act which, for the first time, restricted the residence of persons of Indian origin in Ceylon was enacted. The Plantation Tamil population was wholly disfranchised, making it impossible for any of their representatives to return to Parliament through the ballot ..." ( from the Abdul Aziz Felicitation Volume, 1986, Navamaga Printers, Dehiwela, Sri Lanka)