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Central Committee Member of The Nava Sama Samaja Party In Tamil Times, September 1981
The Sri Lankan government of President Junius Richard Jayawardena, bankrupt and desperate, is now fanning communal hatred, with its oppression of the Tamil Nation. The Government appears to think that the Tamils can and should be frightened and terrorised into silence. Fanatical, Sinhala chauvinistic elements have put out posters demanding that the Tamils clear out of the country.
This island country is once again in the grip of mounting tension. The Tamils have lived from agony to agony, starting with the communal holocaust of August, 1977, just about a month after the UNP Government was installed in office. This was followed in 1979 by the imposition of emergency rule in northern Sri Lanka's Jaffna District which involved not only the terrorising of the people but also brutal killing of Tamil youth.
The Tamils now live in fear not only in other parts of the Island but in their own homesteads in the traditional Tamil speaking areas too. This was demonstrated by the reign of terror that was unleashed in the Jaffna District between 31st of May and 8th of June this year when police personnel and other forces in civies, together with UNP thugs, engaged in wanton and barbarous destruction of the invaluable public library, the "Eelanadu" (Tamil regional daily press) the residence of the MP for Jaffna, the Headquarters of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), bookshops, numerous business houses pharmacies etc.
Not content with this massive destruction and downright affront caused to the people of Jaffna, the UNP Government has turned its pernicious tentacles to the Eastern Province Districts of Ampara and Batticaloa. Close on the heels of the Jaffna attack, troubles broke out on the Batticaloa-Ampara border between Sinhala and Tamil Peasants. Tamils were badly attacked by thugs and some 43 of their houses wer burnt down while the security forces looked on. The victims had to flee their homes for their lives.
Now, it is deeply ingrained in the minds of chauvinistic Sinhala elements that even individual disputes or minor incidents between Sinhalese and Tamil individuals or groups should be whipped up and communal disturbances let loose. So an incident which took place recently at the Batticaloa stadium grounds between Ampara and Batticaloa students was made use of to unleash, severe reprisals against Tamils in the Amparai area.
Large numbers of shops have been burnt down and over 500 Tamils (among them Government and Corporation employees), have been consigned to a couple of refugee camps in nearby towns, while those who were badly injured are undergoing treatment at the Batticaloa Hospital. The TULF member of the Amparai District Development Council was attacked by army personnel and placed under house arrest for 12 days.
Temple on fire
Moreover, bundreds of heads of cattle belonging to Tamils have been forcibly seized, fishing boats and nets destroyed by Sinhala hooligans. A Hindu temple at Amparai was set on fire and its priest attacked.
It appears that the Government has also been partly successful in whipping up communal disturances in other parts of Sri Lanka such as Badulla, Bandarawela, Passara, Tissamaharama. Galle Hambantota, Negombo, Ragama etc. In all these places a number of shops belonging to Tamils have been destroyed and looted and some persons killed.
The Member of Parliament for the Northern Electorate of Udupiddy (Mr. T. Rajalingam) who was among those mercilessly attacked at the Ragama Railway Station on 11.8.81 (night) had one or two of his teeth broken.
Earlier, the Anaicottai Police Station in the Jaffna district was attacked by some unidentified persons on the night of July 27th. A Police constable (Sinhalese) died on the spot and 3 other constables, a Sinhalese, a Muslim and Tamil were badly injured. Arms and ammunition were also removed by the attackers.
Following this attack the Government disbanded 6 small Police Stations and converted them into army detachments and has also deployed heavy reinforcement of army personnel ostensibly to guard all police stations and to maintain security. But, judging from past experience, it is difficult to rule out the possibility that the government is getting set for a major showdown in the North.
No confidence motion
Recently there was a motion of no-confidence in Parliament against the TULF Secretary General and Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Appapillai Amirthalingam on the alleged ground that he has acted against the interests of the country in his campaigns carried on foreign countries. The entire Opposition including the TULF, the SLFP and the CP boycotted the debate on the ground that the motion was unprecedented in the history of Parliamentary democracy and that it was not open to Parliament to debate or pass such a motion since a Leader of the Opposition cannot and need not enjoy the confidence of the government.
In the one-horse race that ensued, most of the government MPs who spoke on the motion, having taken leave of their senses, indulged in the most slanderous, vituperative and downright savage attacks on Mr. Amirthalingam, the TULF and the Tamil speaking people in general. Mr. Amirthalingam was called a liar and a traitor and the MPs shouted hoarse that he should be tied to the nearest post and whipped and hurled into the nearby Beira Lake or shot to death opposite Parliament. And these MPs also suggested that all whose who agitate for "Eelam" (separate state for Tamils) should be impaled pr their bodies should be torn up.
Tamils and Muslims are Aliens
Among the things they said were:- (a) The country belongs to the Sinhalese and that the Tamils and Muslims are aliens, (b) The Tamils have no right to demand "Eelam", (c) The Tamils were brought to Sri Lanka as slaves and they belong to an inferior caste as compared to the high Aryan Sinhala stock; (d) The government is prepared for war if the TULF wanted it and that the "Eelam" demand should be forgotten if the Tamils want to live in unity.
Having found that the passing of the no-confidence motion has not removed the Leader of the Opposition from Office, some government MPs are now seeking to convert Parliament into a Court (Parliament is the highest court under the Constitution) and pronounce the requisite sentence to strip Mr. Amirthalingam of his position.
Racist Minister Cyril Mathew, the celebrated Sri Lankan counterpart of Mr. Enoch Powell, has put out a book entitled "Sinhala people, awake, arise and safeguard Buddhism". This 352 pages in Sinhala, with some 60 illustrations, contains nothing but the speeches etc. of President Jayawardena and others from the 1950s loaded with communal sentiments, intended to arouse further prejudice and hatred against the Tamils and to reinforce Sinhala chauvinism.
According to this book several archaeological excavations had proved the existence of Buddhist shrines in early times in certain places in the Jaffna District. The idea is generally propagated that Sinhalese Buddhists should be settled on such areas even though such places are traditionally inhabited by Tamils.
Now, government circles are considering the imposition of a ban on the "Eelam" demand. An in-competent capitalist government which has already heaped unbearable burdens on the already suffering Sinhala and Tamil masses and is unable to face up to their problems any more is wilfully distracting the attention of the masses along inflammable communal lines.
The TULF had explained, and the UNP admitted in its election manifesto of 1977 that the Tamil speaking people were driven to put forward and support the "Eelam" demand due to legitimate grievances over such areas as education, employment, colonisation etc.
Far from solving these problems, the government, ever since it assumed office in July 1977, has only aggravated them. Especially in the matter of employment, President Jayawardena himself admitted in a reply to a letter from the Leader of the Opposition sometime ago that the Tamils were deliberately left out on the alleged ground that they were terrorist in their behaviour.
Moreover, the Tamil Nation has the inalienable right to self-determination including the right to secede, if they so wish. They have the right to campaign on this basis and even canvass world opinion. The Nava Sama Samaja Party is the only Sri Lankan Leftwing Party which adheres consistently to this principled position on this question.
Forming a separate state in itself will be no solution to the problems of the Tamil speaking people, but recognition of their right to self-determination, removal of all discrimination in the fields of education and employment, regional autonomy for the Northern and Eastern Provinces with powers over Colonisation and land use, are steps which will create the climate for unity rather than division of the country.