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Home >Tamils - a Trans State Nation > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Right to Self Determination - Tamil Eelam > Memorandum submitted to 20th Conference of Commonwealth Parliamentarians
Memorandum from Tamil United Front
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The above figures will show that a constitution devised and fashioned to give weightage in representation to minorities was in fact perverted to give weightage to the majority-
2. Inroads into Tamil Territory
The Government implemented schemes of State-aided colonization of traditional Tamils areas by colonizing Sinhalese and thereby increased the Sinhalese voting strength in the legislature. Within the first few years of Independence, colonization of the Eastern Province, a Tamil area, by the Sinhalese had proceeded at such rapid rate that before the end of the 1950s there were enough Sinhalese to return a Sinhalese member to Parliament. Apart from such colonization, special licenses were given to Sinhalese to obtain lands in Tamil areas in preference to the Tamils of the area. illegal squatting on Crown land by Sinhalese was encouraged and regularized while Tamils were punished and driven away. All this was not a natural movement of population but a Government directed plan.
It is in regard to the right to use their language on the basis of equality with their fellow citizens that the Tamils have experienced the greatest humiliation and disappointment. Up to 1955 there was never a doubt that Sinhala and Tamil would be on equal footing and enjoy equality of status. Indeed in the State Council a resolution to the effect that Sinhala and Tamil would be the official languages was accepted by a large majority.
Speaking on the occasion the late Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranayake said:
"But generally speaking there is no question that one of the most important ingredients of nationality is Language, because it is through the vehicle of language that the aspirations, the yearnings and triumphs of a people through the centuries are enshrined and preserved. Therefore all that it means to a nation from the psychological, from the sentimental, from the cultural points of view, the value of nationality from all those points of view are expressed through the medium of language. That is why language is such an important ingredient of nationality...
What then is the object of having Sinhalese alone as the official language? If the objection is that it is rather awkward to have more than one official language, I should like to point out that other countries are putting up with more than two official languages and are carrying on reasonably satisfactorily...
I do not see that there would be any harm at all in recognizing the Tamil language also as an official language. It is necessary to bring about that amity, that confidence among the various communities which we are all striving to achieve within reasonable limits. Therefore, on the second point, I have no personal objection to both these languages being considered official languages; nor do I see any particular harm or danger or difficulty arising from it." (Official Report State Council, 25h May 1944: Vol. I c809)
The Official Language Act No. 33 Of 1956, however, provided that Sinhala shall be the one Official Language in Ceylon. The Tamils considered this act a great betrayal and have not ceased to agitate for equality of status for the Tamil Language.
In 1961 for 57 days the Tamil speaking people performed Satyagraha outside of the Chief Government Offices in the Principal cities of the Tamil territory -- Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Vavuniya, Mannar, Jaffna -- thus bringing the administration in these areas to a stand-still.
The Government imposed a state of emergency and used the Armed Forces to unleash a reign of terror in these areas. The Tamil M.P.s and leading Tamils like Kanthiah Vaithianathan were placed under detention. When some legislative provision has been made for the use of the Tamil language in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, Sinhala continued to be largely used as the sole language of public business causing inconvenience, embarrassment, and humiliation to the Tamils.
We list herein specific areas in education where there is severe discrimination:
(a) Education amending Acts Nos. 5 of 1960 and 8 of 1961 took over Schools run by Tamils and Christian denominations but Buddhist Privena Schools were allowed to continue as voluntary schools with state aid.
(b) Estate schools for children of Tamil plantation workers were not taken over and continue to remain the extremely poor standard in which they have been all the time.
(c) Tamil medium schools in Tamil areas were converted into Sinhala medium schools, thus forcing them to study in Sinhala medium.
(d) After the take-over of the schools, some schools in South Ceylon where there were predominantly Tamil children were converted to Sinhala schools without alternate provisions for the Tamil children.
(e) The medium of instruction in four schools in the North was changed from Tamil to Sinhala.
(f) Access to Higher Education.- Since the present Government came into power there has been racial discrimination. In 1970 admissions, a higher standard was required of Tamil Students. Merit was abandoned. and under cover of giving weightage to students in rural areas, the Government instituted a racial system of admission. We give below the minimum aggregate marks required of Tamil and Sinhalese students in 1970.
Aggregate marks required for admission to the University from:
|Medicine and Dentistry||250||229|
|Agriculture, Veterinary & Bio-Science||184||174|
Since then Government has conceded that this was a mistake, but it continues with the same objective through a secret scheme of standardization based on language media and area quotas: the consequential effect is to whittle down the admission of Tamil students wbo on the ground of merit alone would be eligible for higher education.
5. Violence against Tamils
The Tamils have been subjected to violence in 1956, 1957, 1959, 1961 and 1974. In 1958 Tamils outside the Tamil territory were set upon by organized groups of Sinhalese and were subjected to murder, torture, rape and looting. In 1961 it was used to disperse the Satyagrahis; in 1974 violence was used to disperse large crowd listening to a non-political cultural address where nine persons were killed. The Police and Army often ran berserk and spread violence and terror over a much larger area than the prescribed scene.
6 Starvation and Death.
The plantation industry of tea, rubber and coconut constitutes the backbone of the economy of this country. It is a tragedy of the worst magnitude that the very Tamil workers on the plantations whose labor provides the life blood for the economic life of this country have been made political, social, and economic outcasts by the operation of national laws, since this country attained independence. The extent of the problem faced by over a million Tamil people concentrated on the plantations has assumed the character of genocide by reason of starvation due to unemployment, low wages, and drastic cuts imposed on the quantities of food items made available to them. The cumulative effect of all this is a sharp increase in their death rate and plantation workers and their families have been forced to move into towns to beg for food.
We conclude by merely listing the other means whereby the Tamils are put to grave hardships:
1 . Denial of equal opportunities of employment to Tamils in Government Service and Government controlled corporations.
2. Sustained propaganda against Tamils through Government approved school textbooks.
3. Continued Police and Army action in Tamil areas.
4. Denial of the right of peaceful assembly.
5. Denial to many Tamils and Tamil leaders the right to leave the country.
6. Absence of effective provisions in the Constitution protecting the Fundamental Rights of minorities.
7. Arbitrary arrests and detentions (at the moment there are 42 Tamils under such detention) and
8. cruel and inhuman treatment at the time of arrest and during detention.
9. The grant of :the foremost place to Buddhism and imposing on the State a constitutional duty to protect and foster that religion.
10. Denial of the right of representation to 50,000 in the Kankesauthurai Electorate by maliciously refusing to hold the by-election for the last two years.
The Commonwealth and Tamils.
Sri Lanka is today a State with two nations and the Tamil nation there in seeks its inalienable right of self-determination. The Tamil problem is not an internal affair. Shri Rajagopalachari, the First Governor General Of India has stated:
"Most private wrongs are done within family walls, and most public wrongs within the borders of States. If world opinion is to consider state frontiers sacrosanct then there will be no chance for world progress as a whole; tyranny would have received a world charter."
Any attempt therefore, to regard the Tamil question as an internal affair of the State of Sri Lanka, would amount to an evasion of recognizing the political and social realities in the country. There is little doubt that the situation, fraught with many dangers, is gradually getting out of hand and is one for which there are unfortunately many parallels. From all accounts the Tamils of Ceylon are beginning to despair of obtaining their right, through discussion, compromise, and peaceful means; tensions and frustrations are beginning to crystallize around issues which sooner or later am likely to lead to a point of no return.
In Ceylon today there is closely a situation where immediate action and assistance are necessary to stop a bad situation from getting worse. The question would arise whether the subject of minority nationalities in Commonwealth countries could be discussed even if such a subject is not on the agenda of the conference. There have been occasions in the past when the conference did consider subjects like Kashmir and Apartheid even though they were not on the agenda. The rapidly deteriorating situation here, demands in the name of common humanity that the Tamil question of Ceylon be considered at the 20th conference. Recent history shows that the nations of the world have moved to help a smaller nation in distress, only after many paid with their lives for their legitimate rights.
The CPA is an Association of Commonwealth parliamentarians who, irrespective of race, religion or culture are united by community of interest, respect for the rule of law and the rights and freedoms of the individual citizens and by pursuit of the positive ideals of parliamentary democracy.
Therefore, it is our hope that the problems of the Tamils in Ceylon will receive sympathetic consideration of the delegates assembled at this conference and that they will use their good offices to help in the solution of this problem.
S. J. V. Chelvanayakam, Q.C.,
President, Tamil United Front,
16, Alfred House Gardens
TWO NATIONS BUT ONE CEYLON
Fernao de Queyroz whose book on "The Temporal and Spiritual Conquest of Ceylon, written in 1687 and described as "second only to the Mahawansa", says (Book I page 51) of the Tamil kingdom of Ceylon as follows :
"This modest Kingdom is not confined to the little district of Jaffnapatao (Jaffnapatam), because to it are also added the neighbouring lands, and those of the Vani, which is said to be the name of the Lordship which they held before we obtained possession of them, separated from the preceding by a salty river, and connected only in the extremity of isthmus of Pachalapali (Pachchilaipaly), within which were the land of Baligamo, Temerache, and Pachalapali (Valikamam, Thenmarachy, Vadamaradchy and Pachchilaipaly) forming that peninsula, and outside it there stretch the lands of Vani crosswise, from side of Mannar to that of Triquilemale (Trincomalee), being separated also from the country of Mantota in the Jurisdiction of the Captain of Mannar by the river Paragali (Perunkaly); which (lands) end in the River of the Cross in the midst of the lands of the Vani and of others which stretch as far as Triquilemale (Trincomalee), which according to the Map appears to be a large tract of country"
Paviljeon, the Dutch Commander of Jaffnapatam, in his memoir dated 1665 describes the territory under the sovereign power of his company as stretching
"from the North-Cast to the South-West from Trincomalee to Calpentyn (including the provinces of the Wanni which lie between these); further all, territory stretching towards the sea, including the island of Mannar and the islets round about the province of Jaffnapatam forming together a large part of this splendid and famous island of Ceylon." (Dutch instructions 1908 p. 105)
Donald Ferguson's account of the "Earliest Dutch Visits to Ceylon", has several references describing the extensive Tamil territories of Ceylon.
The Dutch Governor Van Goens writing in October 1675,
"... the inhabitants of Batticaloa (both in customs, religion, origin and other Characteristics) together with those of Jaffnapatam, Cotjaar, and on westward right over to Calpentyn and the northern portion of the Mangul Korle inclusive, have been from the remotest times, and are still now Malabars ("JCBRAS vol. 31 No. 82, 1929 p. 368). Van Goens elaborates his description further in the same Report by referring to the "dominion of old Malabarish rajas" and to a vast territory of Tamil country extending from the east to the west, from the Batticaloa district to "the sea coast on west side as far as Negombo" (pp. 376 and 377).
The Dutch Governor Baron van Imhoff in his Memoir of 1740 states that the lands between "Caymelle to Walwe" which belonged to the company was "teeritory of the Sinhalese" as constrasted with Jaffnapatam which he says" on the contrary having been formerly a kingdom by itself, and being inhabited by a different race with the Comptoir Mannar belonging thereto and its three Provinces Mantotte, Nathan (Nandaan) and Moesely as aiso the Wanni and the territory along the western boundary of the same, and north of Mannar, extending up to ten or twelve miles up to Jaffnapatam, is ruled in different manner both with regard to its political and its civil affairs (Dutch Memoirs 1911 pp 30 and 31).
Anthony Mooyart, Commander of Jaffnapatam, in 1766 described the Dutch Commandment of Jaffnapatam as covering a great extent of territory, viz. "One third of the Island of Ceylon", and "quite independent of the Kandyans, the inhabitants of it differing from the Kandyans in language, customs and form of government" (Dutch Memoirs 1910, p. 8). Mannar was within tile jurisdiction of the Commandeur of Jaffnapatam. The Thesawalamai Commissioner's Report of 1919 had stated "It thus appears that Jaffnapatam in the Dutch times included the districts of Mannar and Mullaitivu".
Anthonisz in his "Dutch in Ceylon" confirmed that Mannar Trincomalee and Batticaloa were minor stations under the rule of Jaffna (p. 184). Father S. G. Perera in his History of Ceylon and Dr. Paul Pieris in his "Portuguese Era" have also confirmed this.
The Kingdom of Jaffnapatam was overwhelmed by Portuguese force of arms. The Portuguese did not conquer Jaffnapatam on the orders of the King of Kandy, nor to make it a jewel in the crown of the Kandyan monarch. The Portuguese held fast to Jaffnapatam as a priceless possession until they were eventually subdued by the Dutch. The Dutch in their turn gave in to the British. The territory of the King of Kandy was defined in 1766 by the Treaty of Peace of that year. This territory did not include, the present Northern and Eastern Provinces which were accepted by universal consent as purely Tamil provinces. The Burnat Altendroff Map of Ceylon of 1794 indicates the boundaries delimited by the Treaty of 1766. The "Notes" in Dutch accompanying this map record that the Malabars inhabited "the Northern and Eastern portions between the Chilaw river and that of Kumbukkan — Arr" (see map in Lands, Maps and Survey by Brohier and Paulusz Vol. 2 p. 53 referred to by Brohier as "the last geographical Map of Ceylon issued in the Dutch period;" it was this territory in the Maritime districts of Ceylon which the Dutch surrendered to the British in 1796 (JCBRAS Vol. 38 No. 107, 1949 p. 133), as distinct from the Kingdom of Kandy which was annexed by the British in 1815.
Hugh Cleghorn, "the agent by whose instrumentality the island of Ceylon was annexed to the British Empire" in his famous "Cleghorn Minute" dated 1st Juue 1799 on the Dutch Administration of Ceylon says, (reproduced by Ralph Pieris in the Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1954 Vol. 3 Part 2 Page 131),
"Two different nations, from a very ancient period, have divided between them the possession of the Island: First the Sinhalese inhabiting the interior of the country, in its southern and western parts, from the river Wallouve, to that of Chilaw, and secondly the Malabars who possess the northern and eastern district"
The word "Malabar was synonymous with Tamil.
On the 10th July, 1813 Sir Robert Brownrigg, Governor of Ceylon writing to the Secretary of State the Right Hon. Earl of Bathurst, in a despatch from King's House Colombo, makes reference to certain Regulations that had been drawn up by Governor Maitland for the Ceylon Civil Service and comments as follows on the language question, thereby outlining the Government policy at that time.
"As to the qualification required in the knowledge of the native languages", wrote Sir Robert, "the Portuguese and Sinhalese only being mentioned excludes one which is fully as necessary in the Northern Districts as the Sinhalese in the South. I mean the Tamil language, commonly called the Malabar language which with the mixture of Portuguese in use through all the Provinces, is the proper native tongue of the inhabitants from Puttalam to Batticaloa northward inclusive of both these Districts. Your Lordship will, therefore, I hope, have no objection to my putting the Tamil on an equal footing of encouragement with the Sinhalese"
Emerson Tennent in his book on "Ceylon" published in 1859 says the languages of the north of the island from Chilaw on the west coast to Batticoloa in the east, is chiefly, and in the majority of the localities, exclusively Tamil"