Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
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 > Tamils - a Nation without a State> Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Overview > Summarised Chronology 1505 to 2000


Summarised Chronology of the Sri Lankan Conflict
Appendix 1:Reflecting on Peace Practice Project -
directed by Collaborative for Development Action,
Massachussets, USA Alex Bilodeau

October 2000

1505 Portuguese arrive in Ceylon during the existence of three sovereign kingdoms, one Tamil-based in Jaffna, and two Sinhalese-based in Kotte and Kandy.
1619 Tamil sovereignty ends when Portuguese defeats the Tamil king and annex the Jaffna kingdom.
1656 Dutch arrive in Ceylon.
1796 British arrive in Ceylon.
1802 Ceylon becomes a British Crown Colony.
1815 Fall of Kandyan kingdom, the last holdout against colonial occupation. The redrawing of provincial boundaries is aimed at reducing the isolation of the Kandyan Sinhalese and to accelerate the process of integration. Isolation of the Kandyan Sinhalese is considered an obstacle for the creation of a homogeneous nation and a united system of administration.
1833 For the first time in over 2,500 years of its recorded history, the entire island of Ceylon is brought under a single administration based on the recommendations of the Colebrook-Cameron Report.
1912 First elections conducted by the British colonial authority enable educated citizens to elect a representative to the State Legislative Council. A Tamil, Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, is elected, defeating Sinhalese candidate, Sir. Marcus Fernando, despite the Sinhalese being the majority voting group.
1915 First ethnic conflict recorded in Ceylon's history emerges through clash between Sinhalese and Muslims in Kandy.
1919 Ceylon National Congress (CNC), the first full-fledged "nationalist" political party, is formed by Ponnambalam Arunachalam, a Tamil.
1921 Arunachalam quits CNC, denouncing it as a party representing mainly a section of the Sinhalese. The incident paves the way for ethnically divided politics in Sri Lanka.
1943 Formation of Communist Party of Ceylon (CP).
1944 Creation of the All Tamil Congress led by G. G. Ponnambalam.
1947 United National Party (UNP) is formed. Soulbury Constitution is enacted and maintains the unitary state established under colonial rule.
1948 The British leave and Ceylon becomes a self-governing dominion with a government dominated by the Sinhalese elite assuming power. Passage of the Citizenship Act that makes more than a million Tamil plantation workers of Indian origin disenfranchised and stateless.
1949 Formation of the Tamil Federal Party under the leadership of S. J. V. Chelvanayagam.
1951 First convention of the Federal Party (FP), declaring its intention to campaign for a federal structure of governance, and for regional autonomy for Tamils living in North and East. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike breaks away from UNP and forms Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).
1956 UNP ousted from power in the general elections by SLFP, riding on the wave of Sinhalese- Buddhist nationalism with strong anti-Tamil overtones.Sinhalese is proclaimed as the sole official language of Ceylon as the Official Language Act in passed in parliament. Colvin R. de Silva speaks out against "Sinhala Only," warning it will divide the country along ethnic lines. FP establishes itself as the major representative party of Ceylon Tamils.The outbreak of first post-colonial anti-Tamil riots.
1958 Prime Minister Bandaranaike and FP leader Chelvanayagam sign a historic agreement (the B-C Pact) on a federal solution, devolving wide-ranging powers to the Tamil-majority North and East Provinces. Barely a week later, the pact is unilaterally abrogated by Bandaranaike under pressure from UNP and the Buddhist clergy.

A non-violent civil disobedience campaign is launched by FP in the North.The government reacts by sending police and military forces to Jaffna to suppress the agitation. A major anti-Tamil pogrom breaks out in Sinhala-majority areas, killing hundreds of Tamils and making thousands of Tamils homeless.

1959 Prime Minister Bandaranaike is assassinated by a Buddhist monk.
1960 Srimavo Bandaranaike, widow of Solomon Bandaranaike, becomes the first woman Prime Minister in the world.
1964 Sirimavo-Shashtri pact is signed for the repatriation of stateless plantation workers to India.
1965 UNP's Dudley Senanayake forms a government with the help of FP and other parties. The Dudley-Chelva agreement, which amounts to a diluted version of the B-C pact, is signed. The agreement is abandoned without being implemented due to opposition from the SLFP, the Buddhist clergy and UNP backbenchers. FP's Tiruchelvam, Minister of Local Government, resigns from the cabinet.
1967 Janata Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP, the People's Liberation Front), a nationalist movement mobilising mostly frustrated Sinhalese educated youth around economic discontent and fears of Indian imperialism, is formed.
1970 Mrs. Bandaranaike becomes Prime Minister, as the United Front (a coalition of SLFP, LSSP, and CP) gains a two-thirds majority in parliament. J. R. Jayewardena becomes the leader of opposition.
1971 Armed insurrection of JVP is brutally put down, with thousands of Sinhalese youth being killed. A state of emergency is declared, which continues for six years.
1972 Ceylon becomes a Republic on May 22 and is officially renamed Republic of Sri Lanka. The United Front government enacts a Sinhalese-supremacist "Republican Constitution" for the country, which makes Buddhism the de facto state religion. Ironically, the architect of this constitution is the same Colvin R. de Silva, who made the famous "one language-two nations" speech, opposing the "Sinhala only" legislation in 1956. Formation of Tamil United Front (TUF) comprising FP, Tamil Congress (TC) led by G. G. Ponnambalam, and Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) led by Savumiamoorthy Thondaman. A small youth group named Tamil New Tigers (TNT) is formed in the Jaffna peninsula to fight for Tamil rights by a 17-year-old high school student from Valvettiturai named Velupillai Pirabhakaran.
1974 Unprovoked attack on attendees of a prestigious International Tamil Cultural conference in Jaffna by Sinhalese police leaves nine civilians dead. State discrimination against Tamil students' admission to universities reaches a peak with the introduction of "standardisation." Formation of Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO).
1975 Jaffna mayor and SLFP organiser Alfred Duraiyappah assassinated, apparently in retaliation for the attack on the International Tamil Conference. Pirabakharan and the TNT claim responsibility for what will become the group's first political assassination.Eelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students (EROS) is formed.
1976 TUF is renamed Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) and passes the "Vaddukoddai resolution" to restore a "free, sovereign, secular, socialist State of Tamil Eelam based on the right to self-determination" to safeguard the very existence of the Tamil nation in the country. TNT is renamed and reorganized as Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), with Uma Maheswaran as its leader.
1977 Death of ailing Chelvanayagam. Appapillai Amirthalingam becomes the leader of Federal Party. J. R. Jayewardena becomes Prime Minister when UNP routs SLFP in the general elections to come back to power with a thumping five-sixths majority in parliament. TULF, contesting on a platform of seeking a mandate for a sovereign Tamil Eelam, wins overwhelmingly in the North and does very well in Tamil-dominated areas of East, and becomes the major opposition party in parliament. Severe anti-Tamil riots occur immediately after elections in Sinhalese-majority areas, killing hundreds of Tamils.
1978 A second Republican constitution is enacted, creating a powerful executive presidency and granting partial concessions to some Tamil demands. Jayawardena becomes first Executive President of the country. Despite the minor concessions, armed activities of Tamil militant organisations increase, with attacks on police stations and robberies of banks.
1979 Uma Maheswaran is expelled from LTTE and forms People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) Government enacts the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), banning Tamil militant organizations. Jaffna peninsula is effectively under martial law. More anti-Tamil riots in Sinhalese-majority areas.
1980 Formation of the Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF).
1981 Elections for District Development Councils (DDC) as an attempt to devolve power. Further anti-Tamil riots. Increased military repression in the north, as Tamil violence continues. The Jaffna Public Library is burnt down by the Sri Lankan armed forces, allegedly under the direction of two government ministers, Gamini Dissanayake and Cyril Mathew.
1982 J. R. Jayewardena defeats Hector Kobbekaduwa in the first-ever Presidential election of the country.
1983 Major anti-Tamil pogrom takes place in the entire country. More than 3,000 Tamils killed and over 150,000 become refugees, many fleeing the country to India and the West. With increasingly restive mood of people of Tamil Nadu, the Indian government comes out in support of the Tamil cause. LTTE and other guerrilla organizations set up training camps in India, with direct and indirect support from various state agencies. Thousands of youth join the militant organizations, with TULF beginning to fade into political oblivion. The conflict reaches the proportions of a full-blown civil war.
1985 LTTE, EPRLF, EROS, and TELO form Eelam National Liberation Front (ENLF) to coordinate the "revolutionary struggle for national independence." Peace talks mediated by India in Thimpu, Bhutan, break down with Sri Lankan government's reluctance to devolve power. However, Tamil parties hand down .five cardinal principles. which remain the basis for any meaningful solution to the conflict. These are commonly known as the Thimpu Principles.
1985-87 State repression and Tamil violence intensify in the North and East resulting in all-out war between the Sri Lankan state and Tamil liberation groups. LTTE emerges as the dominant guerrilla group and effectively takes control of Jaffna peninsula and other northern areas. Thousands, mostly Tamils, die as fighting turns brutal, with non-combatants from both sides systematically targeted, firstly by the Sri Lankan armed forces and then by Tamil guerrillas.
1987 The Sri Lankan government launches Operation Liberation to recapture the Jaffna peninsula. A small float of Indian boats with food and medical supplies for Jaffna peninsula is turned back by the Sri Lankan Navy. India airdrops food on Jaffna peninsula. The Indo-Sri Lankan Peace Accord, agreeing on detailed proposals for provincial councils and expediting the immediate deployment of an Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) to enforce a ceasefire, is signed without consulting the Tamil parties. Tens of thousands of Indian troops arrive in Northeastern Sri Lanka as "Indian Peace Keeping Force" (IPKF). Initial surrender of arms by Tamil guerrilla groups. Seventeen LTTE members, including two leaders, arrested by Sri Lankan Navy in violation of the Peace Accord, and commit suicide. Fighting breaks out between LTTE and IPKF. Jaffna falls to IPKF, but fighting continues throughout the Tamil region. Rise of Sinhala nationalist insurrection by JVP.
1988 Government forces furiously combat the JVP insurrection. Thousands of youths are killed or disappeared,. causing widespread international protest. Assassination of Vijaya Kumaratunge, leader of United Socialist Alliance (USA), allegedly by the JVP. EPRLF assumes power in the Northeastern Provincial Council. Ranasinghe Premadasa of UNP wins the presidential election, defeating Srimavo Bandaranaike of SLFP.
1989 Sri Lankan President Premadasa requests the Indian government withdraw its troops from Sri Lanka. JVP insurrection is brutally put down by the Government.
1990 Withdrawal of IPKF from Sri Lanka and the collapse of the Northeastern Provincial government. Hostilities break out again between Sri Lankan forces and LTTE.
1991 Assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in Tamil Nadu by suspected LTTE suicide bomber.
1993 Top opposition politician and former National Security minister Lalith Athulathmudali is assassinated. A week later, President Premadasa is killed in a suicide bomb attack. D. B. Wijetunge assumes Presidency. LTTE leader calls for unconditional talks with the government, with a commitment to the federalisation of Sri Lanka, which is rejected by President Wijetunge.
1994 People's Alliance led by Chandrika Kumaratunge wins Parliamentary elections. LTTE unilaterally announces a temporary ceasefire to welcome the change of government. PA Government begins peace talks with LTTE in Jaffna. UNP's Presidential candidate Gamini Dissanayake is assassinated at an election rally. Kumaratunge wins Presidential election with a landslide on a platform of "ending the war and bringing peace."
1995 Government and LTTE sign cessation of hostilities agreement. More rounds of talks in Jaffna. Government announces lifting of economic embargo on most items, but armed forces at the border checkpoints continue to enforce the embargo. LTTE issues two-week ultimatum in March to the government to implement their requests, which is later extended by another 3 weeks to April 19th.

Government ignores the ultimatum and LTTE calls off the peace talks and resumes hostilities. Government begins major offensive in July in parts of Jaffna peninsula after imposing press censorship.

A church and its premises, functioning as a safe place for refugees away from the battle zone, are repeatedly bombed by Sri Lankan air force killing civilians, including women and children.

Government informally announces a package of devolution proposals, making Sri Lanka a "Union of Regions."

Another major offensive by the government in October results in the capture of Valigamam division and the city of Jaffna, but more than 400,000 civilians escape to LTTE-controlled Vadamaradchi, Thenmaradchi divisions of the peninsula and to Vanni district in the mainland, virtually leaving a peopleless land for the Sri Lankan army, including a ghost town of Jaffna.

1996 An extensively watered down legal draft of the devolution proposals is submitted to the Parliamentary Select Committee for discussion. As customary, the powerful Buddhist clergy opposes any devolution of power to Tamils in the North-eastern regions.

Government launches another offensive and captures the entire Jaffna peninsula. The armed forces also succeed in preventing a large number of people from escaping to LTTE-controlled territory by sealing off the Jaffna lagoon. Yet, nearly half a million people are displaced from their homes and live in the LTTE controlled Vanni region in the mainland.

Despite the government's claim of the peninsula fast returning to normal life, neutral news reporters are still barred from entering the region. LTTE announces its willingness to negotiate peace if mediated by a neutral country, which is rejected by the Sri Lankan government. LTTE launches a daring attack and overruns the army camp at Mullaitheevu, capturing large quantities of arms and military hardware, and killing more than 1,200 soldiers. Sri Lankan armed forces launch another offensive and captures Killinochchi, relocated headquarters of the LTTE.

Human rights violations by the army, including rape and .disappearances.. increase in the Jaffna peninsula. This fact is brought to light by the revelation of the rape and killing of Krishanthy Kumaraswamy, a Tamil schoolgirl. The girl.s mother, brother, and a neighbor were also killed when they went to the army camp inquiring about the fate of the girl. Nine soldiers are charged with the crime.

Death of former Sri Lankan President Junius Richard Jayawardena at the age of 90, who played a major role in sowing the seeds for the conflict and later in its escalation. LTTE releases 16 Sinhalese fishermen captured earlier as a goodwill gesture for Christmas/New Year. President Kumaratunge goes on a private holiday to India, raising speculations and hopes of impending peace talks with LTTE with foreign mediation.

1997 The LTTE overruns a Special Task Force camp near Batticaloa in the Eastern Province. The LTTE launches simultaneous attacks on Sri Lanka's army camps in Paranthan and Elephant Pass, and overruns the Paranthan camp. Sri Lankan forces begin another major offensive in the Northern border town of Vavuniya to capture a major highway running through Vanni region. Sri Lankan Deputy Minister of Defence, General Ratwatte promises the capture of the highway linking Jaffna with the south before February 4, 1998, Sri Lanka's 50th anniversary of Independence. Elections announced for Jaffna and other local government bodies in the peninsula.
1998 At a convention organised in Colombo by the National Peace Council (NPC), over 1,700 participants from all districts, ethnicities and religions renounce the war and call for a .just and honourable peace.. Despite goodwill messages the conference receives from President Kumaratunge, opposition leader Wickremasinghe and LTTE leader Pirabhakaran, the war continues in the north and the LTTE.s bombing campaign steps up in the south.

A blast attacking Sri Lankans. holiest Buddhist shrine, the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, outrages Sinhalese sensibilities, brings about a formal ban on the LTTE within Sri Lanka and ends public advocacy for negotiations. Local elections are held in Jaffna where turnout is surprisingly high considering the attacks on Tamil villages around Trincomalee by police and home guards the very same week. LTTE later assassinate the popular Brigadier Larry Wijerathne and the newly elected TULF mayor, Sarojini Yogeswaran.

1999 Suicide bomb attack kills MP Dr. Neelam Thiruchelvam. Opening of supply route from Vavuniya to Wanni. Killing of PLOTE Deputy Leader and Military Leader Ranjan Manikkadasa in Vavuniya. In an attempt to gain ground and a limited military victory before the Presidential election, President Bandanaraike launches a limited offensive in the Wanni. Outflanked by the LTTE, government forces suffer severe casualties and political drawback. Despite this defeat Chandrika Bandanaraike is re-elected on a .war for peace. platform.

In April, LTTE overrun the Elephant Pass military base at the entrance of the Jaffna peninsula as well as ten other camps in the area, killing over a thousand troops and capturing massive amounts of arms and ammunition.

Losses suffered by Sri Lankan military urge government to introduce Emergency regulations in May declaring that the country is in a state of war, thus suspending many fundamental rights of all Sri Lankans.

Concern about the plight of the 500,000 civilians stuck on the peninsula is rising as the situation has reached an uncertain calm.

The Sri Lankan government has renewed its diplomatic relations with Israel in what is an obvious ploy on behalf of the Sri Lankan government to obtain armament from the middle eastern country. Sri Lankan ministers have been reported to be visiting in other countries during the summer in an attempt to broker an arms deal needed to crush the LTTE.s latest offensive. Based on a similar rationale, the LTTE.s front organisations in several European and North American countries have recently pushed their fundraising campaigns often leading to violence against the local Tamil populations solicited for funds, particularly in Canada and the UK. Negotiations for a new devolution package have been renewed in Parliament, but without the inclusion of the LTTE it is believed that the efforts will fail once again.

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