1823: South Indian Tamil labourers recruited from
districts of Chenkelpettai, Coimbatore, Madurai, Thanjavoor,
Thiruchirapalli and others arrive to work in plantations.
1920: Mr.Natesa Iyer becomes first Indian representative to
1924: Two Indians nominated to legislative council. Franchise was
limited to elite. Indian Tamils represented 12900 out of 205,000
electoral college votes.
1931: Universal adult franchise was introduced in Sri Lanka under
the Donoughmore constitution plantation workers were granted
1931-36: Registered voters of Indian origin rose from 100,000 to
1939: Resolution introduced in the State Council to deport 15000
Indians. A second resolution moved by D. S Senanayake (independent
Ceylon's first Prime Minister) to deport all Indians appointed to
government service after 1934 and to discontinue the service of all
those with less than ten years experience.
1939: Arrival of Jawaharlal Nehru on the advice of Mahatma Gandhi
to unite all the groups. Emergence of the Ceylon Indian Congress.
1947: Elections bring political strength to the Indian Tamil
community with the election of seven out of the 95 member
Parliament. This was equal to the seven Tamil members elected from
the North East.
1948: The Ceylon Citizenship Act, though providing the
qualifications to be a citizen, was designed to disqualify persons
of Indian origin. The provision said that "only a person born in
Ceylon prior to the date of the Act coming into force, of a father
born in Ceylon could be recognised as a citizen". This decitizenized
all persons of Indian origin since proof of birth of two generations
Ceylon Citizenship Bill -
Speech in the Ceylon Senate on 15 September 1948 -
Ceylon Citizenship Act passed into law on 15
November 1948. The Speech made by Senator.S.Nadesan on
15 September 1948, in the Ceylon Senate, during
the debate on the Ceylon Citizenship Bill (Session:
1948-49:Senate Hansard Pages 1096-1127) remains an
important, well researched study of the Plantation Tamil
question. Forty years later on 13 May 1998 the UN
Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
declared: "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 - see also Indictment
Against Sri Lanka:
Plantation Tamils Deprived of Citizenship)
"...after listening to the entirety of
the debate, one cannot help feeling that the main reason
which has brought about ... this Bill ... is that the
Government wants to exclude as much of the (plantation
Tamil) population as is possible from becoming citizens
of this country ......Just a word at this juncture, Mr.
President, on the unqualified statement made that Ceylon
has the right, as every other country, to determine the
composition of its population. When Germany under
Hitler, started to de-citizenise the Jews, every
civilised country in the world condemned it. Hitler said
that he has absolute power to determine the composition
of the population of Germany; and he did determine that
to his own satisfaction. The question that arises is
whether, by deciding upon the composition of the
population of this country, in the manner proposed in
this Bill, are we doing the right thing, the fair thing,
the honourable thing? That is the question that one has
to pay due regard to...."
1949: Enactment of Indian and Pakistani (Residents) Citizenship
Bill. It laid down qualifications for citizenship as registered
citizens (sic). The qualifications inherent in the bill were
designed to deny citizenship.
1951: 237,034 applications requesting citizenship for 825,000
(90%) persons of Indian origin were made. Majority of applications
were rejected as many were unable to produce evidence of birth in
Sri Lanka, to provide proof of uninterrupted residency or to provide
proof of an assured income.
1956: Elections too proved negative to the Indian origin people
since they had no strength to field candidates.
1960: The government of Mrs. Bandaranaike created a
nominated representation for the people of Indian origin and
appointed Savumiamoorthy Thondaman to Parliament.
1964: Mrs. Bandaranaike moved to solve the citizenship problem in
keeping with the Sinhala thinking that persons of Indian origin
should return to India. India, then led by Lal Bahadur Shastri
agreed to this move by agreeing to accept 525, 000 back to India.
Sri Lanka had agreed to grant citizenship to 300,000 persons leaving
the future of 150,000 people to be settled later.
1974: A further bartering was done under the Sirima (Sic) Indira
Gandhi agreement, dividing the balance people between the two
1965: The UNP government too nominated Savumiamoorthy Thondaman
to Parliament in return for his support to defeat the government of
1977: Savumiamoorthy Thondaman contested the Nuwara Eliya –
Maskeliya multi member seat and was elected to Parliament as the
third member. After thirty years since 1947 a member was elected to
parliament by the people of Indian origin.
1978 to 1988: Thondaman made several representations for the
expeditious grant of citizenship under the two Indo Ceylon
Agreements. He also urged that persons who were left out of
the two agreements be granted Sri Lankan citizenship. Only
506, 000 persons applied for Indian citizenship out of the
600,000 envisaged under the agreements.
1988: Grant of Citizenship to Stateless Persons (Special
Provisions) Act No. 39 of 1988 was presented to Parliament by
Premadasa and passed. This was opposed by the SLFP who voted against
it. The people of Indian origin who were until then deprived of the
rights flowing from citizenship were overwhelmed by their achieving
their long dreamed goal.
2003: A bill to grant citizenship to 168,141 stateless Tamils in
Sri Lanka descended from people who settled in the hill districts of
the island in the 19th century was passed Tuesday without opposition
in Sri Lanka's Parliament. All 172 MPs who were present in the 225
seat Parliament voted for the bill to amend the citizenship act.