The content of the resolution was not in line with the expectations of the Tamil people so TELO sent the UK FCO a letter

A prototype of the British-led resolution on Sri Lanka was unveiled at a meeting of the Human Rights Commission beginning on February 22. The day before yesterday, TELO, through its UK branch, sent a message to the British Foreign Office stating that the content of the resolution was not in line with the expectations of the Tamil people at a time when efforts were being made to implement the resolution at the British-led Commission on Human Rights.

We are in receipt of the draft resolution and thanking you and the core group for the effort taken.

We appreciate your PP7 and OP6 in the resolution and kindly request to pay attention to include more constructive and conclusive clauses keeping in line with the HCHR report of 12th Jan 2021 and the request of the Tamil Nationalistic party leaders enclosed hereto.

You will appreciate that we have been trying to bring justice to the Tamil People of Sri Lanka since the end of genocidal war 2009, to inquire the atrocity crimes including genocide, war crimes and crime against humanity by

Accountability Mechanism available in International Law ICC, ICJ, or similar mechanism or a Special Tribunal

establishing Independent International Investigatory Mechanism IIIM to support the accountability Mechanism.

Mandating the OHCHR to appoint field officers in Sri Lanka to monitor and the Human Rights violations

Referring the matter to the Secretary General of the UN for appropriate action

A lasting political solution to the Tamil People recognizing our right to self-determination and North and east as our traditional homeland with international mediation.

We were confident when the report of the High Commissioner was released and observe that the strength lost in the draft resolution not only deviating from the report (12th Jan 2021) but leaving out many clauses in the previous resolutions namely 30/1, 34/1 and 40/1

We feel that our call for justice is weakened, our people’s faith in depending on UNHRC system and core group with the draft resolution which we still feel will be amended to meet the requirements of the people who cry for justice not leaving room for the parties committed the crime to escape.

Appeal from the Tamil People to Refer Sri Lanka to the ICC was handed over to the UNHRC Commissioner by TELO Chairman MK.Shivajilingam

Appeal from the Tamil People to Refer Sri Lanka to the ICC that was handed over to the UNHRC Commissioner by TELO Chairman  MK.Shivajilingam.

Below is the full text of the letter that the six parties signed to the UNHRC High Commissioner

Her Excellency Michelle Bachelet, The High Commissioner for Human Rights, and
The Representatives of the Member Countries of the UNHRC
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Dear High Commissioner Bachelet, and the Representatives of the Member Countries of the UNHRC

Appeal from the Tamil People to Refer Sri Lanka to the ICC

On behalf of the Tamil speaking people of the North-East of Sri Lanka, we the undersigned elected representatives of the Tamil people and the representatives of the Tamil political parties, together appeal to you to help refer Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court or to a specially created international criminal tribunal for the war-crimes, crimes against humanity and the Genocide committed against the Tamil people.

We respectfully note that the March 2011 Report of the UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka stated that there were credible allegations that war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed during the final stages of the armed conflict between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, and there could have been as many as 40,000 Tamil civilian deaths. According to the November 2012 Report of the UN Secretary-General’s Internal Review Panel on UN Action in Sri Lanka, over 70,000 people were unaccounted for during the final phase of the war in 2009.

Although Sri Lanka had co-sponsored the UNHRC Resolution 30/1 titled “Promoting reconciliation, accountability and Human rights in Sri Lanka” at the UNHRC session in Geneva in September 2015, and again in March 2017 co-sponsored another Resolution 34/1, obtaining 2-year time extension to implement the Resolution 30/1, Sri Lanka has not taken any meaningful steps towards implementing the Resolution. In contrary, the President, Prime Minister and senior members of the Government of Sri Lanka have repeatedly and categorically stated that they will not implement the UNHRC Resolution.

Despite being one of the most notorious alleged war criminals, the Commander of the 58th Division of the Army Major General Shavendra Silva who was mentioned in the UN investigations, has been promoted in January 2019, to the Chief of Staff of the Sri Lanka Army. His Division was allegedly involved in many international crimes including repeated and deliberate attacks on hospitals, food distribution queues, and No-Fire-Zones resulting in the deaths of thousands of Tamil civilians. He was also personally present during the hundreds of surrenders of Tamils including women and children that later disappeared in Army custody. In addition, several senior military officials who were credibly accused of committing war crimes have been given promotions and other attractive positions and treated as “war heroes.”

It has been about 10 years since the end of the war, and the victims have not been given justice and they continue to suffer under the condition forced by the government of Sri Lanka. The oppression of the Tamil people still continues. The Tamil people do not believe that Sri Lanka will ever offer them justice, and have been calling for an international judicial mechanism.

We therefore jointly request the following:

1. Since Sri Lanka has not only failed to fully implement the UNHRC Resolutions 30/1 and 34/1, but also stated their unwillingness to implement the Resolutions, we urge not to give any extension of time to Sri Lanka.

2. We call upon the UNHRC to refer Sri Lanka to the UN General Assembly and to the UN Security Council to be referred to the International Criminal Court or to a specially created international criminal tribunal set up by the UN.

3. We call upon the UNHRC to appoint a UN Special Rapporteur for Sri Lanka, to monitor and report to the Council every six months, the plight of the war affected Tamil people, disappeared persons, political prisoners, continued arbitrary detention under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, presence of large number of Sri Lankan security forces in Tamil region, the occupation of private lands by the Sri Lankan security forces, and particularly the continuing Genocide of the Tamil people by the Sri Lankan state.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Jusitce C.V.Wigneswaran
Retired Judge of the Supreme Court
Former Chief Minister of Northern Province
Secretary General, Thamilzh Makkal Kootani
Co-Chairman, Tamil People’s Council

A.Selvam Adaikalanathan
Member of Parliament
President, Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO)

V.Anandasangaree
Secretary General, Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF)
Former Member of Parliament

Kandaiah Premachandran
President, Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF)
Former Member of Parliament

Dharmalingam Siddharthan
Member of Parliament
President, People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE)

Ananthi Sasitharan
Secretary General, Eelam Tamil Sua-Adchi Kazhagam
Former Minister of Women’s Affairs, Rehabilitation, Social Service, Co-operatives, and Industries & Enterprise Promotion, Northern Province

Cc: Secretary General of the UN

The Judicial Process Must Be International and Under the Control of the UN- M.K.Sivajilinkam

Given below the full memorandum :

Northern Provincial Council
Jaffna, Sri Lanka
September 14, 2015

The Member Countries of the UNHRC & the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Human Rights Council
Geneva, Switzerland

Dear UNHRC Member Countries, and the High Commissioner,

Re: Accountability, Justice, and Non-Recurrence in Sri Lanka

We the undersigned elected members of the Northern Provincial Council in Sri Lanka would like to jointly request you to consider the following that is related to accountability, justice, and non-recurrence in Sri Lanka.

The Tamil people in Sri Lanka have suffered tremendously for the last 67 years ever since the island got its independence in 1948, and today more than ever, counting on the UN and the International Community to give them justice and assure their protection. The Tamil people have been subjected to Genocide and massacres, their churches and temples have been destroyed, their lands have been taken away, their rights have been denied, and they have been oppressed and occupied. The injustice against the Tamils continues even today, at this very moment.

The Northern Provincial Council in Sri Lanka unanimously passed the “Sri Lanka’s Genocide Against Tamils” resolution in February 2015, providing historic proof for the Genocide of Tamils, and urging the UN to properly investigate the crime. Similarly, two weeks ago on September 01, 2015, another resolution was passed by the Northern Provincial Council, citing reasons why a domestic process would be a travesty of justice. The resolution specifically called against any judicial mechanism instituted by the Government of Sri Lanka, and called on the International Community to set up an international criminal tribunal on Sri Lanka.

On behalf of the victimized Tamil population, we would like to respectfully request you to consider the following to be included in the upcoming UNHRC Resolution:

1. The judicial process must be international and under the control of the UN. The Tamil people request the UN to recommend the referral to the International Criminal Court or to an international special criminal tribunal for Sri Lanka.

2. The judicial process must have the jurisdiction to handle all international crimes, including Genocide.

3. In consultation with the victims, the UN must be in charge of selecting the judges, prosecutors, and other officials for the judicial process. The UN also must ensure protection of the witnesses.

4. Sri Lanka had promised to the International Community to release the full details of those surrendered, but so far has failed to provide any info on them. The UN must require Sri Lanka to provide data on at least the 12,000 missing persons, and at least the 6000 within those several thousand LTTE members and their family including children, that surrendered to the Sri Lankan military, and unaccounted for so far.

5. The UN must require Sri Lanka to become signatory and ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court to act as deterrence and ensure legal avenues against any recurrence.

6. The UN must offer technical assistance and require Sri Lanka to accept a UN mediated political solution towards finding a permanent political solution that can address the root cause of the war and prevent recurrence.

7. The UN must require Sri Lanka for a time-bound withdrawal of military from the North-East region, and return all private lands to the rightful owners.

8. The UN must require Sri Lanka to free all those Tamil political prisoners that are in prisons.

9. There must be a follow up during the March 2016 UNHRC Session to evaluate the progress of the process related to Sri Lanka.

If Sri Lanka has genuine intention of cooperating with the UN, and genuinely interested in accountability, justice and permanent political solution, it must show willingness and progress to the International Community and to the UN. The Tamil people hope that the UN and the International Community obtain unambiguous commitment from Sri Lanka to fulfill these.

The victimized Tamil people are counting on you, the UN, and the International Community towards finding justice, protection and non-recurrence.

We seek your assistance. We seek your help. Above all, we seek your protection and assurance against recurrence.

Thank you.

Sincerely yours,

M.K. Shivajilingam
Member of Northern Provincial Council
[Former Member of Parliament, Sri Lanka]

Ananthy Sasitharan
Member of Northern Provincial Council
President, Organization for the Relatives of Missing and Surrendered Personals

NPC Member M.K. Sivajilingam letter to the UNHCR Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein

February 23, 2015

The Hon. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Palais Wilson, 52 rue des Pâquis
CH-1201 Geneva, Switzerland
Dear Honorable High Commissioner Zeid,

Re: Accountability and Political Solution in Sri Lanka

The Tamil people are highly disappointed and dismayed by your announcement on February 16, to delay the OHCR Investigation on Sri Lanka – OISL Report until September 2015. The Tamil people had been anxiously waiting with high hopes for the release of the Report, but this unexpected delay has caused serious concerns to the victimized Tamil population, and we strongly believe justice delayed is justice denied.

The Tamil people, however, take solace in your “personal, absolute and unshakable commitment that the report will be published by September”, and it will be “stronger and more comprehensive report.”

The UN’s failure to protect the Tamils in 2009 was termed as “systemic failure” of the UN by the UN’s own “Report of the UN Secretary General’s Internal Review Panel on UN Action in Sri Lanka” released in November 2012 by the head of the Panel Charles Petrie. The Tamil people sincerely hope that the UN System will not victimize the Tamils once again by delaying or denying them full and complete justice. We see this delay yet again as a failure of the UN system to protect and listen to the victims of mass atrocities.

The Tamil Nation has been systematically destroyed by the successive Sinhalese dominated Sri Lankan governments, ever since the island got its independence in 1948. The Tamil people have been massacred in thousands, they have been tortured, their churches and temples have been destroyed, their lands have been taken away, their rights have been denied, and they have been oppressed and occupied. The injustice against the Tamils continues even at this very moment.

We are hopeful that the Report by the OISL will be released in September of this year, and the UN judicial proceedings will follow without any further delay. We sincerely hope this extended time will be used to strengthen the Report and not to weaken it. Tamil people have experienced disappointments and disillusions in the last 67 years, and we do not believe Sri Lanka will ever deliver true justice to the Tamils; instead, it will use the time and space to hoodwink the International Community again, and try to derail the UN process of accountability and justice to the Tamils.

The main reason given for delaying the OISL Report is that Sri Lanka now has a new government, and they need to be given time. However, the Tamil people, who have first-hand experience of the Sri Lankan political culture which thrives on oppressing Tamils with Sinhalese Buddhist nationalistic Majoritarian sentiments, do not believe the new government which consists of several of the same personals that were part of the previous regimes that committed the crimes, will deliver anything new to the Tamils. The new regime came to power with the slogan of opposing the UN Investigation and opposing equitable political solution based on a federal model.

The new regime came to power on January 9th of this year. Within days of coming into power, the new regime has given the police-powers to its armed-forces. This is not a sign of demilitarization or good-will from the new regime. The fact that the Northern Provincial Council unanimously passed a historic resolution on February 10th clearly indicates the Tamils’ mistrust against the new Sri Lankan government. The Resolution details the genocide, crimes, and injustice committed against the Tamil people by the Sri Lankan governments and its system since 1948, and includes the roles of some of the leaders in the current regime including the President. This Resolution is tabled by our Chief Minister of the Northern Provincial Council Honorable Justice C.V. Wigneswaran, who is a retired Judge of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka. The Resolution describes the systematic historical atrocities against the Tamil people by Sri Lanka and calls for comprehensive investigation of Genocide against the Tamil people and referral to the International Criminal Court. Some of the highlights of the Resolution are attached at the bottom of this letter.*

While the OISL Report is being delayed to give more time and space to Sri Lanka, we Tamils kindly and respectfully request that the International Community and the UN must set clear requirements to measure the progress of the commitment of Sri Lanka. Although the UNHRC Resolution of March 2014, “Calling upon the Government of Sri Lanka to fulfil its public commitments, including on the devolution of political authority”, Sri Lanka has not made any progress towards finding a permanent political solution, instead, its oppression of the Tamils continues.

Sri Lanka often talks about “reconciliation” but conciliation cannot begin without accountability, justice and a permanent equitable political solution. Sri Lanka must stop its anti-Tamil agenda including the land-grab, and hand over all the lands taken from the Tamil people and remove its military camps from the North and East.

I respectfully request you, UNHRC Member countries, and the International Community to urge Sri Lanka to show progress before September, on both the Accountability as well as the political solution. Here I list some of the major requests:
Accountability:

Sri Lanka must allow the UN Investigative Team to enter Sri Lanka and visit any areas without any restrictions.

The UN Team must be able to meet up with victims, and witnesses. It must be able to meet with military officials that were involved in the war. The UN Team must be able to visit the areas of mass-killings, mass-graves and others places of interest to the Investigative Team. They should be able to visit prisons and other places where the Tamil prisoners are kept.

The witnesses must be given protection, and conditions must be created for the witnesses and victims, such a way that they will be able to meet the UN Team without any fear or reprisals.

Political Solution:

Towards finding a permanent political solution, Sri Lanka must accept technical assistance from the UN, and accept mediation by the EU, India, US and the UN. The Negotiation must start as soon as possible and progress be made before September.

The Negotiation must begin from the Oslo Declaration where both the Tamil side and Sri Lanka side agreed on Dec 5, 2002 to explore political solution based on a federal structure. The current Prime Minister Hon Ranil Wickeramasinghe was also the Prime Minister of the government that agreed to the Oslo Declaration in Oslo, Norway in the presence of Norwegian facilitators.

If Sri Lanka is unwilling or unable to find a permanent political solution, I request you and the International Community to help conduct a UN monitored Referendum for the Tamil people to determine their political destiny.

If Sri Lanka has genuine intention of cooperating with the UN, and genuinely interested in accountability, justice and permanent political solution, it must show progress to the International Community and to the UN, before September on all fronts. The Tamil people hope that the International Community obtains unambiguous commitment from Sri Lanka to fulfill these.

The Tamil people are counting on you and the International Community towards finding justice and permanent political solution. We seek your assistance. We seek your help. Above all, we seek your protection. We sincerely hope you are listening.

Thank you.
M.K.Shivajilingam
Member of Northern Provincial Council, Sri Lanka
[Former Member of Parliament, Sri Lanka]

CC: UNHRC Member Countries, EU Member Countries

Northern Provincial Council (NPC) member M.K. Sivajilingam letter to Indian PM Modi

June 02, 2014

His Excellency Shri Narendra Modi

Prime Minister of India

South Block, Raisina Hill

New Delhi-110001, India

Your Excellency,

As a Member of the Northern Provincial Council of Sri Lanka, on behalf of my constituents and myself, I would like to extend my warmest congratulations and heartiest felicitations to your Excellency, as you begin your premiership of the greatest and the largest democracy of the world.  I recall my meeting you in September 2007 in Chennai, during the funeral for late BJP leader Mr. Jana Krishnamoorthy. I then stated to you and wished you that one day you will be the Prime Minister of India, and I am delighted to see that wish has become true.

As the great people of India have given you their historic endorsement and mandate, we Tamils living in Sri Lanka too are very hopeful of your leadership and sincerely believe your leadership will lead to a political solution that offers us our legitimate political rights along with equality, dignity and justice.  I also recall my meeting with the media at the BJP leader Mr. L. K.Advani ‘s residence in New Delhi on December 18, 2008, where I talked about the destruction of more than 1000 Hindu temples and the killings of thousands of Tamils in Sri Lanka by its armed forces, and stated in public my hope that if the BJP ever came to power the sufferings of the Tamils could end.  I am now very hopeful, with your leadership our sufferings in Sri Lanka could end.

Your Excellency, as you know, the successive Sri Lankan leaderships have repeatedly refused to offer the Tamils their political rights. All the negotiations and agreements between the Tamil and Sinhala leaderships were never implemented due to the intransigence of Sri Lanka’s Sinhala leadership. As Your Excellency knows well, even the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987 has not been properly implemented by Sri Lanka. The government of Sri Lanka has demerged the Northern and Eastern Provinces which were merged as per the Indo-Lanka Accord. Sri Lanka even refuses to implement the 13 Amendment in full, despites its obligation to India and promises to the International Community.

Having gone through more than 65 years of injustice by successive governments of Sri Lanka, Tamil people are fully aware that no political solution will reach us without the direct and active involvement of India. I therefore, wish to urgently bring the following issues to Your Excellency’s kind attention:

  1. Help halt the ongoing Genocide and the oppression of the Tamil people:  halt systematic Sinhalese settlements and land grabs in the Northern and the Eastern Provinces, and demilitarize the Provinces.
  2. The Tamil people do not believe that the 13 Amendment could lead to an equitable political solution that meets the aspirations of the Tamil people, and I request your leadership towards a solution which can, at the minimum, offer a true federal autonomy to the Tamils in a single merged North-East special region.
  3. To meet our urgent need for our medical and educational needs of the Tamils, I request Your Excellency makes arrangements to send Tamil speaking doctors, and English and IT teachers from Tamil Nadu, to help us rebuild our livelihood.
  4. Help solve the issues faced by the fishermen from both India and Sri Lanka.
  5. Help create closer economic integration between Tamil Nadu and the Tamil speaking Northern and Eastern Provinces.

May Your Excellency enjoy success in every one of your endeavors.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

M. K. Shivajilingam

Member of Northern Provincial Council, Sri Lanka

Former Member of Parliament, Sri Lanka

TELO’s Proposal submitted to the Parliamentary select committee of the then Ranasinghe Premadas’s UNP Government to resolve the Sri Lanka’s North-East crisis

TO: The Chairman and Members of the Parliamentary Select Committee on the North-East Crisis

PROPOSAL TO SOLVE THE NORTH-EAST CRISIS

The political solution to the ethnic question should be one that is capable of satisfying the political aspirations of the Tamil speaking people-Tamils and Muslims-within the frame work of a united Srilanka.

The present crisis in the North-East province cannot be politically and permanently solved unless autonomy is granted to the people of that province.

Full-fledged autonomy is the only answer to the ethnic question, that shall while removing the reasonable and justifiable political grievances of the Tamils and Muslims inhabiting that region for the last so many centuries would undoubtedly ensure a truly united and strong Sri Lanka by providing a viable and vigorous constitutional frame-work within which the Tamils and Muslims as two different communities with their own, distinct identities, yet speaking the same language and sharing a common heritage shall be assured of an adequate and effective institutional arrangement to manage their own affairs.

We, therefore having in mind the past experience of our country in regard to the political efforts attempted to grant limited autonomy within the ambit and scope of a unitary state since 1957 with a view to solve the ethnic question and conscious of our solemn duty to speak sincerely and honestly on behalf of our people who are yearning for peace with dignity submit the following proposals for the utmost consideration of your committee.

1. The Republic of Sri Lanka shall be a union of states on the basis of a full- fledged and full-blooded Federal system.

2. In the union of states of Sri Lanka, the now merged North-East province shall constitute one single state.

3. The city of Colombo and the capital Sri Jayawardene Kotte shall be union territories under the control of the federal government.

4. The following subjects shall be within the jurisdiction of the Federal government.

(A) Foreign affairs

(B) Defence

(C) Foreign Trade

(D) Currency and Federal Taxation

(E) Emigration, Immigration and Customs

(F) Aviation, Railways and National Highways

(G) Postal and Telecommunication Services

(H) National Planning and Development

(I) National Police Force

5. All other subjects shall be with the states.

6. No constitutional amendment shall be made without the concurrence of all states of the union.

7. No state legislature shall be dissolved or no state government shall be dismissed by the Federal government except on the ground of violation of the unity and territorial integrity of the union of Sri Lanka. Such dissolution or dismissal shall only be made on the recommendation of the Supreme Court.

8. Section 2 of the constitution shall be repealed to pay way for the above arrangements.

9. Special institutional arrangements and constitutional guarantees shall be made to ensure the rights of the minorities in the states of the union. In regard to the North-East, state, there shall be an autonomous Muslim region comprising all predominantly Muslim areas in the state. An elected autonomous council with an executive board shall administer the region and have jurisdiction over the subjects allotted to the council including (a) Development (b) education except that at the University level (c) Religious and cultural affairs (d) Law and order subject to the power and authority of the state government in the event of internal disturbances leading to serious Law and Order situations. The autonomous council shall have adequate financial powers to discharge its responsibilities efficiently.

In the state cabinet with a strength of 10 ministers including the chief Minister, there shall be at least 2 Muslims and 1 Sinhalese. In the event of the Chief Minister being a Tamil, the Deputy Chief Minister shall be a Muslim and vice verse. At least one of the following ministries shall be in the charge of a Muslim and Sinhalese respectively in the council of ministers.

A. Finance

B. Home Affairs

C. Education

D. Industries

E. Land and Agriculture

F. Fisheries

10. In regard to the complicated and sensitive problem of colonisation the following arrangements shall be accepted with a view to find a rational solution.

A. There shall be an immediate freeze on all colonisation in the North-East province till a national land policy is evolved.

B. The former parliamentary constituency of Amparai shall be exercised from the North-East province and annexed with the Uva province.

C. A national land policy based on the ethnic composition of each district shall be evolved and implemented.

D. The 1953 census figures shall be the guide line for the said basis of the National land policy.

E. All illegal settlements in the North-East province since 1983 August shall be dismantled.

11. In regard to the state police force of the North-East state, there shall be D.I.G in charge of the police personnel and their powers and functions within the autonomous Muslim region of the North-East state. The said D.I.G shall report to the I.G.P of the state police service.

12. In regard to the judiciary, while the Supreme Court shall continue to enjoy the same constitutional status as it is now, there shall be a court of appeal in each state instead of the present court of appeal of Sri Lanka. The court of appeal of each state shall, in addition to the appellate Jurisdiction of the present court of appeal would have the appellate Jurisdiction of the present High courts as well.

Section 18 of the constitution as amended by the 13th amendment to the constitution has while conferring the status of an official language on Tamil, unfortunately been ambiguous leading to conflicting interpretations.

This situation should be rectified.

Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of Tamils in Sri Lanka

56th Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights, Geneva 2000, Item 10
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of Tamils in Sri Lanka
The armed confrontation between the government’s security forces and the Tamils in the North and East of the country has claimed since 1983 more than 55.000 lives (90 % of them civilians), over 700 000 internally displaced persons and close to half a million expatriates: almost all of the victims are Tamils. The conflict is the result of the long standing violations of the rights of the Tamils by successive governments. And, as the 1998 report of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights observes, discrimination remains the central issue in the armed conflict in Sri Lanka.
The history of independent Ceylon/Sri Lanka is the history of the majority community of Sinhalese (74% of the population) imposing itself by means of its electoral weight as the nation‘ at the expense of the other ethnic-cultural groups [mostly Tamil speaking Muslims (7.6%) and Tamils (18.1%), seven out of ten belonging to the indigenous Sri Lankan Tamils‘ concentrated in the North-East as against the remaining 30% consisting of Indian Tamils’in the up-country].

Some of the very first acts after independence was achieved in 1948 were directed against the Indian Tamils, mostly descendents from 19th cent. migrants from India for work on the plantations in the Southern and Central part of the island, who then formed one half of the Tamil population. Thus, not only were existing restrictions in their access to certain professions, such as agriculture, fishing and transport, confirmed, but new measures were taken which while reducing the number of respective Tamil managing personnel accorded preferential employment in the public sector and on the plantations to Sinhalese.

The „Citizenship Act“ of 1948 followed by the „Indian and Pakistani Residents Act“ and the „Ceylon (parliamentary elections) Amendment Act“, both of 1949, rendered the majority of Indian Tamils first stateless, made their naturalisation almost impossible, and deprived them of the right to vote which they had enjoyed for more than 20 years. As a result, the political clout of the Tamils was drastically diminished and new employment possibilities for Sinhalese were openend up (against today’s share of 1/3, the Sinhalese represented less than 1/8 of the estate labour force between 1946 and 1953). Eventually, a majority of Indian Tamils was made to leave the country consequent upon various agreements with India, so much so that the share of Indian Tamils in Sri Lanka fell from 12 % (1946/1953) to 5,5% of the population. While these were to obtain Sri Lankan citizenship, there are still today 85.000 Tamils of Indian origin possessing neither Indian nor Sri Lankan citizenship about whose denial of fundamental human rights, including access to basic services such as education, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed its concern in the concluding comments of its June 1998 report on Sri Lanka.

Next came the turn of the Sri Lankan Tamils. Separated by culture (Dravidian), language (Tamil), religion (Hinduism), and settlement area (North and East), they had been brought under an island-wide government only in the 19th cent. That this measure was introduced merely in order to facilitate the colonial administration, and neither signified nor led to an economically and socio-culturally integrated society testify the (colonial) constitutions since 1931 heralding self-government (Donoughmore, Soulbury) with their explicite safeguards for the minorities. Very densely populated (the Jaffna peninsula counted 940 inh./km² at the last census in 1981), plagued by landlessness, water-deficiency, and practically devoid of any modern industry (80 % are concentrated in and around Colombo), the Sri Lankan Tamils have traditionally flourished on fishing, and on the export of agricultural products (rice, vegetables, spices) and of (highly qualified, English speaking) manpower (to Colombo as well as abroad). The language and education policy of independent Sri Lanka drastically curtailed these chances of gaining a livelihood, and seriously infringed upon the social, economic and cultural rights of the Tamils.

Thus, the „Official Languages Act“ of 1956 proclaimed Sinhala the sole official language of the country; with later legislation restricting the use of Tamil in various fields of administration even further. The final recognition of Tamil as a ‚national language‘ in the 1978 constitution, does not alter the systematic discrimination. Thus, at police stations in Colombo, everything is recorded in Sinhalese, so that Tamils are obliged to sign statements written in a language they can’t read. And the Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers notes, that ‚the access to justice of Tamil-speaking parties to proceedings and lawyers is seriously restricted by the lack of interpreters, by delays in publishing legislation and Emergency Regulations in Tamil, and by the absence of Law Reports and textbooks in Tamil‘.

In 1973, the ethnic bias in language policy was complemented by ‚standardisation of education‘, an admission policy to higher education which severely limited the chances of Tamils students. Meanwhile, outright neglect of Tamil medium schools even at lower levels has been reported. Thus, according to the Ceylon Tamil Teachers Union there are 470 technical and vocational courses in Sinhala, but only 65 in Tamil; in the Vanni, there are no technical colleges at all; against eight courses in computer studies offered in Sinhala, there is but one in Tamil, and none at all in vocational and technical education in radio and TV technology, electronics and motor vehicle maintenance. Officially, there was a shortage of 10.000 Tamil medium teachers in 1996. But only 4000 have so far been appointed despite the availability of funds from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. By contrast, inspite of a surplus of 14.000 Sinhala medium teachers, another 10.000 have been recruited.

As a result, the employment pattern in administration and state enterprises has become decidedly mono-ethnic: the Sinhalese represent today 93 % of all government servants and 99% of the armed forces (in 1956 40 % of the latter were Tamils). Excluded, the Tamils, by contrast, have been effectively driven into unemployment, abroad or into rebellion.

The constitution of 1972 (Art.6) accorded to Buddhism, the religion of the Sinhalese majority, „the foremost place“, a provision reaffirmed in the 1978 constitution (Art.9) as well as the constitutional proposals of 1997/8 (the latter even providing for a ‚Supreme Council‘ of Buddhist Clergy to advice the government). It marks a decisive departure from secularism and the proclaimed multi-culturalism in a society where 15% of the population are Hindus, and 7 % each confess to Islam, Christianity respectively. It is but another step in the identification of the majority with the nation as such, as became clear when in 1974 the then and today’s Primeminister, Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, declared Anuradhapura a Sacred Buddhist Area, in consequence of which all Hindu temples in the vicinity were demolished. The burning in 1981 of the Jaffna Historic Public Library by the Sri Lankan army and police not only destroyed this repository of some of the most valuable manuscripts and books on the history and culture of Sri Lankan Tamils. It was an attempt on the latter’s cultural identity and, thus, on the people itself.

In the course of the government’s peasant colonization schemes, about a quarter of the island’s population, overwhelmingly Sinhalese peasants from the South, is thought to have been moved since 1946 from the Wet to the Dry Zone (North-Centre, East). The ethnic composition in the North and East which the Tamils for historical and demographic reasons regard as their traditional homeland was thereby drastically altered: in 1881 the Sinhalese accounted for less than 2% of the population in these two provinces; by 1981, their share had increased in Trincomalee District to 33.6% and to 38% in Amparai District, whereas the respective proportion of Tamils decreased from 57 to 34 and 37 to 20%.

Starting in Amparai district in 1956, these resettlement schemes were often accompanied by forceful evictions of long-time Tamil villagers, amounting to ethnic cleansing (e.g. Gal Oya). As a result, the demographic continuity of the Tamil region was disrupted, while the creation of almost exclusively Sinhalese majority areas gave rise to two new Sinhalese electorates by the late 1970s. Analogous events took place in the early 1980s in Trincomalee District as well as in the Northern Province where under the Mahaveli Development Scheme exclusively Sinhalese peasant colonies were established in the Manal Aru area at the expense of over 3000 evicted Tamil families. There, the traditional Tamil names were not only replaced by Sinhalese ones (Manal Aru by Weli Oya, Thannimurippu by Janakapura), the oppressive nature of the state’s colonisation manifests itself, moreover, in that the 25.000 new Sinhalese settlers were given arms and army camps were additionally contructed in the neighborhood. As for the Tamils, similar government sponsored regroupings into Sinhalese dominated districts did not occur.

The Internally Displaced Persons (IDP), particularly in the Vanni, a rural and forest area in the North, present another case of denial of human rights to Tamil people. As a result of the war, 50 % of the district‘s 250.000 original inhabitants has been displaced and another 250.000 people have entered the area. Unemployed and penniless as most of these half a million people are, they depend on the government for survival. Thus, there are only 8 physicians, no dentists, no gynecologists or paediatrician. Cultivable area in 1998 had been reduced to one fifth or less of what was available in 1994. The land shortage has been compounded by an economic embargo that –theoretically applying only to potentially military items- has led in practice to restricted supplies of fertilizers and chemicals, kerosene and agricultural machinery, etc. Fishing, the other major source of livelihood, stands officially banned. In consequence, many people, 400.000 according to Government Agents, depend on the government, i.e. are eligible for dry rations. However, in line with other accounts, the 1997 and 1998 reports of the US Committee for Refugees conclude, that the supply of food and medicine by the government has been consistently inadequate, with the situation in the government detention camps, where 40.000 families are housed with 5-8 persons living in shelters of 8 x 10ft, reportedly being even worse. In consequence, malnutrition, anemia, low birth rates, and a return of malaria have been observed. Such withholding of necessary basic supplies are in clear violation of human rights and humanitarian law which can in no way be justified by the war.

In order to put an end to these multiple denials of economic, social and cultural rights, the Society for Threatened Peoples asks the United Nations Commission for Human Rights:

To put pressure on the Sri Lankan government to end its employment of food and medicine as weapons of war, and to adequately supply forthwith the internally displaced persons in the country, particularly in the Vanni, according to human rights and humanitarian law;

To recognize the long-standing systematic pattern of discrimination against the Tamils by successive Sinhalese dominated governments;

To take into account this violation of economic, social and cultural rights of the Tamils as the root cause for the present armed conflict while deliberating the human rights situation in the country and measures to improve it;

To take into consideration that economic, social and cultural rights are not only invariably and intimately linked to political and civil rights, but that the rights of minorities are neither safeguarded in a formal democratic set-up, nor can they based on individual rights. What is urgently needed are collective rights.

OUR LAND’S FREEDOM IS OUR BIRTHRIGHT

“The Tamils of Ampara have had to face the brunt of both Sinhala chauvinism and Muslim intimidation. But they have refused to submit or yield their national pride as Tamils. We have to show the world that we will never sell our dignity for a mess of pottage, that we will not be intimidated by the terror that the Sri Lankan state has unleashed on us. The democratic campaign of the Tamil national alliance for our people’s rights will strengthen the struggle of those who are fighting for our Liberation. We do not believe that we can achieve anything for the Tamils from the Sri Lankan Parliament. We consider it only as a forum to draw the world’s attention to our people’s plight,”
said Mr. Selvam Adaikalanathan, the leader of the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation, addressing an election campaign meeting of the Tamil national alliance Friday in Kalmunai, a large town on Sri Lanka’s southeastern coast .
“The Tamil national alliance is not interested in bargaining with any Sri Lankan government in power to secure positions for itself. If that was our intention we could have supported the People’s Alliance (PA) regime when it was in crisis and helped it stay in power. Neither the PA nor the UNP is genuinely interested in solving the Tamil problem. They are only keen to satisfy the sentiments of the Sinhalese”.

“The Tamil should have no illusions about the ruling party and the opposition. Both are Sinhala chauvinists in the final analysis”.

“No Sinhalese will ever vote for a Tamil party. But there are some Tamils among us who shamelessly support the Sinhala parties. We should persuade them to become self-respecting Tamils”.

“Has President Chandrika Kumaratunga ever said that she will recognise the unity of the Tamil homeland? Has she ever accepted that the north and east are one territorial entity? But the EPDP which is a major coalition partner her regime declares that it stands for the territorial unity of the Tamil homeland. This is sheer duplicity”.

“The Sri Lankan government is trying to buy off the self-respect national dignity of Tamil people through the EPDP with money and jobs. We Tamils have to stand united and show the world that we treasure our freedom and self-respect more than our lives. Liberating our land is our birthright”.

SPEECH BY NADESAN SATYENDRA, REPRESENTATIVE OF TELO, AT THIMBU TALKS (1985)

We recognise that the Tamil national struggle is not taking place in some Himalayan stratosphere…

At the outset, we would like to emphasise something which all of us amongst the Tamil delegation present here today, recognise and indeed, welcome and accept – and that is, that the circumstance that these discussions are taking place in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is in itself, an open manifestation of the international dimension of the Tamil national question. The Tamil national struggle is not taking place in some Himalayan stratosphere – it is taking place on the ground and in the context of the power balances in the Indian region. We are mindful of this reality and we, for our part, welcome India’s role in bringing about these discussions.

We often say, amongst ourselves, that we are not only Tamils, but that we are also Indians. We are Tamils, we are also Indians and we seek to live in equality and in freedom with our brothers and sisters of India.

And we would like to believe that our Sinhala brothers and sisters too, will in the years to come, begin to recognise the imperative need to learn to live with their brothers and sisters of India before seeking to live with their cousin brothers from somewhat more distant lands.

Not an exercise in skillful advocacy but a search for justice

We would also like to declare at the outset, that we do not regard these discussions at Bhutan as an exercise in skillful advocacy. If it were a matter of skillful advocacy, the Tamils of Sri Lanka would have won their legitimate rights many years ago when the late G.G. Ponnambalam made his eloquent speeches.

Neither do we regard Bhutan as an exercise in political horsedealing. To the Tamil delegation present here, Bhutan is an exercise in search for that which is just and right. And in this, we find strength in the statement of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi that a fair and lasting solution must be found to the Tamil national question – a solution that can last for twenty years and more.

It is in this frame, and with this approach, that the Tamil delegation will participate in the talks at Thimpu. We are not here to find an opportunistic and unprincipled settlement as a way of resolving some immediate problem for some person or another. And we would like to believe that the Sri Lankan government has been moved to come to this table for the same reasons and will approach the discussions in the same way.

But what is justice?

Having said that, the question remains: what is justice? Justice is not a mere word. It is not an empty and convenient platitude to be uttered on political platforms and to be written with passion on thin paper. There is a need to give the thick edge of action to that which is written on thin paper.

And when we ask, what is just in relation to the Tamil national question, perhaps, there is a need for us to look at the hard reality that has led to the present impasse. All of us here have some basic knowledge of the facts and therefore there is no need to look searchingly and long at the past.

Oppressed and the oppressor

We look upon these discussions at Thimpu as being concerned with the establishment of that sanctuary where the Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka may live, not only without fear, but also with dignity and self respect. The struggle of the Tamil people for this sanctuary has transformed itself into an armed struggle.

We are not lovers of violence, but we wish to say openly that it is a sanctimonious morality which equates the violence of the oppressor with the violence of the oppressed who seek to escape that oppression. The words of Aurobindo, the sage of Pondicherry, uttered many years ago in 1907, are not without relevance today:

“It is the common habit of established governments and especially those which are themselves oppressors, to brand all violent methods in subject peoples and communities as criminal and wicked… But no nation yet has listened to the cant of the oppressor, when itself put to the test, and the general conscience of humanity approves the refusal… Liberty is the life breath of a nation; and when life is attacked, when it is sought to suppress all chance of breathing by violent pressure, then any and every means of self preservation becomes right and justifiable. It is the nature of the pressure which determines the nature of the resistance.”

Legitimisation of the armed struggle

Our presence here today, on behalf of six Tamil organisations and our participation at these talks with a specially appointed Minister of the Sri Lankan government is a legitimisation of the armed struggle of the Tamil people.

We are concerned here to talk about the way in which this ethnic conflict can be resolved, in a lasting way, and clearly, that is on the basis that the Sri Lankan government accepts that the Tamil delegation present here, represents the Tamils of Sri Lanka.

This is a question to which we may have to come back later, because it seems to us, that if the Sri Lankan government delegation seeks to have talks with all of us at Thimpu, and intends to implement, through the constitutional processes in Sri Lanka, that which is agreed here as the solution to the Tamil national question – then it must follow that the Sri Lankan government recognises the Tamil organisations present here as being the representatives of the Tamil people.

Because, if you do not, then we may need to reconsider the whole question whether we can participate at these discussions at all. That then is the very initial position – a position to which we may have to come back at a later stage.

Basic framework for the talks

It is on the basis of this approach, that we set out at the discussions that we had with you in early July 1985 at Thimpu, that which we regarded as the fundamental framework for our negotiations:

1. the recognition by you of the existence the of the Tamil nation
2. the acceptance by you of the existence of an identified homeland for the Tamils in Ceylon
3. the recognition by you of the right of self determination of the Tamil people, and
4. the recognition by you of the right to citizenship and fundamental rights of all Tamils in Ceylon.

Imperative need to look at the broad concerns of the Tamil people

It was a framework, which we regarded as a useful base for that ‘fruitful exchange’ of views to which Dr. Jayawardene made reference in his written statement of the 12th of August 1985. We do not seek to make this talking process one of making a series of lectures to one another.

Whatever these discussions may lead to and whatever these discussions may end in, it is only through a fruitful exchange of views that any solid basis can be built for the resolution of a conflict which has claimed many lives and which has caused much suffering. The importance that we attach to the framework which we have suggested is that we believe that by an exchange of views concerning the framework, we can clarify, refine and understand what it is that we are talking to each other about.

If we do not share an understanding of what it is that we are talking about, then, we will not ever get to the next stage of examining detailed sections and clauses of enactments and constitutional provisions – because, to get to that stage, there must be, at least, a broad understanding of the essentials of the issues that confront us today.

We do not say for a moment that we can get everything into black and white positions straightaway, but we do say that there is an imperative need to look at the broad concerns of the Tamil people and at that which has moved them to engage in the present struggle.

The existential reality is that the Tamils constitute a nation

Firstly, we say that today the existential reality is that the Tamils of Sri Lanka constitute a nation. And when we say, ‘nation’, we know that the word has often been used in two senses. The Tamil people are not unaware of that usage. In one sense, the word has been used to mean ‘a state’.

But there is another and more fundamental meaning – and that is the sense in which the word refers to the cohesive group identity of a people. A nation is not a mere intellectual concept. It is an idea which reaches out deep into the emotions of a people – and is rooted in their material conditions of existence.

We cannot find understanding here at Thimpu, unless we try to understand these emotions and feelings – emotions and feelings which have led thousands of our most dedicated, brilliant and brave young men to walk out of their homes, to give their lives and even more that, to give of their lives for that which believe to be right – and let us remember that it is sometimes more courageous to live than to die.

We cannot look at the whole process of the Tamil struggle from some rarefied Himalayan peak, whether in Bhutan or elsewhere. We must look at the hard reality as it exists today and that reality is that the Tamils of Sri Lanka, have been educated about their Tamil national identity and that by an test, they constitute a nation.

What is a nation?

We can set out all the analytical definitions of a nation – we have one such definition in the joint written statement made by the Tamil delegation at these talks on the 13th of August 1985.

A nation is a historically constituted stable community of people formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life and psychological make up manifested in a common culture.

But, at the end of the day, it may well be that the words of Rupert Emerson will carry conviction, through their very simplicity:

‘The simplest statement that can be made about a nation is that it is a body of people who feel that they are a nation; and it may be that when all the fine spun analysis is concluded, this will be the ultimate statement as well’.

And many years ago, Achmed Sukarno remarked- ‘But what is a nation? Many great thinkers have applied their minds to this…One of the truest and most moving descriptions I know was given by a little known professor of Ohio University. About forty years ago Professor Taylor wrote: “Where and what is a nation? Is there such a thing? You would answer that the nation exists only in the minds and hearts of men. It is an idea. It is therefore more real than its courts and armies; more real that you and I are, for it existed in our fathers and will exist in our children. It is an idea, it is an imagination..”

And today, the Tamil nation is more real than the courts and armies ranged against it, because it exists in the hearts and minds of hundreds of thousands of Tamils, young and old, living in many lands and across distant seas.

The togetherness of the Tamil people

The togetherness of the Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka springs from a common culture, a common language and a common heritage. But it is not a function of the past alone.

It is a togetherness which has been pressed into shape by the shared discrimination of the present. Because that which is separately treated becomes separate.

It is also a togetherness which has been given strength and direction by a growing resolve and a growing determination that we as a people will mould a future where our children and our children’s children may grow to the fullness of their potential and where they may live in equality and in freedom.

We are not chauvinists…

But we are not chauvinists. We do not take an exaggerated view of nationalism. We know that the growth of nationalism in the Indian region is a natural and inevitable one.

We have seen the growth of Sinhala nationalism and we do not decry it. It is only when it takes exaggerated forms and becomes chauvinistic that problems are created.

We know that in the end, national freedom can only be secured by a voluntary pooling of sovereignties, in a regional, and ultimately in a world context. And we recognise that our future lies with the peoples of the Indian region and the path of a greater and a larger Indian union is the direction of that future.

It is a union that will reflect the compelling and inevitable need for a common market and a common defence and foreign policy and which will be rooted in the common heritage that we share with our brothers and sisters of not only of Tamil Nadu but also of India as a whole.

It is a shared heritage that we freely acknowledge and it is a shared heritage from which we derive strength – and we know that we too, as a people, can at the same time, contribute to that strength.

We speak at Thimpu, for the Tamil nation or not at all

And, so we say here at Thimpu, that there is no way in which any step forward can be taken today, except on the basis that the Tamils of Sri Lanka constitute a nation.

We would, very humbly, say this to the Sri Lankan government delegation.

If they take the view that a sufficient number of Tamils have not yet died, if they take the view that a sufficient number of Tamils have not yet suffered, to establish that the Tamils of Sri Lanka, constitute a people, that they constitute a nation, then, so be it.

It will not be because the Sri Lankan government had not been told that that was the reality.

We have said this before to the international community and we say it again, here at Thimpu, we do not plead for justice. We do not beg for fairness. We know that justice will prevail in the end – and we have confidence and faith in that process.

But we do seek to engage you, in that fruitful exchange of views, so that you may come to understand the reality that confronts both you and us – that we, too, are a people. Please understand that this is no abstract theory. This is no abstract principle. It is the existential reality of a certain consciousness of the Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka – a consciousness that has been shaped in the crucible of a continuing struggle.

We say, very respectfully, and without rancour, please understand that we too are a people and please deal with us on that basis, or not at all.

We, for our part, wish to make it clear to you, that we speak at Thimpu on behalf of the Tamil people or not at all.

We do not speak for ourselves. And please do not give us the niceties of legal interpretations. Please tell us straight: do you regard as a people or not? If not, say so and we will go away because we regard that as being fundamental to the whole process of talking with you.

We must know who it is that you say that you are talking with – do you say as you have said in your written statement of the 12th of August 1985, that you are talking with some ‘six groups’ who represent some other ‘Tamil groups’ in Sri Lanka? If that be the case, then we do not believe that we have any place here.

But if you say that we represent the Tamil people, then that is something else again. We are here, because we seek to engage you in the serious business of talking about the problems that have arisen between the Sinhala people and the Tamil people.

We are a reasonable people. And that is why, as a reasonable people, we say at the beginning, please tell us, with whom do you say you are talking with? That is why, as a reasonable people, we have sought to explain to you, why it is that we say that we are a people – why it is that we say that the Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka constitute a nation.

Identified homeland

And, so we go on to the second matter that we have set out as a part of the basic framework for our discussions at Thimpu – and that is the question of an identified homeland.

We say that we have an identifiable homeland in the North and East of Sri Lanka. We do not seek to enter into some sort of historical debate about whether the Tamils of Sri Lanka have lived in the North and East from the dawn of history – although many of us believe that the historical records support this conclusion.

But let us not get involved in a secondary school debate. Neither you nor we are in a position to do that today.

A point was made by a member of the Tamil delegation yesterday and it was a point that was movingly made. He asked: ‘where do we go for safety, when we are assaulted in the South of Sri Lanka? Where does the government of Sri Lanka send us when there are riots in Colombo? We seek sanctuary in our homeland in the North and East of Sri Lanka.’

That surely must be the best test of all, because we all know where we go – and so we say, once again, very respectfully, please do not seek hide that which is a self evident truth, please do not deny the existence of our homelands.

Recognised by Sri Lanka in pacts, agreements and constitutions

After all the fact is that the Bandaranaike – Chelvanayagam Pact of 1956 recognised that the North and East of Sri Lanka should be treated differently in relation to language, land settlement and son, because the Tamil people lived there.

The fact is that the Dudley Senanayake – Chelvanayagam agreement of 1965 made special provisions concerning the North and East because the Tamil people lived there.

The fact is that the 1972 Sri Lankan Constitution made special provisions concerning the use of the Tamil language in the North and East, because the Tamil people lived there – permanently – permanent Constitutional provisions were not made in respect of a transient population.

And the fact is that the 1978 Sri Lankan Constitution not only declared Tamil as a national language, but also made special provisions for the use of this ‘national’ language in the North and East, clearly because the Tamil people lived in the North and East, not as wandering nomads, but permanently in an area which they regarded and the Sri Lankan government accepted as their homeland.

Without a homeland we could not have become a people and without a homeland we shall cease to be a people

And, so we ask the Sri Lankan government delegation, here at Thimpu, do you accept that which we are saying as being right? Do you see the justice of our claim to an identified homeland?

Do you not see that without an identified homeland, we could not have become a people with a separate language and a separate culture, and that without an identified homeland we shall cease to be a people?

Or is it the position that the Sri Lankan government does in fact see this reality and for that reason, refuses to recognise here at Thimpu, the existence of a homeland for the Tamil people, so that it may absorb the Tamil people into a single homogeneous ‘Sinhala’ nation?

Please tell us, if that which we say does not seem reasonable to you. We are a reasonable people and we will listen to you, if you show us where we are wrong.

But, if you cannot tell us where we are wrong, and if you seek to assert that you are not persuaded, then, surely, the struggle must go on. We do not have any other option. If we were to say, that even though something was not right, even though something was not just, we shall enter into a political horsedeal – that would be unreasonable – and we are a reasonable people.

We do not seek political horsedeals

And over the years, we as a people, have had a rich experience of political horsedeals that have not worked. We have found that every such agreement or pact has not been honoured.

We do not say that they were not honoured because the men who were concerned were evil men. We do not say that. They were subject, they said, to pressures from their Sinhala electorate. It is an old story which the Tamil people have learnt well.

After all we are a people, not without wisdom. It is a story where competing Sinhala political parties in Sri Lanka, have had recourse to an exaggerated Sinhala nationalism either as a way of achieving power or as a way of perpetuating their hold on power.

The real question is: what is it that the Sinhala people want?

The real question is: what is it that the Sinhala people want? Are the Sinhala people willing and ready to recognise the Tamils as a people and sit with them as equals, I repeat as equals, and structure a polity for a multinational state?

That is the straightforward question which the Sri Lankan government delegation must answer. If you cannot do that, then all these talks will amount to nothing but an empty charade devoid of meaning or content.

We have had serious reservations about these talks

May we say, with frankness, that we have had serious reservations at every stage of these talks. We have had serious reservations about the strength of the Sri Lankan government to agree to that which is just.

We have had serious reservations about the implementation of that which may eventually be agreed upon. We have had serious reservations about the way in which anything can be secured.

We are gravely concerned with the basic principles that the Sri Lankan government has put forward at this table – for just as much as we have placed four basic principles – it would seem that principles are not the special preserve of the Tamil delegation – they seem to attract the Sri Lankan government delegation as well.

Without a referendum, can power be shared between the centre and the provinces ?

The Sri Lankan government has stated here that whatever is decided upon here must be on the basis that the decisions will not involve the holding of a referendum to amend the Sri Lankan constitution.

As a reasonable people, this basic ‘principle’ of the Sri Lankan government causes some grave concern.

For, one thing, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi has publicly stated that a settlement on the lines of the powers given to states like Tamil Nadu in the Indian Constitution may have to be considered.

But the Sri Lankan constitution expressly provides that Sri Lanka shall be an unitary state and this provision cannot be amended except through a referendum.

In the result, a settlement on the lines indicated by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, where power is shared between the centre and the provinces, may not be achieved, given the basic ‘principle’ enunciated by the Sri Lankan Government delegation at Thimpu.

Are you afraid to face the Sinhala people with that which is agreed at Thimpu?

Again, when it is said that there shall be no referendum, what does it really mean? Does it mean that you are afraid to put that which is agreed at Thimpu, to the Sinhala people?

And if it means that you are afraid to put the agreed solution to the Sinhala people now, then please tell us: how long do you expect such a solution to last?

We are not here to strike an opportunistic ‘deal’ at Thimpu, behind the backs of the Sinhala people – to reiterate the words of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, we are here to find a just and lasting solution – a solution that can last for twenty years and more.

We believe that that type of solution must secure, today, the open and wholehearted acceptance of the broad spectrum of Sinhala opinion – otherwise, the settlement will suffer the same fate as the agreements of 1957 and 1965. Too many Tamils have died for us to be engaged in that sort of process. And so we say that we have some very grave concerns about the approach of the Sri Lankan government delegation to these talks.

Please tell us if that which we say is not reasonable

If you say that something that we say does not appear to be just, please tell us. We are a reasonable people – and we will listen.

But we are not willing to be told: ‘You say all this – but let us get on with an examination of detailed sections and so on without examining the basic framework’.

There is no way in which you can persuade us to adopt that course of action. Because, it is the path of reason alone that allows a fruitful exchange of views and we have come to Thimpu for that fruitful exchange of views.

The right of self determination and the way that we may choose to exercise that right

And, so let us turn to the third basic feature of the framework suggested by us – and that is the right of self determination.

We say that we are a people and we say that we have earned the right of self determination. Please permit us to clarify our position. One is the right of self determination. The other is the way in which we may choose to exercise that right. The two are different and the importance of the difference arises in this way.

If you agree that we have the right of self determination, if you agree that we, as a people, have the right to choose our political status, then since both you and we have the right to choose, we can sit together as equals and talk about the way we propose to exercise our right.

But we are not prepared to sit and talk to each other on the basis that one is the master and the other is the servant, that one is the ruler and the other is the ruled. That is not the basis on which we can participate at discussions, whether at Thimpu or elsewhere.

We say: ‘yes, we are a reasonable people and as a people, we will sit and talk with you. You have the right to choose, just as much as we have the right to choose – no less and no more’. From that dialogue, amongst equals, we know that the rationalities will prevail. But if you say: ‘no, we are the rulers and you are the ruled’, then we have not even got to first base in the process of dialogue.

The inherent right of a subjugated people to free themselves from an alien subjugation

We say that the Tamil people have earned the right to self determination – and why do we say that? As a reasonable people we want to explain to you why we say that. We know that although Article 1 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, to which Sri Lanka is a signatory, proclaims that every people have the right to self determination, the United Nations Charter and all International instruments recognise the territorial integrity of existing states. The Tamil people know that – they have looked into all that. We are a people, not without some wisdom.

We also know that as in the case of the colonies that Dr. Jayawardene referred to in the course of these proceedings, the territorial integrity of existing states has in certain circumstances been overridden.

In what circumstances was the concept of territorial sovereignty overridden in the law of nations?

The Tamil delegation here at Thimpu asserts a proposition founded on common sense and justice – and in the ultimate analysis all sound law is common sense and justice. It is a very uncomplicated business, this question of international law. It is simple.

And the simple proposition is this: ‘A people who are subjugated by an alien people have the inherent right to free themselves from such alien subjugation’. And it is this right which is the right of self determination – a right which has today, become a peremptory norm of general international law.

We will tell you why we say that we are a subjugated people

The Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka are not only a people, but by an test, we are today, a subjugated people. Why do we say that we are a subjugated people?

Again, as a reasonable people, we wish to tell you why we say that we are a subjugated people – we feel that it is our duty to explain to you our position so that you may understand and so that we may engage you in that ‘fruitful exchange’ of views that Dr. Jayawardene spoke about.

Disenfranchisement was an act of subjugation

In 1948, soon after independence from British rule, one of the first steps of the Sinhala government, was to utilise the frame afforded by an unitary constitution to introduce legislation which deprived almost one half of the Tamils of Sri Lanka, who worked on plantations, of their citizenship and their right to vote.

These laws were enacted despite the fact that a pan Sinhala Board of Ministers had, in 1943, prior to independence, proposed to the British government, a parliament for independent Sri Lanka, of 101 seats of which 14 seats were allocated for plantation Tamils.

Further, although the plantation Tamils were disenfranchised, their numbers were nevertheless taken into account for the purposes of delimitation. The Sinhala majority was, in effect, given weightage in representation in the legislature, at the expense of the Tamil minority.

And so, we say, here at Thimpu, that the deprivation of a then existing right to citizenship of one’s country for a people, all of whom were born there and who had lived there all their lives was an act intended to subjugate the Tamils of Sri Lanka and bend them to the will of a permanent Sinhala majority, within the confines of an unitary constitution.

State colonisation of Tamil homeland was an act of subjugation

Again, during the period from 1936 onwards, when land alienation and settlement was in the hands of Sinhala Ministers, systematic state aided colonisation deprived the Tamils of their traditional homelands in the eastern parts of the island.

In the Trincomalee district, in 1921, a mere 3% of population were Sinhalese: by 1946 their numbers had increased to 20% and in 1971 to almost 29%. Again in Batticaloa and Amparai, in 1921, 4.5% of the population were Sinhalese: by 1971 their numbers had increased to almost 18%. An independent observer such as Virginia Leary has commented:

“…Tamils have objected to State colonisation schemes which import large numbers of Sinhalese into traditional Tamil areas. The Tamil concern about colonisation is related to insecurity about their physical safety and to fears that Tamils will become a minority in their traditional homelands.

The government maintains that since Sri Lanka is a single country citizens may freely move into any part of the country and that it is necessary to transplant some populations to more productive areas. The Tamils answer that they are not opposed to individual migration but only to large scale government colonisation schemes which change the ethnic composition of an area…”

We say that large scale colonisation schemes of successive Sinhala governments were intended to change the ethnic composition of the traditional homelands of the Tamil people and to further the process of subjugating Tamil people by making them a minority in their own homelands.

The enactment of the Sinhala only law was an act of subjugation

Again in 1956, a Sinhala government enacted that Sinhalese shall be the sole official language. This was done although, in 1944, before independence, the legislature had enacted that both Sinhala and Tamil should be official languages.

The deliberate ‘downgrading’ of the Tamil language was more than a symbolic insult – it was intended to eventually erase the separate cultural identity of the Tamil nation in Sri Lanka. It also served to deprive thousands of Tamils of employment in the public sector. It was yet another step in the subjugation of the Tamils of Sri Lanka to the will of the Sinhala majority.

Standardisation of admissions to universities was an act of subjugation

In 1971, the Sinhala government standardised admissions to the University and effectively reduced the number of Tamil students entering Universities in Sri Lanka.

The percentage of Tamil students entering engineering courses fell from 40% in 1970 to 13% in 1976; in science faculties the percentage fell from 35% in 1970 to 15% in 1978; and in the medical faculty from 50% in 1970 to 20% in 1975. And nothing aroused deeper despair among Tamils than the feeling that they were being systematically squeezed out of higher education.

And we have asked: what wrong have we done?

And so today, Tamils have asked themselves, what wrong have we done. Was it wrong for us to protest against the disenfranchisement of the plantation Tamils? Was it wrong for us to protest against the Sinhala only Act and say that this was a breach of the promise made by the pan Sinhala cabinet in 1944 that both Sinhala and Tamil would be the official languages of Sri Lanka? Was it wrong for us to protest against the standardisation of admissions to Universities? Was it wrong for us to say that the lands in which we live are not as fertile as the lands in which you live in the South and in the West, and that it was unjust to ‘standardise’ University admissions when there was no standardisation in so far as economic resources was concerned? Was it the position that what the Sinhala people have, they continue to have – and, what we have, they ‘standardise’? Was that right or wrong?

We say all this, please, not in a spirit of debate. Please. The stage is far too important and critical for that – we are today at a watershed and we all recognise that – and post mortems are useful only to the extent that they are needed to understand that which is an existential reality today.

Refusal to share power within a federal constitution was itself an act subjugation

Again, the polls victory of the Federal Party in 1956, a party which was committed to securing a federal constitution for Sri Lanka and ‘the establishment of one or more linguistic states incorporating all geographically contiguous areas in which the Tamil speaking people are numerically in a majority as federating units enjoying the widest autonomous and residuary powers, consistent with the unity and external security of Ceylon’, marked the coming into being of the Tamil nation in Sri Lanka – a nation constituted of the Tamils living in their traditional homelands in the North and East of Sri Lanka.

The demand for a federal constitution was the legitimate expression of the right of self determination of the Tamil people at that stage. But it was a demand that was refused. Why was it refused? And was that refusal right or wrong?

These are questions which we must ask if we are to face up to the reality as it exists today. Because, we say that the refusal of successive Sinhala governments to share power within the frame of a federal constitutional structure was itself an act intended to subjugate the Tamils of Sri Lanka.

The continued failure of the Sri Lankan government to offer a political solution which recognises the existence of the Tamil nation and which allows for the sharing of power with that Tamil nation, suggests that it seeks to annihilate and absorb the Tamils of Sri Lanka into a single homogeneous Sinhala nation, albeit under the cloak of a so called ‘Sri Lankan nationality.’

May we say, that we would like to be persuaded otherwise – but as always, it would seem that deeds are usually more persuasive than words. And, so, we say that as a subjugated people, we have earned the right to choose, we have earned the right of self determination.

Fundamental human rights

And, on the fourth matter of the right to citizenship and the exercise of fundamental rights, permit us to say that which the independent Minority Rights Group whose sponsors include Lady Butler, Robert Gardiner, Jo Grimond and Gunmar Myrdal, stated in September 1983:

“…the present conflict had transcended the issue of special consideration of minority rights and has reached the point where the basic human rights of the Tamil community – the rights to life and property, freedom of speech and self expression and freedom from arbitrary arrest have in fact and in law been subject to gross and continued violations…”

It is said that fundamental human rights are those rights which spring from the dignity of man and the Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka seek to live with dignity with their fellowmen.

Please recognise the significance and the importance of the framework suggested by us

Please do not believe that you can get any lasting solution to the problems that we face, by sweeping all this under the carpet. That is why, it is necessary for us to talk with you about the basic framework that we have suggested for these discussions at Thimpu.

I would say this to the Sri Lankan government delegation. Please recognise the significance and the importance of the matters that we have raised today. Please tell us with whom you wish to talk – please tell us with whom you say you are talking with.

Because this is a matter of immediate concern to every member of the Tamil delegation here – specially because of your reference to us as some ‘groups’ in your written statement of 12th of August 1985. A statement, which we find has been released to the press in Sri Lanka.

We cannot talk under threats: we cannot be pressured into ‘justice’

The Thimpu talks were originally intended as secret talks, but today, these talks must be one of the most publicised secrets in the world. The purpose of the secrecy was clearly to prevent posturing at this table.

We did not want this forum to be used, by all sides, as a way of creating additional confusion. It was the intention to examine the problems that had arisen in a calm and collected manner.

But recent statements on behalf of the Sri Lankan government in Colombo have not helped the talking process. Because we cannot talk under threats – from either side.

We cannot have threats about 10,000 persons being armed by the Sri Lankan government. We cannot have threats in the international press that if the talks fail then the Sri Lankan government would ask Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to take action against militant Tamil organisations in Tamil Nadu.

If you want to move your international forces, please go ahead – because we, too, believe that we have some understanding of those forces, perhaps a better understanding than you. We are here to find a just answer – and it is about justice that we seek to talk to you about. But we cannot be pressured into justice.

We, too, are a people – and we are a reasonable people

We are a reasonable people. And we say this bluntly. What will reason show? Let reason show that here were a Tamil people who were ready to talk as a people, but that they were met by a Sri Lankan government which refused to talk to them as a people.

Please do not equivocate on this matter. Please do not believe that the Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka can be annihilated. Please do not believe that. Please do not believe that you can manage and subjugate the Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka through stooges who depend for their power on the patronage of the ruler.

Please understand why we say this – we are not here to win a debating point. We know that that sort of debate is sterile, it does not get us anywhere. But if you are willing to engage in a ‘fruitful exchange’ of views, then certainly, let us talk about the basic framework that we have suggested for our discussions.

And that fruitful exchange of views is the path of understanding and we repeat, it is only on the basis of understanding that something can be built – otherwise we will be dealing with pieces of paper and that will not take us anywhere.

Thousands of Tamils, young and old, men and women, and children as well, have died and suffered so that we, may stand up at Thimpu and declare, ‘yes, we too, are a people and we will sit and talk with you, on behalf of the Tamil nation, or not at all’.