Tamils of Sri Lanka: Betrayal after Betrayal

srilanka tamil

Sinhalese leaders betrayed the Tamil leaders who fought shoulder to shoulder to gain independence from the British.

On February 4th 1048 two million Tamils of Ceylon [now Sri Lanka] exchanged their white masters British for the brown master {Sinhalese] it was like jumping from a frying pan into fire. Sri Lanka would not have gained independence from the British without the support and consent of the Tamil people.

Tamil legislators like Sir Ponnambalam  Ramanathan trusting D. S. Senanayake the Prime Minister of Ceylon at the time of independence voted giving a 4/5th majority for the constitutional recommendations. In fact, it was the Tamil leaders like Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan and Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam who fearlessly spearheaded the struggle for constitutional reforms that led to the independence from colonial rule.

However, the Ponnambalam brothers in the evening of life realized that the Sinhalese politicians have let them down the garden path and taken them for a ride to advance the interests of the majority community at the expense of the Tamil people. Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan foresaw that the democratic principle of one-person one vote in a heterogeneous society would ultimately lead to tyranny of the majority.

In a speech to the Legislative Council during the debate on the Donoughmore Reforms, Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan appears the precursor of the Tamils demand for a sovereign state of Tamil Eelam.

He said, “Why did the [Donoughmore] Commissioners not study Ireland, which is next door to them? They [Irish] said that we are one lot and you are another. We cannot work together. We must have separate governments. Then I ask what happened to the Dominion of Canada? The Official concerned said, it is an impossible situation… Let us give these French descendents one form of Government and let us give the other people another form of government, forms of government suitable to the interests of each of these great big communities, why did the Commissioners think of that?”

It was Sir Arunachalam Ponnambalam who first [1934] exhorted the Tamils that:

“They should work towards promoting the union and solidarity of what we have been proud to Call ‘TAMIL EELAM’ . We desire to preserve our individuality as a people, to make ourselves worthy of inheritance. We are not enamoured about cosmopolitanism which would make us neither fish, fowl nor red-herring.”

D.S. Senanayake, the first Prime Minister of independent Ceylon, gave the swallowing solemn promise to the Tamils and other minority communities “no harm need you [non-Sinhalese] from our hands [Sinhalese] in a free Lanka”. He was speaking in the State Council in October 1945 when all the Tamil members had unanimously voted for the acceptance of the constitution in a White Paper.

He said: “Do you want to be governed from London or do you want, as Ceylon, to help Ceylon? On behalf of the [Ceylon National} Congress [founded by Sir Ponnambalam Aruncahalam in 1919] and on my behalf, I give the minority communities the sincere assurance that no harm needs you fear at our hands in a free Lanka”.

But in 1948, the very year of independence, D.S. Senanayake, Prime Minister blatantly went back on the promise and bared his true colours as an unrepentant champion of Sinhala chauvinism by depriving one million Tamils of Indian Origin [plantation workers brought by the Brothers to work in the Tea & rubber Plantations] on their citizenship

The Citizenship Act No. 19 of 1948 opened the floodgates to further legislative and administrative acts, which robbed Tamils of their language, education, employment, lands, religion and freedom.

The Tamils and the Sinhalese are divided on the basis of territory, language, religion and culture. Sinhala parliamentarians from time to time hoodwink the whole world leaders and United Nations and colonize Tamil Nationals’ traditional areas in the name of development and chase the poor Tamils from their own traditional home lands. The Sinhalese have encroached Tamils homes and lands immediately after state sponsored pogroms in years 1956, 1958, 1971, 1977, 1983 and  after the genocidal war from 2006 – 2009.

Tamils have experienced numerous betrayals by successive Sri Lankan Governments since independence in 1948. They include the following signed pacts between the leaders of the Sinhalese and Tamils, which were torn-up under pressure from Sinhalese-Buddhist extremists and Buddhist clergy.

  1. Bandarnayake – Chelvanayagam Pact [July 26, 1957]
  2. Senanayake – Chelvanayagam Pact [March 24, 1965]

Under both these pacts, a certain degree of autonomy was to be vested in the administration of Tamils traditional homeland Northern and Eastern Provinces.

The Sinhalese and Buddhist clergy claim that Sri Lanka belongs to the Sinhala Buddhists only.

But, looking closely at historical maps before the demographic changes, and since the Colebrook Cameron Commission in 1833 and since independence in 1948, it is crystal clear that the Tamil Nation possessed a clearly defined contiguous territory comprising the Northern and Eastern Provinces of the Island, had its own Kingdom and was sovereign. History also has recorded the existence of the JAFFNA KINGDOM existed with Nallur as its capital from 1215 AD to 1619 AD.

The future lies in concrete and meaningful steps in Sri Lanka supported by the United Nations; UN Human Rights Council and the International Community, which will carries the  responsibility to uphold justice, truth and reconciliation.

It is to be noted that that the Declaration made by Penang Society for Advancement of Tamils Conference in Penang in 2014 where Malaysian and foreign delegates, who took part in an international Tamil Conference, held in Georgetown, Penang, demanded a UN referendum on Tamil Eelam, including genocide investigation and to end the military occupation and Sinhala colonization of Tamil homeland.

This conference resolves:-

  1. We urge the International Community to preserve, protect and promote the Tamil Language, culture, identity and rights of Tamil people around the world.
  2. We call upon the United Nations and the International Community to include the investigation of genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka as part of an ongoing independent international investigation.
  3. We call upon the United Nation and Governments to exert pressure including travel ban and sanctions on the Sri Lankan Government in order to remove the barriers and threats to conduct fair and impartial independent international investigation.
  4. We call upon the United Nations and Governments to end the occupation of the Sri Lankan security forces in the North and East of Sri Lanka and to stop and to remove the Sinhala state aided colonization since 1948.
  5. We demand the United Nations and the International Community to recognize the traditional homeland, the existence of Tamil Nation and the rights of Tamils’ self-determination. Thus an UN monitored referendum for a sovereign Tamil Eelam should be conducted among Eelam Tamils of North and East in the island of Sri Lanka and amongst the Diaspora Tamils.

In conclusion, the United Nations, United Nations Human Rights Council and the International Community must continue to put pressure on the Sri Lankan Government to ensure that no efforts are spared until the Tamils in Sri Lanka are restored justice and human rights and the truth and reconciliation process initiated under international auspices are allowed to be completed, justly and meaningfully.

Kumarathasan Rasingam is an independent writer



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