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"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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CONTENTS
OF THIS SECTION
Last updated
04/06/07

Statement by A.Amirthalingam, 
Secretary General, Tamil United Liberation Front ,19 January 1984

Sri Lanka Proposals at All Party Conference, 14 December 1984
Statement by TULF after collapse of All Party Conference, 21 December 1984
An Assessment by Patricia Hyndman - Report to Law Asia Human Rights Standing Committee, June 1985

Statement by A.Amirthalingam, 
Secretary General, Tamil United Liberation Front 
at All Party Conference, 1983/84
chaired by Sri Lanka President. J.R.Jayawardene

19 January 1984


This Conference of All Parties is the last opportunity we have of working out an acceptable solution to the problems confronting the people of the Island. 

I do not propose to go into distant history to justify any position that I may be taking. 

It suffices to say that from the dawn of history the Sinhalese and Tamils have been living in this country, have been sharing power, have been engaged in war to oust each other from power and have also ruled over separate parts of the country for several centuries. 

These facts distilled from millennia of recorded history cannot be disputed by anyone. We are all today here to solve problems that have, been created by the imperialist rulers. 

At the time the European conquerors first arrived in the Island in 1505, there were three separate kingdoms. The Portugese subjugated two of the kingdoms, one by succession, and the other by waging war. The Dutch took over the territories conquered by the Portugese and the British in turn took them over in 1796. Having subjugated the kingdom of Kandy in 1815. the British unified the entire administration for their convenience in 1 833. They introduced English education which resulted in the emergence of an English educated elitist class which cut across barriers, of race, religion or caste. 

Inspired by the Independence movement in neighboring India, this class of English educated people staffed movements for freedom from British rule. When the Ceylon National Congress was formed in 1918 a Tamil - Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam was elected President, but one has to note with pain that within six years Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam had to break away from the Ceylon National Congress and form the Ceylon Tamil League in 1924. The differences that emerged between the Sinhala & Tamil Leaders were shown up in the debate on the Donoughmore Reforms when Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan was constrained to remark that the reform proposals spelt the death of the minorities.

With some measure of responsible government passing into the hands of Sinhalese under the Donoughmore Reforms further conflicts surfaced. These were no doubt encouraged by the imperialist rulers for their own purposes, but the Tamil Youth under the leadership of the Jaffna Youth Congress boycotted the first election to the State Council in 1931 and demanded full independence. lam mentioning this to show that inspite of differences among their leaders, the Tamil Youth even at that time were inspired by ideals of anti-imperialist struggle for the freedom of the whole country. 

The formation of the Pan-Sinhala Board of Ministers in 1936 kindled fears in the minds of all minorities and they banded themselves under the leadership of Mr. G.G. Ponnambalam demanding balanced representation so that any one community may not be able to dominate the other communities put together. 

This was misrepresented by rabble-rousers and tension between the majority and the minorities developed in the late 30s. 

The British rulers, in the wake of Indian Independence, handed over power to the local capitalist class in return for an agreement to give them the use of the Trincomalee Naval Base and the Katunayake Airbase. The unimaginative Soulbury Constitution that did not take into consideration the heterogeneous nature of the population is responsible for the present plight of the country. Though national parties were formed, within a decade of Independence most of them were forced to adopt communal policies pandering to the lowest instincts of the majority in competition with each other. 

At the time of Independence it was made out that under the Soulbury Constitution out of 95 elected members 42 minority members will be returned. 

Within four years of independence the whole scheme of representation, which involved weightage to the minorities, was totally distorted. The passing of the Citizenship Laws which decitizenised and disfranchised one million Tamil workers and deprived them of the representation they had in Parliament was the first blow directed against the Tamil people. 

It also resulted in the majority Sinhalese people who were 68% of the population at that time capturing 80% of the representation in Parliament. The Citizenship laws also made the totality of the Tamils & Muslims in the country doubtful citizens and they are still undergoing several hardships in registering title deeds for lands, in obtaining passports and other matters, to which hardships the Sinhalese are not subjected.

Before Independence, the State Council adopted a resolution in 1944 that Sinhala & Tamil should be the Official Languages of the country. You yourself moved the resolution Your Excellency, which was amended by a motion by Mr. Nalliah which you accepted, to make both languages- Official Languages. 

It was on that basis that the Tamil speaking people - both Tamils & Muslims joined the government after Independence in 1955 a wave of Sinhala nationalism swept the country. Bhasa Peramunas sprung up demanding that Sinhala be made the only Official Language. The major parties the UNP and SLFP succumbed to this wave. 

It should be said to the credit of the Lanka Samasamaja Party and the Communist Party that they stood up for parity of status for Sinhala & Tamil. Mr. S.W.R.D, Bandaranaike who was swept to power in 1956 introduced the Sinhala Only Act in Parliament in the 5th of June. Oblivious of history even learned people now say that the violence against Tamils is the result of the demand for a separate state. They further say that the violence that we experienced in 1977, 1981 & 1983 was the reaction to the action of the Tamil militants. 

They seem to forget that the 5th June 1956 marked the first mob-violence against Tamils. We performed Sathyagraha on the Galle Face Green exposing ourselves to the mercies of the weather and were attacked by a crowd who had been assembled for that purpose, The crowds were infuriated at our daring to sit there on the green that they beat up the unarmed peaceful Sathyagrahis with sticks and stones, one of them even bit away the ear of one of the Sathyagrahis. The stones thrown by the crowd broke my head in two places, and when I walked into Parliament with a handkerchief tied round my head and my clothes soaked in blood, the then Prime Minister quipped “honorable wounds of war’. 

This violence that was unleashed on the Sathyagrahis spread to the streets of Colombo. Tamils were pulled out from cars and buses and beaten up. It spread even to places like Amparai where a number of Tamils were killed. Can anyone who values truth say that this was the result of the Tamils resorting to violence? or because the Tamils demanded a separate state? I can only say that it was the result of deep seated antagonism between the two ethnic groups which had been inculcated into their minds through the history that was taught in our schools.

The introduction of Sinhala as the only Official Language and reduction of Tamil to an inferior position placed the stamp of perpetual inferiority on Tamils and Muslims who spoke the Tamil Language. It also resulted in their being denied equality of opportunity in employment. This law gave rise to the first demand for a separate state. 

The father of this demand was no less a person than Mr. C. Sunderalingam who was a close associate & advisor of Mr. D. S. Sennanayake in the pre-independence era. But we who were members of the Federal Party and the All Ceylon Tamil Congress resisted the demand for a separate-state. We wanted to preserve the unity and the integrity of the island. My late leader, Mr. S. J. V. Chelvanayagam felt that the unity has to be on the basis of the recognition of the separate identity of the two nations. We put forward the demand for a Federal form of Government. 

No one who understands the federal systems of governments will say that federalism means division. The most powerful nations of the world - the USA & USSR have federal structures. Their unity or strength is not affected by the political structure. Little Switzerland - which is 3/5th the size of Sri Lanka has a federal structure. No less a, person than Mr. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike advocated federalism as the only feasible system of government in Ceylon in 1926. The Kandy Youth. League demanded federalism before the Donoughmore Commission, but when the Tamil people demanded the recognition of their autonomy and the federal system of government it was misrepresented to the Sinhalese people, by politicians who should have known better, as a movement for division.

The demand for regional autonomy and the safeguarding of the Tamil homelands became imperative in the context of planned and systematic colonisation of parts of the Eastern Province with Sinhalese people which was started in the 50s, Allai & Kantalai schemes in Trincomalee, the Galoya scheme in the present Amparai District and later the Morawewa & Padaviya schemes in Trincomalee are examples of this policy. The colonisation was carried out in violation of the Land Development Ordinance. The Muslims who were the majority in the Galoya development area and the Tamils in Kantalai & Allai and other areas in Trincomalee were made minorities in those areas.

 We listened two days ago to Rev members of the Buddhist clergy speak on the necessity for free movement of people. I want to ask the reverend priests what freedom of movement do the Tamil people have in this country. The only freedom they have is to be moved by ships from refugee camps in the South to the North & East.

Ven Madihe Pannaseela Mahanayakka Thero referred to 276 Buddhist places of worship scattered over the Northern & Eastern Provinces and he said that Buddhist Priests should be settled in each of these places and Buddhist people settled around these temples.

In this connection I wish to refer to a news report that appeared in the ‘Silumina’ on the 1st of January 1984. No less than a person than the Commissioner of Archeology - Mr. Sirisoma has stated that 200 sites in the North & East referred to by the reverend priests have been excavated and Buddhist people are to be settled in those places. 

If this were to be carried out the Tamils and Muslims will be made minorities even in the Northern & Eastern Provinces and the next time they are beaten and herded into refugee camps there will be no place where they can be taken and dumped. Even the Tamils in the Northern & Eastern Provinces will have to be in refugee camps, as happened in parts of Trincomalee and Amparai during the recent ethnic violence.

According to the 1921 census the Sinhalese were 3% of the population in the Trincomalee District and 15% of the population in the combined Batticaloa & Amparai Districts. They were less than 4% in the whole Eastern Province. The Priests and others have tried to make out that even the Northern & Eastern Provinces were peopled by Sinhalese several centuries ago. They referred to the presence of Buddhist ruins as proof of this fact. They forget that the whole of Tamil Nadu and the majority of the Tamil people were Buddhists in the 3rd & 4th centuries AD. The well known Tamil epic Manimekalai and several other Tamil Literary works of this period bear ample testimony to this fact.

These places in the North & the East were places worshipped by Tamil Buddhists.  The claims that are being made to even the Northern & Eastern Provinces as Sinhala territory are on a par with the claims of the Jews in Palestine. Successive Governments have pursued the same policies as the Jews are pursuing in Palestine in dispossessing the Arabs of their land and driving them from their homes. The Tamils & Muslims of the Northern  Eastern Provinces do not want this fate to overtake them. That is why the demand for autonomy under a Federal Union was put forward.

We wanted to safeguard our rights while preserving the unity of the country and we agitated by peaceful, non-violent means for the achievement of these objectives. The answer we got was rioting, burning and killing of Tamils. A Hindu Priest was burnt alive in Panadura in 1958. Hundreds were killed, thousands. were shipped to the North & East as refugees. I am not referring to what happened in 1983. I am yet in 1958.

There were four demands that were put forward on behalf of the Tamil people by the Federal Party in 1956:

1 The introduction of a Federal form of Government.

2. Parity of status for the Tamil Language with Sinhala.

4. The grant of citizenship rights for all Tamils who have made this country their home.

When we started a peaceful agitation for these demands the late Prime Minister - Mr. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike negotiated a pact with our leader - Mr. S. J. V. Chelvanayakam. He agreed to establish Regional Councils - the Northern Province to form one regional area, whilst the Eastern Province was to be divided into two or more regional areas and provision to be made in the bill to allow two or three areas to amalgamate even beyond provincial limit. It was also agreed in the matter of colonisation schemes, the power of the Regional Councils shall include the power to select allottees to whom lands within their area of authority shall  be allocated and also power to select persons to be employed to  work on such schemes. 

It was also agreed that the language of administration of the Northern & Eastern Provinces was to be Tamil and that any necessary provision be made for the non-Tamil speaking minority in the Northern & Eastern Provinces. I don’t have to repeat the history of what happened to the pact. 

In 1960 March, the S.L.F.P. then headed by Mr. C. P. De Silva came to power as part of an understanding with us to implement the pact. When they came to power in July 1960, they not only failed to honour their undertaking, they went to the extent of introducing the Language of the Courts Bill to make Sinhala the language of the Courts even in the Northern & Eastern Provinces.

 The UNP under Mr. Dudley Sennanayake, in the presence of Your Excellency, entered into a pact with Mr. Chelvanayakam in 1965. They were able to form a Government because of our support. Some Tamil Language regulations were introduced on 8th January 1966 by Your Excellency, but during the five years that the UNP ruled not one syllable of these regulations was implemented. The District Councils that were promised in the pact were only in white paper. The solemn undertaking given in regard to colonisation in the Northern & Eastern Provinces were never honoured. 

This is the sordid history of pacts and solemn undertakings given by successive Governments to the Tamil people. No honourable person can be happy about this record.

The introduction of the 1972 Constitution removing the safeguards against discriminatory legislation ‘contained in the Soulbury Constitution resulted in all the Tamil Parties getting together and forming the Taniil United Front. We submitted six demands, very modest ones, for inclusion in the constitution. They were not even acknowledged.

In the meantime the standardisation in education, shutting out deserving Tamil students from Universities was introduced. Employment opportunities in the Public &. Semi-public Sector were denied to Tamils On top of all these - police terrorism was unleashed on Tamils, culminating in the massacre of nine innocent Tamils at the World Tamil Research Conference on the 10th January 1974 in Jaffna. 

It was in this background, having failed to get their legitimate demands within a United Sri Lanka, that the Tamils on the 14th May 1976 resolved to demand the restoration of the sovereign state that they had before the European arrival and conquest of the country. This was placed before the Tamil voters in the 1977 Elections and out of 26 seats in the Northern & Eastern Provinces, the TULF won 18 seats. I may even say out of the 19 Tamil seats in the North & East the TULF was elected to 18 seats.

The UNP itself in its Election Manifesto in the 1977 Election identified a number of grievances of the Tamil people as having led to their supporting a movement for the creation of a separate state.

In the statement of Government policy made by the President on the 4th August 1977 the UNP Government promised:

“My Government accepts the position that there are numerous problems confronting the Tamil People. The lack of a solution to their problems has led the Tamil People to support even a movement for a separate Tamil State. In the interest of national integration and unity so necessary for the economic development of the whole country the Government. feels that such problems should be solved without lose of time and will take all possible steps to remedy their grievances in such fields as:

1. Education
2. Colonisation
3. Use of the Tamil Language
4. Employment in the Public and Semi-public Corporations.

My government will summon an All Party Conference to resolve these problems and implement its decisions.” 

It cannot be denied that these promises were never kept. The provision in the Constitution regarding the use of Tamil Language has not been implemented upto date. The position of the Tamils in employment in the public and semi-public corporations has deteriorated further. The District Development Councils which were established were never given a chance to function properly by the government. 

The Tamil people have been subjected to repeated racial pogroms in 1977, 1981 & 1983. Each succeeding spate of violence surpasses the previous one in its ferocity and intensity. Under these circumstances can anyone say that the Tamil people or TULF have any reason to go back on the stand they took in 1977? 

The position that the TULF has taken is that although their mandate in the 1977 Elections was for the liberation of the Tamil nation by the establishment of a independent state, if a satisfactory alternative which could meet the legitimate aspirations of the Tamil people and. redress their grievances which gave rise to the demand for a separate state was offered, we would place it before the Party which would take a decision in consonance with the wishes of the Tamil People. 

One has to keep in mind the deep feeling of insecurity and alienation that is felt by the Tamil people after the latest spate of violence in June, July & August 1983 in working out an alternative. 

Rev. Dr. Walpola Rahula in the course of his speech two days ago appealed to me not to ask for Regional Councils, I wish to tell him that we are not asking for Regional Councils. The mandate given by the Tamil people to the TULF is to fight for a separate state. It is upto you, the leaders of the Sinhala people to offer a satisfactory alternative.

As I stated we are prepared to place it before the Party and take a decision in keeping with the wishes of the people who gave us the mandate. We come to participate in this All Party Conference on the basis of the proposals contained in Annexure ‘C’ That does not mean that we accept all the proposals contained in Annexure ‘C’. We feel that they will not meet all our grievances and problems of the day but we can take them as basis for discussion and improvement.

The two overriding questions requiring immediate solution are:

(a) Security of the lives & property of Tamil people; and
(b) The integrity of Tamil terrorities from the days of British rule. The preservation of the integrity of these areas as the homeland of the Tamil people was the basis of the agreements and pacts between the Tamil Leaders and the major Sinhala Parties in 1957, 1960 & 1965

Both the 1972 & 1978 Constitutions recognised that the Northern & Eastern Provinces formed part of a linguistic entity for purposes of administration and as the Language of the Courts. 

Preserving the territorial integrity of the Tamil areas is intimately linked to the security of the lives and properties of the Tamil people. After every wave of violence hundreds and thousands of Tamils have returned to these areas and sought permanent settlement there. Historically the northern & eastern provinces have been predominantly populated by Tamil speaking people. In the pre-independence period, the Tamils constituted an absolute majority of every district of the Northern & Eastern Provinces. 

In 1921 the Sinhalese population was about 4- 6% in the entirety of the Eastern Province. State sponsored colonisation of the Tamil areas resulted in the erosion of the territorial base of the Tamils. Our claim that the Northern & Eastern Provinces be constituted into one region is based on this premise. 

We have however suggested further that to meet the aspirations of the Muslims who are the largest community in the Amparai District they be given the option to decide whether they went to form part of this region or remain out of it. 

I wish to read parts of a memorandum dated 17th January 1984 which I have received from the President of the Amparai District Federation of the branches of the All Ceylon Muslim League. Whatever views they may have taken earlier they had met on the 15th January and taken a decision on this matter. This is what it says:

ETHNIC PROBLEMS OF MUSLIMS IN AMPARAI DISTRICT:

I am directed by the Executive Council to place before you? the following unanimous decisions made at the meeting of the All Ceylon Muslim League Amparai District Federation held on. Sunday the 15th instant at Muslim Maha Vidyalaya, Oluvil, for your earnest consideration and effective submission at the Round Table Conference for the settlement of Ethnic Problems in Sri Lanka.

We reiterate the proposals made by the All Ceylon Muslim League and our Federation that Amparai District should be an Independent Unit for the devolution of power.

A. As much as our Muslim brothers in the Sinhala Speaking area have to live peacefully with the Sinhalese, we the Muslims in the Tamil Speaking area have to live peacefully with the Tamils. Ethnic Problems of the Muslims-and Tamils in the Tamil Speaking area with regard to Language of administration, Land, Colonisation Irrigation, Fishing etc., are similar. Solution of these problems will be a solution for both the Tamils and Muslims in the Tamil Speaking area. Therefore, the Muslims in the Taniil Speaking area should extend our fullest, co-operation to the Government and to the Tamils in particular, to find a permanent solution to the Ethnic Problems of the Tamils and in no way the Muslims of the Tamil Speaking area should be a hindrance.

Amparai District is 1,775 square miles in extent. According to the census of 1981, the Sinhalese are eligible for. 37.2% or 660 square miles but they have 76% or 1,340 square miles in the Sinhalese areas. Muslims are eligible for 41.6% or 728 square miles but we have only 263 square miles. In the Muslim- areas which is only 15% of the lands in Amparai District. However, the political Authority of the previous government and the District Minister in the present government are very keen to grab the developed and ready made paddy fields ‘of the Muslims in Muslim areas and settle Sinhalese relatives brought from other districts. These are .the illegal aided settlements of Sinhalese in Muslim areas which is over and above the 38 settlements of Sinhalese under Gal Oya Scheme 1960-63. This manoeuver has very seriously affected the economy and the political strength of the Indigenous Muslim population of Amparai District.

All land taken over from the Muslims by R. V. D. B. Sri Lanka Sugar corporation, and the Tile Factory should be returned to the Muslims with compensation. Muslims can cultivate the sugar cane required for the Factory.

All aided illegal settlements of Sinhalese other than the settlements under Gal Oya Development Project prior to 1963 should be removed out of Amparai District and settled under Mahaweli Settlement elsewhere.” So much for the memorandum ‘of the Amparai District Muslim League,

The Land mass of the Northern & Eastern Province falls entirely in the dry zone and is economically backward. If this fact along with the absence of the infrastructure and the resources of the rest of the country is taken into consideration it would be conceded that the land area involved is not out Of proportion to the population it serves.

The Reverend Priests spoke of the density of population in the various Districts. Why are the northern and eastern provinces barring Jaffna sparsely populated? It is because those areas are backward, undeveloped and have not even adequate water supply.

No prejudice is caused to the Sinhala people by the incorporation of this area into a single region.

Security of the Tamil people even- in the north & east is endangered by the armed forces which act as an army in occupation. Annexure ‘C’ gives power to the Regional Council’ for the maintenance of internal law & order in the region.

Unless the power is made effective there will be no security to the lives & property of the Tamil people even in these areas. One has to remember the words of Mr. Justice Sansoni at page 276 of his report on the violence in 1977. He says: ‘the incidents that occurred also show that there is a cleavage between the Sinhala & Tamil race’. Any solution will have to recognise this fundamental position.

The cleavage is even more complete after the violence of 1981 and irreversible after the latest pogroms in 1983, No amount of plastering can do away with that cleavage. Any realistic solution has to take cognisance of that fact and workout a structure taking the separation of the two in to consideration. I would like to refer to a prophetic statement made by Dr. Colvin R. De Silva in the Course of the debate on the Sinhala Only Act in 1956. He in his characteristic way said: Two Languages one state; one language, two states'. He said this to draw pointed attention to the fact if one language is made the Official Language the group deprived of its Rights, that had a sense of injustice will demand separation. Any solution, unless it is founded on justice and the recognition of the integrity of’ the Tamil Nation and its Territorial integrity will never work.

Before I conclude, I have to refer to the element of violence that has entered the body politic of this country. The outbreak of insurgency in South Ceylon was the precursor to this violence. Tamil Youths who were arrested in the early 70s were locked up with youths from the South who were involved in the insurgency. The violent behaviour of the police armed forces against unarmed Tamil people provoked acts of retaliation by some of the Tamil Youths. When nine innocent people were killed by the action of the police at the World Tamil Research Conference in 1974 it was regarded as a challenge to the Tamil manhood. 

Even as the Jallian Wallah Bagh massacre in Punjab gave rise to the emergence of the militant youth movement. The arrest and intense torture of youths led to retaliatory attacks against police officers responsible for this torture, events escalated in this way till we have reached the present difficult situation. 

It has to be mentioned that in the whole of this violence in the Tamil areas not one Sinhala civilian was harmed or killed. What happened in the South is just the opposite.

The answer to this is not torture by the armed forces against youths suspected of involvement in violence and against innocent people. This will only lead to more and more youths joining the ranks of the militants. Even recently, there had been serious crimes committed by the Armed Forces in areas like Vavuniya against Tamil people. What chance is there of identification and punishment of these men? The removal of these armed forces who are acting as an army of occupation in the Tamil areas is absolutely necessary. 

As Your Excellency remarked in your statement in Annexure ‘A-4’ -(1) if these proposals are implemented one may expect violent activity or support for it to whither away. There is no other way of putting a stop to violence. I have no time to deal with the various points that emerged from the speeches of the Rev Priests and others, some of my colleagues will deal with them. In conclusion I will only say whether the country is going to be plunged in further violence or not; whether the country is going to preserve its unity or not; whether the country is going to progress economically or not depends on the outcome of the deliberations of the Conference and I would appeal to all to work out a solution on the basis of justice and fair play.

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