Thimpu Talks - July/August 1985
Joint Reply made by the Tamil Delegation
to the statement made by Dr H.W. Jayewardene QC
- August 1985
In our statement of 13th July 1985 we set out the four principles which we consider to
be fundamental to any meaningful solution to the Tamil national question. It would appear
from the statement by the Leader of the Sri Lankan delegation made on 12th August 1985
that the Sri Lankan Government's perception is at variance with our understanding of the
nature and content of the four principles that we had enunciated.
In the circumstances, we now propose to set out in some greater detail the nature of
the basic framework suggested by us and also to place on record some of the reasons which
impelled us to assert our inalienable right of self-determination.
Our demand for self-determination has evolved and taken shape historically through
determined political struggles by our people. This struggle for political independence
took different forms and different modes at specific historical situations unifying and
organising our people and strengthening the collective will of the Tamil nation for a
legitimate cause. In the late fifties and early sixties, the terms of struggle were
characterised by non-violent peaceful agitations based on Gandhian principles of Ahimsa,
that unfolded into huge upsurgence of peaceful popular resistance demanding autonomous
self government. The struggle took a different form in the mid-seventies when the
non-violent peaceful campaigns had failed to be an effective mode of agitation and
resistance against the ever mounting State repression and terrorism and resulted in the
advancement of the popular struggle into a revolutionary armed resistance. Thus, the Tamil
national question became a question of self-determination of the Tamil people a question
of an inalienable right of a people to decide and determine their own policy.
The stamp of popular approval was given to the demand for self-determination at the
General Elections of July 1977 when the Tamil people voted overwhelmingly in favour of the
mandate for Tamil Eelam, which was, in a political sense, an authentic declaration and
expression of the popular will of the Tamil nation. Thus, the right to self-determination
was already invoked and mandated by our people and our armed struggle for national
liberation is none other than a struggle for the realisation of that right. We wish to
assert that the issue of self determination in the Eelam liberation struggle is a
historically constituted demand borne out of the concrete conditions of the struggle
specific to our situation.
From the basis of our right to political choice, we have enunciated four cardinal
principles that are fundamental to the Tamil national question and to the resolution of
First principle: We are as nation
Our assertion of the inalienable right of self-determination stems from the fact that
we the Tamils of Eelam or Tamil Eelam are a nation. What is a nation? A nation is a
historically constituted stable community of people formed on the basis of a common
language, territory, economic life and a psychological make-up manifested in a common
vulture. The togetherness of the Tamil people of Sri Lanka is rooted in a common history,
a common culture and a common language. It springs from a common past, but it is not a
function of the past alone. It has been hammered into shape by the discrimination of a
shared present a discrimination which has treated separately and which has inevitably
nurtured that which was separately treated. It is a togetherness which has been given
strength and direction by a growing conviction that we, as a people will together shape a
common future where we and our children and our future generation will live in equality
and in freedom.
Second principle: Right to homeland
As a nation, we, the Tamils, have an inalienable right to our homeland. We have an
identified territory, a historically given homeland, a land of our toil which we call
Eelam or Tamil Eelam, that includes all the geographically contiguous areas that have been
the traditional homeland of the Tamil-speaking people in the country.
The Sri Lankan State since its inception to power in 1948 has been pursuing a
deliberate policy by enacting citizenship laws and introducing colonisation schemes,
usurping the right to ownership of property, disturbing the demographic composition of the
population, dismembering the Tamil areas and thereby flagrantly violating the traditional
integrity of the Tamil homeland. Without a homeland we shall cease to exist as a people
due to the process of assimilation, integration and ultimate annihilation. We, therefore,
proclaim our fundamental right to safeguard and protect the territorial integrity of our
Third principle: Right to self-determination
The Tamils of Sri Lanka are a nation and constitute a people within the meaning of that
expression in article (1) of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights
"All people have the right of self-determination. By virtue of their right they
freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and
We are not only a people but also by any test we are today a subjugated people living
in fear for the safety of our lives and property. It is the inherent right of a subjugated
people to free themselves from an alien subjugation. This is the right of
self-determination which the international community has come to recognise as one of the
peremptory norms of General International Law. In upholding this right, we as a people,
have the liberty to determine our political status to freely associate or integrate with
an independent state, or to secede and establish a sovereign independent state.
Fourth principle: Right to full citizenship and other fundamental democratic rights
We wish to state categorically that the plantation Tamils are an integral part of the
Tamil people and no solution to the Tamil national question will be complete without
resolving the problem of citizenship and fundamental democratic rights of the plantation
Tamils. These are our people, nearly one million of them who toiled in blood, sweat and
tears to build up the Island's economy, who were disenfranchised by the State and were
robbed of their basic human rights and suffered the worst form of dehumanised and degraded
life. Having been robbed of their right to citizenship, our people in the plantation
areas, the most exploited and economically backward of all peoples of Sri Lanka, have been
totally alienated from the political life and welfare system.
By denying the vast majority of the people of their fundamental freedom the Sri Lankan
State stands indicated as a violater of international principles and norms and guilty of
crimes against humanity. We demand that the Sri Lankan Government should forthwith
terminate the conditions of statelessness of these people by recognising their civic
rights and political liberties.
We have outlined the basic principles that are cardinal to the Tamil national question
and fundamental to our freedom struggle. These principles constitute the legitimate
national aspirations of our people.
The enumeration of these principles, which are inalienable rights of our people, does
not entail that we are opposed to any rational dialogue with the Government of Sri Lanka.
We wish to make it absolutely clear that any meaningful discussion for a lasting solution
to the Tamil national question cannot be worked out unless the Sri lankan State recognises
these inalienable rights.