TAMIL EELAM - SRI LANKA
A Record of Broken Pacts & Evasive Proposals
1957 to 1982 -
1983 to 1987 -
1989 to 1994 -
1994 to 2001 - 2001
Buddhist chauvinism has been institutionalised in Sri Lanka and today it has become
more powerful than the politicians themselves. Indeed even if the Sinhala politicians seek to settle the conflict,
Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism may try to prevent such a settlement. This is the political
reality that those who are aware of the Sri Lankan situation are well aware of. This is
the result of the grievous error committed by Sinhala politicians. In
1956 for the first time this 'communalism' was openly
put forward for electoral gain. This Sinhala chauvinism which was nurtured by Sinhala
politicians for their electoral advantage,
has grown into a
Frankenstein monster which now has the power to destroy and make politicians. This we
understand very well..."
Krishnakumar, June, 1991
1928 Donoughmore Commission proposal for Provincial
1957 Bandaranaike- Chelvanayakam Pact for direct election to
1965 Dudley Senanayake-Chelvanayakam Agreement for
1970 Proposals by the Tamil Federal Party rejected by Sri
1979 Presidential Commission to report on creation
of District Development Councils...
1983 Annexure C Proposals & All
1985 Thimpu Talks...
1986 "19 December"
1987 Indo Sri Lanka Peace Agreement..
1989/90 Premadasa Talks...
1992/93 Parliamentary Select
1994 Peace Trap by Chandrika
1995 Devolution Package...
The golden thread...
The record shows that during the past fifty years
and more, the
Tamil people in the island of Sri Lanka have been subjected to an ever widening and
deepening oppression by successive Sinhala dominated governments. Simultaneous with this process, the record also shows that the
dominant Sinhala majority has broken pacts and dishonoured agreements entered into with
the Tamil political leadership.
Furthermore, the 'proposals' placed by the Sri Lanka government, from time to time, for
the resolution of the conflict have consistently evaded the central issue of the
recognition of the Tamil people, as a people with a homeland. They have, instead, adopted
an assimilative approach, directed to absorb the Tamil people into a Sinhala Buddhist Sri
Professor Marshall Singer was right to point out in 1995 that...
"...One of the essential elements that must
be kept in mind in understanding the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict is that,
since 1958 at least, every time Tamil politicians negotiated some sort of
power-sharing deal with a Sinhalese government - regardless of which party
was in power - the opposition Sinhalese party always claimed that the party
in power had negotiated away too much. In almost every case - sometimes
within days - the party in power backed down on the agreement..." - (Professor
Marshall Singer, at US Congress Committee on International Relations
Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific Hearing on Sri Lanka November 14,1995)
And so too was Neil Devotta in 2005...
"...Beginning in the mid-1950s Sri Lanka's politicians from the majority
Sinhalese community resorted to
ethnic outbidding as a means to
attain power and in doing so
systematically marginalised the
country's minority Tamils...parties in power seek to promote
dubious conflict resolution only to be checkmated by the respective opposition
which typically claims that the proposed solutions are bound to eventually
dismember the island"
in From ethnic outbidding to ethnic conflict:
the institutional bases for Sri Lanka's separatist war, 2005
1928 Donoughmore Commission proposal for
Even before Sri Lanka became independent (1948) and as early as 1928, the Donoughmore
Commission recommended the establishment of Provincial Councils on the ground that it was
desirable that a large part of the administrative work of the centre should come into the
hands of persons resident in the districts and thus more directly in contact with the
needs of the area.
Twelve years later the Executive Committee of Local Administration chaired by the late
S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, considered the proposal of the Donoughmore Commission and in 1940,
the State Council (the legislature) approved the establishment of Provincial Councils.In
1947, on the floor of the House of Representatives, the late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike again
declared his support for the establishment of Provincial Councils.
In 1955, the Choksy Commission recommended the establishment of Regional Councils to
take over the functions that were exercised by the Kacheries and in May 1957, the
government of the late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike presented a draft of the proposed Bill for
the establishment of Regional Councils.
1957 Bandaranaike- Chelvanayakam Pact for
direct election to Regional Councils...
Subsequently, in July 1957, the Bandaranaike-
Chelvanayakam Pact made provision for direct election to Regional Councils and also
provided that the subjects covered by Regional Councils shall include agriculture,
cooperatives, lands and land development, colonisation and education. The Pact however did
not survive the opposition of sections of the Sinhala community led by Buddhist priests
and which included the opposition Sinhala United National Party led by J.R.Jayawardene
(who twenty years later, in 1977 became Sri Lanka's first executive President).
At the General Elections in March 1960 (after the death of Mr.S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike)
neither of the two Sinhala dominated parties, the S.L.F.P. nor the U.N.P. won an overall
majority in Parliament. The Federal Party submitted to both the S.L.F.P. and the U.N.P. a
statement of minimum demands. The U.N.P. did not refer to these demands in the Throne
Speech, the Federal Party voted against the Throne Speech, the government was defeated and
fresh elections were called.
At the subsequent elections in July 1960, the Federal Party supported the S.L.F.P. (led
this time by Mrs.Srimavo Bandaranaike) on the basis of the S.L.F.P. pledge to implement
measures on the lines of the 1957 Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact. But the S.L.F.P. won
the General Elections with an overall majority and did not implement the agreement.
In July 1963, the government of Mrs. Bandaranaike declared that 'early consideration'
would be given to the question of the establishment of District Councils to replace the
Kacheries and the government appointed a Committee on District Councils and the
report of this Committee containing a draft of the proposed Bill to establish District
Councils was published but again nothing was in fact done.
1965 Dudley Senanayake-Chelvanayakam
Agreement for District Councils...
After the 1965 General Elections, a pact was negotiated to secure the support of the
Federal Party for the formation of a U.N.P.government led by Dudley Senanayake. Following
upon the 1965 Dudley
Senanayake-Chelvanayakam Agreement, the UNP government declared that it would give
'earnest consideration' to the establishment of District Councils and in 1968 a draft Bill
approved by the Dudley Senanayake Cabinet was presented as a White Paper and this Bill provided for the establishment
of District Councils.
This time round, the opposition to the Bill was spearheaded by the Sri Lanka Freedom
Party which professed to follow the policies of the late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike who himself
had in 1940, 1947 and again in 1957, supported the establishment of Provincial/Regional
Councils. In view of the opposition, the Dudley Senanayake government
withdrew the District Councils Bill in July 1968 and the Federal Party then withdrew
from the government.
1970 Proposals by the Tamil Federal Party rejected
by Sri Lanka...
After yet another General Election in 1970, which was won by a large majority by the
S.L.F.P. led by Mrs. Srimavo Bandaranaike, a Constituent Assembly was established to enact
an authochnous constitution. The Federal Party submitted proposals to the Ministry of
Constitutional Affairs for:
1. A federal form of government with an autonomous Tamil state, an autonomous Muslim
state and three autonomous Sinhala states;
2. Tamil Language Regulation 1966 to be incorporated into the constitution;
3. Mother tongue to be the compulsory medium of instruction for all Tamil children
The Federal Party withdrew from the Constituent Assembly in June 1971, after its
proposed amendment on parity of status for the Tamil and Sinhala languages was defeated.
The Constituent Assembly passed the new Constitution (which gave Ceylon the Sinhala name
'Sri Lanka' and gave a dominant Constitutional role for Buddhism) on 22 May 1972. The
Federal Party parliamentarians boycotted the meeting.
1979 Presidential Commission to
inquire and report on the creation of District Development Councils...
In August 1979, Sri Lanka President J.R.Jayawardene appointed a Presidential Commission to inquire and report on the
creation of District Development Councils. The Commission included, Mr.Neelan Thiruchelvam
and Professor Alfred Jeyaratnam Wilson who both had the support of the Tamil United
But though the Presidential Commission had been touted as a body which would address
the issues arising from the ethnic conflict, in the event, the Commission concluded that the scheme that they
had envisaged "would be applicable to all of the 24 districts in the Island
irrespective of their ethnic composition" and was "not intended to provide a
different political or administrative structure for any particular part of the
1983 Annexure C Proposals
& All Party Conference
Subsequent to Genocide'83 and
the death of thousands of Tamils at the hands of Sinhala mobs in July/August 1983, Indian
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi sent her representative, Mr.G.Parthasarathy for discussions
with Sri Lanka and with the Tamil United Liberation Front.
As a result of Mr. Parthasarthy's discussions, a set of
proposals were formulated. The Sri Lanka Government agreed to convene an All Party
Conference to consider these proposals. The proposals were submitted as an annexure to a
statement submitted by President Jayawardene to the All Party Conference and came to be
known as Annexure "C" proposals..
But though President Jayewardene had agreed in discussions with Mr.Parthasarathy
that these proposals would form the basis of negotiations, the Government of Sri Lanka
failed to adopt these Proposals at the All Party Conference discussions which commenced in
The All Party Conference dragged on till December 1984,
when the Jayewardene Government presented proposals in the form of a draft 10th Amendment
to the Constitution and a draft District and Provincial Councils Development Bill. The
Sri Lanka proposals merely extended the scheme of
decentralization at District level to the Provincial level with limited co-ordination. The
TULF rejected these proposals and the All Party Conference collapsed.
In July and August 1985 the leaders of the Tamil armed resistance, together with the
Tamil United Liberation Front participated in talks with the Sri Lanka government. The
talks, sponsored by India, were held in Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan with a view to
resolving the conflict.
At the Thimpu Talks, the Sri Lankan Government presented
proposals, which were in substance, a repetition of the proposals by the Government to the
aborted All Party Conference in Colombo in December 1984.
These proposals had been rejected by the TULF and the action of the Sri Lankan
government in placing similar proposals once again at the Thimpu talks called in question
the good faith of the Government and its commitment to seek a just solution at these
The intent of the proposals that were presented by
Sri Lanka at Thimpu was clear. The unit of devolution was not even the province
but the district. Further, the District Councils were without executive power.
Their limited legislative power to enact subsidiary legislation was made subject to the
control and approval of the President. Finally the funds to be placed at the disposal of a
District Council were to be determined at the discretion of a commission appointed by the
The proposals evidenced the intention of the Sri Lankan government to manage and
control the Tamil people even in the relatively insignificant functional areas where the
District Councils were given some jurisdiction. In the end, the Thimpu Talks collapsed
because even as the talks continued, Sri Lanka renewed its military offensive in the Tamil
After the collapse of the Thimpu Talks, India attempted 'indirect
negotiations' - with Indian officials talking to the Sri Lanka government and the TULF
separately. The LTTE and the other militant groups (with the possible exception of PLOTE)
were not involved in these 'indirect negotiations'. At the end of these 'indirect
negotiations' on 30.8.1985 the Sri Lankan side presented a Working Paper (Draft Framework of Accord and
Understanding) which, it was agreed by the Government of India, could serve as the basis
for further negotiations.
The Working Paper envisaged the creation of separate
Provincial Councils for the Northern and Eastern Provinces by amendment to the Sri Lankan
Constitution. Yet again, the Proposals refused to recognise the existence of the Tamil
homeland in the North-East. During October and November 1985, India's Foreign
Secretary, Romesh Bhandari, attempted to secure the agreement of the Tamil militant groups
to the Sri Lanka Working Paper but not surprisingly failed.
In mid December 1986, Indian Minister of State Mr. Natwar Singh and Mr. P. Chidambaram
visited Colombo and fresh proposals were evolved (which came to be known as the "December 19 Proposals").
These proposals involved the formation of a new Eastern
Province by excising Sinhalese majority areas (Amparai Electoral District) from the
existing Eastern Province, and the creation of two Tamil Provincial Councils in the
Northern and the reconstituted Eastern Province. The Sri Lanka government agreed to
consider a proposal for a Second Stage of constitutional development which would provide
for the Northern Province and the new Eastern Province being merged.
However, soon after the return of the Indian Ministers, the Sri Lankan Government
expressed reservations and resiled from the December 19 position and this is reflected in
the exchange of letters between India and Sri Lanka in
February 1987. (see also A booklet,
published by the Indian intelligence sources in 1987)
1987 Indo Sri Lanka Peace
The events after the collapse of the Thimpu Talks reinforced the belief that given Sri
Lanka's intransigence, India had decided to adopt the soft option and secure its own
strategic interests, even if that be at the expense of the aspirations of the Tamil
The Indo-Sri Lankan Peace Agreement was signed on
the 29th of July 1987 by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and President J.R. Jayawardene. It
was an agreement that went back even on the
Chidambaram 'December 19' proposals. The Agreement did not recognise the existence of an
identified Tamil homeland and resorted to the subterfuge of a referendum to evade facing
the issue posed by the demand for a merger of the North and East.
The Exchange of Letters that preceded the
signing of the Agreement declared that "Trincomalee or any other ports in Sri Lanka
will not be made available for military use by any country in a manner prejudicial to
India's interests" and that the " work of restoring and operating the
Trincomalee Oil Tank will be undertaken as a joint operation between India and Sri
In August 1987, the Sri Lankan Parliament passed the 13th Amendment to the Constitution
and the ancillary Provincial Councils Act and claimed that the enactment of these laws
fulfilled the promises made in the 1987 Indo Sri Lanka Accord, to 'devolve power' on the
However, the 13th Amendment and the ancillary Provincial Councils Act was a constitutional comic opera which created Provincial
'Ministers' without executive power and at the same time a Provincial Governor, appointed
by the Sinhala President, who would exercise executive power in respect of provincial
matters - a Provincial Governor who was also the administrative head of the provincial
public service and who has control of the Provincial Finance Fund.
The architects of the 13th Amendment refused to break away from the path trodden by
successive Sinhala governments which have sought to divide the Tamil people into smaller
units and so eventually assimilate and 'integrate' them into a homogeneous Sinhala nation
- an assimilating path which had led to confrontation and which had culminated in the
armed struggle of the Tamil people against that which they rightly regarded as genocide.
India and Sri Lanka sought to enforce the Indo Sri Lanka Agreement by resort to force
and the Indian Army was invited to the North-East by Sri Lanka President Jayawardene.
Initially, 1,700 Indian troops (the Indian Peace Keeping Force - IPKF) arrived to
enforce the pact. The Indian presence eventually grew to over 100,000.
1989/90 Premadasa Talks...
In December 1988, Sri Lanka elected a new President, Ranasinghe Premadasa. He
office on 2 January 1989. President Premadasa was intent on securing the withdrawal of the
IPKF because of opposition by Sinhala militants (JVP) to Indian presence in the island. The new President engaged the LTTE in talks which commenced
in April/May 1989 . India commenced withdrawing troops in July 1989 and
completed the withdrawal by March 1990.
But with the departure of the IPKF, President Premadasa dragged his feet
on the basic
LTTE demands re the dissolution of the North-East provincial councils (which had been
elected under an electoral process rigged by the so called Indian Peace Keeping Force),
the holding of fresh elections and the repeal of the 6th Amendment to the Sri Lanka
Constitution. In June 1990, the talks inevitably collapsed and the armed conflict resumed.
(see also Tamil Times and the War on the People)
Parliamentary Select Committee Reports...
Thereafter, yet another Sri Lanka President, D.B.Wijetunga, set in motion a
Parliamentary Select Committee to address the question of devolution. The Select Committee
sat for two years, issued an Interim Report in 1992
and its Final Report in 1993.
The Select Committee proposals sought to impose a nine province pseudo 'federal'
structure on the island - 'pseudo' because according to the Chairman of the Select
Committee, the report envisaged 'devolution of power' without using the term 'federal in
any manifest sense'!
The seven Sinhala provinces in the South were treated in the same way as the two Tamil
provinces in the NorthEast and that in itself was proof enough of the meagre nature of the
powers that may be exercised by each province.
1994 Talks with Chandrika Government...
In August 1994, the newly elected Sri Lanka government led by Chandrika Kumaratunga
engaged the Liberation Tigers in talks yet again. But in an interview with the Sinhala
owned Sri Lanka Sunday Times, an year later, on 20 August 1995, Sri Lanka President
" We conducted talks on the basis that the LTTE would not agree to any peaceful
settlement and lay down arms."
The attempted entrapment of the Liberation Tigers failed and the 'talks' collapsed on 19 April 1995.
declared in an interview with the BBC
"... giving pledges and implementing those pledges are two different
things. In the past the Tamil people have been betrayed by previous Sinhala
regimes. Agreements were made but not implemented. Pacts were signed and
abrogated. This is our history. Chandrika's government is not an
1995 Devolution Package...
On 3 August 1995, Sri Lanka President Kumaratunga released a
'Devolution' package with the stated objective of ending the ethnic conflict in the
island. At the same time she reaffirmed her intention to wage war against the Liberation
Tigers and launched a genocidal attack on the Tamil homeland
in the north of the island of Sri Lanka. The 'Devolution Package' appeared to be no
more than a peace mask to Sri Lanka's war face.
The 'new' proposals once again, refused to recognise the existence of the Tamil
homeland, rejected an asymmetric approach, continued to treat all the provinces in the
same way and to insist on a unitary state. In March 1997, the Sri Lanka government
released some chapters of the new Constitution but
held back on the provisions relating to devolution. In October 1997, this was followed up
with a completed Draft Constitution. At the
Sri Lanka intensified its genocidal war against the
The golden thread...
A 'golden thread' runs through every single set of proposals from the 1928 Donoughmore
Commission recommendations, through the 1957 Bandaranaike Chelvanayakam Agreement, the
13th Amendment and the Kumaratunga package (including the Sri Lanka Constitution Bill of August 2000)
- and that is the Sinhala people's rejection of an asymmetric approach and the insistence
that whatever 'devolution' or 'decentralisation' that was on offer was equally available
to the Sinhala provinces (which had never struggled or demanded 'devolution' or
'decentralisation') and to the Tamil areas in the North and East of the island.
Satchi Ponnambalam's comments in
1991 about the 1968 District
Councils episode have a general relevance:
"...The (1968) District
Councils episode and the fiasco in which it ended brings into focus the significant
realities of the Tamil national question...
Firstly, it epitomizes the resort of the
opposition Sinhalese politicians to "false propaganda and the spreading of communal
hatred", on any measure even remotely connected to or ameliorative of the enslaved
and deprived of "birthright" condition of the Tamil people.
Secondly, that false
propaganda will accuse the proposer of any such measure as the author of a scheme "to
divide the country to the detriment of the Sinhalese", in order to heighten the
controversy over it so that the proposer himself would jettison it, as did Dudley
Thirdly, the vociferous Buddhist lobby consisting of the
and the A.C.B.C. have become the keepers of the conscience of the Sinhalese nation and the
custodians of the Sri Lanka Government's positions over the Tamil problem, which the two
have created in the country.
Fourthly, the ultimatum threat of an influential section of
the Government Parliamentary Group to the P.M. to give up or face revolt shows that the
Sinhalese politicians do not divide on party lines on the Tamil problem but on racial or
ethnic lines and therefore it is not possible for the P.M. to shore up support for his
proposals even within the ranks of his own party parliamentarians.
Fifthly, living up to
Dudley Senanayake's predatory wish, the Tamil people have "sent away ... the Tamil
Congress and the Federal Party", but have yet not regained their "birthright in
Lastly, and most importantly, the new status quo of the Sinhalese and Sri
Lanka Government - Tamil position of rulers/ruled,
overlordship/subjugation has come to be
cast in such a rigid, impenetrable and immutable mould that the Tamils have been left with
no choice but to break that mould by force to free themselves to be counted as
otherwise, it was slavery, revolting to any civilized conscience...The Tamils right and
claim to the Eelam territory has to be bluntly, irrefutably and crisply stated: the Eelam
lands are inviolate and Tamil nation's sovereignty over that territory is
"..(The) perceived solution
of self-determination has evolved and taken shape by the compulsions of more
than three decades of political struggles of the Tamil people and their
political leaders which ended in the ignominious failure to arrive at any just
solution by the process of negotiation between the two parties. There lay in
ruins the scrap-heap of broken pacts and dishonoured agreements as to proposals
for Regional Councils, District Councils, Provincial Councils,
Provincial/Regional Councils, District/Provincial Councils - all tentative
concepts and toothless bodies with no genuine devolved powers of
The record of broken pacts, dishonoured
agreements and evasive proposals reveals
consistent refusal to recognise the existence of the Tamil people as a "people"
with an historic homeland and the
right to freely
determine their political status - the right to freely determine the terms on which
the Sinhala people and the Tamil people may
associate with each other in equality and in
More recently, faced with the determined demand for recognition of the right to self
determination of the people of Tamil Eelam, attempts have been made to develop a
constitutional theory of
'internal' and 'external' self determination - and
conflict resolution process was set in
motion with Norway as the facilitator.
But in the end, it seems that it is the power that flows through the
barrel of the gun will determine that which is just - as these conclusions
by Professor Marshall Singer in 1992 and 8 years later by the Centre for
Strategic & International Studies appear to suggest -
"..If the combatants want a solution they will have to
abandon theory and deal with reality. The sooner they do that the sooner there
will be a solution...The problem for the Tamils is that
they are not in any position either militarily or politically to impose a solution
to their liking... I submit, given the fact that they are so splintered both
politically and militarily, they would be lucky if they could get the Sinhalese
to agree to some very meaningful devolution of power within the framework of the
Provincial Councils..." -
Professor Marshall Singer
in Alternative Solutions to the Conflict,1992
"...the prospects for Sri Lanka's fragile
peace efforts have been badly undercut. Reviving them will require a much more radical
approach to power sharing than the government has been willing to consider in the past...
A loose confederal structure, with some kind of explicit recognition of the Tamils as a
collective group within it and with stronger guarantees of their inclusion in power at the
national level, might be more successful. Two draft Canadian constitutions proposed that
certain legislative changes would require a "double majority" of both English
and French-speaking parliamentarians; an analogous provision might be useful. Obviously,
this type of radical departure would be intensely controversial in the
political mainstream. But half measures will only prolong the country's agony..."
US based Centre for Strategic &
International Studies, June 2000