Your recent Comment on 'Tamil Intellectuals' makes interesting reading. But then, the
views of a paper such as yours, as to what it is that Tamil intellectuals should do and
should not do, will always be a matter of absorbing interest - if only because it is a
paper controlled by a State which is today, engaged in a sustained
genocidal onslaught on
the Tamil people.
Again, the intemperate language in which you have chosen to couch your editorial,
indicates that, that which was said at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs on
the 19th of March 1991, has struck home and has proved unpalatable to a government which
would prefer to be allowed to get on, unhindered, with its task of digesting and
assimilating the Tamil people within the constitutional frame of a unitary
Buddhist Sri Lanka.
"The failure of Tamil intellectuals to contribute in a dispassionate and objective
way to the process of building bridges between the two major ethnic communities is seen
clearly in the outlandish and outdated theories mouthed by Nadesan Satyendra who travels
widely as a salesman for Eelam. In his address to the Norwegian Institute of International
affairs (NUDI) on Monday, the main thrust has been to argue a case for cutting off
Sri Lanka. This is the ultimate weapon that the entire Eelam lobby abroad is hoping to use
in their campaign to divide Sri Lanka"
However, presumably overcome with concern for the well being of the
people, you add:
"Those Tamil intellectuals who are genuinely seeking a solution, deserve the
respect of this nation. Their voice must be heard."
But what type of 'solution' should Tamil intellectuals espouse to deserve the respect
of 'this nation'? Again, when you say 'this nation',
Mr.Editor, to which nation do you refer ? Do you mean the Tamil nation, or the Sinhala
nation or do you mean Sinhala chauvinism masquerading as a so called Sri Lankan nation?
Which nation's respect should Tamil intellectuals seek?
It was Professor Seton Watson who declared in 1977:
"...States can exist without a nation, or with several nations, among their
subjects... The belief that every state is a nation, or that all sovereign states are
national states, has done much to obfuscate human understanding of political realities. A
state is a legal and political organisation, with the power to require obedience and
loyalty from its citizens. A nation is a community of people, whose members are bound
together by a sense of solidarity, a common culture, a national consciousness..."
[Professor Hugh Seton-Watson: Nations & States - Methuen, London 1977]
But then, perhaps you regard Professor Watson's views as 'out-landish and outdated' and
you prefer to equate the Sri Lankan state to a so called 'Sri Lankan nation'. Or is it
that you and the Government of Sri Lanka would prefer to 'obfuscate human understanding of
political realities' by denying that in the island of Ceylon today, there are two nations,
the Sinhala nation and the Tamil nation - each of whose members are bound together by a
sense of solidarity, a common culture and a national consciousness.
You appear to suggest that the claim that in the island of Ceylon there are two nations
is somehow contrary to the 'realities of history, geography, demography and ethnicity.'
But whilst you pay lip service for the need for 'cool reasoning', you choose not to give
reasons for the views that you assert. You prefer to dismiss as 'outlandish and outdated'
that which you cannot reason with. Or, perhaps you believe that the people of Tamil Eelam
should accept, without question, the words of wisdom which fall from the mouths of their
would be Sinhala rulers.
But, notwithstanding the arrogance of Sinhala chauvinism that your editorial displays,
by all means, let us examine the 'realities of history, geography, demography and
ethnicity.' After all, the people of Tamil Eelam are a reasonable people and they do
welcome 'cool reasoning'.
What then, are the realities of history and ethnicity, Mr.Editor? As a propagandist for
Sinhala chauvinism, you are, ofcourse not unaware of that which a Sinhala chauvinist,
D.C.Vijayawardhana wrote in 1953:
"The history of Sri Lanka is the history of the Sinhalese race... The Sinhalese
people were entrusted 2500 years ago, with a great and noble charge, the preservation...
of Buddhism.. in 1956 will occur the unique three fold event - the completion of 2500
years of Ceylon's history, of the tie of Sinhalese and Bud-dhism... The birth of the
Sinhalese race would thus seem to have been not a mere chance, not an accidental
occurrence, but a pre-destined event of high import and purpose. The nation seemed
designed, as it were, from its rise, primarily to carry aloft for fifty centuries the
torch that was lit by the great World-Mentor (the Buddha) twenty five centuries
ago..." (The Revolt in the Temple, by D.C. Vijayawardhana, 1953)
You are aware, are you not, Mr.Editor that it was this potent mixture of legend and
superstition, passed off as historical fact, which was cultivated, refined and utilised by
successive Sinhala political leaders to secure for themselves the support of the Sinhala
people. It was a belligerent Sinhala chauvinism which has often found open and shameless
"...The time has come for the whole Sinhala race which has existed for 2500 years,
jealously safeguarding their language and religion, to fight without giving any quarter to
save their birth-right... I will lead the campaign..." (J.R.Jayawardene, Sinhala
Opposition Leader reported in Sri Lanka Tribune: August 1957)
"I am not worried about the opinion of the Tamil people... now we cannot think of
them, not about their lives or their opinion... the more you put pressure in the north,
the happier the Sinhala people will be here... Really if I starve the Tamils out, the
Sinhala people will be happy." (President J.R.Jayawardene, Daily Telegraph, July
The reality of the so called democracy of Sri Lanka was that no Tamil was ever elected
to a predominantly Sinhala electorate and no Sinhalese was ever elected to a predominantly
Tamil electorate. The practise of democracy within the confines of a unitary state served
to perpetuate the oppressive rule of a permanent Sinhala
It was a permanent Sinhala majority, which through a series of legislative and
administrative acts, ranging from disenfranchisement, and
standardisation of University
admissions, to discriminatory language and employment policies, and
colonisation of the homelands of the Tamil people, has sought to establish its hegemony
over the people of Tamil Eelam.
These legislative and administrative acts were reinforced from time to time with
physical attacks on the people of Tamil Eelam with intent to terrorise and intimidate them
into submission. It was a course of conduct which led eventually to the rise of Tamil militancy
in the mid 1970s with, initially, sporadic acts of violence. The militancy
was met with wide ranging retaliatory attacks on increasingly large sections of the Tamil
people with intent, once again to subjugate them.
In the late 1970s large numbers of Tamil youths were detained without trial and
tortured under emergency regulations and later under the Prevention of Terrorism Act which
has been described by the International Commission of Jurists as a 'blot on the statute
book of any civilised country'. In 1980 and thereafter, there were random killings of
Tamils by the state security forces and Tamil hostages were taken by the state when
'suspects' were not found. Eventually, in the eyes of the Sri Lankan state all Tamils were
prima facie 'terrorist' suspects.
And in 1983, the Tamils were deprived of the effective use of their vote by an
amendment to the Constitution which the International Commission of Jurists has declared
to be a violation of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and which
rendered vacant the Parliamentary seats of the elected representatives of the Tamil
people. Though elections were subsequently held in 1988 at a time when the Indian army
occupied the Tamil home-lands, the Sixth Amendment continues in force up to the present
So much, Mr.Editor, for the 'realities of history and ethnicity'. Distress has bound
the people of Tamil Eelam together and thus united they have found their strength. Tamil
Eelam is a deep and horizontal comradeship which exists amongst hundreds of thousands of
the Tamil people - and that includes Tamil intellectuals as well. It is a comradeship
which has prevailed despite the differences and inequalities amongst the people of Tamil
Eelam and it is this comradeship which has made possible the colossal sacrifices of the
past several years. As the propagandist for a state which is engaged in a
genocidal attack on the people of Tamil Eelam, you may find all this difficult to
understand. But please do try.
Again, by all means let us examine the 'realities of geography and demography'. The
group identity of the people of Tamil Eelam did not grow in the stratosphere. You will
agree, Mr.Editor, that it is not 'outlandish' to suggest that it has grown on land. The
group identity of the people of Tamil Eelam has grown, hand in hand, with the growth of
their homeland in the North and East of Sri Lanka, where they lived together, worked
together, communicated with each other, founded their families, educated their children,
and also sought refuge, from time to time, from physical attacks else-where in Sri Lanka.
You will, perhaps agree, Mr.Editor, that the words of Malcolm Shaw in Title to
Territory in Africa are not 'outlandish' but are very much rooted in the reality on the
"Modern nationalism in the vast majority of cases points to a deep, almost
spiritual connection between land and people. This can be related to the basic
psychological needs of man in terms of the need for security and a sense of group
identity... the concern for the preservation of habitat exists as a passionate reflex in
all human communities. Territory is the physical aspect of the life of the community and
therefore reflects and conditions the identity of that community."
But ofcourse, Mr.Editor, these aspects of geography and demography are not unknown to
Sinhala chauvinism. Sinhala chauvinism has understood only too well that without an
homeland the people of Tamil Eelam will cease to exist as a people. You are aware, are you
not, Mr.Editor that Sinhala colonisation of Tamil home-land for forty years and more, was
the outcome of a strategy carefully planned by successive Sinhala governments? After all,
it is easier to digest and assimilate a people, if they are divided into smaller assimilable units.
You cannot be unaware of the frank statements of the Sinhala Mahaveli Ministry
Official, Herman Gunaratne in an article which appeared in the Sri Lanka Sunday Times of
the 26th of August 1990:
"All wars are fought for land...The plan for settlement of peo-ple in Yan Oya and
Malwathu Oya basins was worked out before the communal riots of 1983. Indeed the keenest
minds in the Ma-haveli, some of whom are holding top international positions were the
architects of this plan. My role was that of an executor... We conceived and implemented a
plan which we thought would secure the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka for a long time.
We moved a large group of 45,000 land hungry (Sinhala) peasants into the Batticaloa and
Polonnaruwa districts of Maduru Oya delta.
The second step was to make a similar human settlement in the Yan Oya basin. The third
step was going to be a settlement of a num-ber of people, opposed to Eelam, on the banks
of the Malwathu Oya. By settling the (Sinhala) people in the Maduru Oya we were seeking to
have in the Batticaloa zone a mass of persons opposed to a separate state...Yan Oya if
settled by non separatists (Sinhala people) would have increased the population by about
another 50,000. It would completely secure Trincomalee from the rebels..."
Yes, Mr.Editor, the people of Tamil Eelam, including Tamil intellectuals, are well
aware that wars are fought for land and you will agree that to assert that proposition is
not 'outlandish'. You are aware, are you not Mr.Editor, that by the mid 1980s, state
sponsored colonisation gave way to state sponsored attacks on the people of Tamil Eelam
leading to the forced evacuation of Tamils from their traditional homelands. It was,
ofcourse, a natural progression for Sinhala chauvinism.
In 1985, Robert Kilroy-Silk, M.P. and Roger Sims, M.P, who visited Sri Lanka as members
of a United Kingdom Parliamentary Human Rights Group, reported:
"Witnesses also confirmed allegations made to us that whole villages (in the
Eastern Province) have been emptied and neigh-bourhoods have been driven by the army from
their homes and occupations and turned into refugees dependent on the govern-ment for dry
rations... The human rights transgressed in such a course of action do not need to be
More important is that rightly or wrongly it tends to lend credibility to the view so
frequently put to us that it is the Government's objective either to drive the Tamils out
of the north and east in sufficient numbers so as to reduce their majority in the north
and in the east, a process that would be aided by the Government's announced policy of
set-tling armed Sinhalese people in former Tamil areas...or to drive the Tamils out
altogether. We cannot make a judgement on this issue. We can say, without doubt, that the
Government is driving Tamils from their homes and does intend to settle Sinhalese peo-ple
in these areas. This, at least, lends support to the more ex-treme version believed by
most Tamils." (United Kingdom Par-liamentary Human Rights Group Report, February
So much, then, for the 'realities of geography and demography'.
You appear to be concerned with that which you regard as 'a basic failure of Tamil
intellectuals like Mr. Satyendra' and that is that they 'overtly promote human rights but
covertly use it' to advance their Eelam cause.
But, please rest assured, Mr.Editor, that
the Tamil people, including Tamil intellectuals, not only overtly and openly promote human
rights but also, equally overtly and equally openly promote the cause of Tamil Eelam as
well. There is nothing covert in their support for the struggle of the people of Tamil
Eelam for national self determination.
Indeed, the Tamil cause represents the very essence of the cause of human rights. It
was this which led human rights lawyer, Ms.Karen Parker of International Educational
Development, to declare at the 42nd Sessions of the UN Sub Commission on Protection of
Minorities, August 1990:
"The Sri Lanka situation has shown that for the past forty years, the Sinhala
controlled government has been unwilling and unable to promote and protect the human
rights of the Tamil population, and the Tamil population has accordingly lost all
confidence in any present or future willingness or ability of the Sinhala majority to do
so. Are people in this situation required to settle for less than their full rights. Can
the international community impose on a people a forced marriage they no longer want and
in which they can clearly demonstrate they have been abused? We conclude that in order for
the human rights of the Tamil peo-ple and others in a similar situation to be realised,
the interna-tional community must invoke the principle of self determination as it arises
from persistent non fulfilment of the rights of minori-ties who have been subsumed into
Again, it may be that you do not regard this approach of a human rights lawyer as
being sufficiently 'objective and dispassionate'. But, please, what does 'cool reason'
Reason shows that the 'realities of history, geography and demography' confirm that
Professor Virginia Leary was right when she declared in her Report on the Ethnic Conflict
in Sri Lanka in 1981 that the Tamils could be considered to a people with a distinct
language, culture and to an extent, a defined territory.
Reason shows that the Tamils are a people who have been ruled for more than four
decades by an alien Sinhala people, who do not speak their language, who do not share
their culture and their heritage, and who, today, seek to perpetuate that rule by armed
Reason shows that the law of nations declares that a people who are subjugated by an
alien people are entitled to the right of self determination.
And, reason also shows that 'the process of building bridges' between the Tamil people
and the Sinhala people must begin with each people recognising the existence of the other
as a people, and thereafter sitting as equals, to agree upon constitutional structures
within which such equality may be sustained.
That is why, Mr.Editor, Tamil intellectuals do not seek to 'deserve the respect' of
an arrogant Sinhala chauvinism which masquerades as a so called Sri Lankan nation. That is
why Tamil intellectuals who seek to stand up for that which is right and just, will
continue to identify themselves with the national liberation struggle of the people of
That is why, Tamil intellectuals everywhere will continue to declare that the denial by
the Sri Lankan Government of the
right of the people of Tamil Eelam to self determination
is itself a violation of a human right enshrined in Article 1 of the International
Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Article declares:
"All people have the right to self determination. By virtue of that right they
freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and
These were the self same considerations which impelled
17 non governmental
organisations to declare at the hearings of the UN Sub Commission on Prevention of
Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, in August 1990:
"It has become a matter of urgent importance to act on the reports of several
Human Rights organisations on the gross and consistent violations of Human Rights in Sri
Lanka and to initiate steps to satisfy the aspirations of the Tamil people within the
framework of Human Rights and the Right of Self Determination."
But Sinhala chauvinism would have the world believe that such considerations,
founded as they are on the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,
and the Universal Declaration of Human rights are both 'outlandish and outdated'.
Ofcourse, we do understand your concern, Mr.Editor, that the efforts of the Sri Lankan
Government at obfuscation have increasingly failed and that the international community
has increasingly begun to recognise the political reality of the Tamil nation in the
island of Ceylon. We do also understand your concern that the international community has
become increasingly reluctant to give aid to a Government which is guilty of gross,
consisting and continuing violations of human rights.
But please rest assured, Mr.Editor that this change of perception has not been
brought about by the efforts of 'travelling salesmen' for Tamil Eelam. Tamil Eelam is not
a commodity for sale whether in the international market or elsewhere. Tamil Eelam is an
existential political force which demands recognition in the name of the inherent dignity
of a people.
Tamil intellectuals are well aware that even as you wrote your Comment, the genocidal
attack by the Sri Lankan Government on the people of Tamil Eelam, continued unabated and
with increased ferocity . In the North of Tamil Eelam, bombs are regularly targeted on
refugee camps, whether they be situated in temples, churches or schools. Even
with clear red cross markings have not been spared.
"Barrel bombs - 210 litre cast iron barrels packed with explosives, rubber and saw
dust - rain down on residential areas with the most devastating effect; each bomb can
destroy 20 houses. By its haphazard bombing of civilian targets in the Northern penin-sula
of Jaffna, the airforce is imposing an unofficial blockade which is bringing some parts to
starvation. Helicopters, equipped with rockets and machine guns hover day and night over
Jaffna city and the surrounding towns and villages, ready to strafe any moving civilians
or vehicles... The hospital has also been bombed and three weeks ago, a helicopter fired
into the operating theatre, killing a doctor... In an effort to dent civilian morale, they
have also been showering the area with human and animal excrement." [The London Daily
Telegraph, 13th September 1990]
There has been an embargo on the transport of essential medical, food and fuel
supplies into Tamil Eelam. Hundreds of sick and wounded have died without medical
attention. Many thousands of the people of Tamil Eelam, face death by starvation. The
education of Tamil youths has been grievously affected and their safety is always in
peril. Arrests and torture of Tamil children as young as thirteen is commonplace and
occurs in Colombo as well.
The Sri Lankan Government is carrying out this onslaught on the people of Tamil Eelam
under the pretext of carrying on a war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
However, Tamil intellectuals are well aware that the genocidal intent of the Government
was made clear when it rejected the uni-lateral ceasefire declaration made by the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam on the 31st of December 1990 on the specious ground that
there had been violations of the ceasefire by the LTTE. When the LTTE denied such
violations and offered to participate in talks to set up a suitable mechanism to monitor
the ceasefire, the Sri Lankan Government rejected that offer out of hand!
In a carefully crafted paragraph, you state Mr.Editor:
"If Mr.Satyendra, who describes himself as a human rights lawyer condones the
mindless terror of the Tigers and even justifies their actions in the name of a dubious
'liberation struggle' then he is not only betraying the fundamental principles of human
rights but also exposing himself as an irredeemable hypocrite."
The use of the word 'if' is significant, because Mr.Editor you were presumably aware
that, in fact at no stage during the meeting at the Norwegian Institute of International
Affairs (or for that matter anywhere else) did the speaker condone the violations of human
rights by some members of the LTTE. On the contrary, the speaker stated expressly that he
cannot and did not condone such violations and stated that an armed struggle was not a
carte blanche to kill but was a struggle in the defence of the integrity of the Tamil
However, the speaker did point out that it was important to carefully sift the facts
about such alleged violations by members of the LTTE. He pointed out that in June 1990, a
report in the world media that more than fifty Muslims were killed by the LTTE in the
Amparai District, was later rejected by the government's own Muslim Superintendent of
Police, and the newsreport was subsequently withdrawn. But the fact that such a report was
initially 'planted' in the world media was evidence of the cynical nature of the
disinformation campaign carried on by the Sri Lankan government.
The people of Tamil Eelam are well aware of the need to purify and in that way,
strengthen their struggle for national self determination against a Sinhala dominated
government which seeks to subjugate and rule them.
But they need no lessons on human rights from those who seek to undermine their
struggle for self determination.
They need no lessons on human rights from the servants of a state whose horrendous
record on human rights led Amnesty International to launch a three month world wide Sri
Lanka campaign in September 1990.
They need no lessons on human rights from the servants of a state which has subjected
the people of Tamil Eelam to 'shit bomb' attacks and which has bombed Tamil civilian
population centres and hospitals with clear red cross markings.
They need no lessons on human rights from the servants of state which has so
institutionalised violence that 60,000 of its own Sinhala people have 'disappeared' during
the past two years.
It is well known that the Sri Lankan government has engaged the services of Tamil
quislings to help its armed forces and to assist its political initiatives and seeks to
pass them off as 'rivals' of the LTTE. Your editorial shows that the Sri Lankan Government
is now in search of quisling Tamil intellectuals who will 'deserve the respect' of a
Sinhala chauvinism which masquerades as the so called Sri Lankan nation.
You suggest 'that in the absence of a rational leadership among the Tamils', such
intellectuals, 'could be the only ones who could help to end the senseless carnage'. You
would have your readers believe that the people of Tamil Eelam are without 'rational
leaders' and that the ever so helpful Sinhala rulers, who are engaged in aerial
bombardment of the people of Jaffna with 'shit bombs', are somehow concerned to 'end this
senseless carnage' and encourage the rise of a 'rational leadership' for the Tamil people!
Please, Mr.Editor, please do refrain from insulting the intelligence of the people
of Tamil Eelam and please do refrain from this humbuggery. Instead, please do try and wake
up your masters to the reality that the struggle of the people of Tamil Eelam for their
right to self determination is rational, that it is just, that it is lawful, that it is
not outlandish but rooted solidly on the ground - and that it will succeed. But, then,
perhaps, as the leader of Tamil Eelam, Velupillai Pirabaharan has
very rationally remarked:
'You can wake up some one who is asleep, but you cannot wake up some one who is
pretending to be asleep.'