1823: South Indian Tamil labourers
recruited from districts of Chenkelpettai, Coimbatore, Madurai,
Thanjavoor, Thiruchirapalli and others arrive to work in
1920: Mr.Natesa Iyer becomes first Indian
representative to legislative council.
1924: Two Indians nominated to legislative
council. Franchise was limited to elite. Indian Tamils represented
12900 out of 205,000 electoral college votes.
1931: Universal adult franchise was introduced in
Sri Lanka under the Donoughmore constitution plantation workers were
1931-36: Registered voters of Indian origin rose
from 100,000 to 145,000.
1939: Resolution introduced in the State Council
to deport 15000 Indians. A second resolution moved by D. S
Senanayake (independent Ceylon's first Prime Minister) to deport all
Indians appointed to government service after 1934 and to
discontinue the service of all those with less than ten years
1939: Arrival of Jawaharlal Nehru on the advice of
Mahatma Gandhi to unite all the groups. Emergence of the Ceylon
1947: Elections bring political strength to the
Indian Tamil community with the election of seven out of the 95
member Parliament. This was equal to the seven Tamil members elected
from the North East.
1948: The Ceylon Citizenship Act, though providing
the qualifications to be a citizen, was designed to disqualify
persons of Indian origin.
The provision said that "only a person born in Ceylon prior to the
date of the Act coming into force, of a father born in Ceylon could
be recognised as a citizen". This decitizenized all persons of
Indian origin since proof of birth of two generations was necessary.
Ceylon Citizenship Bill -
Speech in the Ceylon Senate on 15 September 1948 -
Citizenship Act passed into law on 15 November 1948. The Speech made by Senator.S.Nadesan on 15
September 1948, in the Ceylon Senate, during the debate on the Ceylon
Citizenship Bill (Session: 1948-49:Senate Hansard
Pages 1096-1127) remains an important, well
researched study of the Plantation Tamil question. Forty years later on 13 May 1998 the UN Committee on Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights declared: "The Committee notes with concern the uncertain situation
of 85,000 Tamils of Indian origin living in Sri Lanka. They possess neither Indian
citizenship nor Sri Lankan citizenship, have no access to basic services such as
education, and do not enjoy their economic, social and cultural rights."
Observations of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on the
Report submitted by Sri Lanka under
16 and 17 of the Covenant - E/C.12/1/Add.24, 13 May 1998 - see also Indictment Against Sri Lanka:
Plantation Tamils Deprived of Citizenship)
"...after listening to
the entirety of the debate, one cannot help feeling that the main reason which has brought
about ... this Bill ... is that the Government wants to exclude as much of the (plantation
Tamil) population as is possible from becoming citizens of this country ......Just a word at this juncture, Mr. President, on the unqualified
statement made that Ceylon has the right, as every other country, to determine the
composition of its population. When Germany under Hitler, started to de-citizenise the
Jews, every civilised country in the world condemned it. Hitler said that he has absolute
power to determine the composition of the population of Germany; and he did determine that
to his own satisfaction. The question that arises is whether, by deciding upon the
composition of the population of this country, in the manner proposed in this Bill, are we
doing the right thing, the fair thing, the honourable thing? That is the question that one
has to pay due regard to...."
1949: Enactment of Indian and Pakistani
(Residents) Citizenship Bill.
It laid down qualifications for citizenship as registered citizens
(sic). The qualifications inherent in the bill were designed to deny
1951: 237,034 applications requesting citizenship
for 825,000 (90%) persons of Indian origin were made. Majority of
applications were rejected as many were unable to produce evidence
of birth in Sri Lanka, to provide proof of uninterrupted residency
or to provide proof of an assured income.
1956: Elections too proved negative to the Indian
origin people since they had no strength to field candidates.
1960: The government of Mrs. Bandaranaike created a nominated
representation for the people of Indian origin and appointed
Savumiamoorthy Thondaman to Parliament.
1964: Mrs. Bandaranaike moved to solve the
citizenship problem in keeping with the Sinhala thinking that
persons of Indian origin should return to India. India, then led by
Lal Bahadur Shastri agreed to this move by agreeing to accept 525,
000 back to India. Sri Lanka had agreed to grant citizenship to
300,000 persons leaving the future of 150,000 people to be settled
1974: A further bartering was done under the
Sirima (Sic) Indira Gandhi agreement, dividing the balance people
between the two countries.
1965: The UNP government too nominated
Savumiamoorthy Thondaman to Parliament in return for his support to
defeat the government of Mrs.
1977: Savumiamoorthy Thondaman contested the
Nuwara Eliya – Maskeliya multi member seat and was elected to
Parliament as the third member.
After thirty years since 1947 a member was elected to parliament by
the people of Indian origin.
1978 to 1988: Thondaman made several representations for the
expeditious grant of citizenship under the two Indo Ceylon
Agreements. He also urged that persons who were left out of the two
agreements be granted Sri Lankan citizenship. Only 506, 000 persons
applied for Indian citizenship out of the 600,000 envisaged under
1988: Grant of Citizenship to Stateless Persons
(Special Provisions) Act No. 39 of 1988 was presented to Parliament
by Premadasa and passed. This was opposed by the SLFP who voted
against it. The people of Indian origin who were until then deprived
of the rights flowing from citizenship were overwhelmed by their
achieving their long dreamed goal.
2003: A bill to grant citizenship to 168,141
stateless Tamils in Sri Lanka descended from people who settled in
the hill districts of the island in the 19th century was passed
Tuesday without opposition in Sri Lanka's Parliament. All 172 MPs
who were present in the 225 seat Parliament voted for the bill to
amend the citizenship act.