it the Sinhala leaders who pushed Tamils to call for Eelam
By C. V. Vivekananthan
In 1833, a Legislative Council was established comprising
ten official members and six unofficial members. The Governor who
alone exercised the executive power headed the Council and appointed
the unofficial members too. The elective principle was unknown then.
Our elite too was bland to the principle of elective representation.
It was the English planters and journalists who first injected the
necessary stimulus to elective principle. The pioneer in this political
crusade was Dr. Christopher Elliot followed by Digby who wrote in
the Ceylon Observer that "the people of the land have displayed
an astounding fitness for self-government, and the duty of the rulers
was to recognize the manhood it had developed".
The first Sri
Lankan to agitate for elective principle was Ponnambalam Arunachalam.
He was also the first Sri Lankan to enter the Ceylon Civil Service
in 1875. During the period of his service as servant of the crown,
he wrote series of articles under a pseudonym in support of an elected
system without abdicating official control. He retired as Registrar
General in 1913. In the same year he was knighted for distinguished
services rendered to the British Crown.
It was the
best of times as there was cordial relationship between the two
communities. In 1919 Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam whose leadership
was unhesitatingly acknowledged by the Sinhala leaders of that time
formed the Ceylon National Congress. Both communities were considered
then as the two majority communities. Arunachalam strived to achieve
national unity despite the fact that some Sinhalese began to regard
the Tamils as a minority community from 1922.
Governor William Manning was proposing constitutional reforms
based on communal representation. Sir Arunachalam resented them,
as he was an ardent adherent of territorial electorates. However,
the Kandyans took a contrary view. The Kandyans and the Jaffna Association
stood for communal representation while the Ceylon Reform League
and the Ceylon National Association aspired for territorial system.
Sir Arunachalam merg-ed these principal organizations under one
banner, the Ceylon National Congress, to agitate with one voice
to make the British to agree to their programme of reforms. He secured
a written promise on 07.12.1918 from James Peiris, President, Ceylon
National Association and E.J. Samarawickreme, President, Ceylon
Reform League, that they "would actively support a provision
for the reservation of a seat to the Tamils in the Western Province
so long as the electorate remains territorial".
The Kandyans under a three-man delegation met Viscount Milner,
the Secretary of State for the Colonies in London on June 22, 1920.
The National Congress delegation led by Sir Arunachalam met the
Secretary on the following day. The Kandyan delegation successfully
convinced the Secretary that the Kandyans were a minority community
and that 'the Congress was conserving the whole of the administrative
power against the weaker minority'.
After the hour
of victory, the Sinhala leaders reneged on their written pledge.
Several reasons were advanced for the repudiation of the written
promise. Some said, "carving out an electorate in the Western
Province to enable a Tamil to be elected was not territorial in
out a seat to the Tamils in the Western Province was not considered
territorial in character, how one could justify the carving out
Amparai and Seruwela electorates in the Eastern Province to enable
a Sinhalese to be elected to Parliament?
It is strange
that the Sinhala leaders refused to reach a compromise with the
Tamils while they accommodated the Kandyan sentiments. The Kandyans
opposed the exploitation of land by the low country Sinhalese in
the Kandyan territories. The low country Sinhalese successfully
contested many Kandyan seats. By about 1923 the Kandyans were assured
by the Congress that 'territorial seats in the Kandyan Provinces
would not be contested by the low country Sinhalese'.
made the adherents of the communal representation to abandon it
and to lend support to territorial electorates. The pledge was however
not strictly honoured and in the 1924 elections, a low country Sinhalese
defeated Dr. Kobbekaduwa, a candidate from the Central Province.
Thereupon, prominent Kandyan members of the Congress, Dr. Kobbekaduwa,
Molamure and Ratnayake left the Congress and they with others formed
the Kandyan National Assembly in 1925, making demands that the Kandyans
be treated as a separate distinct community. By 1927 they graduated
their demand to a federal system on the basis of three federal units.
The faith in the federal system as a solution remained the bedrock
of their political thinking for more than a decade until their differences
were cemented by meaningful compromises made by the low country
Sinhalese leaders. Now, the division of 'up country' and 'low country'
Sinhalese, which was maintained by the British to strengthen their
policy of divide and rule, is erased from the political dictionary
of Sri Lanka.
Why can't the
Sinhalese leaders adopt a similar compromising formula with the
Tamils and honour the agreements?
who had always untiringly worked for national unity was in profound
distress when the Sinhala leaders refused to accommodate a seat
to the Tamils in the Western Province, more so, in Colombo. He left
the Congress in 1921 and formed the Ceylon Tamil League.
who agitated for 'Ceylonese nation', spoke of 'unifying and consolidating
'Tamil Eelam' on the premise that Tamils 'had for ages enjoyed separate
nationhood and a separate sovereignty'. It was not the TULF or Prabhakaran
who wanted to establish 'Tamil Eelam', it was Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam
who first thought of the establishment of 'Tamil Eelam' as he found
that the Sinhalese leaders were adamant in refusing to accommodate
the sentiments of the Tamils in any form and the constitutional
reforms of Ceylon were made as a policy of appropriating gain for
the majority without corresponding benefit to the Tamils. However,
the Jaffna Tamils rejected his plea for Tamil Eelam and 'hooted
him in the streets of Jaffna'.
Pact was signed on 26.07.1957. The UNP, the Maha Sangha, a section
of the SLFP and others opposed it alleging that it was creating
a separate state for the Tamils. Even the Tamil leaders like Ponnambalam
and Sundaralingam opposed it stating that Chelvanayakam sold the
Tamils to the Sinhalese. On 09.04.1958, the BC pact was 'torn into
In terms of
the 1965 UNP-Federal Party agreement, the District Councils Bill
was to be introduced. It was opposed by the joint protest march
organized by the SLFP,the LSSP and the CP. A firing by the police,
killing a monk, stopped the procession. The Bill was dropped.
with the Tamils were disregarded and the Tamils, including the Tamil
Estate labourers were from time to time subjected to attacks.
In 1960, Suntharalingam,
who helped D. S. Senanayake with his mathematical calculation to
form a pan Sinhala Ministry, proclaimed Tamil Eelam in 1968 while
V. Navaratnam declared self-determination for Tamils but the Tamils
scoffed at them and threw them out of politics.
It is when
all talks, agreements, giving support to form governments, and even
bring the civil administration to a standstill in the Northern and
Eastern Provinces proved to be futile with the Sinhalese leaders,
they gave a mandate in 1977 to establish Eelam.
The TULF accepted
District Development Council as an alternate to Tamil Eelam. The
elections for DDC for Jaffna were held under a state of emergency.
Two police officers were killed. As a solution, the security personnel
went on carnage of burning several houses, including a house of
an MP, shops and the Jaffna Library, which contained more than 95,000
from the TULF was elected Chairman of the Council and after about
an year he resigned the Chairmanship stating that he did not have
even the minimum power to 'purchase table and chairs' for the council.
That was the solution given by the Sinhalese leaders to the problems
of the Tamils.
of historiography had so far projected communal animosity between
the two communities resulting in frequent violence to the loss of
life and property to the Tamils and rendering any settlement difficult.
It is said
that young Prince Gemunu was on the bed, folding his legs and hands.
To a query made by his father, he told that he was unable to stretch
his legs and hands because on one side there was ocean and on the
other side there were Tamils. So, the young Prince raised an army
and waged war against the aging King Ellalan and took over the kingdom
after killing him upon a duel.
When all peaceful
agitation failed to appeal to the good conscience of the Sinhalese,
Prabhakaran raised an army to establish Tamil Eelam in the same
way Dutugemunu thought and did to regain his crown. Today Prabhakaran
has a standing army yet he has descended from war to peace: from
Tamil Eelam to federalism with internal self-determination.
did start the peace process by inviting the facilitation of Norway
whose peacemakers are determined to cut the Gordian knot. The Prime
Minister is manifesting his genuine desire to a peaceful solution
while some are looking at the peace process with jaundiced eye and
are attempting to disturb it. Would not the failure to achieve a
meaningful solution lead to 'the parting of the ways' as Tarzie
Vittachi posed in his 'Emergency 58'?