By C. V. Vivekananthan

Was 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.

Kandyan factor
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".

London meeting
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 character".

If carving 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'.

This assurance 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?

Sir Arunachalam 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.

Separate state
He, 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'.

The Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam 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 pathetic shreds'.

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.

All agreements 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.
DDC farce

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 books.

Senator Nadarajah 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.

Misconceptions 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.

The President 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'?

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