Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam First Ceylone to Agitate for Elective Principle

Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam First Ceylone to Agitate for Elective Principle

Arunachalam was the first Ceylonese to agitate for elective principle. 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 Sinhalese 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 Sinhalese considered the Tamils as a minority community from 1922. Sir William Manning, as Governor was proposing constitutional reforms based on communal representation. Sir P Arunachalam resented them, as he was an ardent adherent of territorial electorates. However, many others took a contrary view. The Kandyans and the Jaffna Association stood for communal representation. The Kandyans under a three-man delegation met Viscount Milner, the Secretary of State for the Colonies in London on 22nd June 1920 and made representations that they should be treated as a separate community.Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam.jpg

The National Congress delegation led by Sir Ponnambalam 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’. The British who pursued a divide and rule policy readily recognized the Kandyan Sinhalese as a separate community. Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam did not fail in his conviction and courage. He merged all the principal political organizations under one banner, and formed the Ceylon National Congress, in order to agitate in one voice to make the British to agree to their programme of reforms. He was the first President of the Ceylon National Congress and strove incessantly and inexorably to unify and consolidate Ceylon and the Ceylonese Nation.

There is a sustained and concerted campaign by a section of the Colombo based English media to discredit the demand for federalism. The Island newspaper the flagship of Sinhalese – Buddhist chauvinism is in the forefront of this campaign followed my Daily Mirror. At a time when Thamils have given up separation and instead willing to accept federalism as an alternative solution to the ethnic conflict within a united and undivided Ceylon, the Sinhala chauvinistic elements have unleashed a virulent propaganda war against the Thamil leadership.

This will reinforce the claim by ultra-nationalist Thamils that Sinhalese will never accept a reasonable solution to solve the ethnic conflict. Once again the racists elements among the Sinhalese are pushing the moderate Thamil leadership to the corner and thus laying the foundation for another bout of civil strife and disunity. This article is a reflection of the typical mind-set of some educated but communal minded Sinhalese!

One does not know how the Sinhala media is reacting to “TNA’s suicidal path to Federalism.’

Tongue in cheek this writer pays left handed compliments to the eminent Ponnambalam brothers and GG Ponnambalam for their readiness to cohabitate with the leaders of Sinhalese.

But, history says the Ponnambalam brothers were treated very shabbily by the Sinhalese leadership and died broken hearted.

Ponnambalam Arunachalam founding President of Ceylon National Congress was denied nomination for the Colombo Town seat despite a written agreement to that effect by two prominent Sinhalese leaders. The betrayal by the Sinhalese leaders Sir James Peiris, President Ceylon National Congress and E.J. Samarawickrema created the first deep rift between the Sinhalese and the Tamils which continues to this day. Stung by the betrayal by the Sinhalese leadership Ponnambalam Arunachalam formed the Tamil League (The Tamil Mahajana Sabhai) at a meeting held in Jaffna on August 15, 1921. Arunachalam was engaged in a prolonged war of words with his former Sinhala colleagues before he formed the Tamil Mahajana Sabhai. He accused the Sinhala leaders of self-interest and of failure to realize the importance of building Ceylonese nationalism.

Arunachalam was prophetic when in a statement he said that the most devastating effect that the breaking of the pledge would have was the profound distrust the Tamils may develop about the Sinhala leaders. The Sinhalese and Tamil political trouble is at present creating much turmoil among the Ceylonese. Whatever view they may hold as to the wisdom and expediency and whether or not it is binding on others, to the unsophisticated mind there can be no question that these two gentlemen are bound by it, and ought to keep to it and use their influence with their followers to do likewise. But they have both repudiated it…Is it any wonder that the Tamils refuse to trust the Sinhalese leaders of the Congress any longer and have decided to take independent action to safeguard their interests. My own duty is clear. I must stand by the pledge.

Addressing the inaugural sessions Arunachalam said,

There is no need for me to speak at length, as the Committee’s Report sets forth fully the League’s work and aims and ideals. The League was brought into existence by political necessity, but politics is not its raison-d’etre. It has far higher aims in my view, namely to keep alive and propagate those Tamil ideals which have through the ages have made the Tamils what they are, to keep alive and propagate these previous ideals throughout Ceylon, Southern India and the Tamil colonies to promote the union and solidarity of Tamilakam.

However, the Tamils are not going to abandon the proud duty and privilege of service to all our brothers of every race and creed. But we object strongly being bullied or terrorized, we object to being underdogs of anybody, We mean to make ourselves strong to defend ourselves and strong also to work for the common good.

Thus, Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam was the precursor for the demand for an independent and socialist Tamil Eelam in 1976 by the TULF.

The great betrayal by the ungrateful Sinhalese hastened his death. He went on a pilgrimage to the Hindu temples in Thamil Nadu. He died in Madurai on January 9, 1924.

As for Ponnambalam Ramanathan, he too died a broken-hearted man unable to convince the Donoughmore Commission that abolition of communal representation and introducing universal franchise will spell political doom to the Thamils. He stated in the State Council that “Donoughmore means Thamils Nomore!’

GG Ponnambalam was another victim of Sinhalese political machinations, trickery and gross betrayal of mutual trust. He was unceremoniously kicked out of the cabinet by Sir John Kotalawela as soon as he succeeded Dudley Senanayake as Prime Minister in 1952.

Viswamithira is illegimately and deliberately revising history to fit his archaic  political, social, and ideological agenda.


V. Thangavelu

About editor 3016 Articles
Writer and Journalist living in Canada since 1987. Tamil activist.

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