A Short History Of The Tamil Eelam Liberation Struggle

A Short History Of The Tamil Eelam Liberation Struggle


Sri Lanka formerly called Ceylon in English and known in Tamil as ILANKAI or EELAM is an island situated at the southern extremity of the Indian subcontinent, separated from it at its narrowest point by only 22 miles of the sea called Palk Strait. It lies between six and ten degrees north of the Equator, and on the longitude of 79 to 81 degrees east. Its area is 25,332 square miles comprising Sri Lanka 18,042 and Tamil Eelam 7,290 sq miles. The total population is 17,103,000, according to latest population statistics (1991), consisting of 12,656,000 Sinhalese, 3,113,000 Tamils, Muslims (mostly Tamil speaking) 1,214,000 and others 120,000.

The Early Tamils

The Tamils are an ancient people with a history dating back to at least 2,500 years. The Tamil language, the lingua franco of the Tamils, is one of the five oldest living languages of the world. The Tamil classical literature, popularly called the Sangam (Academy) literature (1st – 4th Century AD) is a collection of poems of lasting quality and artistic merit. They reflect faithfully the high level of civilization and literary attainments of the ancient Tamils.

The Early Sinhalese

The Sinhala people trace their origins in the island to the arrival of Prince Vijaya from Bengal in India, about 2500 years ago. The Mahavamsa, a Sinhala chronicle written by a Buddhist Bhikku by the name of Mahanama, (6th Century AD) records that Prince Vijaya arrived on the island on the same day that the Buddha attained enlightenment.

Who Came First

Although attempts are made to trace the history of Ceylon before the arrival of Vijaya (about 500 BC), who is credited as the founder of the present Sinhalese race, there is sufficient historical and archaeological evidence to prove the existence of a high level of civilization before him. The protohistory of Ceylon could be traced back to at least 5000 years to the period of Raman of the epic Ramayanam. Raman (the same Raman about whose temple there is a violent dispute between the Hindus and Muslims in Uttar Pradesh India at present) who was an Aryan king from north India fought against the Tamil Yaksha king of Ilankai (Ceylon) Ravanan who had abducted Rama’s wife Seethai. Jawaharlal Nehru in his book Glimpses of World History describes the war between Raman and Ravanan as a war between the Aryans and Dravidians. Therefore, the oft-repeated question as to who came first, the Tamils or the Sinhalese, is a controversial subject emotively debated by both the parties, but the following observation by the eminent Sinhala historian and Cambridge scholar, Paul Peiris represent an influential and common-sense point of view:

” … it stands to reason that a country which was only thirty miles from India and which would have been seen by Indian fisherman every morning as they sailed out to catch their fish, would have been occupied as soon as the continent was peopled by men who understood how to sail ….. Long before the arrival of Prince Vijaya, there were in Sri Lanka five recognised Isvarams of Siva which claimed and received the adoration of all India. These were Tiruketeeswaram near Mahatitha; Munneeswaram dominating Salawatta and the pearl fishery; Tondeswaram near Mantota; Tirkoneswaram near the great bay of Kottiyar and Nakuleswaram near Kankesanthurai. Their situation close to these ports cannot be the result of accident or caprice and was probably determined by the concourse of a wealthy mercantile population whose religious wants called for attention ….” (Paul E. Pieris: Nagadipa and Buddhist Remains in Jaffna: Journal of Royal Asiatic Society, Ceylon Branch Vol.28)

Early Political History

The early political history of the people of South India and Sri Lanka, before the advent of the European powers, is largely a chronicle of the rise and fall of individual kingdoms. South India was ruled mostly by the three great Kings Cholas, Seras and Pandiyas. Sometimes they fought against the invaders and some times they warred against each other. In addition to these three great kings, there were also petty kings who ruled over large tracts of land, nominally independent but paying tribute to one or more of the three Kings. Among the three kings, the Cholas were easily the most powerful and the only naval power in India. The army of Raja Raja the Great (984-1014) invaded Ceylon, made Rajarata a part of the Chola empire, and founded Polonnaruwa as the capital city.

Rararajah’s son Rajendra1014- 1044) further extended the Chola empire so that in the 11th century the mighty Cholas ruled over Ceylon, Kampuchea, Malaya and the greater part of Indonesia.

The society was feudal in structure and was the most dominant means of production. The Sangam literature provides evidence of the lucrative two-way trade these kingdoms had with far away from Roman and Greek empires.


Sri Lanka attained its independence from British colonial rule on February 04, 1948. The first parliamentary elections were held in 1947 under the Soulbury constitution. The total members of parliament were 96 with an additional 6 appointed members representing minority communities. Mr.D.S.Senanayake, the leader of the United National Party (formerly Ceylon National Congress), formed the government. He became the first Prime Minister of an independent Ceylon.


Ceylon had been ruled by both Tamil and Sinhalese kings, the Tamil Kingdom comprising the north and eastern parts and the Sinhalese Kingdom(s) the western & southern parts of Ceylon. There were brief periods when the whole of Ceylon came under a single ruler. Otherwise, there existed two or more Kingdoms and the Tamil Kingdom always one of them. The Tamil Kingdom, later came to be called the Jaffna Kingdom existed as a separate polity for centuries. The first war between a Tamil King who ruled Anuradhapura and a Sinhalese king from the south was fought in the 2nd century BC.

In 1505 when the Portuguese landed in Ceylon there was not one but three Kingdoms, the Jaffna Kingdom in the north & east, the Kotte Kingdom in the west and the Kandyan Kingdom in the centre. The Jaffna Kingdom was captured by the Portuguese when the king of Jaffna was defeated in June 1619. He was captured and taken by the Portuguese to Goa where he was hanged. The Portuguese ruled the Jaffna Kingdom from 1619 to 1658. The Dutch who captured the Kingdom from the Portuguese ruled till 1795 and finally the British till February 03, 1948.

The Jaffna Kingdom was ruled as a separate polity by the Portuguese, Dutch and British till 1833. In 1833: British brought the Tamil and Sinhalese Kingdoms under one administration for administrative convenience.

When the Soulbury Commission came to Ceylon to draw up a new constitution Mr.G.G.Ponnambalam of the All Ceylon Thamil Congress demand for equal representation. This demand came to be known as 50-50 envisaged allocating 50% of the parliamentary seats to the Sinhalese and the balance 50% to the Tamils, Muslims, Burgers and other minority groups. This was rejected by the Soulbury Commission, but they did incorporate Section 29 (2) (b) and (c) which curtailed the legislative power of Parliament to “make laws for the peace, order and good government of the island”. This Section provided that no such law shall impose any disabilities, or confer any advantages, on members of any one community only.


Before the ink could dry on the new constitution the Ceylon parliament passed the Ceylon Citizenship Act No.18 of 1948 which deprived a million Tamils of Indian origin their citizenship.

This was followed up with the Ceylon (Parliamentary Elections) Amendment Act No.48 of 1949 which deprived the Tamils of their franchise as well. This category of Tamils who had 7 seats in the Parliament and held the balance of power in a further 20-30 electorates failed to elect even a single member in the elections to the parliament held in 1953.


The deprivation of citizenship of a million Tamils was the result of actions of a Sinhala -Buddhist majority which regarded the island as the exclusive home of Sinhala Buddism and the Tamils as invaders from Tamil Nadu in South India.

” 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 the Sinhalese and Buddhism … The birth of the Sinhalese race would thus seem to gave been not a mere chance, not an accidental occurrence, but a predetermined 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 VIjayawardena, 1953).

This is just one example of what has become the battle cry of the Sinhala-Buddhists sole and exclusive claim to the whole of Ceylon. Before him, the great Buddhist revivalist Anagarika Dharmapala (1864-1931), whose earlier name was Don David Hewavitarne took the name of Anagarika (in Pali meaning “the homeless one”) and Dharmapala ( meaning “the guardian of the doctrine”) in his book History of an Ancient Civilization (1902) wrote:

Ethnologically, the Sinhalese are a unique race, in as much as they can boast that they have no slave blood in them, and were never conquered by either the  Tamils or European vandals who for three centuries devastated the land, destroyed ancient temples, burnt valuable libraries, and nearly annihilated the historic race. This bright, beautiful island was made into a paradise by the Aryan Sinhalese before its destruction was brought about by the barbaric vandals For the students of ethnology the Sinhalese stand as the representatives of Aryan civilization …

This potent mixture of legend and superstition passed off as historical fact, was nurtured, refined and exploited by successive Sinhalese political leaders who sought to perpetuate their rule over the Tamils.


As predicted with remarkable foresight by S.J.V.Celvanayagm in Parliament during the debate on Citizenship Bill ( 1948) the next blow was dealt to the Tamils when the Sri Lanka Freedom Party Government of Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranayake enacted Sinhala Only as the Official Language in June 1956. The enactment of this Act, quite contrary to the hitherto official policy of recognising both Sinhalese and Tamil as Official languages, made Tamils second class citizens in their country of birth overnight. It was undoubtedly a betrayal of the two language policy of considering both Tamil and Sinhalese as official languages. Politically it was a masterstroke by the majority Sinhalese to deprive jobs in the government and state corporations. The Tamils were humiliated to a degree that left generations of Tamils to feel socially as outcasts and politically second class citizens.

Phillip Gunawardene, a Minister in Bandareanayake’s government and a vociferous champion of Sinhal Only told Parliament:

“We are completing by this (Sinhala Only) Bill an important phase in our national struggle. The restoration of the Sinhala language to the position it occupied before the occupation of this country by foreign powers, marks an important stage in the history of the development of this island” (Hansard, 14th June 1956)

The peaceful Satyagraha by the Tamils to protest against the Sinhala Only language policy at Galle Face Green overlooking the Parliament in Colombo was broken up by Sinhalese hoodlums. This was followed by Islandwide riots in which hundreds of Tamils lost their lives and property worth millions destroyed. The 1956 riots were the beginning of a series of racially motivated Tamil pogroms by Sinhalese covertly encouraged by successive governments and overtly supported by the security forces. These pogroms with increased ferocity and venom were repeated in 1958, 1961, 1977, 1979, 1981 and 1983.

In July 1957 Mr.S.W.R.D.Bandaranayake signed a pact with Mr.S.J.V.Chelvanayagam, popularly called the Bandaranayake- Chelvanayagam pact, of the Tamil Federal Party giving a measure of regional autonomy in spheres of land, language, education, etc. But the pact was torn apart by Mr.Bandaranayake under pressure from Sinhalese-Buddhist chauvinists. Foremost among them was no other than Mr.J.R.Jayawardena of the United National Party who undertook a march to Kandy in protest. A similar Pact signed by Mr.Chelvanayagam with Mr.Dudley Senanayake in 1965 too met the same fate.

A non-violent Satyagraha campaign launched by the Tamil Federal Party in the northeastern provinces which paralysed civil administration was ruthlessly broken-up using the army. This army is dominated by the Sinhalese (99%) and continued to be used as an instrument of state terrorism to this very day. The entire security forces now number over 100,000 and heavily armed with modern military hardware, fighter bombers, helicopter gunships, tanks, armoured vehicles, naval patrol boats etc. The government of Sri Lanka is currently spending upto 20% of the state budget to maintain it.

In 1970 the government of Mrs.Srimawo Bandaranayake (widow of Mr.S.W.R.D.Bandaranayake) rubbed salt into wounds by introducing the notorious “Standardisation” of education. This discriminate policy required higher marks from Tamil students for University admissions visas adopted which removed even the meagre safeguards [(Section 29 (2) (b) & (c)] contained in the Soulbury constitution. This infamous constitution, ironically authored by a Trotskyite (4th International) Minister in Mrs.Bandaranyake cabinet created the conditions for the political alienation of the Tamils and a deep wedge between the two nations. The constitution incorporated the Sinhala Only Act as part of the constitution and enthroned Buddhism as the foremost religion to be fostered by the state. Amendments moved by the Tamil Federal Party to the draft constitution demanding a federal constitution and parity of status for Tamil along with Sinhalese were defeated by the government. In protest,the Federal Party withdrew from further deliberations of the Constituent Assembly and boycotted same. As a mark of protest Mr.Chelvanayagam resigned his seat in Parliament and challenged the government to hold an election to test the acceptability of the new constitution. He simultaneously sought a mandate from the Tamil people mandate for the restoration of the defunct Tamil state. No elections were held till January 1975 and Mr.Chelvanayagam won the by-election against a government-supported candidate with a huge margin of 16,000 votes.

In 1975 confronted with the steadily mounting national oppression, frustrated with the failure of the democratic political struggles, the Tamil national parties converged into a single movement styled Thamil United Liberation Front (TULF).

In the elections that followed the TULF received an overwhelming mandate having won 18 seats out of 24 contested. By fortuitous circumstances, the TULF also emerged as the official opposition in Parliament. Unfortunately, this was also the undoing of the TULF since Mr.Amirthalingam, the leader of the TULF, came to be more delighted in his new role as the Leader of the Opposition than the leader of a movement committed to winning liberation through peaceful means, direct action or struggle. Mr.Amirthalingam started talking about an alternative to the Eelam demand and eventually settled down for District Development Councils. This experiment failed in the face of a chauvinistic and intransigent cabinet. In any case, the Tamils felt that the DDC was a sop and the Tamil leadership have been taken yet again for a ride by crafty Sinhalese politicians, specially Mr.J.R.Jayawardena, Prime Minister and later President of Sri Lanka.

In 1978 yet another Constitution was enacted which tightened the enslavement of the Tamils further. The TULF like in 1972 walked out of the constitution assembly and took no part in its deliberations.

In 1979 the Sri Lankan government enacted the notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act to cope with the growing militancy, notably of the Liberation Tigers. This act and the subsequent crackdown by the army of Tamil youths made the situation worse and confirmed the fears of the Tamils that the Sinhalese government was hell-bent to exterminate them. The racial riots of 1977 and 1979 poured oil on already burning fire.

From 1979, because of the Sinhalese army occupation of Jaffna and the state terrorism let loose on the people, hostility began to grow and the emotional division between the Sinhalese and the Tamils became more acute. A group of highly organised young Tamil militants, first calling themselves the New Tamil Tigers and later The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in 1976 emerged to confront the government terrorism by bearing arms.

In July 1983 the Tamil Tigers ambushed a convey of Sinhalese army in the north and killed 13 Sinhalese soldiers. This ignited another Tamil Pogrom surpassing all the previous ones in its intensity and destruction of life and property. A panicked government of Mr.Jayawardena at the growing militancy of the Tamils and the cry for separation sought to defuse the situation by the 6th amendment to the Constitution by compelling all officeholders, including Members of Parliament, to take an oath of allegiance to the unitary constitution. Unable to comply with this forced allegiance the TULF boycotted the parliament and later lost their seats. With the forced political exile and eventual marginalization of the moderate leadership of the Tamils by the constitutional amendment, the Tamil militant groups, notably the Tigers gained ascendancy. Today LTTE is the undisputed and authentic leaders of the Tamil people in the vanguard of the national liberation war.

The many battles and the recent fighting at Elephant Pass which assumed all the hallmarks of a conventional war between the Tamil Tigers and Sinhalese army had established the fact that there are not only two separate nations but two separate armies as well.

It’s national first and then the bifurcation

By Kusal Perera

The second reading of the budget over, the immediate outburst from the opposition UNP was that the final vote on the budget after its third reading would yield expected results. That’s defeating it comfortably. Mangala too has joined the same stable in forecasting a defeat of the government at the next and final reading of the budget. But what’s more interesting is the call for a “National Government”.

This call for national unity in the face of the North-East war was the slogan that gave the opening for the “Karu” group to get their act together in joining the government. It was thereafter left in cold storage until the present tug of war on the budget 2008 vote came about.

This second time around, the idea of a “National Government” was proposed by former Commanders of the Security Forces at a recent meeting they had with President Rajapaksa a few days before the vote on the second reading of the budget.

Although the former Security Heads wanted a National Government immediately and was reported as saying they would also meet with other political leaders including Opposition Leader Wickramasinghe, the President was reported as having said he could give consideration to the proposal after winning the budget, lest it would be seen as a defeatist move.

Now after the budget vote, the call is on with leading Buddhist monk Ven. Galaboda Gnanissara Thera, making a request to both the President and the Opposition Leader to form a National government, without giving in to the demands of “minority” political parties. Then come the Maha Nayake Theras of the Three Chapters. They want a national government to find a lasting solution to the national issue.

Thereafter a local news website reported that Presidential Secretariat sources have also indicated the President may give thought to discussing the issue with the Leader of the Opposition. In Sri Lanka,the call for a National government has cropped up on and off when the government in power finds it difficult to contain the opposition, especially with the protracted North-East war tying up Southern politics in jumbles.

What then is a “National Government”? According to ‘Wikipedia’ a National government (alternatively national unity government or national union government) is a broad coalition government consisting of all parties (or all major parties) in the legislature and is often formed during times of war or national emergency. This basically is the understanding of a National government on historical experiences.

Yet it needs to be stressed that in history, National governments have all been campaigned for or formed during wars that are considered as and are, external threats. That war or crisis is taken as a decisive condition in coalescing all the parties in the legislature into a National government to face the crisis that needs to be averted nationally.

Which also means such a coalition would have one single focus and that is to face the crisis together, leaving aside all other political differences.

Why do we in Sri Lanka want a National government? Those who call for a National (Unity) government wants everyone to accept that Tamil terrorism is the only major issue and it should be militarily crushed.

They assume the government should not have any opposition in fighting “separatist terrorists”, whatever mess the government creates on other issues of governance. Therefore this National government is called in to defeat LTTE terrorism that stands for a separate state without paying any heed to all the massive corruption, inefficiency and catapulting col, for which the government is responsible in every way.

Thus it provides an opportunity to the government to tame the opposition in the name of “separatist terrorists”.

That apart, this call for a National government is in no way to face an external threat. It’s not against any foreign invasion. Fight for a separate Thamil Eelam by the LTTE for sure is an internal political crisis to begin with. In fact, hen the JVP and the JHU oppose international facilitation in any form, they agree that this is an internal issue, although it has grown out of national proportions. It is a political crisis that had its beginnings in modern politics, since independence.

During the first part of this political crisis, there were no armed conflicts or political campaigns for a separate Thamil Eelam. Tamil political leadership starting from Chelvanayagam was always willing to settle down within the Soulburry Constitution for regional/provincial administration as agreed by two Prime Ministers, once in 1957 and again in 1966. It was not the Tamil leadership that gave up on those agreements, but the two Prime Ministers who went back on their pledges purely to satisfy Sinhala sectarianism.

During all those times, Tamil agitations were nothing less democratic or more undemocratic than “pada yatra and jana goshas” led by the then opposition MP Mahinda Rajapaksa of the SLFP. Throwing away all agreements that Tamil leaderships consented to and then crushing their very civilian democratic agitations led to the radicalization of Tamil politics. It was such fundamental blunders of the Sinhala leaders that paved the way for armed Tamil politics. Over two and a half decades of stupid blundering brought all Tamil leaders including armed groups to formulate the Joint Thimpu Declaration in July 1985 on which the then UNP government had to sit for negotiations. It declared Tamil society as a Nation with a right for self-determination and North – East as their homeland.

This assumption of a historically established Tamil Nation in this island has been contested and is being contested by Southern Sinhala historians, while Tamil historians claim they have historical proof to establish their case. But what is most interesting is the argument in favour of the Tamil homeland that was recorded at Thimpu by Nadesan Sathyendran as follows.

“A point was made by a member of the Tamil delegation yesterday and it was a point that was movingly made. He asked: ‘where do we go for safety, when we are assaulted in the South of Sri Lanka? Where does the government of Sri Lanka send us when there are riots in Colombo? We seek sanctuary in our homeland in the North and East of Sri Lanka. That surely must be the best test of all, because we all know where we go – and so we say, once again, very respectfully, please do not seek hide that which is a self evident truth. Please do not deny the existence of our homelands.”

That is reason why, even Douglas Devananda and Anandasangaree cannot dispute Thimpu principles. They cannot run away from Thimpu positions politically, although they both detest and hate the armed authority of the LTTE, which is a dispute of political strategy among them. This thus brings us back to the question of a Tamil homeland.

The question of what is “National” when Tamil politics inclusive of anti – LTTE and LTTE, have a common agreement on their homeland in the North – East. Therefore any decision by Devananda and Sangaree to accept a coalition of Southern political parties as a National government would be purely a-political against the LTTE and such a Southern coalition would leave out the unarmed North – East representation of the Tamil people, the TNA.

That accepted, this National government that the Buddhist monks are calling for and what the former Security Commanders proposed could have only the Southern political parties in it.

It would completely cover Southern representation if the JVP accepts to sit with the UNP and if the UNP opts to further scale down their position on the North-East war, which is possible the way they clamour for political power. It would be a grand alliance of Southern politics against the North – East, although such a government would want to call itself “National”.

What would then be the ultimate result? First and most clearly, it would polarise the two societies into two distinctly marked entities. It would be polarised as Sinhala and Tamil, forcing other minority groups to choose their affiliation with due respect for their own safety.

Therefore the ensuing war would be more clearly seen as a war waged by a pedigreed Sinhala regime against the Tamil people. Leaving out the TNA would give that image more strength and more credibility, not only among the Tamil people but in Tamil Nadu, within the Indian government and internationally.

A National government of such strong Sinhala flavour would prove to the world that Tamil people have absolutely no space to negotiate. This, therefore, would be the ideal political polarisation Prabhakaran would wish for. What better guarantee than that could he have from the South, for a separate State ?”  (The Daily Mirror  – Nov 22, 2007)

How far is Sri Lanka a democracy?

by Tissa Balasuriya OMI

In his two responses, (published in the Island), to my Open Letter to President Mahinda Rajapakse and the Leader of the Opposition Ranil Wickremasinghe, Dr Mahinda de Silva writes of democracy:

“In democracy members of the legislature ‘are elected’ on a one person one vote basis.”

“Fr. B must also realize that in a democratic election, politicians must of necessity address majority interests to get elected”17-9-2007} .

In his response entitled “Gratuitous Advice…he writes Fr.B will not accept that in a democracy the majority rules, and though basic human rights are guaranteed to minorities, public policies are determined by majority decision. “Balanced representation” to convert minorities into majorities, is not compatible with democracy” (26-10-2007).

Since we are engaged in a serious dialogue, permit me to raise the question, when, and how did Sri Lanka become a democracy? Are there some essential requirements for a country to be one democratic nation in the modern world?

Can we agree that Sri Lanka was not one democratic nation from 1505 to Independence in 1948? Further Lanka was not one unified democratic nation from about 1200 till 1505. Dr Mahinda makes a reference to Prof. Karthigesu Indrapala who “tells of a Tamil inscription found in Jaffna which contains certain trade regulations issued by King Parakramabahu 1…”

May I refer Dr Mahinda to a recent 2005 publication by Professor K. Indrapala “The Evolution of an Ethnic Identity- The Tamils in Sri Lanka C 300 BCE to 1200 CE”

He writes of the process of the formation of a Tamil kingdom in the North and a Sinhala kingdom in the South and their separation from each other by the thick jungle, especially with the decline of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa.

“While the rulers of the North and the South claimed to rule the whole country, although they were de facto rulers of separate kingdoms, the Tamils of the North and the Sinhalese came to be isolated from each other … There is absolutely no evidence of enmity between the Sinhalese people and the Tamil people in the centuries after the fall of Polonnaruwa, although there were occasions when the Tamil and Sinhala rulers invaded each other’s territory.” (p.279)

This and other evidence shows that Sri Lanka was not under one ruler for most of the period since 1200 till the British unified the country for administrative purposes after 1815. The people lived in peace in so far as they met. It need hardly be recalled that the means of communication then did not include modern means – not even telephone, radio, airmail, or the motor car. It would have needed several days or weeks to travel from the South to the North. Till the mid 20th century a letter from Ceylon to Britain took several weeks, as also travelling from Colombo to London or Portugal. Much of the governance was by local authorities. Hence there was then hardly any possibility of a modern type unitary state even in a small country like ours. Our history as an island people impels us to be together as one nation under one state. But this has not been the clear historical legacy. With independence, we have to form a united country as free peoples opting to be a single united country.


Democracy is the best form of government for a participative polity. But what has been our history of the 60 years since Independence? Today it is generally assumed that Sri Lanka is a democracy. In order to take the discussion to a further and deeper level may we ask since when are we a democracy, how did we become one, what are some of the essential characteristics and requirements for genuine democracy in the modern international community?

Democracy is said to be a government of the people by the people for the people. It requires not merely that one person has one vote at free and fair elections, but also that when a majority government is installed, the rights of the minorities are respected. It implies that all citizens have their fundamental rights. These include the right to life, the right to the freedom of opinion and expression, the freedom of peaceful assembly, the right to education. (cf Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UNO, 1948). If the basic human rights of the minorities are not respected what prevails would be a tyranny of the majority and not a genuine democracy.

Ceylon has evolved its modern system of government under British rule with the introduction of universal adult franchise and internal self-government in 1931 with the Donoughmore Constitution. In 1944 when the Soulbury Constitution was debated in the State Council, D. S Senanayake, the accepted father of the nation, pledged on behalf of the majority community to be fair to the minorities. Prior to Independence in 1948, the Soulbury Constitution was accepted by the representatives of all the communities in Ceylon. The Soulbury Constitution had special safeguards for the rights of the minorities. These included a weighted representation in the delimitation of constituencies to benefit the rural areas and Kandyan areas with the plantation workers of Indian origin. In addition to this, there was a second Chamber, the Senate, in which minorities and others were well and ably represented, There was an entrenched clause in the Constitution which prevented a conferring of privileges to one community that was not granted to the other communities (section 29). Appointments to and functioning of the Public Services Commission were independent of the political powers.

Soon after Independence, the new Government took steps that reduced the rights of the minorities. First, the plantation workers were deprived of their citizenship in 1948, and of the franchise in 1949. This changed the balance of power in the legislature in favour of the Sinhalese community. The 1956 “Sinhala Only” Act made knowledge of Sinhala essential for employment in the public service. This disadvantaged the Tamils who felt regarded as second class citizens. Many of them were not adequately competent in Sinhala. Under the 1972 Constitution, the constitutional safeguard of section 29 was removed, the Senate was abolished (apparently to get socialistic legislation passed without impediments).

Sri Lanka has been governed since 1972 under constitutions of 1972 and 1978 that the representatives of the Tamil minority did not accept. A presidential system was imposed on them without their consent. The separation of powers of the legislature, executive and judiciary were reduced, with much power being conferred on the President. In the 1977 general elections, the Northern province voted with an overwhelming majority for the Tamil United Liberation Front, TULF, that had opted for a separate state of Tamil Eelam with the Vaddukodai Resolution of 1976 to be achieved by peaceful and democratic means.

The civil rights of the opposition leaders including of Mrs Sirima Banadaranaike the Opposition candidate for the Presidency were removed by the reigning President who thus got a second term as President in 1982. The Referendum of 1982 extended the life of the Parliament of 1977 for another six years, through a rather rigged election. The younger generation of both Sinhala and Tamil communities were thereby excluded from facing the electorate and entering Parliament. This was a real distortion of democracy that led to the frustration of the youth and to the violent insurrections of the LTTE and of the JVP in 1987-1989.

The efforts at a peaceful resolution of the ethnic issue between the Government and the moderate Tamil leadership led by S.J.V.Chelvanayagam as through the Bandaranaike –Chelvanayagam Pact of 1957 and the Dudley Senanayake Chelvanayagam Pact after 1965 were sabotaged by the opposition of the Opposition party led by J.R.Jayawardena against the B-C Pact, and of Mrs. Sirima Banadaranaike and the Left Alliance in the opposition then. A similar inter-party rivalry has been preventing a peaceful democratic power-sharing within a united Sri Lanka even at later efforts through the Indo –Lanka Accord of 1987, and further on in the 1990s and at present in the 21st century. (The Island – Nov 15, 2007)

Continued tomorrow

Ceylon 1931-1948


In 1931 the Donoughmore Constitution was introduced, which foresaw the majority of seats in the new State Council (succeeding the Legislative Council) being contested in elections, based on universal franchise. These elections were boycotted by the JYC, a boycott successful on the Tamil-majority Jaffna peninsula; 1934 by-elections were held in this region. General elections again were held in 1936.
With most of the Straits Settlements falling under Japanese occupation in 1942, Cocos Islands in that year were laced under the administration of Ceylon; in 1946 they were placed under the administration of Singapore.
The visit of Lord Soulbury to Ceylon in 1945 set in motion a process aiming at the transfer of authority. On Nov. 12th 1947 the British and the Ceylonese governments signed an agreement according to which Ceylon would be given a fully responsible government; in December 1947 the British parliament passed the Ceylon Independence Act; on February 10th 1948, Ceylon was granted independence and dominion status within the Commonwealth of Nations.

Political Organizations 

In 1935, the Lanka Sama Samaja Party, a Trotskyist Communist party, was founded, the first Ceylonese political organization to demand the island’s independence. Following the end of WW II, the LSSP organized strikes in order to press for independence.

The Economy 

The major export product was tea. The Great Depression affected Ceylon; tea production had peaked in 1933 at 115,000 metric tons, sank to 96,000 -99,000 metric tons in 1934 to 1938, then to rise again to an average 120,000 metric tons in the war years and to 137,000 metric tons in 1948.
B.R. Mitchell has established a table showing the total values of exports and imports in aggregate current values. Exports exceeded imports throughout the period from 1931 to 1948; total annual export figures, from a low of 189 million Rupees in 1932, averaged 260 million Rupees in 1934-1936, then to rise in through the war years to 680 million in 1944 and on to 1011 million in 1948 (IHS pp.543, 549).
In 1937/1938, state expenses amounted to 7,340,497 Rupees, state revenues to 7,182,033 Rupees.
In 1941, the Ceylon Rupee, while still at par with the Indian Rupee, was declared a separate currency.

Modern Infrastructure. In 1937, Ceylon had a total of 1,530 km of railroads, 28,500 km of roads. In 1938, 20,181 cars, 2,571 buses and 3,924 trucks were registered.
The University College of Ceylon of 1921 was upgraded to the University of Ceylon in 1942. In 1947 Ceylon Airways (soon renamed Air Ceylon) was established.

Social History. In 1931, Ceylon had 5,312,548 inhabitants. Of the 1921 population, 1,928,000 were listed as lowland Sinhalese, 1,089,000 as Kandy Sinhalese, 518,000 as Ceylon Tamils, 603,000 as Indian Tamils, 28,000 as burghers (a Dutch expression refering to Ceylon residents of European descent).

Cultural History. The Ceylon National Olympic Committee was formed in 1937 and recognized by IOC in the same year.

World War II, 1942 to 1945. During World War II, Ceylon, as featured in the movie “Bridge on the River Kwai”, was of major logistical importance for the British. In 1942 the Japanese airforce bombed Colombo and Trincomalee. In 1944 a Japanese submarine was to land four Ceylonese members of Hikari Kikan, trained in Penang, on their native island, with the task of reporting intelligence via a radio transmitter. However, they were landed near Madras in southern India, where they were caught and executed by the British. Overall, Ceylon was firmly under British control and far away from military action; from her ports at Colombo and Trincomalee the fleet recapturing Malaya and Singapore from the Japanese in 1945 set out.

Cocos Islands in 1942 experienced the mutiny of 15 members of the Ceylon Defence Force under Captain G. Fernando; the mutiny was quickly subdued.
Ceylon Independent, 1948-1956

Political Status and Administration.

In 1948, the Dominion of Ceylon was granted full independence. The constitution foresaw Parliamentary Democracy, an element completely new to a country which had been governed by a paternalistic-authoritarian colonial administration until 1931.
In the elections of 1948, the United National Party (UNP) gained 42 out of 95 seats. In December 1952, PM Don Stephen Senanayake died in a car accident; he was succeeded by his son Dudley Senanayake. The UNP won the elections of 1952. In the elections of 1956, the UNP suffered defeat; S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike of the Socialist M.E.P. became PM.

Foreign Policy 

Upon independence in 1948, Ceylon joined the Commonwealth of Nations; the country joined the United Nations only in 1955; the country’s bid for membership in 1948 had been vetoed by the USSR. In 1949, the Ceylonese government refused a Dutch request to be allowed to use the ports of Ceylon by Dutch vessels carrying troops and arms to Indonesia (Britannica BoY 1950). In 1950 Ceylon established diplomatic relations with the PRC.

In July 1950 the Colombo Conference was held, adopting the Colombo Plan, a Commonwealth framework aiding in the economic development of member nations. In 1954 the Conference of Asian Prime Ministers was held in Colombo; Ceylon, while maintaining Commonwealth membership, adopted a policy of neutrality, the role of a “Switzerland of the East” (Britannica BoY 1955). At the Bandung Conference of 1955, the Ceylonese PM John Kotelawala spoke of the threat of expanding Communism. The issue of those Tamils on Ceylon treated as foreign nationals, hence citizens of the Republic of India, continued to be a burden on Ceylonese-Indian relations.

Domestic Policies

A major problem for the young democracy was the ethnic situation of the island : the population was split into two groups, the majority Sinhalese who adhered to Buddhism (c.69 %) and the minority Tamil (c.21 %), descendants of immigrants from southeast India (Tamil Nadu) who had come to Ceylon during the last 3 centuries and were concentrated in the north and northeast of the island, who adhered to Hinduism. Of the 1,412,000 Tamils on Ceylon in 1948, 562,000 were recent arrivals from the Indian mainland employed on the plantations (Britannica BoY 1949).

The Economy

In the early years of independence, the government promoted Ceylonese replacing Europeans in managerial and executive positions in the economy. The Sri Lankan economy depended heavily on the export of three items, tea, rubber and coconuts.

Tea production was expanded from 140,000 metric tons in 1949 to 220,000 metric tons in 1963, then to stagnate at 200,000 to 220,000 metric tons annually. Tourism grew in importance during the 1950es. From independence, the government pursued the policy of subsidizing rice, with fixed rations per person. Ceylon needed to import rice, as domestic production did not suffice to meet domestic consumption.
B.R. Mitchell has established a table showing the total values of exports and imports in aggregate current values. Exports exceeded imports throughout the period from 1948 to 1956 with the exception of 1952.
The First Five Year Plan had been implemented in 1951-1955, the Second in 1956-1960. The modernization of the Port of Colombo had been completed in 1956.

Tamil-Sinhalese Relations

An increase in the price of rice in 1953, following the withdrawal of subsidies, caused riots in August 1953 Sinhalese nationalists regarded themselves the only original inhabitants of Ceylon, the Tamils as foreigners. In 1949 Ceylonese Tamils who had immigrated more recently were disenfranchised.

Social History.

From the mid-1950es onward, Ceylon suffered from labour unrest. The port of Colombo, vital to the country’s economy, was often targeted by strikes.

Sri Lanka: War on Tamils escalates

Chris Slee

1 November 2008

Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes in recent months as the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) attempts to capture areas of northern Sri Lanka held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a group that has fought for 30 years for self-determination for the Tamil people.

Kilinochchi, a town in northern Sri Lanka that was the administrative centre for all LTTE-controlled territory, is being subjected to aerial and ground artillery bombardment, and most of its population has been evacuated to LTTE-controlled rural areas.

United Nations agencies and international aid organisations withdrew from the town in September, despite attempts by the local people to block their departure. Their presence had been seen as providing some deterrent to massive bombardment or other atrocities by the SLA, which has been slowly advancing towards the town.

The displaced people lack sufficient food, medical supplies and other necessities. Aid organisations attempting to bring supplies into LTTE-controlled areas are often blocked by the SLA.

For example, three trucks loaded with medical supplies were held up for several weeks during October. Two were eventually allowed to proceed on October 27, but the third, with a cargo of oxygen cylinders needed by Kilinochchi hospital was, not allowed through.


The roots of the conflict lie in a long history of state oppression of the Tamils, which eventually led some Tamil youth to take up arms against the government.

When the British granted formal independence to Sri Lanka in 1948, they handed over power to politicians drawn mainly from the upper classes of the majority Sinhala ethnic group. These politicians used racism as a tool to divide the working class.

They also used it as a weapon in their struggles with each other: different Sinhalese politicians would compete to show that they were the strongest defenders of the Sinhalese people. This resulted in the adoption of racist policies and the stirring up of antagonism against the Tamil minority.

Sinhalese was declared the sole official language of Sri Lanka, a move which made speakers of the Tamil language second-class citizens. Knowledge of Sinhalese was made a prerequisite for employment in the public service, thereby excluding most Tamils from government jobs.

Discrimination against Tamils was also applied in education.

For many years Tamils opposed such discrimination by peaceful means, including demonstrations, sit-ins and participation in elections.

But peaceful protests were met by violent repression, carried out by the police and army as well as racist Sinhalese mobs.

There was a series of pogroms against Tamils, culminating in the murder of an estimated 3000 people in the government-instigated riots of July 1983.

The growing repression led to the growth of Tamil nationalist sentiment. In 1977, the Tamil United Liberation Front won 17 seats in the Sri Lankan parliament on a platform of self-determination for Tamils.

The repression of peaceful protest led many Tamil youths to turn to violent methods. The LTTE was formed in 1972 and carried out its first major armed action in 1978.

After the 1983 pogrom, the LTTE gained increased support from the Tamil community and dramatically stepped up its war against the SLA.

The government forces were unable to defeat the LTTE, despite brutal repression including numerous massacres of Tamil civilians.

In 1987, India sent a “peace-keeping force” to Sri Lanka, with the ostensible aim of protecting the Tamils from SLA violence. However the Indian government did not want to see the creation of an independent Tamil state, and the Indian army soon began repressing the LTTE.

The Indian army withdrew in 1990, and war broke out again between the LTTE and the SLA.

In February 2002, a ceasefire agreement was signed between the LTTE and the United National Party government of Ranil Wickremesinghe. But once again the government not only failed to offer the Tamil people a just solution that could guarantee a lasting peace; it failed even to fully implement the provisions of the ceasefire agreement.

For example, those provisions requiring the SLA to disarm pro-government paramilitary groups. These groups continued to exist and carry out, in collusion with the SLA, acts of violence and intimidation against LTTE supporters.

The UNP government, which claimed to want peace but failed to deliver, was replaced in 2004 by a more openly chauvinist government, led by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

Following the election of the SLFP, violence escalated into full-scale war. On January 2 this year, the government formally renounced the ceasefire agreement that by this stage only existed on paper.

LTTE-controlled areas have been subjected to aerial and artillery bombardment, as well as blockades preventing food supplies and other necessities from entering these areas.

There have been a series of massacres by the armed forces. For example, on June 17, 2006, in the fishing village of Pesalai, Sri Lankan Navy troops threw grenades into a church where Tamil refugees were sheltering.

On August 4 in the town of Muttur, 17 aid workers (most of them Tamils) employed by the French charity Action Contre le Faim (Action Against Hunger) were murdered in cold blood by the SLA.

On August 14 in Mullaitivu, an orphanage was bombed by the Sri Lankan air force, killing more than 50 children.

Repression against Tamils has intensified, not only in the traditional Tamil areas of the north and east but also in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo.

Many Tamils have fled to Colombo, both to escape the fighting in the north and east and for economic reasons. But the renewed war has led to increased harassment of Tamils in Colombo.

Police have carried out sweeps through Colombo suburbs, questioning Tamils about their reasons for being in the capital. Military checkpoints have been established at key junctions throughout the city.

On June 7, 2007, 500 Tamils were forcefully expelled from Colombo and sent to the north and east.

Military offensive

During 2007, the SLA carried out an offensive to capture the LTTE-controlled areas in the eastern part of the island of Sri Lanka and claimed to have been completely successful.

During 2008, the SLA has been attempting to capture the LTTE-controlled areas in the north of the island and to wipe out the LTTE altogether.

The SLA has made some progress in capturing territory in the north but is meeting fierce resistance. In August alone, 155 SLA soldiers were killed and 983 wounded, according to figures given by Sri Lankan PM Ratnasiri Wickremanayake.

While forced to retreat in some areas, the LTTE has carried out attacks behind SLA lines. In the east, supposedly under firm government control, ambushes and attacks on SLA bases continue to occur.

On September 9, the LTTE carried out an attack on the SLA military headquarters for the Vanni district, killing 14 soldiers and causing severe damage. This attack prompted the UNP opposition to question the government’s claims of progress in the war.

According to UNP parliamentarian Lakshman Seneviratne, “The Air Force base and the Police HQ of Vavuniya was attacked using heavy artillery. [The] Radar defence system is completely destroyed. This happened in an area that [the] government has always claimed has been liberated long ago, and cleared of any LTTE activity.”

The LTTE has used light aircraft to carry out a series of bombing raids on government targets, including an airbase and oil installations in Colombo, and a military base in the northern Jaffna peninsula.

On October 28, the Tamil Eelam Air Force attacked a military base in Mannar province in the north of the island, as well as a power station in Colombo in the south.


The United States and other imperialist powers have always supported the Sri Lankan state against the Tamil struggle.

They have supplied weapons and military training to the SLA. Israel has supplied Kfir jets to the Sri Lankan air force, which has used them to bomb towns such as Kilinochchi.

The US has long banned the LTTE as a “terrorist organisation”, while ignoring the campaign of state terrorism carried out by the SLA, except for an occasional mild criticism of some human rights violations.

More recently, the European Union has also banned the LTTE.

But while essentially supporting the Sri Lankan government, the imperialist powers have at times tried to pressure it into granting some concessions to the Tamils, in the hope of winning them away from the LTTE.

Western governments sometimes criticise the Sri Lankan government for some of its human rights violations.

In December 2007, the US Senate imposed restrictions on the sale of military equipment to Sri Lanka, though the equipment for the purpose of “maritime and air surveillance and communications” was excluded from the ban.

The recent partial restrictions on military supplies to Sri Lanka are an exception to the longstanding US policy of full support to the Sri Lankan government’s war effort.

US officials have made their position very clear. In November 2006, US Under-Secretary of State Nicholas Burns said: “We are not neutral … We support the [Sri Lankan] government … We believe the government has a right to try to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country.”

Nevertheless, the Sri Lankan government has not relied solely on the US and its allies for support. It has bought weapons from a range of sources, including China, India, Pakistan, and Russia.

Ultimately, it is the government’s denial of the right of Tamils to self-determination that remains the main obstacle to peace.

The SLA is an army of occupation in Tamil areas. Its removal from these areas is a precondition for peace.

Self-determination need not lead to total separation of predominantly Tamil areas from the Sri Lankan state. The LTTE has stated its willingness to consider a federal structure.

But the crucial point is that the unity of Sri Lanka must be voluntary. “Unity” can not be imposed by the SLA through violent repression of the Tamil people.

[A significantly longer version of this article can be found at Links.]

From: International News, Green Left Weekly issue #773 5 November 2008.

Revisiting Sinhala nationalist mindset

[TamilNet, Monday, 16 August 2010, 00:15 GMT]
As long as Sinhala nationalist mindset deny the antiquity and right of Eezham Tamil nation in the island and unable to come out with appropriate political models, no ‘reconciliation’ will be possible and there will be only subjugation. The Tamils don’t deny the Sinhala nation in the island but they are not reciprocated. It has become a must that the national question be decided with secession for any genuine reconciliation at least in the future. The ‘kohomba kankariya’ model of the past envisaged by some academics, who want to be ‘Tamil and Sri Lankan,’ will not work under current norms of Sinhala nationalism. If the current subjugation of Tamils continues there won’t be anyone in the island in future even to read what these academics have written in Tamil, says an academic of Tamil studies in Jaffna.

To understand the nationalist mindset of even seemingly liberal Sinhalese, the academic in Jaffna cited the following paragraph written by a Sinhala journalist who recently visited Jaffna.

“Sri Lankans in the North have undergone language and cultural replacement by acquiring the Tamil language, dress, Hinduism and cultural behaviour because of their contact with South Indian colonialism from 992 AD onwards”, says Sinhala journalist Dushy Ranetunge, ‘Revisiting Jaffna’.

“The place names, the numerous Bo-Trees and ancient Buddhist remains indicate that the people of Jaffna were Buddhists from about 400BC till approximately 992 AD, but despite them acquiring the Tamil language, culture and Hinduism, even today, they continue to perform some of their religious rituals under Bo-trees as they did so many generations ago”.

“In Jaffna, there are to the present day over a thousand “Sinhalese” place names, which survive in a Tamil garb, such as Aliyawala(i), kodigama(m), Weligama(m) etc”.

“This indicates that rather than the wholesale displacement of the population, there has been a gradual Tamilisation. Recent DNA testing has also indicated that Sri Lankan Tamils are genetically closer to the Sinhalese than they are to South Indian Tamils”, Dushy Ranetunge further said.

Dusty Ranetunge’s article was ironically titled “Sinhala nationalist mindset seems incapable of comprehending what Tamils are articulating”.

Dushy Ranetunge can write a thesis on how the Indus Civilisation itself is Sinhala-Buddhist, since the worship of the Bo-tree is seen in its seals, commented the Jaffna academic. “If it was the wish of the Eezham Tamils to accept and denounce Buddhism at particular stages of their historical discourse why should there be any qualms about it? Pakistan has so many Buddhist sites. Will Dushy tell them to become Buddhists again?”

Sometimes back a Sinhala engineer-turned academic and his academic wife who came to Jaffna were telling the Jaffna university students about ‘Sinhala-Buddhist’ past of Jaffna, told the academic in Jaffna. Even before the Mu’l’livaaykkal war, this engineer-turned academic was advocating for settling Sinhala soldiers and their families in the ‘conquered’ land of the Tamils.

If these journalists and academics genuinely dig into their own past and if they seriously investigate into the etymology of what they think as Sinhala place names of their own core Sinhala land, they could find out what ‘language replacement’ they had gone through to become Sinhalicised and what distant influences and fascinations caused that language replacement, the Jaffna academic said.

“It is repulsive to see these people mutilating and desecrating the names of places which people of the land coined through their long interaction with their environment, such as Aazhiya-va’lai, meaning the coastal enclave. Have they ever thought how did Sinhala get the word Weli for sand?”

“Have they ever tried to comprehend how the names are pronounced and spelt in Tamil and what they really mean? Which language is the place name Ko’la Patuna (Kozhu-pattinam, meaning the port-town at the point) found in the garb of Pali in the chronicles, where the Asokan Buddhist emissaries landed in the island, and then who might have been living there at that time?”

Have they ever tried testing their DNA with the people in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, and then compare it with the ‘Aryans’ of their imagination, the academic asked.

“But this bunch of people are not genuinely interested in History. By hook or by crook, by war or by peace, by threat or by sugar-coated approaches, Eezham Tamils have to be subjugated, made to feel inferior in culture to the Sinhalese and be Sinhalicised for the ultimate conquest of Sinhala nationalism of the island. They can rather tell their intentions plainly without victimising history”, the Jaffna academic commented.

“They will have a free go as Tamils are gagged and as there are ‘counterinsurgency’ media at their disposal to engineer deceptive ‘reconciliation’ for the ultimate conquest”.

Some Tamil academics cite folk discourses of past in the island such as the Kohomba Kankariya in which a Tamil folk practice has been adapted as a Sinhalese one and try to justify the possibility of being a Tamil and a Sri Lankan at the same time. The present avatar of the Sinhala nationalism seems to be having no effect on the edification of their academic fallacies, was the comment of the Jaffna academic.


The place-names of villages in the Jaffna peninsula which sounds Sinhalese are actually the derivatives of the Elu language spoken by the original inhabitants of the Island the Nagar and Yakkhas. The Sinhala language evolved from Elu with a superstructure of Pali, Sanskrit and Thamil.

The place names like Panandurai is pure Thamil. Gomarangadewela is Komarankadavai. Kelenia is former Kalyani.

The kings who ascended the throne after Vijaya bore Thamil names like Abhayan, Mutha Sivan, Theesan etc.

The Tamil and Tamil blooded Queens & Kings of Sri Lanka. Tamils are the rulers of this country for thousands of years. With so many Tamil rulers and history, the Sinhalese must be out of their mind to claim the entire country for themselves.


0. KUVENI, Queen of Eelam succeeded her father as Queen and ruled the island before the arrival of Vijaya ( Not enough evidence to prove Kuveni`s language, based on her Naga heritage, most probably she was a Tamil.

7. MUTASIVA 367-307 BC

8. DEVANAMPIYA THEESAN 307-267 BC second Son of King Mutasiva

9. UTTIYA 267-257 BC Brother of King Devanampiya Theesan

10. MAHASIVA 257-247 BC Second (younger) brother of King
Devanampiya Tissa

11. SURATHEESAN 247-237 BC Younger brother of King Mutasiva

SENA & GUTTILA 237-215 BC Two Tamil Chief`s, killed King Suratissa and captured the throne at Anuradhapura. Sinhala rule was re-established in 215 BC

14. ELLALAN/ELARA 205-161 BC (the Just)

A Tamil Prince of the Chola Dynasty from South India ruled the country for 44 years THE LONGEST RULER IN THE HISTORY OF SRI LANKA. During this period of rule by the Tamil King Elara who ruled from Anuradhapura, the capital of Raja Rata (King`s Territory), there were two Sub-Divisions of the Island known as Maya Rata to the South West and Ruhuna to the South East. The tank situated in the Northern Province called Vanunik Kulam was also constructed by him. He ruled over Lanka for forty-four years.

22. PULAHATHA 103-100 BC Tamil Chief Reigned supreme for three years and was murdered by his Chief Minister, Bahiya.

23. BAHIYA 100-98 BC Chief Minister of Pulahatha Ruled for two years with the Chief Panayamara as Prime Minister who also murdered him and took power.

24. PANAYAMARA/PANAYAMARAN 98-91 BC Prime Minister of Bahiya Reigned for seven years and was murdered by his Chief Minister, Piliyamara

25. PILAYAMARA/ PILLAYMAR 91 BC Chief Minister of Panayamara Reigned for seven months and was murdered by his Chief Minister, Dathiya

26. DATHIYA 90-88 BC Chief Minister of Pilayamara Reigned for two years before he was killed

31. Queen ANULA 47-41 BC first Queen of Lanka SHE WAS ATTRACTED TO TAMIL MEN. She made Siva, the palace guard as her consort. Subsequently she poisoned Siva and lived with an TAMIL carpenter, Vatuka, and many other Tamil men.

69. PANDU 428-433 AD

70. PARINDA 433 AD Son of Pandu, second Tamil ruler

71. KHUDA PARINDA 433-449 AD Younger brother of Pandu, Third Tamil ruler during this period

72. TIRITARA 449 AD Fourth Tamil ruler was defeated and slain by Dhatusena within 2 months

73. DATHIYA 449-452 AD Fifth Tamil ruler – was defeated and slain by Dhatusena after a war lasting 3 years

74. PITHIYA 452 AD Sixth Tamil ruler

The latter Anuradhapura Period

76. KASYAPA 470-488 AD – son of King Dhatusena by a Pallava woman, killed his father and moved his capital from Anuradhapura to Sigiraya. He was later dethroned by his exiled brother, Mogallana, who returned the capital to Anuradhapura

102. MANAVAMMA 672-707 AD Son of Kassapa I, a descendant of Silamegahavanna – In the seventh century A.D., Tamil influence became firmly embedded in the island`s culture when Sinhalese Prince Manavamma seized the throne with Pallava assistance. The dynasty that Manavamma established was heavily indebted to Pallava patronage and continued for almost three centuries. During this time, Pallava influence extended to architecture and sculpture, both of which bear noticeable Hindu motifs.

Rule of Tamil Pandyas in the Anuradhapura 846-866

129. RAJADIRAJA THE GREAT 1007-1019 AD Chola (Tamil) Administration


141. PARAKRAMA BAHU I 1140-1173 AD Grandson of Vijaya Bahu I, Prince of Royal Blood, Pandyan descent, son of Manabharana – Vijaya Bahu`s sister, Mitta and TAMIL PANDIYA PRINCE.

148. QUEEN LILAVATI/THRILOKASUNTHARI 1184-1187 AD Widow of King Parakrama Bahu I Queen Lilavati belonged to the Pandya line on her father`s side. The country was peaceful and prosperous and the Queen was able to devote her time to the development of literature, music, drama and art. She ruled for three years wisely and well. She was removed from the throne by her co-Ministers

153. QUEEN LILAVATI 1196-1197 AD – Widow of King Parakrama Bahu She was placed on the throne for the second time by General Camunakka and he ruled the country through her for one year.

155. QUEEN LILAVATI 1197-1198 AD – Widow of King Parakrama Bahu Ascended the throne for the third time. She was of undiluted Royal blood and a woman of dignity who commanded the respect and admiration of those with whom she came in contact. In the seventh month of her reign, King Parakrama of Pandu invaded Lanka and deposed her.

156. PARAKRAMA PANDIAN (Parakum Pandi) 1198-1201 South Indian Tamil (Pandyan) He ascended the throne deposing Queen Lilavati. He produced himself to be a wise and capable monarch who administered justice strictly in accordance with the law of the land.
The year 1233, The Tamils of Jaffna kingdom, led by a Prince named Chandra Bhanu, son of the ruler of Jaffna, invaded the country in the eleventh year of Panditha Parakrama Bahu`s reign.

163. CHANDRA BHANU 1270 AD Son of the ruler of Yapa Patuna (Jaffnapatnam) He captured the Fort of Yapahuva but was deprived of his victory by the Pandya Emperor Kulasekera.
164. PARAKRAMA BAHU III 1270-1275 Nephew of Buvaneka Bahu I, son of Vijaya Bahu IV His mother was a sister of TAMIL Kulasekera Pandiyam. He was established as King of Polonnaruwa. During his reign, the island was invaded by a Pandyan army led by one Chakravarti.

168. VIJAYA BAHU V (Jaya Bahu) 1307 AD Second son of Chandra Banu of Jaffnapatnam Vijaya Bahu was reigning in the north of the Malayan Peninsula, retreated to Anuradhapura, where he met Parakrama bahu IV.

174. PARAKRAMA BAHU VI 1410-1462 AD Prince named Sepanana (Jayapala) descended from Parakrama Bahu, the third son of Chandra Banu of Yapa Patuna (Jaffnapatnam), and whose mother, Sunethradevi, was a daughter of the daughter of Parakrama Bahu V of Dedigama
The king had two adopted sons, named Sapumal Kumara and Ambulugala Kumara.

175. VIRA PARAKRAMA BAHU VII 1462 AD Jaya Bahu son of Parakrama Bahu II`s natural daughter, Ulakudaya Devi (TAMIL) Jaya Bahu, on ascension to the throne assumed the name Vira Parakrama Bahu. He was not allowed to occupy the throne for many days. His uncle Sapumal Kumara hastened to Kotte from Jaffna and put him to death.

176. BHUVANEKA BAHU VI 1462-1469 AD SENPAKA PERUMAL (Sapumal Kumara) son of Parakrama Bahu VI After putting to death Vira Parakrama Bahu VII, Sapumal Kumara ascended the throne under the title Bhuvaneka Bahu VI.


Dear All

The dateline is fairly accurate. The placing of  Thamil immigrants to 3rd century BC appears reasonable.

There are no written records as to the exact time of Thamil migration. The indigenous people who lived on the island appear to be the Raachchathar Iyakkar and Nagar. The Nagar though Dravidians spoke a different language. All these groups got absorbed by immigrants (both Tamils and North Indians).

Devanampiya Theesan is a Naga king and a Hindu before conversion. Many Naga Kings ruled from Anuradhapura and Kelaniya. Mahavamsa is silent on the language Deevanampiya Theesan spoke to Arahat Mahinda.

Duttu Gemenu is a Naga from his father and mother sides. There were many Tamils fighting on the side of King Dutthagamani

which evidence that Ruhunu was in the hoary past the homeland of Tamils. The Hindu element in King Dutthagamani prompted

him to pray to the Dravidian god at Kathir Kamam to endow him with the strength to defeat King Elara in battle.

According to Dr Susantha Goonetileke, during the pre-historic period, Lanka and South India had been inhabited by a common group of people with a similar culture, economic structure and technological base.

According to Mahawamsa, there were Hindu temples in Lanka from pre-Buddha Times  Nagulesweram in the North, Thiruketheesweram and Munnesweram in the West, Murugan and Vishnu temples in the South and Konesweram in the East.

  1. W. Codrington was of opinion that the temple of Konesweram was more than 3000 years old. Chadrasekesweram, a temple dedicated to Lord Siva in Hambantota is no more, due to lack of patronage and subsequent neglect.

The Sinhalese emerged the dominant people due to the process of assimilation mostly Tamils and Nagas.

Tamils of Ruhunu, Rajarata and Mayarata became Sinhalese after 246 BC, i.e. during the reign of Sinhalese and Thamil kings.

Thamil Buddhists who escaped persecution by Hindus during the Bhakti era (7-10th century) eventually became Sinhalese.

The Sinhalese of the South Western coastal belt – Salagama, Karawa and Durawa – were Tamils brought down to Ceylon during colonial rule.

Colvin R de Silva, C.P.de Silva are Salagama by caste. Once Colvin  R de Silva confessed in parliament that he is not ashamed to own up his Thamil ancestry.

Sinhalese soldiers raised Thamil armies from Thamil Nadu to fight rival claimants to the thrown.  The Chola troops who invaded Ceylon in the 10th  and 11th century eventually settled down and got absorbed into the dominant Sinhalese race.

When Sinhalese (sometimes half- Sinhalese) took Pandya princess as their brides, the latter came with a retinue of Thamil maids, artisans, 0riests. They all became Sinhalese in due course.

The Catholic Paravar brought to Ceylon and settled in Negombo, Chilaw, Kochchikade and Kalpitiya became Sinhalese when the medium of education in Catholic schools was switched from Thamil to Sinhalese by Catholic Bishop Edmond Peiries.

Even today many Hill country Tamils are getting married to Sinhalese and becoming Sinhalese. Many Hill country Tamils are studying in Sinhalese schools for lack of Thamil schools. The ruling Sinhala class is not worried about Hill country Tamils since they will one day become Sinhalese!

Many prominent Sinhalese families like J.R.Jayawardne, Bandaranaike, Rajapakse have Thamil origin.

Names like Ratwatte, Balabetibanda, Morogoda shows stolen Thamil identity. There are no nayakes in North India.

Senanayake, Bandaranayake, Dahanayake, Alahakone, Kulathunge, Gooneratne, Goonesinghe are obviously Thamil names.

Rev Fr. S. Gnanapragasar (Philologist) says there are more than 4000 Tamil words in the Sinhala vocabulary.

Amma, Maama, Aapa, Idiaapa, Pittu, Kudai, Kadai, Panthu, Padi, Murunga, Bandakka, kuppameni, Adathoda, Hatta, Seruppu, Malai, Padakkama, Jeela, Para etc.


When I was attached to the Dehiwela – Mt.Lavania  Municipal Council as Cheif Accountant in the seventies one day a gentleman came to see me regarding the settlement of his electricity bill. He wanted time to settle the bill. This was at a time when the notorious Inspector Bastiampillai was in the news. Bastiampillai’s family lived in a house close to the Municipal office. When

I checked his name it read “Veerappuli.” Taken aback I asked him whether he understood the significance of his name.

He said yes – he belonged to a small Thamil community settled not very long ago in the south and in course of time took the identity of Sinhalese.

I have the book Tamils in Sri Lanka – A Comprehensive History written by Murugar Gunansigham, but I have not read it yet.


Social democracy and the turn it took

By Dr.Vickramabahu Karunaratne

Politics of social democracy in Lanka has a long history going back to the days of A.E.Goonesinha. Alexander Ekanayake Goonesinha (May 1, 1891 – August 1, 1967) was a pioneering trade union leader known as the ‘Father of the Labour Movement’ in Lanka. He was the founder of the Ceylon Labour Party(CLP), Sri Lanka’s first labour organization and was the first Ceylonese mayor of Colombo. Also, e served as a minister of state and chief government whip in the first parliament of Ceylon. Goonesinha’s political career marked the formation of the Ceylon Labour Party(CLP), in October 1928, with himself as president, and Proctor Marshall Perera as Secretary, and Messrs. C.E. Corea, C.H. Fernando, C.W.W. Kannangara, George E. de Silva and the late President Ranasinghe Premadasa, in the Committee. The CLP was formed, after having had contacts with the Labour Party of Great Britain earlier.

In fact when Ramsay McDonald, the British Labour Party Leader and Prime Minister visited Ceylon in 1926; Goonesinha received him on behalf of the Ceylonese labour movement. He also appeared on behalf of the labour movement at the Donoughmore Commission for Universal Franchise. The Labour Party was the first experiment with social democracy in Lanka but it rapidly became a failure. Unfortunately, it was from its inception a prodigy of the British Labour Party(BLP), though it stood firmly for universal franchise. By then the BLP has become an instrument of British imperialism. Hence Ramsey Mc Donald influenced A.E to oppose the demand for independence and instead to campaign for a federation. In that scenario, he Marxist Left, in a few years, replaced the Labour party in the trade union movement.
In the first parliamentary elections in 1947, the Left put together faired well in spite of factional fights. There were a general mood and expectations for a social democratic government. Details of the elections were: The United National Party won 42 seats with 751,432 votes; the Lanka Sama Samaja Party won 10 seats with 204,020votes; the Bolshevik-Sama Samaja Party won 5 seats with 113,193; the All Ceylon Tamil Congress 7 seats with 82,499; the Ceylon Indian Congress won 6 seats with 72,230; the Communist Party of Ceylon won 3 seats with 70,331, the Labour Party won one seat with 38,932, the Independents won 21 seats with 549,381; Total 95 with total valid votes being 1,887,364.

Strike waves

This was partly due to the fact that the LSSP and the BSP were both at the helm of the strike waves that occurred in the post-war period. In 1946 there was a brief reconciliation between the two factions. Hence the LSSP emerged as the main opposition party, with 10 seats. The BSP obtained 5 seats. They also had the support of the Ceylon Indian Congress (CIC – which later became the Ceylon Workers’ Congress) of Natesa Iyer, which had six members in parliament and of various independent members. Thus there was an opportunity to form a social democratic government. But the Left could not agree to form a passive Left block government. Thus the first opportunity for a social democratic government was lost. The Left came together again in 1963. The Communist Party, Lanka Sama Samaja Party and the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna formed the United Left Front. The ULF broke down in 1964 when then Prime Minister Bandaranaike offered ministerial posts to the LSSP and the CP.

Mobilize the masses

However, the ULF formation was able to mobilize the masses in a formidable manner. On May Day 63, addressing the huge crowd in Colombo Dr NM Perera said that if this could go on then a socialist regime could be established in a short time! While such extremism was expressed, they were not able to continue with the social-democratic front, the ULF. Mass support could be seen in Vivienne’s victory at the Borella by-election in 1964. She defeated both the UNP and the SLFP candidates to gain a seat, for social democracy. This time, the turn to coalition politics from the past sectarianism, demolished the march of social democracy.

The last attempt for a social democratic alternative came in 1987 when the left forces united to form the United Socialist Alliance under the leadership of Vijaya and Chandrika. The support could be seen in the by-elections for Polonnaruwa and Kundasale. Vijaya got defeated only by a very narrow margin. However, he was shot in the head with a Type 56 Assault rifle outside his residence in the outskirts of Colombo on February 16, 1988,by Lionel Ranasinghe alias Gamini, who later confessed to the murder on being questioned by the CID). Ranasinghe, in a 141-page statement, confessed that he was merely carrying out orders given to him by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna. His death is still mourned by the Left masses in Lanka.

In the presidential elections held subsequently in December 1988, Prime Minister Premadasa beat both the SLFP’s Sirimavo Bandaranaike and USA’s Ossie Abegunasekra in a close race marred by JVP violence. Social democracy faced the worst violence with so many candidates and supporters killed by the JVP. Vijaya was only the first victim. His death created a serious leadership crisis for the social democratic front. These elections also saw the debut of the United Socialist Alliance (USA), as a new political grouping set up in 1987 and composed of the SLFP’s former coalition partners on the opportunist left, including the CCP, the LSSP; the Nava Sama Samaja Party and the Sri Lanka Mahajana Party (SLMP) of Vijaya. The USA took 3 seats, while the SLFP won 67. However, the USA could not survive the attacks it faced from the Sinhala chauvinists and it collapsed in ‘91.

Today we are again in a serious dialogue on the subject of a social-democratic alternative. The crisis of the UNP precipitated a substantial trend that has joined the present discussion. It is the new reality of the present epoch.


Printed on January 4, 2011.
Posted on June 1, 2005.

The views and opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Ilankai Tamil Sangam, USA, Inc., its members, or its affiliates.

© 1996-2011 Ilankai Tamil Sangam, USA, Inc.
See sangam.org/legal for legal information.

Legal and Political Obstacles to Equality in Sri Lanka

The Need for a Self-Governing Regional Government

by Wakeley Paul*

The first British colonial Secretary to the Governor noted in 1798 that the island consisted of 3 separate legal Kingdoms: the Tamil Kingdom in the North & NE, Sinhalese in the low lands in the rest of the country, and the Kandyan Kingdom in the central mountains.  Of these, the British initially ruled only the first two.

The Portuguese and the Dutch ruled the Tamils and low country Sinhalese areas from 1548 to 1796 when the British arrived and took them over from the Dutch in 1796.  These two Kingdoms were like two separate and distinct nations, each with their own language, religion and customs, who were at war with each other prior to colonial domination.  They very rarely intermingled with each other.

No colonial power had conquered the Kandyan Kingdom until the British did so in 1815.

In 1832, the British united the three Kingdoms into one, for reasons of administrative convenience.  English was the official language of the whole island.

In 1923 there was a legislative council formed on ethnic lines on a proportional scale of two Sinhalese to one Tamil.

In November 1927, the Donoughmore Constitution stated as follows: “We have come to the conclusion that communal representation is a canker in the body politic.”  Representation on ethnic lines which had prevailed since unification in 1833 was abolished.

The Donoughmore Commission introduced and replaced communal representation with Universal Suffrage.  This meant the Sinhalese controlled all power and the right to legislate how they wished in the new legislative assembly called the State Council because they were the overall majority on the island.  Universal suffrage made us Tamils and others vulnerable to the tyranny of the majority.

Voting, however, continued on ethnic lines under universal suffrage.  The North voted for Tamils, the North East voted Tamils and Tamil-speaking Muslims, the south voted low country Sinhalese, the central mountain area voted Kandyan Sinhalese and the Indian plantation workers voted in their candidates.  Those candidates were trade union leaders of these plantation workers.  The workers were rooted to the estates that they worked on.

This caused Governor Caldecott to note astutely and colourfully in a 1939 memo to Malcolm McDonald, the Colonial Secretary,  “That all our fissures radiate from the vexed question of minority representation.”

In 1932 a resolution was introduced in the Legislative Council calling for the use of Tamil and Sinhalese in the judicial and civil administration of the country.  The mover of the motion had this to say: “One of the greatest handicaps the people suffer from is the language of the country.  It is most absurd for us to fight on behalf of the vast majority,….when we deny ourselves the right of conducting the government in the people’s languages.”  Today, the situation is reversed, and the clamour everywhere is to study English.

In 1944 a resolution was moved in the State Council demanding that Tamil and Sinhalese be made the official languages of the country.

In 1946, a select committee was appointed to study the question of the transition of the official language from English to Tamil and Sinhalese.

On September 20, 1944, the Soulbury Constitution was sent to Ceylon “to consult with various interests, including the minority communities, concerned with the question of constitutional reform.”  What they failed to observe was that the Tamils and Tamil-speaking Muslims were the regional majority in the North East.  If they had, the prospects of creating a Federal Constitution might have been considered, but at the time no-one petitioned them with such a request.

G.G. Ponnambalam, the leader of the Tamil Congress Party,  demanded instead, 50-50 representation in a single united parliament, 50% for the Sinhalese, and 50% for all the other communities, so as to prevent the non-Sinhalese being discriminated against and dominated by the majority community.

The Soulbury Commission was convinced that there were no proven acts of administrative discrimination and was optimistic that there were not likely to be any in the future.  This was a decision Lord Soulbury said he deeply regretted when he met a delegation of Tamil leaders in London in 1967.

On 8-9-1945, on the eve of Independence, the future Prime Minister and the leader of the  Ceylon Congress Party said this in the State Council to all the minority members:

“Do you want to be governed from London, or do you want as Ceylonese, o help Ceylon govern?   On behalf of the Congress, and on my own behalf,  I give the minority communities the sincere assurance that no harm need you fear at our hands in a free Lanka.”

However, the history of discrimination began to emerge almost immediately after the grant of Independence in February of 1948.

By the Ceylon Citizenship Act No 18 of 1948, one of the first to be enacted once Ceylon was granted Independence, one million Tamil plantation workers of Indian origin, who had voted in the 1931, 1936 and 1947 elections, and had resided on the island for at least two generations, were denied Ceylon Citizenship.

In the following year, by the Ceylon Parliamentary Elections Amendment Act No 48 of 1949,  the Tamil plantation workers were denied the right to vote.  They had voted in 8 Members of Parliament of their choice, out of a total of 96 in the first Parliament.  These seats would now be won by the Sinhalese in the plantation districts, strengthening the Sinhalese hold on parliamentary power still further.

The constitutionality of the Citizenship Act and the Parliamentary Elections Amendment Act was challenged, and the Trial Judge held that both Acts were ultra vires the Constitution.  He went further and ruled that the Act was in no sense an act to create the status of a citizen, but was, with the 1949 Act, part of a legislative plan to reduce the electoral power of the Indian community.

The Ceylon Supreme Court reversed this decision.

The pertinent provision of the Constitution which protected the Tamils and others from the tyranny of the Sinhalese Buddhist majority, was Section 29[2] of the Constitution, which read:

No law shall
[a] prohibit the free exercise of religion

[b]  make  persons of any community or religion liable to disabilities or restrictions to which persons of other communities or religions are not liable

[c] confer on persons of any community or religion any privilege or advantage which is not conferred on persons of other communities or religions.

It was argued that these two Acts violated b and c of the of Section 29[2] the Constitution.

The British Privy Council, which was the final Court of Appeal, in the case of Kodakan Pillai v Madanayake [1953] All England Reports 833, responded to these submissions as follows:

“It is a perfectly natural and legitimate function of a country to determine the composition of its nationals……the migratory habits of the Indian Tamils are facts….. which are directly relevant to  their suitability to be citizens of Ceylon and have nothing to do with them as a community”

In response to the argument that the underlying purpose of the legislation was to discriminate against them as a community by denying them the right to vote and consequently increasing the power of the Sinhalese voters in the region, the Court replied as follows:

“The principle that the legislature cannot do indirectly, what it cannot do directly, has always been recognized by the Board. ut the court will not be astute enough to attribute to any legislature, motives or purposes or objects which are beyond its power. IT MUST BE SHOWN AFFIRMATIVELY BY THE PARTY CHALLENGING  THE STATUTE, WHICH ON ITS FACE IS intra vires, that it is enacted as part of a plan to effect indirectly, something the legislature had no power to do directly”

How does one show the motivations of a government except for the inevitable consequences that flowed from it?  Could anyone possibly have shown that members of the government openly admitted that their true motive was to strengthen the Sinhalese votes in the region, by denying the Tamils of Indian origin the right to vote as a community?  Regardless of their migratory habits, they were rooted in their estates for more than one generation.

Be that as it may, it did not take long before the Privy Council stated categorically that the Ceylon Parliament was not a Supreme legislative body like the British Parliament was; that it was bound and hemmed in by the provisions of the Soulbury Constitution that governed and
controlled it.

In Bribery Commissioner v Ranasinghe [1964] 2 All England Reports 785, the issue involved the separation of powers and the right of the government to vest administrative tribunals of its choice with judicial powers.  The issue was whether to do so also violated the rights of citizens under S 29[2] to have their cases heard by an independent judiciary rather than an administrative tribunal selected by the legislature.  This is what the Court said:

“Section 29[2] represents the solemn balance of rights between the citizens of Ceylon, the fundamental condition on which inter se they accepted the constitution, and these are therefore unalterable under the Constitution. They went on to say that S 29[2][2]had an”unalterable and entrenched status under the Constitution.”

In short, unlike other provisions of the Constitution which could be amended by a 2/3 majority, the provisions of Section 29[2] could not be so altered or abolished, except by the granters of that Independence, namely either “THE QUEEN IN COUNCIL  OR THE BRITISH PARLIAMENT WITH ROYAL ASSENT.”

What they said in effect was that the Section 29[2] safeguards were built into the Constitution by the Soulbury Commission as its cornerstone and were so accepted by the Sinhalese, Tamils and others and that  they had accepted the constitution with its limitations on the powers of the legislative branch as a condition of their independence.

The nation’s independence was subject to the limitations set out in Section 29[2].

These limitations led to some effective challenges regarding the constitutionality of significant and important items of legislation.

In 1956, the government passed the Sinhalese Only Act, which made Sinhalese the sole official language of the country.  The earlier commitments to make Sinhalese and Tamil the official languages was scrapped to favour the Sinhalese community alone.  This had a severe and drastic effect on the Tamil-speaking citizens in the NorthEast.  They could not compete equally for government jobs, or in the armed forces, both of which together were the largest employers in the country.  With increased nationalization of private businesses, the Sinhalese politicians gave jobs in the new government corporations to their own kind.

In the name of unity and one language, Sinhalese, the government was becoming increasingly jingoistic.  As one Member of Parliament expressed it,  “ONE LANGUAGE, TWO NATIONS, TWO LANGUAGES, ONE  NATION.”

Kodisweram, a Tamil government servant who was denied his yearly increments in salary for not qualifying in Sinhalese, challenged the constitutionality of THE SINHALESE ONLY ACT.

The District Judge upheld the challenge and ruled that the Act was ultra vires the Constitution as it violated the provisions of Section 29[2].

The Supreme Court dodged the Constitutional question and reversed on the ground that a government servant had no right under the law to sue the Crown for increments, which it had the exclusive right to deny at any time for any reason.

The Privy Council disapproved of the dodge and remanded the matter to the Supreme Court to consider the Constitutional issue raised.  72 New Law Reports 337.

The Supreme Court never got the opportunity to rule on that issue, as a maddened racist government abolished the Privy Council as the final Court of Appeal.  They went further, and unconstitutionally passed a new Constitution, which illegally excluded the entrenched provisions of Section 29[2].

Realizing that Parliament had no authority to abolish Section 29[2], the government formed an institution called a  “Constituent Assembly” to abolish the old Constitution and replace it with a new one.  The protections provided by Section 29[2] were omitted from this new document.

Under the Soulbury Constitution, which was the only valid Constitution in existence in 1972, this Constituent Assembly had no legislative powers, leave alone the right to abolish the existing Constitution and replace it with a new one.   The rule of law was ignored, and the tyranny of the majority prevailed.

In the meantime, the government indulged in other illegal activities, commencing as early as 1962. In January 1962, the top brass of the army and police plotted a coup against this same racist government.  The coup was foiled in the nick of time, and the officers were indicted for conspiracy to overthrow the government.

In order to ensure a conviction, the government passed a retrospective law called the Criminal Law [Special Provisions] Act No 1 of 1962, which allowed hearsay and other provisions to be permitted in court, which laws applied only to these defendants and to no one else.  The accused were convicted by a 3 Judge panel of the Supreme Court specially selected by the legislature to hear this case.  The Privy Council in Liyanage v Regina[1966] All England Law Reports 650 set aside the conviction, on the ground that legislation designed to encompass specified defendants violated the provisions of Section 29[2], by discriminating against them.  Legislation to be valid could not be designed so as to prejudice a specified group of individuals.

With the abolition, the right to appeal to the Privy Council and the illegal abolition of the protections of Section 29[2], the tyranny of the majority raged on.  Non-violent political protests against discriminatory government legislation were met with government-sponsored violence, sometimes by mobs inspired by the government, sometimes by the armed forces.  Non-violence was being crushed and defeated by violence.

The final blow came when the government denied Tamil youth equal access to the Universities.  By a program of affirmative action for the majority community, Sinhalese students were granted admission on lower grades than the Tamils had to achieve.  This sparked off a demand by the Tamil youth for Independence, and on 14 May 1976, the leaders of the newly formed United Tamil Front passed the Vaddukottai Resolution, which vowed to contest the next election with a demand for the establishment  of “a free Sovereign, Secular, Socialist State of Tamil Eelam.”

The new Prime Minister, Mr Jayawardena, ordered the army to wipe out every separatist on sight.  The Tamils now retaliated with the advent of the Liberation Tigers.  The government first passed Act No 16 of 1978, proscribing the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, followed by the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act No 48 of 1979.

Under the latter Act, Tamils could be arrested and detained for 18 months without charges, without lawyers, without access to family.  Disappearances and torture while in detention were rampant.  The anger, anxiety, frustration and disappointment experienced by the Tamils caused the Liberation Tigers to use violence to combat violence, and take all necessary steps to free the Tamils from the nightmare of tyranny imposed on the Tamil people by the J.R Jayawardena government.

The Tigers retaliated first as a guerrilla group and then as a full-fledged army.  When 13 soldiers were killed in the North in 1983, the government-sponsored the worst anti-Tamil racial riots in the history of the country.  The Tigers took the Sri Lankan Army head-on. The government sought the help of the Indian Army, who was also routed by the LTTE.  The government could not afford to spark racial riots ever again, as they did not have troops to spare to prevent the mobs from getting out of hand and attacking the government itself.

In the meantime, he Prime Minister created a new Constitution which ignored the separation of powers and created an Executive Presidency, which position he assumed, with close to dictatorial powers.  By also introducing elections by proportional representation, he made it virtually impossible for any future government to command the 2/3 majority necessary to amend or abolish the Constitution he had instituted.  The prospects of hoping for equality under a Constitution was lost forever.  The Tamil aim now was for a regional self-government in the NorthEast.

The LTTE gave up on expecting equal treatment under the Sinhalese and has now had de facto control over a substantial area of the NorthEast, but is yet dependent on the consolidated fund of the central government for part of its subsistence.  The present President and leader of the opposition are agreed in principle to the grant of regional power to the LTTE.  The government’s leftist, racist coalition partner, the JVP, and the Buddhist monks are totally opposed to the concept.

Tamils in the Vanni, the area of the NorthEast controlled and governed by the LTTE have lost faith in the Sri Lankan Courts and have their own judicial system in the area.

The LTTE submitted the ISGA [Internal Self-Governing Authority] proposals+ to the government to form the basis of peace talks between the government and the LTTE.  The President has waxed, waned and played around with this proposal.  She first opposed it, then agreed to have peace talks, using these proposals as the basis for the talks, and finally came up with alternative proposals, all of which has led to nought.

In the meantime, the Cease-Fire Agreement of 2002, which promised to restore the NorthEast, which was ravaged by the civil war, to normality, has been honoured mostly in the breach.

The legal and political situations are in a state of uncertain flux, with no prospect of any solutions in the offing.  The government is paralyzed by its own coalition partner and the President is committed to do nothing to solve the national problem in order to survive as President.  Relations between the government, the Sinhalese opposition party the UNF and the LTTE are in a deep freeze, while all peace negotiations are in a state of hopeless limbo.  Any effort to give us a significant role in controlling our own affairs is vigorously opposed by the government’s coalition partner, the communist JVP, without whose support the President would lose her fragile majority in Parliament.  The government is presently paralyzed and can do nothing to ameliorate the situation.

*B.A.[Cantab] Law, Cambridge University, England
M.A, [Cantab]
L.L.M. Stanford Law School, California
Attorney at Law, New Jersey USA
Barrister at Law, Middle Temple, London
Former Crown Counsel and  Advocate, Supreme  Court of Ceylon [now Sri Lanka]

+separate article



An introduction to the Elective Principle in Sri Lanka: 1910 to 2010

Tuesday, 26 October 2010 13:49

Written by Prabath Wickramanayake

The elective principle was introduced to the legislature of Ceylon[1] in a limited form in 1910. This was achieved amidst various controversies and opposition especially from the British colonial officials in Ceylon and London[i]. This paper aims to focus on the background which led to achieve elective principle in 1910 and some landmarks of its evolution and what effects it has imparted to the present political and constitutional environment of the country.

The Legislative Council of Ceylon was created in 1833 on the recommendation of the Colebrooke-Cameron Commission[2]. Nomination and communal representation were features for the selection of members to the council. During the first half of the nineteenth-century majority of nominated members came from mercantile and plantation c0munities. During the second half of the nineteenth century, the English educated wealthy class of Ceylonese emerged. With their aim of assuming leadership through ideals of western liberalism, a loose form of nationalism was seen within this class. They raised a voice to promote and protect their interests. As an outcome of this development, during the first decade of the twentieth century, those individuals and associations made representations and presented memorials for constitutional reforms in the country[ii].

This reform agitation created a new political problem for the British authorities especially to MacCallum[3] who was the governor of Ceylon at the time. While resisting the demands put forward by the Ceylonese leaders, he questioned the right of the western-educated Ceylonese to speak on behalf of the Ceylonese population as a whole. His argument was that this group of people had been trained and educated on European systems and they were not aware of what the majority of ordinary Ceylonese people needed. He further stated that this group had come from an alienated class and therefore, the real representatives of the masses should be senior and experienced civil servants who had the experience of serving poor and ignorant people in most distant parts of the country[iii].

Further, directing his opposition to the introduction of the elective principle, MacCallum argued that the majority of the native population was so ignorant that they would not be able to exercise their vote ‘with judgment and intelligence’[iv]. He warned the Secretary of State for Colonies, Earl of Crewe[4], that if the elective principle was granted ‘it will lead to the creation of professional politicians to whom self-advertisement and agitation would be essential necessities of existence’ and he further asserted ‘…it would lead, not to the more efficient representation of a single class of natives-the Ceylonese who has acquired a training or an education of a purely European type…would be to inflict upon the bulk of the native population a serious injustice, and would go far to prejudice their own interests[v].

The Ceylonese politicians decided upon lobbying in England as a countermeasure to the opposition of the governor and the officials at the Colonial Office. At this time, in England,there was an intense competition and rivalry for power between the Conservatives and Liberals. The Liberals while breaking away from the Conservative policies, decided to apply them not only in the internal affairs of the country but also on the administration of colonies. Therefore, they appreciated to a certain extent, the movements for constitutional reforms in the colonies. Thus the liberal ideas of the politicians in charge of colonial affairs did have a considerable influence in the introduction of the elective principle to the Legislative Council of Ceylon[vi].

However, in 1910 the franchise was exercised in a very limited basis. Various educational and property qualifications were enforced on the candidate as well as the voter. The continuous agitation of the Ceylonese groups for constitutional reforms led the British government to introduce another constitutional reform for Ceylon in 1931, which is known as the Donoughmore Reforms[5]. Ceylonese political leaders, namely, E.W. Perera, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and R.S.S. Gunawardane who gave evidence before the Donoughmore Commission were not in favor of obtaining the franchise without limitations[vii].

The positive outcome of this reform was that it made recommendations to convert the Legislative Council into a representative legislature and it was renamed as the State Council. This State Council comprised three officials and thirty-seven unofficial members. Basing on those recommendations, a general election was held in 1931 by introducing the principle of universal adult suffrage[viii]. The remarkable feature of this election was that Ceylon became the first Asian colony to enjoy the benefits of universal adult suffrage. This was twenty years before the general election in India and only two years after Britain held its first election on the same basis[ix]. However, this reform too did not bring the expected total satisfaction for the Ceylonese leaders. Similar to other leaders who led the political agitation movements in the other colonies; the Ceylonese political leaders too, had the common consensus to terminating the British colonial administration and taking the reins of governing the country into their hands.

As a fruition of their political dreams, the recommendations of the Soulbury Commission[6], laid the foundation to establish a Parliamentary democratic system of government in 1947 with full responsible status within the commonwealth in1948. Accordingly, two chambers of Parliament were created. The House of Representatives consisted of 101 members, of which ninety-five were elected and the governor-general nominated six. The Senate comprised thirty members, of whom fifteen were elected by the members of the House of Representatives and the rest by the governor-general. The election procedure was based on the British electoral system, which operated mainly through single-member constituencies with a single ballot and a majority vote[x].

By looking at the constitutional developments from 1832-1948, it could be argued that Ceylon had been used as an experimental colony in the area of constitutional reforms. Various experiments had been carried out to see the practicality of proposed executive and legislative systems in the administration of the colony. The size of the colony, its ethnic composition, educational standard and the elite formation would have been the merits for this selection in addition to the changes in the British political scene.

Especially, during the period between the two world wars, a majority of the Ceylonese politicians adopted a more lenient policy towards Britain as opposed to its nearest neighbour India in achieving independence from Britain. Therefore, the ‘divide and rule’ policy which they adopted to create disparity among communities and also between up-country and low-country differences within the majority Sinhalese community in the country did not surface as violently, as demonstrated in India between Hindus and Muslims. Once again the influence of British politics is to be seen. In the 1945 general election, Clement Attlee’s[7] Labour Party came to power and during their election campaign, the Labour politicians were critical on Conservative colonial policy. They informed the British public that the colonies had become a burden and the empire is not a profitable or prestigious venture any more for Britain. They further emphasized that with all the investments in those colonies, it is impossible to stop them form independence. As an implementation of Labour election promises, it could be seen that the British Labour government declaring more colonies as independent countries during the period 1945-1952[8].

In the Ceylonese context, the political maturity demonstrated by the Ceylonese leaders through their deliberations, British authorities would have been convinced that Ceylonese political leaders would have the capability and the capacity to govern the country through a Westminster system of parliamentary democracy. Moreover, the rapid increase of literacy rate in the country which in 1910 was 35% of the males and 7% of the females[xi]. This had increased to 62.8% in 1946[xii]. Contrary to McCullum’s views in 1910, the British authorities would have thought that voters would be in a position to exercise their rights of universal suffrage properly and intelligently to elect governments for the betterment of the country. However, the political developments since independence and deteriorated poor growth in social and economic conditions of the country demonstrate that McCullum did analyze the behavioural pattern of the political leaders and the voters in some form of accuracy than the British authorities who were responsible in granting independence in 1948.

Even in the post-independence period, Ceylonese politicians who mainly belonged to two major political parties spent more time and money on changing constitutions. For instance, in the s and 1960s, some political parties promoted the idea of severing all connections with the colonial masters and to obtain full independence to preserve the sovereignty of the nation. As an accomplishment of that nationalistic political agenda, the coalition led by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, the Republican Constitution was introduced on 22 May 1972, and Ceylon became an independent republic within the Commonwealth. Its name was changed to Sri Lanka. The sovereignty of the people was exercised through the National State Assembly of elected representatives of the people. The executive, legislative and judicial powers of the people were also vested in this institution. The principles of cabinet government were retained, but as stated above, provisions were made to loosen the constitutional links with the United Kingdom. For instance, instead of the governor-general, a president was appointed as a nominal executive head of state but he was not the representative of the Queen of the United Kingdom[xiii].

Once again, this system was transitory and remained in force for just over five years. The next change came with the defeat of the coalition government led by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party at the 1977 general election. The victorious United National Party (UNP) decided to change the British parliamentary system of government and the mode of elections. While criticizing the parliamentary elections procedures in the setting of a multi-party system, the leaders of the UNP indicated that in most instances the winning candidate did not obtain the majority of votes of the electorate due to the distribution of votes among numerous candidates. As a consequence, it was evident that a party, which obtained the majority of votes, had failed to form governments on several occasions in the history of parliamentary elections in Sri Lanka. This led to raising several questions. The universal suffrage in a multi-party environment would give more choices to the voter who does not understand political, social and economic priorities at the time.

In contrary to this, one could argue that two-party systems would place the voter into a rigid framework with very limited options. In such a scenario, irrespective of voter’s likes or dislikes, consent needs to be given to one of the available candidates. Those inadequacies would undoubtedly undermine the fundamental principles of parliamentary democracy. However, the United National Party-led government introduced the Democratic Socialist Republican Constitution of 1978 as a remedial measure for elective and constitutional issues of the country. The executive presidential form of government was introduced. The people directly elected the president as the head of state for a period of six years. He is not a member of parliament, but he selects his cabinet from the majority party and presides over the cabinet[xiv]. The architects of the constitution viewed that constant political changes would create political instability and financial burdens which eventually interrupts the continuity of development goals of the country.

This constitution replaced the mode of election by a system of proportional representation. The aim was to develop a mechanism to form a government that received the majority of votes at the general election. Universal adult suffrage was retained as the basis of electing a responsible government. The president heads the cabinet and he together with the other cabinet members is collectively responsible and answerable to the Parliament. However, the significant change here is that the president would continue in office notwithstanding the dissolution of the cabinet of ministers. This arrangement continues to the present day.

In addition to the constitutional changes made from time to time, it is appropriate to discuss the issues centred on elections of presidents and members to parliament by using the elective principle. Since independence, ri Lankan voters had the full privilege of exercising their voting rights at the general elections of 1948, 1952, 1953, 1956, 1960, 1965, 1970, 1977 and the general and presidential elections of 1982, 1989, 1994, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2009 and 2010. In addition to those elections, with the establishment of provincial councils in 1987, the voters had the privilege of exercising voting rights for the election of members to those councils.

During the last sixty-two year period, ninety-five members that were elected in 1948 had increased to 225 in 2010. Of the 225 members, 196 are elected from 22 multi-member electoral districts and the remaining 29 are National List seats, allocated to the contending parties and independent groups in proportion to their share of the national vote[xv]. The total population of Ceylon in 1953 was eight million and in 2010 the estimated total is 21 million[xvi]. Since independence, the literacy rate of Sri Lanka has risen to approximately 90%[xvii]. Here the prime question is whether the constitutional changes and development in literacy rate had gone vis-à-vis with the socio-economic development requirements of the emerging society of Sri Lanka.

From 1948 to 1977 issues relating to the culture, religion and economy dominated the elections. Since 1983 winning the war against terrorists received the priority along with unemployment, cost of living and other economic considerations. However, two major political parties through their propaganda machines presented unrealistic promises to the voters regarding the above-mentioned burning issues of the Sri Lankan society. Every political party used the media and other propaganda mechanisms to sell their message and to get a public opinion in favour of their political agenda. From time to time criticisms have surfaced on the way the media has been used in political campaigns. Some critics were of the view that the media has not been helpful to protect the basic democratic principles of society. In such a situation, it is difficult to expect logical or realistic election policy declarations from the political parties.

From the voters’ perspective, it is extremely difficult to understand the behavioural patterns of Sri Lankan voters in the eve of elections. Prior to 1983, people used to go for public election rallies to listen to the speeches of political leaders and their supporters. With the increase of terrorist activities during the post-1983 era, the decrease of public gatherings could be seen in political meetings. Instead, they used other methods of political campaigning such as media, canvassing, using celebrities, religious leaders, social workers and other public figures to get maximum advantage for their respective political parties. Various solutions had been presented to the voters and the general public on the burning issues of the society, namely, terrorist war, unemployment, high cost of living etc. It is hard to believe that the majority of voters who are living in the rural areas of the country carefully analyses the socio-economic issues of the country and use their vote to get the appropriate direction for the country. Majority of them is struggling hard with their economic difficulties on a day-to-day basis. Furthermore, the majority of the voters neither understands the influence of local and international forces on political, social and economic aspects of the country nor be aware of as to how they could manipulate the future progress of the country. In such a situation, it is doubtful to ascertain whether the objectives of the elective principle have been achieved as a core element to create a democratic form of government.

The other issue is the serious deterioration of the quality of the elected members of parliament. In the first three decades since independence, a majority of the members were from professional communities and other people with social recognition. They had the capability to make valuable contributions to the country through their professional knowledge. This situation has changed in the last decade of the last century and the first decade of this century. In this era of so-called ‘democratic elections, the oligarchic campaigns were dominated by a group of businessmen-politicos.  As a continuity of this trend, at present, the majority of the members of the governing party and the opposition consist of people who have not testified their credentials as dedicated contributors for the recovery of the country’s poor socioeconomic standards. In such an environment, people have no great choices. They need to select one of the candidates from the party list. These two parallel dilemmas, namely, widespread ignorance of intended objectives of universal suffrage in a democratic society and the unavailability of a itable candidate for the selection by using their votes at a general election remain as great barriers in overcoming socio-economic problems through democratic means.

Even after a period of one hundred years, it is interesting to revisit the comments made by governor McCullum relating to the introduction of elective principle. In 1910, he questioned the right of the western educated Ceylonese to speak on behalf of the Ceylonese population as a whole. But today the majority of politicians are not western educated. Although the rity of them coming from the electoral districts that they represent, the vital question here is that, do they understand or are they aware of what the majority of ordinary Sri Lankan people need. The dilemma is that they come from the masses; this political group very soon becomes an alienated class amidst their own people. In such a situation would it be possible for them to be introduced as real representatives of masses? The other crucial issue is that do the majority of them possess the expertise and experience of serving poor and ignorant people in most distant parts of the country.

McCallum’s other argument was that the majority of the native population was so ignorant that they would not be able to exercise their vote ‘with judgment and intelligence’. Although the literacy rate had tremendously increased over the last hundred years, has it been made significant impact on electing governments in the past elections in order to make significant contributions to promote economic and social standards of the country? Instead, as McCullum indicated, has it not led ‘to the creation of professional politicians to whom self-advertisement and agitation would be essential necessities of existence’?  It has led to the more efficient representation of a group of people who could manipulate political trends for their advantage not necessarily a group of people who acquired training or education as specified by McCullum. However, the concluding remarks of McCullum’s on the educated and wealthy Ceylonese group in the first decade of the twentieth century would be more appropriate to the first decade of the twenty first century. He stated that ‘would be to inflict upon the bulk of the native population a serious injustice, and would go far to prejudice their own interests’.[xviii]

The obvious questions one could raise are: Do people understand their right to elect members to the legislature? Do the majority parliamentarians understand their duties and responsibilities in a democratic framework? Did parliamentary democratic governments since independence cause the deterioration of economic and social standards of the country? If so, was it too early to get independence in 1948? The other Asian countries, such as Malaysia[9] and Singapore[10] made rapid progress after obtaining independence in 1950s and 1960s. Was it due to the attainment of independence in later decades or the dedicated political leadership, well-disciplined administrative, economic and fiscal management? Those are some thoughts, which need to be addressed to understand as to why the Sri Lankan political journey has not headed towards the prosperity of the country through intended democratic means.

[1] Prior to 22 May 1972, Sri Lanka was known as Ceylon.

[2] The senior member William George Colebrooke, arrived in Ceylon on 11.04.1829 and undertook the investigation on the administration of the colony. Charles Hay Cameron arrived on the island on 30.04.1830 and examined the judiciary. They made three main reports to Parliament covering administration, revenue, judicial establishments and procedures in Ceylon.

[3] Sir Henry Edward MacCullum was appointed as Governor of Ceylon in 1907 and served until 1913.

[4] Earl of Crewe was appointed as the Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1910 and served until 1915.

[5] The commission was appointed on 6 August 1927 under the chairmanship of Earl of Donoughmore with Sir Mathew Nathan, Sir Jeoffrey Butler and Drummond Shiels as members. Its aim was to inquire into the difficulties which had arisen in the colony’s administration and to submit proposals to revise the constitution.

[6] Lord Soulbury was the chairman of the Special Commission on Constitutional Reforms of Ceylon. The appointment of the commission was announced on 20 September 1944. The commission consisted of Lord Soulbury (Chairman), J F Rees and F J Burrows. They were in Ceylon from 22.12.1944 until 7.4.1945 and their report was issued on 11.7.1945.

[7] Clement Attlee served as the prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1945 to 1951

[8]  India, Pakistan, Burma, Ceylon and Jordan obtained their independence during this period.

[9] Malaysia obtained independence from the United Kingdom in 1957.

[10] Singapore obtained independence from the United Kingdom in 1965.

[i] Wickramanayake, S.S.K., ‘The Introduction of the Elective Principle to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1910’ in The Sri Lanka Archives, Vol 01, No 01, 1983, 57

[ii] Ibid,  pp 58-61

[iii] Ibid, P 61

[iv] Ibid, P 62

[v] de Silva, K.M.,(ed), History of Ceylon, Vol 03, Apothecaries Co., Colombo,  1973,  p 386

[vi]  Wickramanayake, S.S.K., ‘The Introduction of the Elective Principle to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1910’ in The Sri Lanka Archives, Vol 01, No 01, 1983,  pp 64-67

[vii] de Silva, K.M.,(ed), History of Ceylon, Vol 03, Apothecaries Co., Colombo,  1973,  p 493

[viii] Ibid, P 493

[ix] Wickramanayake, S. S., The Management of Official Records in the Public Institutions in Sri Lanka 1802-1990, Unpublished PhD Thesis, University of London, London, 1992,  p 36

[x] Ibid,  p 41

[xi] Wickramanayake, S.S.K., ‘The Introduction of the Elective Principle to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1910’ in The Sri Lanka Archives, Vol 01, No 01, 1983,  p 65

[xii] Gunawardena, C., Status of Literacy in Sri Lanka: Gaps, Challenges and Possibilities, p 02

[xiii] Wickramanayake, S. S., The Management of Official Records in the Public Institutions in Sri Lanka 1802-1990, Unpublished PhD Thesis, University of London, London, 1992,  p 41

[xiv] Ibid, pp 42-43

[xv] Public Administration Country Profile: Sri Lanka, UN Report, 2004, p 05

[xvi] Statistical Abstract: 2009, Department of Census and Statistics, Colombo, Sri Lanka

[xvii] Gunawardena, C., Status of Literacy in Sri Lanka: Gaps, Challenges and Possibilities, p 02

[xviii] de Silva, K.M.,(ed), History of Ceylon, Vol 03, Apothecaries Co., Colombo,  1973,  p 386


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