RIGHT TO SELF DETERMINATION
Tamil Eelam in 1922
Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam
Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam was the Founder of the Ceylon National Congress in 1919. However, within two years of the formation, he was a disappointed man. He formed the Ceylon Tamil League in 1922 of which also he was the Founder-President. We reproduce here the text of an address delivered by Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam to the Ceylon Tamil League in 1922. Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam died in 1924.
I offer a hearty welcome to the members of the Ceylon Tamil League in General Meeting assembled today. This is the second General Meeting since its inauguration. I am glad also to see many members of the general public. From the proceedings today they will be in a position to judge the work the League has so far done and of its aims, and of the claims, it has upon the public confidence.
There is no need for me to speak at length, as the Committee’s Report sets forth fully the League’s work and aims and ideals. The League was brought into existence by political necessity, but politics is not its raison-detre.
It has far higher aims in view, namely to keep alive and propagate these precious ideals throughout Ceylon, Southern India and the Tamil Colonies, to promote the union and solidarity of Tamilakam, the Tamil Land.
We should keep alive and propagate these ideals throughout Ceylon and promote the union and solidarity of what we have been proud to call Tamil Eelam.
We desire to preserve our individuality as a people, make ourselves worthy of our inheritance…We are not enamoured of that Cosmopolitanism which would make of as neither fish, fowl, nor red herring.
That does not mean that we are to be selfish and work only for the interests of the Tamil Community. Who has done more for the welfare of all Ceylon than the Tamil? Who has fought more vigorously for the welfare of the Sinhalese in the “Dark days of 1915” when our Sinhalese brethren were in distress and helpless? Who came to their rescue but the Tamils? That statue which was to be the grateful memorial of the help rendered, may (as proposed in some quarters) be flung into the sea. But the Tamils are not going to abandon the proud duty and privilege of service to all our brothers of every race and creed.
But we do object strongly to being bullied or terrorised, we object to being the underdogs of anybody. We mean to make ourselves strong and also to work for the common good. The Europeans with all the power and prestige, with the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, Planters Association, European Ceylon Association feel the necessity of improving their organisation. Much more should we. We cannot any longer afford to be apathetic.
The Jaffna Association and the Tamil Maha Jana Sabha have done most useful work in the Northern Province. There are small Tamil Associations scattered over the Island and admirably fitted to promote local patriotism and watch over local interests.
With all these, it will be our aim to work in a friendly and hearty co-operation. We wish also to co-operate with every other Community in the Island – European, Burgher, Sinhalese, Mohammedan and Indian. We believe that such co-operation is the best and shortest to our political advancement.
In order to further the objects of the League, we shall work for the establishment of a daily paper in Colombo – a vital necessity. The Committee’s proposal with regard to this will be laid before you. We shall also work to establish an Agency in London and a Club in Colombo.
All this requires a heavy outlay of money for which I trust the Tamil Community, and especially its wealthier members here and in the Federated Malay States will contribute liberally. But it requires also enthusiasm, perseverance, united effort and these I believe will not be wanting. May God bless and prosper our efforts.”