C.V. Wigneswaran

Justice C.V. Wigneswaran, PC is a Sri Lankan Tamil lawyer, judge, politician and Member of Parliament.

Sri Lanka: Open Letter to The – The Most Venerable Mahanayake Theros

My humble salutations to the most Venerable Mahanayake Theros!

Self Introduction

My early life had been in Kurunegala and Anuradhapura. I used to spend considerable time within the precincts of the Mahabodhi as a child taking all our visitors around the Mahabodhi. I used to also visit Ruwanwelisaya and other Vihares and Dagabos in the company of our visitors. In the 1940s before the so-called Independence, there was so much understanding and camaraderie among the Sinhalese Buddhists and Tamil Hindus. The Old Town in Anuradhapura had a high percentage of Tamil speaking people then.

In fact the Udarata Sinhalese had asked for Federalism from the Donoughmore Commissioners. If only the Tamil Leader at that time instead of being selfish had asked for Federalism instead of 50:50 we would definitely have got a Federal Constitution despite the underhand work done by D.S.Senanayake and Sir Oliver Goonetilleke, trying to influence the Soulbury Commissioners in England to grant a Unitary Constitution.

I was the recipient of the Mackeen Memorial Prize at Royal College in 1957 for Comparative Religions. From my student days I was interested in Comparative Religions. I have some knowledge of Buddhism and the other religions in Sri Lanka.

I was the Assistant Secretary of the Congress of Religions from its inception in 1965.Mr.S.N.B.Wijeyekoon was its Secretary. It had been later incorporated in 1970 as Act No.13 of 1970. We made arrangements for the then Mahanayake Thero of the Malwatte Chapter to visit Jaffna and he in fact visited Jaffna then. Under the political leadership of Hon’ Dudley Senanayake as Prime Minister such arrangements were considered a prelude to the solving of the ethnic problem. But it was not possible to solve the ethnic problem though there was relative peace during the stewardship of Hon’ Dudley Senanayake. I believe I am the only one living among the original Members of the Congress of Religions.

I was a votary of world renowned Philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurthy in the company of Dr.E.W.Adikaram and Mr. Shanmuganayagam, Advocate. We had seen so much similarities between Buddhist Philosophy and the Philosophy of Krishnaji.It was Krishnaji who told me when we met for the last time at Adyar that I had heard enough of him and it was time for me to share my knowledge with others. It is the confidence given to me by Krishnaji and others which prod me to address this letter to Your Goodselves.  

I mention these facts to let you know that I am not conditioned by parochial factors. My sole concern is a scientific and religious consideration of the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka.

Epistle by Your Venerable Reverends to the President

Reverend Sirs!

May I refer Your Goodselves to the epistle you have addressed recently to the President regarding the Thirteenth Amendment? According to the Thinakural (in Tamil) Your Venerable Reverends have stated as follows-

  1. By granting Land and Police powers together with the right to administer archaeological sites and places of religious worship to the Provincial Councils, it would lead to separation.
  2. The previous Presidents did not administer the Thirteenth Amendment fully, cognizant of the instability that it could lead to.
  3. The President is under an obligation to protect the sovereignty of the Country. Administering the Thirteenth Amendment would enrage the People.
  4. The President should avoid pandering to the wishes and conditions that powerful nations might stipulate in order to grant economic benefits when this Country now faces an economic impasse.
  5. The President should desist from implementing the Thirteenth Amendment fully, using his executive powers.

Let me examine the abovesaid statements.

  1. By granting Land and Police powers together with the right to administer archaeological sites and places of religious worship to the Provincial Councils, it would lead to separation.

Response– Are the most Venerable Mahanayake Theros saying every Provincial Council would ask for separation if the President grants Land and Police powers together with the right to administer archaeological sites and places of religious worship to the Provincial Councils? If that is so, then why not? After all there are 20 cantons in Switzerland. We could have a confederation like in Switzerland allowing every Province to function independently and separately subject to certain rights of the Centre.

If the Venerable Theros think that the Provinces other than the Northern and Eastern Provinces would not want to act independently but that only the North and East would want to separate then they infer that because the North and East are Tamil speaking areas they would want to separate or act independently. In other words the Venerable Theros believe the Tamils are not satisfied being under the yoke of the Sinhalese governed Central Government and therefore the North and East must be forcibly kept under the boot of the Sinhalese without giving any freedom to the Tamil speaking people of the North and East to govern themselves.

Was it not such thinking that has brought economic instability to the Country? How long is this Country going to prepare for war against the Tamils and spend colossal amount of foreign exchange to keep the military in readiness? And what are the Sinhalese scared about at the worst? That the Tamils of the North and East would separate and form their own Thamileelam?  How does it affect the Sinhalese? The Sinhalese never occupied the North and East in great numbers. The Buddhist remains in the North and East are those from during the time of the Demala Baudhayo.(Tamil Buddhists) (vide Demala Baudhayo by Professor Sunil Ariyaratne in Sinhala language). In any event there was no Sinhala language born during the time of the Demala Baudhayos. The Sinhala language came into being only in the 6th and 7th Centuries AD. Only those who spoke the Sinhala Language could be identified as Sinhalese. The Mahawansa never referred to a people called the Sinhalese nor to a language called Sinhala!

Are Your Goodselves worried about separation because Your Venerable Reverends are aware that the Sinhalese have no legitimate rights whatsoever to control the Tamils? You are therefore wanting force and violence to be used on the Tamils to keep them subjugated. Is it not? Is that what Buddhism has taught your Reverends? In Aggañña Sutta, Dūgha-Nikœya it is stated

The king, the ruler of the world, the dharmic dharma-king [P. dhammiko dhammarœja] relies just on dharma; honours dharma, reveres dharma, esteems dharma; with dharma as his standard, with dharma as his banner, with dharma as his mandate, he sets a dharma watch and bar and ward for folk within his realm […] for warrior and camp follower, for brahman and for householder, for town and country folk, for recluse and for godly man, for beast and bird alike. “

Is not Ahimsa part of Dhamma my revered Venerable Mahanayake Theros? The term Ahimsa is an important spiritual doctrine shared by Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. It literally means ‘non-injury’ and ‘non-killing’. It implies the total avoidance of harming of any kind of living creatures not only by deeds, but also by words and in thought. How could Bhikkus of your calibre and sensitivity preach something which harms a section of our People?

After all the Tamils of the North and East are asking for something which the International Law gives them the right to claim and enjoy. Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states as follows- All peoples have the right of self determination .By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and frely pursue their economic,social and cultural development.

Does it not occur to Your Goodselves that not granting to the Provincial Councils Land and Police powers together with the right to administer archaeological sites and places of religious worship in their own areas would keep the Tamils without freedom under the hegemony of the Sinhalese rulers at the Centre? Is that what Buddhist Bhikkus of the highest calibre as the four of you want? To do himsa to the Tamils?

Granting Land and Police powers to the North and East under our Unitary Constitution would not lead to separation under any circumstances. It would only curtail and to some extent control the nefarious activities carried out by the Centre and its Agents in the North and East. Do Your Goodselves want to perpetuate the wrongs done by the Centre in the North and East by requesting the Centre to not grant Land and Police powers to the North and East which they are by Law entitled?

  • The previous Presidents did not administer the Thirteenth Amendment fully, cognizant of the instability that it could lead to.

Response- Have not the previous Presidents by their shortsightedness created circumstances which brought civil war within this Country. Was it not the foolish utterance by President J.R.Jayawardene “if the Tamils want war let them have war; if they want peace let them have peace”  which gave impetus to the  thirty years’ war in Sri Lanka?  If the Thirteenth Amendment was fully administered by the successive Presidents there was a possibility of bringing about a settlement to the ethnic problem though Thirteenth Amendment is not at all a permanent solution to our problem. Only a confederation would solve our ethnic problem permanently. Thus the non -administering of the Thirteenth Amendment caused immense instability. Why not try the full administration of the Thirteenth Amendment to see if it leads to anything worse than the Thirty Years’ War even though the full adminstration of the Thirteenth Amendment is no permanent cure for our political problems. We could in fact find out what the people of the North and East want by conducting a Referendum under the auspices of the United Nations. 

  • The President is under an obligation to protect the sovereignty of the Country. Administering the Thirteenth Amendment would enrage the People.

Response – What sovereignty are your Venerable Reverends speaking of? The Tamils of the North and East are historically and in fact a Nation by themselves. They have a defined homeland, distinct language, culture and collective consciousness. They no doubt lost their sovereignty just as the Sinhalese to the Portugese colonial conquest, followed by the Dutch and then the British. The British failed to recognise the Tamil Nation when they handed over the reigns of Government to those in power during the time of so called Independence.But that did not negate the existence of the Nationhood of the North Eastern Tamils. The Tamils continued their historical democratic struggle to share sovereignty for thirty years from the time of so called Independence. But the 1972 Constitution failed to recognise the Nationhood of the Tamils of the North and East. The elected Members of Parliament showed their disapproval in Parliament and outside it. So did the 1978 Constitution. Again the Tamil Representatives showed their regret for not recognising a historical and existential fact in the new Constitution.

Thereafterwhen democratic means failed during the first thirty years after so called Independence, there was a militant struggle for another thirty years. There was during the said period of violence a de facto Tamil State in the North and East for nearly thirty years which was tacitly recognised during the Internationally backed Peace Process in 2002. The Tamils at the next Election at that time fully endorsed the Earned Tamil Sovereignty.

A Nation is different from a Country or State. Several Nations could live side by side in a Country. A Nation’s sovereignty exists independent of the country’s sovereignty. A Nation consists of people of common origin, language and history. The Country could have several such Nations living side by side. The sovereignty of a Nation cannot be taken away by the Country claiming sovereignty to itself.

If the people are educated on all these matters there is nothing that our people need to get enraged about. If we hold a Referendum for the people of the North and East by the UN then there would be nothing that could enrage our People. They would have to accept the decision of the People.

  • The President should avoid pandering to the wishes and conditions that powerful nations might stipulate in order to grant economic benefits when this Country faces an economic impasse.

Response: The economic impasse of this Country is definitely largely due to the conduct of the war at tremendous expense. Of course lots of middlemen made millions on commissions and cuts. But the Country went down economically due to the politicization of the Public Service. Was it not pandering to the wishes and conditions laid down by China when it readily gave money to Sri Lanka to boost the egos of certain Politicians which has brought us to this level of indebtedness? After all powerful Nations are trying to point out to this Country where they went wrong. Why cannot spiritual personalities like Your Goodselves who are Mahanayake Theros understand what those powerful Countries are saying? Why are you not examining their statements objectively? I do not have to remind you of the Kalama Sutta.

It says “It is proper for you, Kalamas, to doubt, to be uncertain; uncertainty has arisen in you about what is doubtful. Come Kalamas! Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another’s seeming ability; nor upon the consideration ‘This monk is our teacher.’

Kalamas! when you yourselves know: ‘These things are bad; these things are blamable; these things are censured by the wise; undertaken and observed these things lead to harm and ill,’ abandon them!”

Let not Your Reverends lead the people of this Country down wrong and precipitous paths by Your Reverends’ impulsive statements!

  • The President should desist from implementing the Thirteenth Amendment fully, using his executive powers.

Response: The President using his executive powers under our Unitary Constitution to fully implement the Thirteenth Amendment is not going to solve the Tamils’ basic problem of Sinhala hegemony over them. The President knows at least the full implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment would show this Country in a better light to the rest of the world at a time when this Country is going round the World with a begging bowl.

We are asking for a confederal system to get out of the hegemonic hold that the Sinhalese people and their Politicians have over us. Your Reverends are saying don’t give anything to the Tamils. As between the President and Your Goodselves don’t you find yourselves on the side of extremism compared to the President? I thought the Buddha preached the Middle Path!

Venerable Sirs! Let me tell you the truth of what happened. D.S.Senanayake influenced the Soulbury Commissioners by sending O.E.Goonetilake to England to meet the Commissioners before they came to Sri Lanka.  Somehow he wanted a Unitary Constitution which would give overall powers to the Centre and therefore to the majority community the Sinhalese.

Having got a Unitary Constitution and the corresponding hold on the entire Country, the Sinhalese went on to capture the reins of Government throughout the entire Island. No Sinhala Politician is now prepared to lose the grip they got through the Unitary Constitution.

It is the Unitary Constitution that gives the Sinhalese the power to control the Tamil speaking People of the North and East not that the Sinhalese have any claims or rights historically or otherwise over the North and East.

The Tamil speaking People have always occupied the North and East continuously for over 3000 years. If Your Reverends do not accept what I say Your Good Selves could ask His Excellency the President to appoint a panel of Historians consisting of   Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, Indian and International Historians to sit together and write our ancient History officially.


I remain

Yours Truly


Justice C.V.Wigneswaran

Sri Lanka: To be or not to be an Et tu Brute


The division among Tamil Politicians is not a strange phenomenon. Their keen intellect and selfish motivations keep them always divided. They air many varied views. For example, many think Ranil is a Fox and therefore Tamils must not trust him and go for discussions. That thought is erroneous. What comes by refusing to discuss or refusing to engage? Our points of view would be ignored or lost to the government and to its Leader. So polarisation is a fact. But it is not recent. It is endemic among Tamils. We have to proceed despite such organic inheritance if we are to find a solution for our affected people. Our problems are over seventy years old.

Refusing to participate in a discussion takes us nowhere. Some have asked why we did not stipulate a condition that unless the President is prepared to grant federalism we would not participate in any discussion. The discussion that took place on 13th instant was not with the leaders of Tamil Parties only. It was with all Party Leaders. It was a preliminary gathering to initiate discussions on the ethnic problem with the consent and concurrence of all Parties represented in Parliament. Majority of Party Leaders Sinhala, Muslim and Upcountry attended the meeting. Refusing to attend such a meeting would have only hardened the feelings and reactions of the leaders of other communities.Nothing would have prevented the Government from continuing with the Meeting with the available Tamil Speaking Party leaders including the Muslim Parties and Upcountry Tamil Parties. Have the Leaders of Tamil Parties from the North and East been elected only not to present their views to a Government in power, allowing only quislings from the North and East to air our People’s views? Are these critics hand in glove with the quislings?

Furthermore boycotting does not solve problems. Engaging does. There were many complicated problems such as the opening of the Bustand at Vavuniya and the problems of the Private Bus Owners and CTB which we were able to solve when I was Chief Minister, Northern Province, because the Parties were prepared to engage with each other under our facilitation. Each Party aired their views and their fears and we as facilitators were able to sort them out.

Some ask us even after publicly saying that India should be brought in to facilitate discussions why we went for discussions without stipulating that condition. The simple answer is that we have not reached that stage yet. We are still at the point of understanding our immediate needs and the manner of solving them. Stopping land grabbing in the North and East is an immediate need. Reviewing the numbers of the Military and the articulation of the need to keep a Military in such large numbers in the North and East are responsibilities of the government. We cannot get relief /answers to these questions if we boycott.

It would be premature to call in India at this stage. India’s role would be absolutely essential at the time when the existing Constitution is to be changed. Any attempt at changing the present Constitution must ensure that the role of India at the time of evolving the Thirteenth Amendment to the present Constitution is not lost sight of. At that time Sri Lanka needed the services of India very badly. The LTTE were in a commanding position then. India signed the Indo- Sri Lankan Agreement of 1987 by implication on behalf of the Tamils of Sri Lanka. Any change in the existing Constitution must ensure a greater, independent status for the Tamils. At that stage of deliberations, we should no doubt ask for the facilitation of India. Indeed we would! There is no question of the Government of Sri Lanka trying to avoid India and grant us less than what has been granted under the Thirteenth Amendment under a Unitary Constitution. We have already stressed the need to have a Confederal Constitution for Sri Lanka.

In fact, there had been a draft Constitution prepared during the Yahapalanaya Government to which  TNA too was a Party. I have been asking Mr Sumanthiran to send me a copy of the same. But he had delayed sending it until the time of our deliberations on the 13th instant. We had a look at that draft.

  1. The proposed Yahapalanaya constitution we found is worse for us, the Tamils, than the current Constitution. 
  2. The draft given to me is not a federal constitution, but a unitary constitution with a seemingly powerless “Second Chamber” added (Art. 111). We could find no actual powers accorded to this Second Chamber. Ekiya under any interpretation implies unitary. Unless we have an eksath constitution giving equal rights to all communities we just cannot accept this so-called ekiya draft constitution. I can understand why Mr.Sumanthiran delayed sending a copy of same to me.
  3. Overall, this proposal is burdened with procedural specifics, and often simply repeats the current constitution’s provisions in more flowery words. There is little substance in the proposals.

Let me elaborateInter alia (a) Art. 14(3)(a)(para 2) of the proposed constitution openly allows for non-arbitrary discrimination against non-citizens. This is not good for the Tamil diaspora – but more to the point, it could be a rationale for treating foreign investors poorly, and could violate trade and investment treaties that contain non-discrimination provisions. (b) Unitary or Federal State? It is certainly Unitary. Article 1 says it would be undivided and indivisible. That would mean the continuance of the hegemony of the Sinhalese throughout the Island. (c) Article 4 gives powers to the Central Government to acquire territories and legalise illegal land grabs. The continued usage by outsiders after  2009 would give the Government the right to legalise their illegal usage. Furthermore, this Article repeats the Sixth Amendment shamefully.(d) Most land rights seem to be transferred to the Central Government.( Vide Article 295 et seq.)(e) Buddhism has a foremost place, with dignity to other religions, but not equality. At least the North and East could be allowed to be sane, sensible and secular (f) In the proposed Constitution:  “Where a statute is enacted by the Provincial Council, it shall be forthwith referred to the Governor for assent.”(Art. 245(1)). Governor means nominee of the President or the Central Government. Where is the power-sharing contemplated? By implication, all Laws by the Province would be under the scrutiny of the Central Government. Theoretically, the Central Government could sabotage the progress of the Provincial Administration. This happened to us when I was Chief Minister. An International Company called in, to grow vegetables and fruits for export was refused permission on non-existing or false grounds.

Therefore we must be careful that those among us who helped to bring out this draft would not compromise our rights and powers. At that time we need to call upon India to help.

Whether anything constructive would come out of this process would depend upon us. The Government cannot be allowed to bamboozle its way to inform the World that we have compromised on our essentials. We need a confederal constitution with the rights of the majority of Tamil-speaking people of the North and East confirmed and ensured. Of course, within the Tamil-speaking areas, there could be Tamil and Muslim divisions. As for the Upcountry Tamils, their rights as minorities in the Sinhala areas must be adequately ensured under a confederal constitution. Switzerland is confederal and has 20 cantons which function independently. Switzerland is smaller than Sri Lanka in its area. The confederal system ensures every community occupying defined areas in the majority would be responsible for their governance and administration with minimum interference from the Centre. Unlike the other minorities in Sri Lanka, the Tamils of the North and East are not minorities in their traditional areas of residence. They have been the majority in their homelands continuously for over 3000 years. Despite recent occupation by members of the majority community with State assistance within the Eastern Province and the stupendous population boom among the indigenous Muslims of the Eastern Province, still, the Tamils of the North and East are the majority community in the Northeast.

If the Government does not view our problems sympathetically or tries to cajole or coax us to accept a Unitary Constitution, or refuses the participation of India as a facilitator, we would at that stage have no alternative but to appeal to the International Community to hold a plebiscite in the North and East under their supervision. Of course, we would not make secession an option. It would be whether a confederal or unitary constitution that the North and East want. Under a confederal system, the Muslim interests in the East and the Upcountry Tamils’ interests in the Hill Country would no doubt be given recognition and ensurance.

We have therefore engaged ourselves with the Government in finding a solution to our problems which have lasted for over seventy years. How cunning and dubious the Government is, is of no consequence so long as we are firm in our desire to get the best for our People. I have confidence that something constructive will come out of this exercise.

Views expressed are personal

Sri Lanka: Deconstructing Sinhala Psyche

Sarath Weerasekera M.P. has said that I lived 65 years among the Sinhalese but I’m now saying Sinhalese cannot live in the North. He has also said that the Tamils should not remember the dead Tiger Terrorists publicly. Let me have my comments on that.

Why would I say Sinhalese cannot live in the North?  Every Citizen has the right to choose his residence in his or her Country in conformity with the Law.

But I have certainly said that neither the Government nor the Forces nor Buddhist Priests have any right to expropriate lands of our People illegally. Having chased the Tamils out of the Sinhala areas by pogroms and riots, now there is a move to illegally expropriate lands in the Tamil Homelands’ area and colonise them with Sinhala colonists. Now there are moves to drive wedges within the contiguous Tamil speaking areas to disturb their contiguity and continuity. I say illegally because in terms of International legal principles of land alienation the people from the area where lands are alienated should receive first preference when they are being settled thereon. Instead people from outside areas have been brought into Tamil speaking areas to change the demographic patterns in the area. In recent times, having come to realise that their illegal activities are being exposed to the outside World, the Government and others have started expropriating lands from Tamil speaking areas through the Mahaweli Authority and other Government Departments.Recently the Sinhala Governor of the Eastern Province  presided over a meeting to acquire areas in the Kuchchaweli Division to give lands to the Polonaruwa District, for the Sinhala people to get a foothold on  Eastern coastal lands. Clearly the idea is to divide the contiguity of the Tamil speaking areas.Hon’ Sarath Weerasekera must study what is happening in the North and East before making sweeping statements about me or any other person.

Tamils have not settled in any part of Sri Lanka in such a way as to endanger the identity or existence of the Sinhalese people or with the intention of endangering them.The settlement of Tamil people in Southern Sri Lanka during the British regime was an organic process. No settlement of Tamil people ever took place by force.Moreover, Tamil people did  not have the authority or power to establish settlements of Tamil people in Sinhalese areas. Hon’ Weerasekera must remember these facts. Moreover I lived in a Sinhala area (if Cosmopolitan Colombo could be called as such) in a house built by my parents. I  did not get planted in Colombo by the Government with its finances. .Hon’ Sarath Weerasekera must study what has and is happening in the North and East and elsewhere before making sweeping statements about me or any other person.

Well renowned researchers  such as Professor Yiftachel Oren, Professor of Political Geography, Ben Gurion University, Israel,  have studied the land occupation and Sinhalese settlements carried out by successive  Sinhalese governments in the Northern and Eastern areas, the traditional native places of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka. They have compared Sri Lanka to countries like Israel and called the Government here as  an  “Ethnocratic Regime”.

Coming to the next matter if the Sinhalese could remember openly their dead soldiers, why cannot Tamils openly remember their youth who fought on their behalf  and died heroically? After all they kept the North and East of Sri Lanka for nearly thirty years under their control, despite all odds.

They are referred to as Terrorists!  Who identifies a person as a Terrorist?The Government? The Press?The Sinhalese People? Who identifies a person as a Patriot?The Press?The Government?The Sinhalese people?

Was Keppetipola who was executed by the British as a criminal, a patriot or a criminal?  If the Sinhalese call him a patriot and a hero why did the British call him a criminal? Were the British right or the Sinhalese are right?

You would realise there are no Terrorists born.They are called Terrorists as it suits the persons so calling. Infact the State Terrorism of the Sinhalese has been far more brutal and barbaric than any acts of war committed by the Tigers. Yet the Sinhalese remember their dead  openly. But to remember the members of a  disciplined set of youth who sacrificed their lives fighting against the State’s atrocities against the Tamils must according to Hon’ Sarath Weerasekera be confined to the backyards of individual houses? I am glad His Excellency the President did not conform to the views of Hon’ Weerasekera and allowed the Maaveerar’s Day to pass on relatively peacefully.

Let me now come back to me. I believe I am the only founder member of the original Congress of Religions incorporated in 1971 living today.We started functioning round 1965.Mr.SNB Wijeyekoon was Secretary.We took the then MahanayakeThero to the North on a visit so that he would meet the People there and visit Buddhist places of worship.We arranged such goodwill visits to bring better understanding among the various votaries of different religions.

I belong to a different vintage to that of Hon’ Weerasekera. In our youthful days we acted in unison whether we were Sinhalese or Tamils or Burghers or Muslims or even Malays or Chinese.The English language bound us. Even after the foolish, thoughtless Sinhala Only Act was passed the earlier friendship, camaraderie and mutual respect for each other among our diversified coterie of friends continued for some time.  But soon the thought that Ceylon belongs to the Sinhala Buddhists took charge of our Sinhala Buddhist brethren.

This is an absolutely false notion.

The Sinhala Buddhists are the majority in the Island if taken as a whole. But Hindu Tamils are the majority in the North and East from pre historic times. Never have the Tamil speaking not been the majority in the North and East.In1833 the British unified the Island administratively. But the areas of residence of the Tamil speaking  continued to be the North and East of the Island. Now there is a move to drive out the Tamils from those areas of residence of the Tamil speaking people and transform them into Sinhala speaking areas. A clear act of genocide! Hon’ Weerasekera wants me not to be perturbed about this daylight robbery taking place in the areas of the Tamil speaking simply because I have lived 65 years (according to him ) in the Sinhala speaking areas.

What does being majority got to do with ownership? Lots of students attend Tutories. They are the majority while classes go on. Owner is a single individual. Could the Students say “We are the majority. So the Tutory building belongs to us?” Numbers have nothing to do with ownership or possession.  If it does, the Tamil speaking are the majority in the North and East. The Tamils had separate areas, separate language, separate arts and crafts, separate medicinal systems, separate culture, separate topography, separate climatic conditions, separate geological foundation and so on. Of course before the Sinhala language was born the Tamil language was the lingua franca of the Island.

This Country therefore does not belong to the Sinhala Buddhists. It belongs to each and every citizen of this Island. Of course such citizens have individual and collective rights. The Tamils having occupied the North and East continuously for over 3000 years they have the collective right of internal self determination in terms of the International Covenants.

Will Hon’ Sarath Weerasekera accept that right of the Tamils? The right of Internal Self Determination! Would he admit that the Tamils were the original inhabitants of this Island? Would he admit that the Sinhala language is of recent origin? The Sinhalese language came into being in the 6th and 7th Century AD. There was no Sinhala language before 1400 years ago from now.Their Grammar Sidath Sangarawa came out only in the 13th Century AD. The first Sinhala inscription belongs to a period subsequent to the Seventh Century AD. These are all historical facts. Cleverly the Sinhalese intelectuals have been referring to Pali which is one of the parent languages of Sinhala, as the early form of Sinhala. The Sinhala language was not even born then but they refer to Pali and Prakrit as early Sinhala.This is like saying  I came from my grandfather and therefore I lived during my grandfather’s time.Surely I am different and my grandfather was a different person altogether.  Simply because I came from him I cannot claim to have lived during my grandfather’s time! In fact my grandfather was no more when I was born.

Will Hon’ Weerasekera and his Sinhalese accolytes accept that their language is of very recent origin and that there were no Sinhalese living before their language came into being. In fact Dutu Gemunu never spoke the Sinhala language nor had he heard of the Sinhalese race.He was a Buddhist Tamil Prince from the South and Ellalan was a Hindu Tamil King ruling from Anuradhapura.

Will Hon’ Weerasekera accept the DNA results which have referred to the geneology of the Sinhalese to be traceable to the South Indians.

Hon’ Weerasekera some days ago said that he would not allow power sharing with others in this Country.The reason he gives is that the Country is already one and indivisible.He said the Thirteenth Amendment was forced upon the Sinhalese.

Is the Honourable  Member of Parliament aware that the Kandyan Sinhalese requested a federal constitution from the British? In fact if the Tamils also asked for Federalism it would have been granted. Unfortunately we had a famous and successful Lawyer as our Leader at that time whose criminal clientele hailed mostly from the South. Hence he asked for 50:50 (50% seats in Parliament to Sinhalese and the balance 50% to the Opposition jointly) to make sure he could continue to practice in the South.  The British rejected it. But Lord Soulbury who saw what happened in the 1950s and early 60s bemoaned as the former Chairman of the Committee  which saw through the transfer of power from Great Britain to Ceylon and as the First Governor General of Ceylon that if they had known the historic background of the North Eastern Tamils and their individuality they would have included a Bill of Rights into the First Constitution. In other words he regretted granting a Unitary Constitution with no proper safeguards. I hope Hon’ Weerasekera is aware that despite there being no Bill of Rights, the Original District Court Judge de Kretser found the Sinhala Only Act to be contrary to the provisions of the  Constitution. The Unitary status given to the Country was a legacy left by the British to the Sinhalese due to certain conspiracies articulated by D.S.Senanayake and Sir Oliver Goonetilleke. They went to England specially to stop the Commissioners considering Federalism as an option.(Vide OEG- A biography of Sir Oliver Goonetilleke by Charles Jeffries).

Therefore let not Hon’ Weerasekera try to make out that the Unitary status of this Country is inviolable. On the other hand those akin to the Honourable Member of Parliament are fighting hard to keep the undue benefit the Sinhalese received from the British due to deals effected by their then Senior Politicians!

Views expressed are personal

Sri Lanka: Ramifications of Constitutionalism


The Sri Lankan Tamils of the North and East have been urging for the recognition of their traditional homelands from almost the time of Independence. During the grant of Independence, the Tamils though occupying their traditional homelands in the North and East were also resident in all parts of the Country for Government jobs,  trade, commerce and what not.

The Tamils felt safe and secure under British rule. Often the Sinhalese leaders would say the Britishers showed partiality to the Tamils and they adopted a policy of divide and rule. That concept was wrong. The British had good opinion of the Tamils, not because the British wanted to divide and rule (in fact they had no reason to divide and rule since most Sinhalese leaders aped the Britishers, converted to their religion and supported the British except the Left Leaders) but because the Ceylon Tamils were hard working, duty conscious, conscientious workers and they preferred them in many of their colonies. After all the Bhagavad Gita had preached disinterested devotion to duty several centuries ago and the idea was implanted among the Hindus, whether Vaishnavites or Saivites. It was the duty consciousness of the Upcountry Tamils that made Ceylon (Sri Lanka) prosper under the British and even thereafter.

The Federal Party was formed in 1949. If we had requested the British to grant us Federalism in the first instance it would have been granted because the Kandyan Sinhalese also wanted Federalism. Maybe because most of his clients were from the South, without disturbing the demography pattern of the time, Mr. G.G.Ponnambalam, the then leader of the Tamils put forward the 50:50 request, where the majority Sinhalese were to hold half the seats in Parliament and all the Opposition Parties together were to hold the balance 50%. This request was rejected by the British.

Mr.SJVChelvanayagam left Mr.Ponnambalam’s Tamil Congress Party and formed the Federal Party in 1949. The reason for asking a federal dispensation was because power was soon going to pass on to the hands of the Sinhala majority in the Country. Since the Britishers had unified the Country’s administration in 1833, and they were leaving now, the Tamils justifiably felt unsafe among the Sinhalese majority. They had to preserve their traditional homelands and the best way to preserve their areas was by asking for self-rule in their own areas without dividing the Country.

Federalism is not dividing a Country. On the contrary, it is a way by which unity could be maintained among disparate communities. The Tamils of the North and East of Sri Lanka are the most qualified people for federalism. They have occupied continuously for over 3000 years their traditional homelands in the North and East, have had a language of their own, culture of their own and in fact kingdoms of their own before the British unified the Country for administrative reasons. Even though Eastern Province had several sub-kingdoms they were all governed by Tamils. They paid tithes sometimes to the Kandyan King. The last King of Kandy was not a Sinhalese. He signed the peace treaty with the British in 1815, in Tamil. Tamil was the language of Royalty.

The reservations among the Tamil leaders, especially Mr. SJV Chelvanayagam, was to soon prove true. First the Upcountry Tamils were disenfranchised. Then by the Sinhala Only Act, the Tamil Government servants were driven away from  State Services.Then through pogroms and riots the Tamils who lived in the Provinces outside the North and East were driven away. Ultimately by standardisation, the studious Tamil students found it extremely difficult to enter higher echelons of the Educational ladder. Meanwhile lands falling within the boundaries of the traditional Tamil homelands were soon being expropriated and Sinhalese from the South were made to colonise those areas.Many of them were Island’s Reconvicted Criminals.

In 1956 Mr.SWRD Bandaranaike when he brought the Sinhala Only Act, did not foresee what he was going to do to the Country. He knew he was being unreasonable to the Tamils who occupied a distinct area, had a language of their own, culture of their own and belonged to religions other than that of the majority. For political reasons, to defeat the UNP, he formulated his policy of Sinhala in 24 hours. But he thought he could bring in the Reasonable Use of Tamil Act and assuage the Tamils. But he had released forces by his political short-sightedness which he just could not control. The Buddhist Priests stormed his residence at Rosmead Place and had him tear up the Reasonable Use of Tamil document. The same unleashed forces ultimately murdered him.

Lee Kwan Yew when he met SWRD, the Prime Minister, the latter had boasted, puffing at his pipe, that he had made the language of the majority the State language of Ceylon! Lee had warned him that it was wrong. In fact, he had made four languages, Chinese, Tamil, Malay and English, the State languages of Singapore and Singapore today prospers while Sri Lanka is bankrupt! 

Political, Social and Economic mistakes have been made in this Country. Costly mistakes! Mistakes devoid of common sense.Mistakes merely to get the votes of People at the next election. But the wise would not cry over spilt milk.They would ask how best could we change the situation and improve our lot.

Let me come to your question now. Yes!  I did say that unless the President consents to a Constitution other than a Unitary Constitution for Sri Lanka it would be purposeless having talks with Leaders of Tamil Parties. Under a Unitary Constitution, the majority community rules the roost. They predominate in everything. They decide what is good for minorities. They had the power to obstruct the progress of communities other than theirs, as we have seen in the case of the Northern Provincial Council. Projects beneficial to the People of the North had been sabotaged. We were not allowed to have the Chief Minister’s Fund when other Provinces had. All Provinces have seen modernisation in this Country except the Northern and Eastern Provinces. Only those who would go and cringe and beg the members of the majority community were found worthy of condescension by the powers that be.

We have not been allowed to run our own schools. Our fishermen are unable to fish in their traditional fishing areas. The Military controls everything from land to sea and may be air too! The Military are stationed in the North and East from the time of the end of war continuously. Expropriation of our resources by the South takes place daily. Appropriation of our lands by various Departments and most notably by the Mahaweli Authority takes place continuously. Buddhist places of worship are coming up illegally in places where there are no Buddhists living. Chinese influence is maintained in Tamil areas with ulterior motives. I once heard a Government Official tell some Chinese officials that they were close to the Chinese because of the closeness of their religion and that the Tamils are Hindus, meaning the Tamils are close to India.

I could go on enumerating the woes of the Tamil speaking of the North and East.

But the fact remains that talking reconciliation and making ad hoc changes to the existing Constitution as it is today being a Unitary one, would take us nowhere. The Tamils need to be freed from the yoke of Sinhala dominance. Even though the LTTE had asked for a separate State, our Voters have brought us into Parliament on the basis that we agitate for a Federal / Confederal Constitution so that we could live within our traditional homelands in amity with other communities, still continuing to be Sri Lankans. My Party alone asks for a Confederation because we want to minimise interference by the Central Government in the areas of our residence.

Unless we divide Power amicably among the different communities in consonance with the areas of their residence we cannot live in Peace and Unity. Always the majority Community would want to interfere and sabotage the activities of others if they feel unequal to the others. The Sinhalese though the majority in this Island suffer from an inferiority complex. The fact that a large contingent of Tamils live close by in South India might be one cause. The fact that Tamils are more hardworking and industrious is another reason. After all the Tamils who were driven out from Sri Lanka have proved their mettle in far-off lands. It took over twenty countries to coalesce to destroy Prabhakaran. He kept the North and East under his control for almost thirty years against a Sinhala Government all-powerful!

You would realise why a constitution other than a Unitary Constitution is necessary. We could discuss the difficulties that we may face in bringing about a federal constitution but certainly to continue with a Unitary Constitution will only bring misery to all.

Views expressed are personal

From Dravida Nadu to Eelam: Myths Vs Facts



A friend of mine sent a copy of the article by Journalist Shenali D Waduge by email. I read same. I think I had met her when I was Chief Minister. It appears to me that she like Hon’ Sarath Weerasekera M.P and others is not aware of a few historical facts recently confirmed by very cogent evidence.

The facts are –

  1. The Sinhalese language came into existence only in the 6th and 7th centuries AD. Before that there were no Sinhalese living anywhere in this world because Sinhalese are those speaking the Sinhala language or those whose forefathers spoke that language. That language is very recent. Only 1400 years old. Its first grammar book is 700 years old. The first Sinhala inscription found is so many years after 7th Century AD.
  2. There is evidence that Tamil speaking people existed in this Island continuously for over 3000 years. The progeny of these original inhabitants of this Island and those who immigrated from the time of the Pandyans downwards added to the original Tamils. Thus the immigrant Tamils only added to the original Tamil inhabitants. It is wrong to begin calculating the period of Tamil occupation from the time of the Cholas (10th Century AD).
  3. The Tamil Speaking people have continued to occupy the entire Island for over 3000 years but they preferred to live in the Dry Zone. Gradually they converged on the North and East from elsewhere in the Island. Even 100 years ago there were only Tamil Title Deeds to the Lands in the Negombo – Puttalam areas. They were Tamils both indigenous and the Paravars from South India who emigrated here.

Many Sinhala-speaking people have many misunderstandings about our past due to the influence of the Mahawansa which was a fiction written by a Buddhist Priest to laud Buddhism. They think the Sinhalese are the original inhabitants of this Island, that this Country belongs to the Sinhala Buddhists. and the Tamils are immigrants during the time of the Cholas in 10th Century AD. All these are false and historically incorrect.

The Sinhalese could not have been the original inhabitants of this Island, since the Sinhalese language was born only in the 6th or 7th Century AD. This Country cannot belong to the Sinhala Buddhists since before 6th Century AD, there were no Sinhalese. Only Buddhists existed, and that too Tamil Buddhists. Tamils did come into the Country inter alia during Pandiya, Pallava, Chola and Nayaka times. But they only added to the original inhabitants of this Island who were themselves Tamils.

The Sinhalese Historians refer to Pali and other sources to say they were the forerunners to the Sinhala language. But both are different. One is the grandfather and the other grandchild. The grandchild cannot be identified as the grandfather. Both lived at different times. We must accept that the Sinhala language is very recent and those who speak Sinhala are also recent.

    Let me deal with the 5 questions posed by Shenali –

  • How can Tamil Eelam homeland lobbyists claim two provinces as their “homeland” making use of two provinces created in 1833 by colonial Britain?

Response: The two Provinces are what is left of the entire Tamil Speaking Sri Lanka. British only confirmed the Tamil speaking areas by identifying Northern and Eastern Provinces which were majority Tamil speaking areas. In these two Provinces the Tamils have been and are the majority still. Tamil Kings or Tamil Petty Kings have ruled these two Provinces apart from other areas outside those Provinces too. Apart from those who ruled, Tamil people have always continuously occupied these areas from 3000 years ago. The two Provinces are the traditional homelands of the Tamils (Vide Indo Sri Lanka Accord of 1987). Identifying Kings as Sinhalese and Tamil is a recent phenomenon. The genealogy of the Kings were more important then, than the language they spoke. In fact many Kings spoke many languages. They were not identified by the language they spoke.  

  • How can Malabars, rechristened as Ceylon Tamils in 1911, claim a separate homeland in Sri Lanka?

Response: Those who came from the Coromandel Coast of India also added in numbers to the existing Tamils in this Island. Ceylon Tamils is a word coined recently due to the bringing in of recent Indian Tamils by the Britishers. The Sri Lankan Tamils were the original inhabitants of this Island. But when the Indian Tamils were brought both being Tamils they were called Indian Tamils and the local Tamils as Sri Lankan Tamils.

  • The Tamil caste system originates from South India, and thus, if Malabars are from South India, Vellalars and the Thesavalamai Law is too, so how can customary laws applicable to foreigners become mandatory customary law in Sri Lanka?

Response: The Caste System did not originate from South India, to be followed by the Tamils here. Like the guilds in the West there were occupational segregations in ancient times. There were areas of residence for those involved in various occupations.  It is possible for example that Shenali belongs to a particular traditional occupational group. The surname “Waduge” connotes that. The Sinhala ‘ge’ names are a pointer to their Caste identification. But nowadays they drop their ‘Vasagamas’ or ‘ge’ names for fear of identification. JR’s ‘ge’ name was Mahamarakalage if I remember right.  When the Westerners introduced free education, members of every segregated unit received the same education and the need to continue to segregate into traditional occupational Castes became unnecessary. The Caste System in India had Brahmins at the top. In the Tamil areas here the landowning Vellalas claimed leadership while close to the sea the Fishermen Caste called Karaiyars (Coast people) claimed leadership. Caste Brahmins played a secondary role. Hence the Caste hierarchy in South India and North Eastern Sri Lanka are different. More on this are answered under question 5 here under.

  • If the Dravida Nadu term was coined by colonial missionaries, isn’t the Tamil Eelam quest (an offshoot of the Dravida Nadu movement) a similar missionary-infused agenda?

Response: The term Thamil Eelam has nothing to do with Dravida Nadu. This Country was part of the Seventh (Ealu) Country unit in the Kumari Kandam now under sea. From Ealu (Seven) came the words Eelam in Tamil and Hela in Sinhala. Both words connote the same land mass during the time of Kumari Kandam and thereafter. Present Sri Lanka was part of Ealu Nadu in Kumari Kandam.  The Tamil Sangam literature refers to the Tamil areas which went under the sea. Parts of Ealu survived. Ealu became Eelam in Tamil and Hela in Sinhala. Westerners refer to a Continent called Lemuria. The relationship between Kumari Kandam and Lemuria are being studied. Eelam was the name then given to this Island. The area occupied by Tamils now is called Tamil Eelam. Actually the  area which is majority Sinhala speaking should be referred to as Sinhala Eelam. Identification with Eelam has no connection to the Dravida Movement in South India. In fact politicians like Seeman distinguish between Dravidar and the Tamils.

  • If the Eelam area was borrowed from the colonial British map, if Global Church planted the Dravida Nadu movement and Greater Tamil Eelam initiative, if Malabars, Vellalars, and Thesavalamail were imported from South India, is it so difficult to realise that Tamil militancy was also exported from India to Sri Lanka to pass on India’s headache to us?

Response: This whole question arises from a totally muddled mind. In fact an ignorant mind. Eelam was the name of the present Sri Lanka in ancient times. This Island had several names including Serendip, Seilan, Ceylon and so on. The Eelam area was not borrowed from the Colonial British Map. Eelam was a fact even before the British came here. The British confirmed the areas of Tamil residency by creating Provinces which included the resident Tamils within them, who were majority in those Provinces. The Dravida Nadu concept is recent. It was the Dravida Kalagam within the past 150 years which referred to Dravida Nadu. The Church’s part in it is also recent. Eelam existed even before these concepts came into parlance.

 The Malabars from the Coromandel Coast came to this Island within the past 1000 years or so. They belonged to the Chera Nadu in South India. Now that area is identified as part of Kerala. They added to the number of existing indigenous Tamils. Since they owned lands and were powerful, the Dutch associated with them and got their advise to codify the laws existing then. The Thesavalamai is what the Chiefs among the Malabar Inhabitants explained to the Dutch. It has a matrilineal approach just like in the Coromandel Coast area. Just like the Roman – Dutch Law that was introduced into this Island by the Dutch, those Malabar inhabitants introduced concepts from the Marumakathiyam Law in the Coromandhal Coast areas and the Dutch codified them and called it the Law of Thesawalamai (the traditions of the Country).

Tamil Militancy in Sri Lanka is indigenous. India had nothing to do with it. Soon after Independence when the vast majority of the North and East of Ceylon was Tamil speaking it was wrong to have made Sinhala as the only official language of the Country overlooking the fact that the Tamil speaking people were the majority in their traditional living areas. Even now the Tamil speaking are the majority in the North and East, despite so much of land grabbing and Sinhala colonization going on in the North and East with Government and Military support. The rights of the Tamils in the North and East were overlooked when “Sinhala Only” was brought as Law. When there was agitation by Tamils objecting to Sinhala being made as the sole State language, Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranayake realized his folly and brought in the Reasonable use of Tamil law.  But a few Buddhist Priests went to his house in Rosmead Place and had it torn apart. Finally it was a Buddhist Priest who killed Mr.Bandaranayake!

So agitation against Land grabbing in the East, passing of Sinhala Only in Parliament, forcing Standardisation in Education, using force on the Youth who agitated against these activities by the Sinhala Central Government, all contributed to Tamil Militancy. In fact the Sinhala Government turned to India to put down the Militancy of the Tamil Youths and thus IPKF was brought in. Our Youth militated against Sinhala Chauvinism, Sinhala brutality and their ethnocratic activities. There was nothing to export from India.

The homeland quest of the Tamils is not an imported concept. It synchronizes with the Lands occupied by the Tamils for over 3000 years from ancient times long before the Sinhala language saw sunlight. We Tamils ask for internal self-determination, which we are entitled to in terms of the principles of International Law, within a United Sri Lanka.              

Sri Lanka: Political Prescription to 22A


Following article is based on the speech made by the author at the parliament during the second reading of Twenty-Second Amendment to the Constitution Bill

It was expected that this Bill would restore the essence of the more progressive 19th Amendment.  But unfortunately, centralisation of power around a single individual still exists. The checks and balances that were expected in a meaningful manner have not been included. The Independence of the public service, transfer of power to Parliament, checks and balances that could curtail the immense powers of the President, transfer of powers between President and Prime Minister are missing. Fundamentals of public finance and accountability too are missing.

Some of the offending areas are the President holding portfolios, appointing Ministers without the advice of the Prime Minister, President’s discretion to dissolve Parliament early, ability to control or influence 7 of the 10 members of the Constitutional Council thereby undermining the independence of the instittutions to which appointments are made through the Council.

But whatever the shortcomings and discrepancies are this Bill is a step in the right direction. To vote against it would be to perpetuate the present system. In arguing for perfection we should not turn out to be the enemy of the good.

No doubt advantages and disadvantages were envisaged at the time the Presidential System was introduced in 1978.The advantages trotted out at that time were

  1. Quick decision making
  2. Presidential discretion in Appointments. The appointees are directly responsible to the President.
  3. The whole Country elects the President and therefore entire Country is the Electorate.
  4. Fixed tenure of office which thereby ensures stability to the country.
  5. President above Party Politics and therefore insulated from Party Politics.

On the other hand the disadvantages are as follows-

  1. Prone to dictatorship or abuse of office being dangerous to the democratic process.
  2. Separation of powers can cause delays in the execution of government programs if executive-legislative relations are not properly managed. Therefore friction among government organs was contemplated. 
  3. Lack of flexibility in Tenure of office. A Parliamentary system could act according to circumstances and be flexible.
  4. Very expensive to operate. The Parliamentary system was considered to be more cost effective. The President’s power to spend directly creates opportunity for lack of fiscal discipline and even all forms of corruption.
  5. Due to the absence of Party discipline unlike in a Parliamentary system, the relationship between the Executive and the Legislature is prone to disagreements and less easy to manage. With the Government Party now being of one hue and the President of a different colour this possibility is even more plausible.
  6. Presidential lobbying can encourage corruption.  Suppose certain groups within the Governing Party decide to join the Party of the President there can be misuse of power by the President.

We have seen the contradictions that emanated due to lack of understanding between the President and the Legislature during the time of Madame Chandrika as well as during the Yahapalanaya government.

Therefore concentration of power in a single individual can have innumerable implications.

But it was thought that a strong Executive could bring benefits to minorities. The President if he wanted to, he could with his unfettered powers bring relief to the problems of the minorities. But how far that would be possible would depend upon the personality of the President. So far Ranil has not catered to the voice of the chauvinists and the champions of ethnocracy. 

The transitional provisions in the Bill allows the present incumbent to continue until the full term of office of the present Ninth Parliament. Therefore as a person somewhat acceptable to non-Sinhala Buddhists also he has an opportunity to take up matters of importance for the future of this Country.   As I understand them, they are –

  1. Repayment of National Debt through proper fiscal management. The way we diplomatically manage the International Community is intrinsically interwoven with this problem.
  2. Take cognisance of the recent UN Resolution with only seven Countries standing by Sri Lanka and commit the Country to conform to the expectations of the World Body. The Country’s supporters among the International community have steadily decreased every year and the next time I expect China too to abstain from voting for Sri Lanka. Our bravado statements have only exposed us as to who we are.
  3. Knowing the nature of the Tamil Ethnic problem and the long history of the Sri Lankan Tamils extending beyond 3000 years in this Island, it would be better for the Country if the President could solve our problem once and for all times by granting total devolution of powers to the North and East of Sri Lanka in order that all communities could travel hand in hand forward within a United Sri Lanka.

I would submit that the Transitional Provisions of the Bill has given the opportunity for the incumbent President and the members of the present 9th Parliament to work out solutions for our long-standing problems fully and effectively.

It is my studied opinion that a confederation would be the ideal system of Government for this Country. 

But before the present Constitution is changed the services of India would be paramount due to their responsibility in getting the Thirteenth Amendment into our Constitution. Any attempt at the arbitrary replacement of the present Constitution with a new Constitution could deprive the Tamils of even the limited powers granted under the Unitary Constitution by the Thirteenth Amendment. Therefore in the formulation of a new constitution for Sri Lanka, the services of India would be sine qua non as far as the future of the Sri Lankan Tamils in Sri Lanka is concerned.

We must learn lessons from history


I represent the Jaffna Electorate not the Colombo Electorate. The problems of the North and East are different from those of the South. This Country consists of two Nations. – the Tamil Nation and the Sinhala Nation. The Tamils are the original inhabitants of this Island. They have lived continuously for over 3000 years in this Island according to latest excavations, inscriptions and findings. They are the majority in the North and East even now. The Sinhalese are the majority in the other seven Provinces. By adding the majority in the North East to the majority in the Southern seven Provinces they have made us minorities in the Country. But we are not minorities. We are the majority in our areas. That fact should have been realized by the British when they gave independence. Only later did Lord Soulbury realize their folly and stated so in a foreword to a book by B.H.Farmer in the early 1960s. 

We have been asking for a settlement of our political problem for the past 70 years or more. In fact our youth took up to arms due to the discriminatory policies of successive Sinhala majority Governments. Our youths were freedom fighters not terrorists. Now our Sinhala brethren are getting a taste of the PTA.

So any attempt on our part to join any government and sail with them would depend upon the resolution of our Political Problems as well as Social and Economic Problems we face today. We have identified some of our immediate problems such as;

  • Release of all Tamil Political Prisoners some of whom have been in incarceration for over 25 years.
  • Withdrawal of the PTA whose provisions go against the grain of our normal Criminal Law.
  • Order an International inquiry into the status of the Disappeared.
  • Calling off the functioning of the Commission on Archaeological Research and returning the lands in the North and East expropriated by the Commission.
  • Withdraw the Mahaweli Authority from the North and East and stop all colonization taking place in the Tamil areas bringing in Sinhalese from outside the Provinces and settling them. Hand back the lands appropriated by the Mahaweli Authority back to the people from whom they were taken. Hand over other Lands to the D.Ss of the respective areas.
  • Withdraw the Military from the North and East. They have no right to occupy the North and East even after the war was over. Such Occupational Forces must be withdrawn and placed in other Provinces since the Government in recent times have identified the need to have the Military in other Provinces as well. The North and East could be run by an efficient Police Force inclusive of Tamil speaking Police persons from the Northern and Eastern Provinces.
  • Stop illegal fishing being done on our shores by persons from outside our two Provinces with the help of the Armed Forces, to the prejudice of the local fishermen.
  • Stop the taking over of our good Schools in the North and East to the Central Government under the pretext of making them National Schools. The Central Government under the Thirteenth Amendment cannot interfere with the powers granted to the Provinces.
  • Open up the Palaly Airport. Allow owners of lands around the Airport to get their lands back evicting the Military occupying them.
  • Start the Ferry Services to from South Indian ports.
  • Allow diaspora investment in the North and East without interference from the Centre nor its officials.

Only if there is a change of heart in the powers that be, after the aragalaye, could we lend support. Even the Leader of the Opposition wants to help the Rajapakses and the war criminals at Geneva. Polarisation in Sri Lanka is not between what is right and what is wrong. It is between the Sinhalese and the Tamils.

Joining a Cabinet full of Sinhala speaking majority by a member of the Tamil speaking Community could be an embarrassment. They would jabber, jabber and jabber in Sinhala and most of the time we would be outside the purview of their discussion. Of course I do know a little Sinhala but not to the extent of understanding the jabbering that takes place in Parliament.

Secondly once we enter the whilpool of Sri Lankan Politics we would lose sight of the purpose for which we are there – to obtain relief for the Members of our Community.

Thirdly Cabinet responsibility would control us. We would not be able to differ from or contradict the decision taken by the majority Sinhalese Members of the Cabinet. If I am a non Tamil speaking Tamil like certain earlier Ministers I would not have any problem deciding to the detriment of the Northern and Eastern Tamil speaking people. We must learn lessons from history. In the past, many Tamil politicians held and are holding ministerial positions on the pretext that they are working with the government to work towards the interests of the Tamil people. But in reality, through these ministerial positions, they have done more to blunt the struggle for Tamil rights than to do any good to the Tamil people. They are forced to go to Geneva and argue that what happened in Mullivaikal was not genocide. I wouldn’t dream of doing that.

I am not interested in becoming a Minister for the glamour it gives whether such glamour shines or not. I am interested in finding solutions to the long standing political, social and economic problems of my people. I hail from the North and East. I was a Judge in the North and East and I lectured in Law inter alia to Students from the North and East. Hence I owe a responsibility to my brethren who hail from the North and East. 

The Tamils are definitely interested in working for peace, reconciliation and economic progress. But they must be pulled up from the bottom of the well to terra firma to stand up as equals with the Sinhalese to work for peace, reconciliation and economic progress. There cannot be peace and reconciliation between unequals. How could we be considered equal when the Military are stationed in large numbers in the North and East since even after the war?

Views are personal

Sri Lanka: Costs of Sinhala Hegemony

The Government should have reduced expenditure at a time of severe economic crisis that we undergo presently rather than raising it further while the public suffers from high inflation rates. If benefits were to be given to the penurious needy some other expenditure should have been cut down. Because inflation would not come down as the Central Bank was continuing to print money to meet expenses. A fortnight ago it printed Rs.30 billion according to reports. Unless the Government cuts down expenditure, including Capital expenditure, we would not be able to reduce the inflation rates and stabilize the economy. Of course reasons have been given for the increase in expenditure. But increase in expenditure would further increase the inflation rates.

In addition to public administration, a notable increase can be observed in the expenditure assigned for the President, for Defense, education and health.

The defense allocation has been increased and a sum of Rs. 212,808 million has been allocated to the Ministry of Public Security. A sum of only Rs.138,560 million has been allocated for agriculture in contrast. Such are the priorities.

It appears we are not going to tarnish our reputation as the 14th largest Army in the World. Why does our small Country need such a large Army? Generally a Country would focus on the process of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) after a War. These are essential to restore sustainable peace in a post-war scenario. We should have reduced our Army personnel as soon as the war was over or at least a few years later. We have today 331,000 Army personnel officially as opposed to Britain’s 90000. This number is to be further reduced by Britain soon. The DDR is one of the significant aspects of the process of post-war peace-building. Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) is a process that contributes to security and stability in a post-war recovery context by removing weapons from the hands of combatants, taking the combatants out of military structures and helping them to integrate socially and economically into society by finding civilian livelihoods for them. But those who fought the war are still in our Armed Forces. Some of them are still working in the combat areas. It is high time they are taken out of the North and East and reintegrated into the civil society.

After thirteen years since the end of the war why is the Military being allowed to occupy our Peoples’ lands and buildings, our forests and shores?

In most of the cases world over, this process has been implemented with the assistance of foreign governments and international or regional institutions. However, the circumstances under which the Government of Sri Lanka happened to take over the sole responsibility for implementing the DDR process have raised serious concerns both at the local and international level. The findings of a recent study show that the DDR process was not fully implemented in a broad manner in the Sri Lankan context, but only served as a continuation of the military victory over the LTTE. In particular, not much attention was paid to disarming and demobilizing the armed groups, and the so-called DDR process took place in Sri Lanka without international assistance and supervision. One would think that the Sri Lankan powers that be had a purpose in keeping out international assistance and supervision. I would surmise it is to keep the North and East under the Military boot.

This coupled together with the expenditure for the armed forces in the Amendment Bill show that there has not been any changes in the psyche of the powers that be in Sri Lanka even after the aragalaya. Thoughts of Sinhala hegemony still reigns heavily in their minds.

All the talk about an All Party Government becomes a mockery in the light of such continuous military spending. Therefore the clarion call to unity is an empty shell. The Government under the present President wants to continue to spend large amounts of money to maintain our 14th largest Army. It has no intention of forging any form of reconciliation with the minorities.

And whom is the Government expecting a war with? Against India? Against China? Against America? Or even against Maldive Islands? No ! They expect an attack from us poor Tamils of the North and East! Because the government believes that the Tamil people will not continue to endure against the Sri Lankan state’s continued oppression and genocide. That is why the Sri Lankan Government preferred to conduct the so-called DDR process without international assistance and supervision. They want the presence of the Military permanently in the North and East.

Sri Lanka’s economic crisis is due to many factors. One major factor was the war and the money that Sri Lanka borrowed to buy destructive weapons. Another is the massive corruption among Government and Defense department officials.

A further major reason for the crisis was the ethnic cleansing that forced most of the Tamils to quit small businesses, high tech-related jobs, manufacturing trades, exportation and training, impeding Sri Lanka’s economic development, managerial efficiency, and productivity. The State by its shortsighted racial policies sabotaged itself.

Earlier racial discrimination against the Tamils forced many of them to leave Sri Lanka. They are the Tamils who are now offering to pull the chestnuts out of the fire for Sri Lanka if the political problems of the Sri Lankan Tamils are solved.

All of the erstwhile racist activities led Sri Lanka to this economic crisis. It did not happen overnight. It started with the ethnic riots of 1958.

Israeli Professor Oren Yiftachel has said ethnocratic countries often experience ethnic tensions which cause instability. Therefore, as long as Sri Lanka remains an ethnocratic country, there will continue to be instability. This will never lead to sustainable peace and economic prosperity as expected by His Excellency. The fact that you have increased defense spending to keep the army in the North-East and to establish massive military infrastructures and settlements to continue oppressing the Tamil people shows the instability that will continue in the future.

After thirteen years since the end of the war why is the Military being allowed to occupy our Peoples’ lands and buildings, our forests and shores?

The existing problems that the Tamils face which were brought to the notice of the President are conveniently forgotten in the Speech. We feel though the President had positively responded to our queries regarding the day to day problems the Tamils face apart from the need to solve the political problems of the Tamils, he prefers to remain silent in Parliament regarding our problems lest he disturbs a hornet’s nest.

I am reminded of Robert Walpole who was Prime Minister of England in 1715 or thereabout whose policy was “Let sleeping dogs lie”. May be because our Tamil Youths in recent times have not resorted to Aragalayas in their areas he believes we are but sleeping canines, best left to be unsaid and unreferred to. But am sure this time Geneva would reiterate its stand quite positively.

I like to remind the contents of my request letter to which His Excellency responded to positively. His Excellency promised to release all Tamil political prisoners. Nothing has come out from that promise. It is said that there is a move to release some persons taken into custody on suspicion after 2019 just in time for the Geneva deliberations. None are going to be fooled by such gimmicks if they be true.

If the case of the Tamil Political Prisoners, some of them languishing in jails for over quarter of a century is not going to be considered in a humanitarian manner considering the long period of incarceration and the type of diseases that have been contracted by some of them, I am wondering if any Tamil Parliamentarian could be ethically and morally be called upon to join in an All Party Government. Many of these Prisoners had been found guilty solely on their confessions made to Police officers under the PTA. Such confessions to Police officers cannot be accepted as evidence under our regular criminal law. That was why I had asked for the release of the Tamil Political Prisoners and for the scrapping of the draconian PTA from our statute books. Instead, it is being now used against the Aragalaya leaders. These leaders would soon be called Terrorists.

Any attempt to bring in diverse political viewpoints together under one umbrella must be preceded by genuine acts of goodwill towards those holding such viewpoints. It is useless saying join us and I will give you a free hand to express your views. The moment a Tamil Parliamentarian joins the Government he would lose his freedom of speech. Majority in the governing Party will rule the roost! I hope the Tamils whose names have been included in a Ministerial list recently would wait till the Geneva deliberations are over before taking office.

I have no objections to attending a meeting of Party leaders friendly towards this Government to put forward the viewpoints of the Tamils.

Finally, my request to the donor countries and the IMF is that in this difficult situation for Sri Lanka, you should definitely help to save the people of Sri Lanka from starvation, but please see that you do your assistance in such a way that your assistance is not used to suppress the rights of the Tamil people and be used for defense expenditure.

Views are personal

Sri Lanka: Our Meeting with President and His Promises

At the invitation of the President, I met his Excellency along with our Party senior member Mr. S. Selvendra at 4.30 PM on 10th August 2022 at the Presidential Secretariat. The Prime Minister was also present. The President explained to us at length his plan of governance which included a Parliamentary governance committee giving a greater role for the Provincial Governors. His idea was that all MPs from Provinces must govern the respective Provinces under the Chairmanship of the Governors in terms of a National Agenda. He referred to Austria as an example. (His example was inappropriate. Austria is a Federal Country).

Further discussing regarding grabbing of lands in Provinces by Central Government Ministries he agreed that there should be no forestry land that should be grabbed by Ministries and that we should focus on preserving the environment in each Province. He said, if need be a maximum of 2 acres could be taken over by the Government. I said no land should be appropriated by the Central Government in the Provinces except with the consent and concurrence of the respective Provincial Government. There was no response from His Excellency.

Regarding National Schools he said 50 National Schools were enough for the Country not 1000 National Schools. I pointed out that no Provincial Schools could be taken over by the State and that our Alliance has already filed action in this regard.

He appeared to be in a hurry to rope in Jaffna MPs to be part of the Government, I suppose to showcase to Geneva! I don’t blame him. The Government has so far ignored its obligations to the UN as per Resolution 46/1.

He wanted me to share a document which outlines the proposal on how money could be channeled into the Country from the Diaspora.

It became apparent to us while discussing with him that his plan was to strengthen the central administrative control of the entire Country totally ignoring the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

I pointed out to the President that the Tamil people in this country expect the government to take speedy action to attend to their requests submitted by all Tamil National party leaders which included the release of political prisoners; action to trace the missing persons; stop the activities of various government departments to grab Tamil lands and stop persons trying to build Buddhist temples in Tamil homeland with the help of the Military and so on.

It was also pointed out that in order to enable the Tamils to give political leadership and governance over their Provinces, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution should be implemented in full as a temporary measure until satisfactory constitutional reforms are made. We told the President that until this process is started in earnest satisfying the Tamil people, we will support the Government from the Opposition. There was no question of our becoming a part of the Government.

Although the President assured us that he will take action to implement our requests and invited us to join the Government, we felt the impending Geneva meeting was more important to him than solving the Tamils’ Problems. Nevertheless, we promised to forward the document he called for and took our leave to depart.