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"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Sri Lanka's Broken Pacts & Evasive Proposals > The Thimpu Talks - July/August 1985 > Introduction > Initial cease fire proposal by Eelam National Liberation Front in April/May 1985 > Terms of cease-fire proposed by Indian Government Agencies > Joint response by Eelam National Liberation Front to cease-fire proposals, 18 June 1985 > Tamil Liberation Organisations refuse to participate in talks with Sri Lanka, 29 June 1985 > Diary of Phase I of Thimpu Talks, 8 July 1985 to 13 July 1985  > Joint Statement by Tamil Liberation Organisations on cease-fire violations by Sri Lanka, 9 July 1985 > First Proposal by Sri Lanka Delegation, 10 July 1985 > Joint Statement by Tamil Liberation Organisations, 12 July 1985 > Response by Sri Lanka Delegation, 13 July 1985 > The Thimpu Declaration,13 July 1985 > Opening statement by Sri Lanka delegation - Phase II - 12 August 1985 > Joint Response of Tamil Delegation, 13 August 1985 > Statement by Nadesan Satyendra on behalf of Tamil Delegation,14 August 1985 > Joint Statement by Tamil delegation on recognition of representative character, 15 August 1985 > Response of Sri Lanka delegation on recognition, 15 August 1985 > New Proposals by Sri Lanka Delegation, 16 August 1985 > Joint Response by Tamil Delegation to new proposals, 17 August 1985 > Joint Statement by Tamil Delegation immediately prior to walk out, 17 August 1985 > A Brief Note on the Thimpu Talks - David Selbourne, Oxford, August 1985 > S.Sivanayagam on the Thimpu Talks - The Sinhala- Tamil Conflict & the India Factor > Thimpu Declaration: The Path of Reason - Nadesan Satyendra, 1987

Thimpu Talks - July/August 1985

Joint response of the Tamil Delegation
on the concluding day of Phase II of the Thimpu talks
17 August 1985

"..More than 50 years have passed since 1928 and we have moved from Provincial Councils to Regional Councils and from Regional Councils to District Councils and now from District Councils back to District/Provincial Councils. We have had the 'early consideration' of Mrs. Srimavo Bandaranaike and the 'earnest consideration' of the late Dudley Senanayake. There has been no shortage of Committees and Commissions, of reports and recommendations but that which was lacking was the political will to recognise the existence of the Tamil nation. And simultaneous with this process of broken pacts and dishonoured agreements, the Tamil people were subjected to an ever widening and deepening national oppression aimed at undermining the integrity of the Tamil nation..."


We, the Tamil delegation, being solely representative of the Tamil people at the Thimpu talks, have given careful consideration to the proposals made, on the 16th of August 1985, by the Sri Lankan Government delegation. We state that we are constrained to reject the proposals as they fail to satisfy the legitimate political aspirations of the Tamil people.

The Thimpu talks were convened at the initiative of the Government of India. It was an initiative which we welcomed particularly in the context of Prime Minister Shri Rajiv Gandhi's statement concerning the need to find a just and lasting solution to the Tamil national question.

At the commencement of these talks in early July 1985, the Sri Lankan Government presented certain proposals, which were in substance, a repetition of the proposals by the Government to the aborted All Party Conference in Colombo in December 1984. These proposals had been rejected by the TULF and the action of the Sri Lankan government in placing similar proposals once again at the Thimpu talks called in question the good faith of the Government and its commitment to seek a just solution at these talks.

The intent of the proposals that were presented was clear. Although it was stated that power would devolve on District Councils, in fact, the District Councils were without executive power. Again, even their limited legislative power to enact subsidiary legislation was made subject to the control and approval of the President. Finally the funds to be placed at the disposal of a District Council were to be determined at the discretion of a commission appointed by the President. The proposals submitted by the Sri Lanka Government did not devolve power from the centre: they reinforced the power of the centre to manage the districts. The proposals constituted evidence of the intention of Sri Lankan government to manage and control the Tamil people even in the relatively insignificant functional areas where the District Councils were given some jurisdiction.

We, the Tamil delegation, consisting of six organisations, unanimously rejected these proposals because it was our considered view that any meaningful solution to the Tamil national question must be based on the four cardinal principles enunciated by us.

The talks were thereafter adjourned to the 12th of August 1985, on which date the Sri Lankan Government made a statement setting out its understanding of the four basic principles enunciated by us and the Sri Lankan government denied that the Tamils constituted a nation, that the Tamils have an identifiable homeland, and further that the Tamil people have the right of self determination. The Sri Lankan Government further questioned our right to represent or negotiate on behalf of the plantation Tamils in the Island.

We responded by our statement of the 13th August 1985, and pointed out that our demand for self determination had evolved and taken shape historically through the determined political struggles of our people. We stated that the Tamils of Eelam or Tamil Eelam, constituted a nation with a common heritage, a common culture, a common language and an identified homeland, and further that they were a subjugated people and as such they had the inherent right to free themselves from an alien subjugation. It is right of self determination that has come to be recognised as one of the peremptory norms of general international law. We stated that in upholding the right of self determination, we as a people have the liberty to determine our political status, to freely associate or integrate with an independent state or secede and establish a sovereign independent state. We mentioned, however that the enumeration of the principles enunciated by us did not entail that we were opposed to any rational dialogue with the Government of Sri Lanka on the basis of such principles.

At the subsequent talks on the 13th and 14th of August 1985, the Sri Lankan Government delegation failed to engage in any discussion concerning the basic framework that we had enunciated. This was despite the circumstance that the members of the Tamil delegation specifically requested the Sri Lankan Government delegation to honour that which it had it had stated in its own statement of the 12th of August i.e. to engage in a 'fruitful exchange' of views.

The Sri Lankan government delegation presented instead its so called 'new proposals' on the 16th of August 1985. These 'new proposals' are a rehash of the earlier proposals with the right to certain District Councils to function as Provincial Councils.

The 'new proposals' do not recognise that the Tamils of Sri Lanka constitute a nation. The 'new proposals' do not recognise that the Tamil speaking people have the right to an identified homeland. The 'new proposals' do not recognise the inalienable right of self determination of the Tamil people. And finally the 'new proposals' do not secure the fundamental rights of the Tamil people and any solution to the Tamil national question is inseparable from the resolution of the problems of the plantation Tamils in the Island. And accordingly the 'new proposals' fail to satisfy the legitimate political aspirations of the Tamil people.

We may add that the so called 'new proposals' are in fact nothing new. As early as 1928, the Donoughmore Commission recommended the establishment of Provincial Councils on the ground that it was desirable that a large part of the administrative work of the centre should come into the hands of persons resident in the districts and thus more directly in contact with the needs of the area. Twelve years later the Executive Committee of Local Administration chaired by the late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, considered the proposal of the Donoughmore Commission and in 1940, the State Council (the legislature approved the establishment of Provincial Councils. But nothing was in fact done, though in 1947, on the floor of the House of Representatives, the late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike again declared his support for the establishment of Provincial Councils.

In 1955, the Choksy Commission recommended the establishment of Regional Councils to take over the functions that were exercised by the Kacheries and in May 1957, the government of the late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike presented a draft of the proposed Bill for the establishment of Regional Councils. Subsequently, in July 1957, the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam Pact made provision for direct election to Regional Councils and also provided that the subjects covered by Regional Councils shall include agriculture, cooperatives, lands and land development, colonisation and education. The Pact however did not survive the opposition of sections of the Sinhala community which included the United National Party.

In July 1963, the government of Mrs. Bandaranaike declared that early consideration' would be given to the question of the establishment of District Councils to replace the Kacheries and the government appointed a Committee on District Councils and the report of this Committee containing a draft of the proposed Bill to establish District Councils but again nothing was in fact done.

In 1965, the government of the late Dudley Senanayake declared that it would give 'earnest consideration' to the establishment of District Councils and in 1968 a draft Bill approved by the Dudley Senanayake Cabinet was presented as a White Paper and this Bill provided for the establishment of District Councils. This time round, the opposition to the Bill was spearheaded by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party which professed to follow the policies of the late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike who himself had in 1940, 1947 and again in 1957, supported the establishment of Provincial/Regional Councils. In view of the opposition the Dudley Senanayake government withdrew the Bill that it had presented.

More than 50 years have passed since 1928 and we have moved from Provincial Councils to Regional Councils and from Regional Councils to District Councils and now from District Councils back to District/Provincial Councils. We have had the 'early consideration' of Mrs. Srimavo Bandaranaike and the 'earnest consideration' of the late Dudley Senanayake. There has been no shortage of Committees and Commissions, of reports and recommendations but that which was lacking was the political will to recognise the existence of the Tamil nation. And simultaneous with this process of broken pacts and dishonoured agreements, the Tamil people were subjected to an ever widening and deepening national oppression aimed at undermining the integrity of the Tamil nation.

The four basic principles that we have set out at the Thimpu talks as the necessary framework for any rational dialogue with the Sri Lankan Government are not some mere theoretical constructs. They represent the hard existential reality of the struggle of the Tamil people for their fundamental and basic rights. It is a struggle which initially manifested itself in the demand for a federal constitution in the 1950s and later in the face of a continuing and increasing oppression and discrimination, found logical expression in the demand for the independent Tamil state of Eelam or Tamil Eelam. It is a struggle in which thousands of Tamils have died and many thousands more have lost their properties and their means of livelihood - they have died and they have suffered so that their brothers and sisters may live in equality and in freedom.

And so, we declare here at Thimpu, without rancour, and with patience, that we shall speak at Thimpu, or for that matter anywhere else, on behalf of the Tamil nation or not at all. And we call upon the Sri Lankan Government to state unequivocally, whether it is prepared to enter into a rational dialogue on the basis of the framework set out by the cardinal principles enunciated by us at these talks.

There is one further matter of some considerable importance to which we wish to refer and we propose to do that in a separate statement.

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