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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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Journey Down Memory Lane To Reach 'tamiz Izam'

Chapter 44

Today is the 4th of February and no different from any other day, perhaps after the cold blast, there is hope for winter to end in less than six weeks. In Sri Lanka, there is jubilation for an independence that came as a by-product of other independence, after the end of W.W.II. In ‘tamiz Izam’ it is still a land under foreign army occupation, and a period of anxiety and suffering. I thought it may be a good idea to travel further back down memory path of our forefathers. Although, there is some show of signs of historical facts in some of the writings, some suggestions and ideas that come out do not reflect maturity or will to understand. Some do not have the strength of conviction to stand firm on the idea of ‘tamiz Izam.’ Hence for the benefit of all ‘tamizar’ I will try and put ‘tamiz’ political scene as I recollect in a chronological fashion.

In February 1993 at the 49th Sessions of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva, 15 NGOs with UN consultative status urged that:

"Any meaningful attempt to resolve the conflict should address its underlying causes and recognise that the armed struggle of the Tamil people for self-determination, arose as a response to decades of an ever widening and deepening oppression by a permanent Sinhala majority, within the confines of a unitary Sri Lankan state." And further that "there is an urgent need for the international community to recognise that the Tamil population in the North-East of the island of Sri Lanka are a ‘people’ with the right to freely choose their political status. "

I wish the quick-fix pundits will stop their ill-informed,ill-timed insinuation against the freedom fighters and stop giving advice and allow the freedom fighters, who are privy to more than what has been published, in the current Chandrika plan for decimating the Tamils, the opportunity to determine the best course to take. Of course there is pain, again "there is no gain without pain (physical and mental). Much has been lost and it is cowardice to give up now. The pain will be more if we continue to stand in the way by suggesting alternatives to our right to self determination without knowing the full implications of Sinhala Tamil future relations. An almost chronological events listed below, should help understand the Sinhala Tamil hatred vis a vis camaraderie:

1618 August - Internal revolt in Jaffna during Sangkiliya Mannan’s rule. Instigated by the Portuguese Padre Pedro Pottenkone against Sangkiliyan to establish Portuguese rule. King Ragunath Nayak of Tanjore helps Sangkiliyan by sending an army of 5000 under the command of Varunakulan. Sangkiliyan quelled the internal rebellion. He, even stopped attempts by the Portuguese to send Sinhalas like Sapumal Kumariya.

1619 May, 130 Portuguese soldiers and 2000 Sinhala mercenaries under the command of Phillip de Oliviera were camped off Pooneryn. Traitors like Kakkai Vanniyan and Priests helped the invaders by providing boats to cross into the peninsula. 1619 May, Sangkiliyan did not stop the crossing, but threatened the traitors with serious repercussions. Some of them through fear joined Sangkiliyan. War continued but there was every chance of Sangkiliyan winning the war, Sinhala mercenaries deserted Oliviera. That was the time when traitor Kakkai Vanniyan in disguise joined ‘tamiz’ cadres, and was able to get closer to Sangkiliyan and kakkaijan pleaded with Sangkiliyan to accept him into the ranks. Sangkiliyan accepted him on the assumption that internal split could be patched. But once a traitor always a traitor. Kakkaijan’s associates who infiltrated into Sangkilijan’s cadres, were able to seize Sangkilijan and even before he could be rescued by his men, Sangkilijan was kidnapped to Colombo. From Colombo, he was taken to Goa in India and was hanged on charges of treason along with two of his nephews.

1619 June, - Oliviera was made Commander of Portuguese garrison in Jaffna and "tamiz Izam’ was under the Portuguese until 1658.

1638 - part of ‘tamiz Izam,’ port of Batticaloa was captured by the Dutch. Gradually the Dutch captured Colombo in 1656.

1658 - all of ‘tamiz Izam’ came under Dutch rule.

1795 - the British capture the Port of Trincomalee and other territories from the Dutch and with the capture of the Kandyan kingdom in 1815 for the first time Ceylon came under one rule by a foreign country.

1795 to 1833 - ‘tamiz Izam’ was governed as a separate territory.

1833 February 18 - British Monarch William IV, proclaimed a system of governance in keeping with British traditions thus reducing the differences among the various ethnic groups.

1945, - British who showed signs for sharing some of their authority with local leaders earlier in effect, the Board of Ministers submitted their own proposals for a new constitution. Tamils almost unanimously rejected the proposal as they feared the proposals were calculated to place them in a position of dependence on the racial majority.

1948 - Citizenship act that made Tamils of Indian origin stateless.

1949 - The Ceylon (Parliamentary) Election Amendment Act defranchised Tamils of Indian origin.

1956 June - Official Language Act making Sinhala the only official language throughout the entire island. Anti - Tamil riots .

1957 - Banda Chelva pact.

1958 - Chelva pact unilaterally abrogated by Banda. The Tamil Language (Special Provisions ) Act enacted but remained a dead letter and never implemented . Anti - Tamil riots in May - June Belated action by Banda caused an otherwise avoidable carnage. "Emergency ‘58" by Tarzi Vittachi a Sinhala journalist severely censored the Bandaranayake government for its callosity.

1960 - Language of the Courts Act making Sinhala the only language of all courts throughout the country enacted.

1960-1961 - Nationalization of schools.

1961 - Satyagraha for 57 days outside chief government offices in the principal cities of ‘tamiz Izam,’ protesting the implementation of Sinhala the only official language with all its rigors, broken up by the army and hired thugs by the government. The government imposed a state of emergency and used the Armed Forces to unleash a reign of terror in these areas Tamil M.P.s and leading Tamils like Sir Kanthiah Vaithianathan were placed under detention.

1962 - Tamil public servant C. Kodeeswaran sued the government for denying him his annual salaries increment.

1962 - Attempted Army coup by about 30 British trained Officers. This attempted (putsch) prompted Srimavo to purge the officer corps along religio-ethnic lines.

1964 - India and Ceylon entered into a pact for the repatriation of a majority of Indian Tamil population. The rigors of the pact were modified during 1965-70 but re-introduced during 1970 - 1977.

1965 - Dudley/ Chelva pact on the lines of the ill-fated 1957 pact, abandoned in 1968 due to opposition from Sinhala pressure groups.

1966 - Regulations for the use of the Tamil Language enacted under the Tamil Language (Special Provisions) Act of 1958, remained a dead letter due to lack of co-operation from Sinhala public servants and governmental indifference.

1970 - Formation of Tamil Students Movement to protest government plans to limit access to universities.

1971 - JVP insurrection.

1971 - Tamil youth though qualified kept away from entering universities by the introduction of the selective standardization system designed to exclude merit as the criterion for university admissions. The last straw that broke the Tamil youth back and turned the youth into freedom fighters.

1971-1972 - Ceylon a multinational island becomes a uni- religio-lingual nation of the Sinhalas under a new Republican constitution unilaterally adopted with the steamroller majority votes in parliament

1972-1977 - The entire Tamil areas under Sinhala military rule.

1974 January 10, - 4th International Conference of Tamil Research held in Jaffna, disrupted by the police by attacking unarmed civilians. Retired Judge of the Ceylon Supreme court, a non-Tamil headed a commission of inquiry and commented on "the tragic loss of lives, and physical injuries and indignities to which men and women had been subject to on this night of terror" as a result of police action.

1974 - The ministry of education supplemented the standardization system with the district quotas for admissions to the universities.

1974 - The Jaffna Campus of the University of Ceylon was opened in Jaffna at Jaffna College, the Primary school for secondary education in North Ceylon, one of the best in the island, run by an American mission was taken over for the purpose. The Sinhalas thought they were killing two birds with one stone. Kill secondary education and provide a caricature of a seat of learning, and as usual ‘tamizan’ had risen to the occasion and proved the Sinhlas wrong about ‘tamizar’ as always.

1975 - The nationalization of foreign-owned plantations. Another death blow to Indian Tamil workers. July 27, Assassination Of Alfred Duraiappa.

1975 February 6, - SJV wins by-election with a mandate from Tamils for separation.

1976 May, 14 - Vaddukodai resolution for a Tamil State. "The convention called on the Tamil nation and the Tamil youth in particular to come forward to throw themselves fully in the sacred fight for freedom and to flinch not till the goal of a sovereign state of Tamil Eelam is reached." Wilson, A. J., S.J.V. Chelvanayagam and the Crisis of Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism, 1947 - 1977, op cit., p 128.

1976 - Tamil speaking Muslims in a mosque in Puttalam killed by police firing. Similar incidents reported from other parts, butt government declined to hold an inquiry.

1977 August - Worst and severest anti-Tamil lootings, plunder, rape, arson and murders. Government under JR desisted from declaring a state of emergency on the ground that this would be contrary to democratic principles. The government also claimed that it was powerless to direct the armed forces to restore order as these had been infiltrated by the political appointees of the previous regime. Evidence led before a commission of inquiry appointed by the government and headed by a retired Chief Justice, revealed the extent of anti-Tamil hatred among members of the majority group.

1978 - A new Constitution for a presidential system of government was enacted, without Tamil Representatives’ cooperation. JR issues his celebrated charge to the officer in charge of Northern operations, Brigadier Tissa Weeratunga, "to eliminate in accordance to the laws of this land the menace of terrorism in all its form from the island and more especially from Jaffna (in six months). I place at your disposal all resources of the State."

1979 - Violent anti-Tamil racial riots erupted again. Random killings of Tamils by the state security forces.

1981 - The Jaffna Public Library was burnt, whilst several high ranking Sinhala army officers and two cabinet ministers were in Jaffna.

1983 - The most traumatic anti-Tamil riots. Described by the International Commission of Jurists in the following terms. "The evidence points clearly to the conclusion that the violence of the Sinhala rioters on the Tamils amounted to acts of genocide. Surprisingly, President Jayawardene in his first public comment made three days after the riots had begun, did not condemn the violence against the Tamils. In trying to placate the majority Sinhalese he seemed by implication to justify the atrocities against the Tamils." Eruption of intra-race war. LTTE slowly but surely eliminated competition and took over the entire Tamil military and political initiative.

!987 May 26, JR Pressed for a ‘military solution’ and permitted ‘operation Liberation.’ Rajiv Gandhi sends token relief supplies to Jaffna accompanied by fighter plane escort.

1987 July 29 - - Gandhi signs the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord and nearly lost his life at the hands of a Lankan honor guard naval rating. While Indian troops land in the North and East.

1990 March - Indian army having failed in its counter insurgency mission and loss of over one thousand Indian troops pull out. Peace returns to the North East and experimenting on civil administration proved a success for the LTTE. and there was general hope among Tamils.

1991 May 20, - - Rajiv Gandhi assassinated in Sriperumpudur, near Madras, India.

1992 August 8, - Commander of the Sinhala forces in the North, Denzil Kobbekkaduwe killed in an explosion in Jaffna.

1993 May 1, - President Premadasa Assassinated at a Mayday rally in Colombo.

1993, September ‘operation Yal Devi’ by Sinhala forces.

1993 November 11, Pooneryn battle on the Kilali lagoon crossing shows LTTE’s competence to conduct ‘large-scale set-piece’ battles. code named ‘operation frog jump’ 4000 strong freedom fighters described as a ‘human wave’ waded through knee deep water killed over one thousand Sinhala troops in a single day at Pooneryn- Nagathevanthurai.

1994 August 16, - Peoples Alliance Party of Chandrika assumes power.

1994 October 13, the first round of talks between representatives of LTTE and the Sri Lankan government held in Jaffna.

1994 November 12, - LTTE declared a unilateral cease-fire.

1995 January 3, second round of talks were held and a decision reached for the ‘cessation of hostilities’ and lifting of ban on fishing. The agreements were signed by both parties and came into effect on January 10, 1995. However, the next day it was announced that "no fishing will be permitted during night time and beyond 4 km distance from the shore." Government breached on the 4th an agreement of the 3rd. of January.

( * ) third round of talks emphasized on the need to open a "safe passage’ for free movement of people but the government did not agree.

1995 April 10,- The fourth round of talks without any positive results.

1995 April 19, LTTE withdrew from peace talks after extending the first deadline set for March 28, 1995. In a letter to Chandrika when he released 14 POWs on March 16, 1995 LTTE leader Pirapakaran wrote that if outstanding issues were not resolved before March 28, the LTTE. would be compelled to withdraw from the peace talks. Realizing the time frame may be short, particularly because of what the LTTE noted to be a ‘positive response’ from the President indicating the lifting of the ban on fuel and fishing rights, the LTTE extended the deadline by three more weeks to April 19, 1995.

* I am unable to confirm the date as the LTTE Tamil news I used to translate was on a floppy for the months of January and February 1995 is misplaced. The third talk was in late January 1995.

We learnt to endure injustice but not to inflict it. We escaped the situation where we would have had to make a choice. Nevertheless, we cannot impose our will on the youngsters, as they have been driven to a stage withoutt inflicting pain, their survival is at risk. Offense sometimes is the best defense. We would love to be charitable, but as Tamils what have we to give other than our lives. We do not have even our freedom to give for peace, the Sinhalas have taken it away from us. The best thing to do under the existing conditions is to stop the ongoing struggle by getting the international community to bring the warring parties to the negotiating table.


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