தமிழ்த் தேசியம்

"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  > 'Voice of Tamil Nation' Rally in Jaffna, Tamil Eelam, June 2005 - தமிழ்த் தேசியத்தின் குரல் > Pongu Thamizh  >

THE STRUGGLE FOR TAMIL EELAM

'Voice of Tamil Nation' Rally
தமிழ்த் தேசியத்தின் குரல்
Kailasapathy Hall, Jaffna, Tamil Eelam

19 June 2005

[Courtesy: Peace Secretariat, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam]

Introduction & Text of Declaration
"Tamils had their own government once and we have decided to return to that" - S. Mohandas, Vice  Chancellor of University of Jaffna
Do not attempt to suppress us - Srilasri Somasundara Swamikal
We are united though our language - Moulavi Sahil Moulana of Jaffna Mosque
Sinhala chauvinism will never permit a just approach to Tamils -  Rev Fr Bernard
 


Introduction & Text of Declaration

More than thousand dignitaries assembled at the Jaffna University Kailasapathy hall on Sunday, 19 June 2005 and declared, "we will defeat the Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism to reclaim our traditional land from the occupying forces and determine our own future in our own land using our own strength."

The gathering, named "The Voice of Tamil Nation" started at 10.45 am and concluded at 1.30 pm. It was presided by the president of the consortium of humanitarian agencies, S Paramanathan. Intellectuals, university academics, heads of institutions, religious leaders of Hindu, Christian and Islam religions, representatives of civilian based and village based organizations attended the gathering.

The event was inaugurated by the raising of the Tamil national flag by Selvakumar, past president of the university students association. Lamp was then lit by many dignitaries including Jaffna University Vice Chancellor, religious leaders, parent of a martyr, head of fishermen society, president of national uprising consortium and others.

Rev Fr Bernard explained in his talk the historical background. This was followed by speeches about the necessity for a Tamil nation by, head of the Nallur temple chapter, Srilasri Paramasamy Swamikal, Sahis Moulana, Moulavi of Jaffna Mosque, Member of Parliament S Sivajilingam and the Vice Chancellor of Jaffna University, S Mohanadas.

At the end of the meeting everyone stood up raised their hands and read the declaration in unison. The declaration was released to inform the international community and the southern leadership about the situation in Tamil homeland.

The text of the declaration is as follows.

"Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism is staging a dangerous dance in south Sri Lanka. This is nothing new to the Tamils. Ever since the island got independence Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism has maintained that the entire island must be in its control.

Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism has ignored the fact that Tamils have lived in this island for a long long time with their own sovereignty. It undertook many actions to make Tamils second-class citizens in this island.

Tamils are oppressed not only in the areas of citizenship, land, language and education they are also oppressed militarily. Historically, the northeast of the island has been the homeland of the Tamils.

Tamil speaking people hold the firm view that they must release themselves from the oppressive rule of Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism and live a life of freedom. Thirst for this freedom is the result of 50 years of experience of living under Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism. Today  Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism is showing its cruel face by refusing even the limited joint structure to channel tsunami relief.

We vow to defeat this cruel Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism and reclaim our land from the occupying forces and determine our own future using our own strength in our own land."


 "Tamils had their own government once and we have decided to return to that" - S. Mohandas, Vice Chancellor of University of Jaffna


Tamils demand for self-determination is not something that sprung up today or yesterday. We had this right for a long time. We have now moved from our weakened situation in this regard and have regained our strength and have decided to take our right to self-determination.

From ancient times when the Tamils of Tamilnadu identified themselves as unique in language, art, religion, and culture, Tamils of Ceylon also have identified us as a unique people.

Tamils have ruled Ceylon. They set up palaces in Jaffna. History exists when Eelam Tamils have been a challenge as well as a friend to south Ceylon and Tamilnadu.

It was Arumuganavalar from Jaffna who has the distinction of being the first to raise the Tamil national awareness of the 60 million Tamils of Tamilnadu and for emphasising the right of Tamils to self-determination.

Although the governments of south Ceylon were fearful of recognizing our uniqueness, the European colonisers who ruled us recognized it. The "Thesavalamai" law in practice today is based on our traditional customs, culture, and lifestyle. It is a symbol of our nationhood. The Dutch colonisers by incorporating it in their law book acknowledged our nationhood.

Today we are identified as a unique nationality in the international arena. In this context no one can deny our right to self-determination.

Ever since Ceylon gained independence we wanted to live without loosing our uniqueness, without war, without bloodshed, and together with everyone else. That is what we want even today.

The majority community rejects our uniqueness and our right. In this situation we are forced to take into our hands our right to self-determination.

Today's event, "voice of the Tamil nation" is the outcome of this situation. We are here today with drums beating, trumpets blowing, hands clapping in unison, and our voices raised to announce our determination.

I like to add that no other university in the world has privilege that Jaffna University has. That is the growth of the struggle for nationhood and the growth of Jaffna University have gone hand in hand.


Do not make any attempt to suppress us - Srilasri Somasundara Swamikal

"Today's message is directed at the community that has kept us oppressed for the past twenty years.

Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism that oppressed us all these years is keen to oppress us again and again. With this in mind the Buddhist monks are testing out what they can and cannot do to oppress us through their fasting.

We the priests are again issuing a request to these Buddhist monks. Do not oppress us again and again. Give voice for our freedom instead.

At a time when we must all together build a national structure for rehabilitation, development and peace, it is tragic that the Buddhist monks are acting with the view to weaken such moves.

All religions have the right to exist in this country. All religions are unique. Buddhism is not the only religion of the people. Time has come to tell the Buddhist monks that there are also other religions practiced in this land.

It is not proper that Buddhist monks are immersing themselves in politics. Politics is necessary for the religious leaders dedicated to spirituality. But it must stay within its limits. We think the Buddhist monks are betraying Buddhism by putting their views into actions on inappropriate issues.

As the voice of the all the Tamil people in the north this is what we would like to tell the Buddhist monks. Do not oppress our community again and again. Let us live. Give us the freedom that should be ours.

Let us unite. Let us live together. Let us give voice for the freedom of our land and people."


We are united though our language - Moulavi Sahil Moulana of Jaffna Mosque

"Today unity has gone hiding somewhere. Even if unity seeks us out, forces that are constantly undermining this unity is growing amongst us. It is trying to cut the roots of our unity.

Many of our brothers from other districts were selected to study at the Jaffna University medical college. But politicians from other districts frightened them saying that Muslim students are not safe in Jaffna. This is a big stumbling block for the Muslim people who have started to resettle in Jaffna.

There are no threats or hardships for us Muslims who have resettled in Jaffna. We are free to live here. Everyone here, including the LTTE and members of parliament, are giving their voices for our freedom as well.

Although we are separated by our religions we are all one people through our language. This is what we want to tell the Sinhala Buddhist chauvinistic forces. Do not try to oppress us. Respect our feelings and work for our rights".


Sinhala chauvinism will never permit a just approach to Tamils -  Rev Fr Bernard

I have been asked to give my talk about the aim of today’s event and the background to it. Thus my talk will be along these lines.

The views of the Jaffna people were gathered recently through a research project. The aim of this event is to let the international community and the south Ceylon community know of these findings in the presence of leaders and intellectuals respected by the people of Jaffna and with their blessings.

Three inter related issues have come up. They are, it is Sinhala chauvinism that is standing opposed to us in the name of language and religion; the historical background to this; and the need to safeguard our right to self-determination from this chauvinism.

It is very important to understand this aim and therefore some explanation is needed. Firstly, we are not disrespecting the Buddhist religion or the Sinhala people. On the contrary we respect both. Secondly, when we talk of our nationalism we do so while respecting similar feelings of other people. But we raise our voice against any exaggerated feeling of nationalism that attempts to spread its hegemony on us thus wounding our self-respect. We have not failed to notice that there have been voices in south Ceylon then and now against this Sinhala hegemony.

People’s views

Sinhala hegemony is the cause of the 25 years of war that is crushing us.  In the 50 years since independence there has never been a strong political community, or political culture, or leadership in south Ceylon to break this Sinhala hegemonic tendency. From now on we will determine our own future. In order to explain these views it is necessary to look into the political history.

Manifestations of Sinhala chauvinism

Citizenship Act - Soon after independence from Britian the new government in Ceylon introduced a citizenship act and through it denied the Tamils in upcountry their citizenship and their right to vote. Not only that through this the government wiped out any political bargaining strength for the Tamil people.

At the same time the Sinhala Mahasangam was applying pressure to make Sinhala the only official language and Buddhism the state religion. Accordingly, late Bandaranayake, former Prime Minister, who in earlier decades demonstrated his broad outlook by proposing a federal system of government for Ceylon, now turned into an opportunist and started shouting the Sinhala only slogan in 1956. He won the elections with landslide victory as a result.

Sinhala only

“Two languages on country – one language two country”, dismissing these words of a Sinhala leader, in 1956 Sinhala was made the only official language. Tamil leaders started fasting in front of the parliament opposing this. That was a non-violent struggle. But violence was used to break that protest. Massive protests broke among Tamil people objecting to the violence. These too were non-violent protests.

Banda – Chelva pact

In order to manage the Tamil protests Prime Minister Bandaranayake held talks with the leader of the Tamil Arasu political party, Chelvanayakam. A pact was signed by the two following the talks. The basis of this pact is the federal system of government.

The following were included in this pact,
o Tamil was accepted as the language of the minority in Ceylon.
o Tamil to be made the language of administration in the northeast. .
o Create district councils in the Northeast and.
o Reform the settlement schemes and the citizenship act.

But Buddhist leaders opposed this pact. J R Jayawardhana also staged protests against it. Unable to face the opposition to the pact, Bandaranayake unilaterally ripped the pact in front of them.

Government sponsored settlements in Tamil areas

As a result of these settlements the number of Sinhala people in the eastern district increased by 10 fold from 1946 to 1976. This seriously affected the Tamil people. Tamils who were already a minority at the country level were also made a minority in their traditional homeland. When new electoral districts were created their representation and their bargaining strength were severely reduced.

Dudley – Chelva pact

Another pact was signed in 1965. This was signed by Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake and Chelvanayakam. The following were contained in this pact,

o To make Tamil the administrative language in the Northeast.
o Use Tamil in the courts in Northeast.
o When land is allocated it must first be offered to landless Tamils in that area and then to Tamils in other areas and lastly to other people. .

Even for these very limited demands, there was opposition. The Sri Lanka Freedom party that was in support of the Banda-Chelva pact, having lost power, now became the opposition party that opposed this new pact. As before Buddhist leaders also opposed the pact. As a result the government could not implement this pact for a long time.

New constitution in 1972

United Front government that won the elections in 1970 initiated the proposal for a new constitution. The Tamil Arasu party put forward the following to the council considering the new constitution.

o Incorporate the Dudley-Chelva pact into the constitution.
o Make Tamil language the medium of education for the Tamil students.

All of these were rejected by the council. All other Tamil parties except the Tamil Arasu party put forward the following suggestions.

o Give Tamil equal status.
o Grant citizenship to those from whom it was taken away.
o The constitution must not be favouring one or the other community.

All of these were also rejected. Not only that, clause 29 in the then existing constitution that granted protection to the minorities by ensuring equality of status for all religions and languages was removed in the new constitution and Buddhism was given a special place.

Another constitution in 1978

The new constitution of 1978 also did not take into account the shortcomings in the 1972 constitution in relation to the Tamils. Instead this too became a document that reinstated Sinhala Buddhist hegemony. It became impossible to expect a respectable life from the south Ceylon society.

Discrimination in education

Yet another manifestation of the Sinhala hegemony was the “standardisation” procedure implemented for the university entrance. This created a huge hurdle to the higher education of Tamil students. This came when Tamil people were already affected in the areas of job opportunities and job promotions due to the Sinhala only Act and the anti-Tamil sentiments.

Independent state policy replaces Federal system policy

Only when Tamils realised that all these actions were destroying their identity, their feelings of Tamil nationalism gained strength.

In 1976 at the Vaddukoddai conference the decision was taken to secede from Ceylon. The victory of the candidates who stood on the independent state ticket made the political views of the Tamils crystal clear.

The struggle for Tamil rights did not start with the demand for an independent state. Tamils original aim was to set up a political structure to share power within an undivided country in order to cherish Tamil language and culture and have equal opportunity in the economic life of the country.

Not only that Tamils were actually opposed to the division of the country. In the 1970 election two candidates stood on the independent state policy in two electorates. They both lost the elections. In fact the Tamil Arasu party campaigned against the idea of dividing the country in 1970. This shows clearly that Tamils opposed the division of the country in 1970. But all of them were gradually pushed into adopting the independent state policy.

These Tamils held the view that although we have two separate, Tamil and Sinhala, socio-cultural history, and while preserving this uniqueness, at the national level we prefer the common identity as “Ceylonese” where all are treated as equals. However, the majority community at that time rejected this and promoted the idea that “Ceylonese = Sinhala Buddhists”.

The path to reach the goal

The initial path taken by Tamils to achieve the goal was not by violence but through non-violence. But….

In 1956 Tamils protested the Sinhala only act through non-violent protests. Violence was used against these protesters. Sinhala thugs killed 150 people.

In 1958 Tamils protested the abrogation of Banda-Chelva pact. Violence was prize given to them yet again. Roaming crowds killed hundreds of Tamils and houses and properties belonging Tamils were burned down.

When Tamils protested the Sinhala only act military was sent to Jaffna for the first time and at least one Tamil civilian was killed. Many others were injured. Tamil leaders and members of parliaments were arrested. Yet again the prize for non-violent struggle was violence.

In 1974 during the peaceful World Tamil Research conference violence by police resulted in the death of 9 Tamil civilians.

After the 1977 elections (one month after) massive violence against Tamils was let loose and roaming crowds killed hundreds of Tamils within the first two weeks.

After the 1977 violence against Tamils similar violence in mass scale took place against Tamils. The one in 1981 and 1983 were particularly vicious. Those in the government were also involved in this mass violence against Tamils.

In the report about the situation in Ceylon prepared by International Jurists, Paul Seighart states the following.

“The interval between these communal violence has been getting shorter and shorter. These incidents continue to take place throughout the country. The severity of these violent incidents has also been increasing. The killing of Tamils, seriously wounding them, stealing their property, and taking away their homes is all not independent incidents. They are becoming heinous regular occurrences…. One characteristic about all of the communal violence is that Tamil people have not taken revenge on the Sinhala people living amongst them. Therefore in each communal violence those who have died are Tamils.”

Armed struggle

Trust in non-violent struggle weakened and the view that armed struggle is the only available option gained strength among Tamils. In 1978 an armed group named “Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam” started among the Tamil youth. This group that started as a small guerrilla force in due course has grown into a strong conventional military force.

Role of the security forces

The Sinhala chauvinist political leadership used its military to crush the Tamil people’s struggle. The military that was purely a ceremonial outfit in due course had to work very hard to regain its good name in the international arena. Such is the cruelty lashed out by the military. Military is responsible for rape, torture, arbitrary arrest, extra judicial killing, involuntary disappearance and many other human rights violations. More than 65,000 innocent civilians died as a result of this military cruelty and indiscriminate bombing. There were no buildings left undamaged. Under the cover of the “Prevention of Terrorism” act every single human right declared in the international human rights covenants and conventions were violated.

Thimpu talks in 1985

This talk was arranged by India with the aim of bringing the war to an end. All the Tamil representatives who took part in this talk put forward the following points, Tamils are a nation, their homeland is the continuous territory of northeast of Ceylon, and Tamils have the right to self-determination. Ceylon government rejected these points and the war intensified and dragged on.

Ceasefire agreement

LTTE came forward to sign this agreement from a position of military strength. But the selfish competitive political culture of south Ceylon blunted this effort. There are no signs that the day to day life of the Tamil people is going to improve. One of the hurdles for this is also the continued maintenance of the high security zones by the military. Farmland, fishing, schools and many other issues have not returned to normalcy.

Today

For the people affected by the tsunami destruction – to help the people affected by the tragedy that melted the hearts of people all around the world – to set up a very limited structure – that too a joint structure – there is no space. More than 50 years chauvinism has dried up the humanitarianism.

In conclusion

There is no grain of hope that this chauvinism will allow a just approach to find a solution to the Tamil people’s right. Therefore Tamil people are declaring in front of this gathering that they will safeguard their land with their own strength and determine their own future.

 

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