THE STRUGGLE FOR TAMIL EELAM
'Voice of Tamil Nation' Rally
தமிழ்த் தேசியத்தின் குரல்
Kailasapathy Hall, Jaffna, Tamil Eelam
19 June 2005
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
& Text of Declaration
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
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.
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
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
education they are also
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.
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
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
international arena. In this context no one can deny
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Sinhala hegemony is the cause of the 25 years of war that is
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
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.
“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
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
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
All of these were rejected by the council. All other Tamil
parties except the Tamil Arasu party put forward the
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
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
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 =
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.
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
After the 1977 elections (one month after)
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
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.”
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.
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.
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
that too a joint structure – there is no space.
More than 50 years chauvinism has dried up the
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.