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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > International Frame of Struggle for Tamil Eelam > United States & the Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Human Rights for Tamils in Sri Lanka - US Congress Resolution- Hon. Mario Baggio of New York in the US House of Representatives, 8 May 1980
United States & the struggle for Tamil Eelam
Human Rights for Tamils in Sri Lanka - US Congress
Hon. Mario Baggio of New York in the US House of Representatives
8 May 1980
United States Of America
Mr. Speaker, Today I have introduced a resolution calling for an end to human rights violations in Sri Lanka and urging the President to take several immediate actions to improve the situation there.
To understand the problems that exist in Sri Lanka - formerly known as Ceylon - it is essential that we review its history. Located in South Asia, the island of Sri Lanka has been composed of two distinct populations for centuries - the Tamils and the Sinhalese. They lived not as one, but as two nations, with separate languages, religions, cultures, and clearly demarcated geographic territories. Today, the Tamils number about 3 million Hindus, Christians, and Moslems. The Sinhalese are the clear majority with about 10 million, most of whom are Buddhists.
In 1832, British conquerors arrived and brought these two nations under one rule for purposes of more efficient colonial administration. The Tamil-speaking minority were treated in a fair manner, having equal access to educational opportunities and positions in the civil service.
In 1948, however the British left Sri Lanka. Behind them remained two unwilling neighbors under one rule. Independence for Sri Lanka meant independence for the Sinhalese and oppression for the Tamil minority.
Immediately after independence 1 million Tamils were disenfranchised and made stateless by the Sinhalese-controlled government under Sri Lanka's new, so-called democratic process.
In 1956, the Sinhalese-controlled government made Sinhalese the only official language of the island. This action caused severe hardships for thousands of existing and potential Tamil public servants, who could no longer satisfy language requirements. Many Tamils were forced to migrate to foreign lands.
In 1960-61, the Sinhalese-controlled government nationalized the schools. In doing so, they established a discriminatory policy against non-Buddhist education. Many Tamil schools were closed and reopened as Sinhalese institutions.
In 1964, the Sinhalese-controlled government decided to require plantation Tamils to return to India. These Tamils were the descendants of Indians who were brought to Sri Lanka more than 100 years before by the British to work the plantations. Most of them were born in Sri Lanka and never had any relationship with India.
In 1971, the Sinhalese-controlled government established a system of standardization of grades, which offered preferential treatment to Sinhalese students and excluded many qualified Tamil students from seeking equal educational opportunities. Under the system of standardization, a minority student had to obtain higher grades than a Sinhalese student in order to enter the universities.
In 1972, the Sinhalese-controlled government adopted a new constitution without any cooperation or consultation with the majority of the Tamil representatives in parliament. This new constitution was a blatant affront to the rights of the minorities. It reiterated that the Buddhist religion and the Sinhalese language were the foremost in Sri Lanka.
A new constitution was adopted by the Sinhalese-controlled government in 1978, and again the Tamil people were not consulted.
The Eelam Tamils Association of America - Eelam is the traditional name of the Tamil nation that existed prior to British rule - reports that currently their people arc living under press censorship; being imprisoned and tortured by a punitive army of occupation; and "on the pretext of searching political prisoners, the police and the army enter houses and business premises and loot the property of Tamils and molest our women."
Despite statements by the Sri Lankan Government of their commitment to insuring the minority rights of the Tamils, the problems still remain. According to a recent State Department report: "Without doubt the accommodation of the rights and aspirations of minority and majority ethnic groups is one of the most serious problems confronting Sri Lanka today."
My colleagues and I have introduced the following resolution because we believe it is essential to express the concern of the Congress about the army occupation in the Tamil areas of Sri Lanka: the denial of basic rights, including freedom of expression, freedom of religion, equal citizenship and educational opportunities; and the freedom to exercise the right of political self-determination.
We strongly believe that the situation in Sri Lanka merits the special attention of the President. Under terms of this resolution, the Congress calls on the President to immediately:
Mr. Speaker. this Congress has joined President Carter in
establishing the promotion and protection of basic human rights for
all people as a top priority. We must remain firm in this commitment.
We must support the minority rights of the Tamils in Sri Lanka.
H. Con Res. - Calling For An End To Basic Human Riots Violations In Sri Lanka