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|1505||Portuguese arrive in Ceylon during the existence of three sovereign kingdoms, one Tamil-based in Jaffna, and two Sinhalese-based in Kotte and Kandy.|
|1619||Tamil sovereignty ends when Portuguese defeats the Tamil king and annex the Jaffna kingdom.|
|1656||Dutch arrive in Ceylon.|
|1796||British arrive in Ceylon.|
|1802||Ceylon becomes a British Crown Colony.|
|1815||Fall of Kandyan kingdom, the last holdout against colonial occupation. The redrawing of provincial boundaries is aimed at reducing the isolation of the Kandyan Sinhalese and to accelerate the process of integration. Isolation of the Kandyan Sinhalese is considered an obstacle for the creation of a homogeneous nation and a united system of administration.|
|1833||For the first time in over 2,500 years of its recorded history, the entire island of Ceylon is brought under a single administration based on the recommendations of the Colebrook-Cameron Report.|
|1912||First elections conducted by the British colonial authority enable educated citizens to elect a representative to the State Legislative Council. A Tamil, Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, is elected, defeating Sinhalese candidate, Sir. Marcus Fernando, despite the Sinhalese being the majority voting group.|
|1915||First ethnic conflict recorded in Ceylon's history emerges through clash between Sinhalese and Muslims in Kandy.|
|1919||Ceylon National Congress (CNC), the first full-fledged "nationalist" political party, is formed by Ponnambalam Arunachalam, a Tamil.|
|1921||Arunachalam quits CNC, denouncing it as a party representing mainly a section of the Sinhalese. The incident paves the way for ethnically divided politics in Sri Lanka.|
|1943||Formation of Communist Party of Ceylon (CP).|
|1944||Creation of the All Tamil Congress led by G. G. Ponnambalam.|
|1947||United National Party (UNP) is formed.
Soulbury Constitution is enacted and maintains the unitary state established under colonial rule.
|1948||The British leave and Ceylon becomes a self-governing dominion with a government dominated by the Sinhalese elite assuming power. Passage of the Citizenship Act that makes more than a million Tamil plantation workers of Indian origin disenfranchised and stateless.|
|1949||Formation of the Tamil Federal Party under the leadership of S. J. V. Chelvanayagam.|
|1951||First convention of the Federal Party
(FP), declaring its intention to campaign for a federal structure of
governance, and for regional autonomy for Tamils living in North and
S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike breaks away from UNP and forms Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).
|1956||UNP ousted from power in the general elections by SLFP, riding on the wave of Sinhalese- Buddhist nationalism with strong anti-Tamil overtones.Sinhalese is proclaimed as the sole official language of Ceylon as the Official Language Act in passed in parliament. Colvin R. de Silva speaks out against "Sinhala Only," warning it will divide the country along ethnic lines. FP establishes itself as the major representative party of Ceylon Tamils.The outbreak of first post-colonial anti-Tamil riots.|
|1958||Prime Minister Bandaranaike and FP
leader Chelvanayagam sign a
historic agreement (the B-C
Pact) on a federal solution, devolving wide-ranging powers to the Tamil-majority North and East
Provinces. Barely a week later, the pact is unilaterally abrogated by Bandaranaike under pressure from UNP
and the Buddhist clergy.
A non-violent civil disobedience campaign is launched by FP in the North.The government reacts by sending police and military forces to Jaffna to suppress the agitation. A major anti-Tamil pogrom breaks out in Sinhala-majority areas, killing hundreds of Tamils and making thousands of Tamils homeless.
|1959||Prime Minister Bandaranaike is assassinated by a Buddhist monk.|
|1960||Srimavo Bandaranaike, widow of Solomon Bandaranaike, becomes the first woman Prime Minister in the world.|
|1964||Sirimavo-Shashtri pact is signed for the repatriation of stateless plantation workers to India.|
|1965||UNP’s Dudley Senanayake forms a
government with the help of FP and other parties.
The Dudley-Chelva agreement, which amounts to a diluted version
of the B-C pact, is signed.
The agreement is abandoned without being
implemented due to opposition from the SLFP, the Buddhist clergy and
FP’s Tiruchelvam, Minister of Local Government, resigns from the cabinet.
|1967||Janata Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP, the People’s Liberation Front), a nationalist movement mobilising mostly frustrated Sinhalese educated youth around economic discontent and fears of Indian imperialism, is formed.|
|1970||Mrs. Bandaranaike becomes Prime Minister, as the United Front (a coalition of SLFP, LSSP, and CP) gains a two-thirds majority in parliament. J. R. Jayewardena becomes the leader of opposition.|
|1971||Armed insurrection of JVP is brutally put down, with thousands of Sinhalese youth being killed. A state of emergency is declared, which continues for six years.|
|1972||Ceylon becomes a Republic on May 22 and
is officially renamed Republic of Sri Lanka. The United Front
government enacts a Sinhalese-supremacist
for the country, which makes Buddhism the de facto state religion.
Ironically, the architect of this constitution is the same Colvin R.
de Silva, who made the famous "one language-two nations" speech,
opposing the "Sinhala only" legislation in 1956.
Formation of Tamil United Front (TUF) comprising FP, Tamil Congress (TC) led by G. G. Ponnambalam, and Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) led by Savumiamoorthy Thondaman. A small youth group named Tamil New Tigers (TNT) is formed in the Jaffna peninsula to fight for Tamil rights by a 17-year-old high school student from Valvettiturai named Velupillai Pirabhakaran.
|1974||Unprovoked attack on attendees of a
prestigious International Tamil Cultural conference in
Jaffna by Sinhalese police leaves nine civilians dead. State discrimination against Tamil students’ admission to universities reaches a peak with the introduction of "standardisation." Formation of Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO).
|1975||Jaffna mayor and SLFP organiser Alfred Duraiyappah assassinated, apparently in retaliation for the attack on the International Tamil Conference. Pirabakharan and the TNT claim responsibility for what will become the group's first political assassination.Eelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students (EROS) is formed.|
|1976||TUF is renamed Tamil United Liberation
Front (TULF) and passes the "Vaddukoddai
resolution" to restore a "free, sovereign, secular, socialist State of Tamil Eelam based on the right
to self-determination" to safeguard the very existence of the Tamil nation in the country.
TNT is renamed and reorganized as Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), with Uma
Maheswaran as its leader.
|1977||Death of ailing Chelvanayagam.
Appapillai Amirthalingam becomes the leader of Federal Party.
J. R. Jayewardena becomes Prime Minister when UNP routs SLFP in the general elections to come back to power with a thumping five-sixths majority in parliament. TULF, contesting on a platform of seeking a mandate for a sovereign Tamil Eelam, wins overwhelmingly in the North and does very well in Tamil-dominated areas of East, and becomes the major opposition party in parliament.
Severe anti-Tamil riots occur immediately after elections in Sinhalese-majority areas, killing hundreds of Tamils.
|1978||A second Republican constitution is enacted, creating a powerful executive presidency and granting partial concessions to some Tamil demands. Jayawardena becomes first Executive President of the country. Despite the minor concessions, armed activities of Tamil militant organisations increase, with attacks on police stations and robberies of banks.|
|1979||Uma Maheswaran is expelled from LTTE
and forms People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE)
Government enacts the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), banning
Tamil militant organizations.
Jaffna peninsula is effectively under martial law. More anti-Tamil riots in Sinhalese-majority areas.
|1980||Formation of the Eelam People’s
Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF).
|1981||Elections for District Development Councils (DDC) as an attempt to devolve power. Further anti-Tamil riots. Increased military repression in the north, as Tamil violence continues. The Jaffna Public Library is burnt down by the Sri Lankan armed forces, allegedly under the direction of two government ministers, Gamini Dissanayake and Cyril Mathew.|
|1982||J. R. Jayewardena defeats Hector Kobbekaduwa in the first-ever Presidential election of the country.|
Major anti-Tamil pogrom takes place in
the entire country. More than 3,000 Tamils killed and over 150,000
become refugees, many fleeing the country to India and the West.
With increasingly restive mood of people of Tamil Nadu, the Indian
government comes out in support of the Tamil cause. LTTE and other
guerrilla organizations set up training camps in India, with direct
and indirect support from various state agencies.
Thousands of youth join the militant organizations, with TULF beginning to fade into political oblivion.
The conflict reaches the proportions of a full-blown civil war.
|1985||LTTE, EPRLF, EROS, and TELO form Eelam
National Liberation Front (ENLF) to coordinate
the "revolutionary struggle for national independence."
Peace talks mediated by India in Thimpu, Bhutan, break down with Sri Lankan government’s
reluctance to devolve power.
However, Tamil parties hand down .five cardinal principles. which remain the basis for any
meaningful solution to the conflict. These are commonly known as the Thimpu Principles.
|1985-87||State repression and Tamil violence
intensify in the North and East resulting in all-out war
between the Sri Lankan state and Tamil liberation groups.
LTTE emerges as the dominant guerrilla group and effectively takes control of Jaffna peninsula
and other northern areas.
Thousands, mostly Tamils, die as fighting turns brutal, with non-combatants from both sides
systematically targeted, firstly by the Sri Lankan armed forces and then by Tamil guerrillas.
|1987||The Sri Lankan government launches
Operation Liberation to recapture the Jaffna peninsula.
A small float of Indian boats with food and medical supplies for Jaffna peninsula is turned back
by the Sri Lankan Navy. India airdrops food on Jaffna peninsula.
The Indo-Sri Lankan Peace Accord, agreeing on detailed proposals for provincial councils and
expediting the immediate deployment of an Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) to enforce a
ceasefire, is signed without consulting the Tamil parties.
Tens of thousands of Indian troops arrive in Northeastern Sri Lanka as "Indian Peace Keeping
Initial surrender of arms by Tamil guerrilla groups.
Seventeen LTTE members, including two leaders, arrested by Sri Lankan Navy in violation of
the Peace Accord, and commit suicide.
Fighting breaks out between LTTE and IPKF.
Jaffna falls to IPKF, but fighting continues throughout the Tamil region.
Rise of Sinhala nationalist insurrection by JVP.
|1988||Government forces furiously combat the
JVP insurrection. Thousands of youths are killed or
disappeared,. causing widespread international protest.
Assassination of Vijaya Kumaratunge, leader of United Socialist Alliance (USA), allegedly by
EPRLF assumes power in the Northeastern Provincial Council.
Ranasinghe Premadasa of UNP wins the presidential election, defeating Srimavo Bandaranaike
Sri Lankan President
Premadasa requests the Indian government withdraw its troops from
Lanka. JVP insurrection is brutally put down by the Government.
|1990||Withdrawal of IPKF from Sri
Lanka and the collapse of the Northeastern Provincial government.
Hostilities break out again between Sri Lankan forces and LTTE.
Assassination of former
Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in Tamil Nadu by suspected LTTE
|1993||Top opposition politician
and former National Security minister Lalith Athulathmudali is
A week later, President Premadasa is killed in a suicide bomb attack. D. B. Wijetunge assumes Presidency.
LTTE leader calls for unconditional talks with the government, with a commitment to the federalisation of Sri Lanka, which is rejected by President Wijetunge.
|1994||People’s Alliance led by
Chandrika Kumaratunge wins Parliamentary elections. LTTE
unilaterally announces a temporary ceasefire to welcome the change
PA Government begins peace talks with LTTE in Jaffna. UNP’s Presidential candidate Gamini Dissanayake is assassinated at
an election rally.
Kumaratunge wins Presidential election with a landslide on a platform of "ending the war and
Government and LTTE sign
cessation of hostilities agreement.
More rounds of talks in Jaffna.
Government announces lifting of economic embargo on most items, but armed forces at the
border checkpoints continue to enforce the embargo.
LTTE issues two-week ultimatum in March to the government to implement their requests,
which is later extended by another 3 weeks to April 19th.
Government ignores the ultimatum and LTTE calls off the peace talks and resumes hostilities.
Government begins major offensive in July in parts of Jaffna peninsula after imposing press
censorship. A church and its premises, functioning as a safe place for refugees away from the
battle zone, are repeatedly bombed by Sri Lankan air force killing civilians, including women
Government informally announces a package of devolution proposals, making Sri Lanka a
"Union of Regions."
Another major offensive by the government in October results in the capture of Valigamam
division and the city of Jaffna, but more than 400,000 civilians escape to LTTE-controlled
Vadamaradchi, Thenmaradchi divisions of the peninsula and to Vanni district in the mainland,
virtually leaving a peopleless land for the Sri Lankan army, including a ghost town of Jaffna.
|1996||An extensively watered down
legal draft of the devolution proposals is submitted to the
Parliamentary Select Committee for discussion.
As customary, the powerful Buddhist clergy opposes any devolution of power to Tamils in the
Government launches another offensive and captures the entire Jaffna peninsula. The armed
forces also succeed in preventing a large number of people from escaping to LTTE-controlled
territory by sealing off the Jaffna lagoon. Yet, nearly half a million people are displaced from
their homes and live in the LTTE controlled Vanni region in the mainland.
Despite the government’s claim of the peninsula fast returning to normal life, neutral news
reporters are still barred from entering the region.
LTTE announces its willingness to negotiate peace if mediated by a neutral country, which is
rejected by the Sri Lankan government.
LTTE launches a daring attack and overruns the army camp at Mullaitheevu, capturing large
quantities of arms and military hardware, and killing more than 1,200 soldiers.
Sri Lankan armed forces launch another offensive and captures Killinochchi, relocated
headquarters of the LTTE.
Human rights violations by the army, including rape and .disappearances.. increase in the Jaffna
peninsula. This fact is brought to light by the revelation of the rape and killing of Krishanthy
Kumaraswamy, a Tamil schoolgirl. The girl.s mother, brother, and a neighbor were also killed
when they went to the army camp inquiring about the fate of the girl. Nine soldiers are charged
with the crime.
Death of former Sri Lankan President Junius Richard Jayawardena at the age of 90, who played a
major role in sowing the seeds for the conflict and later in its escalation.
LTTE releases 16 Sinhalese fishermen captured earlier as a goodwill gesture for Christmas/New
President Kumaratunge goes on a private holiday to India, raising speculations and hopes of
impending peace talks with LTTE with foreign mediation.
|1997||The LTTE overruns a Special
Task Force camp near Batticaloa in the Eastern Province.
The LTTE launches simultaneous attacks on Sri Lanka’s army camps in Paranthan and Elephant
Pass, and overruns the Paranthan camp.
Sri Lankan forces begin another major offensive in the Northern border town of Vavuniya
to capture a major highway running through Vanni region.
Sri Lankan Deputy Minister of Defence, General Ratwatte promises the capture of the highway
linking Jaffna with the south before February 4, 1998, Sri Lanka’s 50th anniversary of
Elections announced for Jaffna and other local government bodies in the peninsula.
|1998||At a convention organised
in Colombo by the National Peace Council (NPC), over 1,700
participants from all districts, ethnicities and religions renounce the war and call for a .just and
Despite goodwill messages the conference receives from President Kumaratunge, opposition
leader Wickremasinghe and LTTE leader Pirabhakaran, the war continues in the north and the
LTTE.s bombing campaign steps up in the south.
A blast attacking Sri Lankans. holiest Buddhist shrine, the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy,
outrages Sinhalese sensibilities, brings about a formal ban on the LTTE within Sri Lanka and
ends public advocacy for negotiations.
Local elections are held in Jaffna where turnout is surprisingly high considering the attacks on
Tamil villages around Trincomalee by police and home guards the very same week.
LTTE later assassinate the popular Brigadier Larry Wijerathne and the newly elected TULF
mayor, Sarojini Yogeswaran.
|1999||Suicide bomb attack kills
MP Dr. Neelam Thiruchelvam.
Opening of supply route from Vavuniya to Wanni.
Killing of PLOTE Deputy Leader and Military Leader Ranjan Manikkadasa in Vavuniya.
In an attempt to gain ground and a limited military victory before the Presidential election,
President Bandanaraike launches a limited offensive in the Wanni. Outflanked by the LTTE,
government forces suffer severe casualties and political drawback.
Despite this defeat Chandrika Bandanaraike is re-elected on a .war for peace. platform.
In April, LTTE overrun the
Elephant Pass military base at the entrance of the Jaffna peninsula
well as ten other camps in the area, killing over a thousand troops and capturing massive
amounts of arms and ammunition.
Losses suffered by Sri Lankan military urge government to introduce Emergency regulations in
May declaring that the country is in a state of war, thus suspending many fundamental rights of
all Sri Lankans.
Concern about the plight of the 500,000 civilians stuck on the peninsula is rising as the situation
has reached an uncertain calm.
The Sri Lankan government has renewed its diplomatic relations with Israel in what is an
obvious ploy on behalf of the Sri Lankan government to obtain armament from the middle
eastern country. Sri Lankan ministers have been reported to be visiting in other countries during
the summer in an attempt to broker an arms deal needed to crush the LTTE.s latest offensive.
Based on a similar rationale, the LTTE.s front organisations in several European and North
American countries have recently pushed their fundraising campaigns often leading to violence
against the local Tamil populations solicited for funds, particularly in Canada and the UK.
Negotiations for a new devolution package have been renewed in Parliament, but without the
inclusion of the LTTE it is believed that the efforts will fail once again.