Tamil Eelam: Historical Right to Nationhood

Part 2

Sri Lanka—formerly Ceylon, in English, and Serendib in Arabic (which gave rise to the word serendipity)—is commonly referred to as the “pearl of the orient” due to its beauty and wealth of natural resources, flora and fauna. Today, it is a land torn apart by hatred: racist government policies, ethnic cleansing, and terror war just ended albeit continuing in the form of incarceration of hundreds of thousands of Tamil people in the north. A key reason for this brutal hatred is the dispute over whether a minority of its people, the Tamils, should have: equal rights with the majority Sinhalese, and if this is denied (as will be shown it has), should they have the right to their own autonomous territory.

Sri Lanka’s first aborigines with continuous lineage are the Tamil people. It is not precisely known when they came to the island, but perhaps as many as 5000 years ago. Archaeologists date the first humans in Sri Lanka to some 34,000 years. Scientists call them Balangoda people, the name of the location where artifacts were found. These hunting-gathering cave dwellers have no current lineage.

Tamils were also known as proto-Elamites or Ela. These people in Sri Lanka call themselves Eelam Tamils, meaning “earthly people”. Tamils speak a Dravidian language, which has no ties to other language families. It was, perhaps, associated with Scythians and Urals. The Dravidian language and Tamils originated, perhaps, from Sumer and Ur: the “cradle of the first civilization”, now Iran. The Sumer and Tamils formed the first language of proto-grams on clay tablets. Tamil inscriptions and literature are at least 2500 years old. Today, 100 to 200 million people speak Tamil. ((This condensed history is gleaned from many sources: author Maravanpulavu K. Sachithananthan; Latin American Friendship Association, Tamilnadu, India; Wikipedia: many articles about Tamil Eelam, Sri Lanka and their histories, religions and languages; Tamilnation.org and many other sections in this comprehensive Tamil self-determination website. I am uncertain about the exactitude of origins, who came first, specific dates, or how to determine linguistic lineages. The record is unclear. But what is clear is that Sinhalese have judged and treated Tamils as inferior beings.))

The Christian Bible refers to Elam as “maritime nations in various lands, each with a separate language”. (Genesis 10) In the myth of Noah’s Ark, Elam was thought to be a descendant of one of Noah’s three sons on the ark. (Genesis 5-9) Tamils were the first to use the wheel for transportation. They traveled to India and the island Sri Lanka, which had been connected to India. The first known manuscripts in India were written in Tamil. Other Tamil inscriptions have been found in Egypt and Thailand.

About 2500 years ago, the first Sinhalese came to Sri Lanka from India. This was hundreds of years after Tamils were settled in the kingdom in the north at Jaffna (Yazhpanam). Sinhalese is, perhaps, a term originating from King Vijayan, who was expelled from the kingdom of Sinhapura in India and arrived in Sri Lanka 543 BC. He and his people engaged in combat with the Tamil aborigines. They established the Kandi and Kottai kingdoms in the central and southern areas.

The Sinhalese are among many ethnic groups who speak an Indo-Aryan language, Pali, believed to have developed in Sindh, Gujarat and Bengal areas about 3000 years ago. They early became practitioners of Buddhism, an off-shot of Hinduism, which is the religion that most Tamils adopted. Buddhism was created by the prince, Siddhartha Gautama, in the 6th century BC. Most Sinhalese adopted Buddhism but some were converted to Christianity, which was first introduced by traders from Syria, in the 1st or 2nd century after Christ.

The Sinhalese and Tamils have distinct ethnic backgrounds, languages and religions. The vast majority of both peoples has always lived in separate regions of Sri Lanka and they have often been at war. The Sinhalese adopted the chauvinistic attitude that their language and religion were the only true ones and they must reign throughout Sri Lanka. All other religions were alien. This notion seems to have originated, or been fortified, by the historical poem Mahavamsa (“Great Chronicle”) written in Pali by the Buddhist monk Mahatera Mahanama. It covers nearly one thousand years of Sinhalese kingdom history in Sri Lanka.

Sinhalese maintain that Sri Lanka must be a Buddhist nation because, they claim, it has been so throughout history—although they count the beginning of national history with Mahanama’s account of the first Sinhalese kingdom of Vijaya, in 543 BC. The fact that Tamil Eelams had kingdoms in Sri Lanka for many hundreds of years is ignored.

When the first Europeans, Portuguese traders, landed in Sri Lanka, in 1505, they encountered three native kingdoms: two Sinhalese kingdoms at Kottai and Kandi, and the Tamils in Jaffna peninsula. Although the Portuguese were traders, they brought fire power and eventually seized power militarily from the Kottai kingdom. Despite their superior weaponry, it took them decades to defeat the kingdoms at Jaffna and Kandi, yet resistance remained throughout Portuguese occupation. The Portuguese named the island Ceilão, which the English later transliterated as Ceylon.

In 1658, Dutch invaders arrived. The Dutch United East India Company sided with the Kandi resistance to defeat the Portuguese. But when the natives realized the Dutch sought total control, the Kandians organized guerilla warfare. In 1766, the Dutch took sovereignty over the entire coastline but not the entire island where some Tamils and Sinhalese remained independent.

In 1795, the British landed and kicked out the Dutch within a year. They realized there were two separate nations of natives. In June 1796, the British Colonial Secretary, Sir Hugh Cleghorn wrote to his government:

“Two different nations, from a very ancient period, have divided between them the possession of the Island: the Sinhalese inhabiting the interior in its southern and western parts from the river Wallouwe to Chilaw, and the Malabars (Tamils) who possess the northern and eastern districts. These two nations differ entirely in their religion, language and manners.”

It took the Brits a generation to defeat resisting natives. In 1811, they defeated Bandara Vanniyan and his guerrilla resisters in the Tamil Vanni territory. In 1815, the British finally captured the last of the Kandyan kingdom.

The European invaders were only interested in the riches they could steal. They converted the peasant based agricultural economy into an export one. The island was rich in cinnamon and other spices, coconuts and graphite. English colonialists converted much of the land into tea, coffee and rubber plantations.

Religion was used by the colonialists to dominate and pacify the natives. The Portuguese spread Catholicism in an organized manner. Some Tamils and some Sinhalese converted or were forced to convert. Both the Dutch and English continued the process with their Protestant missionaries, yet most natives held onto their beliefs in either Buddhism or Hinduism. Islamism was also introduced by Arab traders.

“Sri Lanka as British-ruled Ceylon was subjected to a classic divide-and-rule,” wrote John Pilger.

The English had to have their tea so they created tea plantations in the mountainous regions, especially in the center of the country where Sinhalese lived. But Sinhalese would not work them so the Brits “brought Tamils from India as virtual slave labor while building an educated Tamil middle-class to run the colony,” continued Pilger. ((John Pilger, “Distant Voices, Desperate Lives,” New Statesman, May 13, 2009.)) Only a few indigenous Tamils, however, ran anything, but some educated ones took the opportunity to sit on top of the bottom castes.

A hierarchy of “races”, classes and castes was perpetrated among native ethnic groups and new arrivals. In the mid-1800s, English and German scholars adopted an ideology of superiority first based on language and then on race. The English viewed Sinhalese as cousins in the large Aryan family. Brits (and Germans) were the “superior” white Aryans; the Sinhalese lesser Indo-Aryans, and Tamils were the colonized proletariat, the “black inferior race.” This fit in nicely with the Sinhalese elite notion of superiority, based on their precious book of mythology, Mahavamsa. In the 1870s, a German scholar, Max Muller, writing about language origins, especially Indo-Aryan, first coined the term “Aryan race”—something he later regretted. ((See chapter 13. “Understanding the Aryan Theory,” by Marisa Angell, a Usamerican Jew. The chapter is part of Culture and Politics of Identity in Sri Lanka, edited by Mithran Tiruchelvam and Dattathreya C.S., published by International Center for Ethnic Studies, Colombo, Sri Lanka, 1998. ))

Europeans took it for granted that Greek and Latin were superior languages, and they saw affinities with Sanskrit, from which Sinhalese is derived. Given this identity, it was easier for the colonialists to drive a wedge deeper between the indigenous peoples, and all the more so by allowing Sinhalese to own land without having to work the British tea and rubber plantations in the center of the country. The Brits left the aboriginal Tamils stay in their homeland in the north and east, but brought between 800,000 and 1.5 million Tamils from India to work the fields; nearly one-fourth died in route. It is estimated that 70,000 Tamil Nadu died on route in the 1840s. Their story parallels that of Africans forced into slavery and brought to the Americas.

Ironically, it was protestant missionaries who contributed greatly to the development of political awareness among Tamils in the north and east, and led to a revival of the Hindu faith as a reaction against Christian domination. We find many examples of this in modern history, such as the increasing interest among Arabs in practicing strict Islamic customs, including separate gender rules, as a reaction to the invasions and occupations of Western imperialism in the Middle-East. Something similar is occurring in Palestine in response to the apartheid enforced by Zionist Jews.

Led by revivalist Arumuga Navalar in the mid-1800s, Tamils in the north and east built their own schools, temples, associations and presses. Literacy was used to spread Hinduism and its principles. Tamils published their own literature and newspapers to counter the ideology-religion of the missionaries. Tamils thought confidently of themselves as a community, thus lending to the legitimacy of their later assertion of the necessity to be treated equally with the Sinhalese or be granted—or take—their own autonomy as Eelam Tamils.

For some of the time that Britain ruled the island different colonial governors recognized equality of the native peoples, yet played one against the other. In 1833, the British mandated the administrative unification of the country while incorporating the different native administrative structures that existed earlier. The new legislative council was composed of three Europeans and one representative from the Sinhalese, the Ceylon Tamils and the Burghers—a Euro-Asian minority, Creole descendants of European colonialists who spoke a mixture of Indo-Portuguese. They had been converted to Protestantism.

Tamil laborers brought from India had no say nor did the few Arab Muslims. Racist Sinhalese massacred many in 1915. In 1930, another hard-working minority, Malayali plantation workers, were attacked by Sinhalese and most fled back to Kerala.

In 1921, the colonialists altered the legislative council so that Sinhalese acquired 13 seats to three for the Tamils. From here on out, Tamils developed a communal consciousness as a minority. In 1931, the Brits changed the rules again by incorporating the notion of universal franchise—one man one vote including for castes. Most Sinhalese opposed this progressive measure, seeking to maintain classes and castes while agreeing to part of the rule allowing them, as the majority, to have a decisive say over the minority Tamils. The issue of representative power-sharing, and not the structure of government, was used by nationalists of both communities to create an escalating inter-ethnic rivalry, which has been the dominant trend since.

Britain’s vacillating ruling strategy throughout their 150 year domination led to sporadic episodes of violence between Sinhalese and Tamils, often expressed as religious conflicts between Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and Muslims. More often than not, it was Buddhists who first attacked other ethnic peoples who held other faiths. The Brits often held police on the sidelines.

In the 1930s, and especially during World War II, Sinhalese and Tamils spoke out for independence. Various left-wing parties and coalitions arose, and some conservative groupings as well. Many natives hoped for a German victory over the hated English colonialists.

Tamils struggled to have their language placed on equal terms with Sinhalese, and replace English as the official language. Some Sinhalese leaders agreed but many did not. In 1939, a Tamil leader, G.G. Ponnambalam, spoke against the common Sinhalese notion, taken from the Mahavamsa, that their language should be the only official language and Buddhism the only official religion. Angry at the speech, Sinhalese mobs bashed and killed many Tamils. This time the British stopped the riots, but the roots to the upcoming 26-year long civil war had been laid.

Once WW II ended, the British Empire realized it had to give in to so many native peoples struggling for sovereignty. India won dominion status in 1947, a slight reform until full independence in 1950. The civil disobedience movement led by Mahatma Gandhi had succeeded yet he was assassinated by a Hindu nationalist on January 30, 1948. Gandhi sought unity among all Indians, but most Muslims wanted their own State after colonialism. Many Muslims were killed in riots; many lost their homes. Gandhi believed it morally correct for India to compensate them with finances. Many Hindu nationalists opposed this, and it led to his murder.

Great numbers of Hindus in India discriminated against non-Hindus just as Buddhist Sinhalese discriminate against Hindus and Muslims. The percentage of Tamils in Sri Lanka has been reduced from 30% to 12.6%. Tens of thousands have been murdered before and during the recent war, and as many as one million have fled the country, part of a massive Diaspora, like the Jews. ((Current population statistics of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka—so named since 1978—show a population of 21 million people. 74% (15 million) Sinhalese; 12.6% (2.5 million) Tamil; 7.4% (1.5 million) Moors; 5.2% (1 million) Indian Tamil. 93% of Sinhalese are Buddhists, and the remainder Christian. 60% Tamils are Hindus, 28% are Muslim and 12% Christian.))

  • Read Part 1.
  • Ron Ridenour is an anti-war activist and author of 12 books. His latest is The Russian Peace Threat: Pentagon on Alert, Punto Press. Read other articles by Ron, or visit Ron's website.

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    1. Siva said on November 17th, 2009 at 11:32am #

      The main player in tamils problem is BRITS is to be MORE STRESSED ,and BRITAIN must be URGED to compensate tamils ,at least at the last moment.

    2. Patrick Mac Manus said on November 17th, 2009 at 2:20pm #

      Thanks, Ron – for following the struggle and tragedy of the Tamils.

    3. Shabnam said on November 17th, 2009 at 3:48pm #


      {Truth told, I haven’t the faintest idea what that Sri Lanks/Ceylon battle is all about.

      Even visiting the major Tamil web site hasn’t enlightened me.

      So I checked here but again, I just couldn’t comprehend the problem:

      The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam…waged a violent secessionist campaign that sought to create an independent Tamil state in the north and east of Sri Lanka…The Tamil Tigers claimed to be fighting to protect the country’s Tamil minority from discrimination at the hands of the successive Sinhalese majority governments that have ruled the country since independence…Most Tamil Sri-Lankans are Orthodox Hindu by faith. In contrast, most of the ethnic Sinhalese are Buddhist by faith.

      I then found this:

      The Tamils are an ethnic group that lives in southern India (mainly in the state of Tamil Nadu) and on Sri Lanka, an island of 21 million people off the southern tip of India. Most Tamils live in northern and eastern Sri Lanka, and they comprise approximately 10 percent of the island’s population, according to a 2001 government census. Their religion (most are Hindu) and Tamil language set them apart from the four-fifths of Sri Lankans who are Sinhalese—members of a largely Buddhist, Sinhala-speaking ethnic group. When Sri Lanka was ruled as Ceylon by the British, most Sri Lankans regarded the Tamil minority as collaborators with imperial rule and resented the Tamil’s perceived preferential treatment. But since Sri Lanka became independent in 1948, the Sinhalese majority has dominated the country. The remainder of Sri Lanka’s population includes ethnic Muslims, as well as Tamil and Sinhalese Christians.}


    4. Shan said on November 17th, 2009 at 6:35pm #

      The one million tamil diaspora are mainly economic migrants excepts the one who left the country after the july 83 riots.
      More than 50% of tamils live in the south. How come tamils get to live in the south but the Sinhalese are not allowed in the north. The writer should figure out who are the real bad guys.

    5. Humanity said on November 17th, 2009 at 7:51pm #

      Sri Lanka: 34 journalists and media workers killed during Rajapaksa brothers regime (APRIL 2004 – MARCH 2O09)

      1. Aiyathurai A. Nadesan – Journalist / 31 May
      2. Kandaswamy Aiyer Balanadaraj – Writer / 16 August
      3. Lanka Jayasundera – Photo journalist/ 11 December

      4. Dharmaratnam Sivaram – Editor / 28 April
      5. Kannamuttu Arsakumar – Media worker/ 29 June
      6. Relangee Selvarajah – Journalist / 12 August
      7. D. Selvaratnam – Media worker/ 29 August
      8. Yogakumar Krishnapillai – Media Worker / 30 September
      9. L. M. Faleel (Netpittimunai Faleel) – Writer / 02 December
      10. K. Navaratnam – Media worker/ 22 December

      11. Subramaniam Suhirtharajan – Journalist / 24 January
      12. S. T. Gananathan – Owner / 01 February
      13. Bastian George Sagayathas – Media worker / 03 May
      14. Rajaratnam Ranjith Kumar – Media worker / 03 May
      15. Sampath Lakmal de Silva – Journalist / 02 July
      16. Mariadasan Manojanraj – Media worker/ 01 August
      17. Pathmanathan Vismananthan – Singer and musician / 02 August
      18. Sathasivam Baskaran – Media worker / 15 August
      19. Sinnathamby Sivamaharajah – Media owner / 20 August

      20. S. Raveendran – Media worker / 12 February
      21. Subramaniam Ramachandran – Media personnel / 15 February
      22. Chandrabose Suthakar – Journalist / 16 April
      23. Selvarasah Rajeevarman – Journalist / 29 April
      24. Sahadevan Neelakshan – Journalist / 01 August
      25. Anthonypillai Sherin Siththiranjan – Media worker/ 05 November
      26. Vadivel Nimalarajah – Media worker/ 17 November
      27. Isaivizhi Chempian (Subhajini) – Media worker/ 27 November
      28. Suresh Limbiyo – Media worker/ 27 November
      29. T. Tharmalingam – Media worker/ 27 November

      30. Paranirupesingham Devakumar – Journalist / 28 May
      31. Rashmi Mohamad – Journalist / 06 October

      32. Lasanntha Wickrematunge – Editor / 08 January
      33. Punniyamurthy Sathyamurthy – Journalist / 12 February
      34. Sasi Mathan – Media worker/ 06 March

      media is dead in sri lanka

      many reporters were deported: Journalist disappearances: Lanka ‘among worst’

    6. Siva said on November 18th, 2009 at 1:03am #

      It is an open secreat,nobody dare to tame this misdeminor srilanka.All countries are playing foul with DEMOCRACY in this tiny island ,including obama who emerged as a HERO but seems to be a ZERO.

    7. Annie Ladysmith said on November 18th, 2009 at 2:23am #

      YOU SEE the problem lies in the fact that Westerners want to get involved in these situations, when all would be better of left to it’s own defices. Let them all figure it out for themselves (like we did in Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales) However comes out victorious takes the day. THAT is the West’s problem, we meddle too much around the world when we should be dealing with the stuff at home.

    8. Nithyananthan said on November 18th, 2009 at 3:09am #

      Mr. Shan! Your anxiety is wrong. Not that! Tamils have no authority to deny. Sinhalese are allowed to live in the North or East – it is a bad understanding and harmful notion of many – like you are, as a Tamil especially. Single individuals are living there – they can buy lands and build houses and live happily – as we Tamils do in the south. Tamils are not settled by the state in other areas – rather they uprooted. What we oppose is that the state aided / sponsored settlements – in other words colorizations. Sinhalese are not interested to come to North or east because, (of course) (01) no Sinhalese schools neither functioning nor Sinhalese language is taught, (02) under developed unlike Colombo and Kandy and other towns in the South. You also know well what happened to the Jaffna Library. Yes, teaching Sinhalese as a language was a prerequisite and compulsory in all schools in the north and east in the old good days and it was stopped after 1956 – you may know the reason.

      Mr. Shan, how about the Islamic people? Islamic Majority live in the Northeast and the majority of them don’t identify themselves as Tamils. They call themselves as Muslims! Only the Singhalese are so fussy and creating it as big problem. You may ask what happened to them in 1990. Problem is ONLY between the Eelam Tamils and Sinhalese. Since the Muslims are not a part of it, to be on the safe side, they were asked to leave saying not to get caught in the crossfire and come back when the problem was settled. Because, as you may know, even if a million Eelam Tamils are killed there is no one to question – but still irreversibly if a single Muslim is killed in a crossfire, there are over a billion people in 53 Islamic, including oil rich Arab, countries to shout and take action against. So it was a precautionary measure to safe the interest of Muslims. Still Eelam Tamils apologized to the Muslims in 2002 for a crime that they committed with good intention and appealed to return to their homes. Readymade convenient answer for the onlookers is ‘War against Terrorism on Democracy / Internal affair’.

      Eelam Tamils are not against Sinhalese people but surely and really against Buddhist Sinhalese Chauvinism and bogus supremacy. Eelam Tamils are not morally inferior to numerically larger still immorally superior Sinhalese brethren.

    9. Vivek Ananthan said on November 18th, 2009 at 3:16am #

      This is one of the best articles I ever read about the history of Sri Lanka. This has to circulate more among the Singhalese in the south of the island and among the singhalese outsiede the island.

    10. b99 said on November 18th, 2009 at 9:03am #

      The original population of Sri Lanka were hunter-gatherers – and likely related to the ancestors of the Tamils who largely lived on the mainland. However, the Sinhalese migrated across the easily traversed Palk Strait beginning maybe 2500 years ago , and increasing in number thru the first millenium BC – and easily became the island’s majority population. The Sinhalese established an advanced agricultural state in the northern half of the island. But successive Tamil migrations and the extension of Indian political influence by about AD 1000 forced the Sinhalese southward and into the central and southern mountain regions. As the article mentions, beginning with the era of Western imperialism – first the Portuguese, then the Dutch, then the British, colonized Ceilao (Portuguese spelling, which the Brits rendered as Ceylon). The Brits, having arrived in the early 1800s, began establishing rubber and tea plantations in the central and southwestern areas of the island. Because the Sinhalese refused to work on these plantations the British ‘imported’ hundreds of thousands of Tamils from India – the so-called ‘Upcountry Tamils.’ When the island became independent, the Sinhalese dominated government began to systematically discriminate against the Tamil minority – as the Sinhalese believed the Brits had actually favored certain segments of the Tamil population. In fact, the northeastern Tamils (as opposed to the upcountry Tamils) actually did enjoy relatively higher incomes than the Sinhalese. So university places and government jobs went to Sinhalese – an affirmative action program designed to raise Sinhalese fortunes in tune with their 75% majority of the total population. The government took things still further by establishing a Sinhalese language-only policy in certain areas, by settling Sinhalese in Tamil areas, by focussing development projects in Sinhalese areas and by the deportation of ‘plantation’ Tamils. The Tamil response – originating mostly in up-country poverty-ridden Tamils was to form a guerrilla group advocating a separate Tamil state in the north and east of Sri Lanka. Hence, the Tamal Eelam – the Tamil Tigers.

    11. b99 said on November 18th, 2009 at 9:06am #

      Annie – A good deal of the problem in Sri Lanka WAS caused by British meddling – and Northern Ireland is still British occupied as many would say, are Wales and Scotland. So I’m not sure what the peoples of the British isles have quite figured out.

    12. Ananth said on November 18th, 2009 at 11:17am #


      You claim is kind of ridiculous when you say that the Sinhalese had advance agricultural system in the north and the Tamils migration forced the Sinhalese southward.

      The Tamil dominate the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu which is the closest mainland landmass the island has. On a good clear day the Tamil people of Tamil Nadu can see the island with the naked eye. The Sinhalese are reportedly (according to their own history) came from Bengal/Orissa which is in the North Eastern part of India thousands of miles away from the island while Tamil Nadu is like less then 20 miles or something.

      Tamils are sea people. The first Prime Minister of India wrote a letter his daughter praising the Tamil empires are the only known Indian empires to adventure into the sea to trade/conquer and assert authority on distance lands such as Java, Sumatra, Bali, Cambodia, etc. Their conquest and influence of their culture is found in many part of Asia and their trade relationship is even extended to the Roman Empire.

      One of the completions of training the Black Sea Tigers (the elite suicidal sea commandos of the LTTE) has to do to in their training is swim from the shores of Tamil Eelam to Tamil Nadu (two ways).

      Use your common sense and tell us who would have got their first? Undoubtedly the Tamils (they would made enough evening swimming practice if you ask me).

      And all this mombo jumbo about the British favoring the Tamils….I found this which is quiet interesting:

      One of the main reasons why the Tamils occupied a better place in the government service and the professions under British rule than the Sinhalese did was due to the head start they had in the sphere of learning English although this was by accident and not design.
      The American Ceylon Mission was started in the Jaffna peninsula by the American Methodist Missionaries in 1816. In her very recent book, “Communal politics under the Donoughmore Constitution” Jane Russell gives a good account of the services rendered by these missionaries to education in Jaffna.
      According to her, the reason why the Mission chose Jaffna as the focus of its activities was because “the colonial government was anxious to avoid a clash with the English Missions and partly because its strategic position was the key to India which was the Mission’s main target”.
      By 1822, 42 schools staffed by Americans who were fluent in Tamil, had been established in the peninsula. In 1823, was set up the Batticotta (not to be confused with Batticaloa) Seminary at Vaddukoddai. This was the first English school in Asia. It was a free boarding school whose standard has been compared to that of a University, It taught English, Tamil prose, Mathematics, Greek, Latin History, Geography and. Philosophy.
      In 1833, a professor of Medicine arrived and thereafter the Seminary turned out medical students and potential doctors. The methods of the American Ceylon Mission was reported to be infinitely more advanced and the missionaries more dedicated than those in the English Mission Schools in the rest of Ceylon.
      Having learnt Tamil thoroughly, the Americans translated English text books into Tamil and compiled comprehensive English-Tamil dictionaries. As Colebrooke pointed out in 1830, the level of English education imparted in Jaffna was much higher than elsewhere in Ceylon as a result of the Americans asserting the importance of teaching English (unlike other missions).
      Due to a financial crisis, the colonial government cut down expenditure on education by half during the end of 1847. This did not affect the American Ceylon Mission. The effect was that the governments schools in the South-West were outclassed completely. In 1929 there existed in the Jaffna peninsula 65 English schools, 10 of them being first/class Collegiate Schools, and 426 Vernacular schools. In that year, the Northern province had 6 out of 7 children attending some form schools.
      As K. Balasingam said in a speech in 1913, we have cultivated the only thing that could have been cultivated with profit despite the aridity of our soil. We ‘have attempted to cultivate men’.
      The Americans were followed by Catholic and Protestant Missionaries who all proceeded to set up schools as part of their aim of proselytising. When Hindu revivalism started, there was formed the Hindu Board of Education which, in turn, opened up its schools. Thus, Jaffna became blessed with many schools. It was said that, at one stage, Jaffna had more schools per square mile than anywhere else in the world.
      This gave a great impetus to the study of the English, a language which was the language of administration of the British Colonialists. Naturally, the Tamils obtained more posts in the governments service and the professions, like law and medicine, out of proportion to their numbers. But, they were obtained in open competition and not through the back door. According to Jane Russel, the Ceylon Tamils constituted over 40 percent of the franchise for the Educated Members seat in 1918.
      A particular reason as to, why the Tamil felt the urgent need for better and higher education, particularly in English, was his consciousness that he lived in the most barren and uneconomic part of Sri Lanka which did not boast of a river, a mountain or forest. Education was the only passport to a better life. So he studied hard.
      It was a slightly different picture with the Sinhalese in the South. They were blessed with a more fertile land where literally anything grew. Sustenance was easy. But, the educational facilities available to them were less than those available to the Tamils. Besides, till the economic crisis of 1929-1931, the Sinhala middle classes were not that keen to join government service or the professions as their lands could sustain them. It was in the years just before and just after the Second World War that the competition for jobs between the Sinhala and Tamil middle classes grew.
      According to the Soulbury Commission report, in the year 1938, out of 6002 pensionable officers, 3236 were Sinhalese and 1164 were Ceylon Tamils. Much of the friction between the two communities arose over the disputes about the social proportions in certain departments in the public service. The communal problem, therefore, is at bottom a competition between the respective middle classes for entry into government service and the professions and for trade opportunities.
      According to Jane Russel, the “golden age” of the Ceylon Tamils can be approximately ascribed to the 50 years between 1870 and 1920. In this period. the excellence of the English school system in the Jaffna peninsula enabled large numbers of the Jaffnese to find lucrative employment in the civil and clerical services of Malaya, India and Ceylon. Economically wealthy, the Jaffna Tamils had become politically powerful. The Coomaraswamy – Ponnambalam dynasty had been able to dominate the other communal representatives in the Legislative Council in the 19th century, and had therefore become the acknowledged leaders of the English – educated elite of both communities.


    13. B99 said on November 18th, 2009 at 4:42pm #

      Ananth – uh – did you read my first line?

      “The original population of Sri Lanka were hunter-gatherers – and likely related to the ancestors of the TAMILS who largely lived on the mainland.”

      And then I referred to:

      ‘the easily traversed Palk Strait ‘

      Put two and two together Ananth and you will know I’m saying that the Tamils have been crossing into Sri Lanka for a long time. That does not mean the Sinhalese did not come beginning several thousand years ago – because they did (whether they went thru Tamil Nadu or thru Kerala or arrived by sea), and it does not mean that Sinhalese are a minority population – because they are not – they are a 75% majority. So they arrived in fair numbers, to say the least.

      But thanks for outlining the favoritism showed the Tamils by both British and American missions – this favoritism you call an accident. Your account is very informative.

    14. Ananth said on November 19th, 2009 at 9:05am #

      I guess I didn’t analyze the beginning of your post when I wrote my response. Sorry if I came out too strong.

      Any ways, I believe the Sinhalese are unique to the Island from what I read (they are a hybrid race and language). Prince Vijaya and his 700 so followers (expelled by the king for treating the people brutally) came from what is now Bengal and Orissa. He and his followers landed on the island and married with the locals (hunter gathers). He then kicked their hunter gathers spouse out and took brides from the Pandiyan empire (one of the Tamil empire). Buddhism was imported to the island along with the language Pali (Mahvamsa was written in pali and was translated into German and English before being translated to Sinhalese).

      Therefore, Sinhalese are mix of the hunter gathers (who were also Tamils but more of nature dwellers whom would be labeled uncivilized), Tamils (the ones who are considered civilized) and Bengali (also the mix of portugese and other colonial powers). The language of the Sinhalese are a mix of Pali, Tamil, Bengali (to some extent the Portuguese as well).

      The aggressive Chola empire (another Tamil empire) pushed the people down deep south from the centre when they resisted and which in turn made them develop an entirely separate identity from the Tamils as the communication was cut off to the mainstream.

      It is to be noted that the language of the court of the two Sinhalese kingdom was Tamil. There are many Tamils who ruled the Sinhalese kingdoms under Sinhalese title (the last king of Kandy whom the British defeated and hanged in Goa was a Tamil). The aristocrats who signed the document handing over the last kingdom to the British (which was supposedly a Sinhalese Kingdom) signed overwhelmingly in Tamil (document that can be found in the British Museum and on the internet). I would say the Sinhalese identity developed around the middle age (1500 to 1600) when the Tamil empire was in decline as European and Islamic forces started their conquest. During the British time an English educated Christian Sinhalese who later converted to Buddhism (his name is Anagarika Dharmapala – his Christian name was Don David Hewavitarne) tried to empower the people of the south and solidified the Sinhalese identity. He did an amazing job but he did it the wrong way. He used the Aryan theory of the English to say that they were part of the superior race. He used the book of Mahavamsa to play the race card and paint the Tamils as invaders that they were there first on the island, and that Buddha gave the island to their founding father of the race who was Prince Vijaya. Dharmapala also preached what I consider militant Buddhism. He perched so well and captivated his audience that he gave birth to many followers who continued preaching his words. Then we have the history after independence which was pretty much the state preaching the words of Dharmapala with authority to implement.

    15. b99 said on November 19th, 2009 at 11:20am #

      Ananth – Sri Lanka really does have an interesting history, some of which you have outlined above. It is unfortunate that a stronger sense of nationalism has not developed – that is, a sense of a larger idea than the ethnic group. I hope very much that the Sinhalese government begins to see itself as a government of all its citizens and not one group. Sri Lanka was poised at one point to become one of the Asian Tigers economically (and I don’t mean Tamil Tigers) but that has all been subverted by the conflict. I do believe in self-determination for all people so if the Tamil people cannot achieve some sense of justice and belonging within the wider nation, I hope they can attain independence without further bloodshed. There’s already been far too much – and that I believe can be laid at the doorstep of an ethnically self-aggrandizing Sinhalese-run government.

    16. aboutSriLanka.WordPress.com said on November 19th, 2009 at 2:51pm #

      Good Article. Well written.
      I recommend everyone check out this website >

    17. Dias said on November 19th, 2009 at 4:20pm #

      All these historical crap by the author about who first inherited the island is totally redundant to evolving a contemporary liberal Sri Lanka for the future. The colonists and Westerners exploited and screwed things up for hundreds of years and like the author continue to do so even today. Mind your own business and stay out of others problems. Sri Lanka is a fast maturing society and it will not be not too long before the island will begin to hum as the 21st Century’s Singapore – perhaps to the envy of Westerners. Today there are native born Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims who are CEO’s of listed corporations in US stock exchanges. The point: they do not need Western advice to model and run country, they are extremely capable. Yes, the nation continues to have problems – but the biggest impediment to national progress, the LTTE and its intransigent leader Prabhakaran have been eliminated. For 26 long years they had suppressed any plausible movement forward – but no more. It took America 122 years after its own civil war to enact Civil Rights legislation and bring equality to Blacks. No, it won’t take even 22 more years for Lanka to become a just modern nation. But it will take about 10 more years for things to even out and Lanka to become a liberal and contemporary society. Yes, there are lots going on with politicians as usual jockeying for positions – but all this will be for the benefit of the nation, and eventual emergence of a tolerant society. In such an even society there won’t be any space for extremists of side, Sinhalese Buddhist bigots or alarming Elamist nationalist bigots – or their supporters like the author. As America, Sri Lanka will strive to create a secular and just society in which all religions and races and celebrate their uniqueness under one nation, under one flag – a flag that would obviously needs to be changed to reflect the emerging vision. [Those like the author who attempts to divide the society by exploiting differences between Sinhalese and Tamils, remain the single biggest obstacle to the evolution of a just Sri Lanka. Your dirty hands off the beautiful island.]

    18. B99 said on November 19th, 2009 at 4:44pm #

      dias- I don’t know about Sri Lanka becoming a ‘liberal’ society – neoliberal is the direction it is moving in. What you are suggesting is that ethnic warfare will be superceded by class warfare. Even as we speak the local fisherpeople are being denied a return to their homes on the coast – so that WESTERN interests can make the beautiful south coast appealing to Western tourists. Those fisherpeople can come back to the coast to work in the hospitality industry. Yes sir, yes sir. Right away sir.

    19. Suren said on November 20th, 2009 at 6:07am #

      Mr. Ron,

      Did you really write this nonsense?

      There are some give aways in this text which seems to be either written by a Tamil fanatic or copied from such a person. It is not Kottai. It is Kotte. LOL.

      ”Sri Lanka’s first aborigines with continuous lineage are the Tamil people. ” ==> No way. India and Sri lanka were populated by the 1st and second waves of people from Africa, way before the Dravidians came. You describe the route the Dravidians took, in your article itself.

      The aborigines of sri Lanka are the Veddahs. Not Tamils. Tamils share no ancestory with the Veddahs at all. Veddahs were all settled in Sri lanka long before any Dravidians showed up.

      What is a homeland? The one like the Jewish homeland?

      Tamils never had a homeland in Sri Lanka. The Tamil homeland is Tamilakam, present day Tamil Nadu. Tamil language, culture, customs everything originated in Tamilakam, not in Sri Lanka. Read some Tamil history, without listening to Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka, who will tell all sorts lies.

      The history these Tamil fanatics say is all just constructed to suit their sepearatist agenda. There’s no proof of any of this in Sri lankan or Indian history.

      The Sinhalese people are the admixture of the Hele people, Veddahs and the people who brought the Prakrit language to Sri Lanka. The Sinhala language is a mixture of the Hele language also called Elu and the Prakrit language, of the North Indian colonisers. The Veddahs still speak a dialect of this language greatly influeced by the Sinhala language too. Their racial memory is that they are partly descendent from Prince Vijaya. They have been the protectors of the Sinhala royalty all through out the South Indian / Tamil raids and later the European colonisers. The British butchered these people in the thousands for their support to the Sinhalese. Tamils share no ancestary with the Veddhas.

      See http://www. vedda.org

    20. Suren said on November 20th, 2009 at 6:18am #

      Ananth said: ”A particular reason as to, why the Tamil felt the urgent need for better and higher education, particularly in English, was his consciousness that he lived in the most barren and uneconomic part of Sri Lanka which did not boast of a river, a mountain or forest. Education was the only passport to a better life. So he studied hard.”

      ==>> So, this is the land you say you had your Tamil homeland? LOL. What a revealing statement.

      All of Tamil fanatic’s history in Sri lanka is just a made up story. Wake up, and see. There’s no point chasing this Tamil homeland story. We have to learn to live with the Sinhalese. It is their land. Their history is rock solid, verified and documented through other countries history too. Their very existence nullifies all Tamil claims to a Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka.

    21. Ananth said on November 20th, 2009 at 10:25am #


      I guess the burning of the Jaffna library and destroying other historical structures of the Tamils on the island has really helped the Sinhalese government of Sri Lanka to assert that the island belongs to the Sinhalese. Its called cultural genocide.

      “For decades the political establishment in Colombo has promoted the chauvinist view that Sri Lanka is a Buddhist and Sinhalese country in which Tamils and other minorities must take second place. The deliberate stirring up of communal sentiment by successive governments led to the imposition of discriminatory measures against Tamils, anti-Tamil pogroms and in 1983 to the ongoing war against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam…….
      parallels in Sri Lanka to the Taliban’s cultural vandalism—notably to the destruction of the Jaffna Library in 1981. It is only now, two decades after the library was burnt to the ground, that a replacement building is finally being built in the centre of Jaffna town, 400km north of Colombo. Construction has begun and, according to the engineers in charge, the building should be completed by December.
      Nothing, however, can be done about the thousands of priceless Tamil books, manuscripts and ola [dried palm] leaf documents that went up in flames in 1981. Jaffna has been an important Tamil cultural centre for centuries. Some books such as Yalpanam Vaipavama —a history of Jaffna—were literally irreplaceable, as the library contained the only existing copy.
      The library, which was inaugurated in 1841 and then moved to a more majestic building in 1950, had one of the finest collections in South Asia and was known throughout the world. It was popular among intellectuals, teachers and students—both Sinhalese and Tamil—and was used extensively by ordinary working people. Its destruction, two years before the outbreak of the country’s civil war, was an outrage aimed against the cultural heritage of the country’s Tamil minority and deliberately calculated to inflame communal sentiment.
      A group of racist thugs, instigated by the United National Party (UNP) government, carried out the arson. Eyewitnesses at the time reported that uniformed police accompanied by the gang, brought from the south of the island. They arrived by truck in the dead of the night of May 31, 1981 and set fire to the library buildings.
      The fire provoked widespread anger in Jaffna setting off three days of mayhem. Four Tamils were taken from their homes by police and killed. Sinhalese thugs also set fire to the head office of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) in Jaffna and then looted about 100 Tamil-owned houses and shops before setting them ablaze as well.”

      Source: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2001/may2001/sri-m30.shtml

    22. Ananth said on November 20th, 2009 at 10:29am #

      “Among the destroyed were scrolls of historical value and the works and manuscripts of the universally acclaimed philospher, artist and author Ananda Kumaraswamy and prominent intellectual Prof. Issac Thambaiya. The destroyed articles included memoirs and works of writers and dramatists who made a significant contribution toward the sustenance of the Tamil culture and those of locally reputed medical physicians and politicians.” [Jayantha Seneviratne, ‘The reconstruction of the Jaffna library’, Colombo Daily News, Jan.20, 2002].

    23. Ananth said on November 20th, 2009 at 10:32am #

      The British, Portuguese, the Dutch, ancient literature from Tamil Nadu all have records of it which are tucked away in museams.

    24. Suren said on November 20th, 2009 at 1:03pm #


      You can’t blame everything on the Sinhalese. You have to see what the Tamils were asking too. Was it fair to try to keep things as they were under the British? After all it was the Sinhala masses who work and pay for the fun, and go hungry, while the Tamils demanded such unfair things.

      As for the library fire and loss of literature:
      There’s no point fooling yourself and the world. It is a known fact that the Sri Lankan Tamils don’t have any literature.

      As for the Vaipava Malai: How dare you people say such lies? Some Sinhalese who do not know the Tamil literature, will even agree with you. But Vaipava Malai was written only in the mid 18th century. Anyway Vaipava Malai was translated in the late 19th centuray by Brito. all Tamils know that the original Vaipava Malai was never in the library.

      Rasanayagam, wrote in 1926 that the original Vaipava Malai was not to be found to verify the translated version. As ususal the original is most probably just forgotten in some British colonisers home. Read the book Ancient Jaffna.

      Read this at Google books and tell me what it says:

      Rasanayagam wrote in 1926:
      “Today, except the Kailaya Malai which has been printed and a few manuscript copies of the Vaiya Padal the other works are very rare and hardly procurable. It is lucky that the Vaipava Malai was printed several years ago and translated into English by late Mr. C. Brito, for at the present day it is impossible to procure any of the older manuscripts for the purpose of testing the correctness of the printed version “.

      He goes on to say that the Tamil people don’t have our own literature and have to rely on the Sinhalese works and other countries works:
      “In order to reconstruct the history of Jaffna from its earliest times, it becomes necessary to examine critically our ancient traditions in the light of contemporary documents, and in the absence of any local literature and inscriptions, to search for further information in the literature and chronicles of other countries. In this respect Mahavansa is most usefull. It is a court chronicle containing the annals of the Ceylon kings, and its writers who most probably regarded the Tamils as a horde of cruel marauders pass over both them and their efforts in silence, except when they made themselves too unpleasent to go unnoticed. ”

      Not only Rasanayagam, other historians like Pathmanathan, also states this in their works. It is a known fact that the Sri Lankan Tamils don’t have any literature. There’s no point to lie. Rasanayagam even blames the Sinhalese for not writing about Jaffna and the Tamils. Maybe they didn’t write much about Jaffna and the Tamils because there was nothing much to write about?

      So, don’t tell lies and poison the Tamil people’s minds against our Sinhala bretheren. You want to live in the west? Do it, but let us live peacefully with the Sinhalese. You will never do well, and the Tamil people will be a cursed people, if people like you try to ignore what is just and fair totally, and push an ethnic agenda, based on a bunch of lies, like what you do.

      You can’t equate the Sinhala people with the regimes there, it is like equating the American people with Bush and Cheney’s regime.

      Just tell the truth. You can fool the foreigners, but you are not going to fool people like me, who know our history.

      The above distortion and lie is just one out of all the thousands of lies, and was made by a Tamil politician, trying to capitalize on the tragedy of the library fire. Then it became a ‘truth’.

      What we need is a good journalist to go down to Sri Lanka and study the story and history and publish all the lies Tamil fanatics have been telling, so that the Tamil people too will know what the truth is.

    25. Ananth said on November 20th, 2009 at 2:19pm #

      So this is what the Tamils asked agreed by the Sinhalese Prime Minister and then to be torn by the Sinhalese as he was pressured by mainly the Buddhist clergy.

      Bandaranaike – Chelvanayagam Pact, 1957

      Part A

      Representatives of the Federal Party have had a series of discussions with the Prime Minister in an effort to resolve the differences of opinion that had been growing and creating tension.

      At an early stage of these conversations it became evident that it was not possible for the Prime Minister to accede to some of the demands of the Federal Party.

      The Prime Minister stated that, from the point of view of the government, he was not in a position to discuss the setting up of a Federal Constitution, or regional autonomy, or take any step that would abrogate the Official Language Act.

      The question then arose whether it was possible to explore the possibility of an adjustment without the Federal Party abandoning or surrendering any of its fundamental principles or objectives.

      At this stage, the Prime Minister suggested an examination of the Government’s draft Regional Councils Bill to see whether provision could be made under it to meet, reasonably, some of the matters in this regard which the Federal Party had in view.

      The Agreements so reached are embodied in a separate document.

      Regarding the language issue, the Federal Party reiterated its stand for parity, but in view of the position of the Prime Minister in this matter they came to an agreement by way of adjustment. They pointed out that it was important for them that there should be a recognition of Tamil as a national language, and that the administrative work of the Northern and Eastern Provinces should be done in Tamil.

      The Prime Minister stated that as mentioned by him earlier it was not possible for him to take any steps that would abrogate the Official Language Act.

      After discussion, it was agreed that the proposed legislation should contain recognition of Tamil as the language of a national minority of Ceylon, and that the four points mentioned by the Prime Minister should include provision that, without infringing on the position of the Official language as such, the language of the administration of the Northern and Eastern Provinces be Tamil, and that any necessary provision be made for the non-Tamil speaking minorities in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

      Regarding the question of Ceylon citizenship for people of Indian descent and the revision of the Citizenship Act, the representatives of the Federal Party put forward their views to the Primo Minister and pressed for an early settlement. The Prime Minister indicated that the problem would receive early consideration. In view of these conclusions the Federal Party stated that they were withdrawing their proposed satyagraha.

      Part B

      1. Regional areas to be defined in the Bill itself by embodying them in a schedule thereto.

      2. That the Northern Province is to form one regional area whilst the Eastern Province is to be divided into two or more regional areas.

      3. Provision is to be made in the Bill to enable two or more regions to amalgamate even beyond provincial limit; and for one region to divide itself subject to ratification by Parliament. Further provision is to be made in the Bill for two or more regions to collaborate for specific purposes of common interests.

      4. Provision is to be made for direct election of regional councillors. Provision is to be made for a delimitation commission or commissions for carving out electorates. The question of M.P.s representing districts falling within regional areas to be eligible to function as chairmen is to be considered. The question of Government Agents being regional commissioners is to be considered. The question of supervisory functions over larger towns, strategic towns and municipalities is to be looked into.

      5. Parliament is to delegate powers and to specify them in the Act. It was agreed that regional councils should have powers over specified subjects including agriculture, co-operatives, lands and land development, colonization, education, health, industries and fisheries, housing and social services, electricity, water schemes and roads. Requisite definition of powers will be made in the Bill.

      6. It was agreed that in the matter of colonization schemes the powers of the regional councils shall include the power to select allottees to whom lands within their area of authority shall be alienated and also power to select personnel to be employed for work on such schemes. The position regarding the area at present administered by the Gal Oya Board in this matter requires consideration.

      7. The powers in regard to the regional council vested in the Minister of Local Government in the draft Bill to be revised with a view to vesting control in Parliament wherever necessary.

      8. The Central Government will provide block grants to the regional councils. The principles on which the grants will be computed will be gone into. The regional councils shall have powers of taxation and borrowing.

    26. Ananth said on November 20th, 2009 at 2:21pm #

      Then after 9 years this was asked which was never implemented.

      Mr. Dudley Senanayake and Mr. S. J. V. Chelvanayakam met on the 24-3-1965 and discussed matters relating to some problems over which the Tamil-speaking people were concerned, and Mr. Senanayake agreed that action on the following lines would be taken by him to ensure a stable government:
      (1) Action will be taken early under the Tamil Language Special Provisions Act to make provision of the Tamil Language of Administration and of Record in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

      Mr. Senanayake explained that it was the policy of his party that a Tamil-speaking person should be entitled to transact business in Tamil throughout the island.

      (2) Mr. Senanayake stated that it was the policy of his party to amend the Languages of Courts Act to provide for legal proceedings in the Northern and Eastern Provinces to be conducted and recorded in Tamil.

      (3) Action will be taken to establish District Councils in Ceylon vested with powers over subjects to be mutually agreed upon between two leaders. It was agreed, however, that the government should have power under the law to give directions to such councils under the national interest.

      (4) The Land Development Ordinance will be amended to provide that citizens of Ceylon be entitled to the allotment of land under the Ordinance.

      Mr. Senanayake further agreed that in the granting of land under colonization schemes the following priorities be observed in the Northern and Eastern provinces.

      (a) Land in the Northern and Eastern provinces should in the first instance be granted to landless persons in the district.

      (b) Secondly, to Tamil-speaking persons resident in the northern and eastern provinces.

      (c) Thirdly, to other citizens in Ceylon, preference being given to Tamil citizens in the rest of the island.

      signed, Dudley Senanayake 24.3.65

      signed, S.J.V. Chelvanayakam 24.3.65

    27. Ananth said on November 20th, 2009 at 3:07pm #

      Things don’t add up with your quote from the link you provided.

      Let me take it further for you.

      The Hindu chronicle of Ramayanam points out that the ruler of the island is Ravanan. He is undoubtedly a worshiper of Siva according to the chronicle. Worshiping of Siva is Saivasam which is a sect of the Hindu religion. The Tamils in the southern state of India and the Tamils on the island are Saivasam overwhelmingly and have enough temples all over including the islan.

      Saivite temples of Sri Lanka

      The Portuguese when they took over the Tamil kingdom looted and destroyed many of the Temples. Out of the 5 oldest temples built all over the island two of them are still standing even though it is not in great shape.

      It only tells me one thing. Buddhism arrived after and the Sinhalese identity emerged after as well. The revival of Saiva Tamil Kings (Chola Empire or Pandyian empire) to push the people to the south in turn making them create a new identity with separate religion, separate language. I am sure the Tamil kings would have tried to force the Saivasm on to the people who were practicing Buddhism and there would have been resistance which would have made the Tamil kings to push them southward.

    28. Ananth said on November 20th, 2009 at 3:09pm #

      “…Throughout the ages the Sinhalese and Tamils in the country lived as distinct sovereign people till they were brought under foreign domination ….. We have for the last 25 years made every effort to secure our political rights on the basis of equality with the Sinhalese in a united Ceylon ….. It is a regrettable fact that successive Sinhalese governments have used the power that flows from independence to deny us our fundamental rights and reduce us to the position of a subject people ….. I wish to announce to my people and to the country that I consider the verdict at this election as a mandate that the Tamil Eelam nation should exercise the sovereignty already vested in the Tamil people and become free.” Statement by S.J.V.Chelvanayagam Q.C., Leader of the Tamil United Front, February 1975

    29. Ananth said on November 20th, 2009 at 3:10pm #

      “…We are not chauvinists. Neither are we lovers of violence enchanted with war. We do not regard the Sinhala people as our opponents or as our enemies. We recognise the Sinhala nation. We accord a place of dignity for the culture and heritage of the Sinhala people. We have no desire to interfere in any way with the national life of the Sinhala people or with their freedom and independence. We, the Tamil people, desire to live in our own historic homeland as an independent nation, in peace, in freedom and with dignity.” Velupilllai Pirabaharan, Undying Symbol of Tamil Resistance to Alien Sinhala Rule

    30. Ananth said on November 20th, 2009 at 3:11pm #

      “… The LTTE had for almost three decades fought the Sri Lankan military and defended its right to carry arms as a means of protecting the Tamil people living in the island. Since the war intensified in 2007, several thousand Tamil civilians have died. The recent thrust by the military into the Northern strong holds of the Tamils have seen an escalation in the deaths and has resulted in untold misery with people succumbing to starvation and lack of medical supplies….We need to do everything within our means to stop this carnage….We have decided to silence our guns… We have not forgotten that it is for our people that we fight. In the face of the current conditions, we will no longer permit this battle to be used as a justification by the forces of the Sinhala state to kill our people. We willingly stand up with courage and silence our guns… ” We are silencing our guns – LTTE, 17 May 2009

    31. B99 said on November 20th, 2009 at 4:08pm #

      Note to Suren – Genetic studies show certain populations in Tamil Nadu and among the Veddahs of Sri Lanka to be related to aboriginal populations of Australia. In other words, there are people today on both the mainland and on Sri Lanka whose ancestors have been there between 40 to 70 thousand years. This does not mean that the Tamils and the Veddas or the Aboriginal Australian population are the same – it does mean that there is aboriginal DNA in the wider populations of the region – including the Tamil -though perhaps not the Sinhala.

      Tamils, with or without aboriginal heritage, have been on Sri Lanka for a very long time – they live, after all, a scant few miles away on the mainland. The Sinhalese or ancestral Indo-European groups likely crossed into an already inhabited island – perhaps inhabited by both aboriginal and Tamil – so this is certainly their homeland – if not their original homeland, but so what. It certainly makes sense that migrating Indo-European speakers would have arrived after an already regionalized Dravidian population (Tamils).

      None of this is germane to the current political situation. What matters is that both people (and a significant Muslim Population) live in Sri Lanka today. The government of that nation needs to function as a government of ALL Sri Lankans. If not, Tamils are entitled to self-rule.

    32. Suren said on November 20th, 2009 at 9:12pm #

      Which genetic studies show that Tamils have any common anscestry with the Veddahs? Can you give reference to this study?

      One genetic study, from 1995, (see: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8543296) shows that the Tamils of Sri Lanka has absolutely no contribution from the Veddhas, while the Sinhalese show some admixture with the Veddhas (4%). The Tamils have embraced this study, because it shows that they share some 55% of the ”gene pool” with the Sinhalese. This study was highly disputed, when it came out, because they used Sinhalese and Tamils who lived in Singapore – a community known to have a lot of intermarraiges between the sri lankans. Maybe if they used people from Sri Lanka, the Sinhalese would have shown lesser Tamil admixture and more Veddah admixture?

      Anyway, the Sinhalese do not claim that their sole ancestors were the Indo-european colonisers.

      The Sinhala people are mentioned even in the Hindu epic Mahabaratha, which is supposed to be 1000-1500 BC, and some say even older.

      Are all dravidians Tamils? Was Tamil an universal language the time you mention 40-70 thousand years ago? It is estimated that people started migrating out of Africa some 60,000 years ago, about the same time we started using our voice. They didn’t speak even a language at that time, but words and sounds. So did all these people talk what became so called Dravidian?

      How can everything in the whole of India and south india be Tamil? There is Munda too, an age old language, just like the Elu language of the indigenous ancestors of Sinhalese.

      Sri Lanka is an island. It has had its own development.

      It is really stupid to assume that Tamil developed into Tamil independantly in both South India and Sri Lanka. Even just at the begining of the Christian era, Tamil was totally different from what it is today, and you are talking of many thousands of years, and we are to believe that the Tamils in Sri Lanka are indigenous??

      Living a scant few miles away in the mainland is not going to make an indigenous Tamil population in the island of Lanka. If you think that way, then why not think northwards too? At least that way, there was no ocean to cross.

      Do you have any other example where people speaking the exact same language and following the exact same culture and having the exact same customs which originated and got developed somewhere else, are also indeginous to another place, across the ocean?

      If the island was inhabited continuously by the present day Tamil population from ancient times, then they would not be speaking Tamil, they would be speaking something related, but not Tamil. Any linguist or anthropologist will tell you this.

      If the Tamils of Sri Lanka were indeginous to Sri Lanka, they would have something of their own. Tamils of Sri Lanka has no literature, nor ruins or buildings or any other record to show at all. How can they be indigenous to Sri Lanka? Have they been there for 40-70,000 years, and don’t have anything to show?

      No linguist or anthropologist is going to buy the story about Tamil being indigenous to Sri Lanka. Tamil is indigenous and native to India. Not Sri Lanka. Can’t see why some people have problems accepting facts. Indeginous or not, is not a basis for rights of any sort in Sri Lanka. Everybody has equal rights in Sri Lanka, the problem is not rights or discrimination on ethnic basis, but the lack and negligence of the needy.

      Tamils in the west should stop interfering with Tamil matters in Sri Lanka. Most of them do not even speak Tamil, and they want a Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka? How is it going to be for the Tamils who infact live there? The Tamil culture is quite different to the western culture. Are we going to have to put up with all the foreign Tamils with their foreign and alien languages and culture? We don’t want that.

    33. Ananth said on November 23rd, 2009 at 8:38am #


      You don’t make any sense. You haven’t provided any source and you are talking like if you are an expert or something on this DNA issue.

    34. Ananth said on November 23rd, 2009 at 8:42am #

      “The Tamils have embraced this study”

      Can you show me where the Tamils or how they embraced this study? Did they have a refrendum saying that they accept it or you like to bull shit alot?

    35. Nithyananthan said on November 23rd, 2009 at 7:15pm #

      Mr. Suren, Greetins to you!

      Please try to understand and come to realize that the pen-name ‘Suren’ that you have chosen to bear itself has Tamil Origin and is a Tamil name. You can not refute it, Can you? It is an absurd stupidity to draw Mahabaratha reference into this discussion – rediculous!

    36. B99 said on November 23rd, 2009 at 9:37pm #

      It is my understanding that DNA has been detected in the Veddah populations that relate them to the people who eventually made their way to Australia by way of the coast of India. But archeology has yet to bear this out. And about 5% of South Indians have a ‘coastal’ marker – that is, they have ancestry relating them to the coastal people. Thus, it is quite possible that some Dravidians are related to some Veddahs. That’s all I’m saying. Spencer Wells has written about the latter in ‘The Journey of Man.”

      But it is entirely possible that Tamil migrants to Sri Lanka – whether early or recent, may not have interbred with Veddahs.

      I would agree that studies done in Singapore should be disqualified.

      It is very unlikely that Tamil was a language of 40-70 thousand years ago. However, their ancestors would have lived then of course though they may have spoken a language that evolved into Tamil or at a later date became Tamil speakers through acculturation, that is, one language of the region became dominant through trade or conquest. I do believe people spoke languages at the time – but in this instance it may have been pre-Dravidian.

      Obviously, people in Sri Lanka and South India did not arrive at speaking Tamil independently. The Tamil population of Sri Lanka is FROM India.
      The only question on this is what makes a people indigenous. Native-Americans did not always live in the Americas – so perhaps they should not be considered indigenous. Similar applies to the Tamils, Sinhalese, and even Veddahs. Surely the Veddahs were first though.

      There are considered to be two routes into India that historically have populated the region – the coastal route out of Africa, and later incursions from the north. Thus the population pressures are generally southward with perhaps some divergent movements into the highlands of India.

      The Palk Straight is no obstacle – and at various times may not have been covered with water at all. Tamil migrations apparently began a few scant thousand years ago – and continued into the Common Era.

      Tamils anywhere of course, have every right to be concerned with the Tamil situation in Sri Lanka – no one forfeits the right to care.

    37. sukanta said on November 27th, 2009 at 2:31pm #

      I just can’t understand how it is! You people got a tiny homeland with a tiny population, Still u people can’t stay peacefully with each other. Whatever minor differences are there, in between a sinhalis and a tamil, I don’t think anybody in the outside big world cares a nut. My point is when would u people learn that, ur fight and all those military and other retorics are just tiny scale happenings that’s funny from the outside! Why can’t u people just tell that, u all are the people of Shrilanka and should stay together peacefully as a democratic and secular nation?

    38. B99 said on November 27th, 2009 at 5:11pm #

      Yes Sukanta – unfortunately too much of the world does not ‘care a nut.’ While the differences between Tamil and Sinhalese may seem miniscule to you, as say, compared to black and white in the US, it does not take much difference between humans for them to view another group as ‘the other.’ In this instance, there are different histories, different languages and religions, and different fortunes under the British occupation. Couple that with large differences in percentages of population and you have a recipe for subjugation. It would be nice if people everywhere could stay together peacefully in a secular nation but that would be a naive view of how the world works.