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May 31-June 4 1981: Five Days of State Terror in Jaffna

by Santasilan Kadirgamar

Two years after the end of the war in Lanka, without a political solution in sight, it may be appropriate to look back at events that occurred 30 years ago. 31 May to 4 June 2011 marks the 30th anniversary of days of violence and arson in Jaffna that aggravated relations between the Tamils and Sinhalese majoritarian state and eventually led to prolonged warfare.

Jaffna Public Library, after May 31, 1981

Although mercifully loss of lives was minimal, the extensive damage to houses, shops and institutions was unprecedented sending shock waves within the Tamil community.

This led to a total loss of confidence in the state and its law enforcement agencies. The events of May/June 1981 hardened attitudes on both sides and propelled the drift towards extreme Tamil nationalism and the emergence of Tamil youth militancy and a ruthless response by the state and its security forces. In remembering what happened in 1981 one recalls Benedette Croce, the Italian historian’s dictum that, “all history is contemporary
history”.

Little appears to have changed in 30 years. The ultra-nationalist mental make-up that went into these horrendous happenings has changed little since then.

Documenting and reporting these events at that time was the Movement for Inter- Racial Justice and Equality (MIRJE) which was formed in 1979. It was a coalition of trade unions, secular and religious organisations and people’s movements in the country. The Jaffna branch, of which the author was the founding president, organised meetings, documented the violation of human rights and sent information to key members of the movement in Colombo and Kandy.

The membership of MIRJE was multi-ethnic and multi-religious reflecting the diversity of Lankan society. The leadership came from outstanding professionals, many of them from the majority Sinhalese community.

MIRJE published three major reports: “Emergency” (1979), “What Happened in Jaffna: Days of Terror” (1981) and “Torture and Tension in Vavuniya” (1982). The second report came after Regi Siriwardene, distinguished writer and intellectual with impeccable credentials, had spent several days in Jaffna and did an in- depth study of what happened.

Jaffna is the primary city of the Lankan Tamils and their cultural centre. Both the city and the larger Jaffna peninsula did experience, in the context of deteriorating relations between Tamils and the state, occasional acts of violence in 1961, 1974, 1977 and 1979. Jaffna, known for its quiet ways of life and non-violent forms of dissent and struggle, was never the same again after the days of terror in 1981.

By April 1981, there had been sporadic acts of violence on individual Tamil policeman and politicians who were pro-government.

The Neerveli Bank robbery had taken place in April by a group of armed Tamil youth constituting the largest haul at that point in time. The District Development Council (DDC) election had been announced and nominations had been accepted.

The Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) had swept the parliamentary polls in 1977 in the Tamil areas on the secessionist Tamil Eelam demand. But its popularity was on the wane. Having made that extremist and adventurist demand, departing from what was a realisable federal or regional councils programme, the TULF had no credible programme. While indulging in the rhetoric of liberation in actual practice the party had made compromises in accepting a diluted devolution package hoping to make step by step progress towards greater autonomy.

In the process, defections took place from the TULF and it lost several of its firebrand platform speakers. The editor of the party’s paper the Suthanthiran and some leading lights of the party had formed the short-lived Tamil Eelam Liberation Front. Meanwhile, the TULF’s hegemony was challenged by a gradually growing and highly secretive underground movement committed to armed struggle.

The ruling United National Party (UNP) had not won a seat in Jaffna from 1956 and it hardly had a party structure in this district. But President J R Jayewardene was determined to fight the elections with handpicked Tamil candidates backed by state patronage. Under a democratic political system any political party no doubt had the right to contest elections in any part of the country. But here was a delicate political scenario with the national question having defied solution since Independence in 1948. Passions had been aroused and there was a growing climate of violence spearheaded by youth born in the 1950s, the infamous decade of “Sinhala Only”.

Among the UNP candidates was Thiagarajah, a retired school principal and former member of parliament. In April 1981 Thiagarajah was assassinated by Tamil militants. Lesser-known candidates were also assassinated or intimidated into withdrawing their candidacy. The state retaliated with arbitrary arrests under the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

The Jaffna branch of MIRJE sent desperate messages to the headquarters in Colombo to send a fact-finding delegation to Jaffna. A five-member delegation arrived on 11 May 1981, all Sinhalese with the exception being Paul Caspersz, president of the national movement and of Burgher descent. The delegation reported their findings to the movement in Colombo on 2 June. But events had moved too fast in Jaffna.

The acts of “state terrorism” in 1981 took place on the eve of the DDC elections on 4 June 1981. The DDCs took shape after intense negotiations between the TULF and the UNP government headed by president Jayewardene. They were meant to devolve limited powers and the TULF, much against the will of its youth wing and dissenting sections within the party and in Tamil society, had agreed to contest the DDC elections and accept office thereafter.

On 31 May 1981 there was a TULF election meeting in the vicinity of a well-known temple in the city of Jaffna. An unidentified gang attacked the policemen on duty. It was generally believed that the perpetrators of this attack were members of the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Elam (PLOTE) that had broken away from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). A Sinhalese and a Tamil policeman lost their lives and a Muslim policeman was injured. The mayor of Jaffna who presided at the meeting disbanded the gathering.

As stated by Amirthalingam, leader of the opposition in parliament on 9 June, Within half an hour, jeep-loads and truckloads of policemen, some in uniform, some without uniforms, arrived at the venue of the meeting. They entered the temple itself. They damaged what are called ‘Vahanams’… Then they [ran] riot. They set fire to shops and houses, cars and other vehicles. The violence continued throughout the night, as more shops in the heart of Jaffna city, the market and more houses were set on fire.

Noteworthy was the destruction of the office of the TULF. Witnesses to the event stated to MIRJE activists that the attackers were dressed in shorts, carried guns and iron rods and all spoke Sinhalese. The MIRJE report went on to state “most dastardly of all on this first night was the complete destruction of and the senseless arson of the house of the Member of Parliament for Jaffna”.

It was fortunate that the Jaffna member of parliament, Yogeswaran and his wife were able to escape. The report further alleged that sections of the police in Jaffna had targeted and made an attempt to eliminate the popular and outspoken member of parliament for Jaffna.

Ironically, Yogeswaran together with TULF leader Amirthalingam were assassinated by the LTTE in 1989 in Colombo, Yogeswaran some years later when she assumed duties as mayor of Jaffna, while refusing to accept police protection, in one of the most shameful and cowardly attacks ever carried out by the LTTE, was assassinated in Jaffna.

Thousands gathered to see the damage done to the city but quickly dispersed. There was no retaliatory violence. The police and the armed forces were nowhere visible. Members of Jaffna MIRJE had compiled a report on the damage done and drafted an appeal to be telegraphed to president Jayewardene only to be told by officials in the Jaffna post office that no telegrams could be dispatched to the president without prior approval from his secretary.

This left them with no alternative but to go to the press. The editor of the Eelanadu agreed to publish the contents of the report. As they were at the press at 7 pm that evening, the city of Jaffna was plunged into darkness as the lights went off. They hurriedly left the scene only to be informed the next morning that within minutes of their departure, the press had been burnt down and that the editor had been hospitalised with severe injuries.

Statute of Fr. Long

The Eelanadu press (Tamil) founded in 1961 was the only daily newspaper published outside the city of Colombo. The most internationally publicised event was the burning and total destruction of the magnificent Jaffna Public Library on the night of 1 June 1981. The library project was initiated by a committee appointed in 1934, and old documents including Ola Leaf manuscripts were collected opening a small library in 1936. The construction of the larger library began in 1953 led by reverend Fr Long, principal of St Patricks College in Jaffna with the assistance of Indian experts in library science and Dravidian architecture. The library collection of 95,000 volumes contained 10,000 handwritten manuscripts including colonial documents from the 16th century.

Jaffna Public Library ~ pic: pact.lk

Five bookshops were reduced to ashes; three of them owned by Poobalasingam, veteran member of the Communist Party committed to a united Lanka. His bookshops were a rallying point for those committed to a left agenda, providing the best of reading material, books, journals, periodicals and newspapers from the Sinhalese south and India, especially Tamil Nadu. As repeatedly acknowledged by visiting Sinhalese educationists and distinguished visitors from abroad, education was the very ethos of Jaffna society. The magnificent Jaffna Public Library was a visible symbol of this commitment to excellence in education.

These acts of commission and omission on the part of the state at this critical juncture have confronted observers and analysts with an intriguing question. What were highly placed members in the government up to? What exactly was the political agenda of the then president and his cabinet Three senior ministers among others were present in Jaffna when these horrendous acts of violence took place.

Jaffna gave the sight of a bombed-out city, though the destruction took place using relatively primitive means compared to the more sophisticated modern weaponry used in aerial bombings and shelling with multiple barrel guns that wreaked havoc in the last decade of the war that ended in May 2009. In 1981, buildings were torched after being doused with petrol pilfered from neighbouring petrol stations, by gangs in jeeps and several on foot when the streets were deserted late in the night.

The inability on the part of the state to restrain and control its own security forces sent a powerful message to the Tamil people, that a substantial degree of self-government was the only solution. In the midst of this incredible situation, concerned citizens consisting of businessmen, professionals and university academics came to the Roman Catholic Bishops House. Deeply agitated they called for some kind of protest in Jaffna. Bishop Deogupulle, who for years refrained from adopting a political profile, led this citizens’ delegation to the Kachcheri (the administrative headquarters in Jaffna) and protested directly to the commanding officer of the armed forces in Jaffna brigadier Weeratunga. The army commander, absolutely courteous to the bishop, excused himself. He had been called by the president to Colombo for urgent consultations.

The members of the delegation met ministers and other officials and conveyed their concerns, protesting in the strongest terms and demanded that the police be confined to barracks. A comment made by a senior minister is worth recording here. He told us that we must bear in mind that this was the third body of a Sinhalese victim they were carrying back to Colombo!

This writer, responding as one of the spokespersons on behalf of the delegation, said, “We do not condone such killings but such comments do not help. We want an immediate halt to the violence and steps taken towards a meaningful political solution”.

The group returned to Bishop’s House and formed themselves into the Jaffna Citizens’ Committee. Consisting of politicised and apolitical persons, it was agreed that the Citizens’ Committee would not take a political position pertaining to the overall demands being made by the Tamil people. Each member of the Citizens’ Committee was entitled to his or her political views, but as an organisation their primary task was to contain the situation, maintaining direct links with the army headquarters in Jaffna. A little known fact is that eventually members of the Citizens’ Committee joined army patrols on the five main roads in the Jaffna peninsula.

The police were confined to barracks and the situation contained. The army commander had stressed to visiting human rights delegations from Colombo that his task was to contain the situation, and that it was the task of the politicians to arrive at a political solution.

Citizens’ Committees came into existence in other towns. Politicians and partisan politics were excluded and for sometime did good work. But in the course of time their activities were stifled as the LTTE attempted to make them into front organisations.

The original Citizens’ Committee and the Jaffna MIRJE ceased to exist as the conflict escalated in 1987.

The events of 1981 marked a watershed in that it effectively internationalised the conflict in the country. Journalists, human rights activists and academics from various parts of the world began visiting Jaffna.

The first to arrive six weeks after the events was Francis Wheen from the London-based New Statesman. Salamat Ali, a Pakistani living in exile in New Delhi, covered the events for the Far Eastern Economic Review.

David Selbourne from Oxford University spent four days in Jaffna doing an indepth study of the emerging conflict and wrote for the Guardian, the New Statesman and the Illustrated Weekly of India. Venkat Narayan, journalist, reported the events for the India Today. Two distinguished academics from India, the late Urmila Phadnis from Jawaharlal Nehru University came separately and thereafter became deeply engaged in studying and commenting on the crisis in Sri Lanka.

Visitors came from Japan, the Philippines, South Korea and one significantly from Beijing. Others came from several European countries and the US to report on what was happening in this little known part of the world. Visitors from India included Kalyanasundram, senior leader of the Communist Party of India and Nedumaran, member of the Tamil Nadu legislative assembly, then of the Kamaraj Congress.

Vijaya Kumaratunga

Many delegations came from the rest of the Island, almost all Sinhalese, among whom were members from the left movement, academics, and Christian leaders and most significantly some Buddhist monks. The last to arrive as late as November, nevertheless worthy of mention, were S D Bandaranaike (cousin of S W R D Bandaranaike) and Vijaya Kumaratunga from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, then in the opposition in parliament.

They came to express their concerns to the devastated people of Jaffna. They were all given a warm welcome. While their sympathy and concern was appreciated, as this writer on behalf of Jaffna MIRJE stated to a visiting Christian delegation, “We do not ask for charity. We want justice.” The need to identify and expose perpetrators of these crimes was stressed. In short the citizens sought accountability on the part of the state.

The allegations against the police and the government by both Amirthalingam and Yogeswaran were placed on record in parliament on 9 June, when the events of 1981 were debated. The TULF had a sweeping victory at the DDC polls, cashing in on outraged public sentiment to the days of violence.

The chief spokesman for the government Gamini Dissanayake admitted, “Some damage had been done by the police… we do not deny and cannot contradict … that the house of the hon. member for Jaffna, Mr Yogeswaran had been burnt by the police.” He also admitted that they were “concerned with the morale, the psychology and behaviour patterns of the police”. “The atmosphere was one of terror; the police were not easily confined to barracks”, he concluded. The state never appointed a commission to go into the happenings of 1981 nor has an appropriate apology been made for those five days of arson to this date. Neither has adequate compensation been paid.

In this flashback to 1981 and reflecting on the contemporary situation one goes back to the often quoted words of George Santayana, “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it”.

Santasilan Kadirgamar (kadirsan2@yahoo.com) is the former President of the Movement for Inter-Racial Justice and Equality, Jaffna branch and a founder member of Jaffna Citizens Committee.This article appeared in the Economic and Political weekly dated June 4th -10th

32 Comments

  1. Dr.Rajasingham Narendran says:

    Junius Richard Jayawardene is at the root of every thing that went wrong in Sri Lanka. He undermined communal harmony, destroyed the public service, over politicized the country, rode rough shod over the rule of law and dispensation of justice and destroyed everything that was decent in public life. He was the father of Sinhala only
    and led the infamous Kandy march against the Banda-Chelva pact.

    He came to power in 1977, identifying the grievances of the Tamils, but instead of resolving them, instigated the 1977 and 1983 riots. He set the road to making the Tamils a manageable minority, on the advice of N.U.Jayawardene, the former Governor of the Central Bank. He let the likes of Cyril mathew, Gamini Dissanayake and Athulathmudali behave like street thugs.

    He wanted to teach the Tamils a lesson and did it in grand style. The burning of the Jaffna library and other events that unfolded around that time, were a manifestation of JRJ’s malevolent thought processes. He institutionalized violence as an instrument of governance. He taught the leaders who followed him to prevaricate, mislead and deceive. He left us a constitution that has undermined democracy and laid the ground work for an elected dictatorship/ monarchy. He signed the Indo-Lanka agreement with Rajiv Gandhi, but did everything possible to undermine it from the moment it was signed.

    Rasputin, was only an adviser to the Tzar in Russia. But JRJ was the Rasputin of Sri Lanka, who had all the power except that to change the sex of men and women. The legacy of JRJ has to be discarded at the earliest, if Sri Lanka is to be put back on being a true democracy. Of course, we Tamils played into the hands of this evil genius and helped him achieve his aims.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    I thank Mr.Seelan Kathirgamar, for reminding us of the most uncivilized phase in Sri Lankan history, a phase that seeded the calamity that followed.

  2. T.Siva, Cornwall says:

    Chauvinistic Sri Lanka Buddhist State and China hegemony, same dates in tyranny too.

    Tiananmen Mothers: “On June 4, the whole world wept”

    http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Tiananmen-Mothers:-On-June-4,-the-whole-world-wept-21746.html

  3. kc says:

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran says:
    June 4, 2011 at 9:33 am

    The same JR made a pact with India to confine the Sinhala army in their barracks in the NE, accepted a foreign peace keeping force in the NE, made Tamil also an official language, merged the north & east, initiated the devolution process, passed the 13 amendment in parliament to give police & land powers to the NEPC, and importantly brought about normalcy in the NE.

    The pact he signed with India to solve the ethnic problem was accepted by all Tamil political and militants parties/groups (except the LTTE nutters), the international community and honoured by the UN.

    Sinhala racists and the LTTE idiots did not permit him to carry on with nation building.

    Yes, JR made many blunders but he grew up and indeed behaved like a true son of mother Lanka and a statesman – this is the other side of JR.

  4. aratai says:

    .
    WRONG…

    IPKF and North-East PC under V.Perumal (including people like DJ), tried very hard to get 13th amendment implemented, JRJ (The Fox) did the dirty work and you know the rest.

    :-)

  5. AI says:

    Please see this c4 documentary what rude behaviour and Gesture ( see his right hand middle finger!!) by a Deputy Soliciter General of Srilanka. Who came allthe way from Srilanka on Tax payers money and behaved.

    http://www.channel4.com/news/un-screens-channel-4-sri-lanka-war-crimes-film

  6. mahen says:

    Absolutely your are right Naren now Rajapaksha clan are taking further to the himalyan hights I am sure it folldown soon.

  7. Shanti says:

    1981 anti-Tamil pogrom was the first ever planned campaign against Tamil Nation and its values. It is not just the library but what collections were destroyed. It was the history and national heritage that was targeted. Political idea of secession was forced upon Tamils through the threat of Genocide instead selling the idea of federalism.

    Security was an issue that never will entrusted to the marauding forces of genocide. It was the day the ethnic cleansing ever introduced to Tamil areas. The exodus of Thamil people continued to this day through oppression and subjugation which resulted in one third of people leaving SL, and other remained in the within the Sinhala community. Education went down the hill.

    It was the slow death eath of economy and culture. When the govt officers talked of Tamils are reduced to sizable minority within such a small minority, I never comprehended.

  8. Panhinda says:

    /*
    Jaffna, known for its quiet ways of life and non-violent forms of dissent and struggle, was never the same again after the days of terror in 1981.
    */

    Everyone has certain prejudices that makes it hard for them to be entirely objective. Perhaps Santasilan was a small child during this period an unable to fully recollect the events. Fortunately the events during this period were documented by a commission headed by Justice Sansoni, an eminent lawyer of European decent. TULF was engaging in widespread rabble rousing after 1972 republican constitution. Sansoni describes the mayhem as killings, arson and widespread disruption to day to day running of the state. Amirthalingam and his wife runs around threatening to make slippers out of ‘skins of the Sinhalese’ etc. So its not entirely true Jaffna was a peaceful paradise before the library was burnt. All violence took place in the wider context of TULF hartal against the republican constitution.

    Not just the library, every backlash on Tamils always preceded by some provocation by Jaffna based rebelling politician. Granted innocent Tamils should not be punished for mistakes of their rebelling politician. Sometimes however, it seemed as though the rebelling politician calculated the backlash and used it for political aims. This macabre practise of the Jaffanese rebelling politician was last seen at last stages of the war. LTTE knew by innocent Tamils will suffer as a human shield. The suffering also captured on video by TRO and distributed widely for propaganda purposes. I have seem Jaffanese writer Sebastian also noting this practise among his politicians.

  9. Navin says:

    At least Sinhala media should write about Tamil terrorism. We cannot expect that from independent media since they are “independent”. Sri Maha Bodhi massacre, Temple of tooth attack, Central Bank attack, Attack on Orugodawatte oil depot, Katunayake airport attack, Central Bus stand attack, Dehiwala train blast, Kabithigollelawa attack, assassination of over 600 policemen, etc. These are part of the history of Tamil community in the island as much as black July 1983. At present no journalist writes about any of these and Sinhala masses are quickly forgetting them or have done already. It is quite evident in the way many look at the victory over LTTE. Every year Americans remember 9/11. We should similarly remember all of these attacks so that Tamils or their agents can not perpetrate such crimes on us ever again. Tamils are doing a very good job of remembering things. Sinhalese should learn from them.

  10. Dawood says:

    The Sansoni commision looked into the 1977 anti-Tamil violence. The Library was burnt by Police thugs in 1981. Why are you mixing up both ? Also Santasilan who is the 1st cousin of Lakshman Kadirgamar is a septugenarian. So dont try to patronise him thinking he was a child in 1977

  11. Dr.Rajasingham Narendran says:

    Navin,

    The Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims should remember and remind each other of the wrongs that characterized the past. We have all- as peoples- been wrong. This remembrance, however, should not be to justify what happened, but to be alert not to permit these to happen again. Let us recount what happened in the past and who did what to whom, without malice. We have all-as individuals- been at fault, because most of us were silent when these wrongs were done. We are all culpable on that count. However, let us identify the culprits- individuals, political parties, organizations, the constitution, the wider system- that made such things happen on the scale they did. Let us learn lessons from this exercise in remembering, soul searching and seeking the truth to serve us in the future. Mr.Kathigamar’s article is one contribution to this exercise and I hope it is the beginning of a process that is very much needed.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran-

  12. Ilaya Seran Senguttuvan says:

    Some of the policemen going about burning the Library systematically were seen
    looking for ola-type of looking materia, old books and burning them out of existence. It is believed mischievous, deranged and interested parties from the more initiated side of society in the South were behind this. Is there a connection between Seelan Kadirgamar’s comment “..10,000 hand-written manuscripts including colonial documents from the 16th century” were systematically destroyed and the intense insistance of a notorious “intellectual” and father of many Sinhala Chintanayas who indoctrinates his Sinhala students “Jaffna Tamils came to the Peninsular only 400 years ago with the Dutch – who brought them for tobacco farming?”

    ISS

  13. Ilaya Seran Senguttuvan says:

    Sansoni Commission. The eventual findings made it look as if the Tamils were the perpetrators and the others the victims- as widely believed just like how school mate JRJ wanted Sansoni to portray.

    It was not “Police thugs” alone who did it. They were just the trigger men. There were more powerful Ministers and men around them – who handled them. As Silan says “education was the ethos of the Tamil community” The object was to destroy this base. It cannot be done. When Silan leaves the scene his illustrious son
    Ahilan will take over – and this will continue in that part of the Island where the Tamils lived as long as anybody else and where education and the divine are synonymous.

    ISS

  14. J.MUTHU says:

    Navin mathaya,
    Learn learn learn. Who started babaric killing of innocent tamils. When tamils started arms struggle. No body cant justify killing an un armed civilians. Tamils struggle lost because of madness of praba and so called war against terrorism stupid policy of USA. Some of the barbaric countries used this chance kill their own citizens. with a blessing of barbaric sinhala budha tamils paid heavy price. Sinhala budhas blood thirsty barbarians nothing else. After two years ltte no more, what your sinhala evils doing in tamil areas. go on look for your self. All Thmils want rule them selves and protect their way of life. nothing else. anything wrong with that. Leave it you…

  15. David Adikal says:

    I agree 100% both of you this was the seed of the long civil war. Can you imagine how UNP politicians who were the Government at that time staged this State Terror?
    They should also punished for Cultural Genocide if any body still alive?

    Sad was policed used for preventing anyone attempt to off the fire. result lost of valuable books and human lives. Have you seen any changes in Police or Security forces apporach until today FTZ? Why??

  16. Panhinda says:

    After 1972 constitution marked the beginning of violence. Then came the riot at Tamil research conference. The first Tamil martyr killed after bank robbery. Tamil rebels lining up at his funeral making a pledge for Eelam. Killing of Alfred etc all happened way before library was burnt. The 1977 violence mentioned by Sansoni more violence also before 1981.

    So how can Santasilan say this?

    /*
    Jaffna, known for its quiet ways of life and non-violent forms of dissent and struggle, was never the same again after the days of terror in 1981.
    */

  17. Dr Mervyn Silva PhD says:

    Panhinda

    It seems the tone and content of your comment imply as if the carnage was caused by the actions of TULF and the Tamils, here again as usual you are trying your best to blame the victim.

    Sadly this is the kind of mindset which is prolonging the suffereing of the people.

    Even the JHU had the honesty to appologise for the carnage. When will you stop often repeated blame game? Would that be too much to ask for?

  18. TRN says:

    Yes I agree with you Dr. RN on the above.

    We all should understand the futility of violence & war. However it is sad to note what is going on at present is pointing fingers & slinging mud at each other.

    This is the first time I am reading about the 5days of violence in Jaffna in 1981. I have heard & read about Jaffna library burning. However now it seems it was part of a serial violence not an isolated incidence.

    I am truly ashamed of our political leaders and their hawkish & undemocratic ways of dealing with the Jaffna citizens.

    Yes Navin of course what the LTTE did to take revenge were worse. We should not justify the crimes committed any side be it LTTE or GOSL. We need to learn from the past mistakes & correct our future course. For this we need wise leaders with a vision. I am yet to see one.

  19. Dr.Rajasingham Narendran says:

    ISS,

    ‘—Where education and the divine are synonymous”. Tamils, particularly the Hindus, see learning as divine and worship learning in the form of Saraswathy. You have explained this aspect of Tamil culture succinctly and beautifully.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran-

  20. PSC De Silva says:

    Mr Nawaz is showing his middle finger to the world!
    He is basically telling, you a.. holes . . .

  21. Leela says:

    Tantai Chelva’s separatist party, ITAK had a mass rally in Waddukkodai on May 14th, 1976, and urged all the Tamil youth to take up arms and not to lay them down until ‘Tamil Eelam’ was won. Piripaharan was one of the youth that participated at that rally. KP says it was Arirthalingam who introduced him to Piripaharan. God only know what Arirthalingam advised them to do. But we know where they took us.

    I wasn’t in Sri Lanka at the time. But a working director of a government institution who participated at the Jaffna DC elections told me later in a casual chat that violence by Amir’s youth provoked them to do respond in a most unwarranted manner. That is the crux of the matter Dr. Narendran.

    Now don’t get me wrong; highlighting the cause doesn’t mean I approve such deplorable action.

    I thought defeating LTTE would pave the way for Sinhalese to live in peace with Tamils. How wrong I am? I never knew there are many Tamils who are like Shylock.

    I am sad they do not know what they can get and what they cannot get.
    Leela

  22. Dr Mervyn Silva PhD says:

    ISS

    If you believe you can educate these ignonarants on these forums I am sorry to say you are doomed fail.

    The high profile JHU minister and its safron clad leader went to Jaffna bearing gifts and you will not believe this both apologised for the burning down of the library. Were they both stupid enough to apologise for a non event?

    These people are not only bilieve in house wife’s tales but are capable of creating their own version of history. For example:

    In 1956, 1958, 1977 and 1983, it was the LTTE which killed Tamils in thousands, looted and burned down their houses.

    LTTE destroyed the Library in 1981

    LTTE introduced Sinhala only act.

    LTTE Assasinated SWRD Banda

    LTTE launched an insurrection on 5th April 1971 in the south of the country.

    Between 1987 and 1991 LTTE killed nearly 130,000 Sinhala youth in the south.

    Between 1987 and 1991 it was the Sinhala patriots who fought the invading Indians in the Northeast, under the valiant leadership of Weerawansa, Somawansa, Gota, Fonseka, Mahinda……………….

    The list is not exhaustive.

  23. Hela says:

    Hi Mervyn,

    JHU appologised in order to extend the hand of friendship to a section of fellow countrymen who are justifiably aggrieved due to those incidents.

    What does TNA do? They still act as the political arm of LTTE. they have never deviated from Vadukkodai declaration of war.

    Silan is incorrect to state 1981 as the catalyst for armed violence. Violence was already underway by that time with the blessings of so called “Gandhian” Chelva and Amirthalingam. Alfred Duraiappah has been already assasinated. Tamil political leadership has already declared war on Sri Lankan state through Vadukkodai (Battakotte) resolution. Major section of Northern Tamils have already endorsed the cause in 1977.

    Dr RN seems to be urging a course correction. No one seem to be listening yet. They seem to be yearning for another carnage thinking West will intervene and give them the Vadukkodai dream. Good luck to them.

  24. Dr Mervyn Silva PhD says:

    Hela

    You say “Violence was already underway” of course you are right, the assasination of SWRD and the JVP terrorism were the begining of violence to say the least. However, in 1956 and 1958 Tamil Speaking People had a taste of what was coming. I don’t remember LTTE existed then and I am sure you would agree with me.

    Sri Lanka as a nation was misperceived, misinterpreted and poorly built. hence creating two periods of JVP terrorism and a prolonged LTTE terrorism compounded perpetual state terrorism.

    You ought to remember that those who live and rule the island are mere custodians of the land and the land does not belong to them. Its ownership belongs to the future generations, therefore the ownership of land is put in trust with the present generation who must exercise a duty of care and not destroy it.

    Is it too much for you to understand?

    The island has a shared history and heritage, should remain so. The problem arose when the Sinhala Buddhist began claiming sole ownership to the land and its heritage. Is this too difficult to understand?

  25. Ilaya Seran Senguttuvan says:

    Dear Dr. Mervyn Silva:

    I most humbly take your point. At least it cannot be said, after the dusts settles
    down, Lankans like you, Dr Narendran Rajasingham, I and others in this blog and elsewhere can be faulted for not trying to help the country in her time of need.
    Whether the seeds we broadcast find fertile soil or hard rock will define the future.

    ISS

  26. Anonymous says:

    ISS: Iam afraid, I cannot put Dr. NR in the same boat as you and many other separatist sympathizers in this blog. Dr. NR is a true reconciliator.

  27. Dr Mervyn Silva PhD says:

    Any reconciliation should be based on truth and not on propaganda.

    Therefore, you should insist on a genuine independent Truth and Reconciliation process. At the end of the process people should feel that their dignity and democratic rights are restored. Until then people like you,see every word uttered by people with sanity intact through your separatist glasses.

    Separatist, federalist, traitors are used to stiffle any genuine democratic debate by those who cannot think, articulate and justify as to why they take a particular position. There is a saying, “if you can’t play the ball play the man”. It seems you are doing precisely that.

  28. Dr Mervyn Silva PhD says:

    Nowhere in the Vattukkottai resolution it states that the Tamils take up arms to establish their Tamil Eelam.

    Vattukkottai resolution clearly states that it was going to be non violent direct action.

    “…Tamil United Liberation Front would launch a non-violent direct action against the Government in order to win the freedom and the rights of the Tamil Nation on the basis of the right of self-determination; and,….”

    You have got yourself in a twist. Read before commenting, comment on what you know, leave out your immagination, then we could have constructive engagement.

    Please the resolution and then make your point, if there is one.

    I am copying the resolution below for your information:

    Vattukottai Resolution, of May 1976

    Whereas, throughout the centuries from the dawn of history, the Sinhalese and Tamil nations have divided between themselves the possession of Ceylon, the Sinhalese inhabiting the interior of the country in its Southern and Western parts from the river Walawe to that of Chilaw and the Tamils possessing the Northern and Eastern districts; and,

    Whereas, the Tamil kingdom was overthrown in war and conquered by the Portuguese in 1619, and from them by the Dutch and the British in turn, independent of the Sinhalese kingdoms; and,

    Whereas, the British colonists, who ruled the territories of the Sinhalese and Tamil kingdoms separately, joined under compulsion the territories of the Sinhalese and the Tamil kingdoms for purposes of administrative convenience on the recommendation of the Colebrooke Commission in 1833; and, Whereas, the Tamil leaders were in the forefront of the freedom movement to rid Ceylon of colonial bondage which ultimately led to the grant of independence to Ceylon in 1948; and,

    Whereas, the foregoing facts of history were completely overlooked, and power over the entire country was transferred to the Sinhalese nation on the basis of a numerical majority, thereby reducing the Tamil nation to the position of a subject people; and,

    Whereas, successive Sinhalese governments since independence have always encouraged and fostered the aggressive nationalism of the Sinhalese people and have used their political power to the detriment of the Tamils by:

    (a) Depriving one half of the Tamil people of their citizenship and franchise rights thereby reducing Tamil representation in Parliament,

    (b) Making serious inroads into the territories of the former Tamil kingdom by a system of planned and state-aided Sinhalese colonization and large scale regularization of recently encouraged Sinhalese encroachments, calculated to make the Tamils a minority in their own homeland,

    (c) Making Sinhala the only official language throughout Ceylon thereby placing the stamp of inferiority on the Tamils and the Tamil language,

    (d) Giving the foremost place to Buddhism under the Republican Constitution thereby reducing the Hindus, Christians, and Muslims to second class status in this country,

    (e) Denying to the Tamils equality of opportunity in the spheres of employment, education, land alienation and economic life in general and starving Tamil areas of large scale industries and development schemes thereby seriously endangering their very existence in Ceylon,

    (f) Systematically cutting them off from the main-stream of Tamil cultures in South India while denying them opportunities of developing their language and culture in Ceylon, thereby working inexorably towards the cultural genocide of the Tamils,

    (g) Permitting and unleashing communal violence and intimidation against the Tamil speaking people as happened in Amparai and Colombo in 1956; all over the country in 1958; army reign of terror in the Northern and Eastern Provinces in 1961; police violence at the International Tamil Research Conference in 1974 resulting in the death of nine persons in Jaffna; police and communal violence against Tamil speaking Muslims at Puttalam and various other parts of Ceylon in 1976; all these calculated to instill terror in the minds of the Tamil speaking people, thereby breaking their spirit and the will to resist injustices heaped on them,

    (h) By terrorizing, torturing, and imprisoning Tamil youths without trial for long periods on the flimsiest grounds, capping it all by imposing on the Tamil nation a Constitution drafted, under conditions of emergency without opportunities for free discussion, by a Constituent Assembly elected on the basis of the Soulbury Constitution, distorted by the citizenship laws resulting in weightage in representation to the Sinhalese majority, thereby depriving the Tamils of even the remnants of safeguards they had under the earlier Constitution; and, whereas, all attempts by the various Tamil political parties to win their rights, by co-operating with the governments, by parliamentary and extra-parliamentary agitations, by entering into pacts and understandings with successive Prime Ministers, in order to achieve the bare minimum of political rights consistent with the self-respect of the Tamil people have proved to be futile; and,

    Whereas, the efforts of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress to ensure non-domination of the minorities by the majority by the adoption of a scheme of balanced representation in a Unitary Constitution have failed and even the meager safeguards provided in article 29 of the Soulbury Constitution against discriminatory legislation have been removed by the Republican Constitution; and,

    Whereas, the proposals submitted to the Constituent Assembly by the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi for maintaining the unity of the country while preserving the integrity of the Tamil people by the establishment of an autonomous Tamil State within the framework of a Federal Republic of Ceylon were summarily and totally rejected without even the courtesy of a consideration of its merits; and,

    Whereas, the amendments to the basic resolutions, intended to ensure the minimum of safeguards to the Tamil people moved on the basis of the nine-point demands formulated at the Conference of all Tamil political parties at Valvettiturai on 7th February 1971 and by individual parties and Tamil Members of Parliament including those now in the government party, were rejected in toto by the Government and Constituent Assembly; and,

    Whereas, even amendments to the draft proposals relating to language, religion, and fundamental rights including one calculated to ensure that at least the provisions of the Tamil Language (Special Provisions) Regulations of 1956 be included in the Constitution, were defeated, resulting in the boycott of the Constituent Assembly by a large majority of the Tamil Members of Parliament; and,

    Whereas, the Tamil United Liberation Front, after rejecting the Republican Constitution adopted on the 22nd of May, 1972, presented a six point demand to the Prime Minister and the Government on 25th June, 1972, and gave three months time within which the Government was called upon to take meaningful steps to amend the Constitution so as to meet the aspirations of the Tamil Nation on the basis of the six points, and informed the Government that if it failed to do so the Tamil United Liberation Front would launch a non-violent direct action against the Government in order to win the freedom and the rights of the Tamil Nation on the basis of the right of self-determination; and,

    Whereas, this last attempt by the Tamil United Liberation Front to win Constitutional recognition of the rights of the Tamil Nation without jeopardizing the unity of the country was callously ignored by the Prime Minister and the Government; and,

    Whereas, the opportunity provided by the Tamil United Liberation Front leader to vindicate the Government’s contention that their Constitution had the backing of the Tamil people, by resigning from his membership of the National State Assembly and creating a by-election was deliberately put off for over two years in utter disregard of the democratic righst of the Tamil voters of Kankesanthurai, and,

    Whereas, in the by-election held on the 6th February 1975, the voters of Kankesanturai by a preponderant majority not only rejected the Republican Constitution imposed on them by the Sinhalese Government, but also gave a mandate to Mr. S.J.V. Chelvanayakam, Q.C. and through him to the Tamil United Liberation Front for the restoration and reconstitution of the Free, Sovereign, Secular, Socialist State of Tamil Eelam.

    The first National Convention of the Tamil United Liberation Front meeting at Pannakam (Vattukottai Constituency) on the 14th day of May, 1976, hereby declares that the Tamils of Ceylon by virtue of their great language, their religions, their separate culture and heritage, their history of independent existence as a separate state over a distinct territory for several centuries till they were conquered by the armed might of the European invaders and above all by their will to exist as a separate entity ruling themselves in their own territory, are a nation distinct and apart from Sinhalese and this Convention announces to the world that the Republican Constitution of 1972 has made the Tamils a slave nation ruled by the new colonial masters, the Sinhalese ,who are using the power they have wrongly usurped to deprive the Tamil Nation of its territory, language citizenship, economic life, opportunities of employment and education, thereby destroying all the attributes of nationhood of the Tamil people; and,

    While taking note of the reservations in relation to its commitment to the setting up of a separated state of Tamil Eelam expressed by the Ceylon Workers Congress as a Trade Union of the Plantation Workers, the majority of whom live and work outside the Northern and Eastern areas, this Convention resolves that restoration and reconstitution of the Free, Sovereign, Secular, Socialist State of Tamil Eelam, based on the right of self determination inherent to every nation, has become inevitable in order to safeguard the very existence of the Tamil Nation in this country.

    This Convention further declares: That the State of Tamil Eelam shall consist of the people of the Northern and Eastern provinces and shall also ensure full and equal rights of citizenship of the State of Tamil Eelam to all Tamil speaking people living in any part of Ceylon and to Tamils of Eelam origin living in any part of the world who may opt for citizenship of Tamil Eelam. That the Constitution of Tamil Eelam shall be based on the principle of democratic decentralization so as to ensure the non-domination of any religious or territorial community of Tamil Eelam by any other section.

    That in the State of Tamil Eelam caste shall be abolished and the observance of the pernicious practice of untouchability or inequality of any type based on birth shall be totally eradicated and its observance in any form punished by law. That Tamil Eelam shall be a secular state giving equal protection and assistance to all religions to which the people of the State may belong; that Tamil shall be the language of the State, but the rights of Sinhalese speaking minorities in Tamil Eelam to education and transaction of business in their language shall be protected on a reciprocal basis with the Tamil speaking minorities in the Sinhala State.

    That Tamil Eelam shall be a Socialist State wherein the exploitation of man by man shall be forbidden, the dignity of labor shall be recognized, the means of production and distribution shall be subject to public ownership and control while permitting private enterprise in these branches within limits prescribed by law, economic development shall be on the basis of socialist planning and there shall be a ceiling on the total wealth that any individual or family may acquire. This Convention directs the Action Committee of the Tamil United Liberation Front to formulate a plan of action and launch without undue delay the struggle for winning the sovereignty and freedom of the Tamil Nation;

    and,
    This Convention calls upon the Tamil Nation in general and the Tamil youth in particular to come forward to throw themselves fully into the sacred fight for freedom and to flinch not till the goal of a Sovereign State of Tamil Eelam is reached

    14 May 1976
    http://www.tamilunitedfront.com/articles/Vattukottai.html

  29. TRN says:

    Thank you for posting this article.

    (g) Permitting and unleashing communal violence and intimidation against the Tamil speaking people as happened in Amparai and Colombo in 1956; all over the country in 1958; army reign of terror in the Northern and Eastern Provinces in 1961; police violence at the International Tamil Research Conference in 1974 …
    ————————————-

    on this point (g)- I condemn the state violence that was unleashed on the tamil speaking citizens of Ceylon. I agree that no govt should act in this violent & undemocratic manner. The govt changed since then but nothing much in the governance have changes. The state terror unleashed in N&E were unleashed in the south in the same manner.

    ………………………………………*******

    Whereas, throughout the centuries from the dawn of history, the Sinhalese and Tamil nations have divided between themselves the possession of Ceylon, the Sinhalese inhabiting the interior of the country in its Southern and Western parts from the river Walawe to that of Chilaw and the Tamils possessing the Northern and Eastern districts; …….
    ——————————————-

    Now this but of history is twisted. There is no evidence whatsoever to say within this island there were 2 separate nations/states.

    Of course there were times when the island was ruled by 3 different kings in autonomous regions. But the island was one nation. There were many centuries this nation was ruled under one king with his subordinates ruling regions. These can be called regions not separate states.

    This can be elaborated by history scholars who are very conversant with this topic.

    I would again say that tamil speaking minority lost language rights, however the Jaffna tamils deviated from seeking this right to claim a separate state. This distanced the other tamil speaking minorities from the Jaffna tamils.

    The struggle should have been to win equal rights to live in this country with respected & dignified citizens. This deviation & then violence/ terror used by militants brought complete destruction to the region & the people. I would say 1000 times more than what the state terror brought in the 50-70s.

    At this juncture all of us living in SriLanka should realise the futility of war/violence & terror.
    We should all say no more, enough is enough.
    Give us back democracy & good governance. We want to live as equal citizens, with same state patronage given to the ministers & MPs & the first family.

    I fully agree with ‘ the exploitation of man by man shall be forbidden, the dignity of labor shall be recognized, the means of production and distribution shall be subject to public ownership and control while permitting private enterprise in these branches within limits prescribed by law, economic development shall be on the basis of socialist planning and there shall be a ceiling on the total wealth that any individual or family may acquire’.

    I personally feel socialism is far better than capitalism in many ways. Of course again & again it has been proven that both these systems have failed due to many reasons.

  30. TRN says:

    Therefore, you should insist on a genuine independent Truth and Reconciliation process. At the end of the process people should feel that their dignity and democratic rights are restored.
    —————————————————

    Have patients this day will dawn.

    For this to come true the hardcores of both sides need to feel guilty then accept the faults done, then repent & correct the wrong course taken in the past.

    however confrontation & slinging mud will not make this transformation. It is the inner being that should be transformed. This should be from the top to every man in the street.

  31. Ilaya Seran Senguttuvan says:

    I salute the fine Sinhala race of whom Dr Mervyn Silva PhD is an illustrious son.
    The learning, wisdom and direction of such men are denied to our legislature – now
    full of undesirables. Look at the Colombo District. (1) there is one named after a water-fall; a known kidnapper,rapist, drug-distributor and gangster who was filmed carrying iron rods, poles and about 500 of his thugs near the Liberty Circus while the Kollupitiya Police were watching – waiting to attack a group of demonstrators at Lipton Circus (2) one claiming to be the descendent of a historical figure; and yet who managed to get a bath of red paint and female urine viewed by millions on prime time TV. This degenerate still walks with his head high expecting people to call him “Sir” This is only possible under the Rajapakses. This was one of his smaller delinquent acts
    (3) the other from the Colombo Central/Borella area who recently unleashed his enormous army of thugs last Feb 04 – who virtually killed MPs Rosy and Harsha. The man is a well known bookie whose name is linked to the first machine-gun attack within the Hultsforp Court premises that killed a key witness against him. Francis Ford Coppola would, I am sure, love to have the man in his next Godfather series although he thinks he is born to lead the Cricket world.

    So why blame and attack me when I agree with others these are signs of a Failed Society.

    ISS

  32. Roshan Edirisnghe says:

    I am fully with you

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