'Thanthai Chelva pioneered political course of Eezham Tamils'

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 27 April 2011, 05:37 GMT]
“The first Republican Constitution of 1972 gave the last rites to the slow death for ethnic relations in this country that started when a unitary constitution was handed to us by the departing British,” said Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarian Mr. M A Sumanthiran, while delivering Thanthai Chelva Memorial Speech at New Kathiresan Hall in Colombo, Tuesday, remembering 34th death anniversary of SJV Chelvanayakam, who founded Ilankai Thamizh Arasuk Kadchi in 1949. To prove Tamil opinion rejecting the 1972 constitution, Chelva resigned his parliamentary seat and won a by-election. After leading the most favoured Tamil political party and struggling for federal solution for more than 25 years that found no success with Sinhala leadership, Chelva ultimately presided over the Vaddukkoaddai Resolution that called for Tamil independence in 1976.

Mr. Sumanthiran in his lecture explained how unitary constitutions failed in the island.

If Chelvanayakam realised the futility of unitary constitution and founded the federal party within two years of Ceylon’s independence, another prominent Tamil leader GG Ponnanpalam who was with the government in an attempt to try out the ‘consensual model’ of politics was disillusioned in five years and resigned from the government in 1954, Sumanthiran said.

He cited the following statement of Mr. GG Ponnampalam in 1954:

“… [a]fter five years of co-operation, I yet see unmistakable signs of the desire for the establishment of racial hegemony under the guise of majority rule…I now find myself a more determined advocate of Tamil nationalism…”

Mr. Sumanthiran narrated an example applicable to the question faced by Eezham Tamils today:

“[...] five years ago [...] I attended a peace seminar in India, at which conflicts in different parts of the world were examined. At the session on Kashmir, a peace-activist from there asked the audience whether Kashmir belonged to India or Pakistan. The participants, almost all of them young Indians, in unison cried out “India”. Then he asked them this tricky question: “When you say Kashmir belongs to India, do you mean the people of Kashmir or that valley - that land?” Eager to give a politically correct answer those young people said that they meant the people of Kashmir. Then that peace-activist accusingly told them,“No, you did not mean the people; you meant that land only, because the Kashmiris are saying, “Well if you say we belong to you, where were you when our sons were killed on the streets? Where were you when our sisters were raped? Where were you when our fathers were abducted and taken away? If you thought we belonged to you, you would have spoken up for us at those times. You are only interested in the land, not in us, the people!”

“We are yet to recover from the dreadful war that was fought on our soil two years ago, said to be a humanitarian operation to liberate the Tamil people. The question that must be answered honestly is whether it was to liberate the people or to re-take the land. If it is the people, then certainly the rights of those people will take precedence over all apparent attraction towards the lands,” Sumanthiran said.

Sumanthiran further pointed out how the population of the Sinhalese was just 0.5 percent in 1827 in the Eastern Province, in 1921 it was 4 percent, in 1947 it was 9 percent, but went to 25 percent in 1981.



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