Feature Article

Wigneswaran reneges on Eezham Tamils’ inalienable Right to Self-Determination

[TamilNet, Sunday, 23 February 2020, 22:18 GMT]
Former Northern Province Chief Minister Justice C.V. Wigneswaran recently launched an electoral political alliance, Tamizh Makkal Koottanii (TMK) as an alternative to the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). But, he has ended up reneging on Eezham Tamils’ inalienable Right to Self-Determination, precisely the same way the hijacked hierarchy of the TNA did it after 2009. Washington and New Delhi, which didn’t want to recognise the sovereignty or the right to self-determination of the Eezham Tamils, deceived the TNA leaders to toe the line of ‘devolution of power’ without rejecting the unitary state system or by adopting a ‘non-descript’ constitutional discourse. The initial ‘mantra’ used for that purpose was the deceptive notion of “internal right to self-determination,” which is nothing else than self-denouncement of the right to self-determination. Wigneswaran has just uttered that mantra.

In his weekly “A Question per week answered,” released on 21 February, Justice Wigneswaran referred his federal claim as being based on the so-called “internal right to self-determination”.

There are many looming questions on the current divisions taking place among the Tamil political parties that need some answering. However, one needs to grasp, legally and politically, the externally induced ploy of “internal self-determination” in the context of the Tamil struggle in the first place.

The influence was witnessed in December 2002 in Oslo and during the 2009 advisory and secret committees in the KP-driven experiment of Provisional Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam. The external influence didn’t work in changing the Tamil diaspora. Instead, the move focused more on the TNA diluting it further through the Singapore principles in 2013 towards a “non-descript” discourse.

Eezham Tamils are not only a people entitled to nationhood according to the modern international principles. They also possess the right of reversion to pre-colonial sovereignty. Furthermore, they have already exercised their right to self-determination to determine their political destiny, both in ballot and through immense sacrifices in the armed struggle that followed the determination.

All the constitutional discourses undertaken before 1948, during the British Dominion of Ceylon and under the Republican “Sri Lanka” since 1972, have been unilaterally imposed upon the nation of Eezham Tamils by the Sinhala nation.

The constitutions were enacted without democratic Tamil mandate, and the constitutional processes disregarded the Tamil appeals, declarations and protests that demanded balanced or federal arrangement to resolve the national question.

Even those few Tamil politicians who favoured engagement with Sinhala leaders hoping for positive changes among the Sinhala political elites, in the beginning, were quick to realise the trust deficit and distanced themselves from the negative outcome of their collaboration exercises.

For example, the history of the late C. Suntharalingam would attest to that.

The nation of Eezham Tamils was able to exercise its inalienable right to self-determination in the last ever general elections in which it was able to vote for its political aspiration freely. That happened in 1977.

However, in every election held after that, the occupying SL State has consistently denied the freedom of expression in violation of the already self-determined Tamil aspiration. The SL State imposed the so-called 6th Amendment to its illegal constitution prohibiting the self-determined political desire of the Tamil people.

The Right to Self-Determination of Eezham Tamils cannot be diluted without a new valid determination, which must be conducted with international monitoring after revoking the 6th Amendment.

For a better understanding on how the global and regional powers have attempted to prescribe and justify the so-called notion of “intern” self-determination, see earlier articles that appeared in TamilNet, particularly the 2015 feature titled “TNA's draft on constitutional reforms exposes dilution of fundamental principles” and the article on “Singapore Principles of 2013: Tamil polity taken for ride from Oslo to Singapore”.

In the meantime, Justice Wigneswaran’s latest Q&A articulated position needs to be compared with M.A. Sumanthiran’s arguments on the subject, since January 2003 on “internal” self-determination to his latest address in the SL Parliament after the failed “non-descript” constitutional discourse.

Sumanhiran’s views have also triggered responses from Sinhala diplomats and Tamil politicians from time to time.

Two such responses, from Dayan Jeyatilleka in 2012 and Gajendrakkumar Ponnambalam in 2016, are also provided below for the perusal of the readers to grasp the contentious issue.

In the meantime, Eezham Tamils need to trace the external source behind Justice Wigneswaran’s dilution of Tamils Right to Self-Determination and be prepared to course-correct the Tamil polity, once again.

Excerpts from C.V. Wigneswaran's Q&A: (emphasis added)

Sumanthiran article on North-Eastern Herald
Sumanthiran's January 2003 article on federal solution involving “internal” self-determination. Sumanthiran authored the article after SL Minister Milinda Moragoda and Norwegian Special Envoy Erik Solheim tricked the LTTE delegation to Oslo talks in December 2012 to agree for “internal” Self-Determination based solution without explicit permission from the LTTE leadership [Courtesy: North-Eastern Herald, Jan-Feb 2003]
[...] I certainly have a political road map but not for the North and East to separate. North and East are even now separated by language, religions, Topography, Geology, Environment and so on. [...] The Buddhists who occupy the North and East are those who were brought in during the last 100 years.

Of course there was a time when the Tamils were Buddhists long time ago but in course of time they gave up Buddhism to go back to their old religion Saivaism. [...] Topographically and environmentally ours is a dry zone and we have no rivers. Only tanks and wells. Geologically we have calcium carbonate content in our Earth. So to a great extent ours is a separate area. [...]

So we are already separate but we are part of this Island brought together as one administrative unit since 1833. As a group of people having distinct language, areas of residence, common culture we are a Nation in terms of UN Covenants and International law. We are entitled to self-determination.

What your friends among Sinhalese who write about me think is that I advocate external self-determination. That is what the LTTE advocated. I do not advocate external self-determination. I advocate internal self-determination. It is the inability of many Sinhalese to understand this difference which has created so much of antipathy towards the Tamils including me. They think I am a traitor having been born and bred in the South I advocate external self-determination. I DON‟T. I advocate federalism a political innovation to unite disparate units. In fact I am interested in ensuring the integrity of this Island, preserving its unity, assuring equality among all communities and hoping for economic regeneration for the whole Country enabled by the different communities walking together hand in hand but as equals. Today that equality is lacking.[...]

I am not asking for a separate state but for a federal system based on the merged North and East within an undivided Sri Lanka.


Tamils’ right of self-determination in the merged North and East is a legal right. Tamils are a nation in Sri Lanka because they are indigenous to a particular territory consisting of the Northern and Eastern Provinces, and thus my argument is that the Tamils have the right of internal self-determination.

My conviction is that accepting Tamils as a nation and granting them maximum devolution within a federal set up in the merged North and East in an undivided Sri Lanka will give rise to highly stable coexistence and peace in Sri Lanka and make this country a wonderful place to live in. We could leave aside all the tensions and hatred of the past and start up a saner living for the peace and prosperity of this Island.


Justice C.V. Wigneswaran
Former Chief Minister, Northern Province
Secretary General, Tamizh Makkal Kootanii
Co- Chairman, Tamizh Makkal Peravai

* * *

The following are excerpts from a speech made by M.A. Sumanthiran at Matara on 22 June 2012: (Full speech is also rendered in video format below)

"[...] There is a great and ancient people called Sinhalese in this island; they have a very ancient history; they have their own language; they have adopted an ancient and glorious religion; They have their own traditions. I respect all of that very much.

“But unfortunately, I don’t belong to that great people.

“I belong to another people called Tamils.

“We also have a great tradition; We also have a great language; Our history is also at least as ancient as that of the Sinhalese. But, we are a different people.

“And there are not just the Tamils and the Sinhalese, there is another distinct people called the Muslims. Their language is Tamil. But, their traditions, their religion and their way of life all are very distinct and different from even that of the Tamils.

“That is what makes this country a very special place. We have not just the Tamils, the Sinhalese and the Muslims; But, we also had Malays – I am saying ‘had’ because a lot of them have gone away — the Burghers and we had a very glorious mix of different traditions living in this country.


“So I want you to know that when the Tamil National Alliance says that we are for the right to self determination of a people called Tamils in this country, that in no way negates the right to self determination of the other peoples of this country. Every different peoples have that right. That is a right in the internatioal law have been recognised [...] The most fundamental of the United Nations is based upon the right to self-determination of the peoples. [...]

“The fact that a people are entitled to the right to self determination does not necessarily mean that they must exist as a separate country.

“In many countries there are many different peoples, they live together as one country, but recognizing each others’ status as a distinct people.


“The fact that with mentioning of the words right to self-determination or federal or anything like that, doesn't mean that we want to live separately as a separate country.

“But, people will tell you that is what it means. Don't believe that!”

Interestingly, it is a response from a Sinhala perspective, that exposes the inherent discrepancy in Sumanthiran's negation of Tamil sovereignty based Self-Determination.

Sinhala writer and diplomat Dayan Jayatilleka was supporting the Tamil armed struggle in his early days. Later, he turned against the Tamil struggle and served the Rajapaksa regime, particularly during the genocidal onslaught on Eezham Tamils in 2009. He was posted as the SL Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva at that time.

With a different take, Jayatilleka was responding to Sumanthiran's “internal self-determination” discrepancy in 2012. He was SL Ambassador to France when he responded to Mr Sumanthiran.

Excerpts from Dayan Jayatilleka's article titled, “Tamil self-determination: Disproven, obsolete dogma” published in the Island on 24 July 2012, follow:

“If as Mr. Sumanthiran says, the right of self determination does not necessarily mean that they must exist as a separate country, what does it mean? If it means the right to autonomy or some measure of self-governance within a united state, why not call it that? If as he rightly say, the right of self determination does not necessarily mean a separate country, does it also mean, i.e. does it extend to and include, the right to form a separate country? His phraseology does not unconditionally exclude secession and unequivocally commit to a single united and indivisible Sri Lanka. If he is speaking of a (so-called) right of internal self-determination, what is the firewall between that and external self-determination?

“The ‘two nation theory’ adhered to by the Indian Communists in the post-war period, was decisively abandoned after the schism accompanied by the ghastly butchery of the Partition. If the notion of Tamil self determination should be entertained anywhere it is by the Indian state and Constitution because of the existence of Tamil Nadu with 70-80 million Tamils who constitute a collective a far older presence there than on this island. However, the concept is not entertained by India and correctly so. Rejected in India for any part of India, it certainly has no place in Sri Lanka, which has infinitely less geostrategic space.

“Sri Lanka’s Tamils, as a national minority, or at most, a minority nationality – not a nation— must not be subject to any discrimination or injustice. Self-determination, however, is a right enjoyed and exercised by the multiethnic Sri Lankan people/nation (or ‘people-nation’ as Gramsci puts it) while sovereignty is the right of the Sri Lankan nation, state and multiethnic citizenry, not a particularistic fraction or parochial segment of any of these.

“The two interlinked postulates of ‘Tamil nation’ and ‘self determination’ are not fiendish concepts; they are, however, dangerously wrong. In 1979, as a dogmatic Leninist aged 22, I adhered to these concepts myself, but that was before thirty years of carnage and human suffering in Sri Lanka had exposed these concepts for the destructive notions they were and had disproved them as hypotheses in the most decisive manner possible. Meanwhile the dramatic change in world history caused by the fall of global socialism had altered the meaning, relevance and relative importance of independence, territorial unity and integrity, national sovereignty and self-determination.”

* * *

Speech delivered by TNA Parliamentarian M.A.Sumanthiran at a book launch held in Jaffna on 01 October 2016:

Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam's response to M.A. Sumanthiran:

Gajendrakumar tweets
TNPF leader Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam responds to Sumanthiran's accusation provided in the Tamil video above. At a book release in Jaffna, Sumanthiran claimed that the TNPF had watered down its policy from a referendum-based exercise of self-determination, which was, in essence, a confederation, to the federal demand as advocated by the ITAK (TNA) itself.

The full text of Gajendrakumar's chain of reply tweets follows:

“I have said this repeatedly! Post 2009 TNA was never committed to a federal arrangement. They had accepted the 13thA as basis solution. This is why we left the TNA. However only during elections they paid lip service to federalism & self determination. And this too only to counter TNPF propaganda to expose them. If you look at TNA leadership's activities, it has been to denationalise Tamil politics all along! Reason being that for as long as Tamil nationalism remains in Tamil politics, acceptance of 13thA or a Unitary state for a "solution" would be impossible.

“The TNA began talking of federalism in a big way in non election times, only after TPC was formed and latter put forward a proposal that fully enshrined the cardinal pillars of the Tamil political demands, namely a Federal arrangement based on 1)Tamil Nationhood 2) NE homeland 3) self determination 4) distinct Tamil sovereignty.

“These demands have always been the TNPF's demands from February 2010 onwards, when the party was formed.

“We have used the slogan "Once country, Two Nations" to describe this policy. We say 2 nations because SL is already in practice a SinhalaBuddhist Nation. Therefore the recognition of a Tamil Nation in the absence of the Muslims & UpCountry Tamils claiming Nationhood, means SL will in practice become a country comprising of two nations. We have always been of the view that the fundamental four demands of Tamil can be realised under a federal arrangement, but such federal arrangement will by necessity have confederal arrangements to it.

“Poor @MASumanthiran and his fellow travellers have got completely rattled after the "#EzhukaTamil" and realise that the Tamils will never go along with TNA's 13thA fraud and that the Tamils will in fact stand their ground on this.

“Now desperate to save face, @MASumanthiran & Co are making ridiculous allegations of TNPF coming "in line" to TNA policy. Hence the need to lie about TNPF used to be for confederation and now has agreed to A federal solution.

“What's important to note is the TNA leadership's policy of de-nationalising Tamil politics in order to accept a 13thA based Unitary state solution is what led to Sampanthan and @MASumanthiran deviating from long held Tamil traditions of not celebrating #lka'S Independence Day until a solution is found and refusing a identify with the #Lka lion flag etc.

“These were deliberate actions on the part of the TNA leadership to denationalise Tamil politics in order to get the people prepared to accept a Unitary State and a 13thA based constitution as a solution.

“The compulsive lying nature of @MASumanthiran's politics can be seen by him asserting during debates in March2010 and May2015 that TNPF and TNA policies are similar if not the same, but then goes around saying that TNPF's policies have been rejected!

“There is only so much that one can explain on social media and especially twitter! Let me know if there are anymore questions.”

* * *

Sumanthiran's address at Bar Association in Jaffna on the ‘Constitutional process’ on 11 February 2017:

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