SOME MILESTONES IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF TAMIL POLITICAL CONSCIOUSNESS
2.1 The Youth Congress
The first great political movement that took root in Jaffna was the Ceylon Youth Congress. This movement came into being around 1926 and had its base amongst the educated middle-class youth, especially young graduates of Jaffna from Indian Universities and the newly founded Ceylon University College, and high school students. It was greatly inspired by the Indian independence movement and looked up to its leading figures such as Mahathma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. Like the Congress in India, the causes it advocated were secularism, a non-sectarian Ceylonese nationalism and independence from Britain. For this reason it enjoyed much respect from Sinhalese intellectuals in the South. It drew enthusiasm and morale boosts from visits of leading Indian personalities. Gandhi visited Jaffna in 1927 and Nehru in 1932. Kamaladevi Chattopadyaya who addressed the opening session of the Ceylon Youth Congress in 1931, is said to have taken Jaffna by storm. Not only leading personalities from India, but also eminent Sinhalese from the South, like S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike addressed Youth Congress sessions. It was at the Youth Congress sessions that S.W.R.D. advocated for the first time a federal constitution for Ceylon. Some of the leading personalities of the Youth Congress were Handy Perinpanayagam, J.V. Chelliah, S. Kulendran (who, later, was enthroned as the Bishop of the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India), Orator Subramaniam, K. Nesiah, N. Sabaratnam, and A. E. Tamber.
The Youth Congress reached its high point when it organised in the Tamil areas a boycott of elections under the Donoughmore Constitution of 1931, for the reason that the constitution did not offer Poorna Swaraj (complete independence). In the succeeding years the Youth Congress fell into decline, unable to resist the pressure of communal politics. Perhaps they were unable to come out with a leadership that could combine idealism with charisma, essential for mass based politics under universal suffrage. Nevertheless many of the Youth Congress figures were great men who left their mark. Consciences had been awakened on the caste issue and the ideals of cosmopolitan, secular democracy had been instilled in many young minds. Several of their leaders such as Handy Perinpanayagam, Orator Subramaniam, N. Sabaratnam and K. Nesiah went on to make a distinct contribution, and, as educationists, remained loyal exponents of their youthful ideals. They also maintained their ties with the leading contemporaries of Mahathma Gandhi into the 1970's. The most important legacy of the Youth Congress from the point of the present, is the position enjoyed by India in the minds of the Tamil People. India for the Tamils, came to represent high standards - virtue, moral edification and ideals of non-violence. Pictures of Mahathma Gandhi and other Indian leaders came to adorn many Tamil homes. This affection was enhanced by already existing ties of religion, education and language.
2.2 The F.P. and the T.U.L.F.
As a result of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike's Sinhalese only bill of 1956, the Federal Party (F.P.) under S.J.V. Chelvanayakam became the chief repository of Tamil hopes and interests. Significantly, the Satyagraha campaign launched by the F.P. in 1961 was modelled on Mahathma Gandhi's example. From 1956 to 1983 Tamil political thinking developed under the impact of the anti-Tamil riots of 1956, 1958, 1977, 1981, and 1983 together with mounting discrimination and a series of broken promises by successive governments which promised to settle Tamil grievances. The uprising by the Sinhalese youth of the J.V.P. in 1971 had its impact on Tamil youth. By the early 1970's a section of Tamil youth in the universities and high schools had begun to think in terms of violence. But the F.P. continued to espouse non-violence. The official ideology of its successor, the T.U.L.F., remains non-violence to this day. The other events which had an impact on the Tamil Youth were, a system of standardisation introduced by Mrs. Bandaranaike's government in 1970 which made it more difficult for Tamil students to enter the University, and the birth of Bangladesh. These latter events made a strong impression on their minds. At this point lessons in karate and judo began to be organised in Jaffna. A group of Tamil undergraduates at Peradeniya were in the ideological forefront of this new tendency. They began to think of economic self-sufficiency for the Tamil areas. But a fully fledged rebel movement like the P.L.O .was still only a distant possibility. Many of them thought of a simple plan inspired by Bangladesh. Their plan was to have a limited militant movement, plan for economic self-sufficiency and once U.D.I .was declared India was to come in and finish the job quickly. It may be noted that almost all of these pioneering youths have now left the country, for good.
The effect of all this was to weaken democratic ideals amongst Tamils. A new romanticism developed where political activists thought in terms of military structures, secret societies and undercover work. To have different opinions amounted to treachery. Tolerance and open discussion were no longer welcomed.
The Federal Party was quick to cash in on the new mood of totalitarianism. A senior journalist and a long time observer of Jaffna has this to say:
"In 1972 I was at a meeting where S.J.V. Chelvanayakam, the leader of the F.P. was present on the platform. Mr. Kasi Ananthan, a popular platform speaker, who is now a member of the L.T.T.E., told the audience:
Mr. Duraiappa, Mr. Subramaniam, Mr. Arulampalam and Mr. Anandasangeri are enemies of the Tamil nation. They do not deserve a natural death. Nor do they deserve to die in an accident. The Tamil people, especially the youth, must decide how they should die....
"I knew that this was going to lead to anarchy. I was angry and said so to my colleagues. The only thing my colleagues could say in mitigation was that Mr. Chelvanayakam's hearing was bad and consequently he would not have known what was said. This was no satisfactory excuse for a party leader. This speech was editorially quoted in the Suthanthiran, a paper owned by Mr. Chelvanayakam. Such a speech which apparently had the blessings of the Tamil leadership was a foretaste of things to come. In the succeeding years we were taught unquestioning compliance with political authority. If the F.P. or its successor, the T.U.L.F., announced a three day hartal, we had to comply and stay at home; there was no question of discussion. Anyone who did not comply could have expected some young men to come and beat him up. The seeds were sown for the growth of totalitarian militant groups and for the methods of violence they employed."
It must also be mentioned that Mrs. Bandaranaike's government contributed to these developments by the methods it adopted. It arrested 42 Tamil youths in 1972 and detained them without charges for two years. These youths were mainly involved in protesting against standardisation which restricted the entrance of Tamils to the University. The actual offences were often nothing more than putting up posters. The Federal Party's mild demands for Tamil rights in parliament were treated with contempt. Dr. Colvin R. de Silva's constitution of 1972 had the ring of a deliberate slap on the face. Discrimination against Tamils and corruption became much more open. The one mitigating factor was that the import restriction policies of the government provided opportunities and prosperity for the enterprising Jaffna farmer. An event which had considerable impact on Tamil political thought was the police attack on the International Tamil Research Conference hosted in Jaffna in January 1974. Nine persons died by accidental electrocution during this unprovoked attack, which took place in the presence of international scholars. It was a measure of Mrs. Bandaranaike's arrogance that she refused to order an inquiry. The first shot in the Tamil insurgency was fired when Mr. Alfred Duraiyappa, the Mayor of Jaffna who was close to Mrs. Bandaranaike, was assassinated in 1975. Mr. Duraiyappa was a popular man whose funeral was well attended.
By 1976, the leading Tamil parties including the F.P., the Tamil Congress of Mr. G.G. Ponnampalam and Mr. Thondaman's Ceylon Workers Congress representing plantation Tamils and Prof. C. Suntheralingam, a prominent Tamil nationalist, had combined to form the Tamil United Liberation Front (T.U.L.F.). In this year (1976) was adopted the Vaddukoddai resolution which put forward an independent state of Tamil Eelam as being the solution to the problems of the Tamils. This state was to be won by non-violent means.
It can be safely assumed that there was no viable plan to fight for such a state. In a public debate conducted in Chunnakam in 1975, presided over by Mr. Orator Subramaniam, two of Mr. Subramaniam's eminent students, Mr. N. Shanmugathasan, Communist Party (Peking Wing) and Mr. V. Dharmalingam, M.P. (T.U.L.F.) debated the pros and cons of the separate state. Mr. Shanmugathasan challenged Mr. Dharmalingam to state his plan of action. Mr. Dharmalingam replied that it was a party secret. Several in the audience clamoured for a more definite answer. Orator said later: "I had ties of friendship and respect to both my students and I knew that I was chosen as Chairman because in Chunnakam I was perhaps well qualified to control the crowd. Seeing that things were going too far, I intervened as Chairman and decreed that it was Mr. Dharmalingam's right to keep a party secret. But the simple truth was that there was no such plan." By now Mr. Chelvanayakam was in a state of poor health and Mr. A. Amirthalingam, the T.U.L.F. Secretary, had begun to play a leading role in the party. According to one report, Mr. M. Thiruchelvam, a senior member of the T.U.L.F. and ex-minister who was in Colombo at the time the resolution for a separate state was adopted, sensing danger, asked Mr. Amirthalingam, "What is the meaning of this?" Mr. Amirthalingam replied that this resolution was adopted under pressure from the youth and that when the time comes to negotiate with the government, a compromise can be reached. This, as future events showed, was the true position of the T.U.L.F..
2.3 The Years 1977-81
The new U.N.P. government which came to power in July 1977 raised hopes that it would solve the problems of the Tamils. It did away with standardisation for a time. Time showed that the government was only toying with the problem. The 1977 race riots made the average Tamil feel that the Tamils needed much firmer guarantees concerning their place in the country and an autonomous status for their homelands which would include control over colonisation. The government was in no way prepared to meet these reasonable claims. Instead ministers such as Cyril Mathew and Gamini Dissanaike used the resources of their ministries to further Sinhalese colonisation especially in the Eastern province. Cyril Mathew kept on discovering ancient Buddhist shrines in the Trincomalee area. The anger and helplessness of the Tamils provided a natural boost for militant groups.
One cannot deal with the question without looking into the manner in which Sinhalese fears were awakened. Having promised Tamil Eelam, the T.U.L.F. under Mr. Amirthalingam kept on saying that they had a secret plan to bring about this event. Having directly or indirectly aided the growth of the militant movement, the T.U.L.F. had to ride it. The secret plan story with elaborations drew applause from audiences. Rumours abounded to the effect that some foreign powers, overseas Tamils, or both, were to provide military succour for the birth of Tamil Eelam. Even by the end of 1977 many believed that fighter planes had been purchased for that task. The average person listening to speeches given by the T.U.L.F. took them to mean that non-violence was just a facade and that the real thrust was being planned by enhancing the militants' capability. But when pressed for comment by audiences of a different kind, the T.U.L.F. would become a group of urbane Western-educated gentlemen committed to non-violence. All this was not lost on the Sinhalese. When challenged by Sinhalese to condemn the militants' violence, the T.U.L.F. would hedge. There was no doubt, for instance, that the functioning of the banks was essential for the Jaffna economy and that the prosperity of the Jaffna farmer depended crucially on the banks. The police force was in many ways racist and flawed. Yet, it was also performing necessary functions towards the maintenance of order. Subsequently police were deployed to protect banks and vehicles transporting cash. Several of these policemen were killed on duty. Yet the Tamil public treated it as a sad, but necessary part of the Eelam game. The T.U.L.F. was silent.
As a result, a racist picture of the average Tamil as a scheming opportunist came to have a ring of credibility in the eyes of the average Sinhalese man. It then made it easier to arouse Sinhalese fears of being overwhelmed by Tamils and create the kind of feeling: "The Tamils should be taught a lesson". Provoking such distrust made the anti-Tamil riots of 1981 and 1983 more probable. At the same time the T.U.L.F. had no tangible means in its possession to safe-guard the Tamils from such an outcome. Meanwhile the T.U.L.F. neglected party democracy and its grass-roots organisation and had adopted secret negotiations with the government. This resulted in increasing dissatisfaction amongst its supporters.
The T.U.L.F.'s Vaddukottai resolution calling for a separate state of Tamil Eelam made a deep emotional impact on Tamils, both locally and abroad. But it took the 1977 anti-Tamil violence to give it life. Many middle class Tamils who had regarded Colombo as their home had agreed on principle that the Tamils must move back to their traditional homelands for their safety and economic prosperity and the preservation of their national identity and make them economically viable. Even before the 1977 riots, the Tamils had been becoming increasingly anxious because of discrimination in employment and in education. Several Hill Tamils had been displaced during the 1977 violence. A key problem as seen by the Tamils was the protection of border areas such as Trincomalee, Mullaitivu and Vavuniya, where the resources of the state had been used in settling Sinhalese. The 1958 and 1977 violence had shown that it was in these areas that Tamils were the most vulnerable. Although the school leaving Jaffna Tamil was very conscious that these areas were part of his homeland, experience had shown that it was not easy to motivate him to settle and make a living off the land - the earnings from which could be well above white collar government service salaries. Tamil refugees of Indian origin were readily accepted to fill this void. Many of the Tamil elite advocated this migration because they were cheap labour and would serve as a convenient buffer between the Sinhalese and the Jaffna Tamil. C. Chandrahasan, S. J. V. Chelvanayakam's son, once made a remark of such import to a foreign journalist. The leadership in settling these areas came from some highly motivated Tamils. Several of them later acquired links with the incipient militant movement. Three leading names amongst these pioneers were Mr. A. David, a senior Architect and the late Dr. Rajasundaram and his wife Shantini (nee Karalasingam) also a doctor. The husband and wife were in Britain when the 1977 riots broke out. They decided to return without delay to take up this pioneering work. While Shantini ran the Vavuniya clinic on a social service basis, Rajasundaram became the moving force behind the movement Gandhiyam. Gandhiyam was a charitable organisation through which agricultural advice, facilities and materials were provided for refugee families wanting to settle in project areas around Vavuniya. Volunteer workers ran schools and day care centres for children while providing advice and assistance to the elders. The U.S. agency C.A.R.E. supplied packets of Triposha -- balanced cereal food for children. N.O.V.I.B. and O.X.F.A.M. were amongst the charities that helped Gandhiyam. Within two years these former refugees were producing plentiful quantities of nutritious cereals such as Ulunthu, the prices of which reached a record low as a result.
Another organisation which became famous at this time was the Tamil Refugees Rehabilitation Organisation (T.R.R.O.). Amongst the committed officials of the T.R.R.O. were its founder President Nithyanantha and its founder Secretary K. Kanthasamy. Kanthasamy had been a very successful corporate lawyer and his life was to become one of selfless devotion to the cause of Tamil freedom, and the wider cause of human rights at an international level. His disappearance in mid-1988 was a result of the insidious growth of terror within the Tamil body-politic that was to destroy some of its finest sons.
The T.R.R.O. designed projects for the settlement of displaced persons, canvassed funds and implemented the projects either directly or through organisations such as Ghandiyam. The Kent and Dollar farms owed their origin to the pioneering spirit of some of the youth and elders of this time. Both were integrated agricultural settlements. Several Tamils living overseas became infected with this pioneering spirit when letters of appeal reached them. Groups of people sprang up in places like London, Singapore, and Ibadan (Nigeria), who held discussions on projects that could economically stabilise the Tamil homeland and collected money to send towards existing projects. The Standing Committee of Tamil Speaking Peoples (S.C.O.T.) is an organisation of Tamil professional people that came into being in London during this period. In the Tamil homeland itself there was a sense of buoyancy as several professionals took up residence there and gave their time to designing and implementing economic projects. During these early stages, the militants were known to be present around the settlements, but few from the settlements had any links with them. The thrust was on economic development and rehabilitation. The leadership of the T.U.L.F. was unquestioned. Yet for all the enthusiasm overseas, the actual participation of overseas Tamils in terms of their numbers and resources was small. In Britain where the Ceylon Tamil settlers numbered tens of thousands, the annual income of the S.C.O.T. was only in the region of ,6,000. Those who started rehabilitation work in the field, had hoped for massive support from Tamils living abroad. They got their money. But nearly all of it from Christian charities in the West. Nevertheless Tamils living overseas maintained a keen interest in what was going on at home and the actions of the militants became the subject of much drawing room talk.
During the year 1978 the militant group, the Tamil Tigers, carried out a spate of bank robberies and killings of police officers. The most sensational of these was the killing of Inspector Bastianpillai and some other police officers who were with him, after the police had successfully apprehended some militants. Other sensational events were the robbing of the banks at Thirunelvely, Neervely and Kilinochchi (by the group P.L.O.T.E.) and the bomb blast which destroyed the Avro passenger aircraft plying between Jaffna and Colombo shortly after it had landed on the tarmac at Ratmalana and everyone had disembarked.
As a purely security problem, the Tamil militancy had gone beyond routine policing. But as a political problem, it was well within control. The T.U.L.F. was willing to settle for a fairly modest grant of autonomy for the Tamil areas that included some compromise on land settlement. The militants at this point of time respected the T.U.L.F. and were not challenging it. But the government decided to play tough, and given the racist attitudes of some of its leading members, every action of the government's began to be seen as punitive. An Act of Parliament in 1978 proscribed the Tamil Tigers.
Two events towards the end of 1978 alienated the Tamils further. Mr. Cyril Mathew, Minister for Industries in the U.N.P. government and a regular Tamil basher, had a press conference with P.P.G.L. Siriwardene, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Colombo. It was announced at this conference that evidence had been found to prove that Tamil examiners had cheated by awarding excessively high marks to Tamil candidates. The matter was debated in parliament . But no inquiry was ordered. The allegation sounded convincing to many Sinhalese. With the Tamils it left a bad taste. Many responsible Tamils who studied the matter were convinced that the allegations would not have stood up to an impartial inquiry. By allowing one of its ministers freely to make irresponsible allegations, the government had increased racial feeling against Tamils. The allegations also served as a smoke screen for the reintroduction of an indirect system of racial quotas for University admissions. It was the new U.N.P. government that had scrapped, as a gesture towards Tamils, the system of standardisation introduced by the previous government to restrict Tamil university admissions. Many Tamils would have agreed to the modification of the principle of pure merit by means of non-racial criteria to help the underprivileged. That would not have needed a drama which subjected Tamils to hurtful public vilification. This represented the same irresponsible streak in the Jayewardene government which made Jayewardene tell the Tamils who were victimised by the 1977 racial violence that they will have war if they want war. Discrimination against Tamils in government jobs continued as repeatedly pointed out in letters to the President by the T.U.L.F. leader, Mr. Amirthalingam
The other event was the cyclone that devastated the Eastern Province in December 1978. Tamil leaders and Members of Parliament complained bitterly about blatant discrimination against Tamil victims in the provision of relief. There were several instances where material assistance provided by foreign governments did not reach the victims. In one instance, it was revealed in parliament that a large quantity of good quality sarees donated for the victims by India had been disposed of through a state trading agency. It was claimed belatedly in reply to a query in parliament that the proceeds from the sale went into the distress fund.
However, government indifference provided an opportunity for strengthening Tamil solidarity which was not missed. Again students from the University of Jaffna played a leading role joined in by social service and religious organisations. Students went from house to house collecting money for relief. A large number of lorries left for the East carrying cadjan  1, food and clothing. It was indeed an exciting period where Tamil national consciousness was riding high. Everyone wanted to be part of it, even the passive U.N.P.-voting Colombo Tamils who had habitually cold shouldered the enthusiasm of their provincial brethren. These middle class Colombo Tamils had preferred to be known as urbane, cosmopolitan and English speaking and were usually not given to nationalist notions.
An important step in the government's effort at finding a military solution to the Tamil problem was the passing of the P.T.A .(Prevention of Terrorism Act) by parliament in July 1979. All the while the majority of Tamils were hoping that some compromise would be reached between the T.U.L.F. and the government that would settle the problem. But what happened after the passage of the P.T.A., though on a minor scale by today's standards, was to increase Tamil anger against the government and, consequently, support for the militants' cause.
The following extract from Prof. S. J. Tambiah's book, "Sri Lanka - Ethnic Fratricide and The Dismantling of Democracy" gives the main features of the P.T.A., together with comparisons with the corresponding British Act.
THE P.T.A.: The main features of the P.T.A. are: "It allows confessions made to the police possibly under duress, as admissible evidence. Moreover, the act declares that any document found in the custody, control, or possession of anyone accused of an offence under the Act, or his agent or representative, can be used in evidence, against him at his trial, without calling its author or maker into account, and the contents of such a document can be construed as evidence of the facts stated in it... The P.T.A. can be retroactive in its implementation... Provides for prison terms for conviction ranging from 5 to 20 years or life. These provisions of the P.T.A. have been interpreted by the police and army as an open door policy that permits arrest without warrant of any person... A person may be detained for periods up to 18 months if the minister had reason to suspect him of being associated with unlawful activity... It defines as unlawful certain acts, including the speaking or writing of words intended to cause religious, social, or communal disharmony, or feelings of ill will or hostility between communities or racial or religious groups."
THE BRITISH ACT: Prof. Tambiah offers a reply to those apologists for Sri Lanka who see the United Kingdom act, enacted in response to the situation in Northern Ireland as setting a precedent for the P.T.A.: "The U.K. legislation bearing the same name (Prevention of Terrorism) was adopted in 1974, repealed, and then re-enacted in 1978 with some amendments, It is much less far-reaching than its Sri Lankan counterpart in its infringement of human rights. For one thing, the U.K. act defines terrorism more narrowly as 'the use of violence for political ends,' and includes under this rubric any use of violence for the purpose of frightening any section of the public or the public as a whole. For another, the same Act limits the maximum period during which a person may be detained without charge at seven days; there is no way a person can be held incommunicado without trial for a prolonged period, as the Sri Lankan act permits. Finally the Act in the U.K. remains in force for 12 months and its continuance must be ratified by Parliament."
According to Virginia Leary ("Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka", International Commission of Jurists, July to August, 1981): "A number of the objectionable features in the Sri Lankan Act are similar to the provisions widely criticised in the 1967 Terrorism Act of South Africa."
Following the passage of this act, the military was for the first time given an active role in the Tamil areas. The President's nephew, Brigadier Weeratunge, was sent to Jaffna in mid-1979 with an order from the President to wipe out terrorism by the end of the year. Soon afterwards, six Tamil youths disappeared after being taken into custody. The bodies of two of them, Inpam and Selvam, were found near the beach in Jaffna with gunshot injuries. Reports of torture became widespread.
Amongst Tamils in general, there was a feeling of optimism that they were forging ahead and that the government could not win. Rightly or wrongly, the Tamils were proud of the young and the militant youth. The nickname for a Tamil in the South changed from "Panamkottai" (Palmyrah nut) to "Kottiya" (Tiger). The Tamils no longer cringed, afraid of their identity being known. The Tigers gave them back a sense of identity and dignity. This was also the time that internal killings had started sporadically within the militant movement.
With this euphoria went many unresolved contradictions in attitudes as well as conduct. The economic development of Tamil areas went on at a very slow pace. Little capital was coming this way, whether from the government or from foreign sources. The government itself was part of the cause. Tamils complained bitterly that Colombo-based Tamil entrepreneurs who made large quantities of money from the Tamil man would not re-invest even a small fraction of it in Tamil areas. At the same time, they spent large sums doing favours for politicians. In the meantime dependence on Colombo increased. The pattern of migration was towards employment abroad, especially in the Middle East and was not calculated to increase economic activity in the Tamil areas. The money from overseas that was pouring in was largely spent on building houses, even on agricultural land, the purchase of jewellery and consumer items such as television sets and video-decks. Again profits were reaped by traders in Colombo. Travel between Jaffna and Colombo increased considerably. It was only a few who used their savings to start small industries such as mechanical workshops.
Many Tamils did see that they were treading on dangerous ground. But people were reluctant to speak out. The situation was made worse by the government's natural bent towards thuggery.
It was about this time that several left-wing political groups in the South who had been talking about armed action for years started looking admiringly at what the Tamil militants were doing. The latter had been successful in alarming the state. These were written about for the first time by Dayan Jayatilleke and were published in the Lanka Guardian. Some leftist intellectuals from the South even spoke of Tamil Eelam being the cradle of future revolution. Ideas of Lenin and Stalin on small nations of minorities featured in intellectual discussions dealing with minorities and secession. The traditional Left which had been somewhat discredited by its past performance was being splintered, giving rise to new groups such as the N.S.S.P. (Nava Sama Samaja Party).
To break the stalemate on the political front, the T.U.L.F. commenced discussions with parties of the Left (S.L.F.P., L.S.S.P. and C.P.) with a view to forming an electoral alliance. This was breaking new ground as the T.U.L.F. had been instinctively distrustful of the Left as opposed to the U.N.P.. Many critics maintained that such a bias flew in the face of experience and can be attributed to the natural Right-wing tendencies within the T.U.L.F.. Initial exchanges raised hopes. But the exercise was abruptly broken off by the T.U.L.F.. Sources within the T.U.L.F. confided that they did so on a strong indication that it may give rise to organised race riots against the Tamils. Negotiations commenced instead with the U.N.P. government under the mediation of Prof. A. J. Wilson (Lecturer in political science in Canada and son-in-law of S. J. V. Chelvanayakam) and Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam (American trained lawyer and son of an F.P. minister). Both had good relations with the government, whose open economic policies they agreed with. The result was the District Development Councils (D.D.C.s) which were meant to give the Tamils some control over their land and ease discrimination in employment by the devolution of certain subjects to the districts.
Moreover, these Councils were ill-fated from the start, when the Council elections in July 1981 resulted in such untoward incidents as the burning of the Jaffna Public Library by government forces. Moreover, this was the first time after the Duraiyappah killing that political terror by Tamil militants against rivals of the T.U.L.F. was displayed. Mr. Thiagarajah, a retired school principal, ex-M.P. and U.N.P. candidate was shot dead. Also killed was Mr. Nadarajah, a U.N.P. organiser.
Despite some disorganised interference by the government machinery, the T.U.L.F. was returned in all Tamil districts. But the District Councils did not work because the government was not genuinely committed to them. This put the T.U.L.F. at a seemingly dead end. The militant leaders became restive about accepting the paramountcy of the T.U.L.F.. Some of the T.U.L.F.'s backers too began to feel that the T.U.L.F. was ineffective. By July 1983 the initiative had passed on to the militants. Many observers felt that the T.U.L.F., whether under threat or not, had made a serious miscalculation in breaking off negotiations with the Left and coming to a deal with the government which the latter had no intention of honouring, whether under threat or not. Dr. A. J. Wilson was initially very positive about the political solution contained in the D.D.C.'s. But the success of the D.D.C.'s depended on willingness and foresight on the part of the government to devolve real power. On nearly all matters where a devolution of responsibility had to evolve, the centre used every hidden mechanism to maintain its hold. As a typical example, the Jaffna D.D.C. which proposed to start a ferry service between K.K.S. and Nagapatanam in order to ease considerably, travel to India which otherwise required an expensive and round about journey through Mannar or Colombo. The Jaffna D.D.C. was told to lay off on this matter. This was a bit of a joke because an unofficial boat service operated by competent mariners had always ferried people from Jaffna to India in less than three hours. As another example, since one of the Tamil fears was security, which was now a virtual monopoly of the Sinhalese state, there was provision in the D.D.C.'s for the creation of Home Guards. The T.U.L.F. had accepted in good faith that the wherewithal to train and maintain them would be forthcoming, for if not such a provision would have been meaningless. But this is how it turned out. A senior official described the position of these Home Guards as being that of a far less exciting version of the Boy Scouts. They would come paying their own bus fare, paying for their uniform and paying for their own cup of tea. It had no chance of getting off the ground. Ultimately the D.D.C.'s were left with a minuscule decentralised budget, not even amounting to one percent of the national budget. When such difficulties arose the T.U.L.F. would have discussions with the President and then announce that the matter had been resolved. These expectations too would be frustrated in due course.
The government inspired violence and attempts at cheating at the elections by themselves spelt a bad omen for the D.D.C.'s. Some people were killed in this violence. The burning of the Jaffna Public Library and the Eelanadu Press were widely regarded as acts of cultural genocide. There were as usual members of the local population who would use public distress for personal gain. Once again university students threw themselves into the task of reconstruction by forming well-organised teams to collect funds and books.[Top]Next||Previous||content
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