Excerpted from the memoirs of Chandra Wickramasinghe, Retd. Addl. Secy. to the President
I was a member of the Public Service Commission when President Chandirka Kumaratunga appointed me as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to France in 2001. I was fortunate to have had as my predecessor Danesan Casie Chetty, a very senior career diplomat, who had organized the work in the Embassy meticulously, making things so much easier for me to step in and take over. He and his wife Shanti had refurbished and decorated the fine apartment which was in a prime residential area in Paris (which had been purchased by the Govt. of SL), most tastefully and elegantly.
Within months of my appointment, the Govt. entered into a Ceasefire Agreement with the LTTE, brokered by the Norwegians. My major concern while serving as Ambassador was to work towards increasing the volume of our exports which were primarily tea, spices and garments; to promote tourism to SL and to do my utmost to counter the sustained propaganda blitz directed against us by the Tamil Diaspora in France. When I met President Chirac for the presentation of my credentials, I expressly told him of my plans to try and increase the volume of our major export items to France adding I would also endeavor to popularize Sri Lanka as a prime destination for French tourists.
He interjected to say that Sri Lanka being a beautiful country, it should not be difficult to make it an attractive destination for French tourists. Referring to the terrorist problem that was plaguing SL, I told him that the LTTE was actively supported by the Tamil Diaspora in Paris who collected and remitted substantial funding to the terrorists in SL to pursue their destructive activities and that if the French Intelligence Services could curb these illegal activities of LTTE sympathizers in Paris, it would help SL to combat the terrorist scourge .(President Chirac gave some instructions to one of his aides on this issue). He graciously agreed to do whatever possible to assist SL in the matters raised by me.
Arrangements were made thereafter by Nimal Karunatilleke, the Trade Attache of the Embassy, to liaise with the exporters of the major SL export products to France and facilitate their participation in a number of International Exhibitions and Trade Fairs that were held in Paris. On my visits to these Exhibitions and Trade Fairs subsequently, I found a good many SL exporters busily contracting trade deals with the French importers of our export items.
I also attended an International Tea Exhibition in Bordeaux called ‘The Road to Tea’, where I was able to interact closely with French tea importers. I was invited to tea by the Mayor of Bordeaux at his residence where to my surprise, I was served ‘Dimbula’ tea and was pleasantly surprised to learn that the Mayor was himself a lover of ‘Dimbula’ tea. I must record here, the unstinted support I received from Nimal Karunatilleke of our Embassy in all matters pertaining to Trade between France and Sri Lanka and make mention the enthusiastic support I received from Manisha Gunasekera and Saroja Sirisena who were two senior career diplomats at the Embassy during my entire period there. Saroja Sirisena in particular, with her charm and winning ways, proved a veritable asset to me during election time to various international bodies. Come election time, she used to give Ambassadors a dainty peck on their cheek and they would come in droves and vote for SL! When the former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar asked me how SL managed to win certain crucial elections, I related Saroja’s technique (he knew Saroja well) and he laughed loud and long!
Soon after I assumed office, I discovered that the French Tea importers had formed themselves into a cartel comprising four major tea importers, of whom I was able to cultivate two of the more influential to help me to promote SL tea. This I did by inviting them for meetings and by hosting them to dinner at my residence etc. One of them, a lady told me that although Ceylon tea was by far the best in the world, our marketing was poor. She said we should promote our tea the way the French promoted their vintage wines with attractive labels giving information of the origins on the tea, its vintage, subtleties of it’s bouquet et al. She further said that Ceylon tea deserves to be similarly advertised in attractively designed packs stating that it is grown in the central highlands at an elevation of over 4,000 feet, with plucking done with the onset of the first flush of leaf. Having taken the cue from her, I emailed the Chairman/Tea Board at the time, Ronnie Weerakoon, conveying the information I had gathered from the French lady on how Ceylon tea could be attractively packaged and marketed.
Within days, Ronnie who had latched onto the concept, sent out circular instructions to all the tea exporters advising them on the above lines. I have no doubt that the tea producers who followed his instructions would have received a substantial boost to their tea exports in good time.
I also found that although the French are inveterate coffee drinkers, the upper classes were, strangely enough, aficionados of high grown good Ceylon tea. I used to occasionally entertain Members of the French Parliament to high tea in a room in the Parliament premises with the permission of the Speaker who I knew. The French MPs, curiously enough, had a partiality for our mutton cutlets , rolls and fish patties and in between sessions used to come in large numbers to partake of these snacks with the high point being fine Ceylon tea – Dimbula tea to be specific, served at the end.
Once I decided to have a little Kandyan dancing session performed by a Sinhalese boy and a girl living in Paris with drum accompaniment thrown in. The little drummer boy got a bit carried away and with the din reaching the Parliament Chamber where there was I think, a debate in progress on Corsica, the Sergeant at Arms sent a message to keep the noise levels low. I remember at one of these informal gatherings I addressed the French Members of Parliament who were present saying that although the French were traditionally coffee drinkers, it should not be forgotten that pristine Ceylon tea is like their wine, red in colour and that they were both healthy drinks. They had a good laugh while sipping our good high grown tea!
The French Perfumery Association
Our spices are much valued in France, with cinnamon occupying pride of place. SL cinnamon and lemon grass oil are in high demand by the French perfumery industry for their unique and distinctive quality and aroma. The French Perfumery Association is a powerful guild in France that is extremely quality conscious laying down and rigidly enforcing the highest quality standards in the manufacture of their world famous brands like Chanel etc. With their long and distinguished tradition of manufacturing quality perfumes, they were wont to pick the best spices, flowers and oils used in the perfume industry from across the globe with scrupulous care.
My relationship with the French Perfumery Association became so close that they made me a Life Member of the Association. I was able to open lines of communication with the Association and some of the leading cinnamon and lemon grass exporters of SL, some of whom even visited Paris and had fruitful discussions. In fact, my association with the FPA became so close, that they even created a special perfume called the ‘Spirit of Lanka’ and presented it to my wife at a formal ceremony arranged by them. This newly created perfume made of spices, oils and the essence of flowers exclusively from SL was a special, limited issue of 100 bottles which were distributed among the Ambassadors and other VIPs present at the ceremony. They even let me into what they said was a closely guarded secret – one of the perfume extracts that went into the manufacture of their world famous ‘Chanel’ brand came from the ‘Araliya’ flower which grew in SL. This SL Araliya flower they said, had a distinct and unique scent , not found in this genre of flower, anywhere else in the world.
I must record here, my appreciation of a friendly couple who were resident in France –Pierre and Ionie Silliere for making arrangements for me to visit cities and townships in Normandy to deliver talks on Sri Lanka with video presentations showing the scenic beauty and historical sights of Sri Lanka. Many people who attended these talks had only heard of Ceylon and it’s tea and were astounded by the breathtaking beauty of the island and the many places of historical and archaeological interest visitors could see. They just could not believe that we had enormous monuments (dagobas), the tallest being just five feet shorter than the tallest Egyptian Pyramid- Cheops. The Silliers told me later that many who had been present at the lecture /slide presentations were planning to visit Sri Lanka with their friends.
Despite the Ceasefire, the LTTE were still active in Paris
Despite the Ceasefire between the SL Govt. and the LTTE bringing about an uneasy calm and a tenuous cessation of hostilities, as the terms and conditions were heavily weighted in favour of the LTTE and decidedly unfavourable to the Govt. of SL , the LTTE in Paris had not let up on their propaganda activities. There was a particular area in Paris called Le Chappel which had virtually been commandeered by the Tamil Diaspora. Once I visited the area incognito on the pretext of purchasing Sri Lanka curry stuffs etc., which were available in the shops there with my driver shadowing me at a discreet distance. But despite all these precautions, one or two of the hard core LTTE sympathizers got suspicious, which I could see from their reactions in reaching for their cell phones and talking animatedly to whoever at the other end. This was enough of a warning for me to beat a hasty retreat.
Interacting with Ambassadors and important personages
It was also my view that an Ambassador representing a country should interact not only with other Ambassadors, but should also make the acquaintance of prominent personages in the host country while also mixing with the ordinary people to the extent possible. The French, with their long and illustrious tradition of suave and elegant diplomacy, are a people who treat Ambassadors with a lot of deference and respect. This is made abundantly clear when you are introduced to them as an Ambassador. Following tradition, French Ambassadors have remained a cultured and elegant lot. They are knowledgeable and conduct themselves with appropriate diplomatic finesse wherever they go. They would naturally expect the same standards of decorum and conduct from their foreign counterparts.
This does not mean that one should assume an unprepossessing hauteur, which would immediately be taken note of and often find reflection in certain cynical reactions. Being knowledgeable and convivial, at receptions and social gatherings is crucially important and would unfailingly elicit the correct responses from them. These were my perceptions which I am sure will be shared by many senior diplomats who have served particularly in Missions in the West.
I must say that I successfully made the acquaintance of academics, prominent public figures, former Ambassadors, leading businessmen dealing with our principal export products etc. by entertaining them at my residence at the many receptions my wife and I hosted. In my discussions with them, I was able to disabuse them of the misconceptions they may have had about SL, exposed as they were, to the relentless barrage of LTTE propaganda. Of course the former Foreign Minister par excellence, Mr. Lakshman Kadirgamar had already done a lot of damage control by the brilliant speeches made by him at numerous international fora by convincingly assuaging the fears and suspicions of many countries in the West to the point of veering them round and making them go to the extent of banning the LTTE in those countries. He was ably assisted in this stupendous task by Rohan Perera who was the Legal Advisor in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the time.
Among the people with whom I struck up firm friendships, I can name Prof. Meyer of Sorbonne University and Bernard de Gaulle, nephew of the late President and President of the de Gaulle Foundation. They were particularly sympathetic towards SL and the unfortunate predicament the country was in. I was quite touched when Bernard de Gaulle presented me with the ‘de Gaulle Medal’, when I was about to relinquish duties as Ambassador. He said it was in appreciation of my efforts to strengthen Sri Lanka –France cordiality and friendship.
I feel I must further state here, that I was able to interact in this amicable and informal manner with French academics and other Frenchmen of stature, due to the broad education I had received in Sri Lanka in the English medium. English was indeed a pass word to knowledge to all those who were fortunate enough to study in that medium. It opened up to us the best in English literature as well as access to the better known books in Russian, French, Italian, German literature et al, in translation. In fact, other Ambassadors used to often express their surprise when I quoted extensively from
Shakespeare, Satre, Balzac, Goethe, Plato, Aristotle, Omar Kayyaam and the lot. This certainly was not an advantage that was peculiar to me, but was a distinct advantage enjoyed by the great many who had studied in the English medium and who thereby acquired the knowledge and the breadth of vision that came with wide reading.
These are by no means self-congratulatory statements by me, but are hard facts which powers that be, should take cognizance of in making appointments at the level of Heads of Missions to important countries in the larger interests of our country. I must re-iterate that these candid observations are being made having the best interests of Sri Lanka at heart. One cannot, of course, blame the younger generations who followed in our wake, for their lack of proficiency in the English language. They were the unfortunate victims of the woeful chicanery of self-serving politicians who deluded the masses with their hugely populist measures, sacrificing long term national interests for short term political expediency.
I daresay there are still certain areas where persons proficient only in Sinhala and Tamil languages in Sri Lanka, could work admirably in discharging the duties expected of them. But with the rapid advances made in Information and Communication Technology, people are increasingly realizing the value of English as a necessary tool for knowledge enhancement and for gaining access to certain fields of study which would be denied to those possessing proficiency exclusively in Sinhala and Tamil languages.
The four Presidents whom I served, I must say, tried their best to take certain remedial measures in this regard, but the magnitude of the problem was much too overwhelming for such corrective measures attempted by them to register any lasting impact. The present Govt. too is acutely aware of the enervating effects of the problem, reflected in the lowering of knowledge and competence levels across the board, and is doing its utmost to remedy the situation by having a Special English Unit under a competent Advisor in the Presidential Secretariat dedicated to the training of English teachers. But it is proving to be an uphill task even for this Special Unit, due to the paucity of competent teachers of English.
It is therefore necessary that the problem be addressed frontally with due resolve if the situation is to be prevented from deteriorating further. It is suggested that the authorities try selecting newly passed out graduates and putting them through a six months ‘total immersion’ course in the English language. These young graduates are intelligent and already equipped with learning skills which should enable them to acquire the required proficiency in the English language with ease within the stipulated six month intensive training period. This should, whilst providing gainful employment to the increasing numbers of graduates passing out annually from Universities, also enable the authorities to tackle the problem of improving English proficiency island wide in a pragmatic manner.
Accreditation to UNESCO as Ambassador
In addition to my duties as Ambassador to France, I also represented SL at UNESCO in Paris. I had to devote considerable time to UNESCO discussions where I was elected to Chair certain Committees. UNESCO has always been at the forefront of the UN Agencies in SL assisting the country substantially in the areas of Education development and in the cultural field. UNESCO is currently primarily concerned with encouraging developing countries who are its members, in the rather daunting task of meeting the Millennium Development Goals that have been laid down by the United Nations. During this time, Dr. Sarath Amunugama and Prof. Carlo Fonseka visited Paris in a delegation to attend a UNESCO conference on the theme -‘Towards achieving the Millennium Development targets’. I remember Dr. Amunugama, (who was a familiar figure in UNESCO circles) making a stirring speech on the subject which was rapturously received by the representative audience.
On the 50th Anniversary of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth the Second, my wife and I received an invitation from Sir John Holmes, the British Ambassador, to attend the Commemoration Ceremony which was to be held at Notre Dame Cathedral. We were conducted to the seats reserved for Commonwealth Ambassadors in the front row, from where we were able to get an unobstructed view of the entire ceremony. The event was indeed a memorable one as the wondrous ‘ambience’ of Notre Dame Cathedral, lent a special grandeur and solemnity to the occasion.
Addressing the UN General Assembly on the subject of Ageing
I consider it a singular privilege and honour to have addressed the United Nations Second World Assembly on Ageing, held in Madrid Spain in April 2011. My address was on “Perspectives of the Ageing population in Sri Lanka”.
On my return to the island I was appointed Senior Advisor to the President. It was during this period that I worked in collaboration with my colleague SMSB Niyangoda, on nine Presidential Committees to study and make recommendations on numerous problems relating primarily to land matters. These recommendations made by the two of us received the approval of the President as well as the Cabinet of Ministers. I was also a member of the Presidential Commission on ‘Law and Order’,with Nihal Wadugodapitya former Justice of the Supreme Court who was Chairman and Frank de Silva former IGP. The Commission submitted a comprehensive report to the then President recommending sweeping changes to the entire Criminal Justice system which unfortunately did not find favour with the gentlemen occupying the highest echelons of the Judiciary at the time for reasons best known to them.
Navigating challenges of dental education in Sri Lanka
By Udari Abeyasinghe
One of the principles of free education is to provide opportunities in higher education. In 2020, then-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa issued directives to the University Grants Commission (UGC) to increase university admissions by an additional 12,000 students, in line with his election manifesto. Subsequently, student enrollments were increased with inadequate resources allocated for the enhancement of university facilities to accommodate the surge in student enrollments.
Currently, state universities are grappling with managing the increasing number of students in the face of budgetary constraints. Unfortunately, neither physical nor human resources have been expanded in proportion to the increased student enrollment, leading to severe strain on the higher education system. Being an academic in the one and only dental faculty producing dental graduates at present for the entire country, I take this opportunity to shed light on the hardships experienced in dental education owing to financial constraints amplified by the economic crisis in Sri Lanka.
A glimpse into history
The history of dentistry in Sri Lanka is a fascinating journey. On 15 May, 1915, dentistry was recognized as an independent profession in the country. The first qualified dentists were officially registered by the Ceylon Medical Council under the Dentists Registration Ordinance, all of whom were British-trained professionals. These early dentists primarily served the British troops, professionals, and those among the Ceylonese population who could afford their professional services, predominantly in the private sector. It was only in 1925 that the Colonial government recognized the dental health needs of the general public. By the 1930s, several medical graduates from the Ceylon Medical College had embarked on a new educational journey by enrolling in a Licentiate in Dental Surgery programme, a two-year post-graduate course.
By 1943, another pivotal moment in the history of dental education occurred with the launch of the Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) course at the Ceylon Medical College, University of Ceylon, located in Colombo. The inaugural batch consisted of only four students, followed by six students in the subsequent batch. This marked the official commencement of comprehensive dental education within Ceylon. Recognising the necessity of practical knowledge and skills to complement theoretical dental education, a small Dental Unit (now the site of the nine-storey Dental Hospital in Colombo) was established at the Colombo General Hospital, now known as the National Hospital of Sri Lanka.
In 1953, the Dental School was relocated from Colombo to Peradeniya. Subsequently, with the establishment of the second Medical College at Peradeniya, in 1961, the Dental School became affiliated with it, functioning as a department. Over the years, the dental school gradually expanded, becoming a Faculty of Dental Sciences in 1986. In 1998, under the Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA) project, the Peradeniya Faculty of Dental Sciences and Hospital complex was established. Notably, in 2017, the BDS programme transitioned from a four-year to a five-year curriculum on par with international standards. Eighty years after the commencement of dental education in the country, at present about 80 dentists graduate annually, all trained under the Free Education policy. In December 2021, a second Faculty of Dental Sciences was established at the University of Jayewardenepura set to produce its first graduates in three years.
Dental education in crisis
Sri Lanka’s financial crisis has taken a toll on the education sector, resulting in significant cuts in financial allocations. UNICEF reports that Sri Lanka allocates less than 2% of its GDP to education, falling well below the international benchmark of 4%-6% of GDP and ranking among the lowest in South Asia. In 2020, recurrent costs per student per year for the dental degree stood at Rs 1.72 million. The total recurrent cost for the five-year degree was 8.62 million while the total recurrent cost for the medical degree was 4.18 million. The cost of the dental degree programme would have surely increased since then due to the increased prices of imported dental materials. Given that dental education is the most expensive degree programme in Sri Lanka, the impact of these budget cuts has been particularly harsh. Moreover, the government’s decision to increase student intake in recent years, from 80 to 123 students at Peradeniya, has exacerbated the situation, representing nearly a 50% increase.
Dental education requires close one-on-one supervision during clinical sessions, and maintaining high standards necessitates adequate human resources. According to Sri Lankan standards, the student-to-academic staff ratio should be maintained at 7:1. Due to the increased number of students in the absence of a proportionate increase in the number of academics, this ratio no longer exists. This has placed a heavy burden on academic staff, who struggle to balance their responsibilities, including teaching, supervising postgraduate students, conducting research, and contributing to faculty and university administration. The shortage of human resources is taking a toll on the well-being of these academics and affecting the quality of education they can provide.
As outlined in my last Kuppi article (09/05/2023), attracting and retaining young staff in the field of dentistry has emerged as a significant challenge. For any institution’s effective operation, the collective contributions of academics across all levels, from temporary lecturers to junior lecturers, senior lecturers, and professors, are crucial. Presently, the dental faculty faces a unique situation, functioning without a single dental graduate as a temporary lecturer. This situation has arisen primarily because dental graduates are reluctant to take up temporary academic positions due to the relatively low salaries offered in comparison to the potential earnings from private dental practice, not to mention a series of challenges faced in the university setting.
The government’s recent decision to suspend stipends for probationary lecturers in clinical departments to complete MD foreign training is one such challenge. As paid foreign training positions for dental graduates are hard to come by, completing foreign training without a stipend is unfeasible. Even though lecturers can be confirmed in their position before completion of foreign training and board certification, they are not eligible to become senior lecturers. The inability for junior lecturers to advance their careers has directly affected not only retaining but also attracting young dental graduates into the clinical departments. The situation has been further worsened by the government’s discriminatory decision to provide a stipend for postgraduate MD trainees in the Ministry of Health to pursue foreign training, which has compelled dental graduates to opt for employment with the Ministry of Health instead of universities.
The faculty has not been able to increase physical resources in parallel with the surge in student intake. Inflation has tripled the cost of dental materials needed for patient treatment, making it nearly impossible to procure the necessary supplies for both patient care and educational purposes. At present, the faculty relies upon donations from patients and alumni to bridge the gap. Other resources for clinical training, such as manikins in the skills laboratory, dental chairs, clinic equipment, and other basic facilities, including computers in IT labs, Wi-Fi, space in the cafeteria and student accommodation are inadequate to cater to the increased student intake. The responsibility to secure additional resources has fallen on the shoulders of academics with little support from the UGC.
The bigger picture
Dentistry is undoubtedly a costly degree, and access to free education in Sri Lanka has been a crucial lifeline, especially for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. As committed academics, our dedication lies in safeguarding free education and ensuring that students, regardless of their social backgrounds, have access to dental education while maintaining the high standards of teaching and learning. It is essential to keep in mind the BDS programme has gradually expanded from 4 to 80 students over a period of 80 years. The programme’s sustainability has been maintained by gradual and timely planned expansion with adequate public funding.
Indiscriminate increases in student intake during times of financial crisis will surely compromise the quality of dental education. Discriminatory decision to provide a stipend for postgraduate MD trainees in the Ministry of Health but not the postgraduate MD trainees in dental faculties will further compromise dental education. It is essential for decision-makers and policymakers to consider the long-term sustainability and quality of dental education, while strengthening Free Education in the country, even as they explore options for expansion.
(Udari Abeyasinghe is attached to the Department of Oral Pathology, Faculty of Dental Sciences, University of Peradeniya)
Kuppi is a politics and pedagogy happening on the margins of the lecture hall that parodies, subverts, and simultaneously reaffirms social hierarchies.
Full implementation of 13A: Final solution to ‘national problem’ or end of unitary state?
By Kalyananda Tiranagama
Lawyers for Human Rights and Development
It appears that President Ranil Wickremasinghe, all along his political career, has acted in the belief that he can bring about national unity, true national reconciliation among different communities and find a lasting solution to the ethnic problem only by granting more and more concessions to the racist political parties with separatist agendas in the North and the East and complying with their demands.
In 2002, as the Prime Minister, Wickremesinghe signed, without the approval of President Chandrika Kumaratunga, an Oslo-brokered ceasefire agreement with the LTTE, allowing the LTTE to have internal self-administration in the areas under their control in the North-East. In 2005, he supported the move of the Kumaratunga government to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the LTTE for the establishment of a Post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure (P-TOMS Agreement) under LTTE leadership for carrying out reconstruction work in the six Tsunami affected Districts in the North-East. In 2006, he assured the TNA of support for the re-merger of Northern and Eastern Provinces if a motion was brought for that purpose in Parliament. During the war for the liberation of the North-East from terrorism, instead of supporting the war effort, his party tried to derail the war effort by abstaining from voting for the extension of the Emergency and making derogatory remarks about the victories of the armed forces.
Common Dream of Wickremasinghe and Sampanthan
In his Address to Parliament on February 8, 2023 delivering the Policy Statement of the Government, President Wickremasinghe disclosed a common dream Mr. Sampanthan and he had been trying to realise over the years thus:
‘‘Both Hon. R. Sampanthan and I were elected to Parliament in 1977. We both have a common dream, which is to provide a sustainable solution to the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka while we are both in Parliament. Ever since, we have been discussing that dream and have been making efforts towards its achievement. All previous attempts have failed, but we wish to succeed this time. We expect your support to this end.’’
Before proceeding to examine the dream of the President, let us examine the dream of Sampanthan and the political organisations led by him: the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). This dream remained continuously unchanged since the founding of the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi (Federal Party) in 1949. The name of the Party – Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK) or (Tamil State Party of Ceylon) itself reflects this dream. This dream was reiterated in various resolutions passed at their conferences and public declarations at different times.
Dream of Sampanthan and other Tamil leaders
Trincomalee Resolution of ITAK – April 1957
The Resolution passed at the first National Convention of the ITAK held in Trincomalee in April 1957 elaborates on this dream citing the components this dream consists of:
“Inasmuch as it is the inalienable right of every nation to enjoy full political freedom without which its spiritual, cultural and moral stature must degenerate and inasmuch as the Tamil Speaking People in Ceylon constitute a nation distinct from that of the Sinhalese by every fundamental test of nationhood, firstly that of a separate historical part in this island at least as ancient and as glorious as that of the Sinhalese, secondly by the fact of their being a linguistic entity different from that of the Sinhalese, with an unsurpassed classical heritage and a modern development of language which makes Tamil fully adequate for all present day needs and finally by reason of their traditional habitation of definite areas which constitute one-third of this island, the first National Convention of the I.T.A.K. demands for the Tamil Speaking Nation their inalienable right to political autonomy and calls for a plebiscite to determine the boundaries of the linguistic states in consonance with the fundamental and unchallengeable principle of self-determination.”
The components of this dream are as follows:
. Tamil Speaking People in Ceylon constitute a nation distinct from that of the Sinhalese by every fundamental test of nationhood: i. playing a separate historical part in this island at least as ancient and as glorious as that of the Sinhalese; ii. with an unsurpassed classical heritage and a modern development of language making Tamil fully adequate for all present-day needs; iii. their traditional habitation of definite areas constituting one-third of this island; b. Inalienable right of the Tamil Speaking Nation to political autonomy.
Vaddukoddai Resolution of TULF
The Vaddukoddai Resolution unanimously adopted on 16 May 1976 by the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) consisting of all the Tamil political parties and groups in the North – East narrated in its preamble all the rights denied to or deprived of Tamil people by the successive Sinhala governments and their demands for restoration thereof:
a. The Tamils of Ceylon by virtue of their language, their religions, their separate culture and heritage, their history of independent existence as a separate state over a distinct territory for several centuries 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;
b. Throughout 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 and the Tamils possessing the Northern and Eastern districts;
c. Successive Sinhalese governments since independence have encouraged and fostered the aggressive nationalism of the Sinhalese people and have used their political power to the detriment of the Tamils by 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.
d. The proposals submitted to the Constituent Assembly by the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi 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.
‘‘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 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.’’
· From this it clearly appears that not only the LTTE and the other armed militant groups, but the entire leadership of the TULF was also responsible for aiding and abetting and leading the Tamil youth for the 30-year war against Sri Lanka.
Although the LTTE was defeated and the 30-year war came to an end on May 18, 2009, the ITAK, the TULF or the TNA and the other political parties in the North-East have not abandoned their goal or dream of creating a separate Tamil State in the amalgamated Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka. They have only changed their strategy and tactics in the march for reaching their goal.
Speech made by R. Sampanthan, the leader of the TULF, at the 14th ITAK Convention held in Batticaloa in May 2012
In this speech, Sampanthan clearly explains to their members their new strategy to achieve their goal of a separate state thus:
“We gather here following our victory in the passage of the recent Resolution at the UN Human Rights Council, a condemnation against the SL government by the international community.
“Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi was created by S. J. V. Chelvanayagam, the father of Tamil Nation, for the purpose of establishing self-determination of the Tamil people on this island. This objective is evident in both the name of the party and in the manner in which it operates.
“Tamil United Liberation Front, of which our party was a member, took the historical decision to establish the separate government of Tamil Eelam in 1976. Based on this decision of our party, and the need to place ourselves in a position of strength, Tamil youth decided to oppose violence with violence and began to rise up as armed rebel groups.
“Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, became a great force within the Tamil community.
“We remember the Tamil youth who sacrificed their lives in armed struggle. …. SL government has committed the crime of extermination against our people,
“The intervention of India has clearly taught us the lesson that whatever our aspirations may be, India will never welcome a political solution in Sri Lanka that does not accord with the interests of India.
“Achieving Tamil Eelam was becoming an increasingly unrealistic goal. Thus, instead of sacrificing more lives to this cause, our party with the help of India, began supporting a solution that allowed Tamil people to live within a united Sri Lanka.
“A most important lesson we have learnt from the past 60 years… is that we should act strategically, with the awareness that global powers will act based on their domestic interests.
“Further, a struggle that runs counter to the international community, built only on military might, will not prevail. It is for this reason, that in the new environment created by various global influences, we have, together with the support and assistance of the international community, found new ways of continuing with our struggle.
“Our expectation of a solution to the ethnic problem of the sovereignty of the Tamil people is based on a political structure outside that of a unitary government, in a united Sri Lanka in which Tamil people have all the powers of government needed to live with self-respect and self-sufficiency.
“The position that the North and East of Sri Lanka are the areas of historical habitation of the Tamil speaking people cannot be compromised in this structure of government…. We must have unrestricted authority to govern our land, protect our own people, and develop our own economy, culture and tradition… Meaningful devolution should go beyond the 13th Amendment to the Constitution passed in 1987.
“The above solution is one that is likely to be acceptable to members of the international community including India and the United States.
“Any solution to the ethnic problem concerning the sovereignty of the Tamil people must be acceptable to the Muslim community in Sri Lanka.
“The international practice prevalent during the mid-eighties, when the intervention of India occurred, has now changed. Although the issue at hand is the same, the prevailing conditions are different. The struggle is the same, but the approaches we employ are different. Our aim is the same, but our strategies are different. The players are the same, but the alliances are different. That is the nature of the Tamil people. Although we still have the same aim, the methods we use now are different.
“The current practices of the international community may give us an opportunity to achieve, without the loss of life, the soaring aspirations we were unable to achieve by armed force.’’.’’ www.sangam.org/2012/06/Sampanthan_Speech.php
(To be continued)
Important assignments…Down Under
Ex-Mirage Melantha Perera, who now performs with the band Black Jackets, left last Tuesday (19), on an important assignment, to Australia.
He will be away for about a month, he said, spending about two weeks each, in Sydney and Melbourne.
His first stop is Sydney for the Australian South Asian Forum (ASAF) that commenced on 23rd September.
This South Asian Film Arts and Literature festival is showcasing the rich art, culture and literary heritage of eight nations – India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bhutan, and the Maldives.
The Performing Arts programme, held on 23rd September, brought into the limelight solo singing, solo dance and musical instrument performance, and Melantha was one of the judges, I’m told.
The big event, to wind up this festival, is the Gala Awards Night, scheduled to be held on 30th September, and will include guest performances, and cultural song and dance performances, presented by eight subcontinent countries.
Once his commitments in Sydney are over, Melantha will head for Melbourne where he plans to promote his Mela Nota project further.
It’s gaining recognition in many countries and Melantha is fully satisfied with the response.
In Melbourne, he will also be seen in action, as a solo singer, at the popular Sundown Regency, on 6th October, along with Noeline Honter, and the band ‘Friends’, and supported by Thirani, Enrico and Lozaine.
In fact, Melantha, made his solo debut, in Melbourne, at the Walawwa, when he was in Australia, early this year, and it turned out to be a memorable occasion for this versatile artiste.
He was, in fact, the centre of attraction at another event, back home, in Moratuwa, before he left for Australia.
Melantha was the President of the Moratuwa Arts Forum, for the previous year, and at the recently held general meeting, to select a new president and committee, Melantha and the previous committee were re-elected, uncontested.
Those present insisted that Melantha and the previous committee continue with the excellent work they have been doing to harness the talent of those in Moratuwa and bring them into the spotlight.
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