The Thimpu Talks – July/August 1985
Phase II of the Thimpu Talks commenced on 12 August 1985.Mr.Anton and Mr. Lawrence Thilakar represented LTTE. Mr.A.Varadarajah Perumal and Mr.L.Ketheeswaran represented EPRLF. Mr. Nadesan Satyendra and Mr.Charles represented TELO. Mr.Shankar and Mr.Ratnasabapathy represented EROS. PLOTE was represented by Mr.Vasudeva and Mr.Sitharthan. The TULF delegates were Mr.M.Sivasithamparam, Mr.A.Amirthalingam and Mr.R.Sampanthan.
Statement made by Dr. H.W. Jayewardene, QC ,
Leader of the Sri Lanka Government Delegation on 12th August 1985
Before we place before you further proposals for the devolution of power, in the light of the views expressed at the several meetings held in Thimpu in July, we think it is necessary to state the Government’s understanding of the four principles set down in the statement, dated 13th July 1985, made on behalf of the six groups representing interests of certain Tamil Groups in Sri Lanka. We also take the opportunity to explain the relevance of the Government’s proposals to the four principles.
Firstly, we wish to observe that there is a wide range of meanings than can attach to the concepts and ideas embodied in the four principles and our response to them would accordingly depend on the meaning and significance that is sought to be applied to them. Secondly, we must state emphatically that if the first three principles are to be taken at their face value and given their accepted legal meaning, they are wholly unacceptable to the Government. They must be rejected for the reason that they constitute a negation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka, they are detrimental to a united Sri Lanka and are inimical to the interest of the several communities, ethnic and religious, in our country.
But in so far as these ideas and concepts can be given a meaning and connotation which does not entail the creation of a separate State, or a structure of government that is indistinguishable from a separate state, we do believe that there is room for a fruitful exchange of views, which can result in a settlement of the problems that beset us. The proposals that were but before you in July were designed to remedy existing grievances and at the same time preserve the unity of the nation and territorial integrity. We shall elaborate on them to show how they can serve as the foundation for a lasting settlement. But before we do that let me state briefly our position on the four basic principles.
“Tamils as a distinct nationality”
The ambiguity of meaning contained in the first basic principle arises from the use of the words “a distinct nationality”. In International law, the nationality of an individual signifies the quality of his being the subject of a certain State, of owing allegiance to that State, and of being entitled to its protection. If the words “distinct nationality” indicate a separateness or a distinctness from other communities or racial groups in the Island, by virtue of a difference in the obligation of their allegiance, this principle would involve the creation of a new State (or its equivalent) and we must unequivocally reject it. There can be no question of a distinct nationality in this sense.
Outside the field of International Law, the word “nationality” also signifies a group or community having an ethnic identity of its own. It is used then as a historic-biological term denoting a racial group which is a constituent element of a wider community of people who constitute the Nation in that State. In that sense there is room for a proper distinction to be drawn and for recognition of a separateness of identity. In that sense also we recognise the existence of identity. In that sense also we recognise the existence of the Tamils as a distinct community and their rights to a status of equality and dignity with the rest of the communities which constitute the Sri Lankan nation.
We are certainly prepared to consider any proposals that would help the preservation and protection of those rights and interest which are necessary for the continuing existence of the Tamils as an ethnic group. Our present proposals have taken note of these values and we shall consider any specific proposals that you wish to make in that regard. Such proposals must of course recognise the existing rights of all communities and religions in Sri Lanka.
We recognise the right of all communities in Sri Lanka to preserve, protect and promote their cultural heritage and linguistic traditions, and to practise their religion. Such recognition ought not to prejudice the sovereignty of the State.
The Constitution of Sri Lanka guarantees to all communities throughout Sri Lanka, however small their numbers may be in any part of the Island, their rights in respect of culture, language and religion, for the Government recognises the whole of Sri Lanka as the homeland of every member of every community. We will guarantee that right in the Constitution, create a Minorities Rights Commission, and, if necessary, a Chamber, in which they will receive adequate representation.
The Constitution and other laws dealing with the Official Language, Sinhala and the National Language, Tamil, with English as a link language are accepted and will be implemented, as well as similar laws dealing with the National Flag and Anthem.
The State Services including the Security Services will adequately reflect the national ethnic proportion. In Higher Education, too, the system of admission to the Universities will in its operation substantially reflect the ethnic proportion of the Island.
An identified Tamil homeland
The second basic principle speaks of the recognition of an identified Tamil homeland and the guarantee of its territorial integrity. The precise implications of the concept of a physically demarcated area of Sri Lanka being the homeland of the Tamils are not clear. Taken in conjunction with the demand that its territorial integrity be guaranteed, there is implicit in this the idea of a truncation of the Republic’s own territorial integrity, as defined by Article 5 of the Constitution. I need hardly say that any such idea cannot be entertained let alone considered.
In so far as this principle contains the implication that there is to be a total or partial embargo placed against the settlement of people of other communities in the areas perceived by the Tamils as their homeland, we reject it as being a violation of the fundamental rights and freedoms of all citizens of Sri Lanka. It is the right and freedom of every citizen of Sri Lanka, irrespective of the racial or religious group to which he belongs, to settle in any part of Sri Lanka which has been the homeland of all communities from time immemorial. All citizens, irrespective of community, are entitled to the freedom of movement and of choosing their residence in any part of Sri Lanka, and of engaging in any lawful occupation anywhere in the country.
On the other hand we do recognise the fact that in certain parts of the country there are strong concentrations of Tamils which has given rise to special problems. In so far as there is a need to recognise their special rights and claims to preferential treatment which are not inconsistent with the fundamental principle of equality and equal protection and in so far as it is necessary to accord any special rights to the Tamil community living in these areas, for the preservation of their ethnic identity, we are prepared to consider reasonable proposals for achievement of these objectives. We shall place before you specific proposals, for land settlement and land use, which in our opinion, do satisfy this need.
In considering the rights of the Tamil community and the need to recognise certain special rights of the Tamil community in certain areas, it is necessary to bear in mind the distribution of population in the country. Sri Lanka’s population of 14,850,000 includes several ethnic groups:
The majority of the Sinhalese are Buddhists. The majority of the two Tamil communities are Hindu and the Muslim Community are followers of Islam. The Christians belong to all communities.
The distribution of the population districtwise is as follows:
|Colombo% of total population 11.43: Sinhalese 77.88, SL Tamils 9.77, Muslims 8.27,Indian Tamils 1.27Kandy % of total population 7.05: Sinhalese 75.22 , SL Tamils 4.89, Muslims 10.67, Indian Tamils 9.29
% of total population 4.32 Sinhalese 68.48, SL Tamils 5.7 Muslims 4.17, Indian Tamils 21.12
% of total population 4.33 Sinhalese 94.59, SL Tamils .61 Muslims 2.55, Indian Tamils 2.16
% of total population 3.32 Sinhalese 82.59 SL Tamils 6.73 Muslims 9.72 Indian Tamils .60
% of total population 1.85 Sinhalese 35.8 SL Tamils 31.99 Muslims 28.78 Indian Tamils 2.48
% of total population 4.98 Sinhalese .51 SL Tamils 97.07 Muslims 1.69 Indian Tamils .67
% of total population .64 Sinhalese 16.55 SL Tamils 56.87 Muslims 6.92 Indian Tamils 19.39
|Kalutara% of total population 5.57: Sinhalese 87.29, SL Tamils 1.04, Muslims 7.46, Indian Tamils 4.05Matale % of total population 2.41 Sinhalese 79.87, SL Tamils 5.86, Muslims 7.22, Indian Tamils 6.73
% of total population 1.89: Sinhalese 92.88, SL Tamils 1.8 Muslims 1.9, Indian Tamils 3.28
% of total population 2.86 Sinhalese 97.37, SL Tamils .37 Muslims 1.12, Indian Tamils .07
% of total population 3.84 Sinhalese 92.11 SL Tamils 1.04 Muslims 6.52 Indian Tamils .13
% of total population 5.36 Sinhalese 84.71 SL Tamils 2.26 Muslims 1.7 Indian Tamils 11.01
% of total population 2.23 Sinhalese 3.22 SL Tamils 70.82 Muslims 23.97 Indian Tamils 1.17
% of total population .62
% of total population .52
|Gampaha% of total population 9.35 Sinhalese 92.18 SL Tamils 3.29 Muslims 2.77 Indian Tamils .41Nuwara Eliya % of total population 4.04 Sinhalese 42.17, SL Tamils 12.48 Muslims 2.47, Indian Tamils 42.40
% of total population 5.48 Sinhalese 94.40, SL Tamils 0.74 Muslims 3.18, Indian Tamils 1.36
% of total population 8.17 Sinhalese 93.06 SL Tamils 1.16 Muslims 5.06 Indian Tamils 0.53
% of total population 1.76 Sinhalese 90.89 SL Tamils 2.24 Muslims 6.5 Indian Tamils .08
% of total population 4.6
% of total population 2.62 Sinhalese 37.65 SL Tamils 20.14 Muslims 41.53 Indian Tamils .36
% of total population .72
It is also relevant to comment on the ambiguity in the use of the expression “Tamil Homeland”. The “Homeland” is claimed not on behalf of all the Tamil speaking peoples of Sri Lanka, which would include the Muslims as well as the Tamils of recent Indian origin. It is also significant that the earlier expression “the traditional homelands of the Tamils” which had been used to stake a claim for the entirety of the Northern and Eastern provinces as well as certain other areas, such as Puttalam, has now been dropped.
The claim of the “traditional homelands” was originally framed on the alleged historical basis that these “homelands” existed “for centuries from the dawn of history.” It was subsequently claimed to have existed from about the 13th Century with the establishment of the “Kingdom of Jaffna”. Evidently the present statement avoided the use of the expression “traditional Tamil homelands” from a realisation of the dubious nature of the historical evidence.
In the context of the expression “Tamils of Sri Lanka” the expression “Tamil homelands” is thus sought to be given an expanded significance so as potentially to include the central highlands, parts of the Uva and Sabaragamuwa provinces as well. Even if the claim be limited to the Northern and Eastern Provinces, it would in effect cover approximately 30 per cent of the land area and 60 per cent of the sea coast of Sri lanka and that too on behalf of only 12.6 per cent of the population. If the claim is to include the additional areas referred to above, it would encompass very nearly half the land area of Sri Lanka and that too on behalf of 18.2 per cent of the population. These facts alone demonstrate the utter unreasonableness and injustices of this demand and would be reason enough for its rejection.
The Tamil leadership has hitherto rejected any proposals for the equitable distribution of places in State employment or State education, especially in the matter of University admissions based on national ethnic proportions on the grounds that there should be strict equality of opportunity. Inconsistently with this principle however the Tamil homelands demand involves a special reservation for Tamils in respect of land settlement schemes in the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka. These areas also happen to be the areas in which major settlement schemes are foreshadowed in the future which would mean a monopoly of the use of these lands for the Tamils. The contradiction involved in the demands in these two fields must therefore be emphasized.
It is however possible to discuss land settlement and land use under this head with due regard to any reasonable demand of the Tamils without in any way accepting or conceding this claim of “Tamil homeland.”
The right of self-determination of the Tamil nation
The third principle of the right of self-determination, in so far as it implies the right of secession from and out of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, and the right to create a separate State is totally unacceptable and is in that form rejected. International law and practice does not regard the principle of self-determination as one which authorises any group of people to take any action that would result in the dismemberment or impairment of the territorial integrity or political unity of a sovereign and independent State. International law recognises that the right of self-determination applies only to colonial peoples striving to win independence from foreign domination, and does not apply to sovereign independent States, or to a section of a nation; it cannot be used as a means of destroying national integrity.
All Governments in Sri Lanka since Independence have recognised the right of all citizens, irrespective of race or religion, to participate in the democratic process of electing the government of their choice and of participating through their elected representatives in decisions regarding the framework of government and in the management of their own affairs. This is the only sense in which the Government of Sri Lanka recognizes the principle of self-determination in the business of government. This right of self-determination is exercisable within the existing constitutional framework by all the citizens of Sri Lanka in respect of their political, economic, social and cultural affairs.
One group of people living in an independent, sovereign State does not have the right to determine their future political status independently of the rest of the people living in that country and do not have the right to secede from the existing State to form and establish an independent State.
In our view the right of self-determination is available only to the political entities under colonial rule. The UN Resolution 1514 (XV) clearly states that “any attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”
The rights of all minorities living in Sri Lanka are already protected by the Constitution. Of course, there can be groups who are dissatisfied with the degree of participation that they now enjoy. The proposed scheme of devolution of power is designed to meet these demands to a very substantial degree. The refusal to identify or specify particular areas of dissatisfaction or to examine the facts on which complaints are based does create in our minds the impression that the grievances are either exaggerated or not bona fide. We would, therefore, earnestly request you to specify the particular problems and put forward your proposals for remedial action, so that we may consider them on their merits. We do not recognise the need to create special status for the Tamil minorities which is not recognised in the case of other communities living in Sri Lanka.
It is relevant to mention, in this connection, that at the 1977 General Election only the TULF campaigned for a separate state. The TULF contested seats only in the Northern and Eastern Provinces and the votes obtained by them were as follows:
Jaffna (including Kilinochchi) – 72.1%
Mannar – 51.4%
Vavuniya – 59%
Mannar – 52.6%
Trincomalee – 27.3%
Batticaloa – 45.9%
Amparai – 21.9%
The remaining votes in the other Districts did not support the TULF and the demand for a separate State.
The right to full citizenship of all Tamils living in Sri Lanka
As far as the fourth principle is concerned we do not acknowledge the right or status of any persons present here to represent or negotiate on behalf of all Tamils living in Sri Lanka. Those of the Tamil community of recent Indian origin who are commonly referred to as Indian Tamils have their own accredited representatives and the Government has reached certain understandings with them in regard to their problems and these do not need to be discussed here. We may state however that the Government of Sri Lanka has already announced, at the All-Party Conference that was concluded last year, its intention to grant Sri Lankan citizenship to the outstanding number of the 94,000 persons who fall into the stateless category as soon as arrangements are made for the repatriation of the Indian Tamils who have been granted Indian citizenship.
What I have now briefly stated is our response to the statement of the four basic principles set out in the statement of 13th July.
We shall presently outline our main proposals.
The implementation of any agreement reached at these talks require as a precondition a complete renunciation of all forms of militant action. All militant groups in Sri Lanka must surrender their arms and equipment. All training camps whether in Sri Lanka or abroad must be closed down. Refugees, wherever they may be, must be permitted to return unmolested to areas which were inhabited by them prior to their disturbances and destabilisation. All Temples, Kovils, Churches, Mosques and other places of worship and shrines, of whatever religion, damaged or destroyed, shall be restored and people of all communities and religions, wherever they may be, shall be allowed to manifest their religion in accordance with the guarantees in the Constitution. An amnesty for all violations of the criminal law pursuant to agitations of the militant groups will only be granted after the Government is satisfied that these preconditions have been observed. This the only basis on which any settlement reached here can be implemented and peace restored to our country.
All forms of agitation by extra-legal means must be abandoned and any form of political agitation must be in accordance with constitutional methods. The use of violence to achieve political goals is totally against the ideals preached by the Great Sons of India, particularly Gautama the Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi, and must be renounced. We in Sri Lanka have tried to follow these ideals. We cannot compromise with violence. Arms must be laid down.Camps for training in the use of arms must be closed, and whatever form of agitation is used to continue any programme to attain political goals must be non-violent and follow the Buddhist and Gandhian method of Sathyakriya or Sathyagraha.
A political agreement, or lack of it cannot in any way minimise the necessity for the acceptance of these ideals. Let us, therefore, in this spirit endeavour to achieve the ideals I have spoken of and bring peace to our beloved country.