The myth of 25% Tamil speaking minority in Sri Lanka: the bedrock of demand for an independent and separate state
Posted on August 13th, 2009

Dr. Sudath Gunasekara (SLAS) President. Mahanuwara Senior Citizens Movement (10.7.2009).

It has been widely accepted that Sri Lanka has a Tamil speaking minority of 25% of its population. According to demographic analysis this figure has been computed as follows. Sri Lanka Tamils 12% +Estate Tamils 6% and Muslims 7% =25%. Superficially, at first sight it is correct. The Tamils have shown this figure as the “Tamil” minority of Sri Lanka who do not know any other language other than Tamil, who are been discriminated by the government by forcibly imposing the Sinhala language on them by the Sinhala only policy adopted by it in 1956. In order to arrive at this “Tamil” figure they have also included the 7% Muslims who are obviously not Tamils. The strength built around this 25 % Tamil myth has been the bedrock of all other arguments by the Tamils for a separate communal state for Tamils in this country. It is strange that they have forgotten to include the Sinhala people also, who speak Tamil, which numbers to about another 15% of the total population so that they could have argued that the percentage of “Tamils” in Sri Lanka is 40 or more.

Since this argument, has been the basis on which the western world led by USA, has formed its perception of the Sri Lankan Tamil problem, I think, it is high time that we dispel this myth, as the first step in resolving this cancerous issue. Of cause one has to remember that, other than this, there are many more neo-colonial issues that have prompted them to take such an anti-Sri Lankan government attitude. Among them the most important is their determination to destabilize the Sinhala Buddhist nation and to install a Tamil dominated puppet government of their own so that they can utilize this Island for their long term geopolitical and trade activities as the strategic base in the Indian Ocean by having an anti Indian Tamil power in Sri Lanka supported by Tamilnadu. Besides this they also intend to keep India at bay and also destabilize its emergence as a formidable power in the South Indian region.

If you analyze the actual situation on ground, this 25 % argument, I would say is only first class fiction far from the truth, fabricated by communal minded separatist schemers to hoodwink the world community, which of cause they have been immensely successful. The tragedy is, even though it is a gross fabrication as clear as day light, no government since independence has ever taken any step to rectify this highly damaging misinformation which is detrimental to communal harmony and the peaceful political life of this Island nation. A closer analysis would clearly demonstrate that this 25% Tamil only speaking people theory is only a schematic and diabolical conspiracy invented by separatists Tamils for their convenience, they have ever used as the spring board to launch the disastrous separatist movement in Sri Lanka.

It is on this mythical basis that the Tamils have built up an extremely successful global disinformation network to convince the international community that 25% of Sri Lankan population is Tamil and therefore they should have a separate independent estate in the north and the east. A 25% of a given population by any standard is a very high proportion that cannot be forgotten so easily.  It is this demographic aspect, more than anything else, I think, which has rung the alarm bells round the world to win the sympathy of world powers perhaps to agitate for a “Tamil cause and a separate state for Tamils in Sri Lanka.” Tamils consider the Muslims who constitute 7% of the population as their arch enemies for all intent and purposes and they have been already wiped out from the north and certain parts of the east. Towards the latter parts of the LTTE regime in fact they were planning to murder or chase out the balance also from the east. But still they have included the 7% Muslims also on their lot for purposes of computing the ratio of Tamil speaking population. The outside world being ignorant of this manipulation, has accepted 25% as the actual Tamil population in this country. This is the ground on which they lounge their arguments on denial of human rights and democratic privileges as a minority.

With this mythical argument as its solid foundation, Tamils in Sri Lanka have advanced four specific demands as listed below.

  1. Recognition of the Tamils of Sri Lanka as a distinct nationality. (It should be noted that even In India with 67Million Tamils in Tamilnadu, they are not recognized as a nation)
  2. Recognition of an identified homeland,’ for them in the North and the East
  3. Recognition of the inalienable right of self-determination of the Tamil nation
  4. Recognition to the right of full citizenship and other fundamental democratic rights of all Tamils (This question doesn’t arise as such recognition is already there)

Leaving their other arguments aside for the moment, if you single out their claim of 25% Tamil speaking issue only and analyze it carefully one could discern an entirely a different situation. The following table clearly illustrates the point I am trying to bring out.

  Sinhala speaking % Tamil speaking % Tamil only speaking %
Sinhala 75 15 0
Muslim  7 7 0
Estate Tamils 5 6 1
Tamils in the south 6.5 6.5 0
Tamils N&E 2.5 5.5 3
Total 96 40 4

  This is only an approximate calculation based the available data. But I have very little doubt that this will have a large margin of error even if the Department of Census works on it at the next census. If we work on the basis that this calculation is approximately correct then you will have a more rational picture of the distribution of language abilities of the total population of the country. According to this table 96 % of the total population of this country can speak and understand Sinhala. Out of this, except a marginal minority all others can also write and read Sinhala. That also proves that this country has been the land of the Sinhalese right through out. Then where is this discrimination they talk about so much and also where is the difficulty in communicating with the government even if the government transacts its business in the Sinhala language. What is more is the governments always had Tamil speaking public servants in areas like the north or the east where the majority were Tamils. All public servants have to pass an efficiency bar either in Tamil or Sinhala as the case may be to get confirmed in a job in public service. Therefore there was absolutely no problem of getting their business transacted in Tamil.

In fact, contrary to their argument, Sri Lanka has even more people who can speak Tamil. It is actually around 40% or even more. The exact figures cannot be rendered as there has been no such classification done by the Department of Census or any other organization. But even then to say that 25% out of 100 speak only Tamil is a first class myth.  It is a diabolical conspiracy hatched to muster international support for their cause. Therefore to say that 25% of the population is been discriminated and their democratic rights are denied by the Sri Lankan government is absolutely false. If the Tamils argue that way then on the other hand the government also can argue that Sri Lanka has 96% of its population who speak Sinhala and therefore there is no need to make Tamil an official language at all, although it also had been done long ago by our backboneless politicians to please India. Because, in this country, of the total population we have only 4% who speak Tamil only. As such there is no basis for the above claims on the part of the Tamils. Also therefore one cannot say that there is a Language barrier for 25% of its population. In this backdrop who can say that 25% of the population in Sri Lanka, are denied the right to be heard and to receive a reply in their own language, at a government office? Furthermore even if there is a sizable minority community who speaks a separate language in a given country, what is the country on earth, where you could be heard or you can get a reply in your own language if you are not the dominant nation, who has molded the civilization of that country? Can the 300,000 odd Tamils in Canada or the so-called Diaspora get that facility in USA, UK, Norway, Sweden, France, and Australia or anywhere on earth other than India or Sri Lanka?

 Furthermore even under this situation Tamil also has been given the status of an official language in this country since 1987. But they don’t speak a word about that. In this scenario now you can see who has been actually discriminated even in this so-called post-independence period? Their main allegation is that the government has made Sinhala the official language in 1956.  If Sinhala is not made the official language of this country which was the Land of the Sinhala nation from 6th century BC, where even today, we have a 96% Sinhala speaking population, where on earth one could make it? Why doesn’t the government tell the world openly about this situation? Would not that approach expose the network of false propaganda carried out by the Tamil extremists and open a new chapter in the story of alleged discrimination against Tamils in Sri Lanka?

There is another dimension to this argument. That is while they agitate for a separate mono-Tamil Homeland for this minor fraction of the Tamil population, they keep their lips tight about the majority of Tamils living in the other parts of the country. May be their hidden agenda is to kill two birds with one stone. Unfortunately the whole world, other than India, knows what they are aiming at. Their second strategy is to first get EELAM established in Sri Lanka and then move on to Tamilnadu and with the collaboration of men like Viko, Nedumaran and their allies establish EELAM in India covering the entire subcontinent. Thereafter as they have vouched they will move on to forming their dream World Federation of Tamil EELAM covering Malaysia, Fiji and Mauritius.

Since of the 12 % of Sri Lankan Tamils, more than 1/2 lives, outside the north and the east, only about 5.5% are supposed to live in the north and the east. Of this 5.5% again more than half belongs to the so-called Diaspora living in the West and Australia and New Zealand. Therefore, in reality it is for the balance 2.75% that they demand the northern and eastern provinces that comprises 1/3 the area of the Island as a separate Tamil State. This area as they argue should be a mono-Tamil state. But at the same time they insist that the balance 6.5% Tamils should continue to live in the other parts of the Island.  They don’t expect this 6.5 % to come and settle down in the north and the east either. Probably they must be planning to invade and annex the rest of the Island after establishing the Tamil Homeland first, in the north and the east that will serve as the spring board and nucleus for their final utopian World Federation of Tamil EELAM.

Although we have military defeated the hardcore of the LTTE on our soils we must not be complacent on this broad danger thinking we have defeated the LTTE. It is true that most of the front line hard core leaders are gone. But one must remember there are many more forces, even outside the LTTE, still alive that will pursue the EELAM cause with their own agendas. Among them India, the so-called international community, the local anti-Sinhala anti-Buddhist forces (specially the Colombo based English educated “Colombians” as Gomin Dayasiri has very appropriately called them), communal Tamil politicians, political opportunists and above all, all the Tamils with the deep rooted communal mindset (aptly highlighted by the recent Jaffna and Vauniya local government election results) are the most important forces to reckoned with.

The recently concluded House Resolution 3081 “”…” Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2010(Placed on Calendar in Senate)  on assistance to Sri Lanka and the Indian Prime Minister’s undertaking given to “An Eelam National Democratic Liberation Front (ENDLF) delegation led by ENDLF President G.Gnanasekaran accompanied by R. Anbarasu Ex MP, Ex Secretary Congress Parliamentary Party, at the Prime Minister’s Office in New Delhi on Friday 9th August afternoon,”  are two glaring examples of such most dangerous international interferences by these foreign powers. I know it is not as easy as said. But such interferences have to be dealt with firmly and timely.

As a preliminary step to contain and arrest these forces the need for the Sri Lankan government to take necessary steps to win over the confidence of the people is a must. Among such urgent steps, the settlement of the IDPs, and adopting correct political strategies such as replacing the wasteful provincial council system with a more rational and pragmatic system of governance, abolition of the preferential voting system, banning off all political parties based on ethnicity, religion etc, prohibition of all ethnic and communal activities that hinder peace and harmony in the country, prohibition of all activities that lead to separatism, Banning separate schools for Muslims and Tamils, except in the north and Tamil pockets in the east, Making both Sinhala and Tamil compulsory in all schools, Ta  and streamlining the state services by abolishing superfluous institutions, arresting wastage and corruption, reducing the enormous number of politicians and political institutions, reinstalling an independent, efficient and effective public service, selection and election of politicians on  democratic bases, doing away with the rule by the thugs, reinstalling professionalism and meritocracy in all seats of government both at home and abroad, Setting up of a Senate so that the government could get the services of distinguished persons in society for nation building and above all setting the example at the top so that the lesser folk down below could emulate for nation building could be mentioned as crucial. The need to replace the existing Constitution with a new one of cause is a sine qua non for this marathon exercise.

In short what is required in this country today is the installation of an entirely a new political culture, if we are to rescue the country from 60 years of misgovernment and political misadventure.

One Response to “The myth of 25% Tamil speaking minority in Sri Lanka: the bedrock of demand for an independent and separate state”

  1. anura seneviratna Says:

    It is not percentages or “Tamil speaking people” or using any other ploys that matters for a “Tamil national claim” within the island country of Heladiva (SL). But simply due to our total naivety and ignoring the INVIOLABLE RIGHT OF OUR INDIGENOUS NATIONAL HELA/SINHELA SOVEREIGNTY & TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY TO THE WHOLE OF HELADIVA. Without upholding our fundamental human right of NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY as a nation of people within our indigenous land – we continue to demonstrate an attitude of utter servility by identifying ourselves as “another community” or “majority” within our tiny Hela Island, when we are the RIGHTFUL NATION inclusive of all non indigenous minorities like in every other sovereign national country. No wonder the Hela-Tamils (SL-Tamils) are continuing to propagate the Tamil homeland demand blatantly in collusion with their kin of Tamil Nadu (Tamil Country). Yet, we are not reponding to expose the self-evident fact that this Tamil homeland, Tamil self determination, Tamil aspirations can fly ONLY in the indigenous Tamil Land of TAMIL NADU within the Indian subcontinent. They (Tamils) have perceived us as mind-dead not stating this obvious fact loud and clear to the world – if they were in our shoes it would have been done long ago. So until we realise this simple truth without splitting hairs, SL-Tamils and Tamils will continue their harangue.

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