What are the rights Constitutionally & Legally denied to Tamils in Sri Lanka?
Posted on December 2nd, 2014

Shenali D Waduge

 Mr. Venkaiah Naidu, BJP Union Minister for Urban Development and Parliamentary Affairs has declared that Sri Lanka should give equal rights to Tamils. Does this imply that Tamils do not enjoy equal rights, or perhaps that is the perception? If Sri Lanka’s closest neighbour thinks Tamils do not enjoy equal rights we can’t blame others for the same perceptions. The statement does mean that Sri Lanka has failed to project what Tamils and minorities actually enjoy in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has also failed to statistically show that in many ways the minorities are economically and socially placed above the majority Sinhalese Buddhists of Sri Lanka.

Those that are under the impression that Tamils do not enjoy rights constitutionally and legally need to first look at the Constitution which clearly sets out fundamental rights. There is no word in the constitution that denies Tamils or minorities equal rights.

The foremost place afforded to Buddhism cannot be challenged because Buddhism was the state religion chosen by royalty and that status changed only upon colonial invasion and occupation though the colonial invaders assured that they would not depose the place afforded to Buddhism in Sri Lanka passed down from King to the next (a promise the British didn’t mean to keep, but nevertheless is important on the context of the historical status that Buddhism held and should continue to hold).

In a population of 20m there are less than 2.2m Tamils and less than 1.6m Muslims in Sri Lanka as against 14.8m Sinhalese. Those that place their arguments must realize that 7 out of 10 in Sri Lanka are Sinhalese, the country has been ruled by over 180 Sinhala Buddhist kings that status only changed because Sri Lanka was taken over. Those that invaded and occupied Sri Lanka brought workers from Tamil Nadu and before independence these Tamils numbered more than the Tamils that had settled down following various South Indian invasions throughout history. This was one ground that these settled immigrant Tamil politicians desired the Tamil Nadu labor Tamils to be sent back and the pacts signed between Indian and Sri Lankan leaders gave the choice of remaining in Sri Lanka or returning to India.

In responding to the question of rights the world needs to look from the lens of what people currently enjoy and not what Tamil politicians are demanding for themselves.

Let us therefore stick the most basic of questions

  • Are Tamil pregnant mothers denied entry to State hospitals to deliver their baby because they are Tamil? NO
  • Are Tamil patients denied State doctors and nurse care because they are Tamil? NO
  • Are Tamils denied admission to State schools because they are Tamil? NO
  • Are Tamils given less marks because they are Tamil? NO
  • Are Tamils denied State scholarships because they are Tamil? NO
  • Are Tamils denied employment in State sector because they are Tamil? NO
  • Are Tamils not allowed to travel in public buses because they are Tamil? NO
  • Are Tamils given separate seats in public places because they are Tamil? NO
  • Are Tamils made to stand in separate queues because they are Tamil? NO
  • Are Tamils denied right of freedom to travel throughout the country? NO
  • Are Tamils denied right of residence because they are Tamil? NO
  • Are Tamils denied right to worship because they are Tamil? NO
  • Are Tamils denied burial/crematorium rights because they are Tamil? NO
  • Will public or private entities refuse or deny to serve a Tamil because they are Tamil? NO
  • Will parcels, letters and postcards not be accepted or delivered because people are Tamil? NO
  • Are there separate areas for Tamils? NO
  • Have Tamils being terminated from service because they were Tamil? NO

The examples we can give are many and this list will be quite a long one.

Nevertheless, there is also the need to look at the reciprocity.

  • While Tamils can live, buy property, indulge in business, educate their children throughout Sri Lanka even in the South of Sri Lanka where most Tamils now live and have lived, do Tamils and in particular Tamil politicians want Sinhalese to live in the North? NO. How fair is this behaviour from those demanding equal rights?
  • While Tamils buy property, build houses/flats etc are people aware that the majority of them sell or rent/lease only to Tamils? NO. How fair is this behaviour from those demanding equal rights?
  • While Tamils own businesses and the wholesale market is virtually run by the minorities in Sri Lanka as are most coated companies why are Sinhalese not allowed to run businesses in the North and everyone together shouts ‘colonization’. People seem to have forgotten that Sinhalese were living in the North evidence of which can be proved by the architectural/archaeological remains as well as the fact that all bakeries in the North were run by the Sinhalese. Today, in the commercial capital of Colombo the Sinhalese are a minority and the Tamils and Muslims make up the majority. This gives the minorities access to all the leaders with ease and thus able to get their ways through any other means! Go through areas of Kotahena, Wellawatte, Dehiwela to see and people will be surprised to see how the Maldivians have taken over entire parts of Dehiwela/Mt Lavinia too!
  • How many job adverts purposely omit Sinhalese by declaring that Tamil is a must (these are all NGO/INGO jobs/projects) discriminating Sinhalese from applying and getting the job.

Very few speak about reversing the discrimination not looking at what the Sinhalese had been denied right through invasion and occupation and thereafter when colonial sub-servients were created to take reigns and little have post-independence leaders done to undo the injustices meted out to the Sinhalese when even by 1956 (8 years after independence) Tamils held over 75% jobs in the public service.

With the BJP Union Minister demanding equal rights for Tamils, it is good to ask what place India gives to Tamil Nadu Tamils when out of the 74million Tamils in the world 67million Tamils live in Tamil Nadu?

Give us an example where when 7 out of 10 people belong to one race/ethnicity and religion what other country has given just 1% equal language status as Sri Lanka has done? Rightly, there should be only one national language and English as the link language. If Sinhalese is the official national language it means that every citizen must know Sinhalese. Do not Tamils have to learn German to live in Germany, French to live in France and Japanese to live in Japan? One language and English bridges people. Two languages are dividing people

While Tamil is an official language in Sri Lanka (which has less than 2.2m Tamils against 14.8m Sinhalese), let us remind India that Tamil is not an official language in India though it is an official language in Tamil Nadu state. It is good to recall BJP’s Tarun Vijay demanding national status for Tamil. It was in 2014 that Jayalalitha opposed the UGC circular on Hindi in Tamil Nadu universities

Sri Lanka has a separate color to depict Tamils and Muslims in the country’s national flag – has India shown such a gesture when it has 9/10 of the world’s Tamils in India?

Let us also remind India that in Tamil Nadu – close to 20% of its population are Dalits and 80% of this number live in villages where illiteracy is over 60%. 62% of these Dalits suffer from some type of abuse ranging from physical assault, sexual harassment, verbal abuse to even rape. This is how Tamils appear to be treating their own in India where the Indian Government is telling Sri Lanka to treat Tamils with dignity and respect”.

Let us remind India that even in the Madras High Court, the language of the court is NOT Tamil but Hindi!

 Therefore, it is advisable for people to accuse after having investigated for themselves whether Tamils have any rights denied to them which ONLY Sinhalese enjoy. To claim that a right is denied they first have to prove that the Sinhalese are enjoying what Tamils are denied to enjoy constitutionally, legally and legislatively. So far every time Tamil politicians begin their mourning about rights being denied when they are asked to name them they are unable to do so. Let it also be reminded that those that believe the TNA need to realize that the TNA and LTTE are one and the same and this was told by none other than John Cushnahan EU monitoring mission’s head in 2004 and we can’t disagree with him on that assessment.

What needs to be clearly asked is where in this world can people be given everything they want or aspire. In the case of Sri Lanka anyone who wishes to say that Tamils or minorities have no rights must first prove that the right they say they can’t enjoy is enjoyed only by the Sinhalese. As things stand the minorities enjoy far more rights than the majority.

Let us also remind readers that for Sinhalese this is the ONLY country they have. The Tamils have Tamil Nadu where 9/10 Tamils live – they can go to Tamil Nadu. The Sri Lankan Muslims have the Middle East – they can any time be welcome in the Middle East. The Sri Lankan Christians/Catholics have the West and Vatican – they too will anytime welcome them. Where does that leave the Sinhalese Buddhists? Who will accept the Sinhalese Buddhists? – they only have Sri Lanka and that is why they want to protect it and they should protect it and why they have every right to protect it, but in so protecting they have not denied any others their right to live in Sri Lanka. All that they ask in exchange for these equal rights is for them not to try to make Sri Lanka lose its historical/cultural Buddhist identity.

These aspects must be on everyone’s minds when making accusations because politicians only use them as slogans for political mileage and personal benefits.

18 Responses to “What are the rights Constitutionally & Legally denied to Tamils in Sri Lanka?”

  1. Christie Says:

    Union minister of India should see how the Union treat its people from Assam other North Eastern States. They are murdered and raped. He should look after subjects of his own country.

  2. SA Kumar Says:

    The Tamils have Tamil Nadu where 9/10 Tamils live – they can go to Tamil Nadu-!!!

    We are Hela Demilaya ( Eelath Thamilar ) who you are telling us go to other country or giving our rights in our mother (I)Lanka(I) ???

  3. Vimutti Says:

    I think the basic problem is the TNA is being allowed to speak for ALL Tamils in Sri Lanka, when they really only represent a majority of Tamils in the North and East. As the article mentioned, MOST Tamils island-wide do NOT live in the North and East and would not want to even if there was some separate Elam created for Tamils there.

    The anti-separatist elements in the government and opposition must therefore come together and SQUASH the TNA separatist movement completely. This has to start with abolishing the 13th Amendment and re-settling the North and East with Buddhists. Sri Lanka is in fact a Buddhist country, and there should not be ANY part of Sri Lanka where Buddhist people are not welcome as residents, land owners, and business owners. ANY genuine reconciliation plan must include significant Buddhist integration into non-Buddhist areas so separatism never gets a foothold in Sri Lanka ever again.

  4. Lorenzo Says:

    “This has to start with abolishing the 13th Amendment and re-settling the North and East with Buddhists.”


    EVEN BEFORE the war was over I was hammering the need to COLONIZE the north with Sinhalese.

    If it was done in the past 5 years NO MATTER WHAT, we won’t be having these problems today. ONLY Tamils vote for TNA. IF enough Muslims and Sinhalese were resettled in the north, TNA’s power reduces in the north.

    Look at EAST. TNA is NO LONGER the most powerful thanks to COLONIZATION schemes.

    But the MR govt. lacked FORESIGHT and instead DEMILITARIZED and chased away the Sinhalese who went to north with hope. Now even the YARL DEVI, DEYATA KIRULA trains are Tamil ONLY.

  5. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    VIMUTTI !! Yes, it is time to re-settle the Sinhalese who were evicted from the North and East. Someone has to stop this TNA mind set that no Sinhalese can settle in the North. I repeat, this has to stop before, TNA ushers some ugly incidents. There is a limit to harping that NO Sinhalese can come to the North. President should have done this long ago, while patriots on this web site were constantly reminding him about it. He totally ignored. He is now facing the music.

  6. Ananda-USA Says:

    As I had PREDICTED, HERE COMES the TNA bearing aloft its SEPARATIST DEMAND FOR FEDERALISM to the Common Opposition!

    Thinking that the SINHALA Vote will be SPLIT 50-50 as in the BAD OLD DAYS, when the Federal Party was KINGMAKER deciding which major party will rule the Nation, the TNA is ALREADY exploiting its electoral leverage to BLACKMAIL the Common Opposition into granting its SEPARATIST demands!

    We OWN Colombo and the Northern Province, they say, GIVE US FEDERALISM and we will MAKE YOU KING!

    I FERVENTLY HOPE & PRAY that the Patriots of Sri Lanka RECOGNIZE these moves for what they really are, as DAGGERS POINTED at the heart of Sri Lanka’s Integrity & Unity.

    I hope they will DEMOLISH by Leaf, Branch, Trunk and Root the TREACHEROUS “Common Opposition” move for Regime Change, that will REVERSE the Victory of May 18, 2009, and HALT the TRANSFORMATION of our Motherland into the New Wonder of Asia!

    Sri Lankan opposition candidate rejects Tamil federalism plan

    ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

    Dec 02 (AP) In an agreement with a major Buddhist political party, an opposition presidential candidate in Sri Lanka said on Tuesday that he opposes a proposal from Tamil leaders for a federal model granting greater autonomy to Provinces to solve the country’s decades-long ethnic conflict.

    Maithripala Sirisena also agreed with the National Heritage Party, led by a Buddhist monk, to preserve the constitutional prominence given to Buddhism.

    The two parties made the pact as opposition parties try to unseat President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the January 8 elections. Mr. Rajapaksa has ruled for 10 years, and is going for his third term in office.

    Leaders from the ethnic Tamil minority have proposed making Sri Lanka into a federal state that would grant significant power to Provinces.

    Mr. Sirisena also promised to resist attempts to prosecute Mr. Rajapaksa for war crimes allegedly committed in the final months of the civil war.

    The United Nations Human Rights Council is investigating the Sri Lankan government and the defeated Tamil Tiger rebels for possible war crimes but Mr. Rajapaksa’s government has refused to cooperate.

  7. Independent Says:


    Well said “This has to start with abolishing the 13th Amendment and re-settling the North and East with Buddhists. Sri Lanka is in fact a Buddhist country, and there should not be ANY part of Sri Lanka where Buddhist people are not welcome as residents, land owners, and business owners.”.

    But the president will never do it. That is a fact.
    Do you agree with the statement ” he had 2/3 majority for 4 years and he did not even bothered to re-settle the kith and kin of Sinhala people killed, threatened and kicked away by Tamil Tigers but still living and eager to go back “.

    Now My3 has promised not to give a Federal State to Tamil Tiger TNA. He has risked Tamil votes here. He has showed he is not greedy for power at the cost of Sinhalese.
    Has the President made such commitment to people lately ? If not now is the time.
    If he does not do this soon, he is eager to get Tamil votes from the North.

  8. Nimal Fernando Says:

    [ Are Tamils given less marks because they are Tamil? NO ]

    Actually, Tamils were given MORE marks because they were Tamil!

    Thanks to Cyril Matthew, that particular eagle had a terrible landing!!

    [ “This has to start with abolishing the 13th Amendment and re-settling the North and East with Buddhists.” ]

    Why has this not happened? If not now, when? …

  9. stanley perera Says:

    If those ignorant Indians think the Sri Lankan Tamils have no place in Sri Lanka, They must settle those racist tamils in Tamil Nadoo.

  10. Vimutti Says:

    Independent – MS has a major character problem in that he says one thing and does exactly the opposite like when he said he would not abuse his power as minister to intervene with police on behalf of his son and did exactly the opposite.

    So when he SAYS he will not devlove more power, he will probably do the opposite as Ranil and Chandrika are the ones running him and this is what they want to do. And Sampanthan would not be supporting MS unless he got assurance privately that more devolution would be coming to the north and east (Sampanthan’s MAIN issue) if MS is elected.

  11. Independent Says:

    Yes. There is this one incident. Even that is not clear exactly what happened. I don’t trust LTTE sympathiser’s writings completely. I agree if there is smoke there should be some fire.
    But how many incidents we have on the president ? Has he not helped his son to sit law exam in a separate room ? remember he has a great LTTE supporter as the minister of Law. Why can’t he get rid of this one man ? How may times he helped Mervyn Silva’s son ? Remember President’s other son assaulted a referee. Nothing happened. But there are other worse incidents put our country in a rouge state position. Remember Shaikh killing ? That man shall be given death penalty ( in any other case, with eye witness, it could have been death). Sajin vass case ?

    I think king Elaara is the greatest if we consider only this incident. But Sinhalese still rejected him.

  12. SA Kumar Says:

    We OWN Colombo and the Northern Province, they say, GIVE US FEDERALISM and we will MAKE YOU KING-
    CBK promised if MS elected 13A NO more no less , Sampanthan agreed !
    Tamil & Muslim &50% Sinhalese (SLFP&UNP) will vote for MS , like Lorenzo said land side victory for MS.

    Great News !
    Only my concern 3 to 4 thousand VP’s boys scaped from IDP camp with out rehabilitation may start again fire work!

  13. Eusense Says:

    “The Sri Lankan Christians/Catholics have the West and Vatican – they too will anytime welcome them. Where does that leave the Sinhalese Buddhists? Who will accept the Sinhalese Buddhists? ”

    From where did Shenali get this information? You are creating unnecessary resentment towards the Sinhalese Christians. Which western countries give preference to Christians? Which western countries discriminate Buddhists for immigration? As far as I know there are many Sinhalese Buddhist priests permanently residing in the west than Sinhalese Christian clergy.
    Shenali, you should not be discriminatory in your writings related to religion. Trying to separate Sri Lankans into various categories is not a wise thing to do. You appear to be a devoted Buddhist like all of us. But keep it private and practice its teachings as many of us do.

  14. Lorenzo Says:

    [ “This has to start with abolishing the 13th Amendment and re-settling the North and East with Buddhists.” ]

    Why has this not happened? If not now, when?

    Because KP anna is against it. As long as he remains in govt. it will NOT happen.

    e.g. Just imagine HIMLER joining the Eisenhower govt.

  15. Sooriarachi Says:

    I had and still have many Tamil friends and relatives and none of them have shown any discomfort or any sign of being discriminated, nor have they told me of anyform of discrimination against them. For quite sometime many like me have been asking those Tamil politicians and other agitators who claim to be at the receiving end of discrimination, just to list out at least a few of their grievances which if any, and not common with the rest of the population, whether Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Burger or any other. So far no one has come out with a list of such grievances, obviously because there is none.
    However, there certainly exists discrimination exercised by private individuals and groups against fellow citizens, like anywhere else in the world. It has been mentioned that there are certain suburbs in Sri Lanka controlled by racist elements refusing to sell or rent out property to the persons from another ethnic group. It is also said that there are big establishments that employ only Catholics etc. There is also religion based discrimination such as the caste based treatment within orthodox Hindus or gender based treatment within Muslim fundamentalists. One cannot blame the Government or the nation as a whole for this type of discrimination.
    So I repeat again for our Tamil or Muslim or any other group to list out what they lakh that others have.

  16. Vimutti Says:

    Sooriarachi – discrimination is Red Herring to try to justify a separate Tamil state. With virtually no Sinhalese living in the North, I do not see how Sinhalese Buddhist people could be doing the discrimination at all.

  17. Ananda-USA Says:

    Everyone should view the Indian Rajya Sabha TV video discussion of the upcoming Presidential Elections. There is a link to that youtube webpage on the LankaWeb homepage.

    I would like to draw your attention to how these Indians hope the TNA would minimize Sri Lanka’s links to China, and their support for full-fledged Federalism within Sri Lanka.

    If Palwatte Gamaralage Maithripala Yapa Sirisena wins, eliminates the powerful Executive Presidency of Sri Lanka, and hands over Sri Lanka’s Governance to traitors and separatists, the Ship-Jumpers of the SLFP and the JHU will have done through their JEALOUSY and STUPIDITY what the late unlamented Sun God, Velupillai Prabhakaran of the LTTE failed to achieve with 30-years of UNREMITTING murder and mayhem.

    ALL ENEMIES of Sri Lanka are LICKING THEIR LIPS, in ANTICIPATION of eating TRIPE CURRY after disemboweling our Motherland!

    And, if you think there is too much Foreign Interference in Sri Lanka’s INTERNAL AFFAIRS NOW, if the “Common Candidate for a 100 days” wins the Executive Presidency, Sri Lanka will become a VASSAL STATE of its enemies near and far.

    Fortunately, come January 8, 2015, that particular NATIONAL DISASTER will be DEMOLISHED for ANOTHER 6-years!

  18. SA Kumar Says:

    virtually no Sinhalese living in the North, -agreed but every 3 Tamils a Sinhala forces in NP , even though war finished 5 years ago, is not this Sinhalese Buddhist people doing the discrimination again we Saiva Tamilar ???

    live & let live until Eelam war V !

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