The origins of Chelvanayakam’s separatist politics
Posted on March 10th, 2015

H. L. D. Mahindapala

The ideological foundations of the mono-ethnic extremism of the North are based on two primary documents : 1. the  very first speech of S. J. V. Chelvanayakam (December 18, 1949) launching his separatist ideology  at the Government Clerical Service Union Hall in Maradana – the official birthplace of Tamil separatism; 2. the Vadukoddai Resolution of May 14, 1976, Vadukoddai being the electorate of Chelvanayakam. The Northern Provincial Council Resolution passed on February 10, 2015, which reiterates, with hyperbolical distortions and interpretations, the underlying theme of the first  two documents, is the  latest addition to reinforce the mono-ethnic extremism  needed for the survival of Tamil ruling elite.

All three stand out as milestones and signposts of  separatism advancing, inch by inch. All three reveal the fundamentals of the northern political culture that was constructed craftily to gain political mileage by demonizing the Sinhala-Buddhist south. All three documents are wrapped in historical fictions, geographical concoctions, political deceptions and, of course, plain lies. The exaggerations  and distortions in each of these documents reveal how the manipulators of Tamil separatism legitimized their mono-ethnic  extremism by reinventing a fictitious past that ignited a nation-wide conflagration as devastating as the fire lit by Hanuman’s tail. Acting as the side-kick of Rama, who came to Lanka to rescue his Sita, Hanuman’s burning tail set fire to the whole island.

The contemporary version of Hanuman’s tail is the ideology of Tamil extremism concocted in the first two documents mentioned above. It was meant to destroy the Sinhala-Buddhist but the intensity of the communal fires swept  the northern region most of all and  it was the Tamil leadership and the Tamil  people who became the victims of the Tamil racist holocaust lit by the Tamil leaders. The three documents mentioned above reveal, in essence, the political venom  and bankruptcy of the Tamil leaders who relied exclusively on the ideology of mono-ethnic extremism.

The single thread that ran through the separatist ideology in all its stages was the bitter hatred of  the other – the Sinhala-Buddhists, the bête noir of the Jaffna Tamils. The resolution passed by the NPC on February 10, 2015, is a typical example of the  hate politics of the Northern leadership. It is the petrol on which they run their politics. Without that they come to a grinding halt.

The peninsular political culture is bereft of any constructive or  progressive ideology other than anti-Sinhala-Buddhist racism. The underlying hate  politics of the Northern leadership sustains and propels Tamil separatism. This crude, anti-Sinhala-Buddhist hatred was, of course, polished and given a veneer of intellectual respectability by ideologues who rewrote history to buttress the Vadukoddai political agenda of the Tamil separatists.

The mass production of  academic theses began  in the post-1976 period to justify and legitimize the Vadukoddai political platform. New politicized research centers, outside the objective scholars of the University of Peradeniya, cropped up in a plethora of NGOs. They rewrote  history according to the gospel declared in the Vadukoddai Resolution. In the forefront of politicized  research was the foreign-funded International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES), headed by Neelan Tiruchelvam and Radhika Coomaraswamy.

The cash rich NGOs had means to  recruit intellectuals to write history according the Vadukoddai agenda. Perhaps, the best example is Buddhism Betrayed? by the Harvard don, S. J. Tambiah. It was a propagandistic  tract where the cover page alone  told the tale of Tamil hatred towards the Sinhala-Buddhists. One selected  shot of the face of Ven. Sobitha, addressing a public meeting, was spread across the cover to portray the Buddhist monks as aggressive fanatics going on the rampage against the Tamils. Later Tambiah replaced it with another image. But the damage was done. Prof. Tambiah sowed the seeds of  hatred against the Sinhala-Buddhists at the academic level.

It was this anti-Sinhala-Buddhist ideology, fuelled by the hired intellectuals, that gathered momentum and ran all the way from Maradana, via Vadukoddai to Nandikadal. Prof. Tambiah was paid an  unspecified amount by WIDER, a UN organization, headed at the time  by Lal Jayawardena, the  husband of the Sinhala-Buddhist hating academic wife, Kumari Jayawardena. Academics flocked to foreign-funded NGOs to sell their so-called research” manufactured by them to demonize the Sinhala-Buddhists as the prime cause for the  break-down of inter-ethnic relations.

This is an additional factor that emboldened the Tamil moderates” who felt justified in pushing the North to the farthest extremes of mono-ethnic politics. The Tamil moderates”, exploiting the respectability showered on them by hired research”, lured the Jaffna Tamils with the music of Tamil superiority and exclusivity, intermingled with victimhood under Sinhala-Buddhist rule, and led the Jaffna Tamils like Pied Piper of Hamelin all the way to Nandikadal.

The foundations  to rupture the prevailing inter-ethnic relations in the early years of independence were laid by S. J. V. Chelvanayakam who outlined his separatist ideology first in his speech at Maradana in 1949. There was no looking back after that. It is an ideology that rolled down the decades into the cold waters of Nandikadal and dyed it with Tamil blood. The sins of the Tamil  suffering should be on his head and no  one else.

The best exposition of Chelvanayakam’s thinking, which is essential to grasp the factors that  shaped  his ideology,  was written by  his son-in-law, Prof. A. J. Wilson, a product of the Peradeniya University who went on to occupy the chair of political science, in Canada. In  his  biography, S. J. V. Chelvanayakam and the Crisis of Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism, 1947 – 1977, he presents Chelvanayakam almost  as the  Jinnah of Jaffna – a man obsessed with a passion to divide Sri Lanka into ethnic enclaves. The details of Prof. Wilson’s revelations of  his father-in-law’s thinking should be left for another occasion.

But before examining Chelvanayakam’s arguments stated in his very first speech to test the legitimacy of his claim for separatism, a brief survey of the prevailing socio-political conditions in the immediate aftermath of independence, particularly in the year 1949, is necessary to understand the deviant politics of violence initiated by Chelvanayakam – the separatist violence that took the Tamil people down the road to Nandikadal. What were the conditions of the Tamils on December 19, 1949 when Chelvanayakam addressed exclusively the government servants, who held a disproportionate  share of jobs in the  public  service? Did the Tamils face persecution, discrimination  and alienation in 1949 to break away from the  nation and  establish an ethnic enclave?

The unacceptable and glaring incongruity is that Chelvanayakam launched his separatist ideology just one year after independence when harmonious inter-ethnic relations were at its highest peak. D. S. Senanayake, the first Prime Minister, not only laid the unshakeable  foundations for democracy which took root in the Sri Lankan soil but also established an all-inclusive state consisting of the major community leaders. Nor was there any tensions between  the north and the south. G. G. Ponnambalam who led a virulent anti-Sinhala-Buddhist campaign to grab an  undue share of power was, in fact, a Minister in the multi-ethnic Cabinet. Everything was in its proper place with hardly any formidable force/s rising to disturb the peaceful transfer of power in 1948.

Though total power was now in the hands of elected representatives of all the communities the political, administrative, judicial and social institutions established by the British remained intact. Ceylon, as it was known then, carried on as usual with power in the hands of the Brown Sahibs instead of the White Sahibs. The Governor-General, the nominal head of state, was Lord Soulbury. The Commander of the Army was Brigadier Roderick Sinclair, The Earl of Caithness.

It was a semi-colonial, semi-feudal, semi-capitalist economy with an  underlying layer  of the compradore go-betweens interacting with local and foreign enterprises. Its non-industrial plantation economy was still in the hands of the British companies, linked directly to Mincing Lane and other trading  centers in London. Tea, rubber and coconut trades were mainly in the hands of the British and Indians who had the virtual monopoly of the export-import economy. English was still the official language. The judiciary, the executive, and the legislature were in the same mould as left behind by the British. The expertise of the British civil servants was retained to run the public service. The controversial Section 29 guaranteeing protection to the minorities – a provision, valued by the Tamils — was safely ensconced in the Constitution.

Those were the halcyon days when the afterglow of the British rule was still shining in Ceylon. Everything was in the same position as in  colonial times with hardly any changes to the legacy left behind by the British. Nor had anything changed to alarm or disturb the political stability inherited from the British rule. The main  factor that worried Chelvanayakam was the attempt  of D. S. Senanayake to define legally those entitled to citizenship – an act that was undertaken by all post-colonial states as colonialism had imported aliens to do its coolie work. The acknowledged Tamil leader of the day, G. G. Ponnambalam endorsed and voted for the new Citizenship Act which gave citizenship to the second  generation  of Indians and not  to the late-comers. The myth propagated was  that all Indian Tamils were deprived of citizenship.

It was also a time when the English-educated Vellahla elite of Jaffna were in a commanding position in the public service. The state bureaucracy established by the Britishwas run by the  Tamils holding  key positions in strategic departments. For instance,  Prime Minister Senanayake’s Permanent Secretary, the highest  post in the public service, was held by Sir Kanthiah Vaithianathan. It was a peak point  of power, prestige  and privileges.

As the permanent secretary to the Prime Minister, Sir Kanthiah, held a commanding position in the public service. Take the example of establishing the Army of independent Ceylon on October 10, 1949 with the Earl of Caithness as its head. It was Prime Minister Senanayake and Sir Kanthiah who held discussion with the UK Government and selected the Earl of Caithness to head the Ceylon Army. A board was appointed with Sir Kanthiah as its head to select the first batch of officers. The officer who topped the batch was Anton Marian Muttukumara. Later he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. After The Earl of Caithness retired Muttukumara was appointed as the first Army Commander of independent Ceylon. It can be argued that it was these two Tamil professionals who first laid the foundations for the Army that eventually grew  in  strength to defeat the separatist forces unleashed by Chelvanayakam. ( See pp. 24 and 45, Sri Lankan Army, 50 Years on, 1949 – 1999, published by the Sri Lankan Army, October 1999).

The second Navy Commander was Rajan Kadiragamar, the brother of Laxman Kadiragamar, the distinguished and respected Foreign  Minister. A sizeable segment of Tamils were also in the Police force, some in commanding ranks. Five of them went on to be IGPs. Clearly, the cry of discrimination raised by the Tamil leadership lacked proof. This complaint was placed in a lengthy address to the Soulbury Commission by a Tamil delegation led by G. G. Ponnambalam. After examining the evidence the Commissioners dismissed the cry of discrimination as stuff and nonsense.

In other words, the Jaffna Tamils, more than any other community, continued  to wield power they acquired under British patronage in 1949. Though the Sinhalese were elected as governors it was the Jaffna Tamils who were ruling the state by occupying strategic positions in the bureaucratic hierarchy of the state. It was in this political climate, when all the colonial and post-colonial factors had privileged the Jaffna Vellahla elite, that Chelvanayakam led the  Tamil elite, residing in Colombo,  to the Headquarters  of the Government Clerical Service Union in Maradana and delivered his first separatist speech accusing the Sinhala-Buddhists of discrimination.

Why did he do it? Was separatism inherent in the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi (Tamil State Party in Tamil disguised as Federal Party in English) necessary for the survival and the  advancement  of  the Tamils of  Jaffna? Did the gathering at the GCSU Hall in Maradana, Colombo, represent the vast masses of  the Jaffna  or a selected elitist group with their special caste/class interests divorced from the Tamil grassroots? If so whom did Chelvanayakam  represent in 1949?

Considering  the privileged position held by the Jaffna Tamils in the public service, in the professions, in the legislature and in society as a whole did Chelvanayakam have any substantial grounds to demand a separate state? Did he realize that he was unleashing  destructive forces that would eventually bring absolute misery, fascism and humiliation to the Tamils? Above all, why did he eventually decide to leave the non-violent democratic politics of the mainstream and leap from his Maradana speech to the  the Vadukoddai Resolution that endorsed violence? Why didn’t he lead the Tamil minority like the other two leaders in the Indian and Muslim communities who resolved their differences non-violently, within the democratic mainstream? His son-in-law, Prof. Wilson described Chelvanayakam as the Father of the Tamils”. Would a genuine, loving father lead his children to Nandikadal?

These and other questions will be reviewed in the next article.

19 Responses to “The origins of Chelvanayakam’s separatist politics”

  1. SA Kumar Says:

    same old story !!!

  2. Christie Says:

    Namaste: Mahinda separatism or separate people are in other Indian colonies. If you go to any Indian colonies you find that Indians live separate from the locals. If you don’t believe me go to UK or South Africa, Uganda or any other Indian colony. There are no different breeds of Indians or Tamils. Tamils in Jaffna or elsewhere are the same. You know this for a fact. Just because Tamils In Jaffna arrived in the island before Tamils in Malaysia do not lead to different breeds of Tamils. Take the Handys for an example. Jai Hind

  3. cwije Says:

    Dear Mahindapala,

    Pl write about why and how 13-A should be abolished. Is that not the key issue now?

  4. Cerberus Says:

    Thank you Mahindapala for a great write up as usual. In broad strokes you have covered the whole picture. What happened at the recent election was a great tragedy since MR who was doing so well was tripped up by a well laid plan concocted by jackals. As Dilrook has pointed out twice the election was a flawed election. It was a fraudulent election. The tragedy enacted was that MR was harassed by false war crimes allegations with no foundation and a huge false media blitz on against MR and the whole past government. It is a travesty of justice when the former government was doing so well for all the citizens of Sri Lanka. It is tragic that Sri Lanka is caught up in international politics due to our strategic position in the Indian ocean. Tamil leaders have always exploited this factor to the great detriment of Sri Lanka. However “EX MALO BONUM” (Out bad comes good) we hope and pray. In the end the Tamil leaders may regret the perfidy they have brought upon their people.

  5. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    The epic poem of the Ramayana has been often used by Indians to make slurs on Sri Lanka as the home of Ravana. so lets get some facts clear.

    Prince Vijaya (Singha) is often quoted by Hindus as a Prince chased out of his palace by his father. a kind of ‘cast away” the reject if you will.
    WELL

    SO WAS RAMA. HE TOO WAS SUMMARILY KICKED OUT OF THE PALACE ALONG WITH SITA. the difference being Prince Vijaya (Singha) went on to create a nation in Sri Lanka calling it Thambapani” or the “copper colored palms”
    While Rama and Sita languished in a forest making friends with monkeys.

    As for Ravana, HE WAS A HINDU JUST LIKE RAMA AND SITA. HE HAD AS MUCH TO DO WITH THE SINGHALESE AS THE MAN ON THE MOON.

  6. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    Second part to the Ramayana which I often use as a retort

    is the adoring love shown by the monkeys, animals and elephants for Sita. She is literally the “belle of the ball” in those forests. then she elopes with Ravana and while residing on a tropical isle her lust know no limits. men, women and animala are all fair game. She then concocts a story of being “kidnapped” and ravaged by just one man. No wonder Rama did not trust her sanctity. Sita was a party girl and boy did she party.

  7. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    Rama in the meantime was in such sorrow only the “love” of Hanuman could calm him from throwing a tissy fit. The forest folk called Hanuman the he man for Rama. it was lonely moments like this that such forbidden love was expressed between man and animal. aah mia amore.

  8. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    Final comment:

    If the Hindu epic Ramayana written by Valmiki is going to be used as propaganda material against the Singhalese and Sri Lanka, then those doing it have no respect for this supposed holy epic. If so then neither should the victim or the Singhalese. Not to insult the sentiments of our Tamil Hindu citizens I suggest a new epic poem with characters named as such:’
    Instead of Rama it is “Rasa”
    Instead of Sita it is “Sheila”
    Instead of Hanuman it is “harumen”
    Instead of Ravana it is “Ravi”

    Then change the plot line of the epic to make fun of these characters and change the story line where the supposed heroes and heroines are debouched immoral arch villains. and Ravi is the only saving grace. If the Tamils want to use an epic to win their propaganda war then let them know more than one can play that game

    already a Sanga is name the Badu Ravana Sanga. as a mockery of this upstart. time to take it to the next level unless they stop this charade.

  9. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    Issues of what India today is all about:
    rape of women
    slums
    the actions of the Agori Sadhus’
    the Caste system
    the child bride system
    the dowry system’
    The beggar Mafia system
    the sacrifice of animals
    the elite of India and how they have brought untold misery on so many
    the chauvanistic Tamils over that of the Singhalese

    Be glad to help if one want to take me up on this issue.

  10. SA Kumar Says:

    Pl write about why and how 13-A should be abolished. Is that not the key issue now?
    cwije My chinhala sakotharam
    13A is untouchable until BNJ ( Hindu National Party) or Congress ( 13A is their baby) in power in Hindhustan .
    Now Indian flag is flying in Saiva TE (NPC) and soon in Muslim TE (EPC) .

  11. SA Kumar Says:

    the elite of India and how they have brought untold misery on so many the chauvanistic Tamils over that of the Singhalese- this only our problem let’s sort out our self , can We ??? since 1948 We tried !!!

  12. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    SA Kumar

    The subject of this article was how the Ramayana is being used to denigrate the Singhalese people and Sri Lanka. IT IS MAINLY BEEN USED BY THE TAMILS FOR THIS PROPAGANDA WAR. NOW YOU READ MY COMMENTS AND DO A “PROFESSOR HAMHOCKS’ TRICK ON ME AND THAT IS TO TELL ME TO EVADE THE ARTICLE AND CONCENTRATE ON SOME OTHER ISSUE.

    SO IT DID GET TO YOU. IT HIT YOU RIGHT SQUARE IN THE FACE. YOU FEAR THAT IT IS SO EASY TO DOWNLOAD THAT EPIC, CHANGE IT AROUND AND MAKE IT A PROPAGANDA TOOL FOR THE BUDDHIST SINGHALESE WHO CAN THEN PUT IT ON THE INTERNET AS A NEW PIECE OF LITERATURE THAT WILL DERIDE THE TAMILS, AND INDIA.

    IF THE TAMILS WANT TO USE THIS EPIC AS SOME KIND OF BATTERING RAM AGAINST SRI LANKA THEN IT IS TIME TO USE THE SAME EPIC AGAINST THEM AND INDIA. NO KUMAR THE SUBJECT IS THE RAMAYANA NOT WHAT YOU BROUGHT UP. GOT YOU DIDN’T I?

  13. Lorenzo Says:

    We have heard these MANY TIMES. What should we do?

    BLAMING Tamil elite doesn’t resolve ANY problem. We have to ACT.

    LTTE killed more Tamil elites than ANY OTHER!!! By doing that LTTE did a great favor to SL.

  14. SA Kumar Says:

    NO KUMAR THE SUBJECT IS THE RAMAYANA NOT WHAT YOU BROUGHT UP. GOT YOU DIDN’T I?no

    saying in Tamil – Viddiya viddiya Ramar Kaththai , Viddincha Ramarukku Seetha enna mura enru keddanam oruvan ?-
    meaning – People watch all over the night Ramaya drama next day morning one ask what is the relationship between Ramar & Seeta ?

    no point in blaming next door neighbor for our family problem.if We ask help from him than he will take our wife off from us- GOT YOU ???
    Indian flag is flying in jaffna sky not your Lion or our koddiya flag !!!

  15. Fran Diaz Says:

    Thank you HLD for revisiting important points.

    The fact that Tamil Separatism began in 1949 proves that the Sinhala Language issues had NOTHING to do with Tamil leaders wish for Separatism. With or without the Sinhala Language issues, Tamil leaders want Separatism ! Sinhala Language issues, organised riots, etc. only pad up that wish. The original Tamil leaders wish for Separatism is used by foreign forces for their own gains.

  16. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    SA Kumar: NO I got you. See Now you are dealing with the subject of the article which is THE RAMAYANA. (not the 13 amendment) that “curve ball” did not work. the subject is how

    THE TAMILS USE THE RAMAYANA AS A PROPAGANDA STORY TO DEMEAN AND MOCK THE SINGHALESE. RAVANA IS NOT A SINGHALESE BUT A HINDU. RAVANA WAS NOT A BUDDHIST AND HE SPOKE SANSKRIT OR SITA WOULD HAVE TO SETTLE FOR MIME. SHE AND RAVANA COMMUNICATED ON ALL DIFFERENT LEVELS. THAT IS WHY RAMA WAS SUSPICIOUS OF SITA’S CHASTITY.

    YOU TAMIL HINDUS MAY WATCH AND ADORE THE RAMAYANA BUT IT IS NOT PART OF THE SINGHALESE BUDDHIST CULTURE. YOU TAMILS USE THE RAMAYANA TO MOCK THE SINGHALESE BUDDHISTS THEN THE SINGHALESE BUDDHISTS WILL HAVE NO PROBLEM IN USING THAT MYTH FOR THE SAME PURPOSE.

  17. SA Kumar Says:

    Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha My sakotharaya whether Rama ruled or Ravana ruled or Monkey who came with Rama ruled Mother Lanka 1,000 years ago do not give sooru (bath) to both of us !!!

    better get on with our day to day live , All is good …. soon Pusa Pirison will be closed …maaaan I can not believe what happening in Mother Lanka.
    All goes to our Thesiya Thalaivar VP . He dead & achieved every thing what we want now If we knew this We would have been help you to killed him long time age not wasted 33 years !!!

    Let’s have baila mate – madi coming, modi coming ,modi coming lalala …….

  18. SA Kumar Says:

    regarding RAMAYANA- Rama is not Saivar but Ravana who pray Siva as first god that what We-Hela Demilaya.
    also We have five Saiva Sivan Temples in Mother Lanka N/W/E/S & Centre !!!

    RAVANA IS NOT A SINGHALESE BUT A HINDU. RAVANA WAS NOT A BUDDHIST – who is kallaththoni you or me !!!

  19. Fran Diaz Says:

    As far I know, the Ramayana is an allegorical story. Rama is the Godhead within every human being and Ravana the Mind in each person. Rama is Pure in every sense of the word, and Ravana is designed to think, is the innovator, but is also mischievous and worldly.

    In old times, the clever storytellers lengthened and laced their tales with characters from nearby places to make it juicy to the listners, and get the point of the story across sharply, to probably mostly illeterate peasant folk. The Ramayana tells the story of triumph of Knowledge over Ignorance.

    The Mahabharata similarly is a tale of Krishna the Godhead. Mercifully, this tale leaves out Lanka.

    Indians always try to export their problems to nearby lands !

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