What are the rights Constitutionally & Legally denied to Tamils in Sri Lanka?
Posted on February 25th, 2016

Shenali D Waduge

What examples can be given to show that Tamils do not have equal rights in Sri Lanka? Obviously our governments have failed to answer this question by presenting examples to statistically show what minorities in Sri Lanka enjoy.  

 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. Moreover, Tamils need to remember that they are asking rights in Sri Lanka while historically being referred to as Malabar Tamils with their roots to India and only it was only in 1911 that a new nomenclature emerged referring to them as Ceylon Tamils. Therefore the argument of traditional homelands gets washed away with the Malabar Tamil reference.

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 in 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.

We must seriously wonder how many of the IDPs presently coming from India are actually our own or maybe Indians coming as illegal immigrants. Now even Colombo is seeing an influx of such arrivals.

 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 / Tamil foreign passport holders and NGO representatives on foreign payroll are demanding:

 Let us therefore stick to answering 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


    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.
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
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, before making accusations against the Sinhalese it is best to investigate how truthful these claims of grievances are.
To claim a right is being denied they first have to prove that only the Sinhalese are enjoying what Tamils are denied constitutionally, legally and legislatively. This is why Tamil politicians get stuck when this question is posed but baffles us why the Sinhalese politicians are not asking this question too. Whether TNA leader is the Opposition Leader we need to remind all that it was John Cushnahan the EU Monitoring Mission head in 2004 who said TNA and LTTE are one and the same. We cannot disagree with him.
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 any time. 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. Is that too much to ask?
Shenali D Waduge

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

  1. Jag Says:

    Simply brilliant. These are the facts that our governments should have presented in Geneva. You are doing great service to the country by educating the public. This is all the more reason for us to keep on fighting for our rights as Singhalese Buddhists of this country.

  2. Fran Diaz Says:

    Thank you very much, Shenali.

    This article must be spread widely. It speaks the TRUTH !

  3. Fran Diaz Says:

    Sinhala/Buddhists must carry placards, put up posters, and have button messages and car stickers saying “STOP KILLING SINHALA BUDDHISTS” BECAUSE THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT IS HAPPENING, SLOWLY BUT SURELY, THROUGH THE MISSHAPPEN, MISERABLE AND IDIOTIC YAHAP GOVT.


  4. stanley perera Says:

    Chief Minister Pesala Rathnayake, pleasre read this article very carefully. Two weeks ago you argued with me at Polonnaruwa that the Tamils were denied of their rights and it is time that we respect the minorities. But I disagreed with you. You failed to give me any example of how the Tamils were discriminated or denied of their rights.

  5. Lorenzo Says:

    Thank you SW for telling the truth.

    All know this. NO ONE is there to call Tamils’ bluff.

    When one politician tries to give MORE AND MORE to Tamils under his LLRC, his rivals give EVEN MORE.

    Ultimately SL politics is a CONTEST between 3 groups WHO can give MOST to Tamils.

  6. Fran Diaz Says:

    The FALSE WAR CRIMES CHARGE to be blamed here !

    *. Who brought in the False War Crimes Charge ?

    *. Who initiated the 1983 Riots ?


  7. vichara2 Says:

    Shenali should make a study of the place of the Tamil community in the business world. To what extent are they controlling the economy?

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