Posted on May 22nd, 2016

By Naville Ladduwahetty

Healing the Nation – A question of Leadership, was the theme of Deshamanya Dr. P.R. Anthonis memorial oration delivered by Dr. Nihal Jayawickrama (NJ) on May 11, 2016.  Dr. Jayawickrama should be congratulated for a well analyzed presentation of the progression of events that led to a situation that calls for healing under successive leaderships in Sri Lanka.  However, the reason for comment is to fill certain voids in the narrative to make it whole and more comprehensive; an exercise that is necessary for there to be any healing.

Comments given below relate to the following:

  1. Citizenship and Franchise
  2. Colonization.
  3. Standardization.
  4. Accountability.

Except for accountability, the first 3 issues including the issue of language form the core issues that started the polarization process between the Sinhala and Tamil communities.  The fact that distortions continue to exist despite the passage of decades and volumes of material presented, underscore the recommendation I made to the LLRC, of the need to address these issues comprehensively as an integral component of the reconciliation process.


Dr. NJ states: At the 1947 general election, apart from electing seven candidates of the Ceylon Indian Congress, they had helped to secure the victory of 15 left-wing opposition candidates as well.  It became a matter of priority for the Government to disenfranchise the Indian Tamil population.  In this venture, the Government also had the tacit support of the leader of the Ceylon Tamil Congress, G.G.Ponnambalam.   Accordingly, Parliament enacted a package of laws which had a profoundly debilitating effect on that community.  The Citizenship Act 1948, The Indian and Pakistan Residents (Citizenship) Act 1949 ensured that by the time of the next general election of 1952, the number of Indian Tamil; voters in the seven plantation area constituencies was reduced from 162,212 to a mere 3191, thereby making it impossible for that community to secure even a single seat in the legislature”.


  1. The two principal factors that influenced Sri Lanka’s attitude to the issue of franchise for Indian Tamils were (a) the economic depression of the 1930s that resulted in severe unemployment and (b) the transient nature of the Indian labour that caused the Donoughmore Commission to factor in the need for an abiding interest” to qualify for franchise.
  2. The Donoughmore Commission report of 1928 recommended a domicile period of 5 years residence (allowing a temporary absence not exceeding 8 months during the 5 year period) as an expression of abiding interest” to qualify to vote (P.87).
  3. The Indo-Ceylon Relations Conference of September 1941 agreed on residence being on the basis of 7 years for the married and 10 years for the unmarried provided continuous absence was limited to a maximum of 1 year.
  4. Although the Indian Central Legislative Assembly rejected the qualifying period for residence, that was jointly agreed at the Indo-Ceylon Relations Conference (because of its impact on the residence of Indians in other parts of the British Empire), the Citizenship Act of 1949 was based on domicile requirements agreed upon, i.e., a residence of 7 years for the married and 10 years for the unmarried.
  5. The statement by Dr. NJ that the Citizenship Acts of 1948 and 1949 had the tacit support of the leader of the Tamil Congress, G.G.Ponnambalam is not entirely correct. In fact, it had the support of the majority of the Ceylon Tamil Congress.  The few who opposed splintered” from the TC and formed the Federal Party…”(A.J. Wilson, Politics in Sri Lanka 1947-1973”, 1974, pp 31, 32.).
  6. The total population of resident Indian Tamil nationals in 1946 was 780,589 (1946 Census). Of this total the number of Indians in the 1946 electoral register was 242,403 ( Silva, Statistical Survey of Elections to the Legislatures of Sri Lanka 1911 -1977).   Therefore ONLY 31 % was entitled to the franchise BEFORE the Citizenship Acts were introduced.
  7. The Citizenship Acts prescribed a 2 year period, starting from 15th August 1949 to 14th August 1951 within which applications for Citizenship were to be submitted. For most of the two-year limit within which applications had to be filed, the C.I.C. (Ceylon Indian Congress) persisted in its boycott.  Then a few weeks before the Expiry of the deadline, the boycott was lifted and a spate of inadequately completed applications flowed in.  One hundred and sixty thousand of the 237, 034 applications were submitted in the last ten weeks” (A. J. Wilson,     p. 32).   Consequently, the applications could not be processed in time for the 1952 elections.

In view of the material presented above the question is whether it was the debilitating” Citizenship Acts that Dr. NJ refers to or the irresponsible leadership of the Ceylon Indian Congress that denied franchise to over 2/3 of potential voters by calling for a boycott.


Dr. NJ states: The substantial disintegration of the nation, however, occurred with a series of politically expedient measures taken by successive governments…One of the earliest of such measures were the government initiated and funded colonization schemes which at the time appeared to be both timely and desirable.  However, they resulted in Sinhalese families from the south being settled in the sparsely populated dry zone in the eastern, north-central and northern provinces”.


The impression created by this statement is that colonization was initiated” by independent Sri Lanka.   This is absolutely wrong.  A reference to the seminal work of B.H. Farmer, a Fellow of St. John’s College Cambridge, a distinguished academic, titled Pioneer Peasant Colonization in Ceylon” (1957) reveals that state sponsored colonization in Sri Lanka started in the 1914s under British Colonial rule.  In fact the British initiated such policies in other parts of the British Empire.   Even the Dutch initiated such schemes in Sri Lanka.

These initiatives were not undertaken by the Colonial powers in order to recreate the glory of a past Sinhala Buddhist civilization as stated by Tamil leaders and their agents.  It was initiated for very practical economic and social reasons such as difficulty of acquiring new land, loss of land through indebtedness and fragmentation” (Ibid, p. 119).

The economic potential of the Dry Zone was realized by Governor Sir Henry Ward in the mid 1800s when he toured the area.  His comment was: Why repair Kowdelly Tank or Padiwel Colurn and pour streams of water that we cannot use, for want of hands to till the soil?  Colonise or do nothing” (S.V. Balasingham, The Administration of Sir Henry Ward 1855 – 1860”).

According to Farmer During the period 1914 – 31 there were a number of factors which at various times drew attention to the social and economic problems of Ceylon and its peasantry, and led to suggestions concerning land policy in general and colonization in particular” (B.H. Farmer, p. 116).

One of the prime movers in this initiative was the Governor, Sir Hugh Clifford.  He added a social reason for preserving peasant agriculture to the economic one when he stated: No peasant of a tropical country will willingly work for a wage, no matter how tempting the figure at which the wage be placed, if the alternative be open to him of cultivating land of his own” (Ibid, p. 119).

The policies initiated by the British colonial authorities were continued beyond self-government of 1931 into independent Sri Lanka.  If addressing these social and economic issues resulted in demographic changes, such issues should have been addressed accordingly (e.g. multi-member seats), but certainly not abandoned to preserve demographics; a factor that is often subject to unpredictable changes.  It must be granted that the initiatives taken by successive governments to settle Sinhalese families from the south in the dry zone have contributed to Sri Lanka being self-sufficient in rice production today.  To describe these measures as the reason for the substantial disintegration of the nation”, is to politicize issues that were initiated to address pressing social and economic issues.

The views by the 4 authors of The Broken Palmyra” who were all members of the University of Jaffna are in sharp contrast to the interpretation by Dr. NJ in respect of colonization.   They state: …it is probably wrong to say that Mr. D.S. Senanayake was involved in a deep anti-Tamil conspiracy to bring about Sinhalese domination.  Nor is it possible to make a case that Mr. Senanayake was hatching a diabolical master plan to colonise Tamil areas with Sinhalese.  When work on the Gal Oya settlement scheme in the Eastern Province had been completed, first preference was given to people from the province.  It was only after about six months, when faced with the paucity of local applicants, that the doors were open to applicants from other provinces” (Hoole, Somasundarum, Sritharan, Thiranagama, 1990, p.2).

From a Human Rights perspective, to let the land idle in order to preserve demographics while a significant section of the citizenry undergoes serious social and economic privations is not only inhumanly discriminatory but also makes a minority more equal than the majority and deprives the economic benefits of food security of a whole nation.


On the issue of standardization Dr. NJ states: The most untimely introduction in 1970 of a policy of standardization in respect of university admission was perhaps the final straw…The effect of this policy, and the enormity of the injustice it caused to the Tamil community, raised this issue to the level of a major human rights problem.   For instance, in 1975 the admissions on a district basis into the medical faculty were 29 from Galle and 29 from Jaffna, whereas on the basis of merit only 18 had qualified from Galle as against 61 from Jaffna.  Similarly, on a district basis, Galle and Jaffna each secured 20 places in the science and engineering faculties, while on the basis of merit, 24 should have entered from Galle and 56 from Jaffna.  Nothing could have been more frustrating to the educated Tamil youth…”.


Standardization did not suddenly appear out of nowhere.  It is the result of a cause and effect.  The cause was that when admission to the University was in the English medium the basis of selection was on raw marks.  On this basis, In 1964 for instance Sri Lankan Tamils held 37.2%of places in Science and Engineering courses, 40.5% in medicine and Dentistry.  In 1970 they made up 35.5% of all admissions to science based courses, obtaining 40.8% of the places in Engineering and 40.9% of the places in Medicine” (C.R. de Silva, The Sri Lanka Journal of Social Science, 1978, p. 86, 87).

With Sri Lanka switching to Swabasha as the medium of instruction, admissions to University were media based.  This resulted in an unprecedented increase in the number of Tamil students gaining eligibility for admission.  For instance, When admission to the Peradeniya University was considered this year (1971) it was found that the eligible candidates consisted of 100 Tamils, 58 Sinhalese, 3 Moors and 1 Burgher” (Hansard, Vol. 93, No. 5, 1970, 12.14 – 1971 3.23).

This total reversal from the numbers admitted prior to media wise admission is what caused the Government to explore mechanisms to correct this anomaly.  The first attempt resulted in Standardization.   However, The scheme when implemented created great and acrimonious debate.  Nevertheless, in retrospect it appears that that its impact was relatively small…(because) they still held 36.9% of the places in Medicine and the total number of Tamils entering science based courses was 347, only 12 less than the 1971 figure and actually 10 more than the 1970 figure of 337” (C.R. de Silva, p.90).

The very next year came a further change, in the system.  The scheme of standardization was supplemented by a district quota” system” (Ibid).  This was introduced to cater to the disparities that existed among districts by way of resources such as facilities and the quality of the teachers.  Not to factor these in the evaluation of academic performance even if the medium of instruction remained English would have been socially irresponsible.  The need to take social and resource disparities into account is recognized by most civilized societies and nearly all leading Universities throughout the world.   To talk of merit in the abstract is incomprehensible.

The question to Dr. NJ and others of his mindset is:  Would they have accepted the reversal in the performance of students in the Tamil medium in complete contrast to their performance in the English medium, or would they have adopted a corrective mechanism at all? If they opted for the latter, standardization is the accepted mathematical solution to address deviations.  And if it was not standardization, it had to be some other corrective measure.  Whatever mechanism was adopted there would have been consequences.  Therefore, to categorize the mechanism adopted as one that was a major human rights violation” instead of as the inevitable consequences of change, with the introduction of media- wise testing, is to be disingenuous.


Dr. NJ states: War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity, as well as Enforced Disappearances, have not been criminalized in Sri Lanka.  Neither the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its Optional Protocol, nor the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, have yet been incorporated in our law.  No effective mechanism has yet been established for the protection of witnesses and victims of crime…. Therefore, we lack the legal framework within which accountability can be established for such crimes”.

Continuing he adds: The question which the government will need to address is whether it has, with the resources available to it, the capacity to effectively investigate, prosecute and try the serious allegations referred to in the report of the OHCHR investigation on Sri Lanka”.   Therefore, Dr. NJ endorses the need for a hybrid court as recommended by the Commissioner for Human Rights.


If as stated by Dr. NJ, Sri Lanka does not have the legal framework within which accountability can be established”, the priority should be to incorporate the required legal framework before engaging in any accountability process.   The development of such a framework must necessarily be undertaken nationally and finally approved by Parliament for it to have any legitimacy.  And, if Sri Lanka has the capabilities to develop the required legal framework it also should have the capabilities to ensure its operations.  Hence, under the circumstances there is no justification to engage international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators” in the accountability process.  After all, if Sri Lanka has competencies to develop the fundamental law under which all Sri Lankans live – the Constitution – why not the legal framework to address accountability?

The other issue raised by Dr. NJ is whether Sri Lanka has the capacity to investigate the serious allegations referred to in the OHCHR report.   Since Sri Lanka has been denied access to these allegations and the archival material gathered by the UNSG appointed Panel of Experts that are sequestered for 20 years, Sri Lanka is not in a position to ascertain whether it has or does not have the capacity to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the allegations cited in the OHCHR report.  In short, without knowing the scope of the allegations it is not possible to determine whether capacities exist or not.   Since it is only after ascertaining the scope of the allegations that Sri Lanka could decide whether foreign assistance is needed or not, it is imperative that Sri Lanka has access to all the allegations for it to make a measured judgment as to the quality of the needed capacities to engage in effective investigations.


If the scars inflicted as a result of the positions taken and the policies adopted by the Sinhala and Tamil leaderships are to heal it is necessary to undertake more exhaustive investigations than attempted herein into the core grievances that precipitated the process of polarization.  Such an investigation would reveal that there is a collective responsibility for the scars as demonstrated above and not one that is totally one sided as Dr. NJ makes out.   If Sri Lanka is serious about healing, the leaders of both communities have to acknowledge their respective roles that have contributed to the current state of affairs.

For instance, it has to be admitted that had the Indian Tamil leaders acted more responsibly the Indian Tamils would not have lost their franchise even after the Citizenship Acts were introduced by independent Sri Lanka.  Similarly, it has to be admitted that the sole purpose of colonization was not to alter the demographics of the dry zone.  Instead, that it was initiated during British Colonial rule starting from around 1914 to ease landlessness in the South and develop the untapped economic potential of the dry zone.  Also, regarding Standardization, it must be admitted that some corrective mechanism was needed to address the unprecedented increase in the number of Tamil students qualifying for admission the year media-wise testing was introduced.

Not to address the above issues in a forthright manner with the honesty it deserves is to delay the healing process and keep alive suspicion and mistrust of each other as it does with the proverbial beggar’s wound.  Therefore, the original core grievances should be addressed if the communities are to see each other in a better light.  It is only through such a collective effort that all communities could heal and reconcile.

Neville Ladduwahetty

May 17, 2016


  1. Fran Diaz Says:

    This is REAL HEALING OF THE NATION – Factual, True and to the point !

    Sweeping the past under the carpets as attempted by the Yahap people and some past govts. will never bring a lasting peace to Lanka. The Nation must Face the Facts from the past and then be healed forever.

    More issues that have gone unnoticed earlier need to be addressed. For instance, the Tamil Language in place in Lanka as a National & Official Language, is the starting point of most troubles as Tamil people see Lanka as a natural extension of Tamil Nadu (Tamil Homeland). No area in INDIA has this facility in place, whilst Lanka afford that, with no Caste lines on Birth Certificates too, as done in Tamil Nadu. Lanka leaders have invited grave trouble into the country unwittingly, possibly for quick political expediency during Cold War times.

    Our thanks to Mr Ladduwahetty.

  2. Dham Says:

    To bring lasting peace, Tamils must be made to acknowledge their massive cheating at University admission , when “admission to the Peradeniya University was considered this year (1971) it was found that the eligible candidates consisted of 100 Tamils, 58 Sinhalese, 3 Moors and 1 Burgher” (Hansard, Vol. 93, No. 5, 1970, 12.14 – 1971 3.23).”.

    We did not have single politician yet who spoke openly holding them responsible. Reason being these politicians have never gone through this system of hard work during A/L. They all come though LOW COLLEGE after getting 4Fs in A/L.

  3. Fran Diaz Says:

    Yahap people (I cannot not say ‘Yahap govt.’ for their future Plans belie that !) have plans to bring MORE Tamil folk into the country. These Tamil folk will be those who do NOT want to live in Tamil Nadu and such people are the Tamil Dalits. As INDIA does the Census on a Caste base, why blame Dalit Tamils for fleeing Tamil Nadu, when Lanka has the Tamil Language, Hindu religion, free education & health care etc all in place, with NO Caste on the Birth Certificates.

    Why does UNP led Yahap have plans to have a Sea Tunnel to Tamil Nadu ?
    Plans for a Sita Temple in the Upcountry area ?
    Why have ETCA ?
    Why have 5,000 acre lots on 99 yr leases to foreigners ?
    What will the New Constitution bring ?

    Lanka leaders “shooting themselves on the foot” over and over again and also fighting among themselves for nothing ? Who gains from all this ?
    Look at the number of able Sinhala and Tamil leaders who have been killed (UNP leaders especially) over so called Tamil problems and Cold War problems.
    Our folk seem to think that it is ‘United we Fall’ when the rest of the world accepts that it is ‘United we Stand’.

    Bad politics plus Climate Change will bring only heavy losses, both in lives & funds, plus sorrow and sadness.

  4. Cerberus Says:

    Dear Mr. Ladduwahetty,
    Thank you for shedding so much clarity on issues that have been muddied by the confused thinking of so many of our so called “intellectuals” and politicos. If we had a few more clear headed people like you in our Govt instead of the ignorant people who sit in the positions of power today, we would not be in the mess we are in today.

    Tamil leaders have excelled in low level cunning to get what they want. Even today it is a case of lying and cheating at every turn. They have lied to the Western powers about the terrorist war trying to make out that it was a war with the ordinary Tamil people. They know very well that it was not. The people who benefited the most from the removal of Prabahakaran were the 300,000 plus Tamil civilians who were held hostage by the LTTE. Yet their leaders went and complained to the Western leaders that the Sinhalese were committing Genocide on Tamils. How can a people lie so blatantly about issues when they know in their hearts that it is not true.

    Vigneswaran is one of the worst liars and he had a Resolution passed in the NPC which was sent to the UNHRC about Genocide on Tamil people by the Sinhalese. Right now Tamil leaders feel they have everything going for them. They have the West on their side since the West wants to divide Sri Lanka for Strategic Geopolitical reasons, they have the Tamil Nadu leaders like Jayalalitha who feel that they can take over the North and East and make it a part of Tamil Nadu if Sri Lanka divides. They are holding a great leader who liberated the country after 30 years, hostage by false War Crimes charges. The entire current Govt has been set up on a series of lies starting with My3 actions leading to the Presidential Election.

    India has as their motto on their flag “Satyameva Jayate” “Truth Alone Triumphs” which is a mantra from the ancient Indian scripture Mundaka Upanishad. I long to see the day it actually comes true.

  5. Dilrook Says:

    University standardisation must follow ethnicity.

    State universities are taxpayer funded. Tax is collected equitably from ethnic communities. For instance, Sinhalese pay 75% of taxes, Muslims 9% and so on. Therefore, they must gain benefits equitably. University admission by faculty must be based on ethnic quotas and then all island merit. That will ensure a fair and equitable allocation of this limited resource. It will also reduce cheating found mainly in the Sri Lankan Tamil community at the university entrance exam. In addition, equity in state university opportunity allocation will uplift the Indian Tamil community and the Muslim community in academia and professional jobs. At the moment they are underrepresented. As a by product of ethnicity based university quotas, loss due to brain drain will also reduce. Sri Lankan Tamils are over-represented in taxpayer funded universities by 3 times! They also have the highest brain drain rate. Put together, this works against Sri Lanka. Most of them end up working against Sri Lanka.

    Newly industrialised Malaysia and Brazil have similar standardisation schemes based on ethnicity. India has universities in every state where people patronise the state’s universities that ensures equity.

    There is absolutely no need to appease Tamils at the expense of others simply because all Tamils and Indians and India bullies its neighbours.

  6. Dilrook Says:

    Dham, Cyril Matthews did talk about it in parliament. I agree with your reasoning. That is precisely the case why most politicians don’t see the value of education. However, university cheating cannot be stopped by policing or better invigilation. Those are not practical and run into additional complications. Ethnic quotas is the best way to arrest it. Sinhalese 75%, Sri Lankan Tamils 12%, Muslims 9% and Indian Tamils and others 4%. Ethnicity must be derived from census reports and will change with decadal census.

  7. Dham Says:

    There is no point us commenting here. Everything can be done is law and order can be established. Cannot rely of “Law of Kamma” on these issues.
    Today we have come to a stage where certain politicians have to be protected even if they have done heinous crimes, just because of “good feeling” in hearts. If a day comes when these Pal Horus are exposed and punished to the maximum from that day onwards healing will happened.
    There is no need to impose quotas based on races, just give maximum punishments to law breakers. Tamil and Muslim quotas will be lesser than population percentages then, I guarantee with my own knowledge.

  8. Dilrook Says:

    Dr Jayawickrama must stick to what he knows and that is law. His expertise of law and services to Sri Lanka cannot be discounted.

    However, he has no expertise in politics or racist Tamil allegations and appeasements. It is unwise for him to get into it.

    I agree with him on the need to expedite war crimes judicial investigations and punishment. Since 2009, it was delayed by 6 years, which resulted in the UNHRC deciding Sri Lanka was incapable of handling it. Had the government from 2009 to 2015 acted with responsibility instead of wasting money on presidential commissions (LLRC, Paranagama, Udalagama and Sir Desmond) and PR agencies, and appeasing Tamil racist demands (LLRC recommendations, 13A), Sri Lanka would be off the hook.

    I hold nothing back when I say fools misadvised the government on the whole war crimes episode and messed up the entire thing. Some were fearing sanctions by the west which was never on the table. Others feared an Indian invasion while yet others thought by giving into 13A and north-east development, the whole thing will simply disappear.

    At the very least now, Sri Lanka must initiate war crimes investigations and punishment via a judicial process into acts by all parties to the war. There is no need for hybrid courts and no need to delay it any further. Armed forces personnel did no war crime as they acted well within strict instructions from the political hierarchy. Sri Lanka as a nation and soldiers as heroes need not suffer a day to protect those who blundered the whole affair.

  9. Dham Says:

    Shall we say , in short , behaviour from 2009 described by “headless chicken” ?

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