Posted on November 28th, 2021


The Tamil Separatist Movement said that the north and east of Sri Lanka was the homeland of the Ceylon Tamil. The historical reasons for this were examined and dismissed by KM de Silva and GH Pieris in two writings dated 1995 and 1991 respectively.  

These two writings completely demolished the homeland argument and there was no challenge to their writings. Among other arguments they debunked the fictional construction of a Tamil homeland based on the now infamous Cleghorn minute.

The    two writings are

  • K.M. de Silva (2013) ‘Traditional Homelands’ of the Tamils: Separatist Ideology in Sri Lanka: A Historical Appraisal 1st pub 1995. 3rd Rev. Ed. International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Kandy. 
  • G.H. Peiris, ‘An Appraisal of the Concept of a Traditional Homeland in Sri Lanka’ (1991) Ethnic Studies Report IX (1).

Welikala observed that the absence of precisely demarcated boundaries to the homeland has created difficulties for the Tamil territorial claim as a legal and constitutional proposition. This is evidenced in the shifting nature of the territorial claim. The Federal Party’s founding manifesto in 1949 merely stated, The Eelam Tamils are a nation of their own, they have a homeland of their own.”

Resolution No. 1 at its First National Convention in 1951 asserted Tamils’ territorial habitation of definite areas which constitute over one-third of this Island,” but nevertheless called for a plebiscite to determine the boundaries of the linguistic states” of the future federation.

 It was more specific in the Memorandum and Model Constitution submitted to the Constituent Assembly in 1971, which set out a federal scheme for the future republican constitution. This proposed that, The Northern Province and the Trincomalee and Batticaloa Districts of the Eastern Province will form one Unit. This will be a Tamil majority State. The Ampara District [in the southwest end of the Eastern Province] will form a Muslim majority State.”

 In the Vaddukoddai Resolution of 1976, which registered Tamil nationalism’s paradigm shift from federalism to secessionism, the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) identified the Northern and Eastern Provinces as the territory of the future state of Tamil Eelam. Since then, Tamil nationalists have generally put forward the Northern and Eastern provinces as their homeland.

Amused critics want to know is there any other ethnic group which has two homelands, one in India and another in Sri Lanka. In a TV interview S.L. Gunasekera stated that if the Tamils had being the original settlers of Sri Lanka then they would not be holed up in Jaffna which is the most arid part of Sri Lanka. They would have been in salubrious areas. Secondly if they were the original settlers why are they a numerical minority now? 

Jaffna was initially, Sinhala speaking. Jaffna was populated by Sinhalese in the ancient and medieval period. The evidence is still there in cattle branding and in place names.  Historian P.A.T. Gunasinghe says that the place names of Jaffna only make sense if they are seen as translations of Sinhala names. He points out that ‘vil” means ‘bow,’ and ‘pay’ means ‘net’ in Tamil. Therefore names like Kokuvil and Manipay only make sense when they are seen as the Tamilisation of the Sinhala words Kokavila and Mampe. Valikamam and Vimankam are meaningless in Tamil, but make sense if the villages originally bore the Sinhala names of Valigama and Vimangama. Some place names like Polvattai refer to the Sinhala used in 14th century.  (continued)

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