posted June 28, 2000 10:29 AM
Who Wants a Separate State?
A Publication of the Ministry of State, The Government of Sri Lanka; Overseas information Series, No. 9
The Manifesto of the Tamil United Liberation Front at the General Elections of 1977, sought a mandate from its voters for the creation of " an independent sovereign State of Tamil Eelam". This State was to be constituted of " all the geographically contiguous areas that have been the traditional homeland of the Tamil-speaking people in the country." The boundaries of the State of Eelam were not defined but were identified by the fact that the TULF contested every one of the 14 electorates in the Northern Province and 8 out of the 10 electorates in the adjoining Eastern Province. This identification has been confirmed by the subsequent general acceptance by the separatists that the Northern and Eastern Provinces constituted the State of Eelam.
The manifesto proceeded to declare that the following shall be the citizens of Tamil Eelam:
all those people now living in the territory of Tamil Eelam
Tamil speaking persons from any part of Sri Lanka seeking citizenship in the State of Tamil Eelam
Tamil speaking people of Ceylonese descent living in any part of the world and seeking citizenship in the State of Tamil Eelam
Leaving aside the invites under clause (c) (who would have to sacrifice lucrative employment and relative luxurious conditions of living to accept Tamil Eelam citizenship), clauses (a) and (b) qualify as potential citizens of Eelam an impressive 4 million persons, or more than one quarter of the population of Sri Lanka. This number is made up as follows:
2.09 million = The entire population of the Northern and Eastern Provinces
Tamil speaking people from other provinces consisting of :
0.51 million = Tamils
0.69 million = Moors
0.74 million = Indian Tamils
4.03 million = TOTAL
It is interesting to find out how many people living within the "State of Tamil Eelam" opted to support the TULF in its call for an independent sovereign state and how many Tamils-speaking people outside its boundaries have voiced their support for a separate state.
The Territory of Eelam
The territory of Eelam as identified by the TULF consists of 4 Administrative Districts in the Northern Province and of 3 Administrative Districts in the Eastern Province. The total population of these 7 districts (1981 census) was 2.09 million of which Tamils constituted 1.36 million or 65% of this population. In the Eastern Province, however, the Tamil population consists of a minority of less than 41%. In the 3 districts of this province, Tamils predominate in Batticaloa with 71% but are in a minority in Trincomalee with 34% and a still smaller minority in the Amparai District with only 20%.
The support received by the TULF in its call for a separate State may be gauged by the percentage of votes cast for the TULF in the general election of 1977 in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. The percentages of TULF votes in the 7 districts were as follows:
71.81 % = Jaffna District
51.44 % = Mannar District
58.82 % = Vavuniya District
52.16 % = Mullativu District
27.18 % = Trincomalee District
32.14 % = Batticalao District
20.25 % = Amparai District
Relating these voting percentages to the total population in each district, it can be inferred that only 48% of voters in the Northern and Eastern Provinces pledged support to the TULF in its call for a separate State. Considering the total population of the Northern and Eastern Provinces is a little more than 2 million, the above percentage suggest that not more than 1 million of the inhabitants of the Northern and Eastern Provinces favor a separate state.
This would leave within the defined boundaries of the Tamil Eelam somewhat more than another million who would have declined to throw in their lot with this sovereign State. In the Districts of Mannar and Mullativu almost half their populations appear to have opted against a separate State.
In the Eastern Sector of Tamil Eelam the idea of a separate State appears to have been viewed with even less favor. Tamils constitute 41% of the population of this province but the TULF received only 26% of the votes cast in the province. One infers therefore that in the Eastern Province a very large number of Tamils themselves have rejected the idea of a separate state. In the 3 districts that constitute this province, 68% of the population of Batticalaoa District, 73% of the population of Amparai District have voted against the TULF and its proposal for a separate state.
The Tamil-speaking people
The State of Tamil Eelam has also opened its doors to all Tamil speaking people of Sri Lanka living outside the Northern and Eastern Provinces as well as to expatriate Tamils.
At the time of the 1981 census 512,340 Tamils lived outside the Northern and Eastern Provinces. Roughly one third of this number (156,000) lived in the District of Colombo, with substantial groups exceeding 30,000 living in the Districts of Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Puttalam, Badulla and Gampaha.
The bulk of this Half a million therefore consists of Tamils settled in primarily Sinhala areas, some of them for more than two or three generations, and many of them with no residual links with the Northern or Eastern Provinces. The bread winners of these families pursue professions or business vocations or are employed in their areas of residence, and their children pursue their education in these areas. It is difficult to imagine many of these families being able even to eke out an existence if they were to uproot themselves from their present locations to opt for residence in the mythical State of Eelam.
The absence of substantial support for separatism from these members of the Tamil community is indicated by the fact that the TULF (except for the single abortive attempt in the Puttalam electorate in 1977) has not attempted to contest either a District of Municipal election in these areas. On the other hand the position of most Tamil residents in these areas has been that they have never been supporters of the claim for a separate State.
The Moor community of Sri Lanka numbering over a million and constituting 7.6% of the population has maintained a very clear ethnic and religious identity and has never associated with the Tamil community in the call for a separate State. Politically this community has identified itself very strongly with right wing political parties in the country and have held distinguished office in every government since independence.
It is unthinkable that the Moor community which lives in peace and harmony with the majority community in the country, and whose leaders have proclaimed their allegiance to government and expressed their support of an unitary state, will opt for citizenship for the State of Tamil Eelam.
The only other Tamil speaking community in Sri Lanka consists of a little over 800,000 Indian Tamils (5.5% of the population) who live mainly in the plantation districts of Nuwara Eliya and Badulla Their acknowledged leadership, under the banner of a major trade union, the Ceylon Workers Congress, has disassociated itself from the cry for a separate State. The CWC is in fact, a constituent party of the present government with its leader holding an important cabinet portfolio. The CWC has declared unequivocally both in this country and abroad that should the security of its membership be threatened, it would seek their return to India rather than seek refuge in the State of Eelam.
It is therefore highly unlikely that the invitation of the TULF to all "Tamil Speaking People" outside the State of Tamil Eelam to accept its citizenship will find any substantial response.
The possibility of Sri Lankan Tamils living abroad accepting the offer of citizenship in the State of Tamil Eelam would appear even more remote. Many expatriate Tamils have helped to create the terrorist monster in the North of Sri Lanka and supported an intensive propaganda campaign directed at establishing charges of massive violations of human rights amounting to genocide by the majority community. It is easy for these "heroes" who enjoy lucrative employment and live in luxury abroad to acclaim northern terrorists as liberation fighters and to heap scorn and insult on the land of their birth. It would be much less easy for these well-heeled expatriates to give up their affluent life styles in exchange for the inclement climate and the barren soils of the Northern Province of Sri Lanka.
The Demography of Eelam
The realisation of the mythical State of Eelam will produce vast changes in the demographic patterns of Sri Lanka. If only those residents of the Northern and Eastern Provinces who supported the TULF at the 1977 election opt for citizenship in the State of Eelam, more than a million others may opt to leave it. Whether the rest of the Sri Lankan community can accept an influx of a million refugees will not be a matter for debate- it would be a situation impossible to contemplate. At the same time pressure will mount in the rest of the country for the forcible repatriation to Eelam of half a million Tamil population resident in other parts of Sri Lanka. This is an exercise which could not be carried out without causing massive hardship and human misery far exceeding in volume any hardship alleged to have been inflicted so far on the Tamil community.
If large scale movements of population do not take place- as indeed they cannot- after the establishment of the mythical state, the country would be faced with minority problems far greater than it has ever faced in its history. Besides the problems of a minority of a half a million Tamils living outside the State of Eelam ( accentuated by the fact that the Sinhala community will find it increasingly difficult to live or function within the new State) the Eelam State itself would be faced with a non-Tamil minority consisting of 35% of its population.