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Tamil Statehood-A response

Punsri Abeywickrema

In response to Mr. Bruce Fein's article dated January 29, 2008 in the Washington Times, I wish to point out several among the vast number of wild allegations presented in the same.

Firstly, as basic presentation, the numbers in reference to the Sri Lankan population is grossly erroneous. While the entire population of the country at the time of independence approximated 7 million as opposed to the 10 million claimed by Mr. Fein, the population of Tamils at that time was marginally over 1.5 million, of which over 50% comprised of Indian Tamils - a group that was brought down from India by the British colonial authorities in the 19th and 20th centuries, to work in the tea plantation industry, who were on Temporary Residence Permits (TRP).

Secondly, the "disenfranchisement" of Tamils that is referred to in the article, involved only the Indian Tamil populace of the country, who were temporary workers in Ceylon at that time. However, entering into agreements with the Indian government, the issue of "stateless" was amicably settled. It was agreed that while a large portion of the plantation labor force will be sent back to India over a period of time, the remaining population was to be given Sri Lankan citizenship. It has to be noted that a portion of the intended population who did not return to India, as well as the remaining Indian Tamil population were subsequently granted Sri Lankan citizenship.

It is also alleged that there has never been a Tamil president, prime minister or head of the military. A President, in a democratic country, needs to be voted in by the citizens of that country. Sri Lanka, being one of the oldest democracies in Asia, has not opposed any presidential candidate on grounds of ethnicity or any other, as can be proved by the candidature of Mr. G.G.Ponnambalam in the Presidential election of 1982. Tamil candidates have also contested in each general election in the country, but have not been able to obtain sufficient votes to be appointed as Prime Minister, primarily due to the fact that they were representing an ethnic community, and not a national political party. Prominent Tamil heads of armed forces and police included Commander of the Army - Major General A.M. Muttukumaru (1955-1959), Commander of the Navy - Rear Admiral Ranjan Kadirgamar (1960-1970) and Inspector Generals of Police Rudra Rajasingham and T.E. Anandarajah. These are in addition to a large number of prominent Tamil parliamentarians that have been part of the government throughout the years. One of the most prominent in the recent past was Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, who incidentally was assassinated by the LTTE in 2005.

The system of standardization that is mentioned in the article, in essence was an affirmative action scheme employed by the government to assist geographically disadvantaged students throughout the country, to gain tertiary education. This was as a result of students in certain urban areas in the North and the East, as well as Colombo, Kandy etc. having access to better and well endowed schools. However, the standardization of university entrance was in practice for a limited period of time, and was done away with in 1977.

Mr. Fein has good reason to make wild allegations with unsubstantiated information relating to the conflict in Sri Lanka as his firm, 'Litchfield Group' has entered into contract with 'Tamils for Justice' with the aim of removing the LTTE from the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations of the US Department of State (www.tamilsforjustice.org).






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