The legitimacy of the armed struggle of the Tamil people

Democracy may mean acceding to the rule of the majority,

but democracy also means governments by discussion and

persuasion. It is the belief that the minority of today may

become the majority of tomorrow that ensures the stability

of a functioning democracy. The practice of democracy in

Sri Lanka within the confines of a unitary state served to

perpetuate the oppressive rule of a permanent Sinhala


It was a permanent Sinhala majority, which through a series of

legislative and administrative acts, ranging from

disenfranchisement, and standardisation of University admissions,

to discriminatory language and employment policies, and state

sponsored colonisation of the homelands of the Tamil people,

sough to establish its hegemony over people of Tamil Eelam.

These legislative and administrative acts were reinforced from

time to time with physical attacks on the Tamil people with intent

to terrorise and intimidate them into submission. It was a course

of conduct which led eventually to rise of Tamil militancy in the

mid 1970s with, initially, sporadic acts of violence. The militancy

was met with wide ranging retaliatory attacks on increasingly

large sections of the Tamil people with intent, once again to

subjugate them. In the late 1970s large numbers of Tamil youths

were detained without trial and tortured under emergency

regulations and later under the Prevention of Terrorism Act

which has been described by the International Commission of

Jurists as a 'blot on the statute book of any civilised country'. In

1980s and thereafter, there were random killings of Tamils by

the state security forces and Tamil hostages were taken by the

state when 'suspects' were not found.

The preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights


"Whereas it is essential if man is not compelled as a

last resort to rebellion against tyranny and

oppression, that human rights should be protected

by the rule of law."

The rise of the armed struggle of the Tamil people constituted the

Tamil rebellion against a continuing Sinhala oppression over a

period of several decades. The gross consistent and continuing

violations of the human rights of the Tamil people have been well

documented by innumerable reports of human rights

organisations as well as of independent observers of the Sri

Lankan scene.

Walter Schwarz commented in the Minority Rights Group

Report on Tamils of Sri Lanka, 1983

"...The makings of an embattled freedom movement

now seem assembled: martyrs, prisoners and a

pitiful mass of refugees. Talk of 'Biafra' which had

sounded misplaced in 1975, seemed less unreal a

few years later... As this report goes to press in

September 1983, the general outlook for human

rights in Sri Lanka is not promising. The present

conflict has transcended the special consideration

of minority rights and has reached the point where

the basic human rights of the Tamil community - the

rights to life and property, freedom of speech and

self expression and freedom from arbitrary arrest

have in fact and in law been subject to gross and

continued violations. The two communities are

mow polarised and continued repression coupled

with economic stagnation can only produce

stronger demands from the embattled minority,

which unless there is a change in direction by the

central government, will result in a stronger

Sinhalese backlash and the possibility of outright

civil war".

David Selbourne remarked in July 1984:

"The crimes committed by the Sri Lankan state

against the Tamil minority - against its physical

security, citizenship rights, and political

representation -are of growing gravity.. Report

after report by impartial bodies - By Amnesty

International, By the International Commission of

jurists, By parliamentary delegates from the West

by journalists and scholars - have set out clearly the

scale of growing degeneration of the political and

physical well being of the Tamil minority in Sri

Lanka... Their cause represents the very essence of

the cause of human rights and justice; and to deny

it, debases and reduces us all".

A Working Group chaired by Goran Backstrand, of the Swedish

Red Cross at the Second Consultation on Ethnic Violence,

Development and Human Rights, Netherlands, in February 1985


"There was a general consensus that within Sri

Lanka today, the Tamils do not have the protection

of the rule of law, that the Sri Lankan government

presents itself as a democracy in crisis, and that

neither the government, nor its friends abroad,

appreciate the