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The myth of a traditional Tamil Homeland unmasked

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The myth of a traditional Tamil Homeland unmasked
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Secession is not a remedy for every ethno-religious conflict in the world. It is certainly not the solution for the armed conflict in Sri Lanka, which is viewed by some as an ethnic conflict. However, the roots of the conflict lie in poverty and underdevelopment.

Sri Lanka Ambassador in the U.S., Bernard Goonetilleke, explained that Sri Lanka Tamils’ cause was later hijacked by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), in aiming to establish a mono-ethnic fascist state in the North and the East of Sri Lanka, through violent means.


He was referring to a statement by U.S. constitutional lawyer, Bruce Fein, published in the website of Tamils for Justice, a front organization of the LTTE. For a stiff fee of $90,000 for the first three months of his services, Fein cannot but play the piper’s tune, albeit, most unconvincingly and inaccurately.

LTTE cadres training civilians forcibly for warfare

In a deeply flawed article titled “Tamil Statehood,” in the Washington Times of January 28, 2008, Fein said, “To deny the statehood right - sought by the Tamil people since 1976 - would mark one of the United States’ most ill-conceived hours.”

Ambassador Goonetilleke pointed out that the Vaddukkodai Resolution of 1976 has been skilfully exploited by the Eelamists to distort history, geography and demography, to mislead the world on a dubious claim of a traditional Tamil homeland.

His reflections reached another plateau as he referred to the 1977 Election Manifesto of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), which had laid the initial false claim for Tamil Eelam.

The Ambassador quoted from the manifesto, “Even before the Christian era, the entire island of Ceylon was ruled by the Tamil kings Senan, Kudditan and Elara (Ellalan), and thereafter, for over a thousand years, as a result of a struggle for supremacy between the Tamil kings and the Sinhalese kings, the capital of Sinhalese kings was gradually shifted southwards, away from Tamil centres.

These are facts of recorded history. It is also a fact that the entire island was under sway of Tamil kings at times, and the Sinhalese kings at other times.

Political fact

From this background of altering fortunes emerged at the beginning of the 13th century, a clear and stable political fact. At this time, the territory stretching in the western seaboard, from Chilaw through Puttalam to Mannar, and thence to the Northern Regions, and in the East, Trincomalee and also the Batticaloa region and extended southwards up to Kumana or the northern banks of the river Kumbakhan Oya, were firmly established as the exclusive homeland of the Tamils. This is the territory of Eelam.”

Thus, Ambassador Goonetilleke explained, how the TULF deceptively used the fallacious Minute made by the first British Colonial Secretary, Hugh Cleghorn in 1799 in his ignorance, to argue that Tamils occupied the land from Walawe River in the south east to Chilaw, in the north west of the island.

Through fascinating insights into history, the Ambassador exposed the deception of the Eelamists, with unassailable facts from the annals of the past. For instance, through alluding to the management of the country’s lands during colonial times, he explained that from 1801 to 1833, no changes had been made by the British to the composition of the former Dutch territories.

However, in 1833, following the Colebrooke and Cameron reforms, the island was divided into 5 provinces, which resulted in the former Kandyan territories of Nuwara Kalaviya, (present day North Central Province), being annexed to the Northern Province, while Thamankaduwa (Polonnaruwa), to the Eastern Province, along with large tracts of land from the Kandyan Kingdom comprising Bintenna, Uva and Panama.

The Ambassador quoted Lenox A. Mills, from his publication ‘Ceylon Under British Rule,’ where he says that the British stratagem was “intended to weaken the national feelings of the Kandyans.”

Other documented information point to the fact that, contrary to the TULF claims of “an exclusive homeland of the Tamils,” Tamil settlements in the north and the east were of recent historical origin. Professor Karthigesu Indrapala of the Jaffna University, who, in his article titled ‘Early Tamil Settlements in Ceylon,’ makes a significant observation.

“Looking back on the body of evidence that is available to us, we have to conclude that there were no widespread Tamil settlements before the Tenth Century.”

His conclusions are redolent with powerful implications against Tamil Eelam, when he says, “However, the majority of the settlers appear to have migrated to that region (i.e. to the Jaffna Peninsula), in the latter half of the 13th Century.”

I listened, fascinated, as Ambassador Goonetilleke pulled out information from his fount of knowledge, with the professionalism of a seasoned intellectual.

As he presented the facts with unfaltering precision, I could see the claim of “Tamil Eelam” eroding before my very eyes. The facts speak for themselves with the clarity of truth. Portuguese historian De Queyros in his publication titled ‘Temporal and Spiritual Conquest of Ceylon,” says that in the 16th century, Jaffnapatnam was a “sub-kingdom under a sub-ruler,” under the authority of the King of Kotte.


If Jaffna was a sub-kingdom in the 16th century, where was the independent Tamil Kingdom of the 13th century, the Eelamists speak of De Queyros also makes the point that when the Portuguese expelled the Moors (i.e. Muslims), from their territories in 1626, King Senarath of Kandy resettled some of them in the east, and, “4000 were settled in Batticaloa alone by the idolatrous King.”

The King of Kandy could resettle people in Batticaloa because that area was under his suzerainty, just as much as the other areas of the east coast of the island. When Robert Knox, an English doctor, natural scientist and traveller, reached the eastern shores of the island in 1660, and landed at Kottiar Bay, he was captured, not by the soldiers of the then ruler of Jaffna, but by the soldiers of King Rajasinghe of Kandy. If the eastern coast of the island had been under the ruler of Jaffna, how could King Rajasinghe’s soldiers have had any authority in the area?

The records left by the Dutch missionary, Phillipus Baldeus, who had been in Jaffnapattnam in 1658, reveal that the King of Jaffna had jurisdiction over a limited area of the north, including Jaffnapattnam, the adjacent isles and the island of Mannar. However, the major part of the Vanni, which encompasses present day Mannar, Kilinochchi, Vavuniya and Mullaitivu districts, and the entire Eastern Province, came under the authority of the Kandyan Kingdom.

Wrest control

This is the reason for Dutch Governor, Ryckloff Van Goens, to report, in 1663, as Kandyan kings held sway over the east, “The country between Waluwe and Trinquenemale (Trincomalee), mostly stretches East and South East, as far as Jale (Yala in the south east). I have not been able to visit this District as it is entirely inhabited by the King’s people.”

Ambassador explained that it took over a century for the Dutch, to the time of Governor Flack in 1766, to wrest control of the coastal areas in the east from the Kandyan King. Governor Flack coerced King Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe of Kandy, to cede a small strip of land four miles wide, along the eastern seaboard of the island.

If, as the Eelamists claim, the east was under the King of Jaffna, Ambassador Goonetilleke asked, why did Governor Flack sign a treaty with the Kandyan King, and why did Governor Goens report that the Kandyan King’s subjects live along the eastern sea coast? Then again, why did Tamil scholars such as Mudliyar C. Rasanayagam and Prof. Karthigesu Indrapala claim that Jaffnapattnam, was first inhabited by the Sinhalese and subsequently, by the Tamils, toward the “latter part of the 13th century”? It is against this factual backdrop that Ambassador Goonetilleke asks, “When the Eelam lobby speaks of the north and the east being ‘a traditional homeland of the Tamils,’ when did this tradition begin exactly?” Yes, when exactly ? Was it since “time immemorial” as the TULF Election Manifesto of 1977 states ? Or was it since 1987, when the government of Sri Lanka was forced to accept such a concept with the signing of the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord ?

LTTE leader, Vellupillai Prabhakaran, in his Heroes’ Day speech in November 2007, unwittingly unmasks the reason for the deception about a traditional homeland.


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