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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2010

Vaddukoddai Resolution - 40 Years Ago - Never Received a Mandate for Eelam

By Daya Gamage - Asian Tribune Historical Analysis
Washington, D.C. 16 May (Asiantribune.com):

Saturday, 14 May was the fortieth anniversary of the adoption of the Vaddukoddai Resolution at the 1976- special session of the Tamil United Liberation Front declaring the combined North and East of Sri Lanka as the Tamil Eelam, a separate and independent Nation of the Tamil People.

The popular belief was - and counting the American foreign service officers who served in Colombo throughout the eighties and nineties with whom this writer very closely worked as the US diplomatic mission's political specialist - that the Tamil peoples' foremost political party Tamil United Liberation Front received a popular mandate in the predominantly Tamil Northern Province and the mixed-race Eastern Province to its 'secessionist resolution' at the July 1977 parliamentary election.

At the First National Convention of the TULF held at the City of Vaddukoddai in the District of Jaffna on 14 May 1976 chaired by its leader S.J.V.Chelvanayakam unanimously adopted a resolution to secede from the Sri Lanka state to declare an independent Tamil state called 'Eelam' consisting the two provinces of North and East.

The resolution read in part:

“The first National Convention of the Tamil United Liberation Front meeting at Pannakam (Vaddukoddai Constituency) on the 14th day of May, 1976, hereby declares that the Tamils of Ceylon by virtue of their great language, their religions, their separate culture and heritage, their history of independent existence as a separate state over a distinct territory for several centuries till they were conquered by the armed might of the European invaders and above all by their will to exist as a separate entity ruling themselves in their own territory, are a nation distinct and apart from Sinhalese and this Convention announces to the world that the Republican Constitution of 1972 has made the Tamils a slave nation ruled by the new colonial masters, the Sinhalese ,who are using the power they have wrongly usurped to deprive the Tamil Nation of its territory, language citizenship, economic life, opportunities of employment and education, thereby destroying all the attributes of nationhood of the Tamil people.

"This convention resolves that restoration and reconstitution of the Free, Sovereign, Secular, Socialist State of TAMIL EELAM, based on the right of self-determination inherent to every nation, has become inevitable in order to safeguard the very existence of the Tamil Nation in this Country.”

When the State Department Assistant Secretary for South Asia Richard Boucher during his official visit to Sri Lanka proclaimed in Colombo at a press briefing in 2006 that a solution to Sri Lanka’s issue should include a ‘Homeland’ for the Tamils, the LTTE lobby had, for decades, convinced the international community that the people of the east and the north endorsed the 1976 TULF Vaddukoddai Resolution at the July 1977 parliamentary election for a separate independent state of Tamil Homeland.

In fact, in 1979, the Assembly in the State of Massachusetts adopted the resolution, witnessed by the TULF leader M.Sivasithambaram from the Special Gallery, resulting widespread anti-American demonstrations in Colombo and the Sri Lankan media accusing the United States' hand to divide the nation.

My colleagues and I at the Public Affairs Office of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Colombo had to convince the media and political activists that Massachusetts was one of the fifty states in the U.S. and that each state is independently elected and independently governed with no interference from Washington and that neither the US Congress nor the White House had anything to do with the adoption of the resolution. Saner counsel prevailed to subsequently subside the 'outburst' in Sri Lanka.

The American foreign policy agenda for Sri Lanka was largely formulated based on the belief that a majority of Tamils in the north and east in fact gave their consent to a separate independent Tamil state, and that American perspective even now, since the defeat of the LTTE in May 2009, holds that view.

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.

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 the Batticaloa District with 71% but are in a minority in Trincomalee District with 34% and a still smaller minority in the Amparai District with only 20%.

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 2007 it decreased to a little above 50%. The decrease was not due to Sinhalese colonization but because of Tamil migration to southern districts.

There is a widespread misconception that a majority of ethnic Tamils in the Northern and Eastern Provinces endorsed the 1976 Vaddukoddai Resolution at the July 1977 parliamentary elections. The TULF had its party session in Vaddukoddai, adopted a resolution calling for an independent-separate state that constituted the two provinces. It claimed that the resolution received a mandate from a majority of the Tamils domiciled in those two provinces at the July parliamentary polls. It is true that a majority of parliamentary seats went to the TULF but in terms of popular vote, it was a different scenario.

The electoral statistics depict a totally different outcome. The percentages of TULF votes in the 7 districts in the two provinces were as follows:

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 percentage polled by TULF in the 7 districts was as follows:

Jaffna District 71.81%
Mannar District 51.44%
Vavuniya District 58.82%
Mullaitivu District 52.16
Northern Province Total 58.56%

Trinco District 27.18%
Batticaloa District 32.14%
Amparai District 20.25%
Eastern Province Total 26.52%

In the combined provinces the TULF got only 42.5% endorsement. The Northern Province gave the resolution below 60% endorsement for the Eelam concept while in the Eastern Province, despite the Tamils constituted 41% the separatist call received only 26%.

To help out Sri Lanka to find solutions to its ills, let me make things easier in presenting the percentages of Tamils domiciled outside the north-east region among the Sinhalese population in other districts at various times.

1971 29.2%
1981 32.8%
2014 54%

These figures do not include the Tamils of Indian Origin (Plantation Tamils) domiciled in several districts in the center of the country.

The American diplomats totally ignored these glaring facts to allow the state department assistant secretary for South Asia Richard Boucher to declare the following statement during his visit to Colombo at a press conference on 1 June 2006.

“I think we all understand that the Tamil community in Sri Lanka has certain rights and certain needs and certain grievances that need to be addressed. I met this morning with a number of representatives of the Tamil community and just talked to them about how things are here and what they felt and what they faced. Although we reject the methods that the Tamil Tigers have used, there are legitimate issues that are raised by the Tamil community and they have a very legitimate desire, as anybody would, to be able to control their own lives, to rule their own destinies and govern themselves in their homeland; in the areas they’ve traditionally inhabited so I don’t want to confuse the issue of talking to Tamils and understanding legitimate grievances and legitimate aspirations of the Tamil community with not talking to the LTTE. Whether to talk to the Tigers or not is based upon their behavior and if they continue terrorism we won’t. If they abandon terrorism and one’s able to say they are no longer a terrorist organization, then we would find opportunities to consider dealing with them.”

This misconception still goes unchallenged in Sri Lanka and Washington.

- Asian Tribune -

Tamil Leader S.J.V. Chelvanayakam addressing a meeting in the north of Sri Lanka
Tamil Leaders - S.J.V.Chelvanayakam & Appapillai Amirthalingham
diconary view
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