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February 15, 2001

Rt. Hon Jack Straw
Home Secretary,
Home Office

50, Queen Anne's Gate London,
SW1H 9AT

Don’t Compound Past Mistake

Dear Rt. Hon Jack Straw

On behalf of our  organisation, we write to express our deep concern about British government  move to proscribe the Liberation Tigers of Thamil Eelam (LTTE) under Terrorism Act of 2000.

Ever since Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) gained  independence from British rule,  the Thamil people have suffered  severe oppression under  successive  Sinhalese dominated governments without respite. A series of discriminatory legislative acts like the Citizenship Act  No. 18 of 1948, Sinhala Only Act of 1956, government sponsored  Sinhala colonization of traditional homeland  etc. have reduced the Thamil people’s parliamentary representation and their status to second class citizens.
 

In 1971 the then  “Socialist" government under Prime Minister Mrs. Bandaranayake  dealt a blow to the Thamil students’ access to higher education by introducing  standardization to admissions to Universities. Between 1971 and 1975 the Ministry of Education devised four different schemes of university admission which drastically increased the intake of Sinhalese students at the expenses of Thamils students. These manifestly discriminatory schemes in the field of higher education shut out a large number of young Thamils who otherwise qualified for university education. 

The  new republican constitution adopted in 1972 removed even the meagre safeguards [(Section 29 (2) (b) & (c)] contained in the Soulbury constitution and the preamble stated that the constitution shall be a "Unitary Constitution".  In retrospect Lord Soulbury  confessed to his bitter disappointment and misplaced  confidence on Sinhala politicians as follows:   

“Unhappily and for reasons indicated by Mr. Farmer, the death of Mr. D. S. Senanayake led to the eventual adoption of a different policy which he would never have countenanced. Needless to say the consequences have been bitter disappointment to myself and to my fellow Commissioners. While the Commission was in Ceylon, the speech of certain Sinhala politicians calling for the solidarity of the Sinhalese and threatening of the suppression of Thamils emphasised the need for constitutional safe guards on behalf of that and other minorities, despite the confidence felt by the Commission in Mr. D. S. Senanayake and any Government under his control.”  (Soulbury's Foreword, B. H. Farmer, Ceylon: A Divided Nation.) 

In the circumstances any move  by the British government to proscribe the LTTE  at this juncture will only result in compounding the mistake made in 1948. It will also jeopardise the efforts of the Norwegian government efforts to facilitate a negotiated political settlement to the ethnic conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE.  The  British government which has welcomed the efforts of the Norwegian peace initiative should avail of this opportunity to right the wrongs of the past and help the Thamil people to regain their lost rights. All what the Thamil people want is to live in freedom and dignity like the Timorese or even Kosovos.   

We prey saner counsel will prevail and Britain will safeguard its  unenviable reputation as the cradle of peoples’ democracy, tolerance and   justice.    

Yours truly 

 

Veluppillai Thangavelu
President

 (Text of the letter sent to the Minister of Home Affairs, U.K by the President,  World Thamil Creative Writers Association. We kindly ask our readers to write similar letters of protest to the Rt.Hon. Minister of Home Affairs- Fax: 020 7273 2684 Email: foi.ho@gtnet.gov.uk - Editor)