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Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
 
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INDICTMENT AGAINST SRI LANKA

PLANTATION TAMILS DEPRIVED OF VOTE
AND CITIZENSHIP - 1948/50


"Everyone has the right to a nationality. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality..."- Article 15, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

"...after listening to the entirety of the debate, one cannot help feeling that the main reason which has brought about ... this Bill ... is that the Government wants to exclude as much of the (plantation Tamil) population as is possible from becoming citizens of this country ...

...Just a word at this juncture, Mr. President, on the unqualified statement made that Ceylon has the right, as every other country, to determine the composition of its population. When Germany under Hitler, started to de-citizenise the Jews, every civilised country in the world condemned it. Hitler said that he has absolute power to determine the composition of the population of Germany; and he did determine that to his own satisfaction. The question that arises is whether, by deciding upon the composition of the population of this country, in the manner proposed in this Bill, are we doing the right thing, the fair thing, the honourable thing? That is the question that one has to pay due regard to...." (Speech made by Senator.S.Nadesan winding up the Debate on the Ceylon Citizenship Bill  on 15 September 1948 in the Ceylon  Senate - Session: 1948-49 - Senate Hansard Pages 1096-1127)


"In 1948, at independence, the Tamils had 33% of the voting power in the legislature. Upon the disenfranchisement of the estate Tamils (in 1950), however, this proportion dropped to 20%. The Sinhalese obtained more than a 2/3 majority in the Parliament, making it impossible for the Tamils to exercise an effective opposition to Sinhalese policies affecting them..." - Virginia Leary: Ethnic Conflict and Violence in Sri Lanka - Report of a Mission to Sri Lanka on behalf of the International Commission of Jurists, July/August 1981


"The real purpose of these Acts was to disenfranchise the plantation workers in the up country Kandyan areas where they might have been in danger of swamping the electorate... In revising the electoral registers for the central Sri Lanka districts for 1950, Tamil names were quite simply left out, leaving the onus on anyone who wanted his name reinstated to prove his citizenship under the new rules..." - Walter Schwarz: Tamils of Sri Lanka, Minority Rights Group Report 1983


"...the result today is a wholly arbitrary deprivation of the fundamental right to the citizenship of one's country for a group of people almost all of whom were born there, who have lived there all their lives, who have never been anywhere else and have no other allegiance, and who have made an immense contribution to that country's wealth while being themselves allotted only a derisory share of it..." - Paul Sieghart: Sri Lanka, A Mounting Tragedy of Errors, International Commission of Jurists Report 1984


"We do not accept... that there is any justification for denying civic and political rights to the million or so Tamils of Indian descent who work on the tea plantations." - Robert Kilroy-Silk, M.P. and Roger Sims, M.P United Kingdom Parliamentary Human Rights Group Report, February 1985


"The Committee notes with concern the uncertain situation of 85,000 Tamils of Indian origin living in Sri Lanka. They possess neither Indian citizenship nor Sri Lankan citizenship, have no access to basic services such as education, and do not enjoy their economic, social and cultural rights." - Concluding Observations of  the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on the Report submitted by Sri Lanka under Articles 16 and 17 of the Covenant - E/C.12/1/Add.24, 13 May 1998


"(At the first General Elections) under the Soulbury Constitution (in 1947),  the Ceylon Indian Congress (representing the Plantation Tamils) won seven seats....

From the point of view of the persons of Indian origin, the first Parliament under the Soulbury Constitution proved to be the grave-digger of their rights. This Parliament, in 1948 enacted the Ceylon Citizenship Act. Almost all Plantation Tamils were de-citizenised by a Provision that only people born in Ceylon, prior a particular date, November 1949, of a father born in Ceylon, could be recognised as a Citizen of Ceylon.

Then came the Indian and Pakistani (Residents) Citizenship Act, which  purported to grant Ceylon Citizenship to people who were able to satisfy certain qualifications, namely, residence in Ceylon for a period of 7 years from 1st January, 1939, in case of married people, and for a period of 10 years (from 1st January, 1936) for unmarried people. They were also expected to have adequate means of livelihood. Their families should have been, normally, resident in Ceylon and they should be capable of observing the laws of Ceylon.

This Act was claimed, by the (Sinhala) Government, as one which would permit people of Indian origin to become Citizens of Ceylon. In point of fact, because of various procedural questions and administrative discrimination, the Act did not provide the necessary relief to persons of Indian Origin to acquire citizenship of Ceylon. As it turned out, of 850,000 persons, in respect of whom citizenship applications were made, only about 145,000 persons were able to acquire Ceylon citizenship. Applications of 700,000 persons were rejected...

While a battle was on in the Parliament, over the Citizenship Act, certain interesting developments, in respect of certain Tamil members of the then Parliament, took place. When the Ceylon Citizenship Act was passed in 1948, C. Suntharalingam, who was a Minister in the (UNP) Government of  D.S. Senanayake, voted for the Citizenship Act, while G.G.Ponnambalam (Sr), who was then, the leader of the Tamil Congress, voted against the Act, and so did Ponnambalam's Tamil Congress Party. But, by the year 1949, G.G. Ponnambalam joined the Sinhala dominated Government of  D.S.Senanayake.

When the Indian and Pakistani (Residents) Citizenship Bill came before the Parliament there were two Tamil Ministers in Cabinet of D.S. Senanayake. On the issue of this Bill, namely the Indian and Pakistani (Residents) Citizenship Bill, there was a split between the Tamil Members of the then Parliament. G.G.Ponnambalam, despite the pledge he had signed with the party representing the Plantation Tamil interests (i.e. the Ceylon  Indian Congress as it was then known)  in respect of Citizenship for the persons of Indian origin, voted for the Bill, while C. Suntharalingam voted against the Bill, and resigned his portfolio. The Tamil Congress broke into two and Mr. S.J.V.Chelvanayagam, with his supporters formed the Federal Party....

During the first Ceylon Parliament various developments, concerning persons of Indian origin, took place. The Immigration and Emmigration Act which, for the first time, restricted the residence of persons of Indian origin in Ceylon was enacted. The Plantation Tamil population was wholly disfranchised, making it impossible for any of their representatives to return to Parliament through the ballot ..." ( from the Abdul Aziz Felicitation Volume, 1986, Navamaga Printers, Dehiwela, Sri Lanka)

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