The Tamil Struggle for Self-determination in Sri Lanka


Self determination has been accepted by the United Nations as a way of recognition of a people’s culture, financial and political status. Self determined people are given the ability to drive their way of life as they desire without external influences. Self determination has been an important aspect that assures people of independence and decolonisation. The right to self determination is therefore accorded to the people at all levels in the world. This principle was adopted by Woodrow Wilson in 1918 and has since then won accolade by most diplomats in the world. It was during the ratification of the UN in 1945 that the principle was introduced and internationally recognised as a right to all individuals in the UN international law and diplomacy framework.

Self determination has been used to people who are considered a minority within their territories. They seek self determination and are left alone from the rest of the country that initially controls them. When the ­UN­­adopted self determination as a right to every individual in 1945, over 750million people lived in areas that they were externally controlled or colonised. In Africa, for instance, most of the countries were controlled by the Europeans. Most of the countries lived under protectorates. Through self determination, countries gained their freedom and autonomy and of the high population that lived in colonised regions, only about 2 million live in such regions today. The UN Charter, in Articles 73 and 74 defines the principles that ought to guide decolonisation efforts and among the most featured in the right to self determination. The principle can also be practised by providing a country with a Trust Land provision which allows it to be considered as a self governing country. There are 16 Trust Lands today ad there have been over 80 countries that have gained independence since the introduction of the principle of self determination. Among the Trust Territories are Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Palau and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. All the four Trust lands started to fully govern themselves in 1990 with free association with the United States of America.

The UN Charter Article 74 binds the administering Powers to “recognize that the interests of the dependent Territories are paramount, to agree to promote social, economic, political and educational progress in the Territories, to assist in developing appropriate forms of self-government and to take into account the political aspirations and stages of development and advancement of each Territory. Administering Powers are also obliged under the Charter to convey to the UN comprehensive information on conditions in the Territories”

Despite the open right to self determination among all people in the world, as allowed by the international law through the United Nations, there still remain issues as to whether this is the best approach the governments and the international community should use to ensure decolonisation. Many countries have gone through the process of self determination while others still remain under the control of their mother countries. Countries such as Sri Lanka has been fighting for self determination for the last 27 years, where thousands of lives have been lot and hundreds of thousands displaced. This has left the minority group, the Tamils of Sri Lanka in the verge of socio economic and cultural struggle since the majority group, the Sinhalese has dominated power, resources and economic decisions in the country. The region occupied by the Tamils is at the shore and the rest of Sri Lanka would economically suffer if the Tamil region became self determined. The Sinhalese, therefore, have neglected the self determination principle to the Tamils and the Tails continue to reduce in numbers as a result of deaths and people running to exile. Tamil fighters have been killed while struggling to become self-determined and recognised as Tamil Eelam. The international community has sided with the Sinhalese dominated government and the Tamil fighters have been killed ruthlessly. In 2009, the government declared victory against the fighters and declared the start national cohesion and healing. However, the healing process has not been very friendly to the Tamil community and they still feel that it is not the end of their struggle for peace, and basic rights of education and access to resources within their country. It has therefore come to be a question whether the country is really ready to heal or whether Tamil Eelam should be self-determined or not. But the most important question is whether the struggle for self determination would be the best way to solve the problems that the Tamil ethnic community have been experiencing for all the years. The struggle for self determination has been on for almost three decades, but the results have been poor and the war is totally lost. If they can not win the war to become self determined, then, they may be need to find another way that their government can recognise them and share their resources as they deserve. They have to determine better ways to fight for their liberation. Other methods such as devolution or secession have been suggested but it has almost been sure that they would never achieve their goal of self determination as long as the Sinhalese community will retain their unopposed dominance in the government.


The Political and Social Background of the Civil War in Sri Lanka

Civil War in Sri Lanka dates back to as early as the first settlements were made there. The Tamils were the first settlers into Sri Lanka, and archaeologists date back their settlement to as early as 5000 years ago. Up to date, they occupy the Northern and Eastern regions of Sri Lanka. The Sinhalese came later at around 2500 years ago from India. They occupied the central and Southern part of Sri Lanka.  Since their coming, the two groups have had differences that were later escalated by the invasion of their colonisers, the Portuguese, British and the Dutch. Most of these Europeans, especially the Brits treated the Sinhalese as more racially superior and they even made them go to school while they barred the Tamils from schooling. This was because the Sinhalese were from the same decent with the Brits, though a minority group. Since then, the Tamils were treated as a minority and an unfit community and have been since been oppressed by the leaders. The mentality of the superiority of The Sinhalese grew to the present dates where they take the majority of the government, as they wish to expand their culture and religion to the whole country. The Sinhalese were mainly Buddhists while the Tamils were diverse, some being Muslims and others were Christians.  The Sinhalese received economic support from India, United States, United Kingdom and Israel.  In 1970, the then president Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike called for the building of a new Sri Lanka, and was backed by all the Sinhalese parties. However, her calls were rejected by over 86% of the Tamil occupied region. The Tamils wanted them to be declared their sovereignty and independence, based on the territorial, cultural; and ethnic backgrounds that they possessed. Their physical appearance was also distinct and there could be no mistake of the two communities. All this time, the superiority of the Sinhalese was evident and they started to invade the region occupied by the Tamils. This further prompted for the Tamils to be separated from the rest of the island. Tamil United Front (TUF) was formed in 1972 (it was later changed to Tamil United Liberation Front, TULF in 1976) as thirty militant groups came together to fight against the government and the Sinhalese. In 1975, more militant groups joined TUF to form Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). It was led by Chief Velupillai Prabhakaran who started to engage into clashes with the Sri Lankan military.

In 1976, some Tamil students in universities formed a movement that opposed the government’s decision to limit entry of students from the Tamil community into universities. They strongly opposed this decision and strengthened their movement and since then started fighting the government intellectually.

On July 1977, general elections were held and TULF won all the parliamentary seats within the Tamil region and other four from other regions. The parliament was therefore dominated by the Sinhalese and at some point; a minister stated that if the Tamils were not content with their discriminatory treatment in Sri Lanka, they were free to leave for their homeland. In 1978, the country was named Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and an executive presidency established. The first president was Jayewardene. However, the capitalism in the new state continued despite the change in name. In May 1981, Tamil based TULF held a rally that led to the invasion of the police and over 300 Tamils were killed. A lot of books and other historic material were burnt during the scuffle.

In 1983, LTTE, which was by now well organised, killed 15 state military soldiers in an ambush. This had followed a series of police invasion on Tamil homesteads searching for explosives. After the LTTE ambush, the Sinhalese attacked the Tamils and in July 1983, over 2500 Tamils were killed in a series of attacks. Over a hundred more were left homeless. After a long struggle, with invasion from the Sinhalese, they were able to develop a small government in the areas they controlled, with its police force and a judicial system. However, the rest of the country has not been amused by these acts and have continually opposed any developments that the Tamils have made in quest for secession and self-determination. However, their long cries have been met with brutal and lethal opposition fro the government and has resulted to the deaths of many LTTE leaders and other political leaders who support the ideologies of the group.

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)

It is a group of Tamil fighters that was established in May 1976. It has well developed and effective intelligence systems, as well as disciplined militia forces in the world. The group was formed by a group of university students who demanded that the government decision to reduce the slots for Tamil students into universities be reduced. They wanted the decision to be revoked as they faced harsh opposition. The group then went underground and later emerged as Tamil New Tigers, TNT and Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO) in 1972. This arose when the government published a new constitution that was seen by the Tamils as oppressive and anti-Tamil. The 1983 deployment of more national military in the Tamil dominated regions saw the escalation of war between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government. The leaders were atheists and the group was secular. The numbers were small but their training was of extremely high standards.

The main objectives of LTTE were to create a new state through self determination. The state was to be named Tamil Eelam and would constitute of the northern and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka where the Tamil community would live, eat and learn without external invasion or discrimination.

Recognition of the LTTE

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam is known as the largest, best organised and most lethal terrorist group that ever existed in the world. It fought for self-determination from Sri Lanka and is known to have assassinated world leaders. The two leaders were Ranasinghe Premadasa, the then Sri Lankan president in 1993 and former Indian prime minister, Rajiv Gadhi, in 1991. The group pioneered suicide bombing and swallowing of cyanide when capture was inevitable. Their suicide was through the use of explosive belts. Today, the group has been declared as a terror group by over 30 countries, but still receive support from the people from the Tamil community living in Diaspora, in the United States, Europe and some parts of India. The group also assassinates its fellow Tamils who are detected to oppose the group activities.


As earlier mentioned, self determination refers to the principle where nations are given the right to choose their sovereignty and political status independently and without compulsion or influence from external nations. The law, however, does not state what is meant by the principal with regard to independence, protection, federation, autonomy or full assimilation. Further, it does not give the criteria that should be followed to determine the groups that can be legitimately self determined. 

The United Nations recognize self determination as legal. The weight placed on the legality is emphasized by the fact that it is placed on the first article of the two major conventions regarding human rights. These conventions are the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) of 1966 and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) of 1996. Self determination was applied in the 1960 to countries that hitherto were ruled by colonialists such as most of the African States. The principle or right has been followed and many countries in the world have been self-determined.

Despite its recognition and approval by the international law, the principle has been firmly not been executed in Sri Lanka. Though it has been named a fundamental right by the international law, the Tamil people have been out rightly denied self-determination which has created an ethnic war between Tamils living in the north east region and the south based majority community, Sinhalese. The Tamils quest for self determination has been faced with brutality and hostility from many countries including China, United States and India. The announcement by the Sri Lankan president that the Tamil Tigers have been defeated in 2009 was the final blow to the Tamils quest for self determination. This is because there now remain little chances that they create another strong and well organized army to fight the Sinhalese as they have done for the last 27 years. The Sinhalese-dominated government does not seem to be very committed to the peace and healing process which leaves the Tamils at the verge of dissatisfaction again. They can therefore declare that their fight for self determination has been lost and seek other means of liberation from the oppressive Sinhalese government.

Other Methods that the Tamils Can Use To Seek Liberation


This refers to the complete withdrawal from an organization or union or a political entity. The secession theory was disregarded until the secession Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and Soviet Union in the 1990s. The theory states that the process of secession could be triggered by the differences in political philosophy which could range from the legitimacy and the morality of the state authority. The differences could be based on faith, culture or even the people’s consent. It is therefore a hard task to outline convincingly the need for states to have secession.  The theory was therefore disregarded by nations until in 1990s when it perfectly worked in the aforementioned Soviet Union. Buchanan (1998) noted that the rights of a country to secede from its mother nation are low especially when they are based on ethno-cultural factors. Oppression by a minor group of people does not warranty the process of secession.

Henrald (2000) also confirms the difficulties involved in the quest for secession since people must clearly show their ability to effectively run a nation if they were granted one through secession. Another secession theory states that a people should be granted secession out of any reason (Choice theory of secession), while Just Cause theory insists that secession should only be granted when there are far-reaching injustices to the people demanding for secession.

Many people support secession and different authors have justified the idea. Five justifications have been brought forward to justify why secession should be allowed and the process made easy. According to Buchanan (1991), the five main reasons are:

  • Anarcho-Capitalism
  • Democratic Secessionism
  • Communitarian Secessionism
  • Cultural Secessionism
  • The Secessionism of Threatened Cultures

The form that Tamil Eelam may fight for would be a minority versus the majority secession. This occurs when there are misunderstandings that develop between the minority and majority group. In this case, the minority group, which is the Tamil ethnic group, would seek secession and final separation from the Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka to form Tamil Eelam. This would sound a correct move, either following the Choice or Just cause theory of Secession. In this case, the latter would be preferred. This is due to the prolonged fight and struggle for their residence in Sri Lank. The process of secession is on the other hand is a very hard one. In the secession of Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and Soviet Union, a very bloody war was experienced since there is much opposition from the dissociation. This would therefore result to the formation of war parties and armies to oppose the majority group. This may not work with the Tamils. This is because secession is often implemented and approved through force and war. The Tamils have tried war for the last 27 years and they later conceded defeat in 2009. It is therefore unrealistic that they would win another secession war, keeping this option very unrealistic to conquer their Sinhalese compatriots.


It refers to the statutory grant of power or resources from a central government in a sovereign country to other governments at lower levels within their territory. Such smaller governments could be at sub-national, state, regional or local levels. It can vary from offering governance or resources to the smaller government in a particular sub national region within the country. In resource devolution, a sub-government would be offered a budget by the central government. Once the smaller government receives the funds, they develop a mechanism that allows them to allocate the funds as per their needs as a sun-nation. Power devolution is when the governance of the sun-nation rests entirely on the leaders within the sun nation.

Devolution can in the form of federalism where the power may be vested on the local leaders for only a short time, and the central government would later take up leadership again. In this case, the state keeps its position as de jure unitary. In some cases, the devolved government may create assemblies or parliaments within them. These assemblies can be amended by the central government as it finds appropriate. Federal systems, also known as federacies, are different from any other form of governance since they offer a constitution to the smaller sub-nation. Perfect examples of countries following a federal system of devolved governance are the United States of America, India, and Mexico.

Devolution has worked well in the above named countries. It is a seperationist method that in most cases does not spark violence. This leaves the Tamils no choice but to adopt federalism in their country in order to govern themselves. They could strive to have a different state that would be slightly influenced by the federal government. Though devolution was tried in the country unsuccessfully, it is the only remaining viable option for the people in the northern and Eastern regions of Sri Lanka that is occupied by the Tamils feel their presence and recognition in the country. Therefore, the fight should now shift from military and war confrontation and go to the use of diplomacy and legal issues to ensure that they get the recognition and partial autonomy that they have never experienced. The Tamils are more leaned that the Sinhalese and through a state legislation and diplomatic interactions, they may control the process of decision-making in their region.

Minority Rights

Minority rights refer to the recognition and democratic rights accorded to the minor groups in a nation. The minority criteria can be based on the usual individual rights such as religion, ethnic group, language, sexuality, race among others. It can as well embody the collective rights that are generally given to the minority groups in any state. Consociational states allow for a special representation of the minorities. Minority rights are used to enhance democracy in a country.

A good example of a country where minority rights have been exercised is Indonesia. Since its independence, the main goal of the various governments has been to ensure that there is oneness among the people and that there different minority racial and ethnic groups enjoy their rights individual rights in their country. Through transigrasi, many Indonesians have moved to Java and spread n many other parts of Indonesia. This spread has therefore resulted to the Madurese, Javanese and Sundanese become minorities in most arts o the country. In order to ensure that they all enjoy their citizenship in the country they need be provided with minority rights.

The Tamils of Indonesia are the minority group, with the Sinhalese being the majority group in population, language and power. The Sri Lankan Tamils can therefore ask for recognition and provision of their minority rights. This process may not be as bloody and marred with as much resistance as the earlier struggle for self determination. This however may not heal the enmity that has already developed between the two communities due to the history of death and war between them. At the same time, it would not feel just among the Tamils since power and governance would be controlled by their Sinhalese enemies. On its position; the government may not be committed to improving the relationship between the two regions and communities since there has been little activities to harbor peace since the declaration of victory over the Tamil fighters. Therefore, this method may not be the best to employ in Sri Lanka.

The Tamil community want Tamil Eelam to become their country because of several factors. First, this is the land where they settled on the first time they moved into the island. They have remained in the northern and eastern region of Sri Lanka for generations and they have always wanted to develop their land. Further, this area is found along the Coast of Sri Lanka where ports and other marine infrastructure are easy to develop. At the same time, the community has vast tea and other agricultural-rich soils that would render them the supremacy in agricultural export in the region and the world. The government had suggested that the country adopted a devolution form of governance where resources would be distributed on according to production but the Tamil society rejected the idea strongly. This was due to the methods that the government wanted to use in the devolution since the federal government would comprise of a Sinhalese majority. The same federal government would still have some influence on the local government.

A war of national liberation is created when a group having a claim to self-determination or secession carries out military actions against the occupying state, which can be a colonial or alien power or a racist regime. People claiming self-determination must show a history of independence or self-rule in an identifiable territory, a distinct culture, and a will and capability to regain self-governance.  In wars of national liberation in the exercise of the right to self-determination or against racist regimes, the international community is required to side with the people with the right to self-determination or fighting against racist regimes. This is because of the peremptory (jus cogens) nature of the principle of self-determination and the international prohibition against racism.In July 1977, the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), the representative party of the Tamils, declared in its election manifesto (which served as a form of referendum to the electorates in the Tamil areas),

‘’What is the alternative now left to the nation that has lost its rights to its language, rights to citizenship, rights to its religions and continues day by day to lose its traditional homeland; The Tamil Nation must take the decision to establish its sovereignty in its homeland on the basis of its right to self-determination … to establish the independence of Tamil Eelam … either by peaceful means or by direct action or struggle.’’

The Tamil claim to self-determination is one of the strongest in the contemporary international scene. The three main elements of a claim to self-determination

  • Historic self- governance in an identifiable territory,
  • A distinct culture and 
  • A national will and capacity to govern 

The Tamils community have shown their competence in all the above areas. They are more learned than the rest of the Sinhalese people since they believe that at least one of the children in a family has to attain the university level of education. They can therefore be termed as competent enough with that level of education. Further, they have already shown their capability in the past by organising the strongest and best organised terrorist group in history. They have further made a Tamil government with a well organised police and judicial system within the region they occupy.

The Tamil history dates back to several millennia ago. They have a distinct culture and physical appearance. Their culture dates back to some part of India and this is the region they were being compelled to leave for by the Sinhalese people. Their religion and language are known and distinct, thus qualifying them for self determination. Finally, they have always fought as a block. Though they at times split, their goal was similar and their splits were as a result of difference in other ideologies rather than the liberation of the Tamil people. This shows that they can be united as a nation thus qualifies for self determination.

Advantages of Tamil Eelam after They are Offered Self Determination

The Tamil population have the upper hand in fostering development in their country if they were offered self determination. First, there will be a decrease in polarisation, which is currently devastating the country. Ethnic diversity will prosper and the Tamils will be able to live their lives fearing no invasion from the Sinhalese. They will develop their economy through their fields that currently make Sri Lanka a leading exporter of tea. At the same time, their learning institutions that had earlier been closed by the government will be reopened leaving their territory at a better chance to develop and prosper. They will also have adequate employment opportunities that will allow them to grow both economically and socially.

Secondly, the Sri Lankan government fears the creation of Tamil Eelam because of the issue of power. First, Tamil based cities are collectively on the coast of the island, therefore if Tamil Eelam is created, the control of fisheries, ports, naval bases and control of the ocean will be withheld from the hands of the Sinhalese government. The Tamils would in the end control the whole island which gives them an advantage if they were offered self determination. This is among the reasons why the Sri Lankan government has fought for all these years to deny Tamil Eelam self determination.

Tamil provinces are also endowed with fertile lands and agriculture is at their advantage, the loss of tea exports and rubber will radically affect Sri Lanka’s economy as tea, rubber and fish are the main commodities of exports. The current economic status on Sri Lanka relies to a large extent on the resources based in the Tamil community land. If they were offered self determination, the resources would then be regarded as a being owned by the Tamil Eelam, which would negatively impact the Sri Lankan economy.

Finally, literacy among Tamilians is very high, every child in a family is expected to complete a degree at university level, and therefore the knowledge and literacy rate of Tamilians is much higher than that of the Sinhalese. At the moment Tamilians are given very limited chances at universities and many universities in Tamil provinces have been shut down. The fear of these universities being opened again and Tamilians receiving equal and more education in comparison to the Sinhalese society is also a huge barrier to why Tamil Eelam is opposed by the government. The Tamils would on the other hand enjoy learning and improve their literacy if they were offered self determination. This would in the long run create a very informed and potent society.


What Has Happened in Sri Lanka?

In May 2009 Sri Lanka government declared military victory in the nearly three decades-long wars with Tamil Tiger rebels who were fighting for a separate homeland. It was one of the world’s bloodiest and longest-running civil wars, in which more than 100,000 persons were killed and about half million persons were displaced. The strongest terrorist group was formed in Sri Lanka and methods such as suicide bombing discovered here. This has been the start of terrorism. Ambush on civilians by the government has been experienced and the government has always denied any entry of external investigation. Human rights organisations, humanitarian agencies and the media have alleged that during the last two years of the war serious violations of abuse of human rights and war crimes were committed by both the warring parties – Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE. The UN and several other international organisations have called for independent inquiry into these allegations. The UN Secretary General has appointed an independent commission of experts to look into these allegations of war crimes amid protest by the Sri Lankan government.

Post war Sri Lanka’s politics is marked by more pronounced ethnic polarisation and a lingering majoritarian triumphalism. Even after eighteen months since the end of the war, there is no indication that the government of Sri Lanka is committed to a political solution to the national question based on an unambiguous recognition of the collective identity and rights of the country’s Tamil speaking peoples. The government’s credibility to end the war was put in question when the Defence Secretary said that the government had nothing else to do to reconcile the Tamil after the death of the LTTE which was the main group fighting for the minority Tamil community, This speaks depths regarding the facts that the government not ready to look into the issues that started the war that lasted 27 years.

The International feedback regarding the ethnic war and struggle by the Tamil community has not been as critical as it should have been. The legitimacy and will for the liberation of the Tamils, based on their supporting facts should not be taken easily as they are taken by the international community. Some of them have declared the groups that led the liberation of the Tamils as ‘The strongest terrorist group that ever existed’. LTTE has been described as a terrorist group by over 30 countries in the world and this can be seen as an unfair decision, since they have been striving for self-determination. The Tamil people searched for peaceful self determination for 37 years after independence of Sri Lanka but they faced further and more profound oppression which included their deprived right to admission to universities and job opportunities. They later resolved to use any means that would offer them self determination. The international community that opposes the actions of LTTE should explain why they do not support a group fighting for a principle that has been accepted by two United Nations conventions. Self determination was strongly supported by the 1966 and the 1996 UN conventions and people who fight for it should be listened to and not fought against.

Despite their struggle for their self determination, The LTTE used unacceptable methods. One of the methods was the use of minors to create their army. After their massacre and continued attacks from the government military troops, their men were reduced in numbers, yet they had to continue with the fight. They therefore started to recruit children to enhance their strength. This way, they violated many children rights and have received criticisms for the same, leading to their condemnation as a terrorist group.

At the same time, LTTE started to recruit women in their troops. The women were to become the nurses, cooks and other jobs within the camps. However, they continued to train women to become servicemen, where they had to drop their sexual feelings and woman perceptions regarding war and killing. Killing ones gender feelings is considered among the worst violations of humanity rights.

Though the Tamil fighters violated the rights of innocent people, the government also did adversely violate the rights of its civilians. Over 80,000 people were killed during the war. One of the worst violations was the invasion of the government troops into a no-war zone where over 30,000 Tamils had sought refuge. The government troops opened fire in this area and this adds up to a cardinal violations of human rights.

Though the government has stated triumph over LTTE in Sri Lanka, there still remain high possibilities that there are other people who are working underground to ensure that the group rekindles. War in Sri Lanka has been experienced for over 27 years and the differences between the Tamil and Sinhalese people have been generational. It is therefore not easy for the war to end with the death of the group leaders. The children born at the time of war have always seen their compatriots die and have grown with the belief that one day they would become self determined. The continued closure of universities in the Tamil region after the war has been won is a symbol that the government is not ready to reconcile the two communities, or if it is, are not highly committed towards the same. This coupled with the Tamil love and commitment to education will only fuel more organisations to act against the government of Sri Lanka. We can therefore say that LTTE has only been suppressed but has not been fully silenced by the loss of war.


The Tamil community has conceded that their efforts to seek self determination have been hit hard by the killing of their population, and their war leaders. Their quest for liberation has been hit hard by the situations that are currently in the country. Other forms of separation are being considered and devolution is the best possibility. However, the Tamil population finds it less effective and have always been opposed to devolution. Though it has worked in other countries such as USA, Scotland, Canada, Catalonia and Ireland, it is not appealing to the Tamils as they seek dissociation from the native Sri Lanka. This is because Sri Lanka is marred with ethnicity between the Tamils and Sinhalese. The ethnicity dates back to as long as the history of the two communities existed. The difference in their culture and religion has become very pronounced and they may not be able to politically resolve and reunite the people. The wars that the Sinhalese community has started against the Tamils have been very pronounced that there is little chance that they can reconcile. A lot of property has been lost by the Tamils as well as hundreds of thousands of lives. Oppression from religious, political, territorial and cultural views have led to bitterness which devolution may not be able to mend up. The Tamils would only feel the freedom if they were able to completely dissociate from Sri Lanka.

Devolution was tried earlier in the 1980s but failed since the government does not show their commitment on issues affecting the Tamils. The Tamils never trust the government since in 1980s it named the country as a socialist state, yet the capitalist ways continued to reign over the years that followed. Those in power have traditionally showed their unwillingness to devolve power to lower levels. This has been the history of Sri Lanka. It is a well-synchronized game where the opposition (which comprises of the Tamils) will not accept devolution. The different governments in Sri Lanka over the years have never shown the inclination or the will to devolve power. The present government headed by President Mahinda Rajapakse is no different. Even if this government is inclined to tread the path of devolution to any meaningful distance, a Sinhala policy that has lived with the consequences of the separatist war and rejoiced at its brutal end, will not countenance it. For the Sinhalese, devolution is equivalent to separation which they would never accept.

Mediation to end war between the two communities in Sri Lanka could prove to be a very tricky affair. This is because the countries that would be strategically positioned to resolve the conflict such as India, Pakistan and China all assisted the Sri Lankan government in defeating the LTTE. The Tamils would never accept to involve these governments since they have already shown their inclination. The LTTE’s efforts to liberate themselves would therefore be suppressed and the status quo adopted once again.

Reforms in education and employment sector which means giving more seats to Tamil students at Universities and recruiting more Tamil employees in Colombo would be a start to an appeasement process between the Tamils and Sinhalese. This is however not a very probable course since the Sinhalese always want to be above the Tamils in terms of political and social power, despite the Tamils being more leaned and their land being more productive. They have won many battles over them, and they would like it if they remained on top to oppress the Tamils.

Today, self-determination of the Tamils would always be the dream where Tamil Ealam would be created. However, restoration and reformation of war affected zones in Tamil areas and rebuilding lifestyles would be first priority to allow for the shot term healing of the war stained country.


The Sri Lankan government has been accused of many deaths of innocent Tamils citizens. The Tamil fighters used the citizens as a shield whenever they were attacked, which led to the death of thousands of Tamil citizens, especially during the final days of war in 2009. This killing of innocent lives is a clear violation of basic human rights as stipulated by all available definitions of human rights. There will possibly be trials for those people who wee involved in killing of these people as well as the Tamil fighters who led ambush on the Sinhalese. The government troops are accused of opening fire in no-war zone where many civilians were killed and others injured.

Due to the long spell of war in Sri Lanka, the international community has called for appeasement and reconciliation between the Tamils and the Sinhalese communities. The first step to this would be the provision of the basic minority rights to the Tamils. This includes impartial allocation of schooling and job opportunities. The reconciliation process would also be improved if the people of Tamil were given special appointments in the major decision making positions in order to ensure that the decisions treat their needs with the necessary weight through the principle of minority right. However, there is the issue that the government is yet to address regarding the process. The peace process is however marred with difficulties as some of the senior leaders are opposed to the government addressing the issues that initially led the country into civil war. After their victory over the Tamil fighters, the president stated that he was ready to rebuild the sour relationship between the Tamils and the Sinhalese. Latter, the Secretary of Defence, who is a brother to the president, said that there was no need to reconcile the two since the death of LTTE was the end of a terrorist group. This means that some of the senior government leaders are not ready to rebuild or address the minority needs. It is therefore evident that the process of reconciliation might be hard or ultimately impossible.

The Thimphu 1985 contains four principles of Tamil aspirations. It is the basis of the Tamil fight and is still the principles the Tamils believe in. The government should create a commission that would look into the needs of the people as well as the validity of their concerns. Tamil representatives would be there to reason out the best way to address the issues so that a balance could be struck and peace realised in Sri Lanka. If the document is discarded, there will be continued revolutions and continued fights between the two countries for as long as their needs are not recognised and search for solutions devised.

There are current talks on the 13th amendment of the constitution in Sri Lanka which discusses devolution as a possibility. As it has been discussed earlier, the only way that the Tamils can get their autonomy without war or physical confrontations is thorough devolution. The devolution of power to the periphery and the anticipated development of this area will considerably increase the contribution of the periphery to the GNP. Many may argue that Sri Lanka is too small a country to be divided but an example is Switzerland which is smaller than Sri Lanka but divided into over 20 cantons which have a maximum devolution of power. This is one reason why there is peace in Switzerland and a high degree of prosperity. This system of devolution has peacefully worked in many countries and since the Tamil community has adequate elites they would be able to negotiate and gain from devolution ahead of the Sinhalese who only boast of numbers. In this case, the Tamils would not be separated from the rest of the country and this could be pleasant to the Sinhalese. The Tamil territory could even be separated into two states; the East and the North. The Sinhalese people could get several states to ensure that there is no feeling of minority among the citizens. Since self determination seems unachievable due to the death of its pioneers, the LTTE, it would be wise to come up with another way. Secession is likely to be as violent as self determination while minority rights may not adequately heal the differences between the two communities. Due to the increased corruption and greed for power among the current leaders, who see threat in a more enlightened Tamil community, self determination or any other way that would dissociate the two communities on permanent territorial basis would be highly opposed, though crude means if the situation gets to that level. A new sovereign state of Tamil Eelam that most Tamils wish to one day live in may not be achievable, but a new Tamil state that they would govern would be achievable through devolution.