TAMILS AND SINHALESE
The Tamils in Sri Lanka can be divided into two groups: the indigenous Sri Lankan ("Ceylon") Tamils and the "Indian" Tamils. The "Indian" Tamils are plantation workers descended from labourers indentured by the British colonial government during the 19th and 20th centuries. They are mainly Hindus but a minority is Christian. The Sinhalese are mainly Buddhists (92 per cent), the rest being Christians. Apart from Tamils and Sinhalese, there are small minorities of the Moors (both Ceylon and Indian) and Malays who are all Muslims. Then there are also Burghers and Eurasians who are Christians. [Source: South Asian Free Media Association ^^]
Predominately Buddhist Sinhalese make up about 75 percent of Sri Lanka’s population. Tamils have traditionally been Hindus. The largest minorities on the island are Sri Lankan Tamils (11.2 percent of the population), predominately Muslim Sri Lankan Moors (9.2 percent), Indian Tamils (4.2 percent) and other 0.5 percent. There are Christians among both groups Sinhalese and Tamils as well as mixed-blood Europeans, Malays and aboriginal Veddas. The Moors include Muslim descendants of Arab traders but mostly are descendants of Tamils and to a lesser extent Sinhalese. [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2012 estimate, Time Magazine]
Jon Lee Anderson wrote in The New Yorker: “The Sinhalese have traditionally lived in the south, with its lush land and ancient reservoir-fed rice paddies. The Tamils lived in the arid scrublands of the north, known as the Vanni, and the lowland jungles of the east, areas their ancestors had occupied two thousand years ago, during wars of conquest waged by Hindu kings from Tamil Nadu, the southernmost state of India. Sinhalese nationalists trace their lineage to Aryan tribes of northern India, despite the lack of evidence to support the idea. [Source: Jon Lee Anderson, The New Yorker, January 17, 2011]
Early History of the Tamils and Sinhalese
Sri Lanka’s history, and the complexity of its society, is at least partly rooted in the reality that Sinhalese and Tamil Sri Lankans were fated by history and geography to coexist in close proximity. This coexistence could be discordant or amicable, and examples of both could be drawn from Sri Lanka's history. This message, however, was lost when the ethnic communities were drawn increasingly into a vortex of rancor and violence beginning in earnest in the early 1980s that made the restoration of harmony a persistently elusive goal for the Sri Lankan government for decades.
It is a generally accepted fact that both the Sinhalese and Tamils migrated from India beginning in the 5th or 6th century B.C. The Sinhalese are traditionally believed to be the descendants of migratory Aryans from northern India. It is, however, controversial whether the founder of the Sinhala race came from Bengal or from Gujarat. Be that as it may, the Sinhalese traditionally trace their ethnic origin to Vijaya Singha who was an Indian by birth. The Sinhalese settled in the North-Central, North-Western, and Southern Provinces of Ceylon. [Source: South Asian Free Media Association ^^]
The Tamils also migrated from India to Ceylon. They belong to the Dravidian stock of India. They are divided into the two categories "Ceylon Tamils" (also called indigenous Tamils) and "Indian" Tamils. While the Ceylon Tamils arrived in Ceylon in the pre-Christian period, the Indian Tamils migrated into Ceylon in the 19th and early 20th centuries in the wake of the introduction of plantation economy into the island by the British Empire. The Ceylon Tamils settled in Jaffna, Mannar, Vavuniya, Batticaloa and Mullaitivu in the northern and eastern coast of the country. The Indian Tamils settled in the traditional tea garden areas of Colombo, Kalutara, Kandy, Matale, Nuwara Eliya, Badulla Ratnapura and Kegella. ^^
Also entering into the controversy of who came first in Sri Lanka, there are numerous accounts of wars between the Armies of Sinhalese and Tamils. The Chola rulers of south India, launched many invasions into the island. At one time the Chola invasions of Ceylon reached their peak as they conquered the whole or most of the island. Different Kingdoms were established in the country. When in 1505, Portuguese sailors landed on the coast of Sri Lanka, they found three Kingdoms in Sri Lanka — a Tamil one in Jaffna and two Sinhala, one in the Kotte (near present day Colombo) and the other in Senkadagalle (present day Kandy). The Tamilian and Sinhalese Kingdoms remained separated under both the Portuguese administration and that of the Dutch who succeeded them. It was only under British colonial rule that, after the administrative reforms of the 1930s, the island was brought under a single administrator. ^^
Tensions Between Tamils and Sinhalese
During the colonial period and the early years of Sri Lankan independence the Sinhalese and Tamils got along reasonably well or at least didn’t have any overt animosity towards one another. After independence in 1948, the Sinhalese felt that their greater numbers entitled them to more rights and powers. As time went on they began to resent the relatively egalitarian arrangement set up by the British. The relationship between the Sinhalese and Tamils began to disintegrate in 1956 when the Sinhalese used their numbers to elect Solomon W.R.D. Bandaranaike as prime minister. Bandaranaike was a populist who changed the careful balanced British policy to favor the Sinhalese.
Bandaranaike made Sinhala the official language of Sri Lanka and the language of the government and promised to give uneducated Sinhalese a more active role in the government. Tamils were required to learn Sinhalese and use it in schools rather than their own language. The British-educated Tamil government elite was thrown out in the cold. The "Sinhala only" policy placed Tamils in the position of quickly learning the Sinhalese or lose their the jobs. They resented this.
Some of the first actions taken by the new SLFP government in 1956 reflected a disturbing insensitivity to minority concerns. Shortly after its victory, the new government presented parliament with the Official Language Act, which declared Sinhala the one official language. The act was passed and immediately caused a reaction among Tamils, who perceived their language, culture, and economic position to be under attack. Before this English was the national language in part because it was not the native language of a particularly ethnic group. One Sri Lankan man told National Geographic, "When we rejected English as our national language, we went from the solution to the problem." [Source: Russell R. Ross and Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1988]
According to Time: “It is the friction between the Sinhalese and Tamils that has nearly destroyed the nation. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE, are fighting for a separate Tamil nation in Sri Lanka's north. Their leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, is clever and ruthless — victims of his suicide bomb squads include a Sri Lankan President, Ranasinghe Premadasa, and former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi — and his argument is stark: the Sinhalese can't live with the Tamils peacefully and therefore a separate state is needed. Thus put, it seems like a hopeless tale of two groups speaking different languages and praying to different gods who haven't gotten along from time immemorial.” [Source: Time, February 9, 1998]
In 1992 book on Sri Lanka, "Only Man Is Vile", William McGowan traces back the roots of the conflict to how in 1880 Theosophy's Henry Steel Olcott riled up the Sinhalese with talk about their Aryan superiority over the Tamils, an argument similar the one used by Hitler and his pursuit of racial purity.
Who Was the First in Sri Lanka: the Tamils or the Sinhalese
Sri Lanka claims the world's second oldest continuous written history - but history and religious mythology have played a key role in the development of communal animosity. In particular, there is controversy over whether Tamils or Sinhalese were first on the island. [Source: BBC, 16 May, 2000]
The first Sinhalese are said to be Aryans (Indo-Europeans) who arrived in Sri Lanka late in the 6th century B.C., probably from northern India. Buddhism was introduced circa 250 B.C., and the first kingdoms developed at the cities of Anuradhapura (from circa 200 B.C. to circa A.D. 1000) and Polonnaruwa (from about 1070 to 1200). In the 14th century, a south Indian dynasty established a Tamil kingdom in northern Sri Lanka. [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2020]
Much of what is known about ancient and medieval Sri Lanka — as well as a lot about ancient and medieval India — is based on the historical chronicles, the “Mahavamsa” (“Great Chronicles”), which describes the history of the Sinhalese beginning with the arrival of the first settlers from northern India in the 6th century B.C. The Sinhalese claim descent from the Aryan settlers from north India, who displaced the Veddas from their territory. Aryan tribes from northern are believed to have arrived in Sri Lanka from southern India around 500 B.C. Some believe that they came from an area currently part of West Bengal and Bangladesh. Prince Vijaya is said to have founded the first Sinhalese dynasty.
There are some people that say the first Tamils were brought to Sri Lanka by the British in the 19th century to pick to tea leaves. Although some arrived then under those circumstances, the true story of the Tamils is much longer and more complicated. The Tamils are a Dravidian people from southern India. It is not known when they first arrived in Sri Lanka. It seems plausible that Tamil fishermen and mariners arrived at a very early date because the southern Indian homeland of the Tamils is so close to northern Sri Lanka (only about 32 kilometers away).
Because the Mahavamsa is essentially a chronicle of the early Sinhalese-Buddhist royalty on the island, it does not provide information on the island's early ethnic distributions. There is, for instance, only scant evidence as to when the first Tamil settlements were established. Tamil literary sources, however, speak of active trading centers in southern India as early as the third century B.C. and it is probable that these centers had at least some contact with settlements in northern Sri Lanka. There is some debate among historians as to whether settlement by Indo-Aryan speakers preceded settlement by Dravidian-speaking Tamils, but there is no dispute over the fact that Sri Lanka, from its earliest recorded history, was a multiethnic society. Evidence suggests that during the early centuries of Sri Lankan history there was considerable harmony between the Sinhalese and Tamils. [Source: Russell R. Ross and Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1988 *]
Sinhalese Buddhist Nationalism
According to the Encyclopedia of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity, 2005] The misconception among Sinhalese that Sri Lanka was the last refuge of Buddhism was a further factor in the growth of ethnic hostility especially by Sinhala toward Tamils. British rule was regarded as instrumental in the reduction of the preeminence of the Buddhist religion. Sinhala nationalism from the late nineteenth century to the 2000s was largely motivated by a movement of Buddhist revitalization (linked to a reassertion of the value of Sinhala custom) against the effects of colonial domination. This was keenly supported by members of the urban merchant classes situated along the western and southern coasts. [Source: Encyclopedia of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity, 2005]
“The various caste-based communities that formed around members of these classes were and continue to be forceful in the pursuit of Sinhala interests defined in opposition to Tamils. The engagement of religion (specifically Buddhism) to nationalist ethnic allegiance is a key factor in generating the passions of the conflict. It politicized the Buddha clergy, making them central to ethnically defined communal political and economic interest (a legacy of the revitalization movement that paradoxically made a doctrinally other worldly religion acutely this worldly). The assassination in 1959 of Prime Minister Bandaranaike, the chief architect of Sinhala ethnic nationalism, by a member of the Buddha clergy, is significant in this regard. In 1972 Bandaranaike's widow, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the then-elected prime minister, declared Buddhism to be the national religion.
“The hostility of mainly ethnic Sinhala majority toward the Tamil ethnic minority has its roots in colonial and postcolonial history. The ethnic categories and their political significance arose during the course of Western imperial intrusions into the island, known as Ceylon from the colonial era and until 1972, and especially under the British who subdued the entire island with their conquest of Kandy in 1815. Ethnic identity became a marker of cultural and social distinction in a colonial political order whose rigidity that was not typical of Ceylon's past. As various scholars have stressed, terms like "Sinhala" and "Tamil" used in ancient precolonial sources often described ruling lineages and structures of political allegiance that were often very fluid. The kings who defended largely Sinhala-speaking populations during the Western invasions (Portuguese, Dutch, and finally the British) were of Tamil lineage from South India. With colonial rule, ethnic distinctions served bureaucratic and governing interests and the social boundaries described ethnically became far less porous and situationally relative than before. Such ethnic boundaries informed the formation of constituencies of political interest and nationalist resistance leading to Independence in 1947 and the burgeoning of postcolonial nationalism.
“Ethnically based political rhetoric of a powerfully nationalist kind further bolstered by appeals to common language and religious affiliation was integral in the formation of political communalism. Moreover, political parties in the postcolonial period expressed a variety of socioeconomic concerns and felt inequalities under cover of debates over ethnicity. The language issue was of supreme importance in the years following independence, when Sinhala (swabasha) became the main language of the state. The policy of Sinhala-only was promulgated by Prime Minister Solomon West Ridgeway Dias (SWRD) Bandaranaike in order to appeal to a largely Sinhalese-speaking peasantry and the lower middle class and working class in the central, western, and southern regions of the island. English, the language of colonialism, was generally seen as a means of exclusion, only available to educated elites and inhibiting the opportunities for employment and upward social mobility of hitherto depressed groups. Tamils were widely perceived as advantaged in the job market (especially in access to the professions and highly prized positions in government bureaucracies) because they were seen as better qualified in their English-speaking abilities (to some degree a legacy of missionary activity in the Tamil north). The postcolonial politics of language intensified ethnic division. Ethnically motivated restrictions on Tamil access to university places (especially in medicine) and to positions in the civil service were a major source of discontent among Tamils from the 1970s.
Rising Tensions Between Sinhalese and Tamils Under the British
The present ethnic crisis in Sri Lanka can be traced back to the policy of local administration adopted by the British Raj. The Christian missionaries mainly opened schools in the Tamil homeland and not in the Sinhalese dominated areas. Perhaps the British rulers found that the Tamils were more willing to learn English and join government jobs than the Sinhalese because the Ceylon Tamils were living in a dry zone which was not as fertile as the low country Sinhalese area which was a fertile wet zone. In other words, unemployed Tamils were in search of state employment unlike the Sinhalese who were engaged in trade and plantation. Subsequently, the Tamils gained entry into government jobs and also found opportunities to acquire higher education in the professional fields. Initially the Sinhalese were not attracted towards state employment but by the early 20th century, they also leaned towards state employment; thus, began the unhealthy competition between the two main ethnic groups in the country but it never converted into clashes between the two groups. [Source: South Asian Free Media Association]
Jon Lee Anderson wrote in The New Yorker: “Under the British, tensions festered between the Sinhalese, who make up seventy-five per cent of the population, and the Tamils, with seventeen per cent. (There was also friction with other ethnicities; in 1915, Sinhalese mobs attacked the island’s Muslim minority.) The Tamils were seen as having unfairly benefitted from colonial rule; they held a disproportionately high number of civil-service jobs and university enrollments, and more of them were fluent in English. After Ceylon gained its independence, in 1948, Sinhalese nationalists grew increasingly insistent that the Tamils were “invaders,” whose presence threatened the very existence of the Sinhalese culture. [Source: Jon Lee Anderson, The New Yorker, January 17, 2011]
“Although intermarriage across language barriers was fairly common, especially among the upper castes, Sinhalese politics by the early twentieth century had become infused with racialist theories on “Aryanism” then being promulgated in Europe. Anagarika Dharmapala, the leader of the Sinhalese Buddhist revival movement that began under British colonial rule, said, in a frequently quoted speech, “This bright, beautiful island was made into a Paradise by the Aryan Sinhalese before its destruction was brought about by the barbaric vandals. . . . This ancient, historic, refined people, under the diabolism of vicious paganism, introduced by the British administrators, are now declining and slowly dying away.” The “vandals” Dharmapala referred to were the Tamils, of course, and the “vicious paganism” their Hindu faith. By the time of independence, the seeds of sectarian hatred had taken root. “ [Source: Jon Lee Anderson, The New Yorker, January 17, 2011]
Impact of the British Period on Sinhalese and Tamil Relations
The first sign of discontent amongst the Sinhalese was noticed when the Sinhala Buddhists bourgeoisie challenged the Christian hegemony in the late 19th century. A strong Sinhala nationalism emerged against Westernism and Christians. This was the beginning of the chauvinistic tendency in the majority community. The first ethnic crisis erupted in 1915 when trading and merchant elements of the petty bourgeoisie resorted to violence against the Muslims. Later in the 1930s, the Sinhala working class demonstrated its hostility towards the Malayalis.2 Until the 1930s, the language issue had not become controversial in spite of the majority Sinhalese feeling discriminated against in their own country because of their lack of knowledge of English. In fact, under the British rule, English had not only been the official language or the language of administration but also the language of professions, commerce, higher education and politics. In fact, the English language was the language of Sinhalese elites and a large number of Tamils. [Source: South Asian Free Media Association]
In 1935, the Lanka Samasamaja Party was formed whose fundamental objective was to introduce use of Sinhalese and Tamil in the lower courts, police stations and government departments. Thus, began the movement for adopting of Swabhasa (or own language) prior to independence, leading to the decision that English would gradually be replaced as the official language by both Sinhala and Tamil. However, in 1944, J.R. Jayewardene proposed that Sinhala be made the official language in a reasonable time. But his proposal was amended and it was recommended that both Sinhala and Tamil be made the official languages for medium of instruction in schools, public service examinations and legislative proceedings. At the same time, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, who later introduced Sinhala as the only official language of Sri Lanka, reportedly remarked "I have no personal objection to both these languages, nor do I see any particular harm or danger or real difficulty from this."3
In the course of discussions for the independence of Ceylon the issue of various communities in the future set-up of the country was considered but in the interest of the political unity of the country it was avoided. It does not mean that the colonial government was not aware of the existence of a multi-ethnic society in the country and the danger of the emergence of an ethnic crisis in the future. As a matter of fact, as early as in 1931, when the Donoughmore Commission advised for suffrage in the country, it recognised the various communities in the country and guaranteed their interest in the legislative body. In 1944, the Soulbury Commission came to Ceylon to discuss its future political set-up. It was considered that in the democratic polity, it was unnecessary to recognise the interest of the various communities because the democratic system itself protects the interests of various ethnic groups. The Westminster model of the Parliamentary system was adopted for the country. Since the Tamils were concentrated in certain parts of the country, they could always vote a number of members into the Parliament. However, it was very soon realised that Tamil members of Parliament would constitute a minority in the Parliament and, therefore, their interests might be overlooked or sacrificed by the majority Sinhalese.
The British legacy also determined the establishment of a unitary system instead of a federal system. Perhaps it was considered that a small country of the size of Sri Lanka did not require a federal system like that of India. Great Britain also has a unitary form of government. Till then, the current Northern Ireland crisis had not erupted. However, since then not only has the violent Northern Ireland crisis been eluding a solution for about three decades but the demand for autonomy of Scotland and Wales also surfaced. Lack of understanding of the existing ethnic differences could be considered as the major reason for not recognising the independent identity of the minority Tamils in the overwhelming majority of Sinhalese. In fact, the leaders of newly independent countries generally do not want devolution of state power. The recognition of the identity of a minority is considered as a step toward weakening of state sovereignty and encouraging the tendency of secession amongst the ethnic minorities. Until then, by and large, the Tamils also did not feel that their interests would not be preserved in the Sinhala dominated democratic polity in the country. No doubt, the Sinhalese Kings and the Tamils of the Chola Kingdom fought each other in many wars but the people of both communities lived as peacefully possible. In fact, before independence in 1948, the Tamil minority had been reportedly assured by the Sinhala leadership that it would not be discriminated against with regard to representation and legislation.
After Sri Lanka Independence in 1948: “Indian Tamils” Not Citizens and Emerging Language Issue
For many decades Tamil workers who came from India to work the British plantations, and their descendants, were not even regarded as Sri Lankan citizens. In 1948, when Ceylon (Sri Lanka) became independent, Sinhalese nationalists introduced legislation to deny citizenship to hundreds of thousands of so-called “Indian Tamils.”
In 1964 and in 1986, Sri Lanka and India agreed to extend citizenship to some of the Tamils;sapproximately 469,000 obtained Sri Lankan citizenship at that time, while approximately 422,500 chose Indian citizenship. Of the latter, about 85,000 who accepted the Indian offer but still decided to stay in Sri Lanka became "stateless," without a passport or any official identification; these people were often subject to harassment by the security forces. They could not own land and had no right to vote.
Immediately after gaining independence, the Sinhalese nationalism began to grow. The first victims of that development were the Indian Tamils who were disenfranchised under the Ceylon Citizenship Act No 18 of November 15, 1948. The Indian Tamils were virtually declared stateless because they were required to establish citizenship of the country by proving that they were citizens of Ceylon either by descent or by registration. They could claim citizenship of the country by proving that they had family connections with the country for at least two generations. Since in those days there was hardly any practice of registering births, the Indian Tamils failed to produce the birth certificates of their fathers stating that their place of birth was in Ceylon. Consequently, a majority of Indian Tamils became stateless in a country where they had been living for generations. Incidentally, the majority of Ceylon Tamil politicians reportedly did not oppose the Act, thus, declaring people of their own ethnic groups as stateless. [Source: South Asian Free Media Association]
In many constituencies "Indian" Tamils formed the majority and elected members of the leftist Trostskyist Lanka Sama Samaya Party to the Parliament. Their sympathy for the leftist party was not favourably viewed by the Sinhalese as well as the Ceylon Tamils and, therefore, they lost their right to vote. In other words, the "Indian" Tamils became stateless in a country where till then they enjoyed the status of citizenship and the right to vote at the time of elections. It was a clear case of discrimination against a minority ethnic group in a multi-ethnic country. No doubt the "Indian" Tamils became the first victims of independent Sri Lanka and they were also persecuted at times but there was no ethnic "cleansing" like in the erstwhile Yugoslavia where Muslims suffered the maximum in the course of carrying out of ethnic "cleansing" in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
As noted, the official national language issue was the major bone of contention between the Sinhalese and the Tamils. At the time of independence of the country in 1948, the "Ceylon" Tamils who constituted 10 per cent of the population but held 31 per cent of the posts in universities and acquired a higher percentage in professional fields like medical and engineering. Therefore, many Sinhalese resented the fact that the Tamils enjoyed disproportionate educational and employment advantages because of their proficiency in the English language in the majority Sinhala country. After independence, the Ceylon government adopted a policy of denying Tamils admission into higher and professional education. Their percentage in the government services also began to decline. In the meantime, an official language commission was appointed to decide on procedures for making both Sinhala and Tamil the official languages. Reading the mind of the majority Sinhala community on the issue of language, in 1951, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike parted company with the United National Party (UNP) and formed a new political party called the Sri Lanka Federal Party (SLFP). He alleged that the UNP had failed to take action on the language question. His party's first manifesto called for immediate adoption of Sinhala and Tamil as official languages of the country so that people would cease to feel alien in their own land.
Discrimination Against Tamils
Jon Lee Anderson wrote in The New Yorker: “a new law made Sinhala the country’s official language, replacing English, and many Tamils working for the government lost their positions for being unable to speak the language. In the seventies, legislation was enacted to favor Sinhalese students in university admissions, and soon after, a new constitution made Buddhism the state religion. Tamil politicians called for Gandhi-style campaigns of civil disobedience, but young radicals advocated an armed struggle for “national liberation.” Militant groups formed and began squabbling over the way to bring about a separate, secular, socialist Tamil state. Some travelled to Lebanon and received military training from Palestinian guerrillas. [Source: Jon Lee Anderson, The New Yorker, January 17, 2011]
After the Bandaranaikes came to power the Sinhalese-dominated government denied Tamils jobs, services and access to education. A quota system was established in 1970 that guaranteed Sinhalese more university slots and jobs. In some cases, Tamils had their land seized by Sinhalese landlords. As Hindus the Tamils also resented a declaration in the 1972 constitution that said it was the duty of Sri Lankans to “protect and foster” Buddhism. Quotas reduced Tamil access to higher education. Their numbers in the civil service were halved between 1970 and 1980 as Sinhala replaced English as the national language. These moves and high rate of unemployment radicalized Tamil youths.
According to the BBC: “The British colonial policy of divide and rule sowed the seeds of renewed tensions between the Sinhalese and Tamil communities after independence. Tamils, although well-educated, were given a disproportionate number of top jobs in the civil service by the British. Once the Sinhalese majority held sway, its politicians sought to redress the balance with populist but discriminatory policies against Tamils. [Source: BBC, 16 May, 2000]
“In 1956, the victory of SWRD Bandaranaike on a platform of Sinhalese nationalism led to him declaring Sinhala to be the country's official language among other anti-Tamil measures. Communal tension and violence increased from 1956 onwards as Tamils became increasingly frustrated. By the mid-70s, Tamils were calling for a separate state in the north and east of the country. In the 1977 elections, the separatist Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) won all the seats in Tamil areas, while groups such as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) began to use violence for the same ends.
Some political commentators hold that it was in the wake of the 1956 elections that two completely separate and basically hostile political systems emerged in Sri Lanka: one for the Sinhalese and another for the Tamils. The trend toward Tamil exclusivity, however, despite periods of accommodation with Sinhalese political parties, had begun developing before independence. The first political organization to be formed specifically to protect the welfare of an ethnic minority was the All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC), which G.G. Ponnambalam founded in 1944. The Tamil Congress attempted to secure adequate constitutional safeguards before the country attained its independence. These attempts reflected Tamil anxieties that British domination would simply give way to domination by the Sinhalese majority. [Source: Russell R. Ross and Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1988 *]
After independence, a dissident Tamil group in the ACTC emerged under the leadership of S.J.V. Chelvanayakam. The new group disagreed with Ponnambalam's policy of collaboration with the intercommunal, but Sinhalese-dominated, UNP. In 1949 the dissidents broke away from the ACTC and formed the rival Federal Party, which proposed establishing an autonomous Tamil linguistic state within a federal union of Sri Lanka. The Federal Party regarded this alternative as the only practical way to preserve Tamil identity.*
In 1956 the Federal Party emerged as the dominant Tamil political group as a result of its convincing victory over the conservative Tamil Congress. The Federal Party had a distinct advantage because the Tamil Congress had suffered considerably from the stigma of its association with the UNP (which had abandoned its policy of making both Sinhala and Tamil national languages in an attempt to obtain the support of the numerically greater Sinhalese vote).*
The Federal Party continued to consolidate its strength and became an important player in national politics. In 1965 the party became a component of the UNP-led coalition government by committing its bloc of parliamentary seats to the UNP, which at that time needed the Federal Party's support to form a stable parliamentary majority. In 1968 however, the Federal Party withdrew from the UNP government because its leaders were convinced that the party could no longer derive any tangible benefits from further association with the UNP. In 1970 the Federal Party campaigned independently, unlike the Tamil Congress, whose leaders called on the Tamils to join a united front with the Sinhalese.*
Pro-Sinhalese Pressures in the 1950s
According to the “Encyclopedia of Sexuality”: “ The period of the 1950s to the 1980s was marked by a feeling of increasing disenfranchisement by the large Tamil minority and increasing acrimony between the two groups. In the 1970s, Tamils began to form into political factions that called for an independent Tamil state (called Eelam) in the north and east of the island. Initially, there were numerous subgroups, but by the early 1990s, only one viable group was left, the LTTE (the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam), referred to in the media as the “Tigers.” The LTTE was founded in 1972 by its current leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran. [Source: Robert T. Francoeur, Victor C. de Munck, Ph.D., Patricia Weerakoon, Ph.D., “Encyclopedia of Sexuality”, 2002]
The trends of Buddhist resurgence began in the early 1950s. They were articulated in a provocative book entitled The Revolt of the Temple written by D.C. Vijayvardhane in 1953.5 He highlighted legend and superstition as historical facts as well as romanticised the unhistorical view of the past based on mythology, fantasy and social destiny. Surprisingly, the Sinhala intelligentsia did not question the authenticity of Vijayvarardhane's version of the Sinhala history and destiny.6 However, such passiveness of the intellectuals in the face of strong chauvinistic ethno-religio-nationalism is not surprising. In fact, at times they have also been influenced by such emotionalism and articulate their own views, thus, legitimising jingoism and feel secure in avoiding the wrath of the fanatics. Such anomaly in the behaviour of the intellectuals was recently noticed in the Balkans where ethno-religious-nationalism has violently emerged.
In the 1950s, the social and political atmosphere was surcharged with the emotional issues of language, religion and Sinhala nationalism in Sri Lanka. The Buddhist religious upsurge gained momentum because of the preparations for the celebration of the 2,500th death anniversary of Buddha in 1956. The Buddhist monks, who are supposed to renounce all worldly affairs and devote themselves to spiritualism, became the most articulate spokesmen for the adoption of "Sinhala only" as the official language.
Interestingly, Buddhism advocates non-violent means to achieve objectives in all walks of life and a middle path of moderation in the society. The Buddhist monks not only relinquished the middle path of moderation but also did not hesitate in resorting to violent means for achieving worldly objectives. They were in the forefront in advocating Sinhala nationalism in a multi-ethnic state. In fact, following the middle path of moderation, in a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural state like Sri Lanka, they should have worked for state or territorial nationalism and not Sinhala ethno-nationalism alone.7
The Buddhist monks' agitation for the acceptance of "Sinhala only" as the official language of the country received support from teachers, students, youth and Ayurvedic physicians of the Sinhala community because they felt that they were being denied their due in the country on account of lack of their knowledge of English and the Western medical system. The Swabhashi (own language) movement in the 1940s, resulted in an increasing number of schools imparting education through the medium of instruction of Sinhala and Tamil. With the expansion of education, the demand for employment in state administration and other services increased but employment opportunities did not step up proportionately. In the 1950s, the problem of unemployment of the youth became a political issue which was suitably exploited by Sinhala parochialism though the Tamil youths also faced the unemployment problem. It was felt that English educated students were in a better position to gain employment than Sinhala educated students.
As the language movement intensified in the country, the political parties caved in and gave up their earlier stand of two official languages and adopted the policy of "Sinhala only." Bandaranaike, who earlier left the ruling political party — the UNP — on its failure to take action on the language question and formed a new political party — the SLFP — persuaded his party to change its two-language policy to the "Sinhala only" line in 1955. The ruling UNP also adopted the resolution on "Sinhala only" in January 1956, a few months before the elections. The Sinhala chauvinism determined the language policy of the major political parties, except the leftist and Tamil parties. However, the leftist party of Philip Gunewardem, the Viplavakari Samasamaja Party (VLSSP) abandoned its policy of parity of both the major languages in the country and opted for the "Sinhala only" line. Thus, the divide between two ethnic groups — the Sinhala and the Tamil — began to widen.
Official Language Act
The passage of the Official Language Act precipitated a current of antagonism between the Tamils and the Sinhalese. The Sri Lankan Tamils, represented by the Federal Party, launched a satyagraha (nonviolent protest) that resulted in a pact between S.V.R.D. Bandaranaike and S.J.V. Chelvanayakam. The agreement provided a wide measure of Tamil autonomy in Northern and Eastern provinces. It also provided for the use of the Tamil language in administrative matters. The BandaranaikeChelvanayakam Pact also promised that "early consideration" would be extended to Indian "plantation" Tamils on the question of Sri Lankan citizenship. But the pact was not carried out because of a peaceful protest by Buddhist clergy, who, with support from the UNP, denounced the pact as a "betrayal of Sinhalese-Buddhist people." [Source: Russell R. Ross and Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1988]
Rajasingham wrote: “Bandaranaike earlier had a meeting with the Attorney-General and the Legal Draftsman to discuss matters connected with the Official Language Bill. He told them that according the mandate he received, Sinhala language should be the only official language and provision should be made for the reasonable use of Tamil and also discussed other provisions connected with bill. [Source: K T Rajasingham, Asia Times ]
“Accordingly, the draft was prepared and on May 3, 1956, and when the Government Parliamentary Group met Bandaranaike, it was ready for distribution to members of the group. However, the Prime Minister withheld the draft bill, instead appointing a sub-committee of the Government Parliamentary Group to draft a fresh bill. The members were: The Premier as Chairman, M W H De Silva - Minister of Justice, Philip Gunawardene - Minister of Agriculture and Foods, W Dahanayake - Minister of Education, I M R A Iriyagolle - Parliamentary Secretary, K M P Rajaratne - Parliamentary Secretary, Sagara Palansooriya - MP, M B W Mediwake - MP, Nimal Karunatilleke - MP, and R S V Poulier - appointed MP. The sub-committee was empowered to co-opt others, if necessary.
“It was called the "Sinhala Only Committee" and it had one representative of the minorities - R S V Poulier, a Burgher, and according to Bandaranaike, the Tamils were precluded from being on the Committee as they were against the Sinhala Only policy of the Government. The Committee submitted its draft to the government parliamentary group on May 23. It contained six articles. The first one set out that Sinhala would be the sole official language. There were a few articles that dealt with the use of Tamil and English. K M P Rajaratne, the Parliamentary Secretary opposed the draft. Then on May 24, Professor F R Jayasuriya, a lecturer in economics at the University of Ceylon, commenced a fast-to-death in the Parliament premises, demanding that Sinhala should be the only official language and no concession should be given to any other languages. This attracted many communal-minded Sinhalese, such as L H Methanananda, K M P Rajaratne, the MP for Welimada and others with similar yearnings.
“Much pressure was brought to bear on Bandaranaike, and finally he fell in line with the "Sinhala Only" camp. He introduced the bill in the House of Representatives on June 4 and debate went on until June 15, 1956. During voting, the UNP voted with the Government and the voting was 66-29. "The decision to make Sinhalese as the sole official language of the Government was not practical. It could not be the sole language of government, in any case, in the Northern and Eastern provinces or any other area where it was not understood," categorically described G C Mendis, during his presidential address of the Ceylon branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 10 years after the adoption, on December 10, 1966.
In his address, he said: "The decision was also unwise. If the decision of 1944 had been allowed to continue most of the 69 percent Sinhalese would not have considered it necessary to learn Tamil as they had few opportunities for employment in the Northern and Eastern provinces. On the other hand, many Tamils living in the Dry Zone in order to find employment in the Sinhalese Wet Zone would have considered necessary also to learn Sinhalese. The Indian Tamils living in the Central parts would have found it necessary even more. And gradually Sinhalese automatically would have become the main language of the country and of the government whatever was the situation culturally. Thus the language problem in Ceylon would have been automatically solved though gradually." [Source: Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, new series Volume XI - pages 20-21]
Tamil Reaction to the Language Bill
Rajasingham wrote: “The passage of the Sinhala only law was a great blow to the Tamils. The Tamil leaders feared that the law might pose a threat of Tamils being assimilated into the Sinhalese mainstream. The threat was considered a serious issue as the cabinet had people like C P De Silva, a great believer in racial assimilation. According to V Navaratnam, "He - C P De Silva - once told some of us - the Tamil MPs, 'Look at me. Four-hundred years ago my forefathers were Tamils who came from India. I am now Singhalese. What is wrong with me?'" The Fall and Rise of Tamil Nation page 130. [Source: K T Rajasingham, Asia Times ]
“Furthermore, this fear was already confirmed by G C Mendis, a respected historian, who wrote in his, The Early History of Ceylon, "There is sufficient evidence to prove in the early centuries of the Christian era, the Dravidians helped to form the Sinhalese race ... It is difficult to gauge the extent of Tamil blood among the Sinhalese, but there is no doubt, it is considerable." - page 9.
“It was feared that the Sinhalese leaders as well as the Buddhist clergies were working on a grand design to subdue the Tamils' identity and gradually assimilate them into the Sinhalese ethnicity. This fear made the Tamil leaders oppose the imposition of the Sinhala only official language law which aimed to thrust the language into the throats of the Tamils.
“The thinking of the leaders of the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi was clearly described by A Jeyaratnam Wilson, "FP leaders dwelt constantly on the theme that the Tamils constituted a nation and wished to remain one. They should protect their identity and not allow them to be assimilated, which they alleged was the sinister design of Sinhala political leaders. Assimilation would, in any case, place the Tamils at the bottom of the Sinhalese caste ladder, so there was no reason to become part of it." [Source: S J V Chelvanayakam and the Crisis of Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism, 1947-1977, page 68]
Tamils Speak Out Against Sinhalese Dominance
Rajasingham wrote: “Once the Sinhala Only language Bill was passed, Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi began to adopt a policy of "not to endure but to prevail". The party, which had already rejected the national flag on the grounds that it gave undue prominence to the Sinhala lion, which "correctly symbolizes the present humiliating status of the Tamil-speaking people in Ceylon". The party earlier declared that the flag should "be framed on non-communal principles and designed on the highest ideals of the present age". [Source: K T Rajasingham, Asia Times ]
“According to its declared policy, the ITAK announced that February 4, 1957, Independence Day, should be observed as a day of mourning. On this day all the towns and villages in the North and Eastern provinces, shops and offices were closed and black flags fluttered on private buildings. The hartal demonstrated the depth of hatred the Tamils had against the government's imposition of the Sinhala only law. The Language Act provided an opportunity for Tamils to permanently reject the national flag and also bring about the permanent cleavage in the ethnic relationships. In the meantime, the Government Ministers who visited Tamil areas in the East, such as Dahanayake, Marikar and Stanley Zoysa and M P De Zoysa, the Parliamentary Secretary, who visited Jaffna, faced angry receptions and were greeted by a group black flag-waving hostile ITAK volunteers.
“Meanwhile, C Suntheralingham brought up the matter of Sinhala people being colonized in the Padavilkulam, a hereditary Tamil region, by the Government. He wrote to C P De Silva, the minister in charge of the subject, on June 22, 1957, as follows, "I have to mention that the above 1,134 colonists and their families are Sinhalese and members of the Volunteer Force working under Mr S D Bandaranayaka and Philip [Gunawardene]. Not a single Tamil is among those who are selected as were sent to only schemes where Sinhalese are in plenty. Many schemes where Tamils are in plenty are not sent forms, thereby Tamil laborers could not apply, eg, The Kilinochchi Scheme was not sent any forms but they say forms have been sent. IE [Irrigation Engineer] Kilinochchi has wired for forms.
“"I have already, in the course of my interview with you at the Ministry, in the presence of your Permanent Secretary, brought to your notice that, in my humble view, your ministry is guilty of flagrant violation of the laws of the land, as they stand in the statue book, and that, by administrative action you are seeking to squeeze out the Tamils. "To my mind, the land question in relation to colonization schemes, being one of the four fundamental demands of the Federal Party [ITAK)]is of greater import to the Tamils, than even the Language Question. I charge you - you deliberately and maliciously violated the express provision of the law. By defying the procedure set out by the Land Development Ordinance, you have prevented the government agent, Trincomalee, from proceeding under the law. You have made a valuable part of the Trincomalee district a part of the NCP [North Central Province]. You have asked the permanent secretary, your director of irrigation, heads of your lands and land development departments and government agents, other than the government agent concerned who is vested with the necessary power under law, to dispose of the land in a sly, sneaky and slimy manner. Make no mistake, the land question is more diabolic than the language question, and unless you quieten the devil whom you are raising, against the express law of the land, in Pathaviya, you will be compelling us to deal with the devil ourselves."
Bandaranaike announced on October 15, 1957, that the major naval and air force base in Trincomalee, which had been under British control for the past 150 years, had now passed back completely into Ceylon's possession. Also, on November 1, 1957, the big air force base in Katunayake also passed into Ceylonese hands. Several thousands of Tamil people who worked in the British naval base at Trincomalee lost their employment. Bandaranaike failed to provide either alternative employment or compensation for the thousands of Tamils who lost their jobs.”
Anti-Tamil Riots in 1958-59
In May 1958, a rumor that a Tamil had killed a Sinhalese sparked off nationwide communal riots. Hundreds of people, mostly Tamils, were killed during bloody riots when Sinhalese mobs attacks Tamils living in Sinhalese areas. This disturbance was the first major episode of communal violence on the island since independence. The riots left a deep psychological scar between the two major ethnic groups. The government declared a state of emergency and forcibly relocated more than 25,000 Tamil refugees from Sinhalese areas to Tamil areas in the north. The violence divided the Sinhalese and Tamils even further. The Tamils began calling for more autonomy and pushing for a federal arrangements that would give them more say in their own affairs. At the same time Sinhalese politicians began inflaming Sinhalese paranoia that their interests would be marginalized if the Tamils were given more power.
Rajasingham wrote: “As stated in the previous chapter, Bandaranaike reneged the Banda-Chelva Pact on April 9, 1958. On May 25, 1958 when the Batticaloa train was derailed at Polonnaruwa and Tamil passengers were attacked, it was a clear signal for the start of the anti-Tamil program, which resulted in riots against Tamils. Anti-Tamil riots spread fast in the southern parts of the country and became uncontrollable. On May 27, a deputation led by R E Jayatilleke, a reputed Sinhalese personality, which included Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities, met Bandaranaike at his Rosemead Place residence and urged him to declare a state of emergency. The delegation gave an account of the riots and said that the country as a whole face a very severe crisis. Bandaranaike could not accept this and exploded, "you are exaggerating. The situation is not that bad." [Source: K T Rajasingham, Asia Times ]
The leaders of all three communities who met him found that Bandaranaike was not awake to the deteriorating situation in the country. Therefore, they began to contact Sir Oliver Goonetilake, the Governor-General. Bandaranaike continued to vacillate despite the fact that the situation was deteriorating. Some of the most ferocious and violent clashes occurred in Colombo and its suburbs, in the Eastern province in the south of the province, where there was a mixed population due to the colonization of the Sinhalese in the Amparai region and in the North Central province where the Sinhalese hoodlums chased nearly 5,000 Tamil farming families who had lived there for several generations.
“Finally, by the time the Government declared the state of emergency, more than 1,000 Tamils had been killed and several thousands displaced. The memories of the riots still haunt the country. This was a calculated attempt by the Government to subdue the Tamils. The most unfortunate thing was that the government never even considered to compensate the victims of the terror.
Growing Sinhalese-Tamil Tensions in the 1970s
The new United Front government headed by Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike, which came to power in 1970, wrote a new Constitution, enforcing the "Sinhala only" rule and made Buddhism the state religion. A new phase of communal antagonism began. The immediate Tamil reaction was to observe a day of mourning in protest against the new Constitution. The Federal Party, the Tamil Congress and three other parties jointly formed the Tamil United Front (TUF) which was renamed as the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) in 1976. [Source: South Asian Free Media Association]
The demand for self-rule in the Northern and Eastern Provinces gained momentum. The Tamil Tigers movement began around 1972 as an extremist wing of the TUF. They reportedly formed a strong and cohesive guerilla organisation. Vellupillai Prabhakaran emerged as an unchallenged charismatic leader of the Tamil National Tigers (TNT). He renamed it as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 1976. There were some other extremist organisations but they were eliminated by the LTTE. Gradually, the moderate Tamil political organisations lost their relevance in the unending bloody ethnic war. [Source: South Asian Free Media Association]
Political and economic conflict between the Sinhalese and Tamil communities was a problem of growing urgency in the years following independence. In the face of an expanding Sinhalese ethnic nationalism, Tamil groups initially expressed their grievances through legally constituted political channels, participating in parliamentary debate through the Tamil Congress and the Federal Party. In the early 1970s however, a number of events worked to create a new sense of alienation, especially among Tamil youths, and a new desire to seek redress through extralegal means. In 1970 the Ministry of Education introduced quotas for university admission that effectively reduced the number of places available for Tamil students. As a result, a contingent of young, educated Tamils was cut off from the traditional path to advancement and set loose on an economy illprepared to accommodate them. [Source: Russell R. Ross and Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1988 *]
Tamil interests received another blow in 1971 when the Constituent Assembly met to draft a new constitution. Federal Party delegates to the assembly proposed that the new republic be designed along federal lines to insure a large degree of autonomy for Tamil areas. In addition, the Tamils hoped to remove the special status that had been granted to the Sinhala language and Buddhism. The Constituent Assembly not only rejected both of these proposals, but even denied the minimal protection to minorities that had been guaranteed under the Soulbury Constitution of 1946. The Tamil delegates responded by walking out of the assembly.*
Education and Job Discrimination and the Tamils
Until 1970 university admissions were determined solely by academic qualifications. Because of the generally higher educational standards of Tamils, their percentage of university enrollments substantially exceeded their percentage of the general population. In 1969 for example, 50 percent of the students in the country's faculties of medicine and 48 percent of all engineering students were Tamil. During the 1970s, however, the government implemented a preferential admissions system known as the "policy of standardization." This was a geographically based criterion, but because the two ethnic communities tended to be regionally segregated, such a policy increased Sinhalese enrollments. The scheme established quotas for 70 percent of university places on the basis of revenue districts; this included a special allotment of 15 percent of all openings reserved for educationally underprivileged districts, which were predominantly Sinhalese. Only 30 percent of openings were allotted nationwide on merit considerations alone. By the early 1980s, the policy had proven a statistical success: in 1983 only 22 percent of medical students and 28 percent of engineering students were Tamils.*
The limiting of educational opportunities for Tamils was reflected in declining percentages of Tamils in the skilled and professional areas of government service. State-employed Tamil physicians declined from 35 percent in the 1966-70 period to 30 percent in 1978-79; engineers from a 38 percent average in the 1971-77 period to 25 percent in 1978-79; and clerical workers from an 11 percent average in 1970-77 to a little more than 5 percent in 1978-79. By 1980 the percentage of Tamil employees in the public sector, excluding public corporations, was roughly equivalent to their percentage of the population, or 12 percent.*
Political factors played a role in the decline in the number of Tamils in public service. Under the so-called chit system, which became pervasive when Sirimavo Bandaranaike was in power during the 1970s, the influence of a parliamentarian was needed to secure a government job (the chit being a memorandum written by the legislator to inform personnel authorities of the preferred candidate). The Jayewardene government made the machinery of patronage still more overt by giving each legislator "job banks" of lower level positions to be distributed to their followers. The expanding role of patronage on all levels of the civil service had two implications for Tamils: first, merit qualifications that would have benefited educated Tamils were sacrificed to patron-client politics; second, the patronage system provided Tamils with little or no access to public employment because their political representatives, especially after the 1977 general election, had very limited influence.*
Tamil Alienation Grows Into Militantism
Moderate as well as militant Sri Lankan Tamils have regarded the policies of successive Sinhalese governments in Colombo with suspicion and resentment since at least the mid-1950s, when the "Sinhala Only" language policy was adopted. Although limited compromises designed to appease Tamil sentiment were adopted, such as the 1959 Tamil Language Special Provision Act and the 1978 Constitution's granting of national language status to Tamil, the overall position of the minority community has deteriorated since Sri Lanka became an independent state. Pressured by militant elements within the Sinhalese community, the UNP and SLFP political leadership has repeatedly failed to take advantage of opportunities to achieve accords with the Tamils that could have laid the foundations for ethnic understanding and harmony. For example, in 1957 S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike reached an agreement with Tamil Federal Party leader Chelvanayakam that would have granted regional autonomy to Tamil-majority areas and recognized Tamil as a language of administration in those areas. The pact, however, was never honored by Bandaranaike or his widow. Tambiah called it "a great opportunity, fatefully missed, to settle the Tamil issue for all time." Three decades later, after thousands of people in both ethnic communities had met violent deaths, a similar accord was reached, but only with the intervention of India. [Source: Russell R. Ross and Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1988 *]
In 1974, Tamil political parties united and called for the establishment of a Tamil state in northen and eastern Sri Lanka through negotiations. The Sinhalese government made few concessions on the issue, hoping the Tamils would lose their will to keep pushing for change. But frustration among young Tamils only grew. They rejected compromising efforts by Tamil politicians and demanded more extreme measures be taken.
Several issues provided the focus for Sri Lankan Tamil alienation and widespread support, particularly within the younger generation, for extremist movements. Among the issues was the language problem, which was only partially resolved by the 1978 Constitution's conferral of national language status on Tamil. Sinhalese still remained the higher-status "official language," and inductees into the civil service were expected to acquire proficiency in it. Other areas of disagreement concerned preference given to Sinhalese applicants for university admissions and public employment, and allegations of government encouragement of Sinhalese settlement in Tamil-majority areas.*
Government-sponsored settlement of Sinhalese in the northern or eastern parts of the island, traditionally considered to be Tamil regions, has been perhaps the most immediate cause of intercommunal violence. There was, for example, an official plan in the mid-1980s to settle 30,000 Sinhalese in the dry zone of Northern Province, giving each settler land and funds to build a house and each community armed protection in the form of rifles and machine guns. Tamil spokesmen accused the government of promoting a new form of "colonialism," but the Jayewardene government asserted that no part of the island could legitimately be considered an ethnic homeland and thus closed to settlement from outside. Settlement schemes were popular with the poorer and less fortunate classes of Sinhalese.*
Indian Tamils, poorer and less educated than their Sri Lankan Tamil cousins, since independence have endured an equally precarious situation. Although agreements with India largely resolved the issue of their nationality, 100,000 Indian Tamils remained stateless in the late 1980s. Those holding Sri Lankan citizenship and remaining loyal to Thondaman's progovernment Ceylon Workers' Congress were largely indifferent to Sri Lankan Tamils' militant demands for an independent state, but endemic poverty among plantation workers and occasional harsh treatment at the hands of the police and Sinhalese civilians made the people more receptive to leftist ideology and threatened the traditional tranquility of the inland hill country.*
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Sri Lanka Tourism (srilanka.travel), Government of Sri Lanka (www.gov.lk), The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Wikipedia and various books, websites and other publications.
Last updated February 2022