The Facts About So-called Discrimination

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Background of the War initiated by LTTE Tamil Tiger Terrorists 

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A Canadian Member of Parliament returning from a visit to Sri Lanka got into conversation with his neighbour on the plane. He was horrified to discover that his companion had entered Canada seeking asylum from the "repressive" Sri Lankan regime, and was granted entry into Canada as a refugee. He too was now returning from a holiday in Sri Lanka two years after he was granted asylum in Canada. He had landed openly at the Colombo International airport, using his own name and had left openly - unmolested - from that same airport. Yet he was a refugee with special privileges in Canada. How amusing.

Yet, the western politicians, the public and especially the press are so ready, willing, nay eager to condemn governments in countries like Sri Lanka that they fall into traps like this, very easily.

The "refugee" has to only use the word "discrimination" for everyone to fall over each other in the scramble to come to the refugee's rescue. This is a very powerful word that makes those who have first hand experience at discriminating feel very uncomfortable.

Down the passage of history we have read about the discrimination of the Europeans against anyone who was different, be it race, religion or anything else. The wiping out of many native American tribes, atrocities against the Jews, persecution of Protestants by Catholics and vice versa, the witch hunts in the middle ages as well as the more recent "communist" witch hunts, the treatment of homosexuals even today are a few examples of discrimination that spring to mind.

The powerful propaganda machine of the LTTE is fully aware of this psychology. They have, therefore, made maximum use of this. They played on the aversion of the westerners to this word with its connotations of the pogroms, atrocities, the most base qualities of humans, as a maestro plays on a violin. The allegations made against the Sinhala people and the government in Sri Lanka ranged from racist policies to actual genocide.

LTTE started the war in 1983 stating that they were discriminated in education and jobs and for that reason they now want a separate state. Most Westerners have been told this story, and they have been fully convinced that it is the truth. But, if one looks at the facts one can see for oneself, that it is very far from the truth.

Let us take each of these allegations and examine them one by one in depth. Take the charge of Genocide.

Tamils consist of 12.6% of the total population of Sri Lanka or 2.6 million. Of this, only 400,000 live in the areas under the control of the LTTE. The balance live in the South: even so far down south as Galle and Matara. This means that 1.9 million Tamils live among Sinhalese who are supposed to be carrying out a systematic program of genocide. If the charge of genocide is true, the Tamils living in the south are either very daring or extremely masochistic. If the charge is not true, it means they feel safer among the Sinhalese than they do with the LTTE


If statistics released by various government ministries are examined, a very interesting picture emerges. These figures reveal that there has been discrimination; but not against the Tamils. The discrimination has been against the Sinhalese themselves, and they have borne it without complaint even while they realised it. The following are figures taken from the last census that could be held in the country in 1981. The composition of the population is as follows:

  • Sinhalese : 74%, Sri Lankan Tamil: 12.6% (Tamils who are citizens by descent), Moors: 7.0%, Indian Tamils: 5.56% (Estate labour) The balance comprise communities such as Burghers, Malays and others.
    Sinhalese 74.00 %
    Sri Lankan Tamils 12.60 %
    Indian Tamils 5.56 %
    Muslims 7.0 %
    Others 0.84 %

(Sri Lankan Tamils are the descendants of migrants from India during the 13 and 14 centuries. They are and have always been citizens of Sri Lanka. Those who came prior to the 13 and 14 centuries as either armies or traders have merged and assimilated. Indian Tamils were brought in by the British as cheap, almost slave labour to work on the Estate plantations, which were carved out of lands wrested from Sinhala peasants and on which the peasantry refused to work as wage slaves. The Indian Tamils have been absorbed into the population as citizens by registration.)

The following graph is very interesting: these give percentages of Tamils living in Sinhala areas and Sinhalese in predominantly "Tamil" areas:

In 1971: 29.2% of Tamils were living in Sinhala areas while the percentage of Sinhalese living in the Northern province was 4.5%. In 1981: there were 32.8% Tamils living in Sinhala areas while Sinhalese in the NP were 3%. Sinhalese living in Jaffna had dwindled from 2.9% in 1971 to 0.6% in 1981.


It has been alleged that young Tamils have resorted to arms because they are unemployed. This is a very popular theory that is acceptable to many in the west. A look at the following figures will give the lie to this allegation:

In 1981 in Sri Lanka there were 14.7% of Sinhala males and 37.1% of Sinhala females unemployed. Unemployment rate of Tamils in 1981 was males 8.8% and females 27.5%.

Students Admitted to Universities in 1981 (2 Years before the war started)

Tamils can study in Tamil anywhere in Sri Lanka, in schools and in the Universities. But in the Universities in Jaffna and Batticaloa where there are faculties of Medicine, Engineering, Science and Agriculture which provide for study in Tamil medium only. Tamils can study in the Universities in Colombo and Peradeniya together with Sinhalese and other students.

Almost all the staff in the Universities in the North and East are Tamils, while in the Universities in Peradeniya and Colombo, there are a considerable number of Tamils on the staff.


During the time of British, more English Schools were opened in the North, so that there were more English-educated Tamils than the English-educated Sinhalese. When the British left in 1948, most of the well paid jobs such as Doctors, Engineers, Solicitors, Accountants, Bank Managers, University Teachers etc were Tamils, while Sinhalese had the minor jobs.





Tamil language is an official language in all government documents, on currency notes, coins, postage stamps, name boards on roads etc.

Aerogramme in all 3 languages (Sinhala, Tamil and English)

Postage Stamps in all 3 languages (Sinhala, Tamil and English)

This is just a typical Document of the Sri Lankan Government. All Sri Lankan Government documents such as Birth Certificates, Marriage Certificates, Passport Application Forms, Passports, Customs Forms are in all 3 languages (Sinhala, Tamil & English).

This is what the Tamils call DISCRIMINATION.

All currency notes and coins are in Sinhala, Tamil and English
This is what the Tamils call DISCRIMINATION

All Governments ducuments are printed in all 3 languages, Sinhala, Tamil and English.......

pport1.bmp (226678 bytes)pport2.bmp (504894 bytes)

This is what the Tamils call DISCRIMINATION


A letter from a Tamil Gentleman

Over the past several months there has been an easily recognizable resurgence of
'national-mindedness ' among the Sinhalese and Buddhists which has caused some anxiety and
apprehension among the minority communities. It is worth examining the causes for this resurgence
and the people responsible for it. As a retired government servant belonging to a minority
community (Tamil) who had lived and worked with the Sinhalese for over 4 decades I feel I can
write confidently about the psyche of the Sinhalese and more particularly the Buddhists.
I should add that I have also traveled extensively in the West to know about their lifestyles, their
attitudes and perceptions, etc. I also watch the audio-visual media almost daily to update myself
about current affairs, international politics, etc. The way that international political interaction takes
place, globalization of the economy, the role of the multinational companies, the unfair and unjust
pressures and dictates of international money lending organizations, the emergence of Islam as a
political force in counties like Afghanistan, Pakistan and the old USSR, make me very
apprehensive about the future of this country.
As a Sri Lankan, and a much-traveled Tamil, I must at the very outset say that I would never leave
this country for another as long as I remain in possession of a rational mind. I must not and cannot
forget the fact that it is the Sinhalese and the Buddhists who constitute the majority who make this
country what it is a most hospitable, welcome and congenial place to live in. If not for them this
country would never be Sri Lanka!
If this country had a Tamil/Hindu majority like in South India or a Muslim majority as in a
Middle-East country I would never opt for such a country as a domicile. I have a strong feeling that
the majority of the Tamils and Muslims living in the South would think the same.
The country that I count as my home should always have a Sinhala Buddhist majority with their
pacifist, tolerant and friendly ways. If somebody were to say that these qualities are found wanting
among the Sinhala Buddhists today, it is not because of their fault, but the fault of
the minorities who have abused their kindness and hospitality, and have made many unfair and
unreasonable demands from them. To elaborate a little further on this subject, one has to look at
other countries to see how they treat the minorities in those countries.
Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country, which has legislation favouring the 'Bhumi-Puthras' in
employment, education, etc. In Afghanistan one reads about the horrendous desecration of ancient
Buddhist statues such as those found in the Baamiyan valley by the Taleban who now control 90%
of the country.
What would our plight be if we were to live in such a country! As Tamils how many of us would
dare to condemn the numerous atrocities committed by the LTTE against civilians in the South.
We are only too keen to complain about being searched at checkpoints, raiding of lodges, etc.
How many have been apprehended for trying to smuggle arms and ammunition into the South
concealed in fish lorries, official vehicles of GA's ICRC, etc?
Even the traditional pot of curd has been used to transport ammunition! Old ladies and gentlemen
too have acted as couriers, as they are generally treated with respect!
How many Tamils have worked themselves diligently into the trust and confidence of the
Government and the Sinhalese community and then betrayed them by being agents of the LTTE?
These instances are far too numerous to mention.
If the Tamils were the majority community in this country would they have tolerated a fraction of
these betrayals from a minority community? I, as a Tamil, can boldly say 'Never'!
How many of our leading Tamil politicians like Messrs. Ponnambalam and Thondaman have
exhorted the Tamils not to engage or indulge in such activities as smuggling arms and ammunition
into upcountry areas or to Colombo?
On the contrary, they will make an internationally heard din about 'innocent' Tamils being harassed
as if 'innocent' Tamils have a label on them proclaiming their innocence!
At the same time I cannot help feeling ashamed and disgraced by our Tamil brethren whenever they
are successful in attempts at destroying innocent civilian life in the South.
I am deeply appreciative of the tolerance and kindness shown by the Sinhalese in the South when
they have to accommodate displaced Tamils and Muslims as refugees among them.
How despicable it is to bite the hand that feeds them! The botched attempts to take over temple
land at Dighavapiya and the request to set aside a percentage in premier Buddhist schools for other
religions are other sinister attempts to get the maximum out of a government which is bending
backwards to please minorities in order to please foreign funded
peace mongers and local NGO's who are in their pay. Where in the world do we hear national
anthems being sung in different languages!
Why cannot we minorities be satisfied with the lion flag as it is? Can such frivolous but yet
provocative requests be made in any country where Tamils or Muslims are in the majority!
Should minorities always behave like Shylocks asking for their pound of flesh and run the risk of
alienating a hitherto unsuspecting and tolerant Sinhalese? Though a Hindu, I would like to dissociate
myself from the antics of those Hindus who want a temple in Sita-Eliya and another in Ja-Ela area
built at these times when understanding between communities is at low ebb. It will do no good to
anybody but can be the target of mischief or provocative acts by interested parties or misguided
Another frequently quoted argument is that by redressing the legitimate grievances of the Tamils in
the North and East the LTTE would have no cause to espouse and the support base of the LTTE
would be completely destroyed.This is a very naive argument, just as much as the JVP in the South
had no public support but only terror tactics to frighten the people into submission in the late
eighties, so is the LTTE. If not for their terror tactics no sane Tamil would support them either here
or abroad.
Their 'sustenance' is not from the public but from the largesse delivered to their doorstep by errant,
corrupt or frightened government officials or diverted from sources meant for the public. To be
honest, I am personally aware of Hindu and Catholic priests who openly
support the LTTE either out of fear or misguided fervour.
Finally, I wish to state that Sri Lanka is the only country in the world where Sinhalese can call their
home and where Theravada Buddhism is found. It is their birthplace and their birthright to remain
as a majority community while others at various times have shown that their loyalties are divided.
The situation today is such that a Sinhalese or Muslim student cannot enter the precincts of the
Jaffna University, whereas Tamil students can freely go about in the South. The police, while
carrying out their legitimate duties of looking out for LTTE suspects in the estate sector, run the risk
of incurring the wrath of Mr. Thondaman, even when terrorist activities are taking place in the
estates. He has the audacity to place the blame of such activities on the Sinhalese when his
conscience should say otherwise-but does he have one?
These are the activities that promote the Sinhalese to close their ranks and show their displeasure. I
sincerely hope that the PA government will not swallow the bait offered by scheming and
self-serving politicians, which would surely, and certainly lead to communal strife in the not too
distant future.


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