people Democracy may mean acceding to the rule of the majority,but democracy also means governments by discussion andpersuasion. It is the belief that the minority of today maybecome the majority of tomorrow that ensures the stabilityof a functioning democracy. The practice of democracy inSri Lanka within the confines of a unitary state served toperpetuate the oppressive rule of a permanent Sinhalamajority.
It was a permanent Sinhala majority, which through a series oflegislative and administrative acts, ranging fromdisenfranchisement, and standardisation of University admissions,to discriminatory language and employment policies, and statesponsored colonisation of the homelands of the Tamil people,sough to establish its hegemony over people of Tamil Eelam. These legislative and administrative acts were reinforced fromtime to time with physical attacks on the Tamil people with intentto terrorise and intimidate them into submission. It was a courseof conduct which led eventually to rise of Tamil militancy in themid 1970s with, initially, sporadic acts of violence. The militancywas met with wide ranging retaliatory attacks on increasinglylarge sections of the Tamil people with intent, once again tosubjugate them. In the late 1970s large numbers of Tamil youthswere detained without trial and tortured under emergencyregulations and later under the Prevention of Terrorism Actwhich has been described by the International Commission ofJurists as a ‘blot on the statute book of any civilised country’. In1980s and thereafter, there were random killings of Tamils bythe state security forces and Tamil hostages were taken by thestate when ‘suspects’ were not found.Order now
The preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rightsreads: “Whereas it is essential if man is not compelled as alast resort to rebellion against tyranny andoppression, that human rights should be protectedby the rule of law. “The rise of the armed struggle of the Tamil people constituted theTamil rebellion against a continuing Sinhala oppression over aperiod of several decades. The gross consistent and continuingviolations of the human rights of the Tamil people have been welldocumented by innumerable reports of human rightsorganisations as well as of independent observers of the SriLankan scene. Walter Schwarz commented in the Minority Rights GroupReport on Tamils of Sri Lanka, 1983”. .
. The makings of an embattled freedom movementnow seem assembled: martyrs, prisoners and apitiful mass of refugees. Talk of ‘Biafra’ which hadsounded misplaced in 1975, seemed less unreal afew years later. .
. As this report goes to press inSeptember 1983, the general outlook for humanrights in Sri Lanka is not promising. The presentconflict has transcended the special considerationof minority rights and has reached the point wherethe basic human rights of the Tamil community – therights to life and property, freedom of speech andself expression and freedom from arbitrary arresthave in fact and in law been subject to gross andcontinued violations. The two communities aremow polarised and continued repression coupledwith economic stagnation can only producestronger demands from the embattled minority,which unless there is a change in direction by thecentral government, will result in a strongerSinhalese backlash and the possibility of outrightcivil war”.
David Selbourne remarked in July 1984: “The crimes committed by the Sri Lankan stateagainst the Tamil minority – against its physicalsecurity, citizenship rights, and politicalrepresentation -are of growing gravity. . Reportafter report by impartial bodies – By AmnestyInternational, By the International Commission ofjurists, By parliamentary delegates from the Westby journalists and scholars – have set out clearly thescale of growing degeneration of the political andphysical well being of the Tamil minority in SriLanka. . .
Their cause represents the very essence ofthe cause of human rights and justice; and to denyit, debases and reduces us all”.A Working Group chaired by Goran Backstrand, of the SwedishRed Cross at the Second Consultation on Ethnic Violence,Development and Human Rights, Netherlands, in February 1985concluded:”There was a general consensus that within SriLanka today, the Tamils do not have the