Nadarajah Thangathurai's Statement in Sri Lanka Court

On 24 February 1983, Nadarajah Thangathurai, one of the first Tamil freedom fighters captured by the Sri Lanka government, was sentenced to life imprisonment. On the first of March 1983, he made a statement from the dock of the courthouse, which to this day remains one of the best testaments to the Tamil sentiments in Sri Lanka. 

Full Text of the Statement [1 March 1983]:

We have already objected to a Court in Sri Lanka subjecting us to an inquiry. Despite that objection a case has been fabricated against us, and the trial has gone on for nearly four months.

Our Senior Counsel, Nadesan Satyendra, has exposed the somersaults of the Sri Lanka police witnesses both by his cross-examination and by his concluding submissions. He has also exposed the various acts of torture to which we were subjected at the hands of the Sri Lanka authorities. Our respected Senior Counsel has said that he bows his head in humility in front of us who have been willing to give our lives for the liberation of our people. May I only say that his dedication and sustained effort and the many faceted legal skills that he has employed from the day that he took on the responsibility for this case to this very day is a duty that he has nobly discharged for the Tamil people and is in no way less than what we have done.

His skill can be seen in every aspect of this case. His two day address on the question of the admissibility of the statements made in custody served to further the cause of truth and will find a place of honour in the history of our struggle. It is my deepest wish that such legal expertise and noble dedication will not be confined simply to a court of law, or to the cause of a particular people but will shine on behalf all oppressed peoples in the world in the years to come.

When the British government entrusted the fate of the Tamils to a group of Sinhala politicians, the Tamil people did not clamour for freedom for themselves. They did not suspect that they would in course of time be made second-class citizens of this country. But some Tamil leaders did perceptively ask for bigger representation for the Tamils in the legislature. This was justified by later events when the plantation Tamils were deprived of their franchise. What the next 25 years saw was not only the erosion of Tamil rights but also the erosion of the Tamil homeland. For 25 years, the Tamil leaders expressed their protest in Parliament and outside, adopting the principles of ahimsa and Satyagraha. But what happened?

In 1956 the Tamil leaders sat down to a peaceful protest on Galle Face Green. Sinhala thugs were unleashed on them. Later, in 1961, when the Tamil leaders and the Tamil people sat in peaceful Satyagraha in front of the Jaffna Kacheri, the Sri Lanka army did not fail to react with inhumane violence.

In which chapter of your long history of democracy are you going to incorporate these events? Not one, not two, but there have been a continuing series of thuggery and violence inflicted on the Tamil people over a period of 25 years. How many chapters will you need to record this 25-year villainy? How many Tamils have been robbed of both their lives and their material wealth? There have been Tamil women whose chastity has been offended in the very presence of their family members.

Tamil cultural wealth preserved for generations has been put to flames. What a mockery to think that these could be compensated by a few lakhs of rupees! Have all these acts of hurt and humiliation made the Tamil people lose their determination? Have they gone back on their ideals? These acts of hurt and humiliation have only strengthened their resolve. We have never missed an opportunity to make the Sri Lanka government conscious of our mind. Twice in two elections the Tamil people have recently re-stated their aspirations.

Is it not ridiculous for a Government that promotes race hatred and race killings to look at us and call us ‘terrorists’? While on the one hand celebrations were going on to mark ‘50 years of Parliamentary democracy’, (in 1981) Tamil members of the same Parliament were subject to midnight arrest and the house of one Member of Parliament was set on fire. These are not acts that you can do in a civilised world and then hold your head high. You talk of terrorism and robbery. Has this country seen anything to compare with the state terrorism and the race hate carried out with state weaponry? We have even heard of influential Sri Lanka government politicians terrorising people with revolvers!

Allegations are made that we are asking for separation, that we are trying to divide the country. When were we undivided after all? Our traditional land captured by the European invaders has never been restored to us. We have not even mortgaged our land at any time to anyone in the name of one country. Our land has changed hands off and on under various regimes, and that is what has happened. We have yet to reach a stage when we can have our land for ourselves.

What we ask for is not division but freedom. Why we ask this is not because of narrow (minded) thinking. What we hope to achieve is not only the emancipation of the Tamil people but the greater good of the Sinhalese people themselves. Why? Because, thereafter, the so-called Tamil problem will cease to be a livelihood for opportunist Sinhalese politicians. That will provide a chance for the Sinhalese people to free themselves from the political, social and economic shackles that bind them today and realize where their true slavery lies.

There is no testament in the world that declares that a people who fight to recover their own rights or work for their self-determination are guilty of sedition or terrorism. Had you endorsed our basic human rights at the very beginning this situation would not have arisen. You had not only not recognised our rights but for the purpose of clinging on to political seats of power you had been injecting into the poor innocent Sinhalese people hate and venom over the past 35 years. That not all the Sinhala people have fallen victims to your racist poison has been proved by the fact that many of them during the time of race riots, have time and again rescued Tamils from armed thugs and complete extermination. It has been customary for every opposition party in Sri Lanka that wants to come to power to obstruct any settlement of the Tamil question and rouse the Sinhala people for that purpose.

As against that, for a ruling party to permit racist violence as it has done during the past six years is more reprehensible. If the relationship between the Tamil people and the Sri Lanka government has reached the present deplorable state, that responsibility lies squarely with the present dispensation.

For the past quarter century, the ruling governments have like parrots kept on repeating the same threadbare statements ‘we will solve the Tamil question’. Whether we accept your solutions or not, what honest attempts have been made to solve the problems of the Tamils? While holding out the bogus promise of solving the problems of the Tamil people, you have spent all your time in trying to blunt Tamil resistance. What have the Tamil people asked you? Not economic benefits, not employment opportunities. That no such benefits could come from you is a fact well known to them.

Even if you do come forward to grant these benefits, what guarantee can you give the Tamils that they could live with self-respect in this island in the future? What ever you give them without securing that self-respect will be alien to them.

In this island there are sanctuaries for even wild animals, but upto now there is no sanctuary in any part of this island where Tamils can live without fear. This is not something we can expect from you in the future either.

The Deputy Solicitor General in the course of his cross-examination turned to Mr.Yogachandran and asked him: ‘Do you intend to use this court of law as a platform?’ Of what use are platforms to us? We did not ask anybody to provide us platforms. It was you who brought us to this Court and heaped accusations on us. When you not only throw lies at us but also try to make out that we are liars, we simply came out with the truth.

Truth does not require platforms. It has its own glory. No power on earth can suppress it forever.

We are not lovers of violence nor victims of mental disorders. We are honest fighters belonging to an organization that is struggling to liberate a people.

To those noble souls who keep on prating “terrorism, terrorism” we have something to say. Did you not get frightened of terrorism when hundreds of Tamils were massacred in cold blood, when racist hate spread like fire in this country of yours? Did terrorism mean nothing to you when Tamil women were raped? When cultural treasures were set on fire? When hundreds and hundreds of Tamil homes were looted? Why in 1977 alone 400 Tamils lost their lives reddening the sky above with their splattered blood - did you not see any terrorism then? Did your thoughts and feelings become deadened when it concerned Tamil lives and Tamil property or are your minds unable to conceive the very idea of Tamil suffering?

There is nothing that prevents two neighbouring nations living in co-operation. You must not run away with the thought that our sole objective is to establish Tamil Eelam. Tamil Eelam certainly remains an objective because we have learnt through bitter experience over the past several years that it is only by establishing a State of Tamil Eelam can Tamils live with self-respect.

But our vision is broader than that. Our vision is global. Wherever there is oppression, wherever there is violation of human dignity, whether in Africa or in Latin America, we are prepared to link hands with the oppressed and the under dog. When our vision is so global how can it fail to take into account the future good of the Sinhala people?

May I mention this? We will not stop at raising our voices on behalf of those people. There is nothing that prevents two neighbouring nations living in co-operation. Even nations with differing policies get together for common economic good and for the purpose of common security. Does that mean that those nations give up their distinctive characteristics or sovereignty?

We have to safeguard the collective good of this island. If at any time in the future a common organisation has to emerge which could withstand the political and economic onslaught made against third world countries particularly in the areas surrounding the Indian sub continent, you can be sure that Tamil Eelam will rise to lend its might in all co-operative endeavours that will raise the quality of life of the people of this part of the world.

I want to ask this question from my Sinhala friends. Do you accept as correct and justified the various acts of oppression that the Tamil people have suffered until now not only in our land but in various parts of your land as a result of various acts of thuggery and terrorism? Do you also consider wrong our attempt to free ourselves from the inhumane oppression of your government?

Or do you consider that this present eyewash in the form of a trial conducted under special laws an act of fairness to a people like us who are fighting for a noble ideal, the ideal of human freedom? Or does it mean that you do not care what happens because the victims are Tamils? If that is so, our sympathies are with you.

Believe me our freedom is an assured fact and will come. Once that happens your law books and terrorist laws cannot touch us. Thereafter you will be the sole ‘beneficiaries’ of the very laws that oppress us now.

Will you urge your government to stop the injustice against us and acknowledge our sovereignty?

Will you as a first step towards this and towards the eradication of terrorism, urge your government to recall the Sri Lanka Police Force and the Armed Forces - wholesale merchants of terrorism -from our soil?

I leave it to you to decide whether you will show the world how committed you are to justice. Though belonging to a different nation, as fellow humans living in the same island we have participated in the inquiry hoping for your understanding. Today we have made our position quite clear. If the understanding that flows from this prompts you in the future to raise your voice on our behalf, our hearts will be filled with satisfaction.

I wish to tell you sincerely here and now that even if this understanding does not become a reality, we will throw the full weight of our support behind you, when you rise up in the future to free yourselves and shatter the social and economic fetters that shackle you now.

Through this case we have made our real position known to the world and in particular to the peoples of this island. This is the joyous feeling that is uppermost in our minds... Even a hundred fabricated cases against us and all the slanders heaped on us will not bother us. It is we who will win through this kind action of yours - the consequences of the verdict of this Court will not touch us, content as we are that we have done our duty.

We will not flinch from embracing death or spending the rest of our lives in jail, content as we are that we have done our duty. All these are merely commonplace incidents in the history of a nation’s struggle for freedom. We were fully conscious of what we were doing. Hence there is no question of disappointment.

We are firm believers in the saying that what one sows one reaps. That is why our minds are calm. The seeds we sowed were not seeds of poison, our arrow heads were not dipped in venom. But my fervent prayer is that innocent Sinhala people should not have to reap what power hungry Sinhala politicians have sown. These tribulations are a boon bestowed by God to purify us.

The final victory is ours. Long Live Tamil Eelam!

On 25th July 1983, Nadarajah Thangathurai, along with 35 other Tamil prisoners, was killed inside a maximum-security government prison (Welikade), by a Sinhala mob with the connivance of prison officials.