For over 2500 years, Sri Lanka has been inhabited by Tamils and Sinhalese. By the time of the arrival of the colonialists, the island had long been divided into a Tamil kingdom in the North East, and 2 Sinhalese kingdoms in the Centre and South. During the colonial rule of the Portuguese (1505- 1658) and Dutch (1602- 1796), the Tamil and Sinhalese kingdoms were administered separately, respecting their distinct polities and geographic boundaries. Through colonial occupation, Christianity was introduced which was more widely accepted and practiced in the Tamil Kingdom – the North East region of Sri Lanka.
With the British take over in 1815, the three kingdoms were conveniently amalgamated to allow ease of administration, and Tamil laborers were brought over to work in the tea plantations of the central hills. In addition, the British introduced more missionaries and English speaking schools in the Northeast region, which led to Tamils leaving their arid farming for academic and government roles within British Ceylon.
As the British began to cede more administrative control to the people of the island, Tamil representatives in the administrative councils recognized a growing disparity between themselves and the Sinhalese representatives.