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After the election in 1965, Prime Minster Senanayake signed the agreement to recognize the Northeast as Tamil-speaking, to amend the laws to allow Tamil to be used in Northeast courts, and give Tamils some local rights. The agreement, known as the Senanayake-Chelvanayakam Pact, was later not honoured or implemented by the Prime Minster on the grounds that Tamils and Sinhalese parties should trust each other enough that such an agreement is not necessary.

As the government began a program of nationalization to bring common resources under government control, Sinhalese politicians led by Prime Minister Srimavo Bandaranaike implemented the Standardization Act in 1973 which aimed to increase representation of Sinhalese students in Universities and limiting the number of Tamils. In addition, a new constitution changed the name of Ceylon to Sri Lanka, and explicitly gave Buddhism a primary place as the country’s religion. Animosity heightens between the two ethnic groups as Tamil youth and politicians protested.

Agitated Tamil youth formed militias and began skirmishes, while national leaders responded with violence to instill fear, which only fueled Tamil youth retaliation and greater tension. In 1977, Tamil United Liberation Front campaigned the national elections on the platform of a separate state. They won seats resoundingly in all Tamil areas, officially marking in Parliament the full shift in sentiments that had occurred since independence.

 
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