GET IT RIGHT, the first time!!
G. G. Ponnambalam, was born at the beginning of the 20th century, died on 9th February 1977, a full 75 years at the time, having witnessed an entire sea change in the Tamil historical scene, in which he had come to play such a dominant part.
It was a time, when he broke into the political firmament of a well nigh bleak prospect in the political fortunes of the Tamil people.
The brothers, Ponnambalam Ramanathan and Arunachalam had had their says, but in quite different circumstances, when the Sinhalese as much as the Tamils were still subjects of their British overlords with yet the reality for the Tamils of political rejection by the former emerging, given the impending inception of progressive autonomous rule granted by their colonial masters, accounting thus for the deep confrontation between both in the later years.
It was thus a barren political phenomenon for the Tamils in the ensuing years. In this setting, a young, dashing political figure emerged in the person of Ponnambalam, elected with great acclaim in the 30s as member of the State Council.
In one of his early acts, he conceived and founded the All Ceylon Tamil Congress in 1944 which, together with his roles in the State Council, he used to telling effect. Around him were also stalwarts S. J. V. Chelvanayakam, E. M. V. Naganathan and others - along with Proctor S. Sivasubramaniam, at whose home they regularly met in their deliberations. It was a time when other political parties, particularly the Muslim, quickly established rapport with him in what seemed a new hope and promise for all - the minorities and the majority.
The flagmast, and his party's programme, essentially issued from his State Council speech of 1939 on demand for 'balanced representation', as sensible means to both minority safeguard and continuing participation by the entire country in central government. One must repeat a thousand times that at no stage was his demand for so called Fifty - Fifty representation, as foisted on him by apparently negative Sinhala forces - a pre-cursor of extremist postures that were to remain with us and, perhaps do so even now. The 'Balanced Representation' formula was simply for an arrangement where in his words, 'No single community may impose its will on the other'. It could be on 50 50, 60 40, or whatever it was that assured the goal.
He made this the central platform of his urging before the Soulbury Commission that was soon to give full independence to the country. The Sinhala psyche of the Brown Sahib, as they seemed to see themselves, as successors to the colonial white masters, seemed to have come into play in its fullest, and with all pressures contrived and brought in to play, the Soulbury Commission rejected the 'Formula' that would have saved the blood, sweat and tears that followed in the decades up to our year of grace 2002. A weak Section 29, was recommenced to provide that no acts discriminatory to the minorities may be adopted, even this, years later to be eliminated in a revised constitution.
It is notable during these years that both G. G. Ponnambalam and S. J. V Chelvanayakam who later founded the Federal Party, continued to work then, and after their parting of the ways within an entirely unitary country concept, the latter giving it up only after cumulatively the sabotage of the Bandaranaike - Chelvanayakam pact, the first 'holocaust' of '58, the security forces repressions of the 60s in the North and the final Holocaust of '83. With the Soulbury Constitution a fact of life now, G. G. Ponnambalam genuinely felt, whatever future history was to tell, that an experiment in participation with the majority government may help.
Unfortunately and again, the majority were not ready to see deeper, beyond what a cynic remarked, the 'Thapal Manthiri' concept, which, virtually, was all that was given, notwithstanding Ponnambalam's own portfolio at the time.