“Only God can save the Tamil people now” (Thamil Makkalai Inik Kadavul Thaan Kaappaatra Vaendum) was the anguished response of respected Sri Lankan Tamil political leader Samuel James Veluppilaai Chelvanayakam after the results of the 1970 Parliamentary Elections were known.
The United Front (UF) led by Sirimavo Bandaranaike had swept the polls with a two-thirds majority. The UF constituents – Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) and Communist Party (CP) had obtained 91, 19 and six seats respectively in a Parliament of 157 MPs. The chief opposition United National Party (UNP) had been reduced to 17. The Ilankai Thamil Arasuk Katchiknown in English as the Federal Party led by S.J.V. Chelvanayakam got 13 seats.
Chelvanayakam’s “resort to divine providence” was due to the sense of utter helplessness felt by the chief Tamil political party of north-eastern Tamils after the elections. The past years had seen the ITAK/FP engage in a political strategy of “agitate cum negotiate” to win back the lost rights of the Tamil people. In a situation where the two major Sinhala-dominated parties were more or less evenly matched, the Tamil party usually had the third largest number of seats in Parliament. Thus the ITAK would hold the balance of power with its bloc of MPs and utilise that clout to negotiate with the UNP and SLFP.