Sri Lanka: Tamils 'still want independent state'

Tamils held in a Sri Lankan Army-run camp, 2009.

“We Tamils, inside and outside the island of Sri Lanka, still want an independent state,” Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran, prime minister of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE), told me recently in New York.

“And because the war crimes and severe brutality of the Mahinda Rajapaksa government against our people have become well known, our cause is being spoken about all over the world.”

A positive sign of recognition for Tamil rights was the dramatic Channel Four documentary from Britain Sri Lanka Killing Fields. It was shown first at a Human Rights Council session in June and then screened around the world.

Rudrakumaran is a prominent activist in the Tamil diaspora, created by the violent oppression the Tamil minority have faced in Sri Lanka in recent decades. He earned law degrees from the University of Colombo and Southern Methodist University. He has also studied and written articles about self-determination at Harvard Law School.

After the long civil war between the Sri Lankan state and the pro-independence Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May 2009, Rudrakumaran saw the need for international representation of Tamils' right to sovereignty.

He and other Tamil professionals held meetings in Malaysia and Switzerland to initiate the TGTE on the basis of nationhood, a homeland and the right to self-determination.

As these Tamil leaders in exile were gathering forces, they were surprised and disconcerted that Cuba and other progressive governments in Latin America sided with Sri Lanka at the May 2009 sessions of the Human Rights Council. They did so not only against the LTTE guerilla movement but also against the Tamil population.

“Tamils always looked upon Fidel and Che as heroes,” Rudrakumaran said. “Our people are shocked by Cuba’s position since May 2009. Perhaps it is due to poor communication.

“We want to send a delegation to Cuba, to Venezuela and other ALBA [Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Latin America] governments to explain our position and to engage in dialogue.”
Rudrakumaran maintains that the transnational government he heads is not tied to any government or international power. “We are not at the mercy of any power, but will accept support for our cause from whoever cooperates with us,” he said.

The TGTE stresses democratic forms of decision making. Last year, elections for delegates to the TGTE were held in 12 countries.

In some cases, the proposed candidate met no competition and so there was no election. Tens of thousands took part.

Fifty-six elected delegates gathered in Philadelphia to officially form the Transnational Constituent Assembly over May 17-19 last year. Thirty more delegates took part via video conference from London and Geneva.

On November 3, the TGTE announced its first cabinet. Of the 10 ministers and 10 deputy ministers, five are women.

The TGTE is not to be confused with a “government in exile”, as there had been no independent state with a government that later sought relocation. It is a transnational government in transition, and campaigns for nationhood through diplomacy and education.

The real government will be established in the homeland when that becomes possible.

The TGTE's strategy is to work with all existing local, national and international Tamil organisations in the diaspora, and to create a power centre for diplomacy with all governments possible. It also seeks to work in partnership with the Tamil leadership inside Sri Lanka, but has not been able to establish ties, at least not officially, given the belligerent nature of the Sri Lankan government.

The journey to this point started after Sri Lanka won independence from Britain, in 1948.

“Our people were conservative in many ways,” Rudrakumaran said. “We were nationalistic, not revolutionary. We had castes and women were not treated equally.

“We sought equal rights with the majority Sinhalese by using peaceful, non-violent means. But the Sinhalese governments and racist monks and other extremists beat and killed us. They conducted several pogroms in which thousands of Tamils were killed in terrible ways.

“Finally, in 1976, all the Tamil political parties in and out of parliament, from conservative to the most radical and revolutionary decided to struggle for an independent nation in the North East homeland.”

“When the liberation struggle took up arms, all the barriers were broken. In fact, women played an important role in the armed struggle.

“The Tigers [LTTE] gave us the dignity and strength to fight. Today, however, the struggle is on the diplomatic plane. We look forward. We are not mired in the past or in speculation about whether the Tigers committed terrorism.”

Rudrakumaran said the TGTE has good relations with the two other international organisations fighting for Tamil sovereignty: Global Tamil Eelam and the Council of Eelam Tamil in Europe.

“We all agree to the same goals and our means are the same — not armed struggle but peaceful protests and diplomacy,” he said. “We are different in that the TGTE has elected representation in the form of a transnational government, a rather special breed of government.”

“We are encouraged about our future prospects. We see it as favourable for us that a referendum was held for South Sudan [in 2005], in which 98.3% voted for secession. The TGTE attended the inauguration ceremony in Juba, July 10, as government guests of the new nation.”

TGTE deputy foreign minister Kanaganthram Manickavasagar and PM spokesperson Jeyaprakash Jeyalingam were among the guests when Salva Kiir signed the new constitution and was sworn in as president.

World leaders were present, including Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-Moon. Sri Lanka sent a minor envoy, Tissa Vitharana, senior minister of scientific affairs.

Rudrakumaran’s message to the newest nation, the 193rd recognised by the UN, read: “We salute [you] for [your] sacrifices to become free and admire [your] courage and determination.”

“Our strategy is similar to that of the Republic of South Sudan,” Rudrakumaran said. “We want the international community to press for and supervise a referendum on Eelam as occurred in South Sudan.

“Our peoples have undergone similar fates: genocide, followed by struggles for independence met by war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

Tamil guerillas had called for ceasefires and a peace deal leading to a referendum for independence. Finally, in 2001, a ceasefire was achieved, but only after the guerillas had decimated much of Sri Lanka’s military might.

However, when Mahinda Rajapaksa won the Sri Lankan presidency in 2004, he established a family fiefdom bent on annihilating all Tamil opposition.

He smashed the ceasefire, and took warring advice and technical-surveillance aid from the United States government.





He also received large amounts of weapons, communication infrastructure, boats and fighter aircraft from China; fighter aircraft, intelligence agents and technology from Israel; boats, missiles and moneys from India; moneys for oil and weapons from Iran; weapons from Pakistan; arms and patrol boats from Britain and France; and technology and loans from Japan.

Rudrakumaran has no illusions about the interests of major governments representing former and current colonialists and empires. “How does one play the game and not allow a big power to decide? Our skills and our dedication to our united goal of sovereignty determine how we act. We won’t compromise sovereignty.

“Ours is a struggle for nationality and not one based on ideological or economic grounds.”

Rudrakumaran hopes India will change its pro-Sri Lanka attitude to one of support for Tamils. He sees the geo-political wind turning toward both China and India’s interests.

As China’s influence grows in Sri Lanka, India is confused about how to act. Rudrakumaran does not believe India is acting in its long term interests by sidling up to the Rajapaksa government and thinks India will soon realise that.

The Tamil leader is also encouraged by recent developments in the 18th session of the Human Rights Council that took place over September 12-30.

It appears that the report by an expert panel appointed by Ki-moon on “accountability in Sri Lanka” now has a chance to be discussed by the HRC at its 19th session. At least, this has been proposed by Ki-moon and the High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

The report was delivered in March and is quite critical of the Sri Lanka government for possible human rights abuse of Tamil civilians and combatants in the last months of the war in 2009. The report calls for an independent investigation into credible allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In the latest HRC session, unlike other sessions, neither India nor any of the Latin American countries expressed verbal approval of the Sri Lanka government when it denied any wrongdoing.

[See TGTE’s website: www.govtamileelam.org/gov .]

Guiding principles of the Transitional Government of Talim Eelam

1. Commitment to achieve Eelam, an independent, sovereign state ― nationhood, homeland and right to self-determination.
2. Tamil Eelam will be a secular state.
3. The TGTE shall assist in establishing health facilities in the homeland, homes and refuges for those affected by the war; promote cultural activities stressing Eelam Tamil distinctiveness. Much of this work will have to be done indirectly as the TGTE cannot be in Sri Lanka.
4. Promote education in the homeland.
5. Promote economic welfare.
6. Conduct foreign relations through lobbying.
7. Seek prosecution of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
8. Protect the equality of women and all Tamils.
9. Provide welfare of families of martyrs, former combatants and families affected by the war. One practical project is to establish monuments for martyrs in the diaspora since their memorials and graves have been destroyed by the Sri Lankan government.

Comments

Tamils all over the world already have a Tamil homeland, and that is in Tamil Nadu where centuries old Tamil culture thrives. Those Sri Lankans who wish for a Tamil homeland have only to look 20 miles out to the sea in the north western sea off Sri Lanka and they will see their homeland. Sri Lankan Tamils who wish to live with other communities within Sri Lanka also have a homeland, and that is all of Sri Lanka. While Tamils people have suffered in the hands of some thugs, including on occasion State thugs, it has to be said that the strategy of the TGTE will only entarp Tamils living in Sri Lanka and prevent a just solution being reached by all communities enabling them to live as equal citizens. Ron Ridenour, who has written this totally one sided article should perhaps visit Sri Lanka now to see for himself whether Tamils living in Sri Lanka, particularly those out side the former war zones, are living as second class citizens or are being brutalised as claimed by the TGTE, which incidentally conveniently fails to mention why some Tamils living in former war zones are living in difficult circumstances. They do not say that most of these people's homes were destroyed because the LTTE took up arms, and many Tamils within the Diaspora supported them. They do not say that successive Sri Lankan governments held more than 4 round of talks with the LTTE to work out a political solution, and the LTTE finally walked out of those discussions leading to the final war. They do not say that very few amongst the Diaspora are doing anything to support their fellow Tamils in these former war zones who do need help.

The TGTE strategy of international pressure will not advance a solution to this conflict. Tamils will never be able to have a separate State in Sri Lanka as the Sinhala and Muslim people, and even most Tamils in Sri Lanka will not support it as it will not be a solution, and as it will be the begining of another problem. If the TGTE thinks that international pressure will force Sri Lanka to agree to a separate State, they are badly mistaken. Such an eventuality, if it comes to pass for some reason, will only result in bloodshed and the killing of more innocent people living in Sri Lanka, not those who live comfortable lives in western countries. If the likes of Ron Ridenour promotes organisations like the TGTE, he too will have blood on his hands.

Whatever mistakes done by politicians from all sides in the past, Sri Lanka is now ready to move forward, and do so progressively towards a situation that gives Tamils a greater say in national and provincial administration. This can only be done by the gradual restoration of trust amongst all communities after 30 years of terrorism and war. The TGTE strategy is not directed towards having a just and peaceful political solution in Sri Lanka, rather the opposite. They seem to want more confrontation and division amongst Sri Lankan communities.

Sri Lanka

Tamils have lived in the north and east of the island of Sri Lanka for over 2,000 years. There is no reason why such people should view Tamil Nadu (a state in southern India) as their homeland.

"Anonymous" fails to consider why Tamils became so alienated from the Sri Lankan state that they began to support an independent Tamil state in the north and east of the island (as shown by voting for pro-independence parties in the 1977 and subsequent elections). Some took up arms to achieve this goal.

This was a result of racist laws and policies adopted by the Sri Lankan government, and violent repression of peaceful protests.

Today the Tamil areas are under military occupation, with 100,000 troops stationed in these areas, and new military bases being established even after the end of the war. Many Tamils are prevented from returning to their homes because these are in areas deemed "high security zones" by the army.

The "restoration of trust amongst all communities" can only occur if members of the majority Sinhalese community break with the racism of the government and support Tamil rights, including the right to self-determination. This is the only way in which a "just and peaceful solution" can be obtained. Real unity must be voluntary. It can not be imposed by military occupation.

Fortunately some Sinhalese socialists and other progressive people realise this, but their numbers are as yet too few to bring about a change in government policy.

Chris Slee

Sri Lanka has been discreminating the Tamils since independence in 1948.

The successive Sinhala Buddist regimes were attacking, looting, robbing, raping, torturing and murdering Tamils at will as there is a culture of impunity. The Rajapakse regime has successfully fooled and mislead Inetrnational Community with the help of Indian Congress regime that they are fighting the LTTE but in fact they were committing crimes against humanity, war crimes and ethnic cleansing.

LTTE was a product of the Sinhala State Terrorism and was aided and supported by former Indian leaders Mrs. Indra Gandhi, MGR and others as they felt that the Tamils were at the receiving end.

Tamils are demanding for an impartial, independent, transparent investigation of crimes committed by all sides and find the truth of this struggle. Those who committed the attrocities must be made accountable and justice to be delivered.

This Rajapakse regime continues with their terror, Grease devils, White Van abductions, rape and murder are going on in Tamils areas. No independent journalists, media, NGOs and human rights staff are allowed to Tamil areas. 34 Journalists are already murdered by this regime since came to power.

It is important for an International war crimes and human rights abuses investigation conducted and those who are responsible punished according to the law before any meaningful discussion of Tamils living together with the Sinhala.

Since Independence, Tamils have been at the receiving end and ethnic cleansing of Tamils were committed by the successive regimes makes the reconciliation not possible.

Tamils will not trust the Sinhala leaders as they have been committing crimes at will and there is no Rule of Law, R2P, independent Law enforcing authorities or Human Rights for the Tamils in Sri Lanka.

srilankan rajapakse government say they are commited to resolve minority tamil's issues. is this how do they do it democraticaly?
a) to kill and rape the minorities?
b) have no respect for human beings?
c) burn your opponents alive?
d) white van abduction?
e) grease man assaulting the innocent tamil women?
f) have no accountablities
g) have no responsiblities
h) keep on denying the the fact and truths
I) have no respect to people who follow other religions
J)kill the minorities in the name of war against rebels?
k)abduct and remove kidneys ,liver other vital organs from innocent tamils including todlers
L)malign innocent minority tamils as terrorist.
M)practice dictatorship in the name of democracy

Despot rajapakse goverment should be brought to international criminal court and punished. rajapakse government is practicing dictatorship in the name of democracy
rajapakse government is keeping on blatantly denying the aligations and accusations.
srilanka should be kicked out from commonwealth, it is shame to have srilanka in commonwealth.

Thousands of innocent Tamils have been killed, raped and thousands more injured by Sinhala Sri Lanka Army.

The Govt of SL and the Sri Lanka Army didn't let any international media/NGO's/third-party/independent people in during 2008/2009 because they wanted to hide all the dead bodies of the innocent Children, Women and men they killed.

The Sinhalese Army who murdered and raped so many civilians should not be allowed to get away with their crimes.