Tamil diaspora mark 'independence day' with protest

The article below first appeared on TamilNet on February 5.

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Tamil diaspora activists in Europe, Canada and Australia staged protests on February 4 coinciding with Sri Lanka’s official 65th “independence day”, with activists alleging that this so-called “independence” was only a freedom given to the Sinhala nation to commit a protracted genocide of the Tamil Eelam nation.

Speaking to TamilNet from a solidarity gathering in Geelong in Victoria, Australia, labour union leader Tim Gooden said that there was a need to recognise the sovereignty of the Tamil Eelam nation.

“Unless the aspirations of people are met then there is no peace. One side will always have to suppress people if they are not going to recognise their sovereignty. People on both sides cannot develop culturally, economically or morally until the national question is resolved.

“Unless we recognise all people and their aspirations then we are helping to fuel and prolong the national struggle to the detriment of the oppressed and ultimately ourselves.”

Gooden, the secretary of the Geelong Trades Hall, hoisted the Tamil Eelam national flag over the building on February 4 as a mark of solidarity with the Tamil Eelam nation and as a symbolic protest against Sri Lanka, which prevents the use of any symbol associated with Tamil sovereignty in the militarily occupied homeland of Tamil Eelam.

He further emphasised the need to take the information about the cause of Tamil Eelam to the labour movement and the trade unions. 

Gooden said, “Even a simple thing like raising a flag can create debate and discussion that leads to better education around the issue and the more people that are educated then the more chance there is to reaching a resolution of the dispute. At the end of the day the majority of workers don’t want to see the atrocities and human suffering we have witnessed in Sri Lanka these last few years. Governments rely on ignorance to hide behind – it is our job to break that ignorance, to begin real solidarity in all struggles against repression.”

Tamil activists participating in these protests asserted the sovereignty of the Tamil Eelam nation that was left unrecognised by the colonial powers as they the handed “independence” to the island of Ceylon in the form of a unitary state that favoured the Sinhala majority, laying the foundation for the genocide. 

A copy of the unitary constitution of Sri Lanka was burned in Berlin, Germany, in front of the Sri Lankan embassy by Tamil protesters. Sources from Berlin told TamilNet that personnel within the embassy were taking photographs of the protesters. 

In a novel manner of protest on Multicultural week at York University, Canada, an image of the Sri Lankan constitution was carried on a coffin by Tamil students. Organisers of the protest said that this was to symbolically convey the end of the attempts to seek a political solution within Sri Lanka’s constitution.

Speaking to TamilNet, Prynth Nallaratnam from York University Tamil Students Association (YUTSA) said, "beyond talking over and over again about reconciliation and accountability, which are little more than hollow terms now, Canada, as the host of the largest Tamil diaspora, should take concrete steps towards a political solution based on the nationhood and territorial sovereignty of the Eezham Tamils [Tamil Eelam]." 

Praventh Jegatheesh, vice-president of events in YUTSA, said: "In this crucial time we have to remember that we shouldn't settle down for a toothless solution or be instrumented by global imperialists and water down our liberation movement, we are a huge diaspora and we have to learn from our history to facilitate our own path to a permanent solution that represents the political aspirations of Eezham Tamils." 

Protesting outside the Commonwealth Office in London, Tamils from Britain submitted a petition to the Commonwealth Secretariat, demanding removal of Sri Lanka from the Commonwealth.