Tamils vote for separate homeland

Tamils voting in Sydney in referendum. Photo by Peter Boyle.

Over April 17-18, Tamils across Australia voted overwhelmingly in favour of the formation of an independent and sovereign homeland — Tamil Eelam — in the north and east of Sri Lanka.

In what was described by organisers as “the most successful political event for the diaspora in Australia”, 99.38% of participants voted “yes”.

Australia is the 10th country has held a referendum on a separate homeland — the principle behind the Vaddukkoaddai Resolution of 1976. It involved more than 8000 people, out of 10,000 who registered. Around the world, about 200,000 people have voted “yes” — a clear indication of the views of the Tamil diaspora.

Tamil Referendum Council of Australia spokesperson Adrian Francis told TamilNet on April 22 that the mass turn-out of voters showed the Tamil diaspora is still very concerned about its people. “It shows that the fate of our brethren and our nation is an issue that burns at the forefront of the conscience of millions of Diaspora across the world”, he said.

Tamils at a polling booth in Homebush in Sydney’s west told Green Left Weekly on April 18 the referendum process had re-engaged the community after the shock, despair and anger that followed the Sri Lankan government’s massacre of Tamils last year.

Dr Bobby Sundaralingam from Victoria told TamilNet the plight of thousands of Tamils at the hands of the Sri Lankan administration made taking part in the referendum a prerogative. “Tamils in Sri Lanka are voiceless and in a state of despair”, he said. “It is the duty of the Diaspora to be their voice and express what the Tamil people want.”

Australian Tamil Congress spokesperson Dr Sam Pari told the media on April 22 that overwhelming support for Tamil independence confirms a decades-long consensus among Tamils.

“If a similar procedure was to be held on the island of Sri Lanka without voters fearing intimidation, we believe the same trend shown in these results, and in similar referendums held across the world, would be evident”, she said.

She further highlighted the inaction of successive Australian governments to condemn the continuing persecution and oppression of Tamils at the hands of the Sri Lankan regime. She said the Labor government’s decision to refuse asylum to Tamil refugees reaffirms the importance of the diaspora voicing its opinion.

Francis said that despite “vociferous protests from Tamils across the country”, the government’s “inhumane policies”, meant that Tamils were more disillusioned with the government than ever.

Tamil representatives are now calling for the United Nations to facilitate a similar referendum in the northern and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka so the world can see to the political aspirations of the Tamil people.