Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Tamils & Sovereignty

by Sabesan, Melbourne

This article is a translation of the analysis broadcast on Melbourne's 3CR Tamil Voice on August 1, 2005.  The full Tamil version is published in www.tamilnathaam.com.  The translation is by Arvalan.

Recently, I have been analyzing various aspects of the emerging political development in Sri Lanka.  Some of these developments are

  • Tamil people are at the verge of exercising their right to self-determination
  • It is not justifiable to suppress an ethnic community in the name of peace negotiations.
  • It is not justifiable for the international community to be silent, despite the fact that they understand the reality in Sri Lanka
  • Tamil people need to justify their cause in the hearts and minds of the international community

In this respect, the conference held in Vavuniya on the 26th of July 2005 and the declaration made at this convention are significant.  "We seek recognition by the international community of our basic rights and life of freedom with peace on the basis of our traditional homeland, our nationhood and self-rule and struggle for sovereignty" states the declaration made at the convention.

In the current context, this is a historic declaration.  S.J.V.Chelvanayakam, leader of the Tamil United Liberation Front, on 7 February 1975 after winning the by-election for the Kankesanturai Parliamentary seat, held belatedly two years after he had resigned the seat to seek a mandate for Tamil Eelam, issued a statement proclaiming the Tamils' right to sovereignty.  He said "Throughout the ages the Sinhalese and Tamils in the country lived as distinct sovereign people till they were brought under foreign domination.  It should be remembered that the Tamils were in the vanguard of the struggle for independence in the full confidence that they also will regain their freedom."

The Political Resolution unanimously adopted at the First National Convention of the Tamil United Liberation Front held at Pannakam (Vaddukoddai Constituency) on 14 May 1976 presided over by Mr. S.J.V. Chelvanayakam, stated "This convention resolves that restoration and reconstitution of the Free, Sovereign, Secular Socialist State of Tamil Eelam based on the right of self determination inherent to every nation has become inevitable in order to safeguard the very existence of the Tamil Nation in this Country."

Kankesanthurai, where the Tamils democratically proclaimed their right to sovereignty, falls within the Sri Lankan Army’s High Security Zone (HSZ) noted S. Sivanayagam in a Hot Spring issue of 1998.  Kankesanthurai remains within an HSZ even following the 2001 ceasefire.

S.J.V. Chelvanayakam, who lead the proclamation of Tamil Eelam in 1975 and in 1976, passed away in 1977, a few months before the general elections, which lead to the political derailment of Tamil Nationalism.

In the 1977 General elections, Tamil people voted for the TULF on a platform of  the emancipation of the Tamil Nation, and the Freedom of Tamil Eelam.  Unexpectedly TULF became the second largest party in the Sri Lankan parliament, leading Mr. Amirthalingam to take on the mantle of Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Amirthalingam surrendered the Tamil Eelam cause; the election mandate overwhelmingly endorsed by the Tamil people was not executed; S.J.V. Chelvanayakam’s dream was forgotten by the TULF leadership; this led to the younger generation taking responsibility for the achievement of Tamil Eelam.

It should be noted that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam launched their long journey towards achieving the dream of Tamil Eelam amidst dishonest political leadership and a lack of military strength.  Further, the LTTE launched its struggle before the Tamil politicians diagnosed reality.

Let me analyse the recent Vavuniya declaration in the context of the historical events explained above.

Peace agreements reached between the Tamil leadership and Sinhalese nation were abrogated by the Sinhalese leadership.  Non-violent civil disobedience campaigns launched by Tamils were suppressed by successive Sinhalese governments by force.  Ethnic pogroms were organized on a regular basis to suppress the Tamils.  War was thrust upon the Tamils, due to continued pogroms and colonization of Tamil land.  Aerial bombardment, continued artillery attacks and military offences were inflicted on the Tamil homeland.  An economic embargo destroyed the socio-economic life of the Tamil people.

However, the Tamil people fought against these hardships.  The Tamil people and the LTTE under the able leadership of our national leader successfully defeated the Sri Lankan security forces in many battles and laid the foundation for an independent state.  The international community is admiring the infrastructure laid by the LTTE and the Tamil people for an independent nation.

The Tamil leadership unilaterally declared a ceasefire after successfully defeating the Sri Lankan security forces in many battles.  This opened the door for peace negotiations and showed the way to find solutions for the problems faced by the Tamil nation through peaceful means.

However, the Sinhalese governments have not delivered any substantial peace dividends to the Tamil people.  They have continued with their supremacist mentality.  They have not even responded compassionately to the Tsunami disaster.

The basic objective of the ceasefire agreement is to resolve the day-to-day problems faced by the Tamil people and to find a permanent solution to the political problems.  However, the ceasefire agreement is in taters due to Sri Lankan government continuing to violate the terms of the agreement.

The talks happening at the moment are to save the ceasefire agreement; not to find a peaceful resolution to the ethnic problem.

The two main Sinhalese political parties are busy preparing for the forthcoming Presidential elections.  They are spending their efforts and time to win the election to secure power for their party.  If the election could be won by re-starting the war, they are even prepared to do that.

The international community watched passively in the past when the Sri Lankan government unleashed its military machine on the Tamil nation.  It is after they realized that the Tamil nation could not be defeated militarily that they intervened to pressurize the Sri Lankan government to enter into negotiations.

The Tamil people have expressed their desire for a sovereign nation through not only the Kankesanthurai declaration, Vattukottai proclamation and Vavuniya convention; they have also expressed their decision though the 1975, the 1977 and, most recently, the 2004 elections.

The international community is actively involved in the Sri Lankan peace process for the first time in the history of the island.  They cannot be passive anymore.  The Tamil people have sought recognition from the international community for their struggle for sovereignty.

Everyone knows that the Sinhalese government is not going to recognize the Tamils' right to sovereignty.  Sri Lanka’s constitution has been drafted to serve this purpose.  However, the international community has a duty to respect the Tamils' struggle based on the concepts of homeland, nationhood and self rule which are in accordance with international norms.  I believe they will fulfill this moral responsibility.

If this expectation is not fulfilled, then we can consider that the stage will be set for the Tamil people’s liberation.

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Posted August 8, 2005