The victory of President-elect Joe Biden as the 46th President of a long standing democracy and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, an accomplished woman sharing Tamil origins, has excited the human rights and democracy loving world. The Eelam Tamils have trod a careful path wondering if the new government can change their fate.
One may recall, it was the Democrats under Barrack Obama who nailed Sri Lanka with successive resolutions from 2012 onwards at the UNHRC. After the defeat of Mahinda Rajapaksa in the Presidential elections of 2015, on October 1st USA co-sponsored resolution 30/1 with the so-called government of good governance led by Ranil Wickremesinghe which promised a political solution to the Tamils as well as adhere to the agreed upon principles of accountability for the genocide of the Tamils in 2009.
Except for setting up a non-functional Office of the Missing Persons (OMP), the government of good governance never made any headway in delivering justice to the Tamils, especially going back on the setting of a hybrid mechanism to try war criminals from the armed forces as well as the political leadership responsible for the carnage against the Tamils.
All of us must realize that for reconciliation to come through there must be truth seeking, accountability, justice and reparations. The hardcore Sinhalese are always in denial when it comes to accepting that their loved regime was responsible for a bloody genocide of innocent Tamils, but they still want the Tamils to be part of Sri Lanka! It is here that the Tamils look forward to this new government to usher in changes that would foster democracy in the island.
As the Biden team has promised to host a ‘Global Summit for Democracy’ with an aim to advance human rights and defending against authoritarianism, the Sri Lankan government will be hard pressed to answer some key questions as they have always crushed the sane voices rising to speak up for democracy.
Former US ambassador to the UN and former National Security Advisor, Susana Rice will play a very key role in shaping the foreign policy. She was instrumental in seeing through the resolutions against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC in 2012 and 2013.
The recent visit of Mike Pompeo to Sri Lanka was a disappointment to the Tamils and the human rights activists as Pompeo used the opportunity to only shame China as a predator. On the other hand, the Sri Lankan President slammed Pompeo and glorified the role of China in ending the 30 years’ war and helping the rebuilding of Sri Lanka. The present dynamics is bound to change under the new government which will look for a relationship with Sri Lanka based on the performance of the country in terms of promoting human rights and democracy. It is here the Tamil question comes into picture.
Across the world many nations look forward to this new government to foster the spirit of the Right to self-determination of communities that have been ignored under the Trump government. The US which positioned itself as a champion of human rights across the world after WWII, shockingly pulled out of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in January 2020 as it did with the World Health Organization. It is highly speculated that these past mistakes of the Trump government would be set right by the new Biden government.
The Tamils around the world will look forward towards Biden, Kamala Harris and Susana Rice to seek a political solution to their more than seven decades old problem. The new government along with India must work out means to provide justice to the victims of the Tamil genocide. It is a tough task given the hardcore stand of the President and Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, as both of them are prime accused in the genocide of the Tamils.
Sri Lanka has threatened to pull out of the UNHRC, in that case the new government must come out with strategies to deal with Sri Lanka outside the boundaries of the UN structure as they are morally duty bound to seek justice on behalf of the Tamils. Since 2012 the US had used the Tamil question to bring about three resolutions against Sri Lanka and co-sponsor one to showcase their strength in the Indian Ocean and to teach a diplomatic lesson to both Sri Lanka and China. They simply left the UNHRC and the Tamils in lurch when they pulled out of the UNHRC, thus slowing down the process of truth seeking and justice in the island.
It is the earnest hope of every Tamil that the new government in the long run understands the history of the Tamils in the island and recognize the fact that they had never lived or shared anything in common with the Sinhalese. All though our history we were a NATION and we still are!
From 1948, we have been thrust to accept the Sinhalese as out brothers and sisters against our wishes, though sincere efforts were made by the Tamils through peaceful methods to co-exist with dignity, the successive Sinhala regimes have denied the rightful claims of the Tamils seeking equality. This needs to be clearly understood by the new government when dealing with Sri Lanka.
The Tamil Diaspora has been the voice of the Eelam Tamils across the world. The Tamils in Eelam continue to suffer a structural genocide and cannot voice their opinion fearing their very existence. It is the desire of ever Tamil across the world that a Referendum must be conducted in Tamil Eelam to decide the future course of the Tamils, though it is a long and tough ask, the US must not ignore this democratic claim of the Tamils and must recognize this right of the Tamils in the times to come.
In the past, the Tamils in US had supported the Barrack Obama government and even formed an organization titled ‘Tamils for Obama’, with the hope that the Obama administration would help resolve the Tamil issue.
In the same earnest, the Tamils are once again enthused and hopeful that a democrat has been elected and look forward to getting closer to seeking a political solution to the Tamil problem apart from seeking justice to the 90,000 war widows, the innumerable Mothers, Sisters, Wives and daughters of the missing persons, address the issue of militarization of the north and east, return the land grabbed from the Tamils as well as seek accountability to the 146,679 unaccounted persons since May 18th 2009.
With this hope for a solution for Eelam Tamil, through the use of our right to self-determination, wish that the newly elected government work with the Tamils to realize our long cherished dreams to live with dignity. On behalf of the Tamils world over, I take this opportunity to wish President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, and team a fruitful period at the White House and hope they would make the world a better place to live.
*The Author is a Member of the TGTE and seeks a peaceful political solution to the Tamil Right to Self-Determination.