By C.V. Wigneswaran –
It was a sad day in the year 2009 that we remember today. As far as we Sri Lankan Tamils of the North and East are concerned we have to face many obstacles even today. On one hand Covid 19 is playing havoc among us. On the other hand we face repression by the State in many ways. Personally, I would be called upon in a day or two to answer criminal charges for saying;
1. that the Tamil language was the language of the earliest inhabitants of this Island 2. that Mahawamsa is not a historical document
3. that the LTTE took up to arms because of repression and discrimination by the Sri Lankan State
4. that over a lakh of people were killed in Mullivaikal at the close of the War and
5. that the Armed Forces have taken over Civil functions and the North is kept under Army Rule, all of which are true but have been made out to be criminal. I am told by these statements I have propagated national and racial hatred that constitutes incitement to violence!
Thus repressive and reprehensible activities we face here in the North and East continuously.
It is amidst them that we remember our dead who passed away at Mullivaikal in May 2009.
The British and the Tamils were tricked by the Sinhalese leaders at the time of Independence. Many promises were given prior to Independence that minorities would not be discriminated against and they would be treated with fraternal feelings.
But within one year of Independence one million Tamils were deprived of their franchise.
We Tamil speaking are the majority in the North and East of Sri Lanka. But our individuality is at stake. There are steps being taken inter alia to grab our traditional home lands to introduce Buddhism forcibly into areas where there are no indigenous Buddhists living, with Military help, to have our Resources plundered, to colonise settlements with Sinhala Colonists who have been brought from elsewhere into Tamil speaking areas and to have the demography of the area changed and to destroy war memorials.
It was to protect us from such genocidal acts on the part of the successive governments that our youth took up to arms. But due to the geo politics of Big Powers they were routed in 2009 together with over a lakh of innocents in Mullivaikal.
Justice to those, whose dear ones disappeared, eludes them even today. But those who committed, aided and abetted brutal criminal acts against our people are being given important Government positions and diplomatic postings.
Today we witness the sorry spectacle of Memorials erected in remembrance of those who died at the end of the war, 12 years ago, being broken and destroyed. The International Community is unable to do anything about it.
A government in power seems to be able to attack and harm our people in Sri Lanka but the International Community can do nothing about it!
In 2013 the then Conservative Prime Minister of Great Britain Hon’ David Cameron visited us in Jaffna. At that stage he promised us that Justice and Accountability for what happened in Mullivaikal would be ensured. But anything tangible are still to be done. Even now the Conservatives are in power in Great Britain.
When Independence from Britain to Ceylon was given, the Sinhala Leaders of that time deceived the British by saying that they would look after the interests of the minorities for certain. But as soon as Independence was obtained over a million Tamils from the Upcountry were denied their citizenship. Thereafter there had been periodical discriminatory steps taken to undermine the safety and well being of the Tamil speaking in Sri Lanka.
Britain failed to ensure that there would be safety and fair play as far as the minorities in Ceylon were concerned. The mistake made at the time of Independence wherein adequate safeguards against the hegemony of the majority were not ensured by giving a federal constitution to Ceylon, still has its adverse effects on Sri Lanka even today.
But I would say that it is time now for the Conservative Government of Britain to ensure justice and fair play to our people. The mistake made during the term of office of Prime Minister Hon’ Clement Atlee must now be corrected. I make this humble request on behalf of our people.
It is certainly heartening to see that the Democratic Party which worked hard in the UN to bring Resolutions against the Sri Lankan Government is now back in power in the US.
US together with Great Britain must ensure Justice and Accountability for the crimes perpetrated in Mullivaikal in May 2009.
Thus taking Sri Lanka before the International Criminal Court stands a priority for the US and UK and other Countries who value democracy and fair play.
It is high time an International body of Experts on Military Law be asked to inquire into the need for the Military which committed severe human rights violations during the war, to continue to prolong their stay for the past 12 years. The Government has publicly assured that the LTTE is no more. It has assured our Country that there are no semblance of any attempts at violence of any sort in the North and East up to now. If so why should the Armed Forces continue to be in the North and East. It is not enough to say in a Democracy for security reasons without spelling out what those security reasons are. We find the Military holding on to over 60000 acres of State Land and over 3000 acres of private land. We find them getting involved directly or indirectly in cultivation, fishing, trading, expropriation of our resources and so on. We find them helping those who are interested in land grabbing in the North and East coming from elsewhere. We find them aiding and abetting those who are trying to distort history. We find them trying to brainwash our people, especially the youngsters, by working on their poverty and indigent circumstances. Therefore security reasons cannot be the motive for the Military continuing to occupy our traditional homelands for twelve years after the war. We must be told the actual reasons and the reasons must be investigated by an International Panel of Military Law experts.
I had suggested when I was Chief Minister that if lack of space was the reason not to house the Military in Colombo and its suburbs, the Government could divide its Military into nine parts and establish their one ninth Military in each of the nine Provinces. Why should the Government garrison such a large contingent of the Military in the North and East alone? Does the Government intend placing an occupational Army in the North and East for ever curtailing, controlling, commanding and covering our people by spying on them under the cover of intelligence gathering? Are we not entitled to a free, democratic and un-interfered existence in our traditional homelands?
Surely the Police could now take over security since it is peace time now.
It is important in order to bring an end to the suffering of the Tamil speaking majority in the North and East of Sri Lanka that an internationally supervised Referendum be conducted in the North and East. That is the most democratic step that the International Community could take to ensure peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.
This attempt to usher in a Referendum among the majority Tamil speaking people in the North and East must be ensured by not only US and the UK but also Canada, India, Australia, the European Union and many other Countries which value Democracy and Democratic institutions.
An internationally supervised referendum among the people of the North and East would no doubt ensure Democracy, Peace and preserve Human Rights in this region. May I appeal to Congresswoman Deborah K. Ross, Congresswoman Kathy Manning, State Senator Wiley Nickel and State Senator Jeff Jackson, who are all attending this event, to work towards an internationally supervised referendum in the Tamil-speaking Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka to find a permanent solution to the 70 year old Tamil question as well as to fully co-operate in our efforts to bring Sri Lanka before the ICC.
May we all Tamils the World over take an oath on this day, that despite all obstacles, we would in unison work for Justice and Accountability for the Genocide committed at Mullivaikal in 2009? I thank you.
*Address by Justice C.V. Wigneswaran at the event organised by the Tamil Americans United Political Action Committee on “Tamil Genocide Day” May 18th 2021 – Online via Zoom webinar
*Justice C.V.Wigneswaran – Member of Parliament, Jaffna District