By Thambu Kanagasabai –
An unassailable present Rajapaksa Government could rule for another ten years and possibly more if the 20th Amendment finds its way in the Constitution. An entrenched dynastic rule appears to be looming partly contributed by dishevelled and splintered opposition from UNP and United Peoples Action parties along with contribution from the disunitedly wrangling self-centered Tamil political parties numbering seventeen with seventeen leaders vying for the leadership of Tamils and focused on strengthening their political base and party while motivated to boost their images, seeking self-glory and popularity.
It need not be detailed again to list the grievances of Tamils which commenced in 1948 and continue to pile up and accumulate with no redress in sight from the Sri Lankan Governments ruled by the majority Sinhalese and their parties who are working overtly and covertly to make Sri Lanka a pure Sinhala Buddhist state exclusively to foster, promote and preserve the Sinhala Buddhist culture, religion, language and race. The casualties in this racial and religious discriminatory genocidal process are the minorities, Tamils and Muslims who are facing the grave and inevitable prospect of gradual extinction as distinct races who have inhabited the Island for more than 2500 years, before the purported arrival of mythical Vijaya in BC 483
Though Sri Lanka’s democracy has resulted in free and fair elections, general and local, the irony is that the democratic Parliament being dominated by Sinhala Buddhists has been utilized to pass anti-democratic and discriminatory legislations to satisfy the Sinhala-Buddhists and Maha Sanga. These deep flaws in the governance by successive Sri Lankan Governments have led to the polarizations based on race, religion and language, resulting in pogroms, massacres and growth of militancy among the Tamil youths. The 99% Sinhala dominated Security Forces and the state discrimination of minorities has created insecurity, uncertainty and fear among the Tamils and Muslims.
The genocidal war between the Security forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam [LTTE] which snatched the lives of more than 70,000 civilians, with more than 25,000 involuntary disappearances, knocked the eyes and ears of United Nations, UNHRC and International Community who for the past 72 years since independence maintained deadly silence and ignored hundreds of massacres including pogroms in 1956, 1958, 1971, 1977, 1981, 1983, 1987, 1996 and genocidal full scale war from 2006-2009.
The United Nations and UNHRC belatedly scrambled into action and finally brought Sri Lanka into their radar. This resulted in the UNHRC Resolutions 30/1 and 40/1 calling Sri Lanka to implement their Recommendations to mete out accountability and justice while upholding rule of law. As expected and prophesized, Sri Lanka pursued its usual delaying tactics and finally quitting the Resolutions and Recommendations for state burial. The present Government has defiantly and contemptuously declared its rejection of 30/1 and 40/1 Resolutions and also vowed not to implement any of those Recommendations. It is to be noted that though Sri Lanka has the right to refuse to implement the recommendations, the Resolutions will not lose their legality and validity and its binding effect on Sri Lanka. Consequently UNHRC is expected to pass its final Resolution against Sri Lanka in the March 2021 UNHRC Sessions after studying the final reports and recommendations of UN Rapporteurs, some of them could visit Sri Lanka before the March 2021 UNHRC Sessions.
In the light of the intransigent attitude of Sri Lanka, UN, UNHRC and the International Community cannot sit and watch passively without plunging into taking meaningful mandatory measures against Sri Lanka.
However, the minorities particularly Tamils and those who are victims of war do not see any light at the end of the tunnel. On the contrary, instead of taking remedial and healing measures, ,the present Government has embarked on an accelerated Sinhala-Buddhisisation, program in the North and East to obtain its goal of making Sri Lanka a SINHALA BUDDHIST STATE.. The words Tamils, political settlement and their grievances are no more in their dictionary though numerous promises were given to the UN and the International Community.
Militarization and colonization coupled with state appointed Commissions to study the Archaeological sites in the Eastern Province to hide, destroy, and or distort the Tamil’s historical and archaeological sites and evidences to concoct a conclusion to support the existence of Buddhist civilization which could not be a Sinhala civilization as Sinhalese as a race evolved for recognition only in the 6 AD when the Sinhalese language achieved its language status in Sri Lanka.
A solemn duty therefore lies on the United Nations and UNHRC to recognize the genocide committed against the Tamils since 1948 which includes ongoing structural genocide. There is no dearth of evidences to confirm the genocide, which were all seen, reported and heard by United Nations UNHRC and the International Community, during the periods of pogroms in 1956, 1958 1971, 1977, 1983, 1987 and the genocidal war between the Sri Lankan Security Forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
Rubbing salt to the wounds of Tamils, the Sinhala political parties are now united pursuing an anti-Tamil and hostile campaign vowing not to accept or grant the devolution and powers specified in the 13th Amendment which is an International Accord signed between Sri Lanka and India.
In addition, moves are underway to enact a new Constitution which will automatically guarantee the demise of the 13th Amendment. Besides, the impending passage of 20th Amendment in parliament with unfettered powers for the President over parliament, judiciary and civil service will empower and facilitate the speeding of the process of Sinhalisization and Buddhisization with hardly anyone making a successful challenge in courts or stall it through peaceful protests.
In this respect, it is relevant to quote the UN High Commissioner’s opening statement at UNHRC in the 45th Session in Geneva. ”I encourage the Council to give renewed attention to Sri Lanka in view of the needs to prevent threats to peace and reconciliation.” This clearly confirms the worsening human rights situation in Sri Lanka.
It has to be stated that the United Nations, UNHRC and International Community partly contributed to the sufferings of the Tamils adopting a wait and see and lethargic approach towards a defiant Sri Lanka.
The Tamil political parties and leaders also partly contributed to this predicament of Tamils displaying disunity, self-interest coupled with flip flopping and flirtations with Government having no agenda or ground map to mount united and coordinated nonviolent campaigns to put a break on the genocidal measures of the Government.
In view of the toxic political climate enveloping the traumatised and helpless Tamils, United Nations, UNHRC and International Community cannot remain complacent any more but are duty bound to take appropriate steps to right the wrongs and put a halt to the gradual extinction of Tamils through assimilation. Some of the possible steps which could be taken by UNHRC and United Nations are to:
1. Set up an independent international investigation unto war crimes and crimes against humanity etc. and calling for a UN supervised referendum in the North and East for the people of the land to decide their future.
2. Consider referring Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court.
3. Enforce mandatory political, economic and diplomatic sanctions. The visa ban on Army Commander Shavendra Silva, an alleged war criminal, must be followed further with similar bans by Western countries to show their commitments to rule of law, accountability and justice.
It is hoped that the United Nations, UNHRC and the International Community will rise to the occasion and ensure accountability, justice and rule of law to vindicate their credibility and reliability. Mere issuing statements of condemnations and concerns is like comforting an injured with words of consolation without providing the healing medicine.
In this respect, the Diaspora Tamils numbering more than one million should get together under one umbrella and form a Diaspora Tamils United Action Front and engage in active relentless campaigns with lobbying of political leaders in their respective countries employing pressure for follow up action against Sri Lanka on the question of genocide. Similarly the ten Tamil political parties and their leaders recently conducted a united fasting protest to mark the sacrifice of Thileepan. This precedent should followed to launch further agitations to advance the causes of Tamils to ensure their future and existence in Sri Lanka.
Words speak for themselves while actions speak for others.
*Thambu Kanagasabai, LLM [London] Former Lecturer in Law, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka