By C.V. Wigneswaran –
I am happy that we are able to conduct this continuation meeting of the Land Grab Conference held on 20th March 2021 though rather belatedly.
Covid-19 like the Sri Lankan Government would not like to allow us to thrive in a hurry. It would like to restrain us, control us and stifle us at all times! Despite the lockdowns and confinements, the fact that we have been able to gather together many luminaries for this Zoom meeting speaks well of my indefatigable young colleagues who have done everything possible to make this E conference a success.
Today is an important day. We are releasing a Documentary depicting authoritatively what has been taking place for the past 70 odd years in Sri Lanka. This is an on the spot description of how land grabbing takes place in the Tamil Homeland in the North and East of Sri Lanka. We should have attempted this long time ago. In fact, we should have released many more documentaries of this type by now. We had failed. Yet, I am happy at least belatedly we are able to bring out a Documentary of this nature today.
Also, we are glad that internationally reputed educationists and luminaries have consented to address us on Sri Lanka’s Ethnocratic Land Grabs – Methods, Consequences and Tamil Land defense. I welcome all of them.
We have with us a very Senior Tamil Politician Mr.R. Sambandan who was the Leader of the Opposition in Sri Lanka. Presently the Leader of Tamil National Alliance and my colleague in Parliament who was instrumental in dragging me into Politics in 2013 and for whom I always had great regard and love for. He has consented to co-start this program with me. I thank him profusely for consenting to participate in this event despite his frail physical condition.
Mr. Sambandan who represents the capital of the Tamil Homeland, Trincomalee, in Parliament, has been privy to the land grabs that took place in the North and East from 1948 onwards by the successive Sri Lankan majority governments through violence and through government inspired irrigation scheme settlements. From 1956, Mr. Sambandan has been involved in saatvic ways of demonstration to get back lost lands. Having realized the importance of this meeting he has consented to participate in this event. Let me thank him again for consenting to be with us today.
We also have with us today a World-famous Researcher and authority on Land Grabbing Professor Oren Yiftachel from Israel who is to give the Keynote address. He is famous for his researches on Land Grabbing and his ability to confront the Governments who Land Grab wherever they may be. He is one who has courageously confronted his own Government of Israel for expropriating Palestinian lands. His researches have been published by world renowned University Presses like Stanford University Press and University of Pennsylvania Press. His researches have drawn attention globally. He happens to be the most highly cited Israeli scholar in geography and urban studies during the past decade or so. Professor Yiftachel formulated his theory of ethnocratic regimes about twenty years ago. It is still valid as a Theory. Having researched the Sinhala hegemonic activities in Sri Lanka against the Tamils and Muslims including land grabs, Professor has commented that Sri Lanka too is an ethnocratic regime like Israel. It is such a courageous world renowned figure who has consented to address us and we are indeed thankful to him.
Next we have amidst us an important Lady. Dr. Medha Patkar is an Indian Social Activist. She has fought for the political and social rights of indigenous people of India including Tribal Communities and the Dalits for over three decades. She had identified herself with the downtrodden people and had been a strong voice to them. Today she joins us to raise her voice in favour of our people who have been affected adversely by the activities of the Sinhala Majority Central Governments interested in land grabs in the traditional homelands of the Tamils.
Dr. Patkar founded a People’s Movement called Narmada Bachao Andolan 32 years ago and had fought for the rights of the People of Gujarat, Madya Pradesh and Maharashtra . She had brought together several People’s Movements functioning independently in India under one umbrella called the National Alliance of People’s Movements of which she is the head now. We know that Dr. Patkar had raised her concerns earlier with regard to the Tamils and their rights in Sri Lanka. We are delighted to have her as a Panelist today. We whole heartedly welcome her and thank her for accepting our invitation.
Next, it gives me immense pleasure to also welcome Mrs. Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director, The Oakland Institute, California, USA who from 2014 had been researching continuously on Land Grabs in Sri Lanka and releasing her findings to the World. When human rights’ violations reached a critical stage in late 2014, Anuradha undertook a very dangerous journey to Sri Lanka, visited many places in the North and East, collected a lot of information and published her Research Report called “The Long Shadow of War: The struggle for Justice in Post War Sri Lanka” in early 2015.This Report was published in many important Journals in Britain, France, USA and Canada and in other Countries and created an awareness about the wrongs committed against us Tamils. Thereafter she brought out three more Reports of which the one brought out early this year in March titled Endless War: The destroyed Land, Life and Identity of the Tamil People in Sri Lanka pointed out Land Grabs in Tamil areas with startling evidence. Her Institution, the Oakland Institute, does not only research into Land Grabs in Sri Lanka but also Kashmir in India and several African Countries and is held in high esteem the World over. I am obliged to thank Mrs. Anuradha Mittal on behalf of the Tamil People for bringing out the injustices perpetrated against our People.
We have with us another Panelist who has done research into the conditions of the Tamils in Tamil Eelam, the Northern and Eastern parts of Sri Lanka, for several decades creating awareness the World over. He is none other than Professor Ramu Manivannan of the Department of Politics and Public Administration, School of Politics and International Studies, University of Madras, Chennai in India. He has always shown interest towards the Tamils of the North and East of Sri Lanka following with keen interest their struggles towards self-determination within Sri Lanka. Professor Manivannan was a Lecturer at the Delhi University for 18 years and a Fellow of the United Nations University, Tokyo in Japan doing research. After the War ended in 2009 having seen genocide being perpetrated against the Tamils by the Sri Lankan Government he ventured to collect all evidences of what happened and wrote his book “Sri Lanka: Hiding the Elephant“ documenting War Crimes, Crimes against Humanity and Genocide in the said book consisting of 975 pages and brought it out in 2014. Professor needs the heartfelt thanks of all Tamils.
I must not forget to congratulate and thank immensely Mr. Sritharan Somitharan who has been instrumental in bringing out the Documentary soon to be shown here. Mr. Somitharan has already produced three Documentaries concerning the plight of the Tamils in Sri Lanka. We hope he would bring forth more such documentaries to educate and create awareness among all people. We sincerely hope Mr. Somitharan would attain success after success in the field of Cinema as well as Documentaries.
Let me come on to another important person.
Born in Jaffna, early in his life Shan Vincent de Paul left the Country and emigrated to Canada where he has today made a name for himself as a Recording Artist and Director. We would be fortunate to listen to his musical programme for twenty minutes at the end of the Panel discussion. I am told he is a friend to all Tamils who go to Canada helping them in whatever way possible. Such genuine concern and interest on the part of our youngsters in Canada and elsewhere fills me with hope and courage.
We Seniors shall not be around in a few years. It would be our Youngsters who will carry the flame of freedom and hope. I have confidence in them. People like Shan Vincent de Paul would no doubt enlighten our people through music describing the injustices committed against our people and would fight for justice on behalf of our people. May he attain the acme of success in his musical journey!
The Youngsters who will participate in the discussion regarding the documentary need special mention. They are our hope for the future. I was no doubt impressed at the first meeting in March this year on their performance. Our people expect so much from you youngsters! If you could organize yourselves and indefatigably work towards the emancipation of our people success would be yours. Let me thank Karthikeyan from Thamil Nadu and Sangeeth, Sayan and Dhivya from the United Kingdom for participating in this Conference.
Of course Abhirami Logeswaran who impressed us at the first meeting in March would be compering and coordinating proceedings this time. She would be coordinating with Thana Gnani. Of course I cannot forget my dear young friends Lorenzo and Sowjaya for being with me throughout the organization of this E conference helping me in all respects. A special thanks to both of them. My heartfelt blessings go out to each of my young friends and may I wish them all great success in all their ventures!
There are others who have done yeoman services in organizing this Conference. They prefer to remain unsung in the background. It is they who deserve plaudits for the services done and being done. But they prefer to remain anonymous. A big thank you to all those unsung heroes!
Finally a word about The Gate is an Institute for Research in Tamil affairs and Heritage which produced today’s documentary. They must bring out more and more documentaries and Research Reports hereafter too. I hope and pray this Research Organization will grow from strength to strength not only in our homeland but also in Tamil Nadu and among our diaspora attracting not only the intelligentsia from among the Tamils there but also from other Communities and by their peaceful research they shall bring out the truth about the causes for the sufferings our people are undergoing and delving into our History and Archaeology expose to the world the truth of our ancient heritage.
Now let me call upon Mr. Sambandan to initiate this meeting with his much awaited Talk. Thank you.
*Documentary Film Premiere and Our Nilam Campaign Launch Saturday 25th September 2021 – 5.30 pm to 9.30 pm Indian Standard Time (Jaffna & Trincomalee) 1.00 pm to 5.00 pm Greenwich Mean Time (London) 8.00 am to 12.00 noon Eastern Standard Time (Toronto & New Jersey) Zoom Link – https://bit.ly/LandGrab2021 Webinar ID 84151545684 – Pass Code TH2021 – Convener Justice C.V. Wigneswaran’s Opening Address