TGTE’s intervention, challenging Sri Lanka’s 6th Amendment at the UN Human Rights Committee would have the necessary effect, regardless of Sri Lanka’s response and the likelihood of it citing sovereignty issues – the usual lame excuse that it hides under. The observations and recommendations the UN body could make would have a formidable and favourable impact very definitely on correcting false perceptions; to quote TGTE’s Prime Minister, Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran, “we believe this campaign will contribute to solidify the legitimacy of Tamils’ campaign for an independent state. It will also mobilize and solidify the soft power of the Tamils.”
Mounting a Challenge to Sri Lanka’s 6th Amendment
The Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) will be mounting a challenge to Sri Lanka’s 6th Amendment to the constitution by filing a ‘communication’ with the UN Human Rights Committee. Sri Lanka’s 6th amendment, “criminalizes peaceful advocacy for an independent state.” The ‘communication’ has been signed by former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Justice K.P. Sivasubramaniam (Red.), former Judge of the High Court of Madras, India and Prime Minister of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam, Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran. At this time the TGTE is making a “clarion call” to all lawyers across the globe to lend their support to this ‘communication’ it is filing.
The Historical Parallel
This remonstration by lawyers to the 6th Amendment, and their readiness to support and demonstrate their willingness to providing implicit legal representation to this initiative to challenge a repugnant law, by adding their name, has in fact a historical parallel. It is “reminiscent” Rudrakumaran told Taylor Dibbert for the Huffington Post, “of Sri Lanka’s 1976 Trial-at-Bar proceedings taken up against Tamil political leaders, at the time, for distributing to the public, copies of the Vaddukoddai Resolution.” The Vaddukoddai Resolution, a landmark declaration of enormous significance, affirmed by all the Tamil political parties, who came together in Pannakam, Vaddukkoddai, to make the clarion call for the restoration and reconstitution of an independent and sovereign state of Tamil Eelam. At the Trial-at-Bar, a “record” 70 odd lawyers, including the late SJV Chelvanayagam, then leader of the Federal Party, the late GG Ponnambalam, then leader of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress and the late Senator, M. Thiruchelvam, represented the Tamil leaders, charged with handing out seditious material.
6th Amendment a Violation of ICCPR Ratified By Sri Lanka integral to UN’s International Bill of Human Rights
The 6th Amendment to Sri Lanka’s constitution is a grave violation of freedom of thought and conscience and freedom of speech provided in Article 18 and 19 and of the right of self-determination, enshrined in article 1 of the 1966 UN treaty referred to as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Sri Lanka in June 1980.
Furthermore the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its 2 Optional Protocols together form an integral part of the International Bill of Human Rights, the other components being the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, all formulated in pursuance of United Nations General Assembly resolutions.
Prof Boyle Calls on His Colleagues to Support this “Breakthrough Initiative”
Prof Boyle, renowned international lawyer, “encouraging” his colleagues to come on board said he was signing “this breakthrough initiative” among other, because, the right to self determination for Eelam Tamils was at stake here: “The right to self-determination for the Eelam Tamils is at stake here and that is certainly why I am going to sign and why I would encourage all my legal colleagues to sign. This is an extremely important initiative, a breakthrough initiative, and I think everyone has to be behind it,” Boyle said. Article 1 of ICCPR per se guarantees that, “all peoples have the right of self-determination,” and that, “by virtue of that right, they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
Rudrakumaran Confident Tamils Would Opt for Independent State If 6th Amendment is Repealed
Rudrakumaran strongly believes that the overwhelming mandate the Vaddukoddai Resolution received in the 1977 general election, “remains valid” and still stands, considering that subsequent, “elections since 1977 were held under the imposed parameters of the 6th Amendment.” As reiterated by Rudrakumaran to Dibbert, the TGTE sees, the island wide proposed referendum on the new constitution that’s being drafted, without freedom to articulate the Tamil people’s political aspirations for an independent state, to be truly undemocratic, viewing TGTE’s challenge to be a “timely” intervention. “If a referendum is to be held, it should be held in an unhindered, open political space. Otherwise it is a sham exercise,” Rudrakumaran told Dibbert, never doubting the Tamils in the island would opt for an independent state if the question was put to them freely, Rudrakumaran reiterated:
“During the subsequent general elections of 1977, the Vaddukoddai Resolution was put forward to the people and a mandate was sought by the united Tamil political leadership at the time. The Tamils in the North-East all vehemently voted in favor of the resolution and gave a resounding mandate. All elections since 1977 have been held under the imposed parameters of the Sixth Amendment. This implies that the mandate given by the people at the 1977 general election, the last time elections were held in an open political space, remains a valid one. If anyone today wants to claim that the Tamil people have given up their political aspirations for an independent Tamil state, I dare them to resign their position and contest elections after repealing the Sixth Amendment or to conduct a referendum after repealing the Sixth Amendment.”
6th Amendment Does Not Prohibit a Call for its Repeal
Keyed up by events on the ground in the homeland and the resounding success of the rallies held by “Eluga Tamil” movement, both in Jaffna and in Batticaloa, the TGTE expects lawyers in the homeland to also part-take in this initiative, with Rudrakumaran asking them to bear in mind the 6th amendment prohibits a call for an independent state but does not prohibit anyone from campaigning for its repeal.
Cry for Independence
For 69 long years, successive Sinhala governments have been relentlessly pursuing and perpetrating acts of genocide on the Tamil people; the marginalization of these people was systematically engineered. Slowly the Tamil people became a subjugated and persecuted race. All peaceful protests by them against discrimination were violently crushed; numerous state sponsored pogroms were unleashed at them. It took some brave youth, nearly 3 decades, after constant repression, to mount an armed rebellion that lasted another 3 decades, one that was defeated in May of 2009 through large scale and indiscriminate bombing, intentional and intensive shelling of the ‘no fire zones’, use of illegal and chemical weaponry, summary executions and the wanton killing of civilians; of even children, including deprivation of food and medical aid; one that can be best described as a holocaust with documentation to prove it.
The mass atrocities carried out against these oppressed people, fighting for the right to self-determination, have gone unpunished. The blatant land grabs and state sponsored, often calculated colonization of their historical habitats, intended to change the demography of the area with a view to obliterating this ethnic community hasn’t ceased; the disappearances, incarceration, torture and rape endured by these people haven’t ended; the use of the still not repealed ‘Prevention of Terrorism Act to imprison persons without charge for an indefinite period of time and tortured to extract confessions without being able to see a lawyer, continues; the brutality and coercion of an already large and ever expanding and menacing occupying army that still holds sway in Tamil areas, go unchecked. This together with majoritarian Sinhala Buddhist governments, ruling the roost, amounting to what can be described as unremitting hegemony over a people who are virtually held against their will, has been the story of their lives.
No Federal Arrangement, TNA Sworn to Secrecy to the Detriment of Tamils – Tamil People increasingly Skeptical of Outcome
From their stubborn stance to maintaining a unitary system, new regime or old, there’s no hope a political solution akin to a federal arrangement, will be offered. A federal system of government being the second option of the Tamil people, in view of the existence of the 6th Amendments which prohibits them opting for separation. It is on a federal manifesto that the TNA campaigned at the last and previous general elections and won a mandate, but they themselves, in an act of betrayal are backtracking from the federal model with talks of continuing the unitary nature of the state and going for province based rule (But not mentioning the extent of the powers devolved), and the acceptance of both national and provincial sovereignty – Mr. Sampanthan’s latest shocker revealed in an interview he gave in Tamil to IBC, not a word about the powers of the president and or the central government. On the 22nd of February, Sampanthan speaking in parliament, for the record, went through an epic list of broken promises (one which he has done before) and the views of India, the Co-Chairs and the US et al pertaining to past political solutions – but not a word about the specific political system he is backing or expecting.
Unlike the Tamil People’s Council, the TNA has not been transparent with their dealings with the Tamil people. The TNA has already started talking for an island wide referendum without telling the people what’s in it, having taken an oath of secrecy at steering committee level, they have kept the people second guessing their every move, but for how long? They have been muzzled to the extent the silence on the actual contents of the constitution envisaged, is deafening. The TNA, I am afraid has been pushed into a corner involuntarily or voluntarily and could be in a jam without them knowing it. It would seem they have almost agreed to something, without consultations and without taking the Tamil people with them, weakening their position entirely to the detriment of the Tamil people. What if it might be a glorified arrangement that might amount to nothing, that might put the Tamil people in a worse off state? This raises the fundamental question as to the rationale for TNA’s seemingly over confident demeanour, supporting a countrywide referendum on the constitution that is perplexing to say the least. People on the other hand are increasingly skeptical of the outcome of the constitutional exercise.
Tamil People Must Say No to a Referendum on the Constitution, Some Tamil Leaders Abetting Deception Must be Stopped
TGTE is against conducting a referendum on the constitution. In his 2017 New Year message, Rudrakumaran warned the Tamil people of the, “Sinhala attempt to defeat the Tamil people by giving effect to the new constitution with their consent.” Also warning them of the, “dangers of some of the Tamil leaders themselves saying the new constitution is beneficial to the Tamils, thereby hiding the conspiracy of the Sinhala state,” Rudrakumaran implored, categorically stating, “to stop the Tamil leaders in their tracks from abetting this deception is the Tamil people’s Responsibility in 2017.”
TGTE’s Twin Goals: Securing Justice and Achieving a Referendum, Not Country Wide But Only for the People of the NorthEast and the Eelam Diaspora
The TGTE has two primary objectives, both vital and indispensable for forging ahead with building a truly egalitarian, fair, law abiding, secure and prosperous society that espouses democratic and equitable principles – one, securing justice for the victims of the continuing genocide taking place in Sri Lanka, the other to achieving a Scottish style “Independence” referendum conducted by the UN.
Not including those who had to flee pogroms, seeking refuge elsewhere, most of whom are not prepared to forgo their stake in their beloved motherland, often labeled separatists and worse still terrorists, despite their peaceful advocacy for equitable power sharing based on justifiable and legitimate grounds, there’s no denying, on the other side of the spectrum, the much depleted but significant number of Tamil people living in the homeland, haven’t got the political space to freely articulate their political aspirations. Most specifically they lack the freedom to peacefully advocate for an independent state; to actually free themselves from the unrelenting stranglehold and domination successive Sinhala regimes have imposed on them.
It was in this context, after the 2009 genocide, that the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) was formed. The TGTE has always maintained that the Eelam Diaspora is part of the Tamil nation constituting a nation of people, as Prime Minister would say: they are “two sides of the same coin.” The lack of any political space in the Tamil homeland is what makes them different.
In my article: captioned, “At Last diaspora Eelam Tamils recognized to vote on Separate Eelam,” I wrote of the resolution passed by the Tamilnadu State assembly: “The Tamil Nadu State Assembly during the time Jayalalithaa was Chief Minister, “in a historic move, unanimously passed a resolution, bringing in arrangements at the level of the UN Security Council to conduct a referendum among Eezham Tamils in the island as well as in the diaspora on the question of a Separate Eelam. In addition the resolution demanded the Government of India to stop calling Sri Lanka a friendly country. The resolution also included the earlier demands ie., Independent International Investigations on Genocide and War Crimes as well as imposition of economic sanctions on Sri Lanka.”
Read my article on, “Follow UK’s Example – Hold That Referendum On Independence In The NorthEast“, where the UK bowed to the aspirations of the Scottish people articulated in 2011 general election mandate the SNP received: “..that the United Kingdom (UK) government (and the Westminster Parliament), despite campaigning hard for a “NO” vote, did not place obstacles but bowed to the Scottish people’s aspirations articulated in the 2011 General Election win for the Scottish National Party (SNP), and cooperated to holding a referendum, to leave it to the people’s will, speaks volumes for the triumph of democracy; indeed speaks volumes for a triumph for self-determination; for decency, for peace. Why can’t Sri Lanka follow UK’s example and hold that referendum on independence in the NorthEast and Let the People Decide.. either way.”
And since the Brexit vote, Scotland’s First Minister has announced that a fresh referendum is highly likely, Scotland expressing its opposition to leaving the EU.
Sri Lanka’s Response and UN Human Rights Committee’s Observations
Fortunately, the UN Human Rights Committee is best positioned to address this challenge to the 6th Amendment and give its observations. The UN Human Rights Committee, not to be confused with the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), is the UN body established to monitor the implementation of ICCPR. The body meets three times a year and expects State parties to submit a report, “one year after accession and whenever it asks for one,” usually every four years,” on the progress, or lack thereof, it has made in implementing and complying with its obligations under the treaty. After which, the Committee would, “examine each report and address its concerns and recommendations to the State party in the form of concluding observations.” The Committee has also, from time to time, by way of interpreting the articles, made ‘general comments’ and ‘general recommendations’.
One anticipates and desires Sri Lanka would be forced to submit its report and compelled to respond to the Committee with respect to this challenge mounted by TGTE. More critically, the TGTE would be very interested to find out the Committee’s own final observations and recommendations. Whether raising sovereignty issues would work for Sri Lanka this time on, like how it does time and time again, is another issue. As for Rudrakumaran, he holds little hope that Sri Lanka would demonstrate the kind of, “moral courage” expected of civilized nations.
Observations Would Solidify Legitimacy for an Independent State; A Referendum in which the Tamil People Cannot Truly Articulate Their Aspirations is a Sham
In the interview he gave Taylor Dibbert, Rudrakumaran very clearly articulates TGTE’s belief that the challenge to the 6th Amendment and the resulting observations the UN Human Rights Committee is expected to make would very definitely, “solidify the legitimacy of the Tamils’ campaign for an independent state. Furthermore he points out, a referendum, while the 6th Amendment is in force, which prohibits the Tamils people from articulating their political aspirations freely, is a sham:
“While this campaign is predominantly a legal one, it also has a political dimension. We believe this will contribute to solidify the legitimacy of the Tamils’ campaign for an independent state. It will also mobilize and solidify the soft power of the Tamils… It is our belief that given the present Sri Lankan government’s duplicitous political exercise of drafting a new constitution and a call for a referendum, this campaign is a timely one. The Sixth Amendment to Sri Lanka’s constitution prohibits the Tamils to articulate their political aspirations freely. If a referendum is to be held, it should be held in an unhindered, open political space. Otherwise it is a sham exercise…” –Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran
TGTE in the Thick of Action in 2017
Just as Rudrakumaran had promised in his new year message, the “TGTE would be in the thick of action,” in 2017, as always, in a mainly two pronged effort which includes the following:
1. “strengthening the process of seeking justice before the international community,” and simultaneously,
2. “exposing the conspiracy by the government of Sri Lanka in the form of a new constitution.”
In this regard, while, the Monitoring and Accountability Panel (MAP) is “shining a light” on Sri Lanka’s non-compliance of UN HRC Resolution 30/1, releasing its damning 2nd spot report with recommendations, the work towards, “solidifying legitimacy for an independent state,” through the filing of a ‘communication’ at the UN Human Rights Committee, challenging the 6th Amendment, is being vigorously pursued.
And as Prime Minister Rudrakumaran, “looks forward to the support of the Tamil people across the world for our efforts in this direction,” as well as lawyers,” I cannot reiterate how absolutely critical this initiative is for bringing international understanding , support and further legitimacy for our work. The support we get would only strengthen our case. The Human Rights Committee’s observations and recommendations, it is hoped, would call upon Sri Lanka to comply with its treaty obligations, on the grounds it runs afoul of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights it has subscribed to – this treaty being a key component of the International Bill of Human Rights.
To be continued..