It’s a great step in the right direction; the fact that the Tamil people will be the architects of the Tamil Eelam Freedom Charter and will be contributing towards “developing” and drafting it, is a heart warming thought. Tamil Eelam must be governed by its people, in that there is no doubt; how will it be governed is as important a question that must be addressed and there is no better time than to do it now and do it right.
Here then is a truly forward looking initiative; the Tamil people have been given an opportunity to reassert their rights through this Freedom Charter. Prime Minister Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran, reiterated, the Charter, “whilst taking the Vaddukoddai Resolution forward and at the same time drawing inspiration from Britain’s Magna Carta, the Freedom Charter of the African National Congress (ANC) as well as the Palestinian National Charter,” will enshrine clearly enunciated principles of international law, a conclusion that can be arrived at, after looking at the survey questions designed to obtain the people’s inputs.
It goes without saying the Charter will show a great unity of purpose. In the words of the TGTE Minister for Political Affairs Thayaparan Thanikasalam, it will be a “major soft power tool to demonstrate that the Tamil people are united in purpose, and are irrefutably bound by principles of international law through this Freedom Charter, containing the rights and freedoms that are recognized and respected by the international community and the United Nations.” Thayaparan was insisting, demonstrating unity of purpose through the Charter is an important factor, one that will determine international acceptance and support. The Minister, one of the leading proponents of the Tamil Eelam Freedom Charter project was talking about the importance of the Tamil speaking people coming together through this Freedom Charter to enhance their soft power.
The “question of how Tamil Eelam will look like is most critical,” Thayaparan sought to explain, because the “question of Tamil Eelam itself is an already established fact,” he said, one that can be further validated in a referendum.
I have to agree with the Minister. This is the time to envision how Tamil Eelam would unfold, and to determine the fundamentals required for a model Nation State.
As Tamils make their ‘Freedom Demands’ known through the survey, the prospect of finally taking some concrete steps towards reinforcing the rights of the North East Tamil people to restoring an independent and sovereign Tamil Eelam is exciting after the unimaginable setbacks of the past.
Not merely reflecting on the thought of freedom but being called upon to articulate the rights that should be contained in the Freedom Charter is an exhilarating experience, enslavement on the other hand being excruciating. It’s time that the Tamil people held captive in a highly militarized North East enjoyed the kind of rights and freedoms that the Freedom Charter will guarantee.
The question as to whether the Tamil people want a referendum, is in the special survey that the TGTE wants all Tamil speaking people to answer: “Do you believe the outcome of a referendum would decide the permanent political solution to liberate the Tamil people, and for them to live in peace with dignity and security as a Nation?” the survey asks.
The TGTE has always maintained that the people of Tamil Eelam and the Tamil Diaspora are two sides of the same coin, so the question as to who should vote in a referendum is also an important one and is another question that’s asked in the survey.
The survey itself has been well crafted. With 35 questions the survey can be accessed online on www.tamileelamfreedomcharter.org : “With clearly enunciated principles, the eventual promulgation in the international arena,” of the Freedom Charter, “is a credible way of realizing our freedom,” the portal states. Those enunciated principles are articulated in this question posed in the survey, for instance: “Do you support the principles of justice, freedom, sovereignty, self determination, human dignity, and the right of peoples to exercise them?” the survey asks.
A question on the territorial integrity of the Tamil Nation State is an important one in the present context when the Rajapaksa government is bent on manipulating the demographic composition of Tamil Eelam through intense Sri Lankan state sponsored colonization both through establishing Sinhala settlements and appropriation of private and state land for army cantonments and military centered developments as opposed to people centered, for example, corporate and agricultural initiatives undertaken by the Sri Lankan military. The three concepts of the right to self determination, homeland and nationhood upon which Tamils base their claim, hinges on reasserting the territorial integrity of Tamil Eelam.: “Do you agree that the 8 Districts namely Amparai, Batticaloa, Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mannar, Mullaitivu. Trincomalee and Vavuniya in the NorthEast mentioned in the Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA) Proposal constitute the geographic description of Tamil Eelam?” the survey asks.
There are many questions in the survey that relate to human rights, social, civil, political and cultural rights and principles of democracy including the protection of those rights; international law principles that should and would take its rightful place in the Charter. This augers well for the future of Tamil Eelam and illustrate how important such rights are to Tamils: “Do you agree that every law, regulation, rule, order, or decision in Tamil Eelam shall conform to internationally accepted standards of human rights protection? Do you agree that there shall be an independent Human Rights Commission, with assistance from international human rights bodies to facilitate the rapid establishment of an effective system for protecting human rights and to ensure compliance with all such human rights obligations?” the survey asks.
Another question close to my heart that I was pleased to see related to article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that guarantee the civil and political rights of individuals, including the right to life, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, electoral rights and rights to due process and a fair trial: “Do you agree that minority rights guaranteed in Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights cannot be changed even with a two-third majority and referendum in Tamil Eelam?” the survey asks.
That the people of Tamil Eelam would not tolerate impunity by its own governments and that all actors will be open to international scrutiny is reflected in this Question: “Should Tamil Eelam accede to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court?” the survey asks.
The question: “Will the establishment of Tamil Eelam contribute to regional peace and stability?” is a critical question because of its strategic location, and would and should elicit a resounding yes. Most of the questions had space allocated for comments which allowed the respondent opportunity to make additional points and recommendations. Further, the survey asked for “any other rights/matters related to freedom that you can think of, not mentioned in this questionnaire and should be included in the Freedom Charter,” and wanted the respondent to list them.
With much respect and credence given to human rights, justice, democratic values and fundamental freedoms, the Tamil Eelam Freedom Charter will reflect a model Nation State.
Drafting the Charter is a huge responsibility before the Tamil people and their ability to participate fully in this endeavour and work in concert would ensure its success. The promulgation of the Tamil Eelam Freedom Charter on May 18, 2013 will be an important milestone for the Tamil people in their journey towards freedom and should be celebrated.
The survey can be found online on: http://tamileelamfreedomcharter.org/?p=35
Usha S Sri Skanda Rajah
Chair TGTE Senate