By Pon. Chandran –
At the outset I and my friends in the Human Rights fraternity in India, particularly from PUCL acknowledge and express our profound gratitude and respects to Kusal Perera and Sunanda Deshapriya, the Sinhala Journalists, for exposing the diabolical design, at their life risks, behind camouflaging the real numbers who were caught in the midst of War in Sri Lanka in January 2009. Shri. Pranab Mukerjee, the then Foreign Minister declared that there were only 70,000 Srilankan Tamils who were caught in the midst of war, in the Vanni region, while the actual numbers were over 428,000. This exposed the genocidal design of the Sinhala regime to massacre thousands of Srilankan Tamils either using heavy artilleries or starving them to death by denying the much required food and medicines.
The humanitarian issue of such a massive magnitude was taken up with the Press and People in the Powers that matter, in Delhi, with the support of Kusal. Had there been a substantial intervention either from India or from the International Community, we could have saved at least 100,000 lives during the last phase of war in Sri Lanka. The UN’s Internal Review Report of Charles Petrie has confirmed that the deliberately downsized numbers in the so called Safe Zones entailed in the death of several thousands of civilians for want of adequate humanitarian assistance. Also the actual numbers killed by shelling was under reported. Again, it was Kusal who exposed the use of banned cluster and thermobaric bombs in the final stages of the war.
As human rights activists we unequivocally condemn the attack on the Buddhist monks in Tamil Nadu, which cannot be condoned whatever may be the provocation. At the same time, we need to place on record that it is the hard core Buddhist clergy in Sri Lanka who fan Sinhala chauvinism and continue to spearhead the unfettered Sinhalisation in the North and the East. Of course, one has to differentiate between the people and the State. Hence, while the boycott of the Sri Lanka in the arena of sports, culture, tourism, economy and diplomacy (like relocation/boycott of CHOGM) is aimed to internationally ostracize Sri Lanka and prevail upon the Srilankan State to concede to the self determination and political devolution, which is inseparably bound with the larger democratisation of Srilanka.
The question of Genocide:
Now that the above is clarified, I am constrained to delve into more serious aspects of the stand propounded by Kusal, which deserves to be debated. I guess he is for the “Self Determination” of the Eelam Tamils, sans separation. Perhaps for the same reason, he is against naming the massacre of Tamils as “genocide” and hence argues that the call for a “referendum” is irrelevant, impractical and unfounded.
His argument hinges on the main plank that since a big chunk of Tamils live relatively peacefully in the South of the island, it cannot be called as genocide against Tamils! Further I wonder whether he is adducing a tacit argument that the lives of the Tamils in the South will not be safe, if the concept of Separate Tamil Eelam is pushed, as a process of political devolution.
Going by the history of the struggle of the Tamils in Sri Lanka for over six decades and the revealing evidences (documentary, audio and video) on the War against Tamils, it is vivid that the violence perpetrated is beyond war crimes and very much borders well within the purview of Genocidal War. It was a war against Eelam Tamils, with Genocidal intent.
The sheer numbers that were exterminated, during the last seven months of the racist war indicates the “intent to destroy in whole or in part” a race which has been subjected to brutal violence by the State. It blatantly violates Art 2 & 3 of Geneva Convention on Genocide. (Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide dated 9th December 1948).
Thus the last phase of the racial war killed 146,679 civilians. Bodily and mental harm meted out against the Tamils rendered in the permanent disability of 16,356 Tamils. The protracted racial war created the sub-human conditions of life calculated to bring physical destruction in whole or in part depriving thousands of Tamils (282,380) in to the concentration camps. Rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war rendered several thousands of women sexually brutalised and traumatised. The racial war ended up with more than 89,000 young war widows. In fact these are the numbers collated from the ground and brought out by Journalist friends like Kusal and Bishop of Mannar and several other Human Rights groups.
More than the actual killing and the rest, the intent to commit genocide is obvious from the umpteen statements, during the unguarded moments, made by Mahinda, Gotabaya and Fonseka. Gotabaya had admitted publicly that the Tamil North has been converted into “Free Fire Zone”. He has also gone record proclaiming that let Sinhala army throw the Tamils in the Ocean and “enjoy the Tamil women”. Fonseka has reiterated more than once that “Sri Lanka belongs to the Sinhalese”.
It appears that Indian bureaucrats like Shivashankar Menon and M.K.Narayanan with the other officials in the Foreign ministry conspired with the Rajapakshes for the extermination of Tamils, under the guise of decimating the Tigers. The other hegemonic Powers including USA, China and Pakistan joined with others in the “war on terror”, which was used by the Rajapakshe regime for a genocidal war. Perhaps none of them would have thought that the inevitable collateral damage in the “war on terror” would end up in such a colossal massacre of genocidal proportion.
Referendum – A means for Devolution:
Thanks to Kusal for bringing out succinctly the context and the ground realities in the case of East Timor and Southern Sudan, which facilitated the UN intervened referendum which led to the formation of a separate nation for East Timor and Southern Sudan.
The specific context which differentiated the post war Tamil Eelam from that of East Timor and South Sudan, as narrated by Kusal could be summed up as below:
a) The continued militant and strong political representation of the locals demanding self determination, including secession, at the time of referendum.
b) The unwillingness and the incapacity of the Ruling section in the respective countries, to continue with the Rule as before and hence had no choice but to give in.
Therefore, it is argued that as the situation in Sri Lanka is not comparable with that of South Sudan and East Timor, a similar referendum in Tamil Eelam can only remain a dream!
It may be noted that either the Tamil Diaspora or the students of Tamil Nadu who have been raising the demand for a Referendum is quoting the case of East Timor and South Sudan only as a precedence in the International arena and not as THE BASIS.
It is true that Tamil Eelam is dwarfed without a de facto government which was in existence even while the genocidal war was on. It is precisely for this reason that the international community should take the responsibility invoking the principle of R2P, the Responsibility to Protect. Nevertheless, it is obvious that, in the present oppressive political context, particularly in the backdrop of militarisation, the Tamil National Alliance or other Tamil Representatives in the island are not articulating the demand for a referendum today, perhaps tactically. The question of referendum will become a palpable demand only as a follow up of the findings of the International Investigation on the War Crimes and Genocide. But the demand for referendum raised by the Tamil diaspora, to keep the question of “self determination” and political devolution alive, is portrayed by Kusal as the one of ‘lamentation’ from the ‘Tamil fringe groups’, ‘political riffraff’ and by the ‘defeated human rights activists’ without any knowledge of political history either of the Tamil mainland or the Homeland of Eelam Tamils.
Further, Kusal counter poses his argument adducing that the ‘Eelamists’ and the ‘defeated human rights activists’ from Tamil Nadu have no locus standi to give a call for a “separate eelam” when the DMK has eschewed their earlier demand for “Dravida Nadu”. The comparison deserves to be critiqued. Dravida Nadu was only a socio-cultural concept against the post independence Brahmin-Baniya hegemony. It evolved as a political movement only among the people in Tamilnadu and not among the other nationalities which constituted the proposed Dravidasthan. Hence unlike Pakistan, Dravidasthan was a non-starter. Moreover, the Tamil Nationalism nurtured by the Dravidian movement did not evolve into a movement of liberation as it capitulated with the centre, the gate way of imperialism. Thus Nationality question today in the Indian sub-continent, which is a prison of various nationalities, is beyond the bourgeois democratic revolution. It is with this understanding that the democratic movements and human rights movements in the sub-continent express solidarity with the Kashmiri question, Khalistan, and the nationality questions in the North-East. Incidentally, the solidarity expressed by the Tamils in Tamil Nadu with the Eelam Tamils has reinforced the Tamil National question in Tamil Nadu, in the present context, as the Indian State is callous and indifferent towards the Eelam Tamil question.
On the question of Self Determination:
Kusal has elucidated the question of Self Determination drawing inspiration from Marxist literature on the question of the state and the people. Yet another crux of the Marxist perspective, which he did not refer to with regard to Self Determination, is the difference in approaches between the proletarian movement that belong to the oppressor nation and with that of the oppressed nation. While the stand of the proletarian movement which belongs to the oppressed nation is to lend conditional support to the nationality question, the proletariat of the oppressor nation ought to lend unconditional support to the national self determination of the oppressed nation.
In the instant case, the people who champion the cause of democracy among the Sinhala nation have to support unconditionally the cause of Eelam Tamil nation. In view of the oppression unleashed on the Eelam Tamils by the successive governments, the Eelam Tamils have democratically asserted, as a nation, their self determination beginning from Vaddukottai Resolution and in the provincial elections one after another on the plank of independent Eelam.
It is well known that the young Eelam Tamils were constrained to resort to militant struggle to realise their call, as the Sinhala chauvinist regimes struck down their democratic voices, violently. I guess this is the core of the A,B,C of the politics of SL Tamils. Instead of appreciating the long history and aspirations of the Eelam Tamils, just highlighting the post war suppressed & feeble voice of the Eelam Tamils, who seek political devolution with the perspective of 13th Amendment or Plus (which is categorically denied by the Ruling sections), as the core objective of SL Tamils is unwittingly misleading. Interpreting this as the call for “better wages” vis-a-vis “Closure of the Factory” is naive. It is unfortunate that Kusal who hails from a Marxist tradition has resorted to this.
There is lot more to share. Thanks to Kusal, Paul and Colombo Telegraph for encouraging me to pen my concerns on some of the issues raised by my good friend Kusal.