By Krisna Saravanamuttu –
I woke up this morning and found that two organizations I work very closely with, the National Council of Canadian Tamils and the Tamil Youth Organization, are now banned terrorist front organizations in Sri Lanka. Any politician, civil society member or NGO that works with us from the island will be treated as a criminal. Any representative from these Diaspora groups who visits their homeland will be arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
Through the use of anti-terrorism legislation, Sri Lanka has long been able to designate acceptable and unacceptable political objectives. With the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), Sri Lanka redefined the legitimate political aspirations of the Tamil Nation into crime and security problems. From the Tamil United Liberation Front’s Vaddukkodai Declaration to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s Interim Self Governing Authority, Sri Lanka pursued a military campaign instead of negotiations in good faith. Sri Lanka butchered hundreds of thousands of Tamils under the guise of the PTA. Today Sri Lanka evokes the same PTA to deny fundamental civil liberties to Tamils under the occupation. The arbitrary arrest of Jeyakumari and her daughter; the late night rounds up of entire villages; checkpoints that restrict freedom of mobility; the persecution of former LTTE cadres is all a consequence of the PTA.
The current paranoia around terrorism in the Sinhala Nation comes from a well-conditioned populace, arising from decades of fear through the public policy of “Tamil Tiger Terrorist” discourse. The cultural fear of the Tamil Tiger reconstructed the Tamil civilian as the terrorist other in Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka, every Tamil is a possible Tiger and every Tamil can be arbitrarily detained, harassed and killed.
The Tamil struggle for independence emerged as a reaction to a post-colonial state building process where the leaders of the Sinhalese Nation subjected the Tamils to riots, military aggression, and police brutality while denying them power sharing, employment opportunities, land rights, and access to higher education. Violent repression of peaceful politics compelled Tamil youth to take up arms. Sri Lanka’s war on the Tamil People, branded as a “terrorist problem,” internally displaced thousands. Thousands more were compelled to flee as refugees. We are the children of those refugees.
Even today the Diaspora—numbering over a million across the globe and over 300,000 in Toronto—continue to be a major factor in the island’s conflict. The discourse of terrorism regulates the activities of the Tamil Diaspora even after the military defeat of the LTTE. Vicki Sentas affirms, “targeting the Tamil Diaspora remains a deliberate foreign policy and counter-terrorism strategy” because the Sri Lankan Government “seeks to consolidate its victory over the idea of political self-determination for Tamils” (Sentas, 107). The end of war does not necessarily mean peace. Until a just and equitable political resolution is reached for the island’s intractable conflict, the demonization of the Tamil struggle will inevitably play out as Sri Lankan foreign policy.
Without a doubt, the proscription on the Tamil Nationalist Movement in the Diaspora seeks to create a wedge between Tamils abroad and Tamils in occupied Eelam. The intention of this process fits into the state’s overall strategy of genocide to isolate Tamils in the homeland from their kith and kin around the globe. The recent collaboration in Geneva of Eelam Tamils from the homeland and the Diaspora unambiguously raised the nature of our peoples’ oppression as nothing less than genocide and the struggle as nothing more than liberation. Eelam Tamils boldly stood on their own two feet to assert their sovereign rights as a Nation within the halls of Geneva.
As of now, we, Tamil youth and students involved in the liberation struggle, are a people in exile, yet the day will come when our feet will touch the soil of our liberated homeland. The ban on the Diaspora will only strengthen our resolve to end the occupation and free the Tamil Nation.
*Krisna Saravanamuttu is the Advocacy and Research Director of the National Council of Canadian Tamils. You can follow him on twitter: @KrisnaS85