By Paul Newman –
The whole of last week Tamils around the world were concerned on two important outcomes that would have a bearing on their future directly or indirectly. The two issues were the outcome of the visit of Dr.Navi Pillai, the UN Human Rights Commissioner and the release of the TNA’s Northern Provincial Election Manifesto. Today there is a lot to cheer about, both the outcomes have been extremely positive and complement each other to a great extent.
A manifesto of a political party is to outline the ‘Vision of the party towards its electorate’. In this context the two most important stakeholders are the “Tamils of the North’ and the TNA. I see a lot of positives in this document. To outline a few I would pick.
- The assertion of the Right to Self Determination
- Demand for an Independent International Inquiry
- Rejection of the 13th amendment as the final solution
- Keeping the whole document ‘Tamil Centric’ and not ‘Colombo Centric’, the TNA has got it politically right in quelling all doubts that they work as tools for Colombo, New Delhi, Washington etc
- Remembering and recognizing the problems faced by the war widows. By doing this the TNA has touched the emotional and social chord of the Tamils
- Welcome the Muslims to join the Tamils in rebuilding the North and building bridges with the Muslims.
- Demanding an Independent International Independent Inquiry into War Crimes by Sri Lanka and the LTTE
In recognizing the fact that people with fresh wounds of the war voted overwhelmingly for the TNA in 2010, this manifesto has answered two important concerns of the Tamils world over including Tamilnadu. They are:
- TNA is not dancing to the times of India (Rejection of the 13th amendment as the final solution)
- TNA will not bow down to the pressure tactics of Colombo and not surrender the dignity of the Tamils
The manifesto is extremely elaborate in stating the historical struggle of Tamils there by reiterating and refreshing the memories of the people that this is a struggle for Justice. At this juncture the TNA is carrying on its Dharma to seek justice to those who are voiceless and suffered since 1948 not just physically but mentally too. Other important salient feature of this manifesto includes.
At the time of independence from colonial rule in 1948, Ceylon was foisted with a unitary type constitution with simple majoritarian rule. This proves that historically the Tamils have been wronged and had no say in state formation. It becomes important that Great Britain recognize this fact as it was their historic folly and act accordingly at least in the future at International forums.
In this background in April 1951 the ITAK articulated its claim that the Tamil People in Ceylon were a Nation distinct from that of the Sinhalese by every test of nationhood and were therefore entitled to the right to self-determination. This should silence critiques that the issue of ‘Right to self determination’ is a claim of the 1970s.
Various peaceful agitations were organized between this time and the late 1970s to win back the right to self-determination that was lost first through foreign conquests and later due to a system of government not accepted by the Tamil People that reinforced majoritarian hegemony. In not accepting the justful demands of the Tamils and by imposing Sinhala on them the state was the root cause for people taking up arms as a last resort to fight back after they became victims of successive pogroms.
Systematic State-sponsored colonization was carried out since independence in 1948 in order to change the demographic pattern of the North-East, which are the areas of historic habitation of the Tamil Speaking Peoples. In reality the demographic changes started to occur from 1881 onwards, but it received state aid from 1948 has been noted in the manifesto.
In addition to the acts of discrimination, including standardization which affected the tertiary education of the Tamil youth and discrimination in employment in the state sector, organized violence was periodically unleashed against the Tamil People in the country in 1956, 1958, 1961, 1977, 1981 and 1983. No protection was provided by the State to the Tamil victims. On these occasions, affected Tamil People from other parts of the country were transported by the State to the North and East thereby recognizing these two provinces to be their homeland. At the first instance the state lost its sovereignty over these people when it failed to protect them, and then sent a very clear message that these victims were from the historical Tamil heartland and need to return to their original places of origin.
The TNA firmly believes that sovereignty lies with the People and not with the State. It is not the government in Colombo that holds the right to govern the Tamil People, but the People themselves. In a world where human rights are becoming the new religion, the states are formed to serve the people. It is here that their aspirations are central. The sovereignty of the people is the principle that the authority of the government is created and sustained by the consent of its people, who are the source of all political power. Benjamin Franklin expressed the concept when he wrote, “In free governments, the rulers are the servants and the people their superiors and sovereigns”. Popular sovereignty is nothing but the voice of the people and here it is the Tamils.
In this regard the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka is flawed in that power is concentrated at the Centre and its Agent, the Governor. The Tamils had at the first instance not accepted the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord, a part of which was the 13th Amendment. In real terms the nominated Governor who is appointed by the President is supreme when compared to the democratically elected Chief Minister.
Our political philosophy is rooted in a fundamental democratic challenge to the authoritarian state. Our political programme is therefore rooted in the needs and aspirations of the Tamil Speaking People for justice and equality. This regime has not been adequately challenged internally since 2009. It has overcome many challenges including the imprisonment of its war hero, Gen.Sarath Fonseca and the impeachment of its Chief Justice. Now the only fear for this Government comes from the TNA which has garnered enough International support as well as seeks to set up a provincial government on its own defying the autocratic power of the ruling party at Colombo.
For the first time a document from the Tamil mainland of Eelam speaks of the refugees living in Tamilnadu which is pleasing to read as these refugees have suffered more than enough since 1991 in the confined camp conditions.
The TNA wishes to point out that it was the inability of the Sri Lankan state to re-structure itself to meet the aspirations of the Tamil People and thereby resolve the national question, and the unleashing of violence against the Tamil civilian population that resulted in the role of the international community increasingly becoming inevitable. Reaching out to the International Community was the last resort as human rights is Universal, if the state fails in its sacred duty to protect its own citizens, it is the duty of the International Community to protect the weak and vulnerable and in this case it is the Tamils who had to seek the help of the International community.
An Independent International Investigation must be conducted into the allegations of violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws made against both the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE during the last stages of the war, the truth ascertained and justice to victims and reparation including compensation must be ensured. This will silence all the critiques that the TNA and Tamils in particular are with blinkers and do not want the excess committed by the LTTE to be accountable. Though the Permanent Peoples Tribunal held in Dublin in January 2010 ruled that the Sri Lankan state needs to be inquired as it was a sovereign state which had signed the UN International Instruments and covenants and by that virtue was bound to follow it. Whereas was non-state actors were not technically bound by these International treaties and not necessarily come under the purview of an International Inquiry. On this count, the TNA has proved that it wants the truth to come out. Now the onus is on the state of Sri Lanka to accept this challenge and respond positively.
We are committed to ensuring that all the Muslims who left the Northern Province return to their respective areas and resume their livelihood activities as soon as possible. They would be encouraged to return and the Northern Provincial Council would provide all the help needed to enable them to re-start their lives. This should put an end to the doubts raised by many about the stand of the Tamils with regard to the Muslims. The TNA has once again acknowledged that the Muslims have been wronged by the Tamils and they are ready to walk that extra mile to set right the historical wrong doings. The progressive Muslims should welcome this and without wasting time should start working with the TNA in their own interest and also keep the BBS away.
This document has already been criticized by a chauvinistic Sinhalese who till recently was on the pay rolls of this regime to defend it in Geneva. He finds seeking an International Independent Inquiry as a problem area as the truth would come out. If that happens he would be shamed for his shameful acts of defending a bloody regime. Such people who defended this bloody regime have no moral authority to profess what the TNA needs to do to appease Colombo and India. TNA has shown it has enough strength in its spine to survive in a meaningful democratic process. There is no point in trusting the regimes in Colombo without the intervention of the International Community. This is a lesson all Tamils must learn.
In the past I have criticized the TNA for not expressing and articulating their position properly. It would have been good if the Vaddukottai resolution of 1976 had found a mention. Hope in the next Parliamentary election Mr.Gajen Ponnambalam joins the TNA and sweep the polls. Well done Mr.Sumanthiran and Company. You have won back confidence of the Tamils world over, now it has to be translated into votes in the North.
To conclude, let me reiterate that this manifesto is not a document for the Colombo based analysts. It is for the Tamils, those who had been shamed, hunted, haunted, hounded, starved, butchered, bombed and starved. It is for those who were herded into the No Fire Zones and massacred, those who saw their children die in their arms without milk to feed or medicine to take. It is for those who spent sleepless nights at Manik Farm camps. It is for those parents, wives, children, brothers and sisters of the disappeared, those who have suffered under the PTA and tortured, and those who carry bitter wounds of becoming refugees for being born as Tamils. It is to acknowledge that the Muslims have suffered; the Tamils have been wronged since 1948. It is to seek Justice and Peace for those who have suffered.