‘Tamil struggle will determine the future of democracy in Sri Lanka, both for Tamils and also Sinhala community.’ - Dr. Jude Lal Fernando

Dr. Jude Lal Fernando is a Research Fellow and Lecturer at Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. Charles Devasagayam interviewed him recently while he was visiting Toronto. The full interview is given below:

    * Freedom in the Tamil people’s context is nationhood, self-determination and homeland.

    * There is a difference between ‘mother India’ and ‘other India’. ‘Mother India’ led by New Delhi is following the US/UK axis and is no more a friend of the Tamil struggle, but ‘other India’ is.

    * Tamil Canadians should join hands with the other struggles of the Canadian people and build solidarity for the collective political aspirations of the Tamil people.

Charles Devasagayam: What made you to get involved with the Tamil struggle?

Dr. Jude Lal Fernando: It has two phases and the first one is 1983 July riots. As a Sinhala youth, I saw what was going on and it disturbed me deeply and my only response at that time was to learn the Tamil language and try to understand more and more deeply the issues between the Sinhala governments and the Tamil people.

The second one is the 1987 - 89 Insurrection that took place within the Sinhala society by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) where the same military that militarized the North and East of the Tamil people and attacked, raped and liquidated the villages, did similar kind of things. Of course they did not liquidate the (Sinhala) villages, but abducted, tortured, raped and killed the Sinhala youth. However, the JVP who led the Sinhala insurrection never recognized the Tamil struggle.

The LTTE was challenging the state structure that oppresses the Tamil people and the JVP was challenging the governments that marginalize the Sinhala oppressed classes, but they strongly held on to the unitary state structure that oppressed Tamils. This is the biggest dilemma I and my friends who had a close relationship with both Sinhala and Tamil communities faced. How could the Sinhala oppressed classes led by the JVP support an oppressive state that deprived the rights of the Tamil people?

So, I really started thinking with the like minded colleagues and friends of mine within the Sinhala community, that it is important first of all to recognize the Tamil struggle and at the same time build a common platform that would help understand the struggles of the two communities. One is the struggle for self determination and the other is coming from the Sinhala society’s struggle for justice, fair play and democracy.

So, these are the two phases in my life that really motivated me to think about the Tamil struggle seriously. The democracy in the Island of Sri Lanka within the Sinhala community is inseparably interwoven, connected with the Tamil’s struggle. If I put it in a very simple way, it is only by recognizing Tamil people’s democratic right to self-determination that democracy amongst the Sinhala people could be established, not other wise. This is what most of the people who talk about democracy in Sri Lanka cannot understand. Whenever the Sinhala society backed the Sinhala Nationalist ideology and protected the Unitary State structure, the same mechanism was used by the regimes to crush every form of democratic dissent within the Sinhala society. In other words, it is the same military that carried out Tamil genocide that has become the instrument of suppressing democratic dissent amongst the Sinhalese. That is what the Sinhala society should understand.

There won’t be any democracy amongst the Sinhalese until the Sinhala Society is ready to accept the right to self-determination of the Tamil people. On the other hand, the Tamil struggle will determine the future of democracy in Sri Lanka, both for the Tamils understandably and also among the Sinhala community.

CD: You often refer to the Tamil people’s right to self determination. But, under the current situation the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) is reported to be changing the demography of the Tamil areas rapidly. In that sense how would Tamils vote for their Self-determination if their population is reduced in the North & East?

JF: Yes. This is the re-colonization of the Tamil region by the Sinhala centric state. In my understanding this is the third phase of colonization. The first phase was during the British period as far back as 1920s and 1930s. And the second phase was in the 1980s under the J.R. Jayewardene regime, where the so called Border villages were introduced with Sinhala settlers. This was done with Israeli advice following the model of buffer zone in Palestinian territory. It has been clearly proven that Mossad backed and advised and instructed as to how to build the buffer zone.

The third phase is the so called ‘Postwar’ phase which is happening now.

Now, my understanding is that this third phase is not a postwar phase. This recolonization is a war by other means. The armed phase of the war is over, but all the other forms of war are continuing in an unprecedented manner through colonization and militarization. Now, this phase was there even before the armed struggle started, but on a different degree. Tamil resistance reduced this level to a certain extent. Now, after the armed phase of the war the process of recolonization has increased as never before.

At the same time we can see the Sri Lankan military engaging not only in militarization of the region and instilling fear amongst the population, but also getting hold of almost all the business establishments as possible, ranging from a small barber shop, to tailor shop, to big tourist hotels, and even extending in to farming. It is a business-military complex that is being built in the name of postwar reconstruction and rehabilitation.

The entire collective cultural life of the Tamil people is being destroyed by establishing Buddhist places of worship in every public location and changing road signs and names into Sinhala. This is a process of Genocide where the collective national life of a people is being systematically and in a well-coordinated manner, is being destroyed after a massacre of over hundred thousand lives in the last phase of the war in 2009.

By doing this we can see the demography being changed and there is a gerrymandering of constituencies, which the British did in Northern Ireland, in order to change the voter percentage of the constituencies. So, eventually in an election, the government can claim that they were elected democratically by the people on the basis of majority vote.

We should not forget that Tamil people voted overwhelmingly for self-determination and nationhood twice in history in these constituencies as part of their resistance to majoritarian rule. All what is being done by the government is aimed at destroying any potential resistance emerging from the Tamil people.

Now, its very clear that this need to colonize and destroy the resistance is not only a local Sinhala nationalistic need, it is also a global need which is not spoken by many. The major powers, particularly US, UK who were followed by India, who backed the war against the LTTE and the Tamil people, support this colonization as a means of destroying resistance. This is why I say that the war is continuing by other means. Therefore it is not a post-conflict or a postwar situation in the eyes of the Tamil people.

Now, there is a fundamental idea behind this recolonization, that is, it is only the Sri Lankan government who has the right to be nationalist, not the Tamils. So, who decides who has the right to be nationalist? It is the major powers who supported Sri Lankan government. In the 2002 peace process the US/UK governments did not want to recognize both parties with equal status, but they did so in the case of Northern Ireland.

European Union at the first phase of the peace process did accept both parties and this was a recognition that the conflict in Sri Lanka is a National Question between two nations, rather than a so called Terrorist Question. Later European Union too changed its position under US/UK pressure and created political space for an all-out war against the LTTE and the Tamil People.

Historically the Tamil people have articulated their nationalism on a very concrete basis as result of historical process of oppression. It is not a subjective form of nationalism, but a very objective one. It was ratified by parliamentary election in 1977, where Vaddukoddai resolution got an overwhelming mandate. And even during the armed phase, especially during the Peace process in 2004 in the elections that were held, it was again ratified overwhelmingly by the Tamil people, the rights of self-determination, nationhood and homeland.

So, objectively its very clear that collective aspirations of the Tamils have been very, very clearly expressed, articulated by two elections and also through armed resistance, building a de-facto state and internationally this de-facto state was recognized as a basis for future negotiations in the 2002 Peace process. The Tamils were focussing on rehabilitation, reconstruction, demilitarization, power-sharing and cross-community peace-building efforts. I was part of this cross-community peace-building process.

But what happened? US/UK governments and then EU dismantled the peace process and gave an upper hand to the Sinhala-dominated government and backed the genocidal war. These powers even went to the extent of demanding the LTTE to lay down arms and ask the people to come to the Sri Lankan government control area. Nobody asked the question why they should leave their homeland where they have lived for ages.

In fact, the bombing was so unbearable that the people were forced to flee. A people who demanded freedom were reduced to mere animal instinct and made to say we do not want freedom, ‘we will go to the government controlled areas.’ This really troubles our conscience. It is defeat to humanity. This they tried in Guatemala, Vietnam, Kenya in a way to empty the pond as they call it.

You attack the people who are really the back bone of the struggle. So, the people are reduced to mere survival instinct and say, “Hey, we don’t want freedom, we run away.” That’s what really happened.

When you look at the peace processes in Northern Ireland and Guatemala, these took more than 10 years to materialize after initial agreements were made, but Sri Lanka was not given that time. In peace agreements, normally interim arrangements are promoted, but this was not even tried in Sri Lanka. All because of geopolitical reasons that favoured a unitary state structure in Sri Lanka which is the root cause of oppression of Tamils.

So, there is a deliberate move to silence the Tamil collective aspirations. This is what the Tamils and the progressives in the world should remember. Those in Latin American left would say separatism is serving American imperialism, yes it does when American funded ‘Contras’ fight against leftist governments. But the Tamil national struggle was against one of the most right-wing states in Asia which since colonial times has served imperialism in the Indian Subcontinent. This is the reason for the major powers to support the Sri Lankan State against the Tamil struggle.

There is also a deliberate effort to minimize the number of deaths in war. This is part of silencing of collective aspiration of the Tamil people. We can see very clearly when it comes to final figures of the people who were killed in the last phase of the war. Now, according to the testimony Bishop Joseph Rayappu presented at the LLRC in January 2011, at least there was over 146,000 people who were missing.

Now, he comes to this calculation comparing and contrasting Mullaitheevu and Kilinochchi AGA Division secretariat statistics and the statistics by the UN coordinating office for the humanitarian affairs who said at least over 200,000 people had come back to the government controlled areas. So, he subtracted this number from the existing bigger number which goes up to 400,000. Now where are these numbers in the LLRC report or in any other report? Now these are the official statistics and not somebody’s individual calculations. My question is why these credible numbers are not taken seriously? What is known to the world is the number given by an individual UN officer and he also gave it only after he resigned from the UN. Gordon Weiss says 10-40000 could have been killed which is an individual testimony. Whereas the figure Bishop Rayappu presented was not an individual testimony but based on particular statistics which still can be checked and re checked by referring to these registries in the two districts, Mullaitheevu and Kilinochchi secretariats as well as the UN officer for coordination for humanitarian affairs.

The more the truth about the last phase of the war comes to the lime light more the collective aspiration of the Tamils will be reinforced. The international community and the human rights organizations do not want to use the word genocide at all. The UN resolution which is based on LLRC, reduces the human rights violations in Sri Lanka to a break down of law and order.

They are contradicting themselves not unconsciously, but deliberately. Sri Lankan government is bound to violate human rights of the Tamils as long as the unitary state structure is there. It is not possible to protect the rights of the Tamils (not even the Sinhalese as this state is highly militarized) by protecting the unitary state.

So, minimizing the numbers deliberately is part of denying, I would say, the Tamil aspirations. So, this has to be kept in mind if we are moving further in reinvigorating the Tamil national demand.

CD: So, when you say about putting the number of people killed to a minimal number, are you talking about the GOSL or of the International community as well? Because, recently the GOSL declared that about 8000 people were killed and the UN had officially said about 9000 people killed during the war up to a certain period. So, this is in collaboration with the International community?

JF: Yeah, for example in 2009 April, just few weeks before the end of the war, representatives of Co-chairs met in Colombo and had five hours of discussions. This came out in Wiki leaks and they had their satellite images. They knew what was going on then. So, they knew very well through their evidence that the so called ‘Safety Zone’ is being bombed and people are being killed. It has been revealed that the Indian government also knew it.

In the first part of the five hour discussion they wanted to demand GOSL to stop it and issue a statement. But, in the second half, this decision was reversed and instead a decision was taken to pressurize the Tamil Diaspora. So, they would put pressure on the Tamil Tigers to lay down arms and allow the people to come to the Sri Lankan controlled areas.

So, in that sense no one can say that the Co-Chairs, India and the decision makers in GOSL, did not know what was going on. They knew it very well and too well. The question was why did they hide? Because, they wanted this to come to a final end. The Tamil national struggle to be totally wiped out, its arms phase to be wiped out, its national leaders to be wiped out, its material base the de facto state to be destroyed, no matter what the cost would be.

So, if you see the definition of what Genocide is, “Genocide is s coordinated, systematic attack on the national life of a people, destroying partly or in full their national life, their people and their leadership, cultural life etc.’ And this is a coordinated, systematic, deliberate plan against a national group, their leadership, their people, cultural life. So, in that respect GOSL as well as the powers who really backed it are responsible, are guilty of I would say, not only ‘War Crimes & Crimes Against Humanity’ but also ‘ Genocide.’

So, you can also see very clearly that during the peace time at least 15,000 square KM area was administered by the Tamil Tigers, accepted as the Line of control between the two parties and what we see is this peace process was deliberately dismantled and this is in a way a war of aggression which constitute a crime against peace.

I would say, under the International Humanitarian Law there are very powerful provisions that we need to take on board in the future.

US resolution at UNHCR

Let me come a little bit to the UN resolution also. I can understand the Tamil Rights Activists who are out of desperation, in the absence of any other alternatives, go to the UN to seek a remedy. UN is the apex body, but who controls the UN and who brought the resolution? The very powers who dismantled the peace process? Let us say in simple terms the Co-Chairs!!!!!! What came out from the UN is endorsing the LLRC resolutions and asking the GOSL to implement it. Now, for an example if you look at the LLRC report, it reduces the whole war against the Tamil people to a matter of collapse of Law and Order and recognizes the state’s right to wage war to protect its sovereignty.

If at all certain Human Rights violations have taken place according to them it happened because of individual deviation of the soldiers. LLRC does not touch upon the fundamental issue of the national question in Sri Lanka, the issue of the unitary state structure which is the root cause of the historical oppressions of the Tamils. And without touching the fundamental question, it reduces the whole conflict to the collapse of Law and Order. It is not only misleading and deceptive, but it also legitimizes genocide to protect the state.

There is another war going on against the Tamil Diaspora. This is an unseen war. Through military means they have destroyed the collectively built de facto state of the Tamils and now they have started the recolonization scheme to destroy any hope for future resistance. On another front, you can see there is pressure coming on the Diaspora groups to minimize their demands or not demand at all. There is pressure to accept some solution under the unitary structure. On the other hand the Diaspora is depicted as not representing the aspirations of the Tamil people in North and East. The Diaspora needs to be aware of these traps.

Amidst all these the Sri Lankan regime continues to become a powerful military machine with the support of global powers who support the UN resolution against Sri Lanka. Of course this regime not only has destroyed the Tamil national life, but also has and still crushing every form of democratic dissent amongst Tamils and Sinhala communities. Even those political parties, activists among the Sinhala community who backed the war at that time are now not safe.

They have to appeal to the International community to protect their cadres or members, which is paradoxical tragedy. They continue to say that the UN resolution is a Western conspiracy, but do not see how even very recently US and Sri Lankan navy carried out joint military operation in the Trincomalee seas. And how arms worth millions of dollars were sold to the Sri Lankan regime by the British government between 2004-2009 and even after the war. Miliband seems to have called Mahinda Rajapakshe a liar. Who is cheating whom?

The major powers might plan a regime change in Sri Lanka. But the empowerment of the Sinhala elite will continue and the military will be strengthened. Justice, democracy and human rights will certainly not be respected in that context. So, this is the broader picture.

Amidst all these, resilience of the Tamil people has not died down. Let me give you an example to what I am saying. In the midst of militarization and recolonization, we can see the resilience of the Tamil people. Some dared to come and testify at the LLRC knowing that they will be intimidated and taken to the fourth floor, which is the infamous national intelligence bureau of Sri Lankan regime. Women had come and testified, not because they trusted the LLRC, as most of the Tamils don’t trust really, but because they were desperate to say what happened.

Furthermore, we can see how 75 civil society groups in the North and East came out with the Open Memorandum to Tamil National Alliance (TNA) very clearly expressing the Tamil collective aspirations for Self- determination, nation hood and homeland, after such a massive atrocity and genocide, where people were forced to flee. After three years people came and said, yes, we have a collective demand.

The GOSL and the International community are scared of these kinds of peaceful, nonviolent human collective resistance. Now the government and the major powers are not scared of the Tigers as the armed phase of the war is over. Now, they are scared of the Tamil people who are really articulate through different means, their collective national aspirations.

That is why there is an ongoing psychological warfare to erase the memory. Memory is important not to hate any body. Not to take revenge from any body. Memory is important to heal. How? By demanding justice. That is very human. Memory is important to respect the dead and to uphold the ideals that they stood for and that is very human. And if this memory is not respected, recovery will be impossible and we have nothing human to offer our children.

The Diaspora should not betray the memory and should learn from the resilience of the people in the North and East. They need to constantly remind themselves why they are outside their homeland. At least one million Tamils are out of their homeland.

CD: Is it the Tamil people or the Tamil Diaspora?

JF: I would say Tamil people. I want to make it very clear now. Diaspora is part of the Tamil people. I really want to lay emphasis on the resilience of the people still in the Wanni, and in the North and East. This resilience has to be recognized.

The question is whether the Diaspora can face the two prong attack against them. One is to disconnect them from the Tamil people in the North and East saying the Diaspora is in the west, UK, USA, Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or Singapore & Malaysia. Therefore their voice should not be heard seriously, because they do not know the reality of the people in the North and East.

The second one is that the Diaspora is also pressurized to compromise, let me put it this way, to go and accept something under the unitary state structure or to support UN resolution. This is the two prong attack against the Diaspora which is another phase of Mullivaikkal. That was a very physical phase, so much of blood was shed. What is happening now is the attack on the morale of the people, ideals of the people and spirit of the people in a very subtle way, in a very unconscious way or gentlemanly way, without bombs.

However, you can see that the North and East is being militarized with the support of the same powers that backed the UN resolution, but still people and 75 organizations in the North and East come and say they want freedom. Freedom in the Tamil people’s context is self-determination.

So, this is why I say that the Diaspora which is a powerful part of the Tamil people has to get connected or draw more and more inspirations from the resilience and the collective aspirations of the people in the North and East. This is what is important at the moment, expose the duplicity of politics of international powers.

CD: You said that the Four Co-Chair members were kind of indifferent to what was happening in Wanni at that time. But President Rajapaksa has said, “ Sri Lanka’s war was waged on behalf of India.” Perhaps India would have influenced the Co-Chairs not to pressurize Sri Lanka, saying that once the war is over, they will give more concessions and rights including 13 Plus to the Tamils. Would that be a possible scenario?

JF: I do not think that way, Charles. Honestly, it has to be seen within the Geo Political strategy of, lets say the United States, China specially surrounding the Indian Ocean and the Island of Lanka.

As we know, during the cold war period, for Indira Gandhi, the Tamil national struggle became the progressive struggle to destabilize Colombo which was pro-Washington or Israel, specially after 1977, under J.R. Jayawardene. After the cold war, India became clearly pro-Washington and also made an alliance with the Sri Lankan government to destroy the Tamil national struggle through the Indo-Lanka peace accord.

This American alliance is important for India to face China. As you know there are two India’s, the ‘Mother India’ which is heavily militarized and ‘Other India’ which is progressive. Even though it is the 6th Industrial nation in the world, it is also one of the poorest nations in the world. If you read the text of Arunthathy Roy and many others who are Indians themselves, they are very critical of this aspect of India.

I would say India knew from the beginning, because India and United States, EU, Norway and Japan shared information, always from the beginning and Erik Solheim very publicly acknowledged that each time he came to Colombo, he somehow or other had to come through New Delhi. So, from the beginning India knew what was going on and as such, India is complicit.

However, I would say that India could not have done that much of harm, had not the Western powers not destroyed the 2002 peace process so badly. But that doesn’t save India from its complicity at all. It is in the interests of Indian government also very clearly that this Tamil National struggle come to a final end. This is my understanding.

Because, it’s an Island in the heart of the Indian ocean. It’s very important in the emerging trade, commerce and military activities of the major powers, both in the Indian ocean by India and then by the British and US governments and of course counter balancing the Chinese influence in the region. But who has paid the utmost price? The Tamil people.

CD: In many instances, a considerable number of people from the majority community sympathized with the struggling people. Many Americans supported Martin Luther King’s movement. In South Africa there was wide spread support for Nelson Mandela and same thing during India’s independence struggle. Then why there isn’t any support from the Majority Sinhala community for the Tamil people’s struggle, except people like Dr. Brian Seneviratne and your self?

JF: Yes, this question has been constantly raised, especially by the Tamil community. You can see in the history of Sri Lankan politics, there have been different stages of development of Sinhala nationalism. Sinhala supremacist mindset is a colonial product. Like the Loyalists in Northern Ireland the Sinhalese were groomed by the British as their favoured friends. The Sinhala leaders never asked for total independence. They only asked for a dominion status. It is with this ‘ We the Royal mentality’ that was passed on to the middle classes led by the Buddhist Sangha in the 50s who were made to believe that the entire land belongs to the Sinhalese. The other reason is alliance politics of the Leftist parties who abandoned their principles and followed the majoritarian trend to obtain seats in Parliament.

After UNP’s 17 years of war both against the Tamil people and the Sinhala youth Chandrika came to power in mid 1990s. There was a liberal space within the Sinhala society to recognize the rights of the Tamil people. This space was led by liberal intellectuals, NGO’s, churches and some sections of the sangha. Chandrika used it and turned it up side down and made it as a ‘War For Peace.’ So, that Liberal phase is gone. I am not worried about that phase, because that would have not delivered any thing. I just want to give it as a historical example, about some kind of a relative potential that was there. But it was not really a crucial one that would have made a real change. Even liberal intellectuals cannot survive the nationalist and militaristic politics in Sri Lanka today.

The most crucial one is JVP. It’s not the Tamil people who took up arms in Sri Lanka first. It’s the Sinhala youth in 1971. This has been forgotten very much in the analysis. The Tamils took up arms much later. As far back as 1971 we can say at least 10,000 Sinhala youth were massacred by the then regime. In 1987-1989 period at least 100,000 Sinhala youth were massacred by the then regime which was also carrying out a massive military operation in the North and East.

Now, the same military which bombed and liquidated the Tamil villages, also abducted and killed the Sinhala youth both male and female. At least 600 Buddhist monks have been killed by the Sri Lankan military in 1987-1989. The JVP is mass based in rural middle classes and do not need any extra lessons about the brutality of the state military machine. But as JVP entered into parliamentary politics in 1994, like the old left, they sold their conscience and supported the governments and military in its war against the Tamils.

The Sinhalese talk about a history that is glorious, which goes back as far as 2500 years ago. But they had forgotten the events that took place in 87-89 period, just 25 years ago when they started supporting the Tamil Genocide. JVP in fact had undergone this brutal experience, state repression and the brutal repression of the military. By supporting the Sri Lankan regimes after 1995, first Chandrika and then Mahinda’s regime, to wage the war against the Tamils, that moral space within the Sinhala society has been destroyed by the JVP.

In this setting you find it today the poorest of the poor Sinhala person who might not have a job or whose son or daughter might have been harassed by the Sinhala police, military or by the politicians, yet, when it comes to the Tamil national question they say ‘This is my country.’ There is serious ideological factor within the Sinhala society, that conditions its mind set.

Then what is the outcome? The JHU agenda moved forward and today where is JVP? They have been reduced to simply few seats and produced a fascist state and this is my understanding. Had there been a moral compass within the Sinhala society to link the memory of 87-89 to the lament of the Tamil people, history of the island would have been different from what it is today. Some who had this moral compass like the Hiry group was so marginalized and persecuted by the regime that they had to go into exile.

You and I are here in Canada today because that did not happen. This is the most tragic truth about Sri Lanka. But, it is also the truth that will help us to think about something for the future. So, it is on that truth some Sinhala progressive people used to work as I mentioned at the beginning.

We have to think about the common struggle. Of course I would like to reiterate it’s the Tamil people who are resilient or still morally on a high ground, politically very articulate, will decide whether Sri Lanka is going to be a democratic country or not. The democracy of Sinhala community will be determined by the Tamils. So, if I put it in a very, very simple way, I stand for the rights of the Tamil people, because I want the Sinhalese community also to be democratic.

On the other hand Sinhala community cannot morally, culturally, socially and politically move an inch forward in human history if the Sinhala community does not accept that something bad happened because of their complicity. Huge blood bath took place because of their complicity.

CD: Can you tell us about the Dublin Tribunal? Where does it stand now and where will it go from here? GOSL has criticized it as a ‘Kangaroo Court.’ What’s your take on that?

JF: Now there are two things I want to mention about the Dublin Tribunal. First is the location. Second is its Principles. The choice of the location was deliberate. Not because I am from Dublin but no one can accuse Ireland as part of the Western conspiracy or neo colonial country. Ireland itself is a post colonial country. It was a colony of Britain and still there is an anti-colonial public sphere.

The second one is regarding the foci of the Tribunal, we have two things. One is the last Phase of the War and its aftermath. The second one is the factors which led to the collapse of the 2002 Peace Process. The first and the second points are extremely connected.

Dublin Tribunal is one among many Tribunals that the People’s Permanent Tribunal in Rome held. This mechanism was started as far back as 1960s and 70s under the leadership of Bertram Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre to probe into War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity committed by the American forces in Vietnam. This doesn’t have a legal binding. But it has a moral space and that moral space is important to raise the awareness of the people.

In the Panel, we found people who represent not Geo Political interests, but the interests of the progressive people of the world and mainly the victims of state aggression. So we have people from Latin America, Egypt, Thailand, India and Ireland. The profile of the judges increased the moral ground of the tribunal very much, because they were not connected to any government as such or the western interests, if you want to call it.

As you know, the Tribunal found the Sri Lankan government guilty of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity and also held US/UK led international community including the EU responsible for the collapse of the 2002 Peace Process and that’s quite an important statement.

There is going to be a follow-up. The Tribunal also stated that the case of ‘Genocide should be further investigated’ and today after two years, we have enough evidence to investigate the case of Genocide.

Secondly, we have enough evidence today, to expose the crimes against Peace committed by the international community, especially in the context of 2002 Peace Process. So, the future proceedings of the Tribunal will be going on very soon. It’s a matter of technicalities to probe into two other phases of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity. We have already initiated discussion with PPT in Rome.

This will again broaden the space for us to democratize the debate about Sri Lanka. All our activities are based on one principle. Let us democratize the debate on Sri Lanka and make it as open as possible bringing in as much evidence as possible. Why I say this is there is a deliberate pressure to limit or cover the truth about the war in Sri Lanka. This is totally undemocratic and morally indefensible. So, we just want to expand the democratic space.

CD: What would you like to say to the Tamil Canadians?

JF: Canada is a country of so many nationalities, ethnic and indigenous groups. It’s a microcosm of how our world is. We can see the Tamil people as part of the bigger panorama of colours in Canada. There are struggles within Canada for justice and freedom. A good number of these groups who arrived in Canada as refugees now share Canadian identity and have their struggles in their home lands too.

What is important for the Tamil Canadians is to join hands, of course with the struggles of other Canadian people, whether indigenous or migrant communities, demanding justice while constantly reconnecting them to their homeland. That is what is most important for the Tamil struggle as well as for the other struggles.

CD: Thank you for accommodating us within your busy schedule.

JF: You are welcome. Thank you Charles.

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