Bishop of Mannar’s Push for Recognition of the Tamil Nation and Tamil Self Rule Sets Benchmarks for Political Solution for Eelam Tamils

By: Usha S Sri-Skanda-Rajah, Senator TGTE

“Our solution does not lie in the 13th Amendment but on the Tamil nationhood to be recognised. We are not a minority. From the beginning of history there have been two nations that must be recognized”

With these profound words that is sure to resonate well with the Tamil Diaspora and the Tamil heartland in the North and East of the island of Sri Lanka, the outspoken Bishop of Mannar, in characteristic fashion set the benchmarks as it were for any future dialogue for a political solution for Eelam Tamils; benchmarks that must be heeded not just by the Rajapaksa administration but by the UN, the international community and India, requiring immediate international intervention.

His Worship, the courageous and forthright spiritual leader revered by Eelam Tamils, chose a forum in Geneva where Sri Lanka’s Universal Periodic Review is set to begin any moment, to make the assertion that the “13th amendment is fundamentally flawed”, that the Tamil people have to be recognised as a nation and have a “right to rule”, reflecting in principle, the long held fundamental demand of Eelam Tamils.

He was speaking from his Mannar Diocese through video call, to an audience composed of representatives from various country missions and human rights defenders gathered at an event titled: Sri Lanka UPR 2012: Rhetoric and Reality” organized by the International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR), and co-sponsored by Amnesty International, Asian Legal Resource Centre, Franciscans International, Human Rights Watch and Lawyers Rights Watch Canada,

The Reaffirmation of Nationhood and Right to Rule

The Bishop’s reaffirmation of ‘Tamil Nationhood’ and ‘Tamil Right to Rule’ comes at a critical time when concern is running high over the intensified ‘structural genocide’ of the Tamil Nation leading to the virtual obliteration of the Tamil Nation that’s been undertaken by Sinhala administrations of the past but pursued with a vengeance by the Rajapaksa administration and gaining rapid momentum in the North and East.

The Tamil Guardian in ‘Bishop of Mannar calls for recognition of Tamil Nation’ quoted the Bishop addressing some of his concerns:

“The Sri Lankan military are here. We don’t understand why… the war is over. They run restaurants. People who earn very little are being deprived…….Land is not grabbed all over the country, but in the North-East. They are grabbing land all over the North-East; Trincomallee, Jaffna, Palali and Mullaitivu…The presence of the military is creating abnormality...There are a lot of people walking like skeletons… They have lost their mind, they need to heal… A lot of money is spent on celebrating the war but where are our people? We are not allowed in our areas, Mannar for example to grieve our dead people. The dead must be respected and justice served,” the Bishop said.

The Bishop was essentially expressing unease about the situation in the Tamil homeland with respect to Sri Lankan military presence and its involvement in businesses that deprived those who already had scarce livelihood opportunities; to land grab prevailing only in the North and East and not in the rest of the island; to the prohibition on people to grieve.

The Bishop who, in his testimony to the Lessons learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) insisted that 146,679 people are missing since after the war, lamented about the lack of response by the Rajapaksa administration to this serious concern. Despite this the Bishop has continued to be outspoken with his concerns and recommendations, the Bishop being one of the few lone voices coming from the Tamil homeland.

‘International Protection Mechanism’ to stop ‘structural genocide’

The concerns that the Bishop laid out have been time again echoed by the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) and all the leading Tamil organizations in the Diaspora. The TGTE has been in the forefront calling for an ‘International Protection Mechanism’ to be put in place to stop the destruction of the Tamil Nation which it alleges is ‘structural genocide’ instigated and orchestrated by the Rajapaksa administration to wipeout the ‘Tamil National Identity from its very base’.

TGTE which is committed to achieving the restoration of an independent, sovereign state for Eelam calls on the UN to stop this illegal practice.

The ‘International Protection Mechanism’ should be put in place not only to safeguard the Tamil people against flagrant human rights abuses but also protecting the Tamil Nation against ‘structural genocide - to halt the willful destruction of the historical habitats of the Tamil people brought about by changes in demography through the Rajapaksa inspired forced colonisation; the destruction of the Tamil national identity, the Tamil language, the Tamil culture, the Tamil people’s religious faiths; to violate the Tamil people’s human rights enshrined in the UN Charter and Declaration of Human Rights and other UN Treaties and Conventions; to rape, kill, disappear, torture, abduct and brutalise the Tamil people on a massive scale; these to the TGTE are acts of genocide as per the Genocide convention. The Rajapaksas’ end goal is to make the Tamil Nation extinct in the island.

The TGTE in its 3rd Annual Sitting in Buffalo, NY passed such a resolution calling upon the UN to create an “International Protection Mechanism’ and the former TGTE Foreign Affairs Minister and now Political Affairs Minister, Thayaparan Thanikasalam in compliance with the TGTE resolution set out the need “for a task force for implementation of an ‘International Protection Mechanism’ specifically related and dealing with the ongoing violations of international human rights laws and norms committed in the Tamil Homeland by the Sri Lankan Army of occupation and its political masters.” He cited the colonization of ancestral lands, the destruction of arable lands, extra-constitutional land registrations, violations of religious freedom, the treatment of displaced persons, deprivation of livelihood of individuals or communities, sexual violence including rape against women, abductions and assassinations, forced disappearances and arrests, detention and imprisonment after unfair trials’ as some of the major concerns of the TGTE that require international intervention.

Forced Colonisation

The forcible appropriation of land of the Tamil people for the building of Sinhala army cantonments, Buddhist temples and Sinhala settlements is seen by Tamils as a clear move to further blur the demography and a way to plundering the Tamil Nation and robbing of both its natural resources and of its arable lands with no thought given to sustainable development. In addition the environmental catastrophe that these so called ill-planned and ill advised actions would bring will not be known until it’s too late. All of these pre-meditated actions are being undertaken to obliterate all traces of the existence of the Eelam Tamil Nation with the sole and deliberate intention to make way for the path to full Sinhalisation. In an article “Near site of LTTE’s last stand, a victory memorial that Tamils don’t visit” in The Hindu, Nirupama Subramanian describing Tamil areas as “Sinhalised” sees the evidence: “Already on the refurbished and carpeted A 9, the main highway from Jaffna to Vavuniya, Buddhist temples have come up. Shops and restaurants run by Sinhalese dot the road, especially near the army camps,” she writes.

Militarisation of the Tamil Nation Path to Sinhala Rule

The vast presence of the Military in the North and East of Sri Lanka shows that the Rajapaksa administration’s claim that the numbers have reduced is untrue. It is estimated that much more than 100,000 personnel have been deployed in the North and East. Tamil areas are akin to an occupied territory and the Sri Lankan army is acting as if it’s was going to war and in “operational readiness and not post-conflict repose” according to Colonel Hariharan formally of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) speaking to The Hindu. The army is interfering with every aspect of the everyday lives of the Tamil people and creating a culture of fear amongst the people.

Unelected Military Governor Speaking for the Tamil Nation

The militarisation of the Tamil Nation has led to unelected military commanders acting as governors making decisions on behalf of the people of the Northern Province. If not stopped in its tracks it would certainly impinge upon the Tamil people’s democratic rights, dealing a fatal blow on the Tamil Nation’s existence. The Rajapaksa administration’s bid to get a retired Major General, G A Chandrasiri, the Governor of the Northern Province to sign the approval on behalf of the Northern Province to comply with the Supreme Court ruling that for the so called ‘Divineguma Bill’ to become law required the approval of all the Provincial Councils, shows the extent of the democratic deficit prevailing in the North and the role of the military in the affairs of the Tamil Nation.

This move by the Rajapaksa adminstration to circumvent democracy and the question of whether an elected presidential appointee can unilaterally exercise the power of the still non-existent Northern Provincial Council and make decisions on behalf of the Tamil Nation is being challenged in the Supreme Court by the the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).

Defence Budget Highest in History

The Rajapaksas with Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the helm at the Défense Ministry is virtually ruling the land with the might of the army behind them with the biggest allocation from the 2013 Budget going to the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development amounting to nearly Rs. 290 billion” showing an increase of nearly Rs. 60 billion from what was allocated to the Defence and Urban Development Ministry in 2012.

Resettlement of IDPs a charade

The Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are not being resettled in their original places of residence; instead they’re being dumped in jungle clearings with no basic facilities. This callous action of the Rajapaksa administration amounts to abandonment, cruelty and dereliction of its International Obligations. The International Community must wake-up to Sri Lanka's lies and its attempt at 'Window Dressing' the statistics to make its UPR submissions look good! So that it can say the infamous ‘Manik Farm’ is closed in their submissions to the UPR. It should become the UN’s responsibility not to neglect these hapless people. The Rajapaksa administration’s actions to virtually abandon IDPs, amount to dereliction of its obligations under international humanitarian law including the whole gambit of related international customary law. Common article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions guarantees protection for IDPs who have a right to “humane treatment without discrimination.”

Tamil Nation Muzzled with No Channel of Communication to IC or UN

The muzzling of the people of the North and East and preventing them from giving their story to the international community is tantamount to silencing the voices of victims of human rights abuses as well as members of the civil society. Even three years after the war there is no international media present in the North and East; there’s absolutely no independent channel of communication for the people to tell their story to the international community, even to foreign visitors on the ground realities and the challenges they face under army occupation. What is most disconcerting is the fact that UN experts visiting the North and East are being fed the Sri Lankan administration’s version of the situation. The real people are not being given a chance to air their views and give their stories. The recent visit by OHCHR delegation in Colombo, headed Mr. Hanny Megally, Chief of Asia Pacific and Middle East and North African Branch accompanied by Mr. Oscar Solers - Human rights officer, Rule of Law and Democracy selection of OHCHR is a case in point. In fact ahead of Mr. Hanny Megally’s visit a collective of Civil Society members wrote to High Commissioner Navi Pillai of their concerns relating to the manipulation of foreign visitors by the Rajapaksas and their Sinhalisation agenda.

Still No International Human Rights Organisation or Media allowed free Access

Even as the Rajapaksa Administration through External Affairs Ministry, Secretary Amunugama is claiming that more than “40 media personnel are going to be visiting the country to see for themselves the reconciliation and development” in the North and East, up until the time of writing neither the international media nor internationally credible human rights organizations such as Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch (HRW) and International Crisis Group (ICG) have been allowed into the area. The announcement by Amunugama that the North and East are being opened to members of the international media dutifully repeated by the administration’s mouth piece the ‘Daily News Paper’s ring hollow so far.

Fraudulent Eastern Provincial Council Elections Ominous of Things to Come

The fraudulent Eastern Provincial Council Elections is ominous of things to come, with TNA’s request for international observers denied, Rajapaksa’s whole government machinery and support systems including intelligence personnel were utilized to rig the elections and at least five Tamil candidates were offered cash and other material incentives to switch allegiance. The newly elected TNA Eastern Provincial Councillor A. Kalaiyarasan is condemning the “Colombo Administration’s” unequal distribution of funds towards district development apportioning less for Tamil areas in the Ampaarai District: “The SL authorities show interest in implementing development programmes by allocating more funds to Sinhalese and Muslim villages, excluding Tamil areas, Kalaiarasan says, further adding that only 9.8 percent (131.4 million rupee) of the total funds, allocated for the implementation of ‘national development programme’ in the district, has been allocated for Tamil villages in Thirukkoyil Tamil division, Aalaiyadivempu, Chaainthamaruthu, Kaaraitheevu, and Naavithanve'li.”

Withholding of Provincial Council Elections in the North a Ploy

Eelam Tamils see no point in being part of the democratic process in the island and do not believe in provincial council elections but see the arbitrary withholding of provincial council elections in the North as a sinister move by the Rajapaksa administration, a ploy to manage and manipulate the outcome of the elections to its benefit.

History Defies the Sinhala Claims

Looking closely at historical maps before the demographic changes, and since the Colebrook Cameron Commission in 1833 and later since independence in 1948, it is crystal clear that the Tamil Nation possessed a clearly defined contiguous territory comprising the Northern and Eastern Provinces of the island, had its own kingdom and was sovereign. History also has it etched the Jaffna Kingdom existed for 403 years: The Jaffna Kingdom existed with Nallur as its capital from 1215 AD to 1619 AD. Portuguese landed in Ceylon in 1505 and took 115 years to conquer the Jaffna Kingdom. Though the Jaffna Kingdom fell, the areas to the south called Vanni did not accept the rule of the Portuguese. It did not pay tribute to the Kandyan Kingdom or to any other kingdom. It functioned as an autonomous entity. Although at different times the territory of Eelam came under foreign rule, it never lost its Tamil Identity. Even its borders remained intact till 1833.

Sir Hugh Cleghorn, British Colonial Secretary’s words on June 1799 ring true that there were two different nations from a very ancient period: “Two different nations, from a very ancient period, have divided between them the possession of the island; the Sinhalese inhabiting the interior in its southern and western parts from the river Wallouwe to Chilaw, and the Malabars (Tamils) who possess the Northern and Eastern districts. These two nations differ entirely in their religion, language and manners.”

Gotabaya’s plan to Obliterate the Tamil Nation

Although denied by Mass Media and Information Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, the latest conspiracy of the Rajapaksas to avert any kind of devolution to the Tamil Nation has been issued in the form of a threat by Gotabaya Rajapaksa to repeal the even the 13th Amendment; a form of very limited autonomy, a brain child of India’s which the Eelam Tamil Nation never accepted as a satisfactory political settlement anyway, the Bishop’s declaration that it is ‘fundamentally flawed” is reflective of the Tamil position. It is for India to open its eyes to the Rajapaksas. How India will handle this latest salvo by Gotabaya is crucially important to the Tamil Nation which is looking up to India for some decisive action to stop the destruction of the Tamil Nation.

A Move to Reduce the Number of Provinces to Destroy the Tamil Nation

In another development the Rajapaksas are contemplating reducing the number of provinces in the island from 9 to 5 and possibly 3. There's a plot being hatched by the despotic Rajapaksa Administration to reduce the 9 provinces now existing in the island of Sri Lanka into 5 provinces! The plan is to redraw the provincial boundaries where Tamils and Muslims are a majority with a view to amalgamating them to provinces where Sinhalese are a majority and surreptitiously creating 5 provinces possibly 3 with the sole intention of making sure Tamils or Muslims do not have a majority in any of the provinces. This is a follow-up to the de-merging of the North-East provinces of the island breaking the 1987 Indo-Sri Lanka Accord showing a systematic dismantling of the Tamil Nation.

Bid to Kill Off the Tamil Nation Under Guise of Integration

The existence of the Tamil Nation contiguous and sovereign demolishes Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris’s view shared with Nirupama of the Hindu: “So when one talks about dispossession of lands, driven out of areas where generations have been living, one must remember this is not something exclusive to one community,” says G L Peiris expressing a typical chauvinist view of dismissing the Tamil Nation, intended to promote integration essentially to kill off the Tamil Nation, indicative of the double standards that exists, one for the Sinhalese and one for the Tamils. When Nirupama quotes a “Rajapaksa government” spokesman as saying “there were always Sinhalese and Muslims in the Tamil areas, and no area can be the exclusive preserve of any one community,” it is a sure admission of the fact that there were ‘Tamil Areas’. In a country where all communities are not treated equally and the constitution reflects this inequality the assertions made by the administration and the Minister fall flat in the face of logic and has no meaning. It is not enough to make these false claims and hollow assurances that the island of Sri Lanka is for everyone. The Rajapaksa administration won’t put its money where its mouth is. It won’t be prepared to change the constitution to guarantee equal status for all communities, meaning equal status for the Tamil language as it exists for the Sinhala language and equal status for all religious faiths, Hinduism, Christianity, Catholicism and Islam same as Buddhism, including equal rights based on self determination for all as enjoyed by the Sinhalese people and the recognition of the existence of a Tamil Nation. The equation that serves the extremist philosophy of the Rajapaksa administration can be best defined as: Reconciliation = Integration = Sinhalisation = Obliteration of Tamil Nation.

UN, IC and India Must Heed the Bishop and Rise to the Task to Stop the Destruction of the Tamil Nation

An intervention to put in place an ‘International Protection Mechanism’ to stop the destruction of the Tamil Nation is crucial. As the Rajapaksa administration moves to impeach the Chief justice, firmly establishing its dictatorship, dismantling the fundamental pillars of democracy and seeking to destroy the Tamil Nation, it is for India and the international community to save the Eelam Tamil Nation from the brink of extinction. India must lead the way and rise to the task and in the Bishop’s words first “recognize the existence of the Tamil Nation” and its “right to rule” and set in motion the realization of the benchmarks the Bishop has re-affirmed for a satisfactory political solution leading to true reconciliation.

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