"Tamils are a people with the right to self determination"

Place: Sri Lanka | Courtesy: NGO
| Date: 19930200

"We are of the view that any meaningful attempt to resolve the contlict should address its underlying causes and to recognise that the armed struggle of the Tamil people for self determination, arose as a response to decades ofan ever widening and deepening oppression by a permanent Sinhala majority, within the confines of an unitary Sri Lankan state.

 It was an oppression which included the disenfranchisement of the plantation Tamils, systematic
state aided Sinhala colonisation of the Tamil homeland, the enactment of the Sinhala Only law,
discriminatory employment policies, inequitable allocation of resources to Tamil areas, exclusion
of eligible Tamil students from Universities and higher education, and a refusal to share power
within the frame of a federal constitution. It was an oppression by an alien Sinhala majority which
consolidated the growth of the national consciousness of the Tamil people.

 During the past several years the Sinhala dominated Sri Lankan government  has
attempted to put down the armed resistance of the Tamil people and has sought to conquer
and control the Tamil homeland. The record shows that in this attempt, Sri Lanka's armed
forces and para military units have committed increasingly widespread violations of the
rules of humanitarian law. 

 In the East whole villages of Tamils have been attacked by the Army and by the so called Home
Guards. Many Tamil residents in these villages were killed. Others have been tortured. Those
Tamils who were detained by the Sri Lankan authorities have had little or no hope of coming out
alive. The attacks on the Tamil homeland have been coupled with the declared opposition of the
Sri Lankan Government  to the merger of the North and East of the island into a single
administrative and political unit.

 However, despite the sustained attacks of Sinhala dominated governments over a period of
several decades, the territorial integrity of the Tamil homeland in the North and East of the island
has remained. The Tamil population in the North and East, who have lived for many centuries
within relatively well defined geographical boundaries, share an ancient heritage, a vibrant culture
and a living language which traces its origins to more than 2500 years ago.

 A social group, which shares objective elements such as a common language and which
has acquired a subjective consciousness of togetherness, by its life within a relatively well
de med territory, and its struggle against alien domination, clearly constitutes a `people'
with the right to self determination.

 Today, there is an urgent need for the international community to recognise that the Tamil
population in the North and East of the island of Sri Lanka are such a `people' with the right to
freely choose their political status. It is our view that such recognition will prepare the ground for
the resolution of a conflict which has taken such a heavy toll in human lives and suffering during
the past several years.

 - Joint Statement by 15 non governmental organisations at the 49th Sessions of  the UN
Commission on Human Rights in February 1993