Tamils need to negotiate the future and preserve their ethnic identity within Sri Lanka

Tamil Protest 010The collective of Tamil citizens who came together towards the conclusion of the war in the Vanni, has issued their fourth statement clarifying why they call themselves “Concerned Tamils of SL” and also stressing that the future of the Tamil people needs to be negotiated from within Sri Lanka.

“In this crisis situation, we have a right and a duty to express our concerns collectively as Tamils of Sri Lanka” the statement has been signed.

The Tamil Diaspora or Tamil politicians will not do as sole spokespersons for the Tamils of Sri Lanka, the signatories say. “Independent Tamil voices need to be heard” they have added.

Fourth Statement of “Concerned Tamils of Sri Lanka” in full;

Why do we sign as ‘Concerned Tamils of Sri Lanka’? It is not for lack of endorsement by very many non-Tamil Sri Lankans of every clause of each of our statements. Elsewhere, Tamil voices are heard loud and clear on our problems, but within our island, independent Tamil voices have been progressively stilled. In this crisis situation, we have a right and a duty to express our concerns collectively as Tamils of Sri Lanka. It will not do for the Tamil Diaspora or for Tamil politicians to be the sole spokespersons for the Tamils of Sri Lanka. Independent Tamil voices need to be heard.

The question has also been asked as to why we waited until the LTTE was on the verge of collapse before raising our concerns. Firstly, we were not previously aware of the scale of the tragedy – that the population trapped in the shrinking sliver of land held by the LTTE was several times higher than reported by our media and that the casualty rate among that population was very high and continuing to rise. As soon as were alerted of the facts by the ICRC and the UN agencies, some of us got together to prepare our first statement. The focus of that statement was on urgent relief for trapped and injured civilians and on negotiating an end to the war, thus freeing all civilians. Our fears were set out in that first statement: ‘the manner in which the final phase is worked out and the terms on which it is brought to a close are critical to the future of ethnic relations in Sri Lanka’.

We have already, as concerned Tamils of Sri Lanka, called for a reversal of all ethnic cleansing over the decades, of Tamils and non-Tamils alike. We now go on to assert that the future of the overwhelming majority of the 280,000 IDPs as well as over 3 million Tamil citizens of Sri Lanka lies within the borders of this island. While we very much welcome the concerns shown and assistance forthcoming from overseas, we need to negotiate our future and to preserve our ethnic identity within Sri Lanka. We have been sharing this island from time immemorial and are committed to continuing to do so as citizens with individual and collective rights, not second to those of any other ethnicity.

Our immediate focus is primarily on 280,000 IDPs interned in camps and hospitals, mostly in the Vanni districts. These citizens are war victims not war criminals, and entitled to all the rights of all citizens. They need to be compensated for the injuries and losses they have suffered. Instead, they have been treated as suspected war criminals, interned and denied some of their most fundamental human rights: freedom of communication, freedom of association, freedom of movement and the right to get back as a family unit to their own homesteads. Families have not only lost their loved ones in the course of the war but even those remaining are often separated. And yet others have been and are being taken away without the due processes of law. There is urgent need for transparency in compiling and maintaining records of IDPs and of those taken away under arrest or for questioning. Further, why is it that those who have already been screened and against whom there are no charges continue in detention? Security can never be achieved by unlawful and unjust practices that alienate people.

There are numerous reports on disappearances and other human rights violations in the camps. It is not possible for us to set out a verified comprehensive report on the subject because many barriers to accessing information are yet in place. What is clear is that the crisis that has recently sullied the reputation of our country and is continuing to do so is incomparably worse than at any time in our history. The consequences of disappearances and of suspected vigilante activity, whether by state agencies or by the LTTE or by any other group, may continue to haunt the families of the victims unless there is an effective Truth Commission leading, on the part of (or on behalf of) those responsible, to an acknowledgement of their complicity in those crimes. This has been the experience in many countries across the globe.

One of us has vivid memories of Chairing a Committee on Disappearances in the Jaffna Region appointed by the Human Rights Commission in the period 1990-1998. The following extract from the conclusion of that report is pertinent to our concerns and recommendations set out above: “In addition to socio-economic degradation, the population has sustained physical, mental and psychological damage over the years on account of the disappearances and experiences since then. Many in the population require counselling, training for employment and job opportunities. In most cases, these are not alternatives but are closely inter-connected. Even those who are potentially productive in terms of skills and experience, appeared to be depressed, dispirited and unable to earn a living on account of their extended and continuing trauma…. There can be no enduring and comprehensive reconstruction, physical or social, economic or political, local or national, without reconciliation; and there can be no true reconciliation without all sections of the population collectively examining, diagnosing and working out remedies to eliminate the cancer that has eaten into our society.

“This exercise could be led by a post-conflict Truth and Reconciliation Commission established with an appropriate mandate. Such a process could be time-bound but its prescription could include the institution of commemorative processes and memorials to address the causes and consequences, and to prevent the recurrence of those ills…. (These) need to be addressed on an all-island basis with a view to healing and reconciliation, without prejudice to any steps that may be taken to secure justice. There should be no blanket amnesty. Rather, a balance needs to be struck between what Archbishop Tutu, in his Foreword to the South African Truth Commission, referred to as ‘retributive and punitive justice’ and ‘restorative justice which is concerned not so much with punishment as with correcting imbalances, restoring broken relationships, healing, harmony and with reconciliation.’”

Signatories to the statement;

Dr. Devanesan Nesiah, Prof. Karthigesu Sivathamby, Mr. Sivathasan S, Mr.Thangharajah Biriyantha, Mr.Chinniah S, Prof. Ganesan S, Dr.Ganeswaran K,Ms.KirupaHoole, Dr.Rajan Hoole, Prof.Ratnajeevan Hoole, Ms.Leela Isaac, Dr.Jayasingam T, Mr.Jeyaraj D.B.S, Mr.Kanagasabai C, Dr.Kandasamy P, Dr.Kasynathan S.V, Ms.Bhawani Loganathan , Mr.Malavarayar S, Dr.Nachinarkinian C.S, Dr.Nanthikesan S, Mr.Rudra Navaratnarajah, Dr.Anita Nesiah, Mr.Lanka Nesiah, Dr.Vasuki Nesiah, Dr.Pathmanathan P, Mr.Ponnambalam V, Mr.Ratnam A, Dr.Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Mr.Saravanapavan E, Dr.Muttukrishna Sarvanandan Mr.,Shanmugalingam K, Mr.Shanmugasamy A, Mr.Nagendra Subramaniam, Mr.Thambar J.V, Mr.Visakaperumal ,Rehambaramivegananthan, Mr.Visakaperumal


One thought on “Tamils need to negotiate the future and preserve their ethnic identity within Sri Lanka

  1. We need more statement like these to come out from the Tamils and Singhalese within Sri Lanka.
    Diasporas courageously campaigned for the voiceless Tamils in the IDPs in the past and still continuing their effort and with the help of the people in Sri Lanka, definitely we can hope for a bright future for the Tamils.

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