By Usha S Sri-Skanda-Rajah
The Dream of Tamil Eelam is real.
Tamil Eelam is no myth, that one day Tamil Eelam will be reconstituted and restored is no pipe dream; it is real. And the Sinhalese must try digging deep with in their hearts and consider this reality for true peace and reconciliation.
When Sanjeewa Ranaweera in his article ‘Eelam Dream’ And Tamil Elitism, theorized that the ‘Eelam Dream’ was just a Tamil Elitist Dream, I had this to say: “The ‘Eelam Dream’ is neither a ‘Tamil Elitist Dream’ nor a pipe dream, it is real, the day the rest of you come to terms with it the better,” I said. “Eelam bashing may be one of your pet peeves, but why don’t you try digging deep within your heart and consider the real possibility of Eelam, not as a “notion” or an “invention” or in our imagination but as a nation deserving of recognition, the proclamation of which is actually the restoration and reconstitution of a nation that was “separate and sovereign, existing side by side with the Sinhalese nation from the dawn of history dividing between them the possession of the island of Ceylon.” This I did with indignation. Definitely Sanjeewa’s thesis disclosed his typical racist mentality, packaged as an outwardly pragmatic view point.
The Basis for Tamil Eelam
The historical, political, cultural and legal basis for the premise that Tamil Eelam is a nation state, separate from the Sinhala nation, deserving of recognition is contained in the Vaddukoddai Resolution of 1976.
If ever there was a document that clearly makes the case for Tamil Eelam, and that which was put to the test and won an overwhelming mandate from the Tamils at the 1977 polls it is the Vaddukoddai Resolution. It must be read word to word to get a full and complete overview of the legitimacy of Tamil Eelam from sovereignty to territorial integrity and more. (http://www.sangam.org/FB_HIST_DOCS/vaddukod.htm)
The fundamental core principles enshrined in the Vaddukoddai Resolution can be found in two paragraphs: The other sections being equally important, documenting the contributing factors that led up to this profound statement.
“The first National Convention of the Tamil United Liberation Front meeting at Pannakam (Vaddukoddai Constituency) on the 14th day of May, 1976, hereby declares that the Tamils of Ceylon by virtue of their great language, their religions, their separate culture and heritage, their history of independent existence as a separate state over a distinct territory for several centuries till they were conquered by the armed might of the European invaders and above all by their will to exist as a separate entity ruling themselves in their own territory, are a nation distinct and apart from Sinhalese and this Convention announces to the world that the Republican Constitution of 1972 has made the Tamils a slave nation ruled by the new colonial masters, the Sinhalese ,who are using the power they have wrongly usurped to deprive the Tamil Nation of its territory, language citizenship, economic life, opportunities of employment and education, thereby destroying all the attributes of nationhood of the Tamil people.”
“This convention resolves that restoration and reconstitution of the Free, Sovereign, Secular, Socialist State of TAMIL EELAM, based on the right of self determination inherent to every nation, has become inevitable in order to safeguard the very existence of the Tamil Nation in this Country.”
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Going back to Sanjeewa Ranaweera, It is sad that there are many like him who can’t easily accept the concept of Tamil Eelam, only they are worse and more radical; from Sinhala academics to Sinhala anthropologists; from Sinhala historians to Sinhala writers; from Sinhala politicians to the Sinhala elite; from ‘Sinhala Supremacists’ to ‘Fundamentalist’ Buddhist monks; from Sinhala thugs to Sinhala racist elements, there are those who come up with all sorts of spurious arguments that Eelam is a fallacy, concocted by the Tamils and that it is an unrealizable goal.
There are still Sinhalese, and a growing number, mostly humanitarians, human rights advocates and ordinary people who believe otherwise; who feel strongly that Tamils deserve a satisfactory political solution, speaking out often times and putting their life on the line.
Taking a leaf from Herzl and the Birth of Israel
At these times what come to mind are the prophetic words of Herzl, the founding father of the Zionist movement and his unflinching faith in the birth of the State of Israel. The Jewish people aspired for a Jewish state without even a piece of land at first to call their own. (http://www.zionismontheweb.org/zionism_history.htm)
The first Zionist Congress in Basle Switzerland in Aug. 1897 and the profound words of Theodor Herzl is significant. Never giving up, Herzl’s vision and conviction is inexorable and his foresight admirable and so evident from an entry in his diary: “Were I to sum up the Basle Congress in a word – which I shall guard against pronouncing publicly. It would be this: At Basle I founded the Jewish State. If I said this loud today, I would be answered by universal laughter. If not in 5 years, certainly in 50, everyone will know it.”
Insurgencies are Born out of Long Held Grievances
Once when the Harvard Kennedy School was discussing “The Way Forward” after the war in Sri Lanka I shared my comment that “insurgencies are born out of grievances not being addressed for decades: it stems from persecution and discrimination, marginalization and violence perpetrated against a community that produces a need to fight back when all peaceful means are exhausted. The seeds are planted when ‘military might’ is used to quell freedom of expression and assembly; it grows when one community imposes its will over the other, where one community has a stranglehold on power and dominance over the other; where inequality prevails, where one community enjoys self-determination and the other doesn’t; where the need for self preservation of a nation’s identity and the defense of its homeland becomes the overwhelming priority of a community and survival becomes its foremost pre-occupation.
We Can’t Have More of the Same
We can’t have more of the same. We can’t have a military more than hundred thousand strong occupying the areas which Tamils call their traditional homeland, interfering with every aspect of their lives.
We can’t have a concerted and well organized move by the government to forcibly expropriate land belonging to Tamils to build army cantonments and establish Sinhala settlements with the sole motive of not only exerting military muscle over Tamil civilians but of blurring the demography of historical Tamil habitats.
Lord Buddha’s Gem
Take the case of the news that Gotabaya Rajapaksa has opened a Buddhist Vihare in Kilinochchi. The Sri Lankan government’s social and political agenda is to ensure that Sinhala Buddhist hegemony prevails in Tamil country. The Secretary of Defence at the opening ceremony in Kilinochchi not only “praised the armed forces for their support in constructing a Buddhist Vihare,” he also “thanked the Maha Sanga for safeguarding Buddhism and Buddhists and the immense support given by the Maha Sangha to the tri forces personnel and government leaders.”
A very telling dialogue between Lord Buddha and some monks in John Drew, a British poet’s book ‘The Buddha at Kamakura’ serves as a message to these so called Buddhists:
“All is Harmony, the monks reported. Religious Strife has been eliminated.
How? Asked the Buddha.
Non-Buddhists have been converted they said.
How? Asked the Buddha.
Those who refused were locked away in camps. Others fled or were exiled.
The Buddha said: Some Non-Buddhists Remain.
Impossible, said the monks. Who are they?
Those who did all this, said the Buddha.”
We can’t have a government that continues on this path of no return: We can’t have a government that refuses to own up to or account for its crimes, allegedly committed by its senior political and military leaders, crimes that entail serious breaches of human rights under international law that constitute ‘Mass Atrocities’ – War Crimes, Crimes against Humanity, Ethnic Cleansing and Genocide.
We can’t have a government that ‘window dresses’ its atrocious human rights record to make it look good for the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review. The government’s actions, for example to virtually abandon ‘Internally Displaced People’ (IDPs), amounts 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.”
We can’t have the Sri Lankan government calling all those who ask for a “credible” international independent investigation into war crimes and all who hold the dream of Tamil Eelam “terrorists”.
Giving Way to Sinhala Statesmen
For permanent peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka there has to be a realization and an appreciation of the truths stated here. Sinhala politicians must come forward with courage, transcend the Sinhala Buddhist Supremacist ideology to address the issues head on with genuine interest and be magnanimous enough to accommodate the aspirations of the Tamil people for self-determination.
Putting Back the Lustre in the ‘Pearl’ of the Indian Ocean
The kind of closed and chauvinistic mindset and racially motivated intolerance must change. There has to be statesmen born of the ilk that we haven’t seen before, except perhaps for Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan. Why can’t there be two nations existing side by side in complete harmony? It will not spell doom and gloom for the Sinhala people, on the contrary it will herald a new chapter of peace and co-existence that this island has not enjoyed in a long time, leading to a new era of prosperity that this island has never experienced before. Then we can truly say the ‘Pearl’ of the Indian Ocean has indeed regained its lustre and beauty, radiant and appreciated in its full glory.
The views expressed are the author’s own.