"Land grabs, abductions, rapes, murders and the destruction of the Tamil identity"
By Subry Govender
(Mr Kana Nirmalan, British Tamils Forum)
A leading Sri Lankan human rights activist, who has just visited South Africa, says the very existence of the Tamil people in the island country is under "serious threat" through land grabs, abductions, rapes, murders and the destruction of the Tamil identity by the current Government of President Mahinda Rajapakse and the Sinhala military.
Mr Kana Nirmalan, International Relations Co-Ordinator of the British Tamils Forum, was a guest of the Solidarity Group for Peace and Justice in Sri Lanka, a body that was established by the late South African Cabinet Minister, Roy Padaychie.
The writer spoke to Mr Nirmalan when he visited the historical Mount Edgecombe Mariammen Temple, north of Durban.
Mr Nirmalan is one the Tamil leaders in the Diaspora promoting the cause of the Tamil nation in Sri Lanka through the BTF, the Global Tamil Forum(GTF), the US-based Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam(TGTE), the French-based International Council for Eelam Tamils(ICET), the Canadian Tamil Forum and other organisations in Tamil Nadu, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
Mr Nirmalan said the true agenda of the Sri Lankan state was to eventually rid the island of all the Tamil people.
PROGROMS SINCE 1948
"The Sinhala State," he said, "regardless of the government in power has continued its programme of ethnic cleansing since 1948".
"The repeated pogroms against Tamil people in 1958, 1961, 1963, 1977, 1981, 1983 and the genocidal massacre in Mullivaikkal in 2008/09 are part of the same agenda of ethnic cleansing by the Sri Lankan state.
"After the end of the war, the Sri Lankan state has stationed 15 of its 20 military bases in the north and east of the island. "The purpose is to terrorise the people to leave the island and to deter those who were displaced, from returning to their land.
"Since the end of the war in May 2009, the Sri Lankan regime has enacted laws that prevent people from returning to their ancestral homes. Many Tamil people had sought sanctuary in far-away countries when they fled repeated pogroms and persecution. They had hoped to return to the country at the end of the war. But the Sri Lankan regime is preventing this by the new laws. Its military has also murdered many who had returned to reclaim their land - a clear signal to the Tamils abroad to stay away from their own land," he said.
TAMIL NATIONAL ALLIANCE
Mr Nirmalan said they interacted very closely with the Tamil National Alliance(TNA), which received the massive support of Tamils in the North of the island to form a provincial government. But they had found that the TNA was operating under extremely difficult circumstances.
"They are not free to express the wishes of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka. TNA MPs enjoy a certain degree of life security due to their high profile but their grass roots activists do not have this. They are hunted down by the Sri Lankan state's white van death squads.
"We understand the constraints under which they work, and we articulate freely their thoughts and aspirations which they are unable to do within Sri Lanka without risking their own lives", he said.
Mr Nirmalan said the Tamils in Sri Lanka and the Diaspora wanted to appeal to the international community to take urgent steps "to save Tamils from extinction in Sri Lanka".
"A just and honorable solution which guarantees Tamil people their right to life, their right to their own land and their right to determine how they are governed is the yearning of the Tamil people. The Tamil people feel that India, our closest neighbour should make a drastic change to its foreign policy with regards to Sri Lanka, not only to protect the Tamil people but also for her own security, which is threatened by incursion by her adversaries into Sri Lanka," he said.
Mr Nirmalan said Tamils in Sri Lanka had always been inspired by Nelson Mandela and the South African struggles for "freedom from apartheid".
UNITED NATIONS INVESTIGATION
"The New Free South Africa should recognise the freedom struggle of the Tamil people. The pronouncement by the Sri Lankan state that it is seeking the assistance of South Africa on a Truth and Reconciliation model is a ploy to buy even more time to complete its programme of decimating the Tamil homeland and complete its agenda of ridding the island, of Tamil people.
"The South African government with the rest of the international community should look beyond the rhetoric of the Sri Lankan state and see what is happening on the ground in the Tamil people's Homeland. Land grabs, abductions, rape, murder and destruction of Tamil identity are the realities faced by the Tamil people on the ground. Giving more time to the Sri Lankan state will have irreversible consequences for the Tamil people's very existence in the island," he said.
The Tamils in Sri Lanka supported the United Nations Human Rights Commission(UNHRC) investigation into the human rights violations as the only way forward for establishing the truth and to bring about reconciliation.
REFERENDUM TO DECIDE OWN FUTURE
The Tamils also wanted an opportunity to decide their own future through a referendum, similar to the one held in Scotland recently.
"Tamils have articulated their political wish to be an independent nation at the Vaddukkottai resolution in 1976. They have repeatedly voted for parties which stood for the right to self-determination, whenever possible. Referendums held among the diaspora have shown that Tamils all over the world desire a nation of their own in order to protect their identity and to prevent annihilation through the continuing genocide in Sri Lanka. Tamil people should be given the opportunity to freely express their wish in a referendum conducted with international supervision," he said.
He said they would continue with their peaceful struggles until the Tamil people attain their freedom.
"Faced with a Sinhala nation that is hell bent on destroying the Tamil nation, we have no other choice for our survival but to continue with our peaceful struggles." - ends