Aspirations of Thamils for self-determination should be recognized by US

by Veluppillai Thangavelu

(November 11, Toronto, Sri Lanka Guardian) We write to congratulate on your resounding and historical victory at the US presidential elections just concluded. Not only we Thamils, but the whole world has hailed your election as the first black president of the US – a feat arguably considered impossible by any standards. The image of US remains in tatters under the mis-rule of a hawkish and vindictive President Bush. Hence, the hope that under your leadership an era of peace, prosperity and world without wars and conflicts will emerge. US has to demonstrate that it is not a world bully, but one that promotes democracy, equality and justice irrespective of race or colour. It should earn respect and not demand respect from others at gun point.

By winning the elections against all odds you have created history in more than one sense. Not only the Americans, but the whole world is going to reap the results of Audacity of Hope and Audacity of Courage.

We are hopeful there will be a paradigm shift in US foreign policy to bring peace and justice to the 4 million Thamils in Sri Lanka . Today, Thamils in the North are subject to intensive aerial bombardment and barrage of shelling in which scores of Thamils are dying daily. They are reeling under the military jackboot of a vicious army bent on conquest for over 30 years.

On September 23, 2008 Sri Lanka army general Sarath Fonseka gave an interview to Stewart Bell of the National Post newspaper of Canada. In this interview, General Fonseka has made some disquieting observations of a highly racial nature. Among other things, General Fonseka has stated that, “I strongly believe that this country belongs to the Sinhalese but there are minority communities and we treat them like our people…We being the majority of the country, 75%, we will never give in and we have the right to protect this country…We are also a strong nation … They can live in this country with us. But they must not try to, under the pretext of being a minority, demand undue things.”

These racist remarks bordering on fascism made by General Fonseka on several other occasions as well. He voiced his conception of Sri Lanka : "The Sinhala nation has to sacrifice if you want to protect the country and survive….. In any democratic country the majority should rule the country. This country will be ruled by the Sinhalese community which is the majority representing 74 percent of the population" (The Daily News – 19.7.2008). In Gen. Fonseka’s view Sri Lanka is the patrimony of the Sinhalese. The Sinhalese have the birthright to rule Sri Lanka and they must sacrifice willingly to protect their dominant status from minority challenges. Not surprisingly Mahinda Rajapakse's government has not disowned Sarath Fonseka's statement. As long as this mind-set, popularly called Mahavamsa mind-set, - persists the chances for a peaceful solution to the ethnic war are indeed very dim.

You have accurately characterized the conflict in Sri Lanka as a "vicious civil war” and "the problem of the 21st century is the problem of the other." You described this phenomenon as the inability of people to accommodate others "who are not like us" and mentioned Sri Lanka as an example, pointing out that war rages even when "everybody there looks exactly the same."

You have also criticized the Bush administration's "war on terror" as the cause for suppressing civil liberties and saying: "Part of my job as next president is to break the fever of fear that has been exploited by this administration. We are told to be afraid of terrorists, immigrants, and each other. This becomes the means by which our civil liberties are subverted, [and] our values are distorted."

Under your administration there is hope for policy changes the way US conduct its internal and external affairs. You as President can deliver on our hopes for peace, justice and security in Sri Lanka . We hope the aspirations of Thamils for self-determination - the freedom to determine their political destiny - will be recognized by US as a first step towards resolving the 30 year ethnic conflict. More than 80,000 Thamil civilians have been killed by the armed forces of Sri Lanka thus far.

Once again please accept our congratulations and good wishes in facing to the daunting challenges that lay ahead of you.
- Sri Lanka Guardian