Why should we achieve a solution within a state? Why can't we live as two friendly states on this island? We tried to live together since independence. Finally, it was the late SJV Chelvanayagam who called for an independent state in 1974 based on the political reality - Rudra
| by NILANTHA ILANGAMUWA
( April 5, 2014, New York City, Sri Lanka Guardian) Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran known as Rudra, is a man well known to the public for decades, although his public appearances are limited due to the nature of the work that he is engaged in. Once, as the international legal representative of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Rudra was a close friend of the LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran who was killed by the Sri Lankan military as a part of its eradication the Tamil militancy in the country.
A militarily successful government not only declared the battle won but it also has aggrandized all powers into the President Rajapakse’s family and the entire country is speeding towards authoritarianism. People in general are yet to understand what really has happened and how the system has been further deteriorated using the “victory” over the LTTE as a pretext. This very reason has further isolated the country. The government banned under a blacklist a number groups and over four hundred people named from the Tamil Diaspora just after its failure at the United Nation Human Rights Council. The real intention of the government is unclear but possible outcome scenarios will be known only in the future.
In this lengthy exclusive interview Rudra as the Prime Minister of the TGTE, elaborated on many areas that many have confusions about on what his newly established TGTE government is planning to achieve. We believe this interview is a large contribution to the general debate on the very crisis that the country has undergone for decades. However, we note, he has quietly avoided answering some questions that he felt are unnecessary to get into.
See below the full text of the exclusive interview with Rudra;
Nilantha Ilangamuwa (NI): Mr. Rudra, welcome to the Sri Lanka Guardian and thank you for agreeing to this exclusive interview. I’m planning to discuss many issues, all equally important, and I hope you will have detailed answers for these queries.
You are leading a new type of government called the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam or TGTE, which involves a kind of shadow ruling without fulfilling the legal requirements to be a government according the Montevideo Convention. However, you were parachuted almost from nowhere into the TGTE after the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka in May 2009. Where does your legitimacy come from?
Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran (VR): The requirement for the Montevideo Convention is applicable only to States. The Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) is not claiming itself to be governing a State, and for that matter, it is not even an exiled government. Yes, the TGTE is a new political phenomenon and it is a new ‘type’ of government in the sense of governing the political affairs of the Tamil Diaspora and enacting their political aspirations. Given the denial of political space for Tamils inside the Island to articulate their political aspirations fully and freely, the primary purpose of the TGTE is to represent the diaspora, whereas the other side of the coin of the Tamil Nation is to campaign for the establishment of an independent and sovereign state of Tamil Eelam. It's legitimacy comes through the participation of the people through an electoral process.
Though there are common features, our Government and a Government in exile are different in the theory behind them.
A government in exile refers to a government temporarily shifted to or formed in a foreign country by exiles who hope to return to their home country when it is liberated. For this Government at least the approval and acceptance by one host country is required. A government in exile needs no Diaspora.
The concept of a Transnational Government has received the attention of social scientists for more than two decades. It is associated with the transnational life of a people and their engagement with transnational politics.
People in the Diaspora maintain relationships among themselves, as well as with people in their homeland and with their Diaspora relatives in other countries, wherever they might be living. As such their lifestyle is not at all confined to the borders of their host country. The Tamils have established themselves as a transnational society. While complying with the laws of the host country, the transnational social space is the factor that largely decides their political, social and economic interests. This is the life style of the Eelam Tamil Diaspora as well. Their family units are split and members live within different States of the world, yet, they interact among themselves through a variety of means. Outside the family unit, in cultural and social life also, these interactions transcend the boundaries of States.
One purpose of the Transnational Government is in fact the promotion of these interactions. The TGTE will have the additional purpose of creating a mechanism for the political unity and the pursuit of the political desires of this transnational community, while respecting the laws of the States which this transnational community inhabits. It is in the distinct transnational space within which these cross-border relationships take place that the Transnational Government is seeking to operate by facilitating the promotion of interactions and forging a common political program.
The Tamil Diaspora, along with those in our homeland, seeks to preserve this transnational relationship. Thus the people of Tamil Eelam, too, are part of the transnational social space. Their politics is not confined to the Northeast region, but extends to transnational politics as well. Tamil nationalism is one that is diversified, socially beneficial and based on democratic principles.
|File Photo: LTTE leader Vellupillai Pirapaharan(ctr) flanked by the movement's delegation: (l-r) Col. V Karuna, Mrs. Adele Balasingham, Mr. Anton Balasingham, Mr. S. P. Tamilselvan, Mr. V. Rudrakumaran and Dr. Jay Maheswaran.|
The TGTE proposed to be established in the transnational space by Tamils is meant to realize the political aspirations of Tamils in our Homeland. It will also engage in promoting the social, economic and cultural development of Tamils in the Diaspora.
Since the TGTE is formed and sustained by the people, the consent of the States within which the transnational community exists is not a pre-requisite, as all these are democratic states which promote and protect the right to association provided the associations pursue democratic purposes. Community-based organizations among the Tamil people should serve as the pillars of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE). The Transnational Government (TGTE) will campaign and strategize for the establishment of an independent and sovereign state of Tamil Eelam.
NI: What is the importance of having the TGTE? Why the names of your MPs are not widely published? How can you have anonymous representatives?
VR: There is no political space for the Tamils in Sri Lanka to articulate the Tamil Nation's political aspirations fully. The sixth amendment criminalizes peaceful advocacy for an independent state. It is thus also an infringement of the freedom of speech and military strangulation.
The social existence of the Tamil people depends on the preservation of their distinct political, economic and cultural ways of life. The Tamils must have the ability to coexist and be co-partners with other communities around the world. To achieve these goals and to control factors that pose threats to their existence, there is a need for a strong and self-governing political entity. These aims were given shape in 1976 through the Vaddukkoddai Resolution and reinforced by the mandate given by the people in the 1977 general elections. The 1985 Thimpu Principles and the 2003 Interim Self-Governing Authority (ISGA) proposals added weight to these aims.
In the island of Sri Lanka, the political structure has been militarized for more than 60 years. The constitution enacted by Sinhala-Buddhist hegemony and the laws enacted thereunder have denied the fundamental rights and well-being of other peoples on the island. The constitution and the current political structure have become stumbling blocks to the political identity, social existence and cultural advancement of the Tamil people, as well as other non- Sinhalese-Buddhist nations.
Furthermore, internal conditions in the island of Sri Lanka have become oppressive and are grave threats to the Tamil people, preventing them from freely expressing their aspirations and engaging in political discourse and activism to protect their rights or advance the interests of their separate identity.
Tamils have been compelled to live in open prisons leading lives of slavery. At the same time, the Sinhala government’s leaders, policy formulators, diplomats and army commanders are indulging at the national and international levels in false propaganda claiming that there were no problems for the Tamils and that there was no need for any political solution.
The responsibility has now fallen into the hands of the Tamils living in the Diaspora to confront these problems and adopt different approaches to realize the Tamil people’s political right to self- determination. It has now become necessary to constitute a coordinated and democratic polity to advance these objectives. This polity is the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) created by us.
NI: Why is there a US Tamil calling himself a TGTE MP for Canada? Whom does he represent?
VR: There is no factual basis for this question and therefore I am unable to provide an answer.
[Editorial note: Sri Lanka Guardian stands by the factual basis of this question. However, we do not name the MP because of the recent unreasonable listing as terrorists of anyone associated with the TGTE]
NI: Some Diaspora Tamils I know say they were never asked to vote and did not know where to vote, and did not even know of an election going on. Where was election information and registration information circulated? Only in Eelamist circles? Without all votes can you claim to be representatives?
VR: I don't know what you are talking about. Election information was widely circulated in all the Tamil Diaspora TV, radio and newspapers. We also held many town hall meetings.
The first step in forming the TGTE was to form a Transnational Constituent Assembly of Tamil Eelam by holding direct elections among the Tamil Diaspora in its many locations.
A right to public participation in democratic governance exists in international law. The United Nations Committee on Human Rights has recognized a specific right to participate in constitution making. One way to engage citizens is through the selection of popular representatives to the body that develops the draft constitution. A popular election is the most accepted mechanism for securing popular representation.
Participation is now promoted as both a right and a necessity. The right is established in international declarations and conventions adopted by most nations, as well as in many recent national constitutions. The necessity stems in part from the forceful advocacy of democracy as the sole model for legitimate governance. Participatory constitution making is a practice with growing momentum. Despite challenging difficulties of definition and implementation, a democratic constitution-making process is, in the words of African observer Julius Ivonhbere, “critical to the strength, acceptability, and legitimacy of the final product.”
Country Working Groups were established in October 2009 in order to take the electoral process forward the first time. In the first round, the Country Working Groups were set up for the UK, Canada, USA, South Africa and Norway, with such Working Groups for Australia, New Zealand and France announced subsequently.
The CWGs engaged in policy discussions with local Tamil organizations and Tamil people to garner support for the TGTE. These groups not only sought support among Tamils, but also canvassed support from the wider civil society for the formation of the TGTE. They also engaged in soliciting the support of political leaders and governments of respective countries.
An independent Election Commission was established in each country where direct elections were held to elect the representatives of TGTE. As noted above, the CWG was responsible for forming each Election Commission. Election Monitors were also appointed to monitor that process and ensure that elections are conducted in a fair and free manner.
Those wishing to vote in the TGTE election had to demonstrate that they were seventeen (17) years of age or older by Election Day and were connected to Tamil Eelam culture by descent, marriage or adoption, along with those identifying themselves as Eelam Tamils to the satisfaction of the Election Commission. The latter category was a residual category that was applied strictly having regard to the circumstances of each individual case.
NI: Did you follow any earlier experiences or paradigms from world history in establishing and structuring the TGTE?
VR: As I said earlier, it is a new political phenomenon
The Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) is a political formation to win the freedom of the Tamil people on the basis of their fundamental political principles of Nationhood, Homeland and Right of self-determination. The TGTE is a novel concept both for the Tamil people and the rest of the world.
At present the Tamil people have absolutely no prospect of articulating their political aspirations or of exercising their fundamental rights in their homeland itself. The Sri Lankan government, through legal impediments, military occupation and murder is strangling the Tamil people’s aspirations and their political rights.
In this context, the Tamil Diaspora, an integral part of the nation of Tamil Eelam, utilizing democratic means in their respective countries, established the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam as the highest political entity to campaign for the realization of the Tamils’ right to self- determination. Since it is impractical for political leaders and people in Tamil Eelam to participate in the TGTE, only those Tamils in the Diaspora were elected to the TGTE through democratic elections. The TGTE has been working hand-in-hand with anyone working for the well-being of the Tamil people in the island of Sri Lanka, including the political and social leaders of the people in Eelam.
NI: Are there any successful transnational governments in history which achieved their dreams?
VR: TGTE will be the first.
NI: I noticed that on many occasions you make a careful distinction between state and government. You have said you stand against the state of Sri Lanka instead of the relevant government in the country. Your problems, or in other words your disagreements, are they really with the government or the state? Please elaborate your principles on this disagreement with the state of the Socialist Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka.
VR: As the UN Expert Panel Report and Internal Review Report state, there is no political or judicial environment for the Tamils to get justice. Since Independence, during which different governments were in succession, Tamils have been marginalized. Thus the problem is the state.
The long and arduous struggle of the people of Tamil Eelam for the establishment of an independent, sovereign and universally recognized country has seen many turns of fortune in modern history. It stands today, however, at a dire and unprecedented juncture and one fraught with the possibility of their annihilation as a nation, people, culture and society in their own homeland.
Their travails started over six decades ago when the departing British colonial power casually handed over the nation of Eelam to a Sinhala dominated administration of Ceylon. The racist, majoritarian dictatorship by Colombo in turn robbed the Tamil people of both justice and dignity, sparking off a several decades long peaceful, non-violent struggle which at one point turned into full-fledged war for Independence.
The war ended in May 2009 with the massacre of thousands upon thousands of innocent Tamil civilians and the brutal execution of the leaders of the militant struggle. Genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed during this period with impunity by the Sri Lankan state forces. In the aftermath of the war thousands of Tamil youth were arrested and either murdered or thrown into torture chambers; thousands of women molested; and yet larger numbers of innocent civilians put away in internment camps.
Today, almost five years after the horrors of Mullivaikkaal as we survey the arrogance of those in power in Colombo, the wasted territories of Tamil Eelam and a globe that has lost its moral spine to respond in any meaningful way, it is easy to get disheartened and even cynical.
The scenario outlined above amply demonstrates the continuing inhumanity of the Sri Lankan state against the Tamil people. It reinforces the Tamil demand for the realization of the right to self-determination, in a remedial fashion, and the exercise of their sovereignty in order to protect them from annihilation and thereby to ensure their safety and security as a distinct people in their own homeland. Every accepted tenet of international law, as observed by the Canadian Supreme Court in the Quebec case, and the moral principles, recognizes that in such circumstance a right to self-determination could/should be exercised in the form of an establishment of an independent and sovereign state.
NI: Why can’t we achieve the solution together within the state?
VR: Why should we achieve a solution within a state? Why can't we live as two friendly states on this island? We tried to live together since independence. Finally, it was the late Mr S J V Chelvanayagam who called for an independent state in 1974 based on the political reality (racial pogroms, abrogation of political agreements, etc.)
The repression of the Tamil people since the granting of independence to Ceylon began with the disenfranchisement of the Indian Tamils, the enactment of the Sinhala Only Act that made Sinhalese the only official language of Sri Lanka, the denial of access of young Tamils to university education and the violent repression of peaceful protests of the Tamils. There were major organized riots (pogroms) against the Tamils in 1958, 1960, 1977 and 1983, in which there was government complicity. On winning the Kankesanthurai by-election in 1975, Mr S J V Chelvanayakam who is affectionately referred to as the ‘Gandhi of Eelam’ declared:
“We have for the last 25 years made every effort to secure our political rights on the basis of equality with the Sinhalese in a united Ceylon...It is a regrettable fact that successive Sinhalese governments have used the power that flows from independence to deny us our fundamental rights and reduce us to the position of a subject people...I wish to announce to my people and to the country that I consider the verdict at this election as a mandate that the Tamil Eelam nation should exercise the sovereignty already vested in the Tamil people and become free.”
Following Chelvanayakam’s election victory, all Tamil political parties convened in Vaddukoddai and unanimously adopted the Vaddukoddai Resolution. The Resolution was adopted at the first National Convention of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) on 14 May 1976. The TULF's participation in the 1977 general elections was anchored in this Resolution. In this Resolution, the TULF declared its intent of forming a sovereign State of Tamil Eelam. S. J. V. Chelvanayakam presided over the Convention. The following is a translation of the Resolution, which was originally adopted in Tamil. “This convention resolves that the 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 Resolution concluded by saying that the Convention called upon the Tamil nation in general and the Tamil youth in particular to come forward to throw them fully into the sacred fight for freedom and to flinch not until the goal of a sovereign state was realized. The 30-year long legitimate campaign of the Eelam Tamils to realize their right to self-determination led by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) suffered a serious setback through military aggression by the Sri Lankan armed forces, during which these armed forces were in violation of humanitarian laws and all civilized norms. People all over the world were shocked and deeply saddened by the atrocities committed in the course of the war and particularly during its final phase in the Vanni area.
Of particular note, the use of banned weapons and heavy shelling by the Sinhalese military were responsible for the massacre of tens of thousands of Tamil civilians in the no fire zone in 2009. The government of Sri Lanka then incarcerated 300,000 Tamils, and herded them into military-run internment camps. The UN, INGOs and other relief organizations and journalists were barred from free access to these internment camps. The imprisonment of civilians was a collective punishment to them solely on account of their Tamil nationality.
According to the UN, during the initial stage of the internment people died due to starvation. According to Amnesty International, some women were forced to give birth in front of strangers. The UK’s Channel 4 News reported that “shocking claims have emerged [of] shortages of food and water, dead bodies left where they have fallen, women separated from their families and even sexual abuse.” Though a substantial number of people were allowed to go ‘free’ from these internment camps in the last weeks of 2009 following internal and external pressures, those released have been living under constant fear and without the basic facilities for human existence. They have not been meaningfully resettled or permitted to return to their original homes.
Those Tamils who live outside the camps hardly fare better in terms of their safety and well-being. The North East, the traditional homeland of Tamils, is swarming with military personnel and camps and is effectively an occupied territory. The South of the island is under the control of a Sinhalese nationalist government, and the Tamils who live there are viewed as a security threat and live in constant fear of violence. Tamil civilians are being targeted solely on account of their Tamil ethnicity. Tamils are on the verge of being annihilated as a nation, a people and a community through deliberate killing and disappearance, forced assimilation, ethnic cleansing and colonization.
In addition, because of the systematic colonization of Tamil areas, the gerrymandering of electoral districts, the large numbers who have been driven from or fled the Tamil areas because of violence, and the lack of new voter registration, Tamil representation has decreased substantially in the legislature since independence. Moreover, the electoral process in the island of Sri Lanka is entrenched with pervasive racism and has resulted in further marginalization and oppression of the Tamil people at each and every election. Consequently, the Tamils are denied effective participation in the political process of the island. This is also corroborated by the UN Expert Panel Report, which observed that “the ongoing exclusionary policies, which are particularly deleterious as political, social, and economic exclusion based on ethnicity, real or perceived, have been at the heart of the conflict”
The scenario outlined above amply demonstrates the continuing inhumanity of the Sri Lankan government against the Tamil people. It reinforces the Tamil demand for the realization of the right to self-determination, in a remedial fashion, and the exercise of their sovereignty in order to protect them from annihilation and thereby to ensure their safety and security as a distinct people in their own homeland.
IN PART TWO
The Sri Lankan government’s April Fool’s order shows its desperation, racial exclusiveness, and Authoritarianism.
There is no Sri Lankan culture and language. There are many similarities between Sinhalese culture and Tamil culture.
Second part of this interview will be published on next Wednesday (April 9, 2014)
Nilantha Ilangamuwa edits the Sri Lanka Guardian and he also an editor of the Torture: Asian and Global Perspectives, bi-monthly print magazine. He is the author of the just released non-fictions, “Nagna Balaya” (The Naked Power), in Sinhalese and “The Conflation”, in English. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org