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Home > International Tamil Conferences on Tamil Eelam Freedom Struggle > > International Tamil Eelam Research Conference, U.S.A., 1991 > A Brief History of The Conference - Wakely Paul

International Tamil Eelam Research Conference,
Sacramento State University, U.S.A.,
21-22 July 1991

A Brief History of The Conference

Sinhala Determination To Stifle Free Flow Of Thought Abroad
Sri Lanka Government And Supporters Oppose First Amendment

Wakely Paul

When the concept of this conference was mooted in November last year, little did we dream that it would meet with such virulent opposition from the Sinhala community. When the theme of the conference was developed around February, the idea was to dig deep into such questions as the historical claim, the present reality and the future viability of the concept of EELAM. Our desire was to reach out to as many academics, local and foreign, who could give us some serious insights on the subject of "TAMIL EELAM -A NATION WITHOUT A STATE". The California State University Sacramento agreed to host the conference on their campus.

The Sri Lankan Ambassador on hearing of this, called the University and demanded its immediate cancellation. They characterized two of its sponsors, Mr. N Satyendra and Mr.Ana Pararajasingham as known terrorists. Mr. Pararajasingham has been a ardent and vociferous spokesman for Tamil Eelam in Australia. It is interesting to note that it was Mr.Satyendra who had to defend Tamils against State Sponsored Terrorism when they were arrested, tortured and tried under the provisions of the PREVENTION OF TERRORISM ACT. This legislation was characterized as a "blot on the statute book" by Prof. Virginia Leary. Sinhalese universally backed this legislation till it was turned against those amongst them who opposed the government.

They alleged that the sponsors supported the killers of their Deputy Defense Minister, that the money was to be used for the purchase of arms, and that one of the sponsors, a professor at the university was using the University fax machine for conference business.

The legal counsel listened in astonishment to the arrogant assertions, made without foundation, and assured them that the UNIVERSITY would not be party to extending SRI LANKA'S censorship of expression here. It was pointed out that not only was there a FIRST AMENDMENT in this country, but also a commitment to Academic Freedom in the University.

Sinhala supporters of the government reacted almost immediately to this rebuff. First there were threats by Sinhala journalists that the Sinhalese would disrupt the conference. There were bomb threats ,supposedly from Indians, (who had taken no interests in this exercise) in Canada.

A parallel effort to sidetrack the conference was also initiated by the Sinhalese. First there were offers to produce papers of their own, followed by specific offers of papers they wished to have read. Unfortunately none of them were within the scope of our objectives. It was apparent they were seeking to move this way from the theme of the conference to a disruptive frolic of their own.

The SRI LANKAN PRESS, apparently unaware of such concepts as freedom of expression was demanding to know why the SriLankan embassy at Washington had done nothing to prevent this exercise in free speech. They saw ominous signs in that the Jews had sponsored similar serious conferences immediately prior to obtaining the State of Israel. They even got organizations like PLOTE, who have now joined the government and abandoned their demand for even a Federal Constitution, to publish their objections to the conference.

When all of the efforts to dislodge the conference failed, they thought they would intimidate the sponsors by threatening to bring 5000 protestors. We had no objection to peaceful protest, but in view of their past threats, had to increase our security to make sure it so remained. They finally arrived with about 25 poster bearing protestors who did behave well.

The posters bearing the signs "Who threw bombs" and "Go Home" were particularly appropriate. The first signified a complete ignorance of their daily bombing attacks on the TAMIL POPULATION, while the second confirmed the fact that the Sinhalese are yet deluded by the belief that we do not belong in our own homeland. They confirmed the need for a serious conference of this nature.



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