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Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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united kingdom
& the Struggle for Tamil Eelam

Letter to UK Prime Minister
from the UK Federation of Tamil Associations
1 February 1998

Dear Rt Hon Tony Blair,

An Appeal for Compassion & Reconciliation
50 years of alien Sinhala rule of Tamil Eelam

The United Kingdom Federation of Tamil Associations presents this Appeal and seeks your compassionate and influential intervention to secure a just resolution of the armed conflict in the island of Sri Lanka - a conflict which has taken a heavy toll in human lives and human suffering during the past 15 years and more.

The 4th of February 1998 marks the 50th anniversary of Sri Lanka�s independence from British rule. It also marks the 50th anniversary of alien Sinhala rule of the Tamil people in the island.

Fifty years ago, on 4 February 1948, Great Britain left the island, then known as Ceylon. Since that date the Sinhala people have ruled the Tamil people who inhabit the north and east of the island, (known as Tamil Eelam) and have sought to legitimise that rule as the rule of the majority in a democracy.

But, if democracy means rule of the people, by the people and for the people, it also means that no one people may rule another. The Tamil people and the Sinhala people in the island of Sri Lanka, speak different languages, trace their history to different origins, by and large profess different religions and occupy separate geographical areas. They were brought within the confines of one state for the first time in 1833 by the British rulers.

In 1948, the Sinhala people imposed their own Sinhala Lion Flag as the flag of the newly independent state. In 1956 the Sinhala people, made Sinhala the official language of government and in 1972, the Sinhala people changed the name of the state to the old Sinhala name of Sri Lanka.

Successive Sinhala dominated governments, through a series of legislative and administrative acts, ranging from disenfranchisement, and standardisation of University admissions, to discriminatory language and employment policies, and state sponsored colonisation of the homeland of the Tamil people, have sought to consolidate their rule of the Tamil people.

These legislative and administrative acts were reinforced from time to time with physical attacks on the Tamil people, in 1956, in 1958, in 1961 and again in 1977 and 1983, with intent to terrorise and intimidate them into submission. It was an oppression which eventually led to the rise of the lawful armed resistance of the Tamil people led today by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

The gross, consistent, and continuing violations of the rights of the Tamil people, by Sri Lanka during the past fifty years, is a chilling chronology of discrimination, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, extra judicial killings and massacres, indiscriminate aerial bombardment and artillery shelling, wanton rape and genocide. Sri Lanka�s state terrorism has been well documented by several human rights organisations and independent observers as well as by eye witnesses. The record speaks for itself. (please see annexure)

Today, the Sri Lanka government has built up a massive 100,000 member armed force constituted almost exclusively of Sinhalese, and under Sinhala command and has allocated more than 20% of Sri Lanka's gross national product to its armed forces so that the genocidal attack on the Tamil people may continue. The victory ceremony held on 6 December 1995 in Colombo after the �capture� of Jaffna is illustrative of the political reality of Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism :

"... In a function room in the Presidential Secretariat, (broadcast live on Sri Lanka television), Sri Lanka's leader (President Chandrika Kumaratunga) stood gravely before a line of tough-looking military officers. Deputy Defence Minister Anurudha Ratwatte, fresh from hoisting the flag in Jaffna town, presented her with a scroll rolled up inside a red velvet container. The scroll was dated "full moon day of the month of Uduwap in the year 2939 in the Buddhist Era."

It read, "Your Excellency's rule and authority has been firmly re-established" in the historic city. The territory was not referred to as Jaffna, its official name, but "Yapa Patuna" the term used by conquerors in medieval times.

"To outsiders, the ritual might have seemed arcane and meaningless, but to Sinhalese, who make up three-quarters of Sri Lanka's 18 million population, it was freighted with implications.. Kumaratunga's use of Sinhalese-Buddhist iconography carried a message: she had conquered Tamil lands and defeated her enemies, in much the same manner as Sinhalese kings of centuries gone by... " (Time Magazine, 18 December 1995)

It was the same Sinhalese-Buddhist iconography that President Kumaratunga attempted to use by seeking to commemorate 50 years of independence from British rule with celebrations in Kandy, the ancient capital of the Sinhala Kingdom and at the Dalada Maligawa, the Buddhist shrine used by Sinhala kings of yore to address their subjects.

At the same time, Sri Lanka has sought to stigmatise the Tamil struggle for freedom, led by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as �terrorism�, in a thinly veiled effort to strike at that which Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism recognises only too well as the fundamental strength of the Tamil struggle for freedom - its moral legitimacy.

The recent decision of the Sri Lanka government to �ban� the LTTE is a matter for regret (though perhaps, not a matter for surprise) because it makes manifest Sri Lanka�s determination to close all doors for talks and abort any move towards a political resolution of the ongoing armed conflict.

The ban comes in the wake of Sri Lanka�s persistent refusal to accept offers of international mediation during the past several years. One such offer was that made by the British Minister responsible for relations with Sri Lanka, Mr.Liam Fox in November 1996 to "play a facilitating role in talks between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) if both sides request it".

Again, in a letter dated 12 August 1997, after the new Labour Government was formed, the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office reiterated its belief that "a lasting solution to this tragic conflict in Sri Lanka can only be achieved through a political settlement, which takes the views of all parties concerned into account." The Foreign & Commonwealth Office added:

" The UK was involved in helping the government and the opposition to come to an agreement on a bipartisan approach to a settlement of the ethnic conflict, which they concluded on 3 April. We stand ready to provide further help if asked, but in the first instance a solution has to be found by those immediately concerned. We hope that both the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) will work actively to reach a peaceful settlement."

However, today�s harsh political reality is made manifest by the words of Sinhala Opposition leader, Mr.Ranil Wickremasinghe:

"...the government said (earlier) that they would not ban the LTTE since it would close the doors for talks. But with this decision (i.e. the ban) the government is left only with the military option." (Reuters Report, 26 January 1998)

Sri Lanka seeks to use the ban to secure the support of other states in the international community to follow suit, so that Sinhala Sri Lanka may continue its genocidal attack on the Tamil people with impunity, and crush Tamil resistance to alien Sinhala rule. However, the words of an Indian nationalist, some ninety years ago in 1907, serve to underline the bedrock on which freedom struggles are built:

"It is the common habit of established governments and especially those which are themselves oppressors, to brand all violent methods in subject peoples and communities as criminal and wicked. ..But no nation yet has listened to the cant of the oppressor when itself put to the test, and the general conscience of humanity approves the refusal..."

We appeal to the British nation to reject the cant of the Sinhala oppressor, intent on legitimising alien Sinhala rule of the Tamil people. We appeal to you to extend your open and public support for the views expressed by 53 non governmental organisations at the UN Commission on Human Rights in April 1997, and call

1. for the withdrawal of Sri Lanka�s occupying forces from the Tamil homeland; and

2. for the recognition of the right of the Tamil people to choose their own political and national status.

We urge that the way forward for all states concerned with securing a stable world order is to recognise that, whatever the short term results, in the longer term, stability will not come by encouraging the rule of one people by another.

Stability will not come by existing states ganging up together to suppress non state nations. Stability will not come from a new version of the 'melting pot' theory. Peoples speaking different languages, tracing their roots to different origins, and occupying distinct geographic areas, do not easily 'melt' and in any event, a 'third world' economy will not provide a large enough 'pot' for that 'melting' to take place.

Nations and states cannot be made to order. Stability lies in securing structures where the different peoples of the world may voluntarily associate with each other in equality and in freedom. The European Union (established albeit, after the horrors of two World Wars) is a pointer to that future.

Peace and stability will not come to the island of Sri Lanka, by supporting alien Sri Lankan rule of the people of Tamil Eelam. It is legitimisation and recognition that will pave the way for negotiation and resolution of the armed conflict in the island.


50 years of alien Sinhala rule of Tamil Eelam

In 1958....

"Among the hundreds of acts of arson, rape, pillage, murder and plain barbarity some incidents may be recorded as examples of the kind of thuggery at work. In the Colombo area the number of atrocities swiftly piled up. .. The (Sinhala) thugs ran amok burning houses and shops, beating-up pedestrians, holding-up vehicles and terrorizing the entire city and the suburbs... a pregnant (Tamil) woman and her husband were set upon. They clubbed him and left him an the pavement, then they kicked, the woman repeatedly as she hurried along at a grotesque sprint, carrying her swollen belly." (Tarzie Vittachi: Emergency 1958 - The Story of the Ceylon Race Riots, Andre Deutsch, London 1958)

In 1977...

"A tragedy is taking place in Sri Lanka: the political conflict following upon the recent elections, is turning into a racial massacre.. At a time when the West is wake to the evils of racialism, the racial persecution of the Tamils and denial of their human rights should not pass without protest. ... these cultivated people were put at the mercy of their neighbours less than thirty years ago by the British Government. They need our attention and support." (Sir John Foster, David Astor, Louis Blom-Cooper, Dingle Foot, Robert Birley, James Fawcett, Michael Scott, London Times 20 September 1977)

In 1983..

"Under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, acts of murder committed with intent to destroy... a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such are considered as acts of genocide.The evidence points clearly to the conclusion that the violence of the Sinhala rioters on the Tamils (in July/August 1983) amounted to acts of genocide."(The International Commission of Jurists Review, December 1983

In 1995...

"During the past twelve years, the UN Commission on Human Rights and the Sub Commission have heard hundreds of statements expressing grave concern at the situation prevailing in the island of Sri Lanka. The record shows that it was the oppressive actions of successive Sri Lanka governments from as early as 1956 and in 1958, and again in 1961 and again with increasing frequency from 1972 to 1977 and culminating in the genocidal attacks of 1983 that resulted in the rise of the lawful armed resistance of the Tamil people." (21 non governmental organisations at the UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities on 9 August 1995)

In 1997..

"... the violations of humanitarian law and human rights in the Sri Lanka-Tamil Eelam war are worse than ever before. We note in particular that

1. the civilian Tamil population continues to be a target of military operations, including intensive aerial bombardment by the Sri Lankan forces, disappearances, extra judicial killings, rape, torture, arbitrary arrest and indefinite detention in the context of war continue:

2. the North-East of the island is still under an embargo of essential food and medicine in violation of humanitarian law;

3. there are more than 825,000 displaced Tamil civilians living under appalling conditions which include acute shortages of water, food and medicine....

(Joint Statement by 53 Non Governmental Organisations at the UN Commission on Human Rights, March 1997 - Africa Bureau of Educational Science, African Association for Health and Human Rights Promoters, African Association of Education Development, American Association of Jurists, Arab Lawyers Union, Asean Cultural Forum on Development, Centre-Europe Tiers Monde, Centro de Estudion Eropees, Defence for Children International, Federation International des Droits de l'Homme, General Arab Women Federation, Indian Law Research Centre, Indigenous World Association, International Association Against Torture, International Association for Religious Freedom, International Association for the Defence of Religious Liberty, International Association of Education for World Peace, International Commission of Jurists, International Educational Development, International Federation of Journalists, International Federation of Free Journalists, International Federation of Women Lawyers, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, International Human Rights Law Group, International Indian Treaty Council, International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples, International Organisation for Indigenous Research and Development, International Peace Bureau, International Work Group of Indigenous Affairs, Latin American Federation of Association of Disappeared Detainees, Liberation, Lutheran World Federation, Movement against Racism and Friendship among People, Movimento Cubano por la paz y la Soberaniade los pueblos,North-South XXI, Pax Christi International, Pax Romana, Penal Reform International, PEN International, Permanent Assembly for Human Rights, Regional Council on Human Rights in Asia,Robert F.Kennedy Memorial Centre of Human Rights, Saami Council, Survival International, Transnational Radical Party, War Resisters International, Womens International Democratic Federation, World Association Against Torture, World Association for School as Instrument for Peace, World Council of Churches, World Federation of Democratic Youth, World Society for Victimology, and Worldview International.)



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