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Home > Tamils - a Trans State Nation > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Right to Self Determination - Tamil Eelam > Statement by IDE - August 1990
Statement by International Educational Development
at United Nations Sub Commission
"At what point does persistent discrimination and non fulfilment of the human rights of a minority generate a right to self determination of that minority and a loss of the right to self determination of that minority and a loss of the right to govern the minority on the part of the majority government?...
This issue is perhaps best illustrated by the situation in Sri Lanka. Prior to colonial rule, the island of Ceylon contained two separate states, one Sinhalese and one Tamil - each with its territory, language, religion, culture and racial origins. The colonial power, not the Tamil and Sinhala rulers, established unitary rule.
The decolonisation process resulted in a continuation of a unitary state rather than a return to the pre colonial status. This new unitary state has a Sinhalese majority and a Tamil minority. The lands that had been part of former Tamil governments were subsumed into the jurisdiction of the unitary government heavily dominated by Sinhalese people. The Tamil people were no longer in charge of their affairs in their traditional lands."
"Unfortunately, the succession of Sinhala majority governments have not adequately attended to promotion and protection of the rights of the Tamil people - now converted into a small minority. A systematic and insidious pattern of discrimination and communal unrest developed rather early on in this forced marriage with the predictable result of numerous periods of peaceful protests, and when demands were not met, open hostilities.
As hostilities have increased, so have large scale violations of the rights of the Tamil people, including arrests and detentions of thousands of Tamils. The Tamils then came to be converted into a 'subversive' element according to the Sinhala dominated government, which in turn has resulted in a more and more militant position on the part of the Tamil population.
For the past 8 years, there has been a more or less continuous state of civil war between the Sinhala dominated government and the Tamil population and its militant factions. The conflict became internationalised for the one and half years of the entry of the Indian Peace Keeping Force into combat."
"The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that all persons, including members of minority groups, have the right to the full realisation of their human rights and to an international order in which their rights can be realised.
The Sri Lanka situation has shown that for the past forty years, the Sinhala controlled government has been unwilling and unable to promote and protect the human rights of the Tamil population, and the Tamil population has accordingly lost all confidence in any present or future willingness or ability of the Sinhala majority to do so.
Are people in this situation required to settle for less than their full rights. Can the international community impose on a people a forced marriage they no longer want and in which they can clearly demonstrate they have been abused?
We conclude that in order for the human rights of the Tamil people and others in a similar situation to be realised, the international community must invoke the principle of self determination as it arises from persistent non fulfilment of the rights of minorities who have been subsumed into larger states.
This solution is eminently just and sound, yet is not without some boundaries. An obvious issue in invoking the principle of self determination as a practical means of solving persistent conflicts involving minorities is (1) how bad does the discrimination need to be to ripen to a right? and (2) how long must the minority seek remedy through traditional democratic processes before a majority government loses the right to govern the minority?
We consider that in the case of Sri Lanka, 40 years is clearly enough for any group to wait for their human rights. But what about 3 years? 10 years? 15 years? How long a people are required to seek internal remedy may reflect the kind of violations at issue - for instance, a people threatened by genocidal acts may invoke the principle of self determination sooner than a people facing severe and persistent discrimination in employment.
Regarding the 'democratic' process, we note that even given the best of circumstances, a minority population such as the Tamil population would be perpetually out numbered given the traditional one person one vote rule, rendering domestic legislative remedy extremely unlikely if not futile. And, in a distressing number of countries, the judiciary is unlikely to either rule or be able to enforce a ruling ordering minority rights...''