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Home > Tamils - a Trans State Nation > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Right to Self Determination - Tamil Eelam > Statement by IDE - 1992
Statement of International Educational Development
at United Nations Commission on Human Rights
"International Educational Development has closely followed the events of the past year in which a number of new states were created due to the aspirations of their people to realize their self-determination. Recently, a number of governments have recognized the right of the peoples of Croatia and Slovenia to their independence and the full realization of self-determination. Western Sahara is now finally on the way to its realization of self-determination. The Baltic states now sit here as independent governments.
"All people have the rights to self-determination" declared the two Covenants of international human rights law. Our organization would like to emphasize the word ALL. This word does not mean that only certain peoples, such as those who are favourites of one government or another, have the right. This word does not mean that only white, Eastern Europeans have the right. This word does not mean that only those who fight for the right or only those that do not fight for the right have it. The word all means all.
A number of United Nations Resolutions indicate that the right to self-determination may be a prerequisite to the realization and enjoyment of all other human rights. We support this view. In the words of legal scholar Professor Chen, the right to self-determination is "an expression of human dignity [and indeed] is deeply rooted in the concept of human dignity."
He maintains that self-determination has as its heart the peoples' wish to be "active agents of their own history". Self-determination is the other side of the coin of democracy.
Regardless of the high esteem that the international community has afforded the right to self-determination in international instruments, the same international community has been reluctant to apply the principle or, most appallingly, has applied it in a biased way.
Part of the problem has been the natural tension that arises between peoples and governments - a number of governments, including those that no longer exist, have been threatened by the application of the principle to them. Some governments have tried to resolve tensions by suppressing them and the people in question. Self-determination threatens territorial integrity they claim.
But, as observes Elena Bonner, widow of Andrei Sakharov, the principle of territorial integrity should not be used as an excuse to suppress the legitimate demands of an indigenous population.
Another problem for the international community has been how to define "peoples". Most governments want to define peoples in a way that eliminates the application of self-determination to their territory. On this problem we have dispositive guidance from the International Court of Justice, which in the Western Sahara Case (I.C.J. Reports 1975) identified the elements of "people": subjective and objective factors coupled with a relationship to identifiable territory.
There are two situations which we would like to present which warrant discussion under this agenda item and which have generated discriminatory reactions: Sri Lanka.
The Tamil population of the Northern and Eastern parts of the Island of Ceylon clearly meet the definition of "peoples" set out under international standards.
And, most importantly, their relationship to their territory was specifically recognized by the government of Sri Lanka in the Bandaranayake-Chelvanaya Pact. The Tamils have their own language, a religious and cultural basis distinct from the Sinhala majority, and increasingly, are united by a passionate yearning for autonomy if not independence from Sinhala domination. The intensity and urgency of their demand for their full self-determination has only increased under the Sri Lankan government's actions that threaten their very physical survival.
This Commission has heard compelling testimony on the gravity of human rights violations occurring against the Tamil peoples for years. In 1987, the Commission, in it's resolution 1987/61, took note of the evidence of human rights violations and called upon the parties to "pursue a negotiated political solution, based on principles of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms,"
There have been many tragic events in the Tamil-Sinhala conflict since then, and the Commission, though not its rapporteurs, has been silent, Now, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the military force defending the rights of the Tamil People, has again called for,a ceasefire and a process of negotiation in order to realize the rights of self-determination of both the Tamil and Sinhala peoples in a peaceful manner.
It appears that the government of Sri Lanka intends to continue to pursue a military victory over the Tamil people and their armed forces, and to go against the wise counsel of United States President Woodrow Wilson who stated that self-determination is an imperative principle of action which statesmen will henceforth ignore at their peril.
We call upon the Commission to heed these sage words and to place the legitimate call of the Tamil people for their self-determination on an equal basis that of others now recognized by the international community."