Four years have passed since the Tamil nation suffered the zenith of genocide inflicted upon it by the Sri Lankan state, where tens of thousands of Tamils were herded into a tiny of slither of land, only to be massacred with heavy artillery, systematically raped and tortured, deliberately starved, deprived of humanitarian assistance and murdered in cold blood. The evidence – not only indicative of the appalling nature of the crimes, but the intentional and systematic way in which they were perpetrated – is increasing. Yet despite this, and the ample time that has passed, Tamils have not seen a credible, international process towards accountability and justice, or a meaningful attempt to deliver a political solution that ensures their future security. The Tamil nation is instead, more exposed now than ever before – its identity is being destroyed, its claims to nationhood are being dismantled and its homeland erased of its Tamil character.
Sri Lanka’s 2008 offensive against the LTTE, was actively endorsed and supported by the international community. Over and beyond the providing of military expertise and arms, the widespread proscription of the LTTE and associated international arrests, criminalised Tamil support of the resistance movement, and forced the Tamil nation to publicly dissociate itself from the LTTE. Yet even after this ‘anti-terror offensive’ reared its genocidal head, (as Tamils had long argued was the case), the world did nothing. Far from being ignorant of the horrors unfolding, the international community – intent on eradicating any perceived impediment to its agenda of stability – hoped destruction would be swift, and turned away. At the height of the Tamil nation’s suffering, the international community failed to act – a wilful impotence which emboldened Sri Lanka to intensify its bloodbath, and laid the groundwork for what takes place today.
Four years later, despite welcome and increasing censure, the international community fails to hold Sri Lanka accountable for the past, through an independent, international inquiry. Instead, it appears incapable of moving tangibly past the futile call of requesting a manifestly unrepentant, genocidal state to investigate itself. No doubt strengthened by this effective granting of impunity, Sri Lanka’s program of destruction – through a process of structural genocide – continues. Yet the international community once again fails to halt it, or meaningfully instigate a process to resolutely address it. All the while Tamil resentment is growing. As the Tamil nation long feared, the absence of armed resistance has led to the unchecked burgeoning of Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism. Whereas in 2000, the LTTE’s sheer military might compelled the government to the negotiation table, today there is no incentive or compulsion for abuses to be reined in, or discussions on a political solution to be had. The Tamil nation’s political power and its longstanding demand for a lasting solution to the ethnic conflict has sunk to a point of irrelevancy in the eyes of the state.
Meanwhile the TNA, purported to be representative of the Tamil nation, continues in its failed policy of concessionary engagement, with a state unashamedly intent on imposing Sinhala Buddhist hegemony. In endorsing the 13th Amendment as a first step towards further political discourse, the TNA has adopted the weakest Tamil political position in decades; one that was rejected by the TULF over 25 years ago. The futility of provincial councils, as a means of providing any meaningful security to Tamils, is only more evident today. Instead of working towards mobilising a wider pressure base internationally, within the diaspora and domestically, the TNA leadership’s recent alliance with the UNP ignores the chauvinism at the heart of Sinhala polity, and the unwavering popular support it continues to have within the Sinhala electorate. Apparently unwilling to step beyond the framework of reforming Sri Lanka to a pre-Rajapaksa era state, the TNA utterly fails to address the fundamental flaws inherent to the Sri Lankan state. It is these flaws that legitimised the 60 years of Tamil oppression, sanctified the mass slaughter of Tamils in 2009 as necessary to safeguard the integrity of the unitary state, and underscore the Sri Lankan state’s post-2009 project of structural genocide. As we have argued previously, more harm is done to an oppressed nation by having an ineffectual representation, than by having none at all.
The factors that led to the armed conflict have only intensified over the last four years. The military defeat of the LTTE left Tamils at the mercy of their now triumphant oppressors. The Tamil nation’s reluctant progression from peaceful protest to the taking up of arms was a natural response to escalating oppression – as evident in similar struggles worldwide, including those currently at play. The Tamil nation’s call for an independent state of Tamil Eelam, and its overwhelming support for the leading proponent of it – the LTTE, was born out of and sustained by the unremitting need for security in the face of genocide. Coupled with the TNA’s ineptitude and the international community’s failure to mitigate the immediate problems of the Tamil nation, today non-violent Tamil resistance is growing: from student protesters, civil society activists and alternative Tamil polity in the North-East (working at grave risk to themselves), and to diaspora activists worldwide. This May 18th, as the Tamil nation remembers on genocide past and present, and looks towards the 5th year of ‘peace’, the need for security is only more apparent; and the Tamil nation’s determination in achieving it, more profound.