Tanthai Chelvanayagam Remembrance

by M K Eelaventhan, March 26, 2019

A crowd sends off thanthai Selva at Colombo Airport, Sri Lanka in 1961.

M.K. Eelaventhan spoke at the Mullivaikal May 18th Remembrance Day at Queens Park, Toronto, Canada:

Tamils’ freedom struggles have undergone three stages of development. First thirty years was unarmed struggle headed by Thanthai Chelvanayagam, the venerated leader of the Tamils. But the Sinhala fanatics refused to give a hearing to his wanting to find a solution for a meaningful federal setup preserving the unity of the island. He entered into several pacts with the Sinhala leadership but all the pacts were nullified before the ink was dry. Realizing the unpalatable truth that the Sinhalese will not concede anything, on November 19th, 1976, in the parliament Chelvanayagam declared that unless we get out of the clutches of the Sinhala masses we are doomed as a race. He said that we have given up the cry for federalism, and is is only an independent state of Tamil Eelam that can be the panacea for all the political ills that we are facing. But he said that our struggle will be nonviolent. This was his last will he gave to the Tamils.

It is at this crucial hour with the passing away of Velupillai Chelvanayagam, Velupillai Pirabakaran takes over the leadership of the Tamils and launched on an armed struggle roughly lasting thirty years. Though Pirabakaran took up arms, he made it clear that he had no love for an armed struggle. He made it clear that if J.R. Jeyawardena had adhered to Buddhism in its true form there was no need for him to take up arms. He said that our armed struggle is unpalatable but unavoidable. The LTTE under his leadership had a de facto government and if things were allowed to move in its proper manner, we would have had a dejure government.

It is during this turning point, twenty-one countries headed by India and USA entered into an open confrontation with the LTTE.  During the period of May 2009, especially on the 18th of May, they silenced the Tigers. These world powers in unpardonable manner attacked the people of Vanni covering the Mullithivu area. The war that was conducted was a war without witness. This is called Mullivaikal War. In this war there was an attack from the air, land and sea. Further, cluster bombs were used and more than one lakh and forty thousand people must be accounted for. This figure is given by the Bishop of Manner Rajappa Joseph. The Sinhala intelligence service cajoled and threatened the Bishop, but he stood like a rock, having implicit faith in Jesus the savior.

Mullivaikal is a small village in the Eastern shore of Tamil Eelam and will remain the symbol of the culmination of Eelam armed struggle, the site of Massacre of thousands of hapless innocent Tamils, the centrepiece of the Rajapakses’ Genocide and the beginning of the turn of events for the Tamils and the international community.

Eelaventhan further said that Mullivaikal may have ended the armed resistance against the Sri Lankan government but it heralds the beginning of disaster for the Sri Lankan government politically and economically. Tamil citizens were mourning the dead of their kith and kin and were crying for food and medical assistance. They were frantically searching for their family members. The entire people were left behind as state beggars.

The Sri Lankan government instead of taking adequate measures to remedy the grievances of the Tamils, who were suffering for more than sixty years, did nothing for them. The world too focused on the elimination of a group of fighters for justice and the freedom of Tamils, branding the fight as a war against terror, not remembering the labels of terrorist given to Nelson Mandela, Yasser Arafat and Menahim Begin who later were extolled as statesmen and fighters for justice and freedom.

Eelaventhan in his concluding remark defined What is Genocide? By quoting the definition of Genocide given by the UN Charter. This is how it reads: the worst of these deliberate and systematic inhumane acts with intent to destroy a race, an ethnic or national group are universally condemned as Genocide (United Nations Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide [CPPCG Article 2 – 1948]).

Eelaventhan said, what took place in Sri Lanka in May 2009, was not a war crime, it is not a crime against humanity and we should not just mourn over it, but we must make the world powers — whether be India, whether be USA — accept that what took place in Vanni, in 2009 was the Genocide of the Tamils. Hence, they are duty bound to make the UN declare that what took place. If the UNO accepts what really took place in Sri Lanka was the Genocide of the Tamils, it must logically conclude that the Tamils cannot live with the Sinhalese and that they are entitled to have a separate state for their safety, security and self respect.


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