Ilankai Tamil Sangam

24th Year on the Web

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Tamil Remembrance Rally

Washington, DC, May 15, 2010

"It is not tolerable, it is not possible, that from so much death, so much sacrifice and ruin, so much heroism, a greater and better humanity shall not emerge."

Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day Rally May 15 2010 Washington DC

[for speech by Jan Jananayagam, see below]

Speech by Dr. Ellyn Shander

Vanakam

I want to thank the organizers of this event who invited me to speak. And say thank you to each of you who traveled long distances to pay your respects,  to remember the innocent people who were killed in this terrible chapter of Tamil history.

Why do we ask for a minute of silence when we remember the dead?

Because there are no words strong enough to describe our feelings about this terrible tragedy of the Tamil genocide one year ago.

We need silence for our minds, hearts and souls, that are filled with sadness and rage.  

We need silence in which to remember. Silence to process the horror of the ways people died. Silence for the wasted lives cut short by violence.

And silence to commit ourselves to change the present ongoing tragedy of the Tamils of Sri lanka. So let us now stand together in silence and unity. ( for a moment of silence)

Today we stand united as one community remembering the Tamils of Sri lanka who were massacred by evil.

What kind of evil murders over 40,000 civilians in one weekend? Over 100,000 Tamils in the last 20 years..

Nazis, Pol Pot, Sudan and the govt of Sri Lanka. All carriers of evil!

Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day Rally May 15 2010 Washington DCBefore their deaths, many of the murdered people begged, "Help us, save us, tell our story!!”

They sent their messages out in eyewitness videos, thru the brave doctors during the siege, and thru the occasional Tamil who escaped from the fighting.  They wanted the world to know about their suffering, their horror and their sacrifice.. They held the hope until the very end that the civilized world would somehow come to their rescue. The truth of the premeditated genocide was inconceivable.  They believed that the United States or India would stop the carnage.. But sadly no one came.. No one helped.  No one responded to their pleas.. And no one stopped the Sri Lankan government from burning their bodies and hiding the evidence.  

We extend our thanks to the brave Tamils who have spoken out, the witnesses to these war crimes, who have documented the outrage of evil wrought upon an innocent people just because they were Tamil.  Today we tell the world that this atrocity will never stay buried. This is the first anniversary of the largest massacre of the genocide of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka... but it is not the last rally.. We will never forget what happened and we will continue to tell the world until they hear us!!!

Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day Rally May 15 2010 Washington DCIt is, 65 years since the Nazi Holocaust, which killed 6 million Jews during ww2.  The world seems to have learned nothing from that horrible event. The phrase “Never again” is hollow when we see no outrage against repeated genocides... The world denied hearing the pleas of the Tamils before the ultimate killings, and now refuses to acknowledge that it ever happened. But if we have learned anything from the lessons of the Holocaust, it is that we must not remain silent and be defeated in the face of evil.

As Elie Wiesel has said:

“ I swore never to be silent whenever …..human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

So although we stand in silence when we remember the dead, we will never be silent in fighting the oppression that killed them.!!

I call on the international community and the US government to rise up forcefully and call for an investigation of war crimes by the Sri Lankan government to condemn this Nazi regime. Put the Rajapaksas on trial.. Arrest them when they leave Sri Lanka. And let the evidence show in any trial the true murderous intent of these people.

The worst thing we can do right now is to let the world change the channel.  Economic expansion in the North and east by the Gosl BEFORE a political solution for the Tamil people,  is UNACCEPTABLE.  But as we gather today, the tourist trade is increasing, and the apparel industry is making profits, and business as usual is coming back to the Singhalese in Sri Lanka.

We must stop the world indifference to the continued persecution of the Tamils in Sri Lanka. We must make empathy and human rights,  drive international interactions with Sri Lanka. Because if we do not succeed here…

Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day Rally May 15 2010 Washington DC

It will be Tamils of Sri Lanka facing extinction today, and then any one of us, tomorrow.   As Mother Theresa said so eloquently...

“If we have no peace, it is because we forget we belong to each other.”

The world must be reminded that when people are no longer seen as human beings:  they can be exterminated! The Tamils were not killed because of inhumanity to man. NO they were killed because of the Sri Lankan government’s  inhumanity to Tamils. They were not seen as human beings at all. They were killed because they were Tamils... and that is why this genocide is personal, it is an attempt to make a race extinct. And because of that we must not let them die in vain

How ironic that President Obama said that:

“We must commit ourselves to resisting injustice and intolerance and indifference in whatever forms they may take—whether confronting those who tell lies about history, or doing everything we can to prevent and end atrocities like those that took place in Rwanda, those taking place in Darfur. That is my commitment as President."

Empty words as Tamils awaited their death at the end of the war in may 2009.  I ask you...Why aren’t the Tamil people on President Obama’s radar??

Where were you, Pres Obama? Where were you, Sonia Gandhi? Where were you Ban Ki- Moon?  Where were you England, Japan, Norway, the World Bank? The civilized world, where were you?

They were CHOOSING TO LOOK AWAY.  Choosing to pretend that is was an internal affair of a duly elected democratic country fighting terrorism. And to their pretend game...  I say No.  With outrage I say No. With despair I say No.  With impotent rage I say no.  With unbelievable despair I say no... It wasn’t like that... The horror of it all was that every one of them knew. And yet, they let it happen.   Yes, they let it happen!

They did nothing...  Shame on them!... Shame on them then! And shame on them now!

In the words of Dr Martin Luthor King, who stood here and spoke:

"He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it."

The international community is cooperating with evil. They go forward as if nothing has happened.  They let the IMF give loans to the murderers . They push for economic development on land that holds thousands in mass graves. They rush to compete with china’s development. And it is business as usual for them. BUT not for us

As Eli Wiesel has said.

“When the messenger has delivered the message and nothing has changed. We must then become the messenger... so as not to let them die in vain.”

What can we do? We can do plenty!

Be a messenger and join the boycott of goods from Sri Lanka!

Shout out our boycott message...

“Check the labels... if it is made in Sri Lanka.. Put it down!!”

We are on the streets once a month, boycotting Victoria secret and the Gap in over 10 cities across the country, in solidarity with the international boycotts in England, Canada, Malaysia, India and Australia. We are getting noticed. The companies are nervous. We can and will change the economic climate towards, anything Made in Sri Lanka.

Would you buy a garment made in SL if you understood that it was soaked in blood.. Tamil blood and that every dollar spent is another dollar to kill Tamils??

We need only one big company to pull out from public pressure and it will cause a stampede out of Sri Lanka.

So we need you.. All of you extraordinary people

We need you to make a fuss

We need you to join our protests.

Hand out our postcards.

We need you to tell everyone you know about the dangers of buying clothes made in Sri Lankan.

We need you to go to the boycottsrilanka.com website and pledge yourself to this call for action.

This is the way to Tamil Eelam. Make this boycott our cause, and we can overthrow this govt. 

Be a messenger. Join the boycott!

What else can you do?

Tamils and friends, we must unite.

Be a messenger and join USTAPC, support the Global Tamil Forum, and the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam.

It is time to unite. Expose the murderers until justice has been served,  war crimes charges have been charged, and we are on the road to a liberated Tamil Eelam.,

This is our message... Don’t let the Tamils of Sri Lanka have died in vain.

Every single Tamil should now vow to take this astheir personal challenge and act in unison around the world as Diaspora liberating the Tamil nation. If you are not part of the solution.. Then you are part of the problem!

The world powers will let them get away with genocide. It is our determination and hard work from every one of you that will make a difference. Join together every Tamil in the Diaspora. YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

Be a messenger. Join with fellow Tamils.

Tell the world and Rajapaksa and his fools..

 Now hear this, the mighty nation of Tamil Eelam is not dead. !

 The Tamil Nation is not defeated! The Tamil nation is world wide gathering its forces to rise up in unity and become a solid force again. It is an uphill fight.

Americans!  Tamil Americans!  Tamil Canadians. , the battle is now in the political arena. Don’t be afraid to use your democratic right to raise your voices. This is a free country , use your freedom of expression.

Be a messenger! Join the advocacy movement. Join us at USTPAC.. and contact your congressmen.

Be part of the moral and legal fight, save the Tamils of Sri Lankan from extinction be in the struggle, and don’t sit this one out!!

When each of us are truly the messengers of truth and the warriors against injustice,  we will see the names of the martyrs on the streets of Tamil Eelam. We will see the schools open and the Tamil language taught. We will see people plowing their land and fishing again in a liberated new state of Tamil Eelam

Then and only then we will say yes, they did not die in vain...

And with the birth of Tamil Eelam, We will say with humility and gratitude to the people who died...

Your sprits walk with us in freedom,  your sprits accompany us in the Vanni ,your spirits deepen the history of the Tamil people as they take their rightful place as a free nation of Tamil Eelam!!!

The Tigers fought for freedom from Oppression... 

We must make sure that flame is never blown out.

The dead cannot cry out for justice; it is our duty as the living to cry out for them.

So each of us must come to this call for action and redouble our efforts to keep the Tamil spirit alive, bring the economy of the Gosl down to their knees. And then build first in our hearts and then on the ground a free Tamil Eelam.

In closing, I wanted to share my prayers for the people who died and light a candle in their memory.

To all Tamils who died in this raging violence, (say with me)

Know this we will never forget you!

To the Tamil mothers that just wanted to wake up everyday and feed their children, take them to school and walk in dignity

Know this We will never forget you!

To every Tamil fisherman, who lived to go out to sea and bring back his catch. And to the women who waited on the beach ready to clean the fish and get it ready to sell.

Know this we will never forget you!

To the Tamil doctors and nurses killed in the bombing of the hospitals

Know this we will never forget you!

To the Tamils who can never celebrate weddings, birthdays, and celebrations

Know this we will never forget you!

To the Tamil children who used to run in schoolyards, dead now or without legs.

Know this we will never forget you!

To the Tamil elders, who have seen the years of Sinhala oppression, we say from our hearts that we wish you never lived to see this final aggression, but

Know this we will never forget you!

To the Tamil babies, who never had a chance to walk, talk or live without fear.

Know this we will never forget you!

To the brave fallen heroes, the Tigers that have fallen in battle, bravely fighting the evil that oppressed the Tamil people , we owe you a debt.

Know this we will never forget you!

As we gather today in the shadow of the great President Abraham Lincoln. His words continue to ring true as they did in 1858.

“Our love of liberty… is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes ( freedom)  as the heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere.”

For all who have died: In your honor we will continue the fight for liberty, for a Free Tamil Eelam

And finally in the words of Charles de Gaulle, head of the French resistance, during the darkest days of WW2, when the Nazi evil almost swallowed up this earth, he said about their time…

"It is not tolerable, it is not possible, that from so much death, so much sacrifice and ruin, so much heroism, a greater and better humanity shall not emerge."

Today, here in Washington DC. , let us say a heartfelt prayer together, that in this lifetime, from so much Tamil death, sacrifice and heroism, what will emerge, will be, a better humanity called Tamil Eelam.

Nandri

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Speech by Jan Jananayagam

Vanakkam

We are here to pay our respects to the people of the Vanni and to seek justice for them.

We stand here in Washington DC in the very heart of a nation built on a promise, on the promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

We have come here to honour a people who pursued this God-given promise with their very life.

Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day Rally May 15 2010 Washington DCThe Vanni region has always been a part of Tamil Eelam. But it has historically been a safe haven. When the Catholic Church fled persecution by the Protestant Dutch in 1670, it was to the Vanni that the Virgin of Madhu fled.

When the Sri Lankan army invaded the North in 1995, it was to the Vanni that the Tamil people as a whole fled; a whole people emptied from their ancestral lands to a new frontier - the largest exodus of a people fleeing persecution in this century.

In 1995, when the Sri Lanka state restored its oppressive grip on the Northern Tamil homeland, the people who chose the Vanni were a people who chose to carve out a new life from nature rather than to return to their ancestral home under repressive occupation.

Like so many people enduring persecution, they chose freedom. They chose freedom above material comfort, liberty over oppression.

But in truth the people of the Vanni chose freedom knowing that it was fleeting, knowing full well that they would be called to defend it with their very life.

And in this freedom they materialized the dream of Tamil Eelam, as it has never before been materialized in this century. This was their gift to us.

Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day Rally May 15 2010 Washington DCWhen I visited the Vanni in 2004, I saw a land that was beautiful: a land of criss-crossing rice fields, banana and coconut groves. A people who created a surplus of food for export to feed the rest of the island.

In recompense, the unimaginable horror of hunger was to be forced upon this people.

When I visited the Vanni I saw children, as young as seven years old, cycling alone along country lanes. The people of the Vanni did not fear for their children to play outside.

But in 2009, the unimaginable terror of modern war was visited upon the children of this people.

Two decades after the Jaffna library – with its circa 97 000 books, many of them irreplaceable centuries-old original manuscripts of one of the worlds oldest classical languages – had been brunt down by the Sri Lankan state, the people of the Vanni began to build a new library in its memory.

And they did not stop building. They built all of the material institutions of a nation anew. Everything that I saw in the Vanni was built brick by brick with hope and courage.

Yet it was, as they knew and we all knew, a fleeting freedom opposed by unrelenting menace.

And for this reason, every moment in the Vanni was beautiful. The people of the Vanni had acquired a happiness that is only possible when you know that life is precious and fragile.

They were a people united who lived for each other.

Thus when war came to the Tamil people again in 2008, the Vanni represented hope and freedom.

In the final years as the Sri Lankan army came North there fled before it tens of thousands of Tamil people, converging from every direction into this symbolic centre of Tamil Eelam.

They too chose the hope of freedom over the certainty of repression.

But the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness has been cruelly betrayed.

Because the people of Tamil Eelam, courageous as they were, were forbidden to defend themselves. They were forbidden to acquire arms – and we were forbidden to provide them with the means of defense.

R2P – the responsibility to protect – fell perversely on an Orwellian state that was determined to destroy them. It fell to international institutions that had already been bankrupted by their repeated failures in history – the United Nations that failed in Srebrenica as it did in Rwanda.

R2P, like the UN convention on the prevention and punishment of genocide, turned out to be a cynical and false promise issued by bankrupt institutions.

For the Tamil people, the so-called safe zone on the beach was a cynical and cruel manipulation.

It was a place to which the people could be herded and then destroyed in large numbers so that the surrounding areas could be ethnically cleansed.

For the Tamil people, democracy in Sri Lanka is a cynical and cruel promise: a promise collateralised by the morally bankrupt institutions of racism.

For the people of Tamil Eelam were allowed to be murdered and the survivors incarcerated en masse, it was said, so that a new constitutional people can be created from their ashes.

The violent cleansing of the Vanni region and the destruction of everything that the Tamil people had created there was allowed, it was said, so that a new democracy could be built over the very bones of the creators.

In Sri Lanka , where the constitution privileges one language over another, one religion over another, one race over another, one nation over another, the very idea of a single constitutional people is a cynical perversion.

The Vanni was defended till it was no longer humanly possible to defend.

The Vanni was never surrendered.

Those who sacrificed their lives in the Vanni epitomized the fundamental values of the millennial old Tamil nation – the values of courage, duty and truth. This is their gift to us: a gift that will live in eternity.

The Thirukkural says:

“Anpillaar ellaam thamkkuriyar
Anupudaiyaar enpum uriyar pirarrku”

In English, the Thirukkural says: “The unloving belong only to themselves, but the loving belong to others to their very bones”. Those who made their last stand for freedom in the Vanni did so in the hope that a new nation may be born in freedom. Their gift to us is to remind us of the core of our own being.

So yes we must seek justice. But what kind of justice will it be? We can and must continue to seek criminal justice for the perpetrators – under the laws of war and the law of genocide.

But criminal justice alone can never be adequate reparation. We must demand political justice. The soul of the Vanni can only take shape again in freedom.

Yes, great states, great democracies have been built on the deaths of entire peoples. Witness this democracy where we stand today.

The United States of America is founded on the ideal of a single constitutional people. It is built on a constitution that proclaims that all are equal, all are free and that all have the right to the pursuit of happiness.

The people of this great democracy have fought and died to implement this promise – in Gettysburg and Normandy as elsewhere.

But democracy on the island of Sri Lanka cannot be built on a cynical myth. Democracy cannot be built where, a single constitutional people has neither existed nor can realistically be constructed without mass murder; where the proposition that all men are created equal is falsified through every fibre of the state apparatus.

And never again, in the history of mankind must democracy be built on the destruction of a people.

This great American democracy is founded on a promise to those huddled masses yearning to breathe free. In a global era, it is time for that promise to be delivered to the Tamil people.

This must be our pledge to those who built their monument to freedom in the Vanni.

Thamilarin Thakam Tamil Eelam.

Vanakkam.