Twenty Years on and the plight continues...



Tamils all over world are marking the 20th anniversary of the Black July. The events of July 1983 are still vivid in their memories.  The scars, both mental and physical, are not only yet to be healed, but have been aggravated over the years, whilst the world at large remained a silent observer.


The five days, from 25th to 29th July 2003, constitute the 20th anniversary of the Holocaust of July 1983. Twenty years ago the Tamil people living outside their traditional homeland were targets of the pogrom, unprecedented in its scale and brutality. The events of that fateful week have been burnt into Tamil memory as Black July.


Sinhalese mobs and gangs indulged in an orgy of killing, burning and looting against Tamils and their property in town over the island especially in Colombo. The Tamil deaths were estimated between 2,000 and 3,000. Tens of thousands of Tamils fled to safer, Tamil-majority areas while many others left the country.  The orchestrated assault on Industries and Business establishments owned by the Tamils was intended to destroy the Tamils economically.


The Sri Lankan government continued its genocide of Tamils through military operations in the North East every year without failing.  These military operations demolished the infrastructure in the Tamil homeland killing and inflicting injuries to over seventy thousand innocent civilians with the indiscriminate aerial bombardment and artillery shelling.  Schools, hospitals, factories and places of worship have been destroyed creating thousands of internally displaced people who are languishing in refugee camps both in Sri Lanka and India.


Worsened Plight

The plight of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka has worsened over the last twenty years. The whole Island has become an open prison for the Tamil people.  Arbitrary arrests, detention, rape and disappearances have been the norm. Over six hundred people have disappeared in the Jaffna peninsula alone in 1996 whilst the perpetrators live a luxurious life both in the island and abroad.


The successive Sri Lankan governments have not taken a single step in the right direction to resolve the ethnic crisis.  The government has continued to orchestrate a peace platform for the international community whilst pursuing a destructive war strategy in the Island.  The current constitution, which imposes Sinhala hegemony over the Tamils and contains many discriminative clauses, remains intact. During the last 20 years successive governments from the two main Singhala parties (UNP and SLFP) have been reluctant to change the constitution to pave the way for a peaceful solution to the ethnic crisis.


The current Peace Process

The peace process initiated and mediated by the Norwegian government has hit a brick wall due to the Sri Lankan government's inability to deliver on its commitments.  Tamil People are unable to worship at their temples, their children cannot study in their villages schools or play in the play grounds and the business people are unable to conduct their business in the name of protecting the High Security Zones (HSZ).


The North East of the country is yet to reap the peace dividends due to the absence of an efficient and effective administrative mechanism, whilst the South is flourishing. Tamil Nation's demand for an innovative interim administration, promised to them at the last General elections by the Prime Minister, is yet to be delivered. Temporary mechanism proposed by the Government has failed miserably whilst the Government is hiding behind the veil of the constitution in not delivering its election manifesto.


Tamil Nation's struggle for freedom is based on three core principles: Tamil Nation, Tamil Homeland and Self-determination. Tamils constitute themselves as a people, or rather as a national formation, since they possess a distinct language, culture and history with a clearly defined homeland and a consciousness of their ethnic identity. As a distinct people, they are entitled to the right to self-determination. The right to self-determination has two aspects: internal and external. The internal self-determination entitles a people to regional self-rule


It is rather sad to note that some countries, which have themselves fought wars for their freedom, has branded the LTTE as a terrorist outfit. The fundamental reason cited for the ban by these countries is the use of violence to achieve political goals, then it is not valid anymore and the organization has been pursuing a peaceful negotiating strategy for the last two years.  The International community can give the peace process a shot in the arm by lifting the ban on the LTTE and treat the organization as true partners to peace, both in word and deed.


Tamils all over the world would like to appeal to those countries, which have banned their authentic representatives, the LTTE, to recognize these three core principles and remove the ban on the organization. The ban is unjustifiable in the current context, where the organization is pursuing a democratic and peaceful path to conflict resolution. Demands for disarmament is unreasonable as it is the military strength of the LTTE, which protects the Tamil people from genocide, and also the main bargaining power of the Tamil Nation.


We also appeal to the international community to impress upon the Sri Lankan government, the importance to establishing an interim administration in the North and East to expedite the reconstruction and resettlement efforts. The establishment of an effective Interim Administration will be a major milestone in the long road towards the final destination of "Peace with Justice".