Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

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Brussels Rally Asserts Tamil Rights, Affirms Solidarity

by Sabesan, Australia

The October 24 rally in the city of Brussels by the Eelam Tamils from all over Europe demonstrated the many facets of their struggle for freedom and peace. Despite a heavy downpour, twenty thousand Tamils took part in this emotive ‘Tamil Uprising’or Pongu Tamil, demanding, among other things, the withdrawal of the recent travel restrictions placed on the LTTE by the European Union. It is critical to analyse the impact of this significant demonstration defending Tamil people’s rights in the heart of Europe.

As we all know, people all over the world express their views and feelings through democratic means. It is in line with these principles that the ‘Tamil Uprising’ demonstrations have been successfully staged in the various parts of Tamil Eelam. But it should be stated that ‘Tamil Uprising’ demonstrations have many different perspectives compared to the other forms of our liberation struggle.

It is not very hard to organise a rally or arrange meetings in cities where Tamil people are highly concentrated. But there are many practical difficulties in organising an 'uprising' rally in a country like Belgium where not many Eelam Tamils live. There is no organisational network or facilities in place to arrange such a large rally. Nevertheless, thousands of Eelam Tamils living in various European countries marched into Belgium that day – calling in unison for the restoration of the Tamil Nation’s right to self rule. This was, indeed, an emphatic declaration of the solidarity of the Tamil Eelam community in Europe!

The Eelam Tamils in Europe and other parts of the world face many great challenges in their life. From beginning a new life in their adopted country, they endure new and varied forms of hardships to survive. Life is no picnic for them. With all their pressing problems, why did they converge in Brussels in their thousands last week? Were they forced, or were they intimidated? No. On the contrary, it was the burning resurgent nationalism that brought them together from all over Europe.

If the European Tamil diasporas manifests such nationalistic sentiments, how ardently they who live in Tamil Eelam would thirst for their liberation? – This is what the Belgium ‘Tamil Uprising’ has revealed to the world explicitly.

The rally also put an end to the vicious propaganda by some detractors that people who attend resurgent gatherings such as ‘Pongu Thamil’ and other national events do so due to force and intimidation.

Let us now look at the effects of this Belgium ‘Tamil Uprising’ from another angle.

The Western World, which adopts democratic systems of governance, respects their people’s views and aspirations. They allow and listen to democratic opposition expressed through peaceful demonstrations. When the American people demonstrated fiercely against the Vietnam War, the government withdrew its forces. By adhering to democratic principles in such ways the Western World, in general, upholds and preserves its democratic traditions.

On the contrary, it is by disregarding peoples' aspirations expressed through democratic means that war broke out in Sri Lanka. Successive Sri Lankan governments stymied all forms of democratic opposition by Tamils with their chauvinistic political power and state terrorism. While proclaiming lip service to democracy and the rule of law, they broke the very essence of democratic traditions. And so the struggle of the Tamil Eelam people is also a struggle for upholding democratic values! The European Union should consider their just demands and take appropriate steps to preserve the lofty principles of democracy in southern Sri Lanka.   

We should also point out recent moves of the Sri Lankan government which are contrary to the notions accepted by the European nations. The concept of a Tamil Homeland is one that is acknowledged in the India–Sri Lanka Accord and has legal implications by way of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. On this basis the European nations have accepted the concepts of Homeland, Federal State, etc., and have welcomed the peace talks between the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE.

The Sri Lankan Prime Minister and presidential candidate Mahinda Rajapakse, on the other hand, has not only rejected the concept of Tamil Homeland, but also says a solution will be found on the basis of a unitary state. In other words, he is attempting to give new life to the despised doctrines put forward by the Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinists 50 years ago! Concerned nations of the world should take notice of this unpalatable development. Though the Sri Lankan government in the past has acknowledged certain concepts both legally and in principle, it has failed to give effect to them in practice.

On the other hand, we should not forget that Ranil Wickremasinghe, Opposition Leader and presidential candidate, who now talks subtly about federalism in election campaigns, also fought vehemently against the India–Sri Lanka Accord and its underlying concept of a Tamil Homeland! We know also what Tamils reaped from his talks about peace talks.

No Sinhala leadership has put forward any concrete proposals for the resolution of the ethnic conflict. And no clear campaign has been launched in the south by any Sinhala leader for a consensus approach to this national problem. Such inaction by the Sinhala leadership affirms our suspicion that they do not want a peaceful solution to the drawn-out warfare.

Furthermore, no real pressure was brought to bear on the Sri Lankan government or its political leaders, who breach all democratic principles and norms that the western world so earnestly practices. Greater pressure is being exerted on our Tamil Nation, which struggles for the just cause of self determination. Unhelpful pressure it is, to which we ought not bow.

Finally, dear friends, we welcome the truism in the statement made by Mr. Kirubaharan, President of the Centre for Tamil Human Rights (France):

“No matter how many bans imposed on us, they will only accelerate our liberation.”

There is no better message that we could give to the western world!

[This is an abridged English transcript of an analysis by S. Sabesan, broadcast on 31.10.05 on the ‘Tamil Voice’ radio program, Melbourne, Australia.]