Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

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Sovereignty and Territorial Integrity

by M. Nadarajan

Sovereignty belongs to a people or a nation. Territories that  nations have been occupying for centuries, either because they were always there, or conquered and subjugated the original inhabitants by force becomes the conqueror' territory. Unless all nations in the territory live in harmony and total equality, new countries or states are formed, either after a violent war of liberation or by mutual understanding,

If more than one people or nation occupies a land mass, particularly with territorial contiguity, who gets the sovereignty or 'territorial integrity' of the entire land mass? To give extreme cases, such as India, the Balkans or the Soviet Union, who gets the sovereignty or territorial integrity over which area?

Of course, if one Nation conquered another's territory, the conqueror gets sovereignty over the conquered territory, and calls it the conqueror's territory, till it is liberated, or conquered by another nation.

Sovereignty belongs to a people or a nation. Territories that  nations have been occupying for centuries, either because they were always there, or conquered and subjugated the original inhabitants by force becomes the conqueror' territory. Unless all nations in the territory live in harmony and total equality, new countries or states are formed, either after a violent war of liberation or by mutual understanding, as for example in Malaysia where Singapore separated to form another country called Singapore and in the separation Czechoslovakia into the Czech republic and Slovakia.

Who gave the Sinhalese in the island called Ceylon the sovereignity over the entire island and the right to demand territorial integrity? Ceylon had separate Sinhalese and Tamil Kingdoms before the advent of colonial rulers, who originally ruled them as separate entities till 1833 when they were combined for administrative convenience. The much quoted Cleghorn Minute identified the people and the boundaries of the territories occupied by them. Sinhalese historian Paul E.Peiris has stated that Tamils occupied the island when Vijaya (the so-called founder of the Sinhalese race) and his exiled cohorts arrived in the island.

It was the British who handed Sovereignty over the entire island to the Sinhalese with their majoritarian supremacy of votes in the one man, one vote system (74 % against 26 % of Tamil speakers) to do what they wanted, as they wanted. The territory was there with its integrity, and basically occupied as it was when the British arrived till the Sinhalese carried out planned ethnic cleansing of Tamil and Muslim (also Tamil speaking) areas and started colonization schemes in the Tamil areas using taxpayers money (including Tamil taxpayers), thereby changing the demography of the Tamil areas. The Sinhalese population of the Eastern province, which was a little over 4 % in 1924, became a little over 9 % in 1947 (the year before independence and is an estimated 32% now.

Now every politician, bar a very few, wants to preserve safeguard the Sovereignity and integrity of the country.

When a people of a different language, culture, religion occupy a contiguous area, they are entitled to separation or at the least autonomy, according to the UN.

Throughout the last century and into this one, new countries big and small, many of them smaller in population or size than the proposed state of Eelam,  have been formed in all parts of Globe. At the moment membership in the UN is up to192.

Most politicians of both major Sinhalese parties and all chauvinist parties speak about the need to protect the sovereignity and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. The President, Prime Minister and most cabinet members speak about it. What is even worse is that the Army Commander spoke recently of his desire to protect the 'territorial integrity' of the country.

Recently even India justified giving arms to the Sri Lankan government, after having said that they would no do so, to protect the Sovereignity of Sri Lanka. India has divided its country into over 25 states on a linguistic basis with demarcated borders to take the issues of different linguistic, cultural and religious groups within one border into consideration.

The LTTE has said from the time of the Thimpu talks of 1985 that it was prepared to give up the demand for a separation if the aspirations of the Tamils are met. In Oslo the LTTE agreed to explore a federal type of government with internal self determination. If dividing India into that many states is preserving the integrity of the country, why is India talking about the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka, which is controlled through Colombo by a severely unitary constitution?

India signed the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord, in which President
Jayawardena and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi explicitly accepted that the NorthEastern Province is the historical habitat of the Tamil-speaking people of Sri Lanka.

Which of India's people have lost their Sovereignity?  A Sikh from the minority is the Prime Minister of the country. A Tamil speaking Muslim is the President. In the past, many persons from minorities communities have occupied the highest positions in all fields of activity in the country.

Surely India must be aware that the Sri Lankan armed forces are made up of 99% Sinhalese, who claim to be from a 'chosen race.' The police are about 95% Sinhalese. Tamil-speaking people occupy less than 8% of government jobs, while they make up 26 % of the population. Who in Sri Lanka has lost their rights and are not treated as equals?

India should  know that Tamil, which is also official language by legislation, is hardly ever used as a language of government in communication with Tamils; that the government purposely posts Sinhalese, both of high rank and low rank, who do not know Tamil to Tamil areas, making it difficult to establish communication between people and officials; in one area of Colombo where the majority  of residents are largely Tamil the total number of policemen is 125, of which only six are Tamils; that the government officials and politicians say one thing to satisfy the international community and other audiences and do exactly the opposite in fact; that indiscriminate bombing, shelling and strafing of civilian areas occur, with the military saying that the bombing is in retaliation for something that the LTTE did, but  that it would stop after a day or two, but goes on much longer; that curfews are imposed at will and search and destroy missions take place during which civilians are arrested  at random and are tortured, raped and killed; that the government has established an economic blockade on essentials necessary for every day life and materials used in tsunami reconstruction work; that civilians are stranded and displaced from their homes; that the army has advanced without provocation into territory held by the Tigers; that the Sri Lankan navy has confiscated boats fitted with fast motors for naval exercises, thereby affecting the livelihood of fishermen. The list of crimes against the Tamil civilian population goes on and on.

Is India peeved by the fact that Pakistan has stolen a march over it and has supplied arms and aircraft to Sri Lanka and is training its pilots? It is even rumored that Pakistani pilots are flying sorties for the Sri Lankan Air Force. It is also rumored that the Pakistani ISI is recruiting, training and arming Muslim youth in the East to carry out Jihad.

India maintains, at government expense, the Ex- Chief Minister of the Northeastern Provincial Council who promulgated the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1990, and other sundry ex-militants under RAW sustenance. Ex-LTTE renegade Karuna and a few others who have joined him are also there.

Having refused to meet the TNA members, the Indian high-ups have, according to Indian media, met Anandasangaree, PLOTE leader Sitharthan and Douglas Devananda, the Sri Lankan minister who was once wanted for murder in Chennai.

When we were growing up, we had Sinhalese and Tamil friends without differentiation. The1956 Sinhala Only Act and other anti-Tamil acts, and repeated communal pogroms against Tamils, a genocidal war against the Tamil population, and added to that, the Mahavamsa mentality spread by politicians for personal gain and by the Buddhist Monks changed all that..

The one notable exception is the Late Adrian Wijemanne (The Lord bless his soul), the well known historian and author. He was a good friend of mine for many years. We used to often discuss the ethnic problem.

Once when I told him that the only way to solve the national question was by installing a truly Federal or Con-Federal system of government. He said, "...I don't agree. I am a Sinhala nationalist as much as you are a Tamil nationalist. You already have Eelam. You do not have to take it, nor should anybody give it to you. You can have your Eelam and me, my beloved Sri Lanka. Hopefully, the two countries can sign a friendship pact and you could visit me in Colombo and I could visit you in Jaffna, of which I have lovely memories."

The only ones who can talk in those terms now are Dr.Brian Seneviratne, possibly Neville Jayaweera and maybe some of the New Left Sahodaraya.

I am positive that if a referendum is taken, without interference by politicians or Buddhist monks, a vast majority of the population of the island would vote for peace rather than war, with a just settlement for the Tamils to live in their own homeland.

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