by Usha Sriskandarajah, December 20, 2022
For the TGTE, Tamil Eelam is not a mere dream or aspiration or yearning or passion alone, it’s a commitment, an explicit, unequivocal and results-oriented goal that’s to be pursued and achieved using every peaceful means possible
Text of the Keynote Address delivered by Usha S Sri-Skanda-Rajah, Member of the TGTE Senate on the opening day of the 8th Sitting of TGTE’s 3rd Parliament
My dear TGTE family, our friends and well-wishers,
I stand before you holding in my heart the memory of our beloved Maveerar who gave their lives defending the cause of freedom of Tamil Eelam and the memory of all those who perished in the genocide perpetrated by the Sri Lankan state.
It is indeed a distinct honour for me to deliver the keynote address, at the 8th sitting of the 3rd parliamentary term of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE). My subject is: TGTE Past Present and Future. I have to admit, to condense more than 12 years of solid, unparalleled and pioneering work, done by the TGTE, in its quest for justice and freedom, in my allocated time of 30 minutes, and in that endeavor, detail the initiatives that are being currently worked on by the TGTE, and some of the projects that are in the pipeline, is not easy.
Faith Moves Mountains
The TGTE is driven by a boundless reservoir of faith – faith in the belief that it will overcome and ultimately prevail, though the road may seem insurmountable. At the zenith the Maveerar provide the inspiration, the oxygen for the TGTE. The TGTE can say with pride that it hasn’t backed down or back tracked from the goal the Maveerar held in their heart, the oath they took and gave their lives for – that of the restoration of a Free, Independent and Sovereign State of Tamil Eelam – this is TGTE‘s primary focus, together with securing justice for the tens of thousands of victims of genocide perpetrated by the Sri Lankan State. And I will be elaborating on the specifics in a minute. But let me speak more about faith. I’ll say it again faith moves mountains – in furtherance of TGTE’s two, actually three pronged objective, that includes the rebuilding of Tamil Eelam, the TGTE believes and has faith in its ability, in its leadership, in its members, in the Eelam Tamil people, in friends, associates, well-wishers and in God.
Formation of the TGTE – The Vehicle for Creating A Political Space Outside of Sri Lanka Towards Eelam
It was on June 16, 2009 that the appointment of an ‘Advisory Committee’ of eminent persons was announced to, “explore the modalities for TGTE’s establishment.” The recommendation of this Committee’s report released on March 15, 2010 led to TGTE’s formation on May 17, 2010 at the National Constitutional Center in Philadelphia, USA.
On this day both democratically elected and appointed Members of Parliament (the parliament known earlier as an assembly), representing significant countries including Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Switzerland, France, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom, Canada and the United States, took their place in the first TGTE parliament. On September, 30 2010 on its 2nd sitting the TGTE’s constitution with a bicameral legislature was ratified and Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran was chosen Prime Minister.
The preamble to the Constitution laid out the many reasons for TGTE’s formation; notably it spoke of the absence of any political space inside the island of Sri Lanka to articulate the political aspirations of the Tamil people. The preamble pointed to, “the historical obligation of the Tamil Diaspora to create the political space outside of the island of Sri Lanka.” The Constitution a comprehensive document sets out among other TGTE’s aims, objectives and structure, mandating that the TGTE should find a political solution to the Tamil national question on the basis of nationhood, a homeland and the right to self-determination, through political and diplomatic channels, and only through peaceful means.
Election of Rudrakumaran A Visionary as Prime Minister Proved To Be the Right Choice
The election of Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran, as Prime Minister of TGTE, has indeed proved to be the right decision. Rudrakumaran is a true visionary, one who, as I have described before, is driven and fixated on the mission at hand with the kind of laser sharp focus and intellect required and having what it takes, to stay on course and stay focused, for the long haul if necessary – one whom the TGTE has elected to be Prime Minister for a 3rd term and rightfully so.
I would be remiss if I do not acknowledge the man behind the success of TGTE and for that I wish to quote from an article I wrote about him: ‘Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran, a Man with a Mission in Pursuit of Eelam:
“Remaining steadfast, forthright and resolute, despite the numerous obstacles and challenges before him, Rudrakumaran marches on undaunted, with a confidence that imbues confidence. Unmoved by detractors, his strong will, hard work and unwavering commitment are ample proof he has the wherewithal to go the distance; not to forget he possesses the kind of grit and determination that’s needed at this critical time; in order not to lose the momentum the TGTE has achieved after the armed struggle was dealt a heavy blow in 2009 and the whole freedom movement suffered a huge loss, in material and human cost, unable to abate a massive onslaught by the Sri Lankan armed forces with the support of some nations; this, when Sri Lanka unilaterally abrogated a ceasefire in force and waged a cruel and brutal war – breaking the Geneva Conventions and committing the most heinous of mass atrocity crimes, involving large scale government shelling of innocent Tamil civilians, and the alleged use of cluster bombs and chemical and other illegal weapons – best described as a genocide on a people – hitherto unimaginable – a genocide which a renowned international human rights lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson, when giving his considered legal opinion ahead of the passage of the US sponsored resolution HRC 30/1, said, “had to be litigated.“
And quoting from my article: “It would not be wrong to say Rudrakumaran has played a major role in carving out a political space for the Eelam Tamil people, just as the founders of TGTE envisaged; a space to freely articulate their political aspirations and demands, one that is lacking in the homeland – Rudrakumaran insisting, “the Diaspora and the homeland being two sides of the same coin.” And as TGTE’s Prime Minister, he has been hugely responsible for lifting the sagging morale of a people devastated by war and war weary, at home and in the Diaspora, and in changing the means and the methods of the struggle; the TGTE believing in soft power, rather than military power to attain its goals.”
TGTE’s Ambitious Program Unparalleled, Relentless and Resilient
Further in my article, I write about how, ‘impervious and unfaltering, Rudrakumaran has, right from its inception, steered the TGTE admirably, working, of course, with some committed people around him. Essentially there’s been no turning back for the TGTE from where it began. Although all its members are volunteers, the TGTE team (the deputy Prime Minister, the Cabinet, the Secretariat, the PMO, the Speaker and Deputy Speaker and Members of Parliament including the Senate, spearheaded by Rudrakumaran), work tirelessly and relentlessly – their dedication is unparalleled,” not forgetting those who served previously.
It was challenging to say the least to decide what I should highlight and leave out in listing TGTE’s massive program of work over the years.
The numerous projects and initiatives, mentioned below, most still ongoing, serve as proof of an organization that continues to be strong and resilient, never giving up, despite the odds stacked against it, and the challenges before it:
- Proclaiming May 18 as Tamil Eelam’s National Day of Mourning in 2011 marked by the delivery of Hero’s Day (Maveerar Day) speech by the Prime Minister of TGTE every November 27; In 2013 Rudrakumaran in his Hero’s Day speech outlined, “the three-pronged strategy” of the TGTE: “We shall work resolutely in harnessing the support of the international community for the establishment of an Independent State of Tamil Eelam, we shall undertake all necessary measures to obtain justice for the genocide committed by the Sinhala state against the Tamil people, and we shall rebuild a state of prosperity among the people of our homeland.”
- Issuing of Tamil Eelam National Card to Eelam nationals, their spouses and children in 2012;
- Promulgating the Tamil Eelam Freedom Charter in 2013. Aspiring to take the Vaddukoddai Resolution forward and inspired by the Magna Carta and the Charter of Rights of the ANC and that of the Palestinians, the Tamil Eelam Freedom Charter lays out Tamil Eelam’s policies on Economy, Language, Education, Health, Development, Environment and Citizenship, following a wide ranging survey seeking opinions from the wider Tamil polity;
- Calling for a ‘UN Monitored ‘Protection Mechanism’ in 2013 to halt the continuing systematic structural genocide in the highly militarized NorthEast . It’s to be noted that the High Commissioner for Human Rights in her report at the 34thsession of the UNHRC at long last did recommend a ‘UN Country Presence’ to monitor human rights violations in the island of Sri Lanka;
- Taking the fight for justice and freedom to the international arena, including the UN and UNHRC using diplomacy and engagement;
- Launching of an Evidence Collection Project in 2014 and forwarding it to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights;
- Releasing a list in 2014 containing the names of 12 Sri Lankan War Criminals – also referred to as the “Dirty Dozen”;
- Convening an International Conference on, “Say No to Sri Lanka” in Central London in 2014.
- Working on a ‘Road Map’ and a new ‘Massive Action Plan’ the long term goal of TGTE being ‘Nation Building’; Out of 15 items originally listed in the ‘Massive Action Plan” the following 6 items have been shortlisted: Publications, Archives, and Documentation Centre 2. ’Yes to Referendum’ Peoples Movement: 3. Land Protection Programme 4. Tamil Studies Advisory Council 5. World Tamil University 6. World Tamil Chambers of Commerce;
- Launching and promoting the ‘Yes to Referendum People’s movement on January 1st 2018 that called for a referendum recognized, conducted and monitored by the International Community – affording an opportunity for people to express their political will with all political options on the form, to be decided by long term residents of the homeland and members of the Eelam Tamil Diaspora: According to TGTE, “this movement will insist that the right to self-determination, the opportunity to determine their own political destiny, should be offered to Eelam Tamils in the same manner as it was given to the people of Québec in Canada and the people of Scotland in Britain. This people’s movement will create action groups in different countries, made up of not only Tamils but also of members of the international community.”
- Setting up TGTE Solidarity offices in various countries, especially in Chennai and Delhi;
- Conducting international campaigns like the signature campaign, calling for an international investigation, that gathered more that 1.6million signatures, to, Refer Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court (ICC); it is noteworthy that on September 4, 2015, a CD containing 1.6 million signatures was delivered to UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the OISL team in Geneva.
- Initiating a project in 2016 to plant at the least 100,000 Trees around the world in memory of Tamils who lost their lives in Mullivaykkaal;
- Holding regular international athletic and other sports events involving youth, children and the community;
- Recognising individuals who have contributed to the Eelam cause and to humanity;
- Conducting the annual Mullivaikkaal Memorial Lecture from 2015;
- Pursuing initiatives assisting women, widows, children, refugees, victims of human rights abuses, victims of torture, the missing and disappeared and former cadres and maveerar;
- Submitting petitions and memoranda to politicians and to the UN for action and for purposes of educating them; mobilizing the community; leading protests and demonstrations, in front of the UN, and foreign embassies, at No 10 Downing Street in the UK, Parliament Hill in Ottawa and other locations;
- Passing resolutions and releasing press statements, preparing and publishing papers and informative booklets on various subjects, historical events and political and human rights issues that are of concern and of public interest;
- Launching TGTE TV in July 2018;
- Holding international conferences and panel discussions on human rights when an issue so warrants. On the 40thanniversary of the ‘Vaddukoddai Resolution’ the TGTE held a panel discussion composed of speakers connected with newly independent countries such as South Sudan (from both factions), East Timor and Kosovo;
- Taking Legal Action, in the US, against Mahinda Rajapaksa for atrocity crimes – it failed at the outset since Heads of State enjoyed immunity from prosecution – although the TGTE raised precedents and examples of other cases where such immunity was pierced and did not hold water. The TGTE intends taking follow up action in this regard.
- Pursuing initiatives, such as the ‘Communication’ being filed to mount a challenge, at the UN Human Rights Committee, to Sri Lanka’s 6thAmendment to the constitution which criminalizes any peaceful advocacy for an independent state – solidifying, in Rudrakumaran’s words, the legitimacy of an independent state – the TGTE calling on lawyers to support this initiative to which many responded.
- Appointing a high level, independent, Monitoring Accountability Panel (MAP) in September 2015 to monitor and report on Sri Lanka’s implementation of UN HRC 30/1 (and reappointed to monitor Resolution 34/1);
- Establishing TGTE’s Center for the Prosecution and Prevention of Genocide.
- Launching a, “You are not forgotten” Global Signature Campaign on May 18 of 2018, on behalf of the enforced Disappeared;
- Exploring Avenues and preparing dossiers to prosecute Sri Lankan military and political leaders responsible for atrocity crimes against the Tamil people, using expert legal minds who are experienced in prosecuting war criminals – so that arrest warrants can be readily sought and issued under the principle of “universal jurisdiction”, when they travel to Europe, America or other parts of the world;
- Mounting a challenge to UK’s ban on the LTTE in April 2019, by hiring a leading law firm Matrix Chambers to represent the TGTE and winning the appeal with the special Appeals Commission deciding in TGTE’s favour, stating the information presented to the Home Secretary, “was materially misstated.” In this connection the TGTE is intending follow up action to get the UK to lift the ban so as to remove the stigma of proscription that deters members of the Tamil community to raise their voice or part take in political activities concerning Eelam.
- Challenging India’s ban on the LTTE – which failed on grounds that TGTE had no legal standing to ask for the lifting of a ban on the LTTE, the court declaring there was no ban on the TGTE. The TGTE intends pursuing the action further, arguing that the TGTE is not the LTTE but has similar objectives of liberating the homeland, although by peaceful means, and is affected greatly by the ban imposed on the LTTE. The TGTE is also considering mounting more challenges in other countries such as Canada and in the US where the ban is coming up for renewal for the same reason that the ban stigmatizes the Tamil community, preventing it from getting involved with organizations such as the TGTE which legitimately defends the rights of oppressed people in the Tamil homeland.
- Delivering a petition to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from the members of TGTE’s ‘Walk for Justice Campaign’, in 2021 that involved walking 425 km from Brampton to Ottawa, seeking Canada’s greater commitment to combating enforced disappearances across the globe; specifically asking that Canada supports a legislative effort to remove ‘sovereign immunity’ as a defense by states for international crimes: namely genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture and enforced disappearances, also calling on Canada to Refer Sri Lanka to the Committee established under the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances pursuant to Article 32 of the Convention. Although the response the TGTE received from a Canadian minister surprisingly showed Canada was not a signatory to the Convention, the TGTE would continue to call on other countries to remove the sovereign immunity’ defense or introduce exceptions to the defense to prevent rogue states, such as Sri Lanka from escaping prosecution for atrocity crimes.
- Commencing a ‘Victim Driven International Justice’ initiative in March of 2019 – the brain child of professor Groome whom TGTE is working with – he’s the one who investigated and drafted the first genocide indictment against a sitting head of state, Slobodan Milosevic. It was Groome who led the prosecution of 5 international criminal trials including the case against Ratco Miladic. Under this initiative, on behalf of Tamils victims, the TGTE will exercise our right to truth and our right to know under international law to obtain access to information gathered by the UN Secretary General and High Commissioner for Human Rights in 3 independent investigations into international crimes committed in Sri Lanka , analyze, translate and work with and support Tamil victims living in countries where private prosecutions by victims are allowed by law, to commence domestic prosecutions for international crimes with universal jurisdiction.
- Proclaiming November 21 the Tamil Eelam National Flag Day in 2021.
- Releasing Report Cards evaluating Sri Lanka’s compliance at the UNHRC. TGTE’s way of monitoring and exposing Sri Lanka’s blatant hypocrisy and brazen duplicity, through a report card system, is remarkable. Recently on October 2022 the TGTE released a “report card” jointly prepared by Mr. V P Lingajothy, TGTE’s Minister for Human Rights, Mr. Sudarshan Sivagurunathan, TGTE’s Minister for Political Affairs and Mr. Mahinthan Sivasubramaniam, Minister for International Affairs on, implementation of commitments made by Sri Lanka to the UN Human Rights Council under HRC 46/1 adopted in March 2021. The Ministers in reviewing the implementation of mandates for action under 46/1, gave Sri Lanka a failing grade, and it has been always the case. This report card, wide ranging and pointed with appropriate recommendations, highlighted the absolute futility of relying on Sri Lanka to prosecute its armed forces and political officials;
- Writing to the Registrar of the International Criminal Court submitting the State of Tamil Eelam’s instrument of accession to the International Criminal Court together with supporting documents, making the case for accession.
Looking to the Future:
Calls Growing for an International Investigation on Genocide which has been TGTE’s Unbending Stand
As I wrote in my article on Rudrakumaran, it’s significant to point out, “whilst the rest of the world hesitated to call it genocide the TGTE led by Rudrakumaran is unbending, insisting what happened and was happening to the Tamils in Sri Lanka was and is genocide. Whilst many struggled to call it genocide, that the crime of genocide, needing proof of intention and so requiring a higher burden; the TGTE under Rudrakumaran wouldn’t budge and sure enough, many have now come round to its way of thinking. And like so, the House of Commons in Canada passed a motion calling for an International Investigation into Genocide against the Tamil people in Sri Lanka.”
TGTE’s Call for Sri Lanka to be Referred to the ICC Gaining Ground as High Commissioner for Human Rights Urges Sri Lanka to Ratify the Rome Statute
Whereas many questioned the wisdom of TGTE’s call to refer Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court, when Sri Lanka was not a signatory to the Rome Statute, as I wrote in my article: “Rudrakumaran took his campaign to the world and amassed 1.6 million signatures. It is noteworthy the High Commissioner for Human Rights has recommended in her report at the 34th session of the UNHRC that Sri Lanka sign up to both the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions – relating to victims of armed conflicts, and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court – where war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide are prosecuted.”
Rudrakumaran’s Consistent Insights on Tamil Eelam’s Strategic Location an Eye Opener
Rudrakumaran’s insights, from the outset, as far as Tamil Eelam’s strategic location is concerned, should serve as an eye opener to both India and to Tamils which he honed in – in this year’s Hero’s Day Speech:
And I quote:
“A separate state of Tamil Eelam as a set up for the people of Tamil Eelam to protect themselves is not something that can evolve from local conditions alone. It has to spring from the international political situation and the geopolitical situation of the Indian Ocean and the South Asian region. The task before us at present is to find out ways and means for the geopolitical situation developing in favour of our political interest and maintaining and retaining a favourable situation for a separate state of Eelam with independence and sovereignty to emerge when the international situation is ripe. And for this it is essential for the nation of Tamil Eelam to protect its nationhood. Only by strengthening and consolidating ourselves as a nation and asserting the necessity of a separate state of Tamil Eelam as the only solution to the political problem that will enable the winning over of Tamil Eelam when the international situation turns in our favour.”
Rudrakumaran Cautions on Sinhala Efforts to Drive a Wedge between Tamils and Muslims in the East
And Rudrakumaran is spot on when he analyses the current situation in the Tamil homeland vis a vis Tamils and our Muslim brethren:
And I quote:
“The Sinhala establishment is acting deliberately to occupy the Eastern province not just territorially, but politically as well. And for this purpose it is deliberately driving a wedge of conflicts between the Tamil and Muslim people. By instigating the Tamil-Muslim conflict it is trying to create an illusion among the two sides that each of them can defeat the other by aligning with the Sinhala state. Therefore, Sinhala-Buddhist supremacism is acting on a plan to weaken Tamil nationalist politics in the Eastern province and to bring the Tamil and Muslim people under the Sinhala nationalist parties. Likewise, Sinhala-Buddhist supremacism is acting on a plan to weaken Tamil nationalist politics in the Northern province, too, by raking up differences of caste, religion and region. The Tamil people and the Muslim people should be very vigilant about the Sinhala state’s evil designs and should be aware that the Sinhala state would be doing what the proverbial monkey did while dividing the cake.”
The TGTE under Rudrakumaran Will Not Rest Until the Tamil Eelam Flag Flies in the UN
As I write in my article, whilst others have lowered their sights, expectations and demands, thinking Tamil Eelam is an impossible dream, TGTE, under Rudrakumaran’s phenomenal stewardship, stands resolute and unwavering. Rudrakumaran is a man of steel when it comes to staying the course. He can’t, he won’t relent, or back away from staying true to his mission, because if he does, that would mean betraying the Tamil people who are counting on him, to carry the mantle; keep the fire burning, realize every freedom fighter’s dream and fly the Tamil Eelam flag up high and one day most definitely see it flying in the United Nations!
And what is so heartening is the realization that the TGTE – Rudrakumaran’s team are as dedicated and committed, as him, to fulfilling TGTE’s mandate. And I have always maintained the Maveerar must be smiling for they know the non-violent fight for Tamil Eelam is in good hands!
More and More Backing TGTE’s ‘Yes To Referendum’ Peoples’ Movement
You should know since the launch of TGTE’s ‘Yes to Referendum’ Peoples’ Movement, more and more organizations and prominent individuals back in the homeland in Eelam including Tamil Members of Parliament have come on board to call for an internationally recognized referendum to decide the political destiny of the people of the Northern and Eastern provinces of the island of Sri Lanka. Many have openly called for the repeal of the 6th Amendment and for Sri Lanka to be referred to the International Criminal Court. Additionally as a result of TGTE’s action, University Students have started speaking in support of a Referendum as a solution to the Tamil National Question. Recently people in Denmark held a mock referendum and during the Tamil Eelam National Flag Day a mock referendum was held in Paris too. The staging of these early referenda in the Diaspora are similar to what Catalonians did in their quest to separate from Spain.
TGTE Sees Meeting of Minds Not Experienced Before
It is a remarkable victory for the TGTE to see the aims and objectives, demands and principles upon which it stands being acknowledged, endorsed and sought after by other Diaspora organizations – achieving a synergy and a meeting of minds not experienced before.
I am happy to say it augers well to know that TGTE’s launch of the Peoples’ Movement calling upon all Tamil groups to support TGTE’s call for a referendum led to six leading Diaspora organizations coming together in September 2021 to sign on to a “declaration of common principles for Tamils,” that called for an 1) An internationally conducted and monitored referendum 2) An interim International Protection Mechanism in the north-eastern region of the island. 3) The Repeal of the Sixth Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution. 4) The referral of the situation in Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court
The future looks promising Indeed for the sacred cause of a Free Tamil Eelam.
It’s my fervent wish the TGTE’s Parliamentary Sitting in England turns out to be successful and rewarding as we march towards winning international recognition for a referendum on Tamil Eelam.
May God bless Tamil Eelam and its people.
Usha S Sri Skanda Rajah – Senator, TGTE