Sri Lankan Tamils should observe May 18 every year as “Tamil Genocide Day”, said the Northern Province Chief Minister C.V.Wigneswaran on Friday.
He was speaking on the fourth annual remembrance day at Mullivaikkal, the scene of killings in the last stages of the war against Tamil Tiger separatists in 2009.
In his emotionally charged and hard hitting oration, Wigneswaran called upon the International Community to directly intervene to secure justice for the Tamils and restore their “sovereignty”.
He endorsed the suggestion of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that ‘Universal Jurisdiction” should be extended to Sri Lanka to force Colombo to carry out its promises to the international community.
Thousands Flock to Non-Partisan Event
Thousands of Tamils from all parts of the Northern and Eastern provinces had converged on Mullivaikal thanks to the transport arrangements made by the Northern Provincial Council. The call given by the students of Jaffna University and the Chief Minister to eschew partisan politics in the observance of the anniversary of the killings, also drew people to the venue in much greater numbers than ever before.
The Sri Lankan military too was nowhere in sight.
Volunteers in black shirts saw to it that no politician came to the venue with an intention to exploit it for his or her partisan or personal benefit. The only political personality allowed to take a leading part in the event was the Chief Minister of the Northern Province C.V.Wigneswaran.
At any rate, Wigneswaran was the moving spirit behind the commemoration. None of the top leaders of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), his party as well as the dominant group in the council, could be spotted in the crowd.
Six Point Resolution
Only Wigneswaran spoke and his speech found resonance in the audience. He moved a six-point resolution which was approved resoundingly.
The six points are:
(1) From this year onwards every May 18 in the coming years must be identified as “Tamil Genocide Day.”
(2) The International Community, without delay, should set up an International strategic mechanism to ensure justice for the people affected.
(3) As a group of people the Tamils have faced institutional genocide, the International Community must come forward to assure us a sustainable political settlement based on our sovereignty, our homelands and our individuality.
(4) Considering the suffering undergone by the Tamils let the International Community identify their suffering as a mass disaster situation and arrange the necessary infrastructure to rehabilitate our people by directly helping us.
(5) It is the Tamils’ desire that the Armed Forces withdraw from the Tamils’ areas of traditional habitation. The latest ruse adopted is that the Armed Forces have come forward to shower some facilities and benefits on the Tamils in order to continue to occupy their areas. Let the Tamils beware of Trojan gifts.
(6) Next year would be the Tenth anniversary since brutal massacre at Mullivaikal. Let the Tamils dedicate May 18 every year as a day of mourning and as a symbol of Tamil unity.
Need For Non-Partisan Approach
Wigneswaran appeal to the Tamils to resolve that in the coming years they would bring all interest groups among us together, appoint an appropriate committee devoid of political party affiliations and regional considerations to organize an appropriate Day of Remembrance on May 18 in the coming years.
Disappointed with International Community
Wigneswaran expressed disappointment with the silence of the international community on the Tamil issue but was confident that their conscience would be stirred eventually.
“Though belated we are positive that the clear conscience of the world community would open up to the reality of the situation and opt to find justice for the genocide practiced here. Our people patiently await such enlightened activities on the part of the International Community. We are sad that despite the passing of nine years such a transformation has not come over the International Community yet,” he said.
Wigneswaran went on to say that many point to Ruwanda and Bosnia and discourage the Tamils by saying that justice will take decades and therefore the Tamils must consent to “half baked” solutions.
But he pointed out that when genocides occurred in Ruwanda and Bosnia, laws did not provide for international intervention. But now there are International Covenants and Agreements which say that the International Community has a right to prevent such brutal incidents taking place in individual Sovereign States.
Official Communalism in Sri Lanka
Wigneswaran accused the Sri Lankan State of being communal.
“Those in the highest echelons of power have been heard to say that they will not allow even a single Sinhalese soldier to go to jail. Does that mean criminality depends on one’s race and community?,” he asked.
“We have no paucity for Sinhala politicians who consider any offence committed against the Tamils by a Soldier is no offence at all,” he pointed out.
Wigneswaran recalled that Sri Lanka had consented to install a hybrid Inquiry Panel before the world body and pointed out that now it refuses to abide by its promise.
“This would point out to the world the manner in which our successive governments for 70 years have deceived and fooled our Tamil people,” he said.
Extend Universal Jurisdiction
Referring to the UN Human Rights high Commissioner asking the UN Human Rights Council “to explore other avenues including the application of universal jurisdiction, that could foster accountability,” Wigneswaran said that he joins the High Commissioner in making the said request of the International Community.
On the missing persons, the Chief Miniser said that having handed over their loved ones to the Army the Tamil people are yet to be told the fate of such persons. “The government just ignores their plight.”
Those arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act continue to be remanded for years without any prosecution. “The government under took to withdraw the PTA, but to date it has not.”
Wigneswaran accused the Sri Lankan Armed Forces of seizing the Tamils’ habitations ‘by force.’
“They have set up Buddhist places of worship, agricultural Farms, sea resources farms, holiday resorts etc and continuing to occupy them.”
The Wanni region is being colonized by the Sinhalese. “Specially in this Mullaitivu District both land and sea have been seized by force by the Armed Forces, ” he charged.
Army Paid To Release Lands
Wigneswaran charged that when releasing the peoples’ lands the army obtains huge sums of money from the government given out of the funds earmarked for resettlement.
“We do not understand the logic behind this move. Money was apportioned by the International Community and the Sri Lankan government for resettlement of our people. How could such money be paid to the Armed Forces?” he asked.
“The Armed Forces were not invited by us. They did not camp themselves here at our request. On the war coming to an end they should have withdrawn from the North and East.”
“They usurped our lands and forcibly occupied them. They used all the resources and income from such lands themselves so far. When they are finally asked to hand over the lands to our people the Army demands compensation. And they are paid out of money earmarked for the resettlement of our people. The people are not interested in paying compensation for those who deprived them of their lands and enjoyed all resources, income and benefits from their lands.”
“The Government has lost sight of the fact that such money belong to our people. We are wondering if the request of the government under pressure from the International Community to hand back peoples’ lands have been turned down by the army, and as a sop to get around the army, the government is using our money to pay bribes to get them out of our lands.This is the present state of affairs in the North and East,” Wigneswaran said.
Call for International Intervention
Calling for international intervention, Wigneswaran said: “I make bold to call upon the International Community on this occasion to resolve to put political pressure on the Sri Lankan Government to coax them to fulfill their obligations.”
“The International Community must realize nine years after the war had ended the successive Sri Lankan Governments have continued to keep a determinable group of people, the Tamils under their military control in their area of historical habitation.
Wigneswaran warned the Tamils about being “pawns in the hands of scheming individuals or institutions,” apparently referring to his rivals in the TNA and ministers in the government of Sri Lanka.