Tamil diaspora unites to surmount challenges
“Colombo should make public its lists of the interned and allow the Red Cross access to all places of detention and all aspects of the “screening” process conducted by the military and intelligence agencies.
The international community has a clear role to play in convincing the Sri Lankan government to take these steps.” – Robert Templer, Asia program Director, International Crisis Group, 21 July 2009 In a damming article in the International Herald Tribune, Robert Templer of the International Crisis Group, called for the Tamil doctors who remain detained, having renounced the statements they made during the final stages of the conflict, to be released stating “This farce should end: They should be freed”.
As the Government of Sri Lanka continues to imprison over 300,000 Tamil civilians in barbed-wire camps, with limited access for aid agencies and international media, the international community seems content with the military ‘guided tours’ of these camps orchestrated for the benefit of foreign diplomats and allow the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence to boast claims that “the welfare centres were the best in the world”.
Despite the Sri Lankan government’s rigorous crackdown on voices of dissent and efforts to restrict independent reports, the few that have emerged signal a very different image of what lies behind the barbed wire. There are credible reports from The Times UK that the Sri Lankan authorities are building permanent structures within the camps suggesting long term settlement, despite “promises” to resettle 80 per cent of the detainees by the end of the year. Aid agencies have been reluctant to be outspoken of the conditions in the camps in fear that their limited assistance to the detainees could be jeopardized.
It is however astonishing to see that the vast number of warnings by humanitarian agencies have gone largely unnoticed, with the international community hailing to Sri Lankan government’s calls for financial assistance by way of IMF loan to aid the development of a ‘liberated’ country.
What has become evidently clear is the lack of political will from the Sri Lankan regime to address the political aspirations of the Tamil people for the first 30 years since independence that fuelled a further 30 years of armed conflict. While the international community was clear in its support for a “military defeat” as a means to achieve sustainable peace, they failed to ensure the Rajapakse regime would safeguard even their basic rights to freedom, security and respect.
The conceptual launch on Thursday of the Global Tamil Forum comes at a time when the Tamil Diaspora is no longer ready to mourn the sufferings of their brethren, nor wait for world justice to prevail. The symbolic announcement made by a unified body of Diaspora organisations marks a nation set to embark as a formidable force for their voiceless brethren in Sri Lanka, with a vision to “oppose the entire edifice of oppression and discrimination through peaceful means and to champion the rights of Tamil and other communities who have been unjustly deprived of their rights and silenced”.
Today poignantly marks the 26th anniversary of the 1983 riot in Sri Lanka, when state sponsored anti-Tamil pogroms resulted in over 3,000 dead and over 150,000 internally displaced. Tamils all over the world recall that since independence, history has only repeated itself, with Tamils being the victims to successive Sinhala regimes intoxicated on hegemony.
The Tamil Diaspora has long voiced the cries from the homeland and warned of impending tragedy which could not thwart the subsequent loss of unimaginable proportions. The callousness of the Sri Lankan regime supported by a large section of the Sinhala masses has affirmed the Tamil People’s right to self-determination and democratic self rule as a necessity to safeguard survival.
The Tamil Diaspora has united. United to restore sovereignty for Tamils in their homeland and bring the perpetrators of crimes against humanity to justice.
“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – Nelson Mandela