Feature Article

Diaspora network urges TPC to consolidate fundamentals, course-correct main polilty

[TamilNet, Monday, 18 January 2016, 18:44 GMT]
A group of like-minded diaspora youth activists and writers on Monday issued a document detailing 15 key issues, which they wanted the Tamil People's Council (TPC) in the homeland to clarify without ambiguity in consolidating the definitions, descriptions and attitudinal fundamentals of the Tamil cause during their present exercise of formulating a political framework on behalf of Eezham Tamils. While expecting the TPC to explore a model of confederalism, in which Eelam Tamils could exercise control over defined internal and external affairs, a proper negotiation required mediation by a third party at a global level. Various Empires, external States and the United Nations have been responsible for the injustices against Eezham Tamils in the past. The Global Community therefore needs greater awareness on the situation of Tamils in the island, the group said.



However, the group identifying itself as Tamil Diaspora Youth Network and claims to be an opinion-platform, also urged the TPC to focus more towards causing necessary attitudinal change within the mainstream Tamil National Alliance (TNA) in order to safeguard the main political formation from being misdirected by a few ITAK politicians, who have abandoned the fundamentals of the Tamil cause.

While applauding the collaborative leadership being given to the Council in the form of a three-member co-chair, the TDYN document was hoping that the TPC would function as a pressure group and would not be causing any structural divide of the mainstream TNA.

“Eelam Tamils expect the TPC to cause necessary attitudinal change within the mainstream Tamil National Alliance (TNA) in safeguarding the main political formation from being misdirected by a few ITAK politicians, who have abandoned the fundamentals of the Tamil cause,” the Youth Network stated adding: “In doing so, the TPC discourse should lead to a restructured leadership of the TNA.”

“As a nation that has asserted its rightful claim of the Right to Self- determination and as a national group subjected to decades of physical and structural genocide, Eelam Tamils should not hesitate or have any qualms with identifying themselves with their distinct identity, especially in the political context. The TNA seems to avoid this in its documents authored in English while playing the opposite in Tamil to appeal the masses on the ground. The identity definition needs to be inclusive, secular and approached from political, economic, social and cultural perspectives. Proper explanation should be given, particularly to external actors, on why Eelam Tamils have denounced the ‘Sri’ Lankan identity imposed by the 1972 Constitution,” the document by the TDYN said.

Lathan Suntharalingam, Avanithah Selvarajah and Athithan Jayapalan
Switzerland-based Legal Activist Lathan Suntharalingam, Australia-based Law Student Avanithah Selvarajah and Norway based Social Anthropologist Athithan Jayapalan were representing around 30 members of the network across five continents.

“The juncture at which the Tamil people stands today, demands an integrated diaspora and the homeland to be engaged towards each other, and the diaspora to have the capacity to multiply the voices of the stateless nation of Eezham Tamils subjected to structural genocide in the homeland,” a representative of the TDYN told TamilNet.

“The TDYN is an opinion-platform and not an organisation profiling itself with activities, ceremonies or positions as such,” the statement said urging those wishing to participate to get in touch with the network through e-mail (youthnetwork@tamildiaspora.org).



The main issues identified by the Youth Network follow:

  1. Fundamental definitions and principles need unambiguous clarifications:

    1. People vs Nation: The term ‘people’ is an ambiguous term without a definitional clarity to politically articulate the territorial contiguity of a homeland as the State actors seem to limit the scope of this definition to the existing Nation-State borders regardless of their democratic legitimacy. This ambiguous term is not integrally linked to nationhood in the nomenclature of the UN. Tamils’ nationhood is imperative for the claim of their distinct sovereignty, which is intertwined with their traditional homeland in the northern and eastern parts of the island. Hence, we request the TPC to clearly define Eelam Tamils as a Nation in accordance with the Tamil peoples collective historical development, trajectories and democratic aspirations. The TNA seems to have limited this scope to a socio-economic and cultural classification found in UNESCO descriptions. The TNA is also avoiding the political definition of nationhood in its proposals and electoral manifestos produced after 2009, according to instructions coming from certain external actors, who seem to divert Tamils from demanding remedial justice in the form of protection through self-governance in guaranteeing their distinct sovereignty.


    2. Eelam Tamil identity: As a nation that has asserted its rightful claim of the Right to Self-determination and as a national group subjected to decades of physical and structural genocide, Eelam Tamils should not hesitate or have any qualms with identifying themselves with their distinct identity, especially in the political context. The TNA seems to avoid this in its documents authored in English while playing the opposite in Tamil to appeal the masses on the ground. The identity definition needs to be inclusive, secular and approached from political, economic, social and cultural perspectives. Proper explanation should be given, particularly to external actors, on why Eelam Tamils have denounced the ‘Sri’ Lankan identity imposed by the 1972 Constitution.


    3. Egalitarianism and secularism: It is important to strive for an egalitarian and secular nation inclusive of all Tamil-speaking peoples irrespective of religious, caste, class, gender and geographical area background. We encourage the TPC to conceive a principled approach in cultivating the secular and egalitarian national culture of Eelam Tamils in all its political, cultural and socio-economic endeavours.


    4. Traditional homeland: The term North-East itself is of a provincial character reflecting the Sri Lankan State defined administrative borders. Once, a temporarily merged unit, it had a definite political meaning. The Sri Lankan State seeks North-East or North and East as subordinated component(s) within a unitary framework subjected to the determination and diktats of its executive power. The changing administrative borders and territorial boundaries of the Northern and Eastern provinces over the last century are a testimony to this. The entire Puthalam district in the Tamil homeland has been absorbed into Sinhalised North-Western Province. Hence it is vital to have a meaningful and unambiguous definition expressing the territorial contiguity and territorial integrity of the Tamil homeland independent from Sri Lankan administrative nomenclatures.


    5. Members constituting Eelam Tamil nation in the homeland: A secular and progressive conception of Eelam Nationhood, perpetuated throughout the course of Tamil national political struggle has upheld that any Tamil-speaking person, living in the Up-Country or any other region in the island, who identifies the traditional homeland in the northern and eastern parts of the island as his or her homeland is entitled to be an integral member of the Eelam Tamil nation.


    6. Diasporic members constituting Eelam Tamil nationhood: Another component of the national membership claim is accommodating those who are exiled with similar heritage regardless of their residential status or foreign citizenship. Such an emphasis is essential, particularly to accommodate the resourceful second generation and forthcoming generations of Eelam Tamils in the diaspora. Having ancestors through either one of their parent, and being a Tamil speaker hailing from anywhere in the island and who identify the northern and eastern part of the island in a cultural and political manner as their homeland should be recognised as a member with equal status in the nation of Eelam Tamils.


    7. Articulating the Distinct Sovereignty of Eelam Tamils: The struggle of Eelam Tamils centres around their distinct claim for sovereignty in the identified homeland. Eelam Tamils cannot identify anything from Colombo as a reformist approach as long as the regime fails to recognise the distinct sovereignty and right to self-determination of Eelam Tamils in their traditional homeland. Hence any talk of sharing or pooling sovereignties as parties or partners depends on having the negotiating State party recognising the distinct sovereignty claim of the Eelam Tamils, who are also entitled to various aspects of sovereignty. Tamils have a historical legitimacy in claiming sovereignty through the existence of pre-colonial sovereign political formations, which is also strengthened by the de-facto practiced sovereignty over the parts of their traditional homeland in the past. As a nation subjected to protracted genocide over several decades, Eelam Tamils are also entitled to remedial justice based sovereignty protection to safeguard their nation from systematic annihilation perpetuated through a unitary or united State-centred system. The TNA holds that a people are sovereign, but fails to clarify whether the Tamils as a people constitute a sovereign nation or not with historical, territorial contiguity and linguistic and cultural peculiarity, hence such an ambiguity plays into hand of the Colombo establishment which projects Tamil people as an section of the overall Sri Lankan people in their processes to consolidate a undemocratic unitary state. TNA parliamentarian M.A Sumanitharan has undemocratically put forth that Tamil sovereignty is integral to a united Sri Lankan sovereignty. This goes even against the ITAK constitution from the 1951 which states: “the inalienable right of every nation to enjoy full political freedom without which its spiritual, cultural and moral statue must degenerate…the first National Convention of the ITAK demands for the Tamil-Speaking nation in Ceylon their inalienable right to political autonomy.”


    8. Eelam Tamils entitlement to uncompromised and full right of self-determination: Eelam Tamil nation is still an occupied nation that has been denied of its reversion to sovereignty since the European colonial conquest in the 16th century. Before the last colonial power, the British Empire, left the island, Tamils advanced the claim of a shared sovereignty model, which was known as Fifty-Fifty. This was denounced by the British Empire. The constitutions of Ceylon and later Sri Lanka were enacted not only without the democratic mandate of the Tamil nation, but also amidst their well-articulated opposition and denouncement of the unitary constitution. Tamils have not been properly consulted in any transfer of their conquered sovereignty from the Soulbury Constitution of 1947 to the 1978 constitution. Hence, the nation of Eelam Tamils, perceive itself as being under the continued colonial legacy of oppression in which they have not been allowed to regain or properly negotiate their sovereignty. Thus, any model to be suggested by Tamils as a framework of political solution should not negate the fundamental claim of distinct sovereignty. Any violation of fundamentals fails to address the root cause of the unresolved Tamil national question. The inalienable right to self-determination has always been and should continue to be conceived from the vantage point of a colonized people. Tamil mandate for self-determination, nationhood and sovereignty has been corroborated from the ITAK’s 1957 Trincomalee convention, 1977 TULF led Vaddukkoaddai Resolution to the Diaspora mobilised independent referendums in 10 countries in 2009 and 2010.


    9. Federation vs Confederation: As far as Eelam Tamils are concerned, a model for political solution cannot be of a quasi-federal nature. TNA’s limited federalism presently pursued is ambiguous pertaining to definitions. It will be subverted into a non-descriptive quasi-federal solution in a negotiation process. It will only result with inadequate provincial powers within a united Sri Lanka of unitary nature. The TNA and the TPC should therefore clearly articulate their outlook without any ambiguity. As far as we are able to learn the collaborative sections among the ITAK are suppressing the voices that are advocating Confederationalism. We hope the TPC will come up with a defined form of Confederation in which Eelam Tamils are able to exercise control over defined internal and external affairs.


  2. Clarifications needed on the approach of negotiating Tamil Sovereignty:
    1. Minimum vs maximum demands: The discourses on resolving the Tamil national question through segregated minimalistic demand and a long-term maximum demand is a ploy. Instead of falling prey to external designs seeking Tamils to denounce their democratic aspiration of distinct sovereignty and recognition of full right to self-determination, those who work on a framework for a political solution, should concentrate on a model which is compatible with the past, the present and the future political discourses of Eelam Tamils as well as being compatible with the articulation coming from the homeland, the Eelam Tamil diaspora and Tamil Nadu.


    2. Restructuring TNA leadership: Eelam Tamils expect the TPC to cause necessary attitudinal change within the mainstream Tamil National Alliance (TNA) in safeguarding the main political formation from being misdirected by a few ITAK politicians, who have abandoned the fundamentals of the Tamil cause. In doing so, the TPC discourse should lead to a restructured leadership of the TNA. Hence the TPC should focus on being a pressure group rather than paving way for structural divide of the mainstream Tamil alliance.


    3. Third party facilitation vs mediation: It is a forgone conclusion that a proper negotiation could only take place with a credible third party and external mediator. In the absence of a military power among Tamils representing their territorial sovereignty, the global community, particularly the non-State actors outside the island, should contribute to strengthen the diplomatic and geo-political power of balance in favour of the genocide-affected nation of Eelam Tamils. Likewise the TPC should approach consistently the grass-root in the South in convincing the Sinhala masses towards rationalizing the Tamil national question and the premises of self-governance.


    4. International responsibility: There are significant international dimensions pertaining to the moral responsibility in resolving the Tamil national question due to a succession of globally spanning injustices levelled against the Eelam Tamils:

      1. Colonial injustices committed by the British Empire in implanting the unitary state


      2. Indian and US injustices during the cold war period in enhancing the Sri Lankan state’s military capacity in pursuing a military solution to the Tamil national question


      3. Political injustices of the Co-Chairs of the Tokyo Donor Countries during the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) period


      4. The continued geo-political injustice by China, US and India in beefing up the unitary state and the military occupation of the Tamil homeland


      5. UN’s admitted failure in 2009 is a grave failure of the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect (R2P)


      6. The post-2009 international injustice perpetuated by the continued legitimization of the unitary state and the rejection of remedial justice requested by Tamils through the demand for an independent investigation into genocide.


    5. Immediate measures to be accomplished by the SL State: Repealing the 6th Amendment should be one of the first and immediate measures by the Sri Lankan State if it is serious about conflict-resolution without recourse to the past. International investigations on genocide as demanded by Eelam Tamils will also be contributing to a prosperous future with equal and peaceful co-existence of the two historical nations in the island.


    6. Approach towards South: Instead of being manipulated by exclusivist Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism, neo-liberal policies of transnational corporates exploiting the masses or the geo-political dictates of external powers, the Sinhala nation and its progressive forces should independently approach Tamils and the premises of the Tamil national question. Likewise, the TPC should spearhead an approach in bringing together the progressive sections among the Sinhalese and Tamils to work towards resolving the conflict through rationalizing the Tamil national question. There is likewise a need in creating awareness regarding the state crimes committed against the Tamils among the Sinhala masses. The TPC should create avenues such as those during the initial stages of the 2002 peace process, which created political spaces in which Tamils and Sinhalese could convene, discuss and cultivate mutual solidarity through the rationalization of the Tamil demands for sovereignty, nationhood and self-determination in order to find an political solution in which both nation could co-exist as equals in the island.


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