Comments On The ‘Tamil Sovereignty Cognition’ Declaration
Originally on Countercurrents
The ‘Tamil Sovereignty Cognition’ declaration that was released today (Nov 27, 2011), on the momentous occasion of Heroes Day, appears as a significant step in building a political consensus among the Tamils, especially the Eelam Tamil diaspora, in order to pave a path for future politico-legal action that would ensure justice for the Eelam Tamils. It is clear from the declaration that the (much abused) terms ‘peace’ and ‘justice’ are impossible to think of without addressing “the chronic national question of the Eelam Tamils in the island, where genocidal and structural genocidal approaches continuously deployed against the Tamil people in their homeland in the North and East of the island, by the Sri Lankan state with tacit approval of world powers”.
The timing and the structure of the declaration is particularly important in that it is a concrete step in making a solution within the unitary system of Sri Lanka intellectually impossible. While the sham Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) report that is to be released soon completely whitewashes the Sri Lankan state and society of all involvement in a clear case of genocide while, maybe, just maybe, having token prosecutions (which again do not indicate any punishment corresponding to the nature of crime committed), the declaration clearly identifies the problem in the root of the conflict – the very socio-political and legal structure of Sri Lanka. It is impossible for a state structure that is based, since its origins, on a systematized oppression of a nationality to dole out any fair solution to them. The solution, then, needs to take place beyond the structure. And the declaration is clear in pointing this out in its assertion that “all outside players should drop insisting on finding solutions only within a united Sri Lanka”.
The signatories to the declaration – Poonkuzhali Nedumaran, writer and activist from Tamil Nadu, Krisna Sarvanamuttu, a student activist from Canada, Rajeev Sreetharan, affiliated to Tamils Against Genocide, USA and Lathan Suntheralingam, activist from Switzerland – who also spoke on the occasion of its release on Heroes Day, highlighted the impossibility of a united Sri Lanka and opined that a sovereign state of Tamil Eelam was the only solution to the problems of the Eelam Tamil people. While Poonkuzhali emphasised the role Tamil Nadu should play in the future struggle, Rajeev Sreetharan spoke of the need for the means of the Tamils’ struggle to evolve by innovative use of politico-legal mechanisms. Suntheralingam spoke of the pressing necessity for the Eelam Tamils to work with progressive and democratic forces world over who principally stand by their just demands. All were of the opinion that there was a need for a co-ordinated global action that would ensure justice for the Eelam Tamils.
Complementing Sreetharan, who observed that one cannot use the argument of ‘territorial integrity’ in the context of decolonization, Krisna Saravanamuttu asserted the need to reject “the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka” and the “constitutional monopoly of violence” that the Sri Lankan state possesses as both necessarily involved genocide of Tamils. Many years back, Sivaram, one of the leading intellectuals of the Eelam Tamil nation who was murdered by the Sri Lankan state, had elaborated this idea of constitutionally sanctioned violence through the following three points
“(a) Control of national wealth by the Sinhalese, as stipulated in the Constitution saying that the Parliament has complete control; (b) control of the monopoly of violence by the Sinhalese in a manner prejudicial to the Tamils – that is, the executive controls the army and the Parliament provides for it; but the executive is always Sinhala and so is the Parliament, and the army always remains Sinhala Buddhist; and (c) complete and inalienable control over the land.”
This is probably the shortest and most precise introduction to Sri Lanka. Sivaram was stating this at a time when these processes received a checkmate through the de facto state of the Eelam Tamils governed by the Tigers. Without the counter-hegemony of the LTTE, of course, it is back to square one.
These points of Sivaram and the arguments raised by Sreetharan and Saravanamuttu are of crucial importance as they compel us to reflect on certain key issues. First, in the inheritance of the colonial state apparatus that brought together two nations in a system that privileges the numerically superior one, conditions were laid to facilitate the socio-economic, political and cultural domination of the Sinhala nation over the Tamil nation. Second, the occupation of Tamil homelands emulates classical models of aggressive colonization where-in, through the direct use of or with the threat of violence, the natives are assimilated or if they resist, annihilated.
Third, a state of emergency is always maintained in the occupied areas so as to keep the subject population in a state of trauma wherein, let alone the right to a political solution, even the right to live appears to be an act of generosity of the Lankan state – this necessarily involves routinization of acts of interrogation, torture, sexual violence, abduction, desecration of cultural symbols, and tearing down of social fabric. The figure of the Sinhala is sought to be made omnipresent and omnipotent in Tamil territories. Fourth, ‘monopoly of truth’, silencing of voices that articulate Tamil national demands, propping up of dummy figures who speak in the name of Tamils but serve Sri Lankan interests, the creation of an intellectual discourse through a carefully cultivated ‘Sri Lankan Tamil’ elite that obfuscates the Real question of Eelam Tamil nationality.
The declaration conceptually challenges the ‘monopoly of truth’ that Lanka and its friends claim to wield in defending their unitary state, through its concise elucidation of the three types of sovereignties that the Tamils can lay claim to namely historical, earned and remedial. That the genocide of the Eelam Tamils is a structural and protracted process is made clear. The task now is for the youth, activists, legal professionals, intellectuals and others to use this declaration as a conceptual reference point for future activities and ensure that the question of Tamil sovereignty is never compromised.
It is harmless to remind here once again that the only democracy that the Eelam Tamils tasted in the sordid history of Sri Lanka was when their sole representatives wielded a parallel state power. It is naivety to expect anything democratic from a unitary state of Sri Lanka, no matter who leads it.