Politics & Economy

Tamil Verdict: Resilience against genocidal repression and pseudo reconciliation

In the midnight of 19.09.2013, a commando team compromising of military and paramilitary members of the EPDP surrounded the house of Mrs. Ananthy Sasitharan, a brave human right activist who is the Convener of the Disappeared Families forum and the only female candidate of Tamil National Alliance (TNA). Upon spotting suspicious movements her supporters who had gathered at her house shifted Mrs,Ananthy and her daughters to safety. They also alerted a independent election monitor, Mr.Sugash Kanagaratnam of the Colombo based People’s Action For Free and Fair election (PAFFREL) who made his way with a colleague (1).

What followed was a display of the violent repression of Tamils political mobilization ahead of the Northern Provincial Council Election (NPCE).  A few dozen of the attackers broke up the door and lead Mr.Kanagaratnam and few of the TNA campaign workers outside and ordered them to kneel while pointing guns to their back head. They shouted in mixed colloquial Tamil and Sinhalese obviously enraged over revived demands for Tamil political rights and self-determination.

The assailants then attacked both the people outside and those present at Mrs. Ananthy’s house inflicting injuries, damaging vehicles, properties and destroying election propaganda material. The quick response of the supporters prevented the TNA candidate and her daughters from being physically harmed, but the experience, violence and threats lefts its mark. The attack resulted in 12 injuries with 8 people being hospitalized. They targeted communication means such as cell phones and transport in order to silence the attack as well as to complicate the recovery of the injured. The attackers left the premises of the house after leveling threats of assassination if they choose to report the incident.  The Military quickly deployed uniformed personnel throughout the area alluding to their complicity and blocked the way for independent monitors from reaching the site of attack(2).

The assassination attempt comes merely a week after a previous attempt on Mrs.Ananthy’s life when the road she was travelling on was blocked and army personnel threw a big stone targeting her. But due to the quick response of the driver they made their way to safety with only a shattered front window (3).

On the 18th of September, determined to campaign for her people, she gave a courageous interview explicating that Tamils are subjected to genocide and condemning the government for the perpetuation of militarization and colonization of Tamil lands, the hegemonic military occupation, disappearances and imprisonment of political prisoners. She caused outrage among the ruling ower circles in 2010 when she gave her testimony before the Lesson Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LRRC), under heavy military presence, about the circumstances surrounding the LTTE political and civilian officers’ surrender including her husband Ezhilan (Tiger political chief in Trincomalee) to the Army, and whose whereabouts have since been unknown. She has since been the most vocal and some of the few living witness left to implicate the government and the military in human rights violations. These factors have made her a threat which Colombo and the military rule in North wish to silence.

Despite the trauma of the midnight attack and the threats of assassination, Mrs. Ananthy Sasitharan once again defied the military occupants and gave an interview regarding the attack(4). The injured workers albeit heavily traumatized gave their testimonies but refused to be photographed fearing for their lives, implying the culture of impunity which emboldens the security forces and death squads. Few hours prior to the attack, Bank-Ki-Moon and the U.N emphasized the salience of the NPCE in showing to the progressive steps taken by the Sri Lankan Government towards reconciliation(5). On the contrary the NPCE was conducted under circumstances highly unfavorable for Tamils with more than 30 major incidents in which uniformed army personnel and state associates indulging in manipulations and violence(6).

Politics of Tamil self-determination under the hegemony of military occupation.

The International community legitimates the military occupation of the Tamil homeland when the current situation is deemed as acceptable premises to conduct a fair and free election to asses’ meaningful progress and reconciliation. This apparent negligence of the ramifications of the military hegemony over the Tamil homeland and its people is what in the first place constituted an environment where the occupiers can irrespective of international attention machinate their agenda in blatant or ingenious ways. Mrs Ananthy said “ I did not think that they would carry out an attack on a woman in the middle of the night, given the international community is closely observing the election process, but now, everything has been turned upside down”(7).

As the election closed in, military governor G.A Chandrasri and the Jaffna Commander Mahinda Hathurusinghe jointly in charge of the military occupation of Jaffna, have spearheaded the task of repressing Tamil political mobilization in order to enhance the campaign of the ruling UPFA and their allied quisling party EPDP.  Violating even the rudimentary rules of democracy, they arrest, intimidate, attack and employ illegal surveillance on TNA candidates, party workers and sympathizers. On the 16th, a group of paramilitary attached to a UPFA candidate was clubbed to death a TNA activist in Mullaithivu(8). The day before the election a team of EPDP men savagely attacked two independent Tamil candidates in Jaffna(9). The same day uniformed soldiers fired shots at the vehicle of a TNA candidate in Kodikamam in Jaffna district(10). Beside these violent acts soldiers are also seen distributing leaflets and the regime is involved in providing building materials to buy votes of impoverished Tamils. The government media was also utilized to portray several arrested TNA activist(11) as “terrorist sympathizers” and Basil Rajapakse accused the TNA of being 'racist' by spreading Tamil nationalism and “separatism”(12).

When Tamils are subjected to repression, the UN who is quick to comment on the “progress of Colombo” is silent or oblivious. Instead the UN adduce that Sri Lanka is committed to reconciliation and applauds few minimal steps such as developing infrastructure, conducting the LRRC and allowing UNHRC high commissioner Navi Pillay to visit although the GoSL prevented all her previous attempts. Colombo’s decision to finally allow the NPCE has also with the same hospitability been deemed as a major step by the UN , illuminating that Colombo’s attempt to appease the International community ahead of the Commonwealth head of governments meet (CHOGM) is so far successful. Even the UNHRC demands concerning militarization are set in light of the LRRC recommendations which were in turn construed under conditions put forth by the State itself. 

The provincial governance system which is the institutional framework, in which the current election is situated, was introduced through Indian intervention in 1987 to settle the Tamil national question. It has ironically since then been implemented everywhere in the island except the north- east.  The restoration of an externally formulated political formula which undermines Tamils self-determination is instead of being conceptualized as 'meaningful progress.' The provincial governance is a significantly watered down political solution which cannot, in practice, safeguard the Tamil nation  as it is within the unitary state structure and thus rendered incapable to override centralized decisions made in Colombo. Seeing Tamil participation in formulating a political deal for Tamils as redundant, the International community has instead perpetuated the state centered narrative which ought to alienate the Tamil people from politics of self-determination. Accordingly any demand centered on it has been portrayed as 'diaspora influenced' or “tiger propaganda”. Such a discourse aims to effectively alienate the Tamil people from a political consciousness which reflects close to 40 years of political mobilization and armed rebellion as response to state terrorism and genocide.

These dimensions are ignored by an international community dominated by competing imperialist powers more interested in acceding legitimacy to Colombo over the North-East in order to further their geo-political interests. The Tamil people wary of these dimensions have through their current political mobilization ahead of the polls articulated a few common demands.

The denial of Colombo’s sovereignty and the triumph of Self-determination

The decision ahead of the election by 17 TNA candidates to draft a common platform of demands concerning the Tamil political aspirations illuminates the resilience of the people who are politically conscious amidst the machinations of the state and international community. Hereunder follows the English reproduction of the united demands:

1) We insist that any political solution should recognise the Tamils as a nation entitled to the right to self-determination and shall be based on a united North-East.

2) Neither the flawed 13th amendment nor the unitary Sri Lankan constitution can lead to a solution that reflects the aspiration of the Tamil people

3) We charge that Tamils living in Sri Lanka are subjected to genocide. Even after the war, demographic change through the systematic colonisation and land grab are continuing. We are firm on our insistence that the war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity committed against the Tamil people during the war and for the last 30 years should be investigated though an international, independent, UN mechanism.(13)

The demands reflect the political aspiration of the people and are thus the fruits reaped through intensified mass rallies which were organized to mobilize the Tamils to cast their votes amidst the deteriorating and gloomy situation.  The participation of TNA and the Tamil people in this election has to be understood in the backdrop of the oppression Tamils have been subjected to under a military occupation since the wars end. As there seems to be no mechanism to arrest the genocidal processes accelerated over the past four years and with International collaborations in the fields of commerce, development and military being increasingly strengthened, the Tamil people realizes there is no external international factor which would come to their rescue.

With no meaningful organizational or institutional alternatives to attain a mandate to realign the people, the homeland and politics of self-determination, the Tamil political representatives and the people confronted the NPCE to demonstrate the fortitude of their national spirit and consciousness. On the 22nd of September, NPCE result were announced, revealing that an overwhelming majority defied the military intimidation and the prevailing atmosphere of fear and voted for the TNA. The TNA won 30 out of the 38 seats amidst the terror campaign unleashed against their candidates and workers. A staggering 67% of the population casted their votes and over 78 % voted for the TNA amidst all the manipulations played by Colombo to deter such support(14). This show of resilience and defiance is a tremendous achievement which has realigned the people with the politics of nationhood and self-determination. The occupation forces devised various plans to circumvent and condition the Tamils from doing just this, to vote forth on the basis of their political rights and national aspirations and deny Colombo’s sovereignty over the Tamil homeland and nation.

No longer can the people be depoliticized by the discourses promoted by external powers claiming that Tamils in the island care just for the immediate needs and thereby do not hold any desire regarding self-rule and being under the unitary framework of the Sri Lankan state. The truth to be grasped is that consequences of the military occupation permeate every aspects of ground reality. The embodied awareness of its consequences is reflected in the peoples will which necessitates national recognition and the subsequent political and democratic rights - voiced more freely by the Diaspora - in order to arrest a multidimensional oppression and genocide.  Everything from Tamils livelihood, resettlement, the demographic, socio-cultural and territorial integrity of the Tamil homeland, security and thus the self-determination of the Tamil nation is constrained and remain under ever increasing repression of the military occupation. The real-politik might not change much immediately, but the election has corroborated the fortitude of the Tamil people and the resilience of their political struggle.  It has shone through and reproduced the mandate for the recognition of the Tamil people as a nation, their right to self-determination, and to recognize the genocide committed against them and initiate an internationally led investigation process to secure justice.

© JDS


Athithan Jayapalan is a student in social anthropology and studied in Oslo and Pondicherry universities. Born in Jaffna, he currently lives in Oslo, Norway.

 

Notes:

1. http://www.tamilguardian.com/article.asp?articleid=8765&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=facebook
2. http://www.caffesrilanka.org/more-4a-8564-2.html
3. http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=36640
4. Local news report covering the attack with a interview of the TNA candidate: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYhJQptpgco&list=UU6PPQ4GhQ8oeQ8R8FXdRlZg (accessed on 21.09.2013)
5. http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45889&Cr=sri%20lanka&Cr1=#.Uj1oin8yjdD
6. For the report from Center For monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) see: http://www.tamilguardian.com/article.asp?articleid=8784
7. http://www.jdslanka.org/index.php/2012-01-30-09-31-17/politics-a-economy/390-sri-lanka-reconciliation-under-siege-as-democracy-backslides
8. http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=36666
9. http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=36672
10. https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/kodikamam-update-uniformed-soldiers-shooting-right-opposite-an-army-camp/
11. http://www.dailymirror.lk/news/35412-eight-arrested-with-prabhakaran-posters.html
12. For Basil Rajapakses statement See: http://www.dailymirror.lk/news/35448-tna-spreading-racism-and-separatism-basil.html
13. http://www.tamilguardian.com/article.asp?articleid=8766
14. http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=36682


More articles by Athithan Jayapalan:

Victory Day, Mulli’vaykal and Heroes Day: Remembering as resistance
State terrorism and resistance: The genocidal occupation of the Tamil homeland
Camouflaging genocide: Sri Lanka’s pseudo anti-Imperialism