Prof. James G. Kellas from University of Glasgow in his book the Politics of Nationalism and Ethnicity says:
‘Nationalism is both an ideology and a form of behaviour. The ideology of nationalism builds on people’s awareness of the nation (‘national self- consciousness’) to give a set of attitudes and a program of action. They may be cultural, economic or political. Since ‘nations’ can be defined in ‘ethnic’, ‘social’, or ‘official’ senses. So nationalism can take these forms also.’
‘In all cases, nationalism seeks to defend and promote the interest of the nation. The political aspect of nationalism is seen most clearly in the demand for ‘national self-determination’, or ‘home rule’.’
Sri Lanka experienced three successive periods of European colonial rule: Portuguese between 1505 and 1658; Dutch between 1658 and 1796; and British between 1796 and 1947.
Ceylon, now illegitimately referred to as Sri Lanka. It is often repeated, particularly in the information media that the Tamils are fighting for a separate state because they are discriminated against in education and employment opportunities by the majority Sinhalese. It is not true. No people ever have recourse to such a serious remedy as armed warfare against the state to correct discrimination in education and employment.
The real causes which led to the Tamil youth taking up arms and fighting a war for their separate state lie far deeper in the political and social history of the island, more particularly in the Tamil Sinhalese conflicts which surfaced during the last few decades of British rule and intensified after its withdrawal.
Post independent political leaders have tried to find ways to mobilise voters that ensure their election, while not undermining the system that they seek to dominate. Nationalism has offered both parties SLFP and UNP the simplest and most effective mobilisation strategy in the south. The tide of Sinhalese nationalism has ebbed and flowed repeatedly since 1948. Its first high point came in 1956, when an SLFP Government introduced the Sinhala Only Official Languages Act, making Sinhalese the national language and effectively reserving the best jobs for the Sinhalese. As a result, the Eelam Tamil nation started to push for a federal system of government with greater autonomy for the north and east in the Island of Sri Lanka. That year also saw the first in a series of pograms that stretched through to 1983 and beyond.
Sri Lanka’s 26-year long civil war ended in 2009 with the defeat of Tamil freedom fighters, led by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The final military offensive was bloody and involved widespread destruction, killing of tens of thousands of civilians by government shelling and aerial bombing and displacing the entire population living in Tamil territories.
Even after 9 years, the Sri Lankan military has maintained a significant presence in the North and East, including through the retention of thousands of acres of Tamils’ land for military camps and non-military enterprises, such as luxury resorts. In addition to the persistent displacement and militarization of the North and East, the Tamil people have experienced decades of marginalization, including ‘Sinhalization’ – the process of replacing Tamil culture, language, and history with that of the Sinhalese that has intensified since 2009.
In addition, war crimes including numerous alleged cases of rape, torture, kidnapping, and the mass killing of civilians, prisoners, and relief workers have gone unpunished and unaddressed by the justice system. According to the government, at least 65,000 people remain missing, however, the actual figure could be more than twice that many according to other sources.
This month, we mark 9 years since the Mullivaaikkal massacre where UN estimated at least 40,000 innocent civilians were killed and an independent estimate suggested more than 75,000 innocent civilians may have been killed.
In February 2015, the Northern Provincial Council in Sri Lanka passed a resolution that demanded a UN inquiry to investigate the genocide of the Tamil people by successive Sri Lankan Governments.
In September 2015, the OISL report clearly mentioned that many of the violations would amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity if established in a court of law.
In October 2015, the UNHRC adopted a consensus resolution in which the new Sri Lankan government pledged to undertake many human rights reforms, including many transitional justice mechanisms such as establishing a hybrid court with foreign judges, prosecutors and investigators. It is not surprising to us that Sri Lanka has reneged on all of these pledges.
In May 2018 Second International Conference on Tamil Nationhood and genocide in Sri Lanka was hosted in Ottawa by Canadian Tamil organizations, urging Canada to help find a sustainable political solution that addresses the national question of the Eelam Tamils, in their traditional homeland in the North and East of the island of Sri Lanka. There was a resolution released at the end of the conference that resolved only an independent international investigation into the charge of genocide can be acceptable.
The Canadian government has been a very active advocate for Tamils right in Sri Lanka since 2009. We thank the Canadian government for their active participation in UNHRC by co-sponsoring previous UN resolutions and standing up for human rights and justice.
We urge Canada to take a more active role and to:
1. Work with the international community to pressure for an international independent judicial inquiry as the extended UN resolution ends in March, 2019.
2. Recognize Tamil Genocide in Sri Lanka
3. Recognize the right of the Tamil Nation to determine their own destiny for long-lasting peace to prevail in the island
Press Statement on May 18, 2018 at Parliament press Gallery jointly by:
Ottawa Tamil Association (OTA)
National Capital Region Tamil Association (NCRTA)
Carleton University Tamil Students’ Association (CUTSA)