Mr Krish Govender A former struggle and anti-apartheid sports activist has called for the immediate cancellation of the South African cricket tour of Sri Lanka in July in protest against the continued oppression of Tamils in the island country. This move should be part and parcel of a broader sports boycott and other sanctions against Sri Lanka for the violation of the democratic rights of the Tamil people.
Mr Krish Govender, a former official of the Natal Sports Congress(NSC) and the South African Council of Sport(SACOS), made the call when addressing a visiting delegation of Tamil National Alliance(TNA) of Sri Lanka at the Mount Edgcombe Mariammen Temple and Cultural Centre on Saturday, April 12. “We have to adopt the same protest actions like we did against apartheid South Africa in the current struggles to bring about freedom, peace and justice for the Tamils of Sri Lanka,” said Mr Govender, a lawyer by profession and a former executive official of the Democratic Lawyers’ Association(DLA), when addressing the visitors.
Tamils in Sri Lanka must also gain their freedom He added: “We defeated apartheid South Africa and brought about a free and non-racial society because we garnered the support of the international community to impose sports, economic and other sanctions against the racist regime. “Now that we are free, we have to assist the Tamil people in Sri Lanka to also gain their freedom by isolating the oppressive regime of Rajapakse. Only when they are isolated in cricket and other areas of life will we see some genuine attempts to stop the continued oppression of the Tamils.” The TNA officials, who arrived in the country on Wednesday, April 9, were Mr R Sampathan, MP and leader of the delegation, Mr M A Sumanthiran, MP, Mr Suresh Premchandra, MP, Mr Selvan Adikalanathan, MP, and Mr Gehan Gunatileka (Consultant). They were accompanied by the South African High Commissioner to Colombo, Mr Geoff Doidge, during their visit.
The TNA MPs were invited by the South African Government to discuss the road ahead for Tamils following the recent United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session in Geneva where a resolution, calling for an international investigation into the human rights violations of Tamils, was passed. Special Envoy South Africa, which like India abstained during the vote, has appointed ANC Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, as a Speical Envoy to Sri Lanka in an attempt to find a political solution that will be to the benefit of the Tamil people. The TNA officials, during the visit, held top-level talks with the South African Government and Mr Ramaphosa in Pretoria, and also held discussions with Tamil and other solidarity organisations in Johannesburg and Durban that support the struggles of Tamils in Sri Lanka. Mr Ramaphosa is also expected to hold talks with leaders of Tamil Diaspora organisations based outside Sri Lanka before embarking on a fact-finding mission to Sri Lanka after the general elections on May 7.
When briefing officials and guests of the Solidarity Group for Peace and Justice in Sri Lanka at Mount Edgecombe, Mr Sampathan, leader of the TNA delegation, said they were relying on the intervention of South Africa because “Tamils in Sri Lanka have no faith in the present Government of President Rajapakse”. “After the war in 2009, our traditional areas of the North and East have been invaded by the Sri Lankan military and there is no freedom,” he said.
“The North and East is being colonised with people of the Singala majority by the Sri Lankan Government. “This situation has continued despite the fact that the TNA was elected overwhelmingly in September 2013 to govern the Provincial Council in the North. We have no powers whatsoever because all powers are vested in President Rajapakse and the military. “We cannot even appoint the Chief Secretary of the Provincial Council. SITUATION HAS DEGENERATED WITH BANNINGS “The situation has degenerated further after the UNHRC resolution with the Rajapakse Government proscribing a number of Diaspora organisations and banning a number of people who reside outside the country. “There are also more than 800 activists who are being detained by the security apparatus.”
Mr Sampathan said they wanted a political solution that would provide self-government for the North and East in a united and democratic Sri Lanka. Such a solution must entrench the cultural and religious rights of the Tamils, Singalese and Muslims. Mr Suresh Premachandran, another TNA official, said the situation in Sri Lanka for Tamils was “bleak” when asked whether a referendum should not be held for Tamils to decide their own future. “We are looking at all possibilities. In the end the Tamils must decide whether they want to be part of a united country, a federal state, a confederal state or a separate state. “We want to live in peace and justice with all people.”
SOUTH AFRICA WANTS A POLITICAL SOLUTION THAT WILL PROMOTE THE RIGHTS OF TAMILS The South African High Commissioner to Colombo, Mr Geoff Doidge, said the South African Government was working closely with the TNA to bring about a solution that would be in the interests of the Tamils. He said South Africa was promoting dialogue between the TNA and the Sri Lankan Government so that a political solution could be achieved. “Our Speical Envoy, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, will soon hold talks with leaders of Tamil Diaspora organisations before embarking on his mission to Sri Lanka”, he said. “During his mission Mr Ramaphosa will visit the affected areas and talk to the people concerned. “We are involved in discussions that would lead to talks about talks between the TNA and the Sri Lankan Government and finally a political settlement that would appeal to all role players. “Currently, I am spending 90 percent of my time promoting the Tamil cause,” he said. (subry govender)