Tamils from across the North-East participated in the Ezhuka Tamil rally (Rise Up Tamil) in Jaffna on 24 September, waving flags of the Tamil national colours of red and yellow. The main rally was held at Muttaveli with processions from Nallur and from the Jaffna University. Civil society organisations, including the Mothers of the Disappeared from Valikamam North and the National Movement to Release Political Prisoners also took part in the procession.
The protestors’ demands included an international investigation into genocide, a federal political solution, recognising the Tamil nation’s right to self-determination and a halt to state-sponsored Sinhala colonisation in the Tamil homeland. Large posters with the demands written clearly in Tamil, English and Sinhala were displayed at the main rally.
Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran, who is also the Co-chair of the TPC, said the rally was not staged with any mala fide intention vis-à-vis the government, or against the Sinhalese or the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). He added that the TNA could always be counted on in the sphere of policy matters excepting that the TNA had expressed the opinion that this rally was inappropriate at this time of the year, contrary to the TPC’s opinions.
Speeches were made by politicians and activists of grassroots organizations, academics, Jaffna University students, businessmen, community and religious civil activists. Members of various political parties who spoke on behalf of the Tamils urged early redress for their many problems Dr Lakshman, co-chair of the Tamil Peoples’ Council (TPC) which organised the rally, outlined the main demands they had put forward to crowds at Muttaveli.
The event was followed by a public declaration.
Tamil People’s Council
Ezhuga Thamizh Declaration
“Ezhuga Thamizh 2016” is a Tamil national event, organized by the Tamil People’s Council (TPC), with the participation of civil society movements and political parties.
The Tamil nation which has been subjected to oppressive Sinhala -Buddhist majoritarian ideology on the island of Sri Lanka for several decades, would like to through this “Ezhuga Thamizh” event stress to the Government of Sri Lanka and international stakeholders that it would never give up its political aspirations.
The “Ezhuga Thamizh 2016” held on 24 September 2016 at Mutraveli, Jaffna declares the following:
1. Sinhala colonies, Buddhist temples and Buddha statues are being aggressively constructed with military sponsorship and the tacit approval of the government of “Good Governance”, with the sole purpose of Sinhala – Buddhisization of the North -Eastern Tamil homeland, alteration of the demography of the North and East and the bifurcation of Tamil speaking areas. This rally demands that the government immediately halt all efforts to alter the demography of the North and East through Sinhala-Buddhisization and settler colonialism.
2. Seven years after the end of the war, the North and East remains heavily militarized. Not only has this occupying military appropriated thousands of acres of land in the North and East, but it continues to appropriate more land, even under this regime. Further, the Armysubstantially disrupts the civilian economy by engaging in tourism, agriculture, and other businesses. The security forces continue to intervene in the day to day civilian administration of the North and East. This has resulted in the Tamil nation having to depend on the Army to sustain its nascent economy. Further, the social fabric of the Tamil nation continues to be eroded by heavy militarization and deep surveillance of the North and East, and has disrupted the Tamil people from collectively exercising their freedom of assembly to demand that their political aspirations be heard. Sexual violence perpetrated against women and children has placed the most vulnerable of community at the mercy of the occupyingforces. This rally demands that the occupying forces immediately leave the North and East and that a genuine and fully fledged civilian administration is enabled in the North and East.
3. The Tamil people have repeatedly and firmly rejected a domestic accountability mechanism to investigate crimes perpetrated on them. In his statement of September 2015, the UN Human Rights Commissioner, Zeid Hussein categorically stated that Sri Lanka’s judiciary is incapable of investigating crimes committed during the war. Against this backdrop, the resolution passed in September 2015 at the United Nations Human Rights Commission suggested a hybrid mechanism to investigate these crimes. Yet, the Government of Sri Lanka, which co-sponsored this resolution with other international stakeholders has now reiterated that it would not be amiable for the participation of foreign judges in the accountability mechanism. It has rejected a hybrid mechanism and has suggested a domestic accountability mechanism. This rally unitedly and unreservedly calls for an international investigation to investigate crimes perpetrated on the Tamil people and rejects a domestic accountability mechanism.
4. For 35 years, thousands of Tamil women and men have been arbitrarily detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Some have been detained without any charges for 15- 20 years. Although the present government assured the international community that it would repeal the PTA in September 2015, it has failed to act on its promise. Tamil women and men continue to be detained under the PTA to this day. This rally calls for an unconditional and immediate release of political prisoners and the immediate repeal of the PTA.
5. This rally demands that the whereabouts and the fate of Tamils who disappeared after surrendering to the military at the end of the war in 2009, and those forcibly disappeared and abducted be made public and justice delivered to their kith and kin.
6. Fisherfolk of the North and East lost access to their seas and their livelihoods during the war due to a blockade by the Armed Forces. Seven years after the end of the war, they continue to be deprived of their livelihood through other means. Traditional fishing waters of North – Eastern fishermen continue to be lost to Southern fishermen, who continue to arbitrarily drive Tamil fishermen away by their capturing boats and illegally establishing permanent dwellings on the North Eastern shores. Further, these fishermen from the South engage in illegal fishing methods, which have harmed the marine resources of the North and East, resulting in the loss of livelihood of Tamil fishermen. This rally demands that the government take immediate measures to ensure that Tamil fishermen of the North East securely engage in their livelihood.Similarly, Tamil fishermen of the North and East also continue to lose their livelihoods to fishermen from South India, who too engage in illegal fishing methods. This rally vehemently condemn the poaching of marine resources of North Eastern fishermen and demands that the rights of Tamil fishermen, who earn a daily wage, be protected.
7. History has taught us that that oppressor States and their governments introduced and spread drugs, narcotics a nd alcohol to dismantle and distract the march to freedom of an oppressed people, especially among its youth. Despite deep surveillance in the North and East, the occupying military has been unable to prevent the smuggling of hundreds of kilos of cannabis into the peninsula in recent years or prevent the fast spread of narcotics such as heroin in the North and East. Instances of the military plying Tamil youth with alcohol at military -organized sports festivals have been well documented after the end of the war in 2009. We are therefore forced to conclude that the lethargy, and even connivance, shown by the security sector in preventing narcotic smuggling in the North and East is deliberate. We demand that the government take urgent steps to immediately halt such activity.
On the political solution:
This rally declares that a federal solution based the constitutional proposals submitted by the Tamil People’s Council (TPC) be adopted to ensure non – recurrence of the direct and indirect repercussions described above, of the war, and as a solution to the Tamil National question.
Although this government has assured the international community that the proposed 3rd Republican constitution of Sri Lanka will bring about a resolution to the Tamil National question, the President and Prime Minister of Sri Lanka continue to stress that unitary character of the Sri Lanka and the pride of place afforded to Buddhism will not be altered in the constitution. We strongly believe that this government is attempting to force minimal power devolution within a unitary State on the Tamil people . We also believe that the government is attempting to hurriedly pass the proposed constitution in Parliament and win the approval of this minimalistic constitution at a referendum, with the support of the majority of the Tamil people. This strategy, we believe, will enable the government to proclaim that it has solved the Tamil National question through the proposed 3rd Republican constitution.
We demand that the proposed constitution reflect the political aspirations of the Tamil people. We also condemn attempts made to malign and discredit attempts made by the Tamil people to air their genuine political aspirations through democratic means. Hence, this rally would wish to declare the following;
1. We firmly believe, from lessons learnt from the implementation of the 13th Amendment to the present constitution and from the Sinhala – Buddhist majoritarian State structure, that a Unitary State structure would never be the solution to the Tamil National question.
2. We believe that a viable solution to the Tamil National question could only be achieved by establishing a soverign federal unit through recognizing the Tamil people of the North and East as a distinct nation, while also acknowledging a nd respecting their right to self – determination, as proposed in the constitution proposals submitted by the Tamil People’s Council (TPC).
3. We further state that recognition the Tamil nation and thereby its right to self – determination could only be institutionally established through a federal structure.
4. This rally further stresses that a solution that is unclear and one which does not recognize the distinctness of the Tamil nation and its right to self – determination can never be accepted as a final solution to the Tamil National question.
5. It is disconcerting to the Tamil people that the new constitution is being drafted in utmost secrecy. The report which followed the consultations for the new constitution also completely failed to include the genuine political aspirations of the Tamil people. An open, public and democratic consultation process should be allowed before the drafting of the proposed constitution. Discussion for a new constitution cannot be held under the present oppressive structures. We stress that the Prevention of Terrorism Act should be repealed and demilitarization carried out immediately for an open dialogue on the constitution to be held in the North and East.
Tel: +94 75 6993211