International Law, Human Rights will salute Tamil Statehood- Fein

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 20 May 2008, 21:52 GMT]
Quoting the words in the American declaration of Independence, “[b]ut when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce [a people] under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security,” Bruce Fein, Washington-based attorney for a Tamil Activist Group, and Chairman of the American Freedom Agenda, said Tuesday that Tamil Statehood is the immediate answer to save innocent lives, and that “[a]n international consensus on statehood would bring the war to a close, as it did in Kosovo.”

Full text of the media release by Fein follows:

Bruce Fein
Attorney Bruce Fein
Sri Lanka’s grisly war between the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has an immediate answer: Tamil statehood. Innocent lives would be spared. The solution would be saluted by international law, practice, and human rights. An international consensus on statehood would bring the war to a close, as it did in Kosovo.

Since Sri Lanka’s independence in 1948, Sri Lanka’s Tamils have been killed, kidnapped, disappeared, raped, robbed, displaced, and arbitrarily detained by the GOSL dominated by the majority Sinhalese. The right to statehood when confronted with such grim circumstances was enshrined in the American Declaration of Independence: “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce [a people] under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” The Canadian Supreme Court has acknowledged that justification for statehood in addressing the issue of Quebec.

The persecution of Sri Lanka’s Tamils commenced with the passage of the Ceylon Citizenship Act of 1948. It denied citizenship to 1 million Tamils--approximately 50% of the entire Tamil population--to reduce them to political vassals. The Act was inspired by Adolph Hitler’s Nuremberg Laws of September 15, 1935, which provided: “A Jew cannot be a citizen of the Reich. He cannot exercise the right to vote.”

The GOSL was more subtle. Only three years after the destruction of the Third Reich, the Sinhalese knew that the international community would be nauseated by a citizenship provision that declared: “A Tamil cannot be a citizen of Sri Lanka.” Thus, the GOSL resorted to elliptical language to achieve a comparable result. The Citizenship Act bizarrely defined Sri Lankan citizenship with reference to where an individual’s ancestors had been born, not with reference to where he or she was born. (In Canada, by contrast, every person born in Canada is a Canadian citizen). The intended consequence was to deny citizenship to the one million plantation Tamils of Indian origin, including the living and those yet to be born. They were disfranchised the following year by the Ceylon Parliamentary Elections Amendment Act which tied citizenship to voting. And then came the Tamil genocide.

With the specific intent of destroying the Tamils, in whole or in part, because of their race, nationality, ethnicity or religion, the GOSL commenced an ever-escalating level of persecution. Tamil was revoked as an official language. Tamils were made subservient to Singhalese in jobs, education, housing, and infrastructure. The Sri Lankan Constitution was rewritten without Tamil participation to repeal entrenched clauses protecting the Tamils from discrimination. The GOSL organized race riots in response to peaceful Tamil protests reminiscent of Mahatma Gandhi. Emblematic was July 1983. Sri Lankan President Jayawardene supplied armed gangs of Sinhalese with voter lists to identify Tamil homes and businesses. He incited the thugs to hack Tamils to death in their houses, offices, and places of work. Within three days, the number of Tamil corpses had mounted to 5,000. None of the murderers was prosecuted by the GOSL; and, not a penny of compensation was paid to the Tamil victims.

Since 1979, the GOSL has placed its Tamil population completely outside the law with the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA). It provides that where the minister of defense “has reason to believe that any person is connected with or concerned in any unlawful activity,” the suspect can be held incommunicado without trial for 18 months. The detention order cannot be challenged in any other place. Further, unlawful activity is defined to include peaceful Tamil opposition to their maltreatment that angers the Sinhalese. In other words, the exercise of free speech rights by Tamils is made criminal! Thus, the POTA makes unlawful, “by words either spoken or intended to be read or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise causes…community disharmony or feelings of ill-will or hostility between different communities or racial or religious groups.” Further, a 1983 GOSL emergency regulation empowers the army to shoot, kill, and bury Tamils without post-mortem or judicial inquiry—a legalization of secret assassination squads.

The sufferings of the American colonists and the Irish under a British tyranny created respective rights to separate statehoods. Ditto for the East Timorese under Indonesia, Kosovo under Serbia, and Eritrea under Ethiopia. The Tamils have suffered and continue to suffer vastly more under the GOSL rack and screw than any of the aforementioned groups.

The United States, Canada, and the European Union should stop mistaking the firefighter for the fire in Sri Lanka and recognize an independent Tamil state. Peace will follow, and human rights will begin a recovery after approaching rigor mortis on the island.


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