'Armed challenge to imposed national territory inevitable'

[TamilNet, Sunday, 29 June 2003, 00:33 GMT]
"Sri Lanka's colonial rulers left military power solely in the hands of a single community within an artificially created national territory on this island, created without the consent of the Tamils who, nevertheless, were included in it. Therefore the majority community had to increasingly depend on its monopoly on military force to hold on to this artificial national territory it acquired from the British. Under the circumstance, a military challenge to this was inevitable among the Tamils," said Mr. V. T. Thamilmaran, senior lecturer in law in the University of Colombo, Saturday.

Mr. Thamilmaran speaking at a book launch in Colombo further said: "To call the Tamils’ struggle for their existence as a nation an attempt to break away from the Sri Lankan state is completely wrong. It is a struggle to regain the Tamils’ legitimate nationhood from the shackles of the territorial boundaries militarily imposed on them by European colonial powers.

"It is not a strange phenomenon because similar struggles waged by oppressed nations in many African and Asian countries were treated as wars of liberation, hence legally permissible. Namibia and Western Sahara are cases in point. In fact international law requires the international community to support such struggles for the sole purpose of ensuring the freedom of such oppressed people.

"A militarily imposed boundary can never be considered the genuine expression of a people’s sovereign will. It therefore follows that the degree to which one tries to impose this through military means would provoke a similar degree of resistance among those people.

"The ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka should be understood in these terms. Many forget to see the democratic character that forms the pervasive basis of such a struggle. As long as the state remains illegitimate the question of its territorial claim cannot arise. In this sense too the Tamils’ struggle cannot be treated as a purely separatist movement.

"This is why the Tamil demand for self determination in Sri Lanka is not understood in true sense.

"The Sri Lankan Marxists’ approach to the ethnic conflict in this island is fundamentally flawed because they unquestioningly accept the territorial boundary of the Sri Lankan state, which in essence was, enforced militarily on the Tamils by European colonial powers. However, they failed to explain or reason out why all peoples of this country should accept the territorial boundary of the Sri Lankan state imposed by Colonial powers. This explains why Sri Lanka couldn’t become a nation state in substance.

"Here I would like to remind our Marxist critics what Lenin said on inevitability of war. ‘If a war is an expression of the mass movement against national oppression then the war stemming from that policy is a war of national liberation. Irrespective of who would be the first to attack, any socialist would wish the oppressed’, dependents’, unequals’ victory over the oppressor. Such wars are just and defensive wars’ Lenin wrote.

"Even at this last moment if not genuine attempt is made to share sovereignty between the Tamil and Sinhala nations, the collapse of the Sri Lankan state, as in Somalia and Ethiopia, is inevitable. In this connection I would like to quote a letter that Jawaharlal Nehru wrote to Lord Louis Mountbatten, the first Governor General of India. He said: ‘We can achieve true peace only if we are strong enough to prevent any aggression and only if we can make it clear that such aggression wont succeed," said Thamilmaran.

"Eelathamilarukku En Intha Vetkai" (Why this yearning of Eelam Tamils) by Mr. N. Somakandhan was launched Saturday at the Colombo Thamil Sangam.

Professor K. Sivathamby who delivered the main appreciation of the work, said that peace processes to settle the conflict in Sri Lanka failed in the question of political communication. "We spoke only to Sinhala political leaders. We should speak to the Sinhala masses and explain the problem to them. As long as the two main Sinhala parties have recourse to populist strategies to ascend to power, there won’t be the Sinhala consensus needed to bring about an honourable settlement to the conflict," Prof. Sivathamby emphasised.


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