Feature Article

Self-organised democracy of Tamils receives global attention

[TamilNet, Thursday, 08 April 2010, 09:59 GMT]
The Tamil community in Australia is trying to test its aspirations of its people through a referendum of its own while Sri Lanka goes for parliamentary elections, reported Australia Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Wednesday about a referendum on independent Tamil state organised by Australian Tamils on April 17th and 18th. "This ballot has nothing to do with the parliamentary elections held this week in Sri Lanka. This is a referendum to test the will of the Tamil diaspora," Liam Cochrane of the ABC reported. "Self-organised democracy, the most meaningful of all democracies, has become the need of the times for Eezham Tamils, who are cornered for subjugation, not only militarily, but also through imposed elections in the island," TamilNet correspondent in Australia cited the mood of the diaspora.

Eezham Tamil innovations set inspiration to uphold true spirit of democracy across the world, TamilNet correspondent said, citing recent enthusiasm seen for similar exercises in situations where democracy is under constrains such as in Iraq.

Another global democratic exercise of Eezham Tamils is scheduled in May to form a transnational government.

ABC on Australian Referendum
Voters register in advance. [Photo courtesy: ABC / Screenshot]
Liam Cochrane of ABC
Liam Cochrane of ABC
Reporting the Australian referendum, the ABC said similar votes in other parts of the Tamil diaspora have showed an overwhelming majority still support the sovereign state despite the military defeat of the Tamil Tigers last year.

"A similar question was put to Tamils in 1976. It was adopted by the Tamil political coalition of the day. But, the lack of progress in Colombo led to frustration and eventually war," Mr. Cochrane reported.

Tamil leaders in Australia say this referendum is a chance for the overseas Tamil community to hit the reset button. It is also a chance for younger generation to get involved, the ABC report further said, interviewing Australian Tamil leaders.

The organisers expect around 15,000 Tamils living in Australia to vote later this month and a strong majority is likely, according to the ABC.

The Australian referendum will be the first of its kind in the Southern-hemisphere, following democratically held referenda across Europe and Canada that have established an overwhelming mandate supporting the formation of a sovereign Tamil homeland in the island of Sri Lanka.

TamilNet correspondent in Australia reports that more than 9000 voters have already registered to vote, citing CPI strategic spokesperson Stephen Newnham, engaged by Tamil Referendum Council of Australia (TRCA), an independent body formed to co-ordinate the voting process.

Ballot boxes will be set up in locations across NSW, Victoria and Queensland on April 17 and 18, with thousands more voters in other areas expected to submit postal votes, TRCA officials told TamilNet.

The Australian referendum takes on great significance in light of the federal government's continued silence throughout the later stages of the Sri Lankan conflict and its recent handling of Tamil refugees, which has angered human rights advocates and members of the Diaspora in Australia.

Citing the presence of Tamils scattered across the globe as the “direct consequence of the illegal unitary constitution of Sri Lanka...which has deprived Tamils of their nationhood in its constitution,” the TRCA urged all eligible voters to participate and help “assess the will of the people, as well as define the political fundamentals for the expatriate Tamils to take forward the struggle," in its pamphlet.

"The duty to lead our nation has been passed on to the Tamil diaspora," the TRCA reaffirmed, highlighting that the diaspora remains “the only group of Tamil people with time, resources, and most importantly, political space to function as free citizens – and exercise their political will."

Political advocates and humanitarian groups have thrown their support behind the referendum, reports TamilNet correspondent further.

“The Australian government has done nothing to educate the public regarding the repression of the Tamils in Sri Lanka. The referendum can help raise awareness of the situation that the Tamils have faced for decades," said Ian Rintoul, head of the Refugee Action Coalition (RAC).

Pip Hinman, currently running for council in the seat of Grayndler, described the event as an opportunity to “add to the pressure on the Australian government, which is currently turning a blind eye to the ongoing repression of the Tamil people”.

"Together, we must use these polls to push the Rudd government to break completely from the former Howard government's racist refugee policy in which Tamils (and others) are being denied their basic human rights” Miss Hinman urged, citing the recent political furore surrounding Tamil asylum seekers.

To be eligible to participate the referendum, voters must be:

  • Above 18 years old
  • Permanent Residents, or citizens, or students or refugees or visitors (staying for more than three months leading up to April 2010) in Australia
  • And one of the following:
    • Born in the island of Ceylon and have Tamil as his/her mother tongue.
    • Have a spouse, who was born in Ceylon, and has Tamil as his or her mother tongue
    • A descendent of the above categories (a) and (b).


External Links:
TRCA: Tamil Referendum Council of Australia


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