Feature Article

Don’t be intimidated, Prof Neelson tells Tamil diaspora

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 21 September 2011, 05:41 GMT]
“When I see the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam or the Global Tamil Forum, you associate and put your faith in the West, I beg to differ,” said Professor John P. Neelson, while addressing Eezham Tamils rallying at Geneva on Monday. Talking on the past experience of Tamils trusting Western Establishments, Neelson said that instead of siding with the victims of State Terrorism, they [the West] sided with the perpetrators. Criminalisation of your struggle in favour of Sri Lanka was to intimidate you. Don’t be intimidated, Neelson said besides warning Tamils against trusting the ruling elites of the West too much. He emphasized on seeing more white people of Europe associated with the Eezham struggle and stressed on the point that India “remains the most important power that will determine what happens in Sri Lanka.”

Professor Neelson, a sociologist, in his address was pinpointing the universal as well as specific issues associated with the struggle of Eezham Tamils.

Pongku Thamizh, Geneva, 2011
Professor John P Neelson
“It is significant that a political personality like that of the Mayor from a city close to Paris has come here to show solidarity because what is happening in Sri Lanka has a negative impact in the society in the West,” Neelson said appreciating the participation of a French Mayor, Stéphane Gatignon.

“There are too few white people among you [in this demonstration]. Everyone should come next time here with some of his Italian, French, German, Scandinavian neighbour. Otherwise, you only fight for your self and this is too close to the community,” Neelson observed in his address.

The following are excerpts and summary of his address:

Despite 20 years of lobbying within the UN and a number of NGOs taking up your course within the UN, not a single government has ever taken up your cause, Neelson pointed out.

The UN Human Rights Council is very well aware of your suffering, they sympathize, but their influence is limited. It is a question of politics.

There are nearly around 200 states but there are more than 2000 peoples, nations, in this planet – most of them are indeed in prisons in a state like you. Mobilise and establish contacts with other groups of oppressed people, because they have same interests, they suffer from the same oppression as you do.

* * *

“In 2002, it was an attempt to negotiate in treaty terms, based on what had been achieved in the battlefield. In the course of the military struggle a military parity was achieved. Normally this should have been translated into a peace negotiation and a resolution to the conflict.”

“It was on the negotiation table that the Tamils have lost what they had achieved in the battlefield. We have to ask what were the reasons? Who were the adversaries? Because it is very important with whom we should ally ourselves in our future.”

“When I see the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam or the Global Tamil Forum, you associate and put your faith in the West. I beg to differ.”

Talking on the group of countries, comprising the US, the EU, Japan and Norway, Prof. Neelson said that what was expected from them was an equidistant approach, a neutral approach to facilitate a negotiated peace.

“But, very soon it turned out that the quoted had a different agenda.”

“Instead of siding with the victims of State Terrorism, they sided with the perpetrators. I think this should give us thought that the political elites in the West talk about human rights, they talk about democracy, but they have their own political interests.”

* * *

Prof. Neelson in his address pinpointed the on-going effort to reduce the nation of Eezham Tamils into a ‘minority’ and the immediate need to arrest the process:

“I do subscribe to your legitimate claim for an independent Tamil Eelam. I understand, that as before, you refer to the Vaddukkoaddai Resolution, and rightly so.”

“But, for the time being I think, you have to see what is happening in Sri Lanka itself. The greatest danger at the moment is that the Tamil Nation is being reduced to a minority.”

“Minorities, in the International Law, have individual rights, but no collective rights.”

“As long as you are people, as long as you are a Nation, you have the right to self-determination whether internal or external. Your claim to external means the right to secession.”

“The policy of the Sri Lankan government, after 2009 is in terms of the blocking of the return of internally displaced, of colonising the homeland with Sinhalese peasants, of establishing military bases, of high security zones, and in addition, projecting development in terms of reserving land from the Tamils in terms of tourism.”

“These all mean that you could become a demographic and political minority in your own land. Even worse, the constituent principle of a People, of a Nation is a contiguous territory. If you don't dispose a contiguous territory, if your homeland is being split into Bantustans [under Apartheid in South Africa] and fragmented – you can do whatever you like, but your right to self-determination will be nowhere.”

“You have to be very much aware that this is at the moment to my mind the greatest danger the Tamil community is exposed to.”

Prof Neelson was observing that in his thinking “ for the time being the question of Self-Determination in the sense of secession is not on the cards. This is a long-term goal.” But this is exactly the point Eezham Tamils – more than the diaspora the Tamils in the island nowadays – don’t want their politicians to bungle.

* * *

“I do think you have less to think in terms of the West, but India is, and remains, the most important power that will determine what happens in Sri Lanka.”

“And when one talks about the Sri Lankan government's interests to draw China into the Indian Ocean. This is certainly true.”

“But, I do not think that the US will be afraid of this more than India.”

“Therefore, it is already for geo-strategic reasons that India will be very much concerned and should be concerned in what is happening to you.”

* * *

“And finally, at least for the medium term I would not under rate the Sri Lankan situation itself in the sense that even if the international inquiry commission, the International Criminal Court takes up the case of Sri Lanka, this will not change the Constitution, this will not change the corruption of the Rajapaksa family, In other words, this will not change the situation of the media.

“To well-minded people and democratic people in Sri Lanka itself, even among the Sinhalese, there is a need to abolish this kind of centralised authoritarian and really racist system for their own good.”

“Do not forget this, because to sit here in Geneva to claim aloud Self-Determination for us.

“Yes, the diaspora carries the flag, but the Diaspora has to think what happens in the island on the first place.

“There are cleavages among you. You have to go in a united front. You may march in different columns, but you have the same goal. This you shouldn't forget.

“Those who in the past who carried this struggle here in our countries, they have been criminalised. They have been put in front of the court. Certainly, this work in favour of what the Sri Lankan government thinks. It is meant to intimidate you. I can only say don't be intimidated.

“As long as there is oppression there will be resistance. But, you should indeed take up this challenge. Apart from the fact that you have no other choice, but if you give up this struggle, if you let your self be intimidated, you have lost without having ever tried.”


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