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Tamil Genocide Remembrance marked in geostrategic Pacific islands of Okinawa, Jeju

[TamilNet, Friday, 24 May 2019, 17:26 GMT]
The people of the Island of Okinawa, located between Japan and Taiwan in the East China Sea of the Pacific, marked the tenth Tamil Genocide Remembrance in two separate events reflecting their resistance to the protracted geopolitical militarisation of the islands in the Indo-Pacific. In 1945, almost one hundred thousand civilians along with an equal number of Imperial Japanese Army soldiers and 12,000 US military personnel perished as the USA went on capturing Japan’s southernmost island in one of the bloodiest amphibious invasions in the modern history. Around 30,000 US troops are now stationed there with a changed focus towards China. The grassroots movement among the Okinawan population is strongly opposed to their island being continuously militarised. Mu’l’ li-vaaykkaal Remembrance events were also held in Kyoto, Japan, and on the strategic Jeju island off the Korean peninsula.

Both Jeju and Okinawa are geopolitically significant islands. The people of these islands have a history of mourning massacres of thousands of their people, and they are also known for strongly resisting militarisation with a powerful grassroots movement.

Floral tribute at Okinawa
Floral tribute at Okinawa
Floral tribute at Seoul
Floral tribute at Seoul

Okinawa Island
On 16 May, students and lecturers of the Okinawa Christian University laid flowers in memory of the massacred Eezham Tamils at the university premises. The flowers were then taken to a sacred site along the coast near Nakagusuku village and made to float in the sea as part of a traditional floral tribute.

Another memorial event was marked at Oruku Catholic church with prayers in remembrance of those who perished in Mu’l’ li-vaaykkaal genocide. Bishop Tani Daichi led the event. The Channel 4 documentary ‘No Fire Zone’ was screened.

The people of Okinawa are opposed to the military land grab as the grassroots in the occupied country of Eezham Tamils. The peace of the Indo-Pacific region is being disturbed due to the heightening naval military build-up of the USA and China, they complain.

The majority of US troops in Japan are based in Okinawa. There have been several allegations of crimes, including convicted cases of rapes, military accidents and destruction to the environment.

Futenma US air base on Okinawa
Futenma US Marine Corps base where a large number of Osprey transport aircraft operate in a highly residential area. The noise of these Ospreys is three times bigger than the normal aircraft. This is the main air base where around 30,000 US troops use for their air travel. Henoko base is being built as a relocating plan of Futenma base due to the opposition of the residents. In fact, the people oppose both the camps. It is not simply getting their lands back, but it is an opposition to making Okinawa the operational location for a war in Asia. The new site Henoko is less residential, but people in Okinawa oppose that too.

A referendum held on 24 February 2019, established that 70 per cent of the Okinawans were opposed to the expansion of the US Marines base at Henoko in the island.

Henoko base
A view of the Henoko US base construction which is being heavily opposed by the Okinawa people. So much so the Japanese ruling party has lost all the seats in Okinawa due to people's opposition to this new construction. It is said that over 5,800 specifies of sea life including 262 endangered ones are found in the surrounding waters which is being filled to reclaim land to build the base. The sand being used for this filling is coming from Fukushima where radioactivity is very high. This base is pivotal of the US and Japanese governments against China.

The Pacific marking of remembrance events has placed the Mu’l’ li-vaaykaal genocide, the protracted structural genocide of Eezham Tamils and the unresolved Tamil national question in the international context of imperial geopolitics and militarisation.

Tanaka Hiroyuki
Tanaka Hiroyuki, a prominent Okinawa anti-base activist showing explaining growing US military build up on the island.
Tanaka Hiroyuki,

Kadena base
Kadena US camp which has occupied 15.04 sq which is 83% of Kadena town. It is highly a dangerous area as it is located in the middle of the civilian area where the airfeild, ammunition storage and oil storage are located. The people are growing vegetables around the camp as a mark of resistance.
The US Indo-Pacific Command deployed in the military-to-military engagement with the SL Navy occupying the coast of Eezham Tamils is grooming a Sinhala marine force headquartered in Champoor, Trincomalee. This move has come after 2009.

Under these circumstances, it is rather vital to express people-to-people solidarity as well as gaining inspiration from each other if one wants to sustain the grassroots struggle.

‘Thinking globally and acting locally’ should be the way forward for the grassroots to establish peace and justice, the organisers of the events told TamilNet.

Along that prism of global significance, Korean, Japanese, Basque and Rohingya activists, scholars, students and journalists have marked the tenth Mu’l’ li-vaaykkaal commemorative events this month, said Dr Jude Lal, an exiled Sinhala academic and activist who took part in the commemoration.

The commemoration meeting held in Seoul
The commemoration meeting held in Seoul

Seoul poster
The flyer prepared by the National Council of Churches Korea (NCCK) and the Centre for Peace and Integrity. The Sinhala nationalists in Seoul were opposing this poster.
“They understood the detrimental effects of the geopolitics in the freedom struggle of Eezham Tamils as well as their opposition to continued structural genocide,” he said.

Similarly, the Eezham Tamil masses also need to resist the way the geopolitics and the geo-economics are being deployed against them.

Jude Lal Fernando was also taking part in the events organised by Korean grassroots organisations in South Korea.

On 20 May, a commemorative event was organised in Seoul by the National Council of Churches Korea (NCCK) and the Centre for Peace and Integrity. The event was led by the general secretary of NCCK, Rev. Dr Shin.

Seoul event

A church leader who went to the island in support of the 2002 peace process speaking at the Seoul ev
A church leader who went to the island in support of the 2002 peace process speaking at the Seoul event
Leaders from different Korean churches, as well as several Korean and Indonesian journalists, peace activists, academics and students, participated in the gathering. Professor Yi Kiho of Hanshin University, Rev Dr Park Jong-Wa and Indonesian journalist Seulki Lee addressed the participants.

The grassroots organisations that organised the events had also translated the Permanent People Tribunal on Sri Lanka (PPT-SL) Bremen Tribunal report into Korean.

In the meantime, the Sinhala nationalist groups in South Korea objected to the organisers for the use of the phrase ‘massacre of Tamils’. The SL embassy in Seoul was also in the loop. However, the Seoul police gave protection to the meeting.

“Three individuals had visited the event trying to disrupt it. They filmed the whole event and left when the time came for the floral tributes,” an activist involved in organising the marking said.

Professor Yi Kiho
Professor Yi Kiho who led a group of Northern and Southern Korean delegation to the island during the 2002 Peace Process

Indonesian journalist Seulki Lee
Indonesian journalist Seulki Lee
Some of the Korean church leaders had been to the island during the times of the February 2002 Ceasefire Agreement, witnessing the LTTE administered de-facto Tamil Eelam.

Professor Yi Kiho from Hanshin University said that the 2002 peace process brought hope to the peoples of the island. In 2004, a North and South Korean delegation met in Colombo as the Sinhalese, and the Tamils in the island were following a peace paradigm as opposed to the war paradigm. A negotiated settlement respecting the Tamils right of self-determination had broader implications in Asia, he said.

“Today, after the massacre, it is our duty to resist the US imperialism and militarism in Asia becoming bigger than never before. That is the highest honour we can give to the people who were killed,” he said

Indonesian journalist Seulki Lee noted how the war generated a massive wave of displacement. “It is the majoritarian unitary state that led to this process, and there is a need to restructure the state to achieve justice for the victims. The right to remember is a fundamental one that cannot be taken away from the people,” Seulki Lee said.

Sacred tribute
Dr Jude Lal Fernando spoke on structures of domination that were created by the British and how these were reinforced through the genocidal onslaught in 2009.

“It is the British who were occupying the land, but the Sinhalese were made to believe that the Tamils are the invaders. Divide and rule! After the Easter Sunday attack, a new unity is being forged in Sri Lanka against the Muslims. Again, divide and rule! The US/UK war against the Middle East and China that is being pushed forward and we are being made to think that there is a new enemy called Islam. It is the US that blocks peace in the Korean Peninsula, but the South Koreans are made to think that the North is the problem,” he said.

“Unity amongst different national and religious groups in Lanka is possible only when the oppressive unitary state structure is transformed. Not otherwise. The more we keep it, the more the island is bound to become a theatre of war of imperial powers in the Indian Ocean region,” he further observed at the event packed with speeches, floral tributes and the screening of the documentary, No Fire Zone.

Jeju, like Okinawa, is strategically important islands for the US in encircling China.

The UNESCO has designated ten per cent of Jeju island’s total land area with volcanic lava tubes as World’s Natural Heritage Site.

Jeju island

The largest island of Korea faces important sea lanes in the East China Sea where sovereignty disputes over islands, resulting in the military build-up.

A prominent Japanese air base was located there during World War II.

While the Okinawans mourn one hundred thousand of their people perished during the US invasion in 1945, the people of Jeju island live with emotional scars from the massacres of 30,000 of their people by the US-backed Korean military between 1947 and 1954. The Korean state has offered a public apology in recent years. However, the militarisation of Jeju island continues.

The Japanese government is heavily backing the Henoko base in Okinawa and the South Korean government is building the Jeju Naval base for the US Navy.

Since 2007, the people of Jeju have been actively resisting the construction of a Korean (US) Navy base on its southern coast. Despite repeated threats from the Korean government, the people remain undeterred and take part actively in global solidarity campaigns with other oppressed people in the world.

The people of Jeju gather every day both in the morning and in the afternoon to block the trucks going to the base. The Catholics gather in the afternoon with other activists to block the main gate of the base. This is called 'Holy Mass as a Protest'.

The following video is recorded from the protest mass on 17 May. Leading activist Fr Sunghwan Kim is paying tribute to Eezham Tamils who perished in Mu'l'livaaykkaal genocide in 2009.

Dr Dong Jin Kim
Dr Dong Jin Kim
In the meantime, Korean activist Dr Dong Jin Kim, a research fellow at the Irish School of Ecumenics at Trinity College Dublin, also expressed his solidarity to Eezham Tamils.

Also, activists from the Basque Country in Europe re-affirmed their solidarity with the struggle for Tamil Eelam.

In a solidarity video-message, Gontzal Martinez de la Hidalga, an activist of the Komite Internazionalistak said: “In this tenth marking of Massacre of Mu’l’ li-vaaykaal, we want to send out solidarity from the Basque country. We support your struggle, and we oppose the ongoing genocide against the Tamil Eezham people. We want to say that the most beautiful quality of the revolutionary is to feel inside any injustices committed against anyone anywhere in the world.”

Gontzal has been involved with the PPT processes which conducted the tribunals in Dublin in 2011 and Bremen in 2013, alongside campaigning for the cause of Eezham Tamils in the Spanish-speaking world.

In another solidarity message, Robi Alam, a member of Rohingya Action Ireland, said the Rohingyas were fighting for 41 years without surrendering their political aspirations.

“We are inspired by the resilience and collective spirit of the people of Tamil Eelam, who keep fighting for justice despite being victims of horrendous crimes. Both our struggles teach us to keep fighting and never submit ourselves to any superior power. It is important for us not to let the powers which oppress us to divide us as Tamils and Muslims in Sri Lanka because of the crimes committed by those who implement imperial agendas. Muslim and Tamil unity is paramount to win freedom,” Robi Alam said.

Meanwhile, activists from Ecuador attended the remembrance event held in Bremen, expressing solidarity with the Tamil diaspora and the exiled Sinhala activists who have been involved in the independent and people-to-people solidarity and justice campaign.



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