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Catalonia’s declaration of sovereignty an example for Eezham Tamils

[TamilNet, Saturday, 26 January 2013 11:17 No Comment]

The Parliament of Catalonia on Wednesday adopted a resolution declaring the Catalan people, largely inhabiting the Catalonian North-eastern region of Spain, as a sovereign entity with the rights to self-determination. "The people of Catalonia have – by reason of democratic legitimacy – the character of a sovereign political and legal entity," the declaration read, with many claiming that this was the first step towards a referendum to be possibly held on 2014. Eezham Tamils should take note of the political terminology used by the Catalan leaders, especially the use of terms like ‘sovereignty’ and ‘nation’ as different from ‘nationality’, in effectively articulating the demands of their people and securing their rights, young generation Tamil political observers in the island said.

The resolution was passed with the approval of 85 votes in the 135 member Parliament, backed mainly by the ruling nationalist CiU party and the leftist ERC.

The Catalan regional government headed by Artur Mas, leader of the Convergence and Union (CiU) party, views the successful passing of this declaration as a shot in the arm for their plans of holding a referendum by 2014.

The declaration states that the Catalonian parliament has begun “the process to bring about the exercising of the right to decide so that the citizens of Catalonia can choose their political, collective future”.

Mr Mas described the vote as historic, adding that it “will lead the country to where the majority of us want to go”, the Irish Times reported on Thursday.

While the declaration was backed by Republican Left Party the ERC and other left political groups like ICV and CUP, it was opposed by the Catalan Socialist Party, who have been demanding for autonomy but not independence, and the representatives of Spanish right-wing People’s Party.

“Most Catalonian people do not want independence, they do not want this division. What you are doing today is applying pressure in defiance of the Spanish government,” Euronews cited Alicia Sanchez, leader of the People’s Party of Catalonia.

In September 2012, over 1.5 million Catalans, roughly 20% of Catalonia’s population, rallied on the streets of Catalonian capital Barcelona demanding independence.

The rise of modern Catalan nationalism and the desire for sovereign self-governance can be traced to the 19th Century. With the establishment of the Second Spanish Republic in 1931, Catalonia was able to gain considerable provisions for self-rule under a Statute of Autonomy in 1932.

These gains were reversed after the victory of General Franco’s fascist forces over the Republicans at the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939. Under Franco’s dictatorship, which lasted till 1975, Catalonia’s autonomous status was annulled and the Catalan language was prohibited from public usage with the imposition of Spanish as the sole national language. Likewise, Barcelona, which was a major site of anti-fascist resistance, faced severe repression.

After the restoration of democracy in Spain in 1978, Catalonia regained its autonomous status. Catalan nationalism, which is based on language rather than ethnicity, had grown stronger in the last years of the Franco regime. After democratization and the granting of autonomy, Catalan nationalist parties have dominated the regional government.

The usage of the term ‘nation’ by Catalan leaders to describe the Catalan people has irked many Spanish nationalists.

The Spanish constitution of 1978 recognizes Catalonians as a ‘nationality’ with the ‘right to self-government’.

Article 2 states “The Constitution is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish Nation, the common and indivisible homeland of all Spaniards; it recognizes and guarantees the right to self-government of the nationalities and regions of which it is composed and the solidarity among them all.”

However, the 2006 Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia states “In reflection of the feelings and the wishes of the citizens of Catalonia, the Parliament of Catalonia has defined Catalonia as a nation by an ample majority. The Spanish Constitution, in its second Article, recognises the national reality of Catalonia as a nationality.”

The recently passed declaration by the Catalonian parliament that claimed that the Catalan people have “the character of a sovereign political and legal entity” has at its heart the understanding that the Catalan people constitute a nation, with historical sovereignty over their territory, as different from nationality.

The arguments for a referendum in the future also stem from this conceptual understanding.

In the case of the Eezham Tamils, the argument for a just and sustainable political solution based on the recognition of Eezham Tamils as a nation was succinctly made in the Tamil Sovereignty Cognition (TSC)declaration which was based on the premise that the Eezham Tamils are entitled to historical, earned and remedial aspects of sovereignty.

The TSC declaration, formulated after interactions with a wide-spectrum of like-minded people, across the globe, was released on November 2011 by youth activists based in Tamil Nadu, Canada, Switzerland and the USA.

The basic principles of the TSC declaration were adopted as a working programme by several youth, grassroots and democratically elected diaspora organizations last year.

Keeping the recent developments in Catalonia in mind and observing the manoeuvres by world powers to lead the Eezham Tamils into a blind alley by abstract and misleading terms like ‘internal self-determination’, ‘self-rule’, ‘nationality’ and others, it is imperative that Tamil political organizations begin to take up the concrete points outlined in the TSC declaration in all their political interactions with external organizations, young generation Tamil politicians from the island told TamilNet.

The concrete manner in which the Catalan politicians have been using the terms ‘nation’ as different from ‘nationality’, ‘sovereignty’ as a premise for ‘self-determination’, can be taken as positive examples, they added.

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