Second generation Eezham Tamil youth in Canada strongly criticized the support lent to the pro-LLRC US resolution by some diaspora organizations at a panel discussion organized by the National Council of Canadian Tamils on Saturday about the recent United National Human Rights Council meeting. While the older generation on the panel were welcoming the US resolution as a “step in the right direction”, the youth activists criticized it for being a “step backward”. Urging the diaspora leadership to have a “slightly longer memory than the last four weeks,” Krisna Saravanamuttu of the NCCT said that the US resolution was “fundamentally flawed” because it used the LLRC as a basis for achieving accountability and a political solution from the Sri Lankan government guilty of genocide.
Nearly 250 members of the Tamil Canadian community packed the hall of the Canada Kandaswamy Temple in Toronto to hear the panellists provide their thoughts on the US sponsored resolution in Geneva.
The panellists included Dr. Paul Newman (Professor, University of Bangalore), Raj Subramanium (Director, National Council of Canadian Tamils), Krisna Saravanamuttu (spokesperson, National Council of Canadian Tamils/National Executive Representative, Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario), and Suren Surendran (Spokesperson, Global Tamil Forum). Anton Phillip from the Centre for War Victims and Human Rights moderated the meeting.
In their remarks to the community the panellists presented the developments in Geneva and the passing of the US resolution as a positive “step in the right direction.” Raj Subramanium provided a report back to the community on his experience in Geneva, and spoke about the harassment he faced from members of the Sri Lankan delegation. Dr. Newman explained the geo-political issues plaguing the Tamil Freedom Struggle, underling that both China and India are vying for regional dominance, and reiterating that the US resolution is a first step in achieving an international inquiry.
Contrarily, Krisna Saravanamuttu argued that the US resolution is a “step backwards” in achieving justice for the victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Saravanamuttu further reminded the audience that the LLRC was established to evade international scrutiny for the Mu’l’livaaykkaal genocide and was already rejected by prominent human rights organizations, the Tamil Diaspora, and civil society in the North-East.
He went on to point out that the Sri Lankan government stands accused of serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law and to expect the accused party to carry out an investigation is against both reason and natural justice. Saravanamuttu pointed out that it was contradictory for the US State Department to ease its restrictions on the sale of weapons to Sri Lanka on the very same day that the US resolution passed in Geneva
Saravanamuttu maintained that what was happening to the Tamil nation for the last 60 years was a protracted genocide, and even three years after the war the Sri Lankan government continues to implement policies to dismantle the Tamils as a distinct nation.
Suren Surendran began his remarks by saying that while Saravanamuttu’s argument was legitimate and could not be refuted, he suggested “young blood boils quickly” and that the diaspora needed to be ‘realistic’. Surendran explained to the audience of his role in Geneva, and the necessity to engage with both diplomats from the International Community and Sri Lanka, in order to convey the aspirations of the Tamils. Surendran, in a presentation, further outlined the GTF ‘strategy’ on the current international situation for the Tamil struggle, and the necessity to work within the established mechanisms of the international community.
During the heated debate that followed many from the audience raised questions with regards to the US Resolution. An elderly person pointed out that in his presentation, Surendran said nothing about genocide or the need for a United Nations referendum on Tamil sovereignty in the North-East of the island. The GTF spokesperson replied that it would be ineffective for Tamils to claim genocide and contended that a legal basis did not exist for a referendum.
Saravanamuttu instead argued that the Sri Lankan government used a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the Tamil nation, and therefore the Tamils had a responsibility to assert the reality of Sri Lankan oppression because. He also referenced the historical and earned sovereignty of the Tamils as well as the legal principle of remedial sovereignty as arguments for an international referendum on the Tamil question.
The second-generation Eezham Tamil students were particularly vocal in expressing their dismay with the US resolution. Priyanth Nallaratnam, spokesperson for the TYO-Canada asked how Surendran can confidently suggest that the US resolution is a step forward when one considers the history of the Tamil struggle’s encounter with the Indian Peace Keeping Force and the role of Norway in the failed peace talks, both of which were initially welcomed by the Tamils only to get disappointed later. Surendran replied that the Tamils do not exist on another planet and must therefore adjust to the present circumstances.
Similarly, Samuel Nithiananthan, director with the NCCT, pointed out that the US resolution comes in the backdrop of the US tilting the balance of powers against the Tamil liberation struggle, and the intentional failure to act by the international community during the 2009 massacre, how then could the US motivations behind in Geneva not be seen without an eye of suspicion to blunt the Tamil national question and the issue of genocide. Instead of directly answering the students question Surendran admonished the student for being “unrealistic”, and asked whether the Channel 4 video would have been as effective had it been taken by a Tamil.
Dhurga Vijay of the TYO asked the panel in general if the Tamil diaspora organizations are losing credibility because it now endorsed a resolution that upholds the very same LLRC that the Diaspora was vehemently opposed to since 2009. While other panel members remained silent, Saravanamuttu agreed with the student and went on to say that the role of the Tamil Diaspora today is to bring attention to the ongoing genocide of the Tamil nation, to internationally advocate for the rights of the Tamils living under military occupation, and to uphold the principles of the struggle.
The public disapproval by the Tamil students in Canada of the pro-LLRC US Resolution comes after the recent declaration made at the ‘Eelam Tamil Youth Conference – Canada 2012’ in Toronto where Tamil students across Canada from high schools, universities and colleges resolved to continue the Tamil liberation struggle and reject the legitimacy of the unitary state imposed on the Tamil nation.