"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
 
- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Selected Writings by Nadesan Satyendra
- நடேசன் சத்தியேந்திரா

Thanmaanam

30 April 1988

Editorial in the special issue of Tamil Voice International to mark the commencement of the First International Conference organised by the World Federation of Tamils, April/May 1988


There come a time in the life of a people, there comes a stage in their history, when they become increasingly aware of the links that link them together and the bonds that bind them together. And today the Tamil people, living in many lands and across distant seas, are becoming increasingly aware of their togetherness.

It is a togetherness which is rooted in a shared heritage, a common language and a common culture. But it is a togetherness which is not a function of the past alone. It is a togetherness which is being pressed into shape by a continuing discrimination which seeks to treat separately and which thereby inevitably nurtures that which is separately treated.

And it is a togetherness which is given purpose and direction by a growing resolve and a growing determination amongst the Tamil people, that they will build a future where they, and their children, and their children's children may live with self respect and with dignity. It is a growing togetherness which is slowly but surely maturing and which seeks to cry out openly and aloud, in pain and in joy: 'Yes, we live in many lands and across distant seas, but we, too, are a people'.

The International Tamil Conference which is scheduled to commence its deliberations in London this week represents an open manifestation of the growing togetherness of the Tamil people, living in many lands and across distant seas. Delegates from more than 100 Tamil Associations and more than 15 countries will meet to explore the central issues of the national struggle of the Tamils of Sri Lanka and to examine the extent to which the Indo Sri Lankan Peace Accord of July 1987 satisfies their aspirations, and in particular their claim to the right of self determination.

The Conference has been convened at a time when the so called Indo Sri Lankan Peace Accord has brought neither peace nor justice to the Tamil people and at a time when attempts are being made to silence the voice of the Tamil people in their own homelands. There is an imperative need to strengthen the capacity of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to give coherence and direction to the Tamil national struggle and there is an imperative need to lend support to the efforts of Velupillai Prabakharan who has emerged as the true leader of the Tamil national struggle.

The time is opportune, therefore, for the voice of the international Tamil community to be heard in London, in support of those rights which spring from the inherent dignity of man, because the Tamil people seek to live with dignity amongst their fellowmen. And foremost amongst these human rights, and from which all other rights flow is the right of self determination of a people - a right enshrined appropriately enough, in Article 1 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights.

We applaud the intention of the Conference to 'focus on the interface between politics and human rights' because we too believe that 'human rights separated from politics often becomes the platitudinous expression of utopian ideals: whilst politics which is unconcerned with human rights becomes a cynical pursuit of power for its own sake.'

As long ago as 1984 Professor Leo Kruper warned in the Minority Rights Group Report on International Action Against Genocide, that 'the communal massacres in Sri Lanka, in a context of societal conflict' threatened a genocidal situation. He pointed out that claims for greater autonomy often led to genocidal responses and he urged that there was 'a great need for delegations of member States (of the United Nations) with a strong commitment to human rights, and for non governmental organisations with consultative status, to continue their efforts to recall the United Nations to its responsibilities for international protection against genocide and other gross and consistent violations of human rights' and further that 'these efforts should include attempts to develop norms for the exercise of the right of self determination in a decolonised world'.

Professor Leo Kruper's words have today assumed an urgency that can no longer be denied. There is a clear and urgent need 'to give the thick edge of action' to the Reports of Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists, the Lawasia Human Rights Standing Committee, the United Kingdom Parliamentary Human Rights Group, International Alert, the World Council of Churches, Australian Parliamentary Group of Amnesty International, the Emergency Committee on Sri Lanka, the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, and several other non governmental agencies and independent observers on the gross and consistent violations of human rights in Sri Lanka - gross and consistent violations which have led to a 'threatened' genocidal situation.

If the Conference can persuade the international community to address itself to the root cause of these violations - namely, the failure to develop norms for the exercise of the right of self determination by the Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka, then it would have performed an important and useful task.

There is an urgent need to persuade member states of the United Nations and non governmental organisations, that a reluctance on their part to espouse the division of the sovereign state of Sri Lanka should not lead them to deny that there are in Sri Lanka today two nations - the Tamil nation and the Sinhala nation and that a political settlement of the conflict in Sri Lanka can be achieved only on the basis of recognising this political reality.

We wish this historic International Tamil Conference in London, every success in its efforts to secure justice for the Tamils of Sri Lanka - because, apart from anything else, without justice, peace will not come to the Indian region. And there can be no justice without effective implementation of those basic and fundamental rights which spring from the inherent dignity of man. We repeat, the Tamil people seek to live in dignity and with self respect, with their fellowmen and women - in Tamil we say: thanmaanam

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