"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

Power and Principle

February 1994

"...The Tamil struggle for freedom is just because it arose in response to decades of ever widening and deepening oppressive alien Sinhala rule. It is lawful because every people have the right to freely choose their political status - and no people may seek to rule another. It is lawful also because Tamil sovereignty which had lain dormant during the period of successive British and Sinhala rule, was resuscitated with the break in legal continuity in 1972. The Tamil struggle for freedom is principled because the Tamil people do not deny the existence of the Sinhala nation but seek to associate with it freely and on equal terms. ...But, we have learnt on the hard anvil of experience that principle without power is powerless. We are not a people of servile pleaders for fair play and abject supplicants for justice..."


The battle of Waterloo may have been won on the playing fields of Eton. But it will be idle to pretend that the struggle for Tamil Eelam will be won on the playing fields of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

Nevertheless, the Joint Statement by 17 non governmental organisations at the UN Commission on Human Rights on 4 February 1994 represents a welcome step forward in the long march to secure international recognition of the Tamil struggle for freedom. The 17 NGO Joint Statement succinctly spelt out the legitimacy of the Tamil struggle :

''A social group, which shares objective elements such as a common language and which has acquired a subjective political consciousness of oneness, by its life within a relatively well defined territory, and by its struggle against alien domination, clearly constitutes a 'people' with the right to self determination and in our view, the Tamil population of the north-east of the island are such a 'people'.''

Of particular significance was the Joint Statement's reference to the 1879 Cleghorn Minute which recognised the existence of two states in the island prior to the imposition of British rule.

In 1972, when the representatives of the Sinhala people met outside the Sri Lanka Parliament, in Navarangahala and gave themselves an autochthonous constitution they broke the legal continuity with the past. The result in law was that sovereignty reverted to the Tamil people in their homeland.

It was on this issue that the Tamil leader Mr.S.J.V. Chelvanayagam resigned his seat in the Sri Lanka Parliament and thereafter won a mandate from the Tamil people for the establishment of an independent Tamil Eelam state - a mandate later reiterated at the 1977 General Elections.

In 1983, Mr. Timothy J.Moore from the Australian Section of the International Commission of Jurists commented:

"The proponents of Tamil Eelam argue that the northern and eastern of the nine provinces of Sri Lanka coincide with the historic boundaries of the kingdom of Jaffna and argue a case that seeks to establish that sovereignty over these territories was never ceded to any conqueror and that, even if such concession had been made at any time in the past, the unilateral renunciation of links with the United Kingdom which took place at the assumption of Mrs. Srimavo Bandaranaikes's government in 1972, resuscitated the Tamil sovereignty which had merely lain dormant until then...

...In the abstract theory of international law, it would appear that the Tamils have, at the very least, an arguable case, and possibly, a sustainable one..."

Mr.Moore was ofcourse right to emphasise the 'abstract' and 'theoretical' nature of making a case in international law.

The leader of Tamil Eelam, Velupillai Pirabaharan, speaking on Maha Veerar Naal, in November 1993 addressed the concrete and practical political reality. He said:

''We are fighting for a just cause... Our people are entitled to the right to self determination... Under international law this right cannot be denied... (But) we are fully aware that the world is not rotating on the axis of human justice. ...International relations and diplomacy between countries are determined by the self interest of each country. Therefore we cannot expect an immediate recognition of the legitimacy of our cause by the international community. But at the same time we must agitate for that recognition... In reality, the success of our struggle...depends on our own efforts, on our own strength, on our own determination...''

The Tamil struggle for freedom is just because it arose in response to decades of ever widening and deepening oppressive alien Sinhala rule. It is lawful because every people have the right to freely choose their political status - and no people may seek to rule another. It is lawful also because Tamil sovereignty which had lain dormant during the period of successive British and Sinhala rule, was resuscitated with the break in legal continuity in 1972. The Tamil struggle for freedom is principled because the Tamil people do not deny the existence of the Sinhala nation but seek to associate with it freely and on equal terms.

But, we have learnt on the hard anvil of experience that principle without power is powerless. We are not a people of servile pleaders for fair play and abject supplicants for justice. The armed resistance of the Tamil people led by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam reflects the marriage of principle with power and lights the way forward, difficult though the path ahead may be. But, history does not record that freedom was ever served to a people on a silver platter. Again to seek change without a willingness to suffer to bring about that change, is but to issue airy ultimatums without sanctions. The success of our struggle will depend on our own efforts, on our own strength, and, above all else, on our own determination - and every Tamil has a contribution to make, however small or large that may be.

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