The ruling Sri Lankan state must ask themselves why Tamils are actively seeking a separate state and acknowledge “what may be going wrong” said former East Timor President and Nobel Laureate Dr. Jose Ramos-Horta.
Dr. Jose Ramos-Horta headed the fifth annual Mullivaikkal Memorial Lecture, hosted by The Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE), which was delivered through a webinar format this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking from Dili, East Timor, on Monday, May 18, 2020, Dr Ramos-Horta challenged the Sri Lankan government to consider their actions that have prompted the Tamil people to resort to leaving;
“Just like why Madrid should ask itself the question why the Catalan people want to be alone after living together for centuries, or why London asking why Scots would desire secession from the Union, the government in Colombo should also ask why the Tamils wish to leave.”
He urged that “states also must acknowledge that something must have been going wrong. The ruling states have the responsibility to ask themselves why a nation of people such as the Tamils, who have an incredible sense of identity and history, want to be on their own.”
He highlighted and compared the Tamils’ struggle with the various ethnic minorities in larger ruling states and the similar oppression they face, using “extraordinary demonstrations of the same phenomenon by Catalans in Spain, the Kurds in Turkey and the Scottish in UK” by way of current examples.
Dr. Ramos-Horta navigated the struggle and how it related and positioned in a larger context with reference to the genocide of Jews in Germany in the last century and the current situation of genocide in Syria and Sudan.
He went on to emphasise the “need to rise above mutual demonization of national ethnic groups and for them to engage in productive dialogue to resolve national issues.”
“The struggle for self-determination and nationhood is a historical truth and every nation and every people want to be free, but that freedom does not have to mean secession,” he added.
Speaking of the journey and struggle to attain independence for his own East Timorese people in Indonesia, he outlined how the resistance movement at a later point pursued a dialogue with the Indonesian government, mediated by a UN body. This eventually led to a referendum an established independence.
He added, “Sri Lanka being the greater force, could also demonstrate the compassion of Buddhism and reach out to the Tamil people.”
“Tamil people should never lose hope and never cease to dream. Whatever the outcome may be, you shall prevail,” he concluded.