Tamil civil society groups in the North-East condemned the violence against Sri Lanka’s anti-government protestors and urged them to go beyond “the narrow goal of removing Rajapaksa family members from office,” in a statement issued last week.
The statement calls on the anti-government protests to transform “into a revolutionary struggle that is conducive to creating the change of thinking that is needed to create a secular federal country, which is accountable to the people and has liberated itself from the Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinist ideology, which is at the root of all the problems in this country”.
“This will enable other races and communities in Sri Lanka to join the ongoing protests of Sinhalese people without fear or mental barriers,” the groups continued.
“We, the Tamil people, are the living witnesses to the fact that the Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinist state and the ideologies that underpin it will go to any lengths of violence,” it noted. “We, therefore, urge the protestors and people in the South to be vigilant, calm, tactful and at the same time safe in taking this struggle to final victory.”
Read the full text of the statement and signatories below.
We condemn the state violence against those who are protesting for their rights
The government of Rajapaksa clan which is the worst among the governments of post independent era used its hooligans to launch a violent attack on day before yesterday (09.05.2022) against the peaceful demonstrators who were gathered at the Galle Face and in front of the Temple Trees. We, the Tamil Civil Society Organizations, strongly condemn this barbaric and anti-democratic move by the government.
The economic structure of the country was completely collapsed due to improper political and economic policies adopted by the successive governments. This has created severe economic hardships to the people. This has led to continuous demonstrations against the incumbent government specifically against Rajapaksa clan for the past two and a half months in the South.
Initially the demonstrators started with the demand initiating the president stepdown but later evolved into a struggle demanding the resignation of Prime Minister, then entire Rajapaksa clan and now demanding the resignation of entire parliament. The Tamil people observe these changes taking place in the South with concern. Even though the majority of Tamils are just observers due to their bitter experience of the past, a considerable number of Tamils contribute to the struggle as individuals and in small groups.
From the beginning, successive Sinhala – Buddhist chauvinist governments have been carrying out genocidal activities aimed at destroying the national identity of the Tamil people. Initially (for more than twenty years), Tamils opposed these activities with nonviolent resistance. However, their peaceful protests were confronted by excessive violent means from the state. All our demands put forward through peaceful means were continuously ignored. The genocidal activities against Tamils were continued by the successive governments. This forced the Tamil youth to take-up arms against the state in 1970s. Even then, the Sinhala - Buddhist chauvinist governments, which refused to grant Tamils their rights, resorted to further violence against them. Eventually, the previous Rajapaksa government launched a series of attacks on Tamils and finally brought an end to their armed resistance in Mullivaikkal in March, April and May 2009 by committing the world’s largest genocide of the century.
Events that have transpired on the day before yesterday have proved once again that the Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinist state, which is accustomed to violence will always respond to the peaceful struggles of the people in the ways they are accustomed to, even if it is their own race.
When the state unleashed violence as usual against the protestors and people on the day before yesterday, people in the South took to the streets in response and retaliated. We can easily understand the sentiments behind deciding to confront the state violence with violence. The violent response of the people continues as they assault the individuals who they consider to be their enemies, destroy their property, and cause damage to public property. We kindly request the protestors and people to carefully re-examine such activities.
Because we, the Tamil people, are the living witnesses to the fact that the Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinist state and the ideologies that underpin it will go to any lengths of violence. We, therefore, urge the protestors and people in the South to be vigilant, calm, tactful and at the same time safe in taking this struggle to final victory.
The idea of Sinhala-Buddhist pride nurtured among the Sinhalese people has always been used by those who benefit from it to protect their interests and existence. Even in this struggle, they seek to divert it not only through separatist ideas and misguided commands but also through the expression of false camaraderie.
They fear that these protests by the people in the South may lead to real change that may affect their own interests or to revolutionary radical change. We are saddened to observe that under the guise of standing up for the people, they are trying to stifle the struggle by proposing solutions that will preserve the current constitution as much as possible in the interests of Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinism, and by retaining the incumbent president, at the very least, temporarily, through minor constitutional amendments and by replacing few people.
In this context, the people in the South must develop the goals of their protests beyond the narrow goal of removing Rajapaksa family members from office. Those goals need to be clearly defined and expressed. Your goal should be to transform your protests into a revolutionary struggle that is conducive to creating the change of thinking that is needed to create a secular federal country, which is accountable to the people and has liberated itself from the Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinist ideology, which is at the root of all the problems in this country. This will enable other races and communities in Sri Lanka to join the ongoing protests of Sinhalese people without fear or mental barriers. We, the Tamil Civil Society, believe that only such a revolution and the changes that come with it will lead this country and its people on the path to lasting solutions to its current problems.
- Adayalam Centre for Policy Research
- Airani Trust, Batticaloa
- Centre for Justice and Change
- Civil Society Activists’ Forum, Ampara
- Eastern Regional Council, Church of the American Ceylon Mission
- Eastern Social Development Foundation, Oddamavady
- Employees’ Union, University of Jaffna
- Federation of Kattankudy Civil Societies
- Inter Religious Forum, Batticaloa
- Jaffna Economists’ Association
- Peace Commission, Church of American Ceylon Missions
- Priests and Religious for Justice and Peace, North – East
- Puzhuthi Social Movement, Trincomalee
- Tamil Social Activist Network
- Tamil Civil Society Forum
- Tamil’s Heritage Forum
- Thalam, Trincomalee
- Then Kailai Aadheenam
- White Peacock Organization, Batticaloa