Speaking at a Jaffna press conference at the Jaffna Press Club on Monday, Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) leader Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam praised the people of the North for demand for self-determination expressed by their votes at the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) elections last month.
Listen to press conference in Tamil here:
Standing by the TNPF’s decision to boycott the election, Gajendrakumar said that the Tamil people of the North were to be praised for rejecting Sri Lankan rule in the Tamil homeland, and for expressing their enduring desire for the right to self-determination, despite all the obstacles and hardships they have faced in the four years since the end of the armed conflict.
"We also view this [election result] as something special. As you well know, our party boycotted this election completely."
"But despite that, we did not ask the Tamil people to boycott the election or to act in a way that we instructed. As you well know we did released a written statement, that only a few media outlets covered. In that way, we left the election to the conscience of the people."
"As far as we are concerned, even today, the [Tamil] people have clearly expressed their aspirations, namely, firstly, they have categorically rejected the Sri Lankan state's conduct and rule within the Tamil homeland. Secondly, with regards to Tamil political aspirations, even today, they have once again, resolutely voted for the right to self-determination, seeking the reaffirmation of our nationhood, and unanimously, for the freedom of a nation; in a vote that has no historic precedence."
"We bow our heads to their [Tamil people's] act"
Gajendrakumar said that his party would work to keep the people actively engaged in politics, outside of election time.
However he criticised the TNA’s election manifesto for attempting to simultaneously draw upon the irreconcilable concepts of unitary state, federalism and self-determination. Gajendrakumar also slated the TNA leadership’s electioneering, including paying tribute to LTTE martyrs and praising Velupillai Prabhakaran, which was then followed by Sampanthan claiming that the people had voted to welcome the 13th amendment under a unified Sri Lankan state, the day after their election victory.
Gajendrakumar also highlighted that in their manifesto, the TNA had made not a single reference to previous resolutions for self-determination mandated by the Tamil people – including Vaddukoddai and Thimpu – as well as having attempted to historically separate ‘Tamil politics’ from the Tamil armed struggle.
By pushing the 13th amendment and ignoring the true political aspirations of the people, Gajendrakumar said, a Tamil party was claiming a Tamil mandate that accepted a unitary state solution for the first time in post-independence history.
Of international involvement in the Tamil struggle, Gajendrakumar said that an outside voice willing to take meaningful action would be welcomed, mentioning Tamil Nadu protests and the Canadian boycott of CHOGM. However he stressed that:
“Tamil people cannot live securely without securing our self-determination... this is something we must struggle for, regardless of who supports us or does not support us in the world."
The TNPF asserted that to them there are three aspects to the Tamil struggle, including the homeland, the diaspora and Tamil Nadu.
"As far as Tamil politics is concerned, it is not only about Tamils in the homeland. When we consider Tamil politics, there are three components.
Our diaspora Tamils, and our friends in Tamil Nadu are the wealth and strength of the Tamils living in the homeland and their politics. Their actions are extremely important."
He stressed that the Tamil nation included the diaspora, stating that he believed there to be no gulf whatsoever between the political aspirations of the diaspora and the political aspirations of the Tamils currently living in the North-East.
Also stressing the similar importance of Tamil Nadu, Gajendrakumar said that the people of Tamil Nadu had been, and would remain, pivotal in the Tamil struggle for self-determination.
"As far our party is concerned, there is no gap between the political aspirations of the Tamil people in the diaspora and the homeland. All of them, are in contact with us every day. At times they receive news about incidents here, before even we do. In today's world, no one can say that the diaspora Tamils do not know what is taking place here.
It is not spoken of like that either. Generally, it is accepted that a problem somewhere will have ramifications across the world - because the gaps are shortening. As it becomes a 'global village', the distance between us and the outside world is decreasing - that's the truth.
As far as Tamils are concerned, over and beyond these factors, the relationship is extremely close. So we view the diaspora Tamils are an extremely important factor, and player regarding Tamil political aspirations."
"Whatever problems there may be [with the resolution], the only reason that a resolution was passed [at the UNHRC] is the Tamil Nadu protests."
"In our view, the Tamil Nadu people giving us a voice, would be a significant strength."
"If Tamil Nadu moves, India will move. There is no room for debate on this."