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US representative calls for 'impartial independence referendum' for Tamil Eelam

United States representative Wiley Nickel has urged Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to address the plight of Eelam Tamils by supporting their right to self-determination and called for "a fair and impartial independence referendum to resolve this painful conflict". 

Taking to X (formerly Twitter), Nickel said he "firmly supports [Eelam Tamils] fundamental right to self-determination". 

His tweet comes as a group of ten members of Congress urged US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to “leverage US leadership within the United Nations” and advocate for the rights of the Eelam Tamils to self-determination”.

“We write to bring to your attention the ongoing and unresolved plight of the Eelam Tamils in Sri Lanka,” said the letter to Secretary Blinken. “Current land appropriations in traditional Tamil areas are further eroding the Tamil homeland, which remains a non-self-governing territory. The government’s use of the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act against political critics, dissidents, and human rights defenders continues to violate the rights of Sri Lankans, including Tamils.”

“Holding perpetrators accountable and enabling the Tamil population to democratically determine their future in line with the United Nations Charter and U.S. principles is essential for reconciliation and progress in Sri Lanka,” the letter continued. “The U.S. must seek a solution to this lingering issue. In line with our support for self-determination in Ukraine, Kosovo, East Timor, South Sudan, etc., it is imperative that we consistently apply our principles worldwide.”

The call for a referendum has been echoed by Tamils for decades, even though the 6th Amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution makes it a criminal offence to advocate for a separate independent state.

The call for a referendum has recently been made by Tamil parliamentarians (see here and here), as well as families of the disappeared, women’s organisations, students and clergy from across the North-East (see here).

The concept of an independent Tamil state has for years been endorsed by the Tamil people, with one of the first formal declarations made in the 1976 Vaddukoddai resolution, a document that concluded an independent state of Tamil Eelam was needed to safeguard the very existence of the Tamil nation. The Vaddukoddai resolution, spearheaded by SJV Chelvanayakam, was unanimously adopted by the Tamil United Liberation Front on May 14th, 1976.

The party adopted the resolution into its official election manifesto and a year later, the TULF swept polls across the North-East, storming its way to become Sri Lanka’s official opposition party – the first and only time that a Tamil party held the second highest number of seats in parliament.

Read more: 44 years since Vaddukoddai resolution

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