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‘What unites the global Tamil community is a collective struggle against state violence’ - TG speaks with MedyaNews

In a wide-reaching dialogue with MedyaNews, Viruben Nandakumar, an editor for the Tamil Guardian spoke on the continued struggle for Tamil Eelam, the current crisis in Sri Lanka and the need for international action.


A global Tamil community

Frederike Geerdink, a Dutch journalist focused on Kurdish liberational struggle, asked Nandakumar to explain what is meant by the global Tamil nation.

“When we talk about the global Tamil community, we’re not just talking about the 50 million Tamils in Tamil Nadu, we are not just talking about Eelam Tamils, we are talking about the global Tamil diaspora that lives in New Zealand, Australia, North America, across Europe. The continuing thread that unites Tamils is the understanding of a collective struggle against violent state oppression. That has really been located in Sri Lanka with the continuous attempts at genocide”.

Speaking on the global Tamil diaspora, Nandakumar draws a distinction between the Tamils of Tamil Nadu and Eelam Tamils noting that:

“In India, there is a federal arrangement that allows for devolution. It isn’t perfect but it’s an agreement reached between the central power and the Tamil state. In Sri Lanka you have the exact opposite: a refusal to meet any demands for devolution and to frame demands for self-determination as an existential threat in itself, outlawed by the constitution. Every attempt at self-determination has consistently been stamped out since the Sri Lankan independence.”


Nandakumar further emphasised the need to “break the monopolistic control that has been held by the Sinhalese-Buddhist nationalists, which harms not only the Tamils but has lead Sri Lanka to these consistent cycles of violence and government mismanagement.”

He also stressed that the struggle for self-determination is inseparable from the demands for accountability and justice for the genocide Tamils suffered.

“The fact is that you have these military soldiers who have committed torture and sexual violence patrolling the very streets that Tamils live on. It creates an environment of fear”.



Commenting on the nature of the struggle after the war, Nandakumar highlighted the rapid militarisation of the North-East. In Mullaitivu alone there is one soldier for every two civilians, making it one of the most heavily militarised regions in the world.

“These soldiers aren’t they are not just sitting passively, they are taking deliberate steps to break up demonstrations, memorial events, to crush any semblance of resistance.  Despite this Tamils continue to mark remembrance occasions and continue to come out and demand of the international community this need for justice”.


Go Home Gota

Speaking on the “Go Home Gota” protests, Nandakumar noted the failure to form a cohesive vision of the island’s future which met Tamil demands.

“Gotabaya rose to the presidency in 2019 on a strong Sinhalese-Buddhist nationalist platform and presented himself as a strongman. He came in with a two-third majority and within three years, he was chased out of the country. This is unique. However, one of the biggest issues with the protests was that there was no vision of what the protestors wanted to achieve. What it boiled down to, was this slogan, ‘Go home Gota’ [Gota being the nickname of Gotabaya], but what would come afterwards?” he stated.

He added:

“The protests didn’t speak to Tamil demands […] The protests were against economic mismanagement, while Tamils have been going to the streets day in day out facing constant harassment from security forces, demanding accountability, justice and information on where their disappeared loved ones are now. The protests didn’t speak about militarisation, didn’t speak about the need for accountability, for genocide recognition. It didn’t question the base of power. It was an understandable demonstration against a horrific economic situation but it’s also worth bearing in mind that Tamils in the north and east are kind of used to this kind of economic deprivation. Having suffered deliberate blockades by the military during the war, learning how to ration food, switch to kerosine lamps, and survive without government assistance. The south always did have government assistance and now because of mismanagement, it’s hard to get by in the south as well.”


Why is there no action?

Speaking on the international community’s response to Sri Lanka, Nandakumar notes that there is an increasing recognition that “Sri Lanka is not a responsible actor”.

Following the aftermath of the genocide, Nandakumar notes that the Sri Lankan government “treated the Tamil resistance movement as simply a problem of ‘terrorism’, they promised to bring about reconciliation, accountability and reforms to the Prevention of Terrorism Act. None of this has happened”.

“Increasingly what has happened instead is that the very people who orchestrated the genocide, those responsible for heinous war crimes, the torture and murder of civilians, their sentences have been dropped, those investigating them have been chased out of the country, and they have been appointed to the highest levels of government. It is laughable the idea that Sri Lanka, in itself, can reform.

“We are seeing the international community really drag their feet to take action” he added.

Nandakumar noted that apart from the US imposing travel bans on a select few Sri Lankan officials, no country has heeded the call of the UN High Commissioner to impose sanctions on Sri Lankan officials implicated in war crimes.

“The question is, we have the evidence, we have mountains and mountains of evidence implicating people directly in war crimes. Why is there no action?”


Concluding his interview, Nandakumar spoke of the need to reform the international community to empower an international rules-based order based on the principles of human rights.

Read more here.

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