Tamil Nadu parties for U.N. role

Published : Jun 19, 2009 00:00 IST

In the days following the death of V. Prabakaran and the United Nations estimating that 7,000 Tamil civilians were killed between January and May in the conflict between the Sri Lanka Army and the organisation he headed, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), political parties in Tamil Nadu demanded that Sri Lankas President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, and its Army commander, Lt Gen. Sarath Fonseka, should be tried for war crimes in an international court of law.

What provided ammunition to their campaign was a draft resolution in the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC), sponsored by Switzerland and other countries, calling upon the Sri Lanka government to investigate all allegations and bring to justice perpetrators of violations of human rights during the final stages of Colombos war with the LTTE and to increase its efforts to further prevent such violations. The resolution also called upon the Sri Lanka government to ensure freedom of movement of internally displaced people.

The Sri Lanka government submitted a draft resolution of its own in the UNHRC, invoking the principle of non-interference in Sri Lankas internal affairs and respect for its sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence. Colombos resolution commended its own steps to meet the needs of internally displaced people.

What inflamed political opinion in Tamil Nadu was the fact that Sri Lankas draft resolution had Indias backing. Other countries that supported the resolution included China and Pakistan. Annoyed by Indias support for the resolution, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president M. Karunanidhi wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on May 26, arguing that Sri Lankas resolution is largely against the interests of the Sri Lankan Tamils.

Karunanidhi, whose party is a partner in the new Congress-headed government at the Centre, told the Prime Minister: Though there is on the one side a question of interfering in the internal affairs of the country, which would affect its sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence, Sri Lanka should be treated as a special case. It is widely believed by millions of Tamils spread all over the world that the draft resolution now presented by the Sri Lanka government to the United Nations Human Rights Council is largely against the interests of the Sri Lankan Tamils and, hence, I kindly request you to take appropriate action in this regard, having in mind the sentiments of the Sri Lankan Tamils and their future welfare.

Karunanidhi wrote to the Prime Minister after Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) founder Dr. S. Ramadoss demanded that India should give up its stand of supporting the Sri Lanka governments draft resolution. Colombo should be made to pay the price for conducting genocide against Tamils in the name of executing a war against militants and India should gather support to prosecute the Sri Lankan leaders for their war crimes, Ramadoss said.

He asked whether Karunanidhi raised the issue with the Government of India when he camped in New Delhi for two days or discussed it with National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan in Chennai. Karunanidhi should emphasise that India should give up its stand of supporting Sri Lanka in the U.N. Human Rights Council, the PMK founder said.

Thol. Thirumavalavan, founder of Dalit Panthers of India (DPI), who contested as an ally of the DMK and the Congress in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections, described Indias support to Sri Lankas resolution as a betrayal of the entire Tamil race and asked India to give up its anti-Tamil stance.

Karunanidhis letter to Manmohan Singh signalled a hardening of the DMKs stand on the Sri Lankan Tamil issue. There were other indications of this as well. On May 18, in an appeal to the Government of India, he insisted that prevention of destruction and ensuring a lasting peace in Sri Lanka is the immediate responsibility of the Government of India. The next day, in New Delhi, Karunanidhi insisted that Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh should take a more firm interest in the Sri Lankan Tamils issue. He said Sonia Gandhi should fulfil the promises she made in Chennai (on May 10) on the protection and rehabilitation of Sri Lankan Tamils and Manmohan Singh should implement the assurances he gave (the previous day) when he met the press in Chennai.

In the aftermath of Prabakarans death, several political parties and pro-LTTE organisations in Tamil Nadu made the following four demands: The U.N. should intervene directly to protect the Sri Lankan Tamils; Mahinda Rajapaksa and Sarath Fonseka should be tried in an international court of law for war crimes; the internally displaced Tamils should be allowed to return to their homesteads; the U.N. and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) should take part in the reconstruction of the war-ravaged Tamil areas and the rehabilitation of the Tamils.

The first three demands were the highlight of a rally taken out by the Tamils Protection Front in Chennai on May 21, which comprises the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), the PMK, the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Tamil Nationalist Movement founded by P. Nedumaran. According to Nedumaran, the rally was organised to pressure the U.N., the United States and the United Kingdom to protect Tamils on the island.

Addressing the rally, Ramadoss said he would make no more appeals to India on the Sri Lankan Tamils issue. For, no good would come out of it for the Tamils, he argued. Instead, the Tamils Protection Front would pressure the U.N. to protect Sri Lankan Tamils.

The Tamils and the Sinhalese cannot co-exist in Sri Lanka any more. Formation of Tamil Eelam is the only solution to the problem. Political parties here should understand this, Ramadoss said. He took a swipe at the Communist Party of India (Marxist) for its insistence on the paramountcy of Sri Lankas territorial integrity. The CPI(M), in particular, should change its stand on the Sri Lankan Tamil issue, he said. Vaiko, MDMK general secretary, praised Prabakaran for his courage in fighting the Sri Lanka Army even as it surrounded the LTTE on all sides.

Jayalalithaa, general secretary of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, argued that the injustice done to Tamils could not be undone by defeating the LTTE or liquidating its leadership. She wanted the islands Constitution to be amended to ensure that Sri Lankan Tamils, plantation Tamils and Muslims live as equal citizens (with the Sinhalese). Since the war had officially ended, the U.N., human rights organisations and international organisations should be given access to the war-ravaged areas to know the real situation obtaining there, she said. She demanded that the international press, instead of being allowed to tour the war-ravaged areas with the Sri Lanka Army, should be allowed to visit the areas independently.

R. Nallakannu, CPI leader, faulted the Government of India and the Tamil Nadu government for not taking firm steps to enforce a ceasefire on the island. He alleged that the Sri Lanka Army shot dead the LTTEs political leaders P. Nadesan and Pulithevan even as they held aloft white flags. Nallakannu also insisted that the U.N. should guarantee the protection and rehabilitation of the Tamils.

The CPI(M) demanded that Colombo take steps, under the direct supervision of U.N. organisations and the International Committee of the Red Cross, for the rehabilitation of the displaced Tamils. In a statement, N. Varadarajan, secretary of Tamil Nadu unit of the CPI(M), said the armed conflict between the Sri Lanka Army and the LTTE had reached a sad end, including the death of Prabakaran. Thousands of Tamils had been greatly affected in this conflict. Colombo, which announced that its military action had come to an end, should find a political solution to the ethnic problem on the basis of autonomy and devolution of power [to the Tamil areas], Varadarajan said.

L. Ganesan, general secretary of the Tamil Nadu unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party, expressed sadness at the way the Tamils struggle for equal rights had ended. Although countless number of Tamils lost their lives in the struggle, the manner in which it ended showed that the Sri Lanka government would not be bothered about Tamils welfare, he said.

Prabakarans death triggered sporadic protests across Tamil Nadu, especially in the northern and western districts, where the PMK and the DPI have strong presence. In Cuddalore district, buses were stoned at Panruti, Chidambaram, Mandharakuppam (adjoining Neyveli) and other places.

In Krishnagiri district, PMK men hoisted black flags in front of their houses. There were protests in Madurai, Vellore, Tuticorin, Thanjavur and Tiruvarur districts, with buses coming under attack and shops remaining closed.

A couple of men from the MDMK and the PMK, overcome by emotion, set themselves on fire. An MDMK activist, Prakasam (50), at Kurinchipadi in Cuddalore district, and a member of the PMK, Anbazhagan (37) of Koovagam village in Ariyalur district, immolated themselves.

Vijaykant, film actor and founder of the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), announced that his partys flag would fly at half mast for seven days. His party observed three days of mourning. He attacked the Government of India and the DMK government for failing to stop the genocide against Tamils.

Dr. K. Krishnasamy, founder of Puthiya Tamizhagam, also announced that his partys flag would fly at half mast for a week. Sarathkumar, film actor and founder of the All-India Samathuva Makkal Katchi, said Sri Lankan Tamils should not be abandoned and wanted the world community to help in their rehabilitation.

At the end of the day, while Vaiko and Nedumaran continue to claim that Prabakaran is alive, die-hard supporters of the LTTE in Tamil Nadu find it incredulous that Prabakaran is dead.

Asked about Prabakarans death, Karunanidhi said on May 19 that since leaders like Nedumaran, who supported the independence struggle of Prabakaran, continued to assert that the Sri Lanka government was spreading lies on Prabakaran, I do not want to comment on what has not been confirmed.

T.S. Subramanian
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