Whose Responsibility is it to protect?
As the world watches and India celebrates elections and cricket, hundreds upon thousands are dying a few hundred kilometers away. It is time to awaken our conscience and the spirit of universal brotherhood.
The death of Eelam Tamils and the destruction of their homeland in Sri Lanka have prompted Jagmohan Singh to write an Open Letter to Charles Anthony, the son of Vellupillai Prabhakaran. The writer pleads for immediate international intervention by civil society from all over the world and expresses solidarity with Tamil fighters and civilians.
Dear Charles Anthony
Please accept my solidarity with your struggle for survival, identity and freedom.
Having witnessed the struggle in Punjab from close quarters, I can understand the circumstances in which you and your people are waging a fight for survival.
In the media, one day, your father –Vellupillai Prabhakaran is a friend, the other day he is a foe. Some day he was protected, today he is haunted. For some he is a terrorist, for many he is a saviour. What he is should be best left for history to judge.
I belong to a martial race. Sikhs are known to befriend martial people. Though many political leaders in Punjab may not have opened their mouths and made bold statements, believe me,there are many who admire the spirit, determination and fighting prowess of Tamil Eelam fighters. The present news about the downtrend in your struggle has saddened many here.
I write this letter to express solidarity when you and your people face the chemical weapons and poisonous gasses of the Sri Lankan army and when thousands of innocents trapped in the cross fire are given just a few hours to leave.
“Norwegian Minister for International Development Erik Solheim may not be able to perform miracles, but at least he should have restrained himself from committing blunders. Diplomacy may be the art of the possible, but a liberation struggle is to make impossible, possible.”
I am moved by the suffering of the Tamil Eelam population in Sri Lanka. The photographs of the misery of women and children should move mountains but sadly it does not. The whole world, thanks to 24 hour multiple television channels has become immune to pain and suffering.
My heart goes out to all men, women and children who are forced to flee their homeland and also to the core Tamil Eelam fighters. While writing so, I feel a sense of guilt that my writing is only an expression of my inner feelings, though as a Sikh the only thing that I should be doing is joining you in your fight. My prayers and good wishes are with you.
For the Tamil Eelam as for many organizations worldwide, despite the best of timely and thorough documentation, the international community has failed to take action to mitigate the misery and suffering of the thousands in Sri Lanka. Like India downing the Sikhs, Kashmiris and the people of the North-East and getting away with it, today, the Sri Lankan government is getting away with broad daylight murder and mayhem.
It is heartening to see the Tamil Diaspora taking to the streets and forcing dialogue in European capitals. I am particularly impressed by the retort of the Tamil Diaspora to the Norwegian leadership. I have read reports that when Norwegian Tamils laid a siege of the Oslo-based office of the country’s Prime Minister and confronted the government there, the Norwegian Minister for International Development, Erik Solheim is reported to have said, “I can understand the level of desperation among the Tamils in Norway. But, I can't cause miracles."
Like the stand of the Tamil leadership, the Indian leadership too has been playing Chanakya with you and your leadership. And, successfully. The world cannot clearly decipher whether India is your foe or friend. India revels in this kind of double entendre. It continues to train and arm Sri Lankan army personnel to the teeth and yet maintains a soft face.
He is reported to have replied to a question posed by the journalists of Norwegian state owned NRK, "I can talk to the demonstrators. I can talk to USA, Japan and EU once again to see if there is anything more that could be done to stop the war in Sri Lanka." Tamil writer K. P. Aravintham’s reply to him is apt and classic. He said, “Solheim may not be able to perform miracles, but at least he should have restrained himself from committing blunders. Diplomacy may be the art of the possible, but a liberation struggle is to make impossible, possible.”
Scandinavian countries are particularly known for their courage and conviction in the area of human rights and that is why perhaps your leadership had chosen the brokerage of Norway. However, Aravintham has hit the nail on the head when he said, “Norway failed in grasping the point. Posing as a neutral party to peace facilitation, Norway has no justification in joining the co-chairs demanding the LTTE to lay down arms. More serious is the stand expecting the civilians of Vanni to forfeit themselves into the genocidal hands of Colombo. Through their procedural failures, the Norwegians have brought in discredit to the whole idea of international peace brokering. There is still time for them to mend their ways if they can come out really independent from playing stooges to geo-political ambitions of powers and are prepared to commit themselves to the norms of global human civilization.”
The beleagured people of Tamil Eelam continue to reel under the jackboots of the Sinhalese despots with active and passive support from India and many other countries. The affinity of Eelam Tamils with their brethren in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu is also being ignored. Thirteen Tamil sisters and scores of others are on fast unto death in your support, but do the media and the government care, particularly when the whole country is in an election mode?
Last year around this time, Kosovo was born as a new country. A year before that, Timor Lieste attained freedom. I was hoping that 2009 would belong to Tamil Eelam. I am still hopeful, though it may not happen this year.
From a distance the pan-Tamil posturing by the Tamil leadership in Tamil Nadu appears to be deceptive and insincere. I am not sure whether they are genuinely supporting your mission. You know better.
To me it seems that like the Tamil leadership, the Indian leadership too has been playing Chanakya with you and your cause. And, successfully. The world cannot clearly decipher whether India is your foe or friend. India revels in this kind of double entendre. It continues to train and arm Sri Lankan army personnel to the teeth, yet maintains a soft face.
I am not a defence analyst, but I think that when the Norway-led peace process started, the struggle of your people was hit hard. I am sure your leaders then had practical reasons for the decision but invariably such peace process attempts of insincere governments enable the entrenched violators to further arm themselves and cause more death and destruction. India has always done the same with Sikhs, Kashmiris, Nagas and Mizos. The changed geo-political situation of the world after 9/11 has changed the paradigm of your struggle and this could also be the cause for shifting stands by the Norwegians.
Last year around this time, Kosovo was born a new country. A year before that, Timor Lieste attained freedom. I was hoping that 2009 would belong to Tamil Eelam. I am still hopeful, though it does not appear likely this year.
There is an impression worldwide that your struggle is at the last stage. With truth as a casualty and facts not clearly emerging, it is my sincere hope that it is not so. Your struggle must carry on. You must continue to hold high the flag of rebellion and freedom.
It is also my hope that former US attorney Bruce Fein succeeds in indicting US citizen Gothabaya Rajapakse and green card holder Gen. Fonseka for crimes against humanity. The New York based Genocide Prevention Project has issued a red alert against eight countries where genocide is happening and Sri Lanka is one of them. Let us hope they succeed in heightening awareness of the deteriorating human rights situation in your homeland.
Even in the United Nations Security Council, there is a bleak hope the Mexican ambassador to UN -Claude Hellen’s attempt to bring a resolution on the question of responsibility to protect one’s own population goes through.
Dear Mr. Charles, as the son of a man who ventures to change the geography of South Asia, I am sure you would keep the fight on. From my side, I have this to say, as I told the Kosovars when they won their freedom, “We have a saying attributed to the Tenth master of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh, which reads, “no one gives you freedom on a platter; those who have it, get it by the sheer grit of their own determination and strength.” Sooner or later, you will have it.
I wish you and your people to have the taste of freedom in this lifetime. Let God Almighty shower his blessings on the Tamil people and their suffering end and let them stand tall as a free people in the world.
The author is a commentator based in Ludhiana, Punjab. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
22 April 2009