North South Dialogue- Press Conference of the Tamil People’s Council
(Remarks by Dr. P Lakshman, Consultant Cardiologist and Co- Chairman of the Tamil People’s Council)
We are gathered here today, on behalf of the Tamil People’s Council, to clarify the objectives behind the inauguration of the TPC, its functions and its purposes.
We are indebted, on behalf of the Thamil people and the Tamil People’s Council to the individuals—allies in our struggle—who organized this press meeting today.
We hope that today would be a pivotal moment in constructing an open dialogue between the people of the North and of the South.
We believe that the answer to any problem lies in understanding the basis of the question, acknowledging the existence of the problem in question, and honestly and forthrightly discussing the question in hand. These, we believe, are basis to solving any problem.
However, we would like to stress that obfuscating, through a superficial approach, the source and nature of the problem and the consequences arising out of it, and concealing the just solution to the problem at hand, is an approach that will most likely produce an undesired result. It is also morally wrong and strategically unwise.
Concealing these truths will only serve to sow more seeds of discord and distrust between communities, and hamper any hope of a permanent solution.
Let us speak honestly. We are present here today with the firm belief that there are individuals who will listen to our truths.
The launch of the Tamil People’s Council
We can all agree that the national question of the past seven decades has only become more acute with time.
In a post- war context, People centric discourse on the national question has been actively discouraged.
It (the national question) has merely served politicians in the North and in the South to be utilized for electoral exercises. Sadly, certain sections of the fourth estate too have contributed to this malaise.
The Tamil People’s Council is a manifestation of our firm belief that it is only through a mass people based movement with a long term vision, with no narrow and selfish electoral objective, that a just and lasting solution could be achieved.
The Tamil People’s Council is a result of approximately four years of discussions and discourse. The idea for the TPC was actually mooted several years ago.
In 2009, when the armed conflict came to an end it was interpreted that our question—the national question—had been solved. The armed conflict was merely a manifestation of the national question and not basis for the ethnic conflict by itself.
When roads and railways tracks that had been destroyed during the war were renovated and reconstructed, we Tamils were told that we did not have any problems within the Sri Lankan State structure anymore. Efforts were made to portray Sri Lanka as a “post- conflict” country.
Following the final phases of the armed conflict, which wrought devastating destruction on the Tamil people, we were keenly aware that our existence as a people and our political aspirations were in question. Our political future appeared as a vacuum before us. We realized the dangers of such an uncertainty.
At this very crucial juncture in our quest for justice and a just solution, electoral politicking would never fulfil this vacuum. It is through that realization, after a series of discussions between civil society activists, human rights defenders, professionals, religious leaders, and through our experiences of post- war Tamil politics, that the urgent need for a mass people-based movement such as the Tamil People’s Council crystalized.
Thus, the Tamil People’s Council was born.
As a first step, the Tamil People’s Council was inaugurated by likeminded individuals with a common outlook on the quest for justice and the basic demands and political aspirations of the Tamil people.
The Constitutional proposal submitted by the Tamil People’s Council
The TPC commenced its activities prioritising the aspirations of the people and people participation. We commenced our journey with the objective of drawing a constitutional proposal, acceptable to everyone, with people participation, and based on other relevant international constitutional models. We are very clear that it is unjust to impose on a people a constitutional arrangement rejected by the people, but driven by pressure from political actors who cite man- made ‘impracticalities’ and impediments.
Hence, we drafted a constitutional proposal with input from local and international constitutional experts and submitted this draft at consultations held across the North and East. We then further fine-tuned these proposals from input gleaned from the consultation process.
We then submitted this proposal, which treats all communities equally, to the Public Representations Committee on Constitutional Reform appointed by the Government of Sri Lanka and fulfilled our role in engaging constructively in the Constitution drafting process.
This is arguably the first time in Tamil political history, and the history of the national question that a constitutional proposal was drafted with the full participation of Tamil people from all across the North-East. We have also conducted and continue to conduct workshops on educating the people about this constitutional proposal and other relevant constitutional models elsewhere in the world.
We noticed, in recent years that the genuine political aspirations and demands, and the quest for justice of the Tamil people were being maliciously represented elsewhere due to, what we believe, is unduly constructed pressure and compulsion. We feared that our quest for justice could be obfuscated, yet again.
There then arose a need and obligation upon us to make a positive intervention to question and critique this obfuscation. We sensed the urge to rally together our people and our allies to create awareness.
Thus, a rally was held on September 24th in Jaffna, highlighting several pressing demands of the Tamil people: reiterating the just political aspirations of the Tamil people; end State- sponsored Sinhala- Buddhisization of the North- East; demilitarize the North and East; an international accountability mechanism for crimes committed against the Tamil people; repealing of the PTA and release of all political prisoners; end illegal and arbitrary poaching of marine resources, among others, in the North- Eastern seas. Our objective was to convey to our friends and allies, through a mass rally, that the concerns of the Tamil people are yet to be substantially addresses, and that justice continues to be denied to us.
You will be provided with copies of the declaration, and the Chief Minister’s address at that rally.
Let us begin, then, to discuss all aspects of the national question, openly and honestly. We begin this endeavour with a humble request and propose that we leave aside emotional politics, and unfair suspicions. Let us continue on this path cognizant of reality.
Hence, even though delayed, we now endeavour to begin our discourse with you.
We strive to live with dignity and respect and without unfair suspicions.
For further details, copies of the Chief Minister’s address and the Ezhuga Thamil declaration will be handed to you.