From the flowers and tributes made by us here in the diaspora, to the secret thoughts and silent prayers of our brothers and sisters living oppressed in our homeland, the hearts and minds of our nation across the world turn to our heroes.
On this day, we remember how, on witnessing the genocide of our nation by Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinism, they rose to protect us from our aggressors, defend us from our persecutors and ultimately dedicate their lives to our freedom.
We honour their ardent commitment and resolve. We pay tribute to their incredible courage and valour. We are humbled by the selfless compassion that spurred them to struggle for a better future – so that we may one day live free.
Free from oppression, free from persecution and free from genocide.
Despite the Sri Lankan state’s ruthless destruction of our cemeteries and memorials, the commemoration of Remembrance Day on the 27th of November has not ceased.
So on this day, each year, in whichever corner of the world we may be, our nation stands united in remembrance of our heroes.
We remember their tremendous sacrifice, and we remember that the genocide they struggled against continues to this very day.
From Egypt and Libya, to those being killed on the streets of Syria, the youth have always and will always be the vanguard of any nation’s struggle for freedom.
Our struggle is no different.
From Sivakumar, the Jaffna student who committed suicide to escape torture in police custody in 1974, to Thileepan who fasted unto his death in 1987, to the valiant sacrifice of our heroes. The Tamil youth of every generation have protested against the Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinism they faced, and campaigned for the freedom of our people.
The youth displayed a resolve like no other to struggle for what is right and just.
And we – Eelam’s youth of today – who have now been entrusted with this incredible honour, possess that very same resolve.
On this day of remembrance we draw on the lives of our heroes and renew that resolve.
In their sacrifice, we find courage, and, as they did before us, in the horrors of genocide, we find the unwavering, determination to continue our nation’s struggle against oppression.
Over the past two years, in addition to working and studying, we have been at the forefront of the struggle. In the UK, Europe, Canada, United States, Australia, India and across the world, young Tamils have spearheaded campaigns calling for justice and an end to human rights violations. There have been petitions, protests, leafleting, university awareness campaigns, public boycott Sri Lanka campaigns and political lobbying.
This year, the Tamil Youth Organisation, in countries across the world, has worked to counter Sri Lanka’s attempts to mask its human rights violations.
Focusing on Sri Lanka playing world cricket, the TYO demanded that the world must not legitimise war crimes and called for a boycott of Sri Lanka’s national team. The campaign has already received widespread support from sports commentators, sports men and women, and politicians. And as we look to 2012, our campaign will continue.
The international community’s acknowledgement of Sri Lanka’s war crimes and ongoing impunity needs to be taken further in every walk of life. Sri Lanka’s attempt to whitewash their crimes, through the hosting of the Cricket World Cup or the attempt to host the Commonwealth Games in 2018 can only be stopped by a principled stand by governments and sporting bodies across the world.
War crimes and genocide are crimes of such gravity, that they cannot be ignored, even on the cricket pitch.
In countries across the world, the Tamil youth, as a combined global force have worked tirelessly on similar campaigns and protest events.
And still we will go on.
And yet more youth come forward to join the struggle.
Our demand for justice and accountability through an independent, international investigation into war crimes and genocide will not cease.
The rape, the torture and the massacre of our loved ones, in 2009 and the decades before, is a festering wound on our nation’s collective consciousness; a wound that will not be healed with time or economic prosperity.
Despite Sri Lanka’s claims of conducting an internal inquiry, the allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, cannot be answered within Sri Lanka.
As international human rights groups have repeatedly stated, Sri Lanka does not have the necessary transparency, impartiality or judicial independence needed to do so. Dissent or criticism of the state are not permitted. Several journalists have been assassinated or intimidated with violence. Just this week Mahinda Rajapaksa described the calls to investigate human rights violations as the work of ‘terrorists’.
In the name of reconciliation, many say that the past needs to be forgotten. However history shows us that truth and justice underscore any future peace.
The deaths of at least 40,000 people just over two years ago, and the on-going abductions, torture and murder of Tamil civilians, are not past events. They are the present. One child missing is a mother’s living nightmare. A nightmare she wakes up to day after day.
Our belief in the Eelam Tamil nation’s inalienable right, to preserve and enjoy our unique identity, in our homeland, will not be suppressed.
Despite the Sri Lankan state’s rhetoric on reconciliation and ethnic equality, two years after they declared peace, there have been no meaningful steps taken.
Instead of attempting to address long-standing, legitimate Tamil grievances, the Sri Lankan government is aggressively pursuing a Sinhala-Buddhist vision that is wantonly destroying our homeland.
Temples and churches are replaced with Buddhist stupas; road names are changed to Sinhala; and Tamil people forced out of their homes to make way for incoming Sinhala military families. This Sinhalisation of the North-East takes place as Sri Lanka’s military, almost entirely Sinhalese, watch over the civilians.
Whilst Rajapaksa’s regimes talks of peace, the number of check points and military bases only increases.
Under the military’s brutal eye, the land that our parents called home and our heroes sacrificed their lives for, is being destroyed.
Our conviction that our nation’s independence is the only secure and lasting peace will not falter.
The genocide of Tamils is not the work of one ruthless regime. The shocking truth is that the discrimination and oppression of Tamils has been the policy of successive governments for over 60 years. A policy that has won elections time and time again through the votes of the majority Sinhalese. The uncomfortable reality is that the Sri Lankan government’s extremist Sinhala-Buddhist ideology seeps beyond parliament and the military, and captures the Sinhala national mindset as a whole.
Reflecting on each anti-Tamil pogrom, and the aftermath of May 2009, it is undeniable, that the destruction of our culture, our heritage and our people, has consistently been met with Sinhala triumphalism and celebration.
Despite governments in the UK, Europe, USA, Australia and Canada criticising the Sri Lankan military for its brutality and the government for its shameless impunity, those responsible for the massacre of Tamils continue to be glorified by the overwhelming majority of Sinhalese.
Our nation’s freedom, our nation’s security, our nation’s very existence, lie in independence. Eelam is the only answer to truly lasting peace.
This conviction is not the words of young blood, thirsty for war. On this day of all days, we the Tamil nation know full well the price of a struggle for freedom. Our conviction is based on a reasoned analysis of events, both past and present – a genocide of our nation took place; it continues to take place; and in over 60 years, not one single olive branch or move towards equality has occurred, to give us even an inkling of hope that the future will be any different to the past.
And so on this day, we – Eelam’s youth – say to you: it is this on-going genocide of our nation, that makes us yearn for an independent, sovereign state of Tamil Eelam.
We, the youth, are not here to wait for tomorrow.
We are our nation’s today.
Eelam’s struggle for peace goes on.