The UN is calling on the government of Sri Lanka to declare a ceasefire amid a looming humanitarian crisis and pending potential blood shed in the north-east of Sri Lanka. The Tamils in the diaspora are in seamless protests calling for international attention on the crisis. Dr. R. Cheran, Assistant Professor, University of Windsor, Ontario Canada sheds light on the crisis and explains why the government of Sri Lanka will likely not honor such a request by the UN.
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SHARMINI PERIES: Welcome to The Real News Network. The United Nations has issued a fresh appeal for a ceasefire in the conflict in Sri Lanka between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the government forces. There are accumulating demonstrations taking place in the Tamil diaspora to protest, and to support the UN calling for a pause. There are demonstrations taking place in Ottawa, in London, in various places in the diaspora, including right here in Toronto, We’re now joined by Dr. R. Cheran, professor of sociology and anthropology at the University of Windsor. Cheran was a member and a founding member of the Free Media Movement in Sri Lanka. He was also the deputy editor of The Saturday Review in Jaffna in the 1980s. Thank you for joining us, Cheran.
CHERAN: Thank you.
PERIES: Cheran, what are these demonstrations taking place all over major capitals in the world today by the Tamil diaspora?
CHERAN: These demonstrations and protest marches have been going on for some time. And then one of the main reasons for these demonstrations and the massive protest rallies is to simply demand that the government stop the war and end the bloodbath that has been going on ever since the government unilaterally withdrew from the ceasefire agreement with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. In 2002, the government of Norway mediated a ceasefire and the cessation of hostilities. It was a permanent ceasefire between the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. But the new government came into power in 2006, and with a mandate to abrogate the pact, the ceasefire agreement, and to renew the war [inaudible] that the only solution possible for the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict is a military solution, and the only way they can achieve it is by eliminating the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam from Sri Lanka.
PERIES: So the government of Sri Lanka, with this sort of renewed surge around the world on the war on terror, they almost have been given new legs to stand on .
CHERAN: Yeah, it is correct. It’s also a bit ironical, but if you look at the international arena, even in Washington, the notion of war on terrorism is not gaining that kind of credibility and acceptability. But Sri Lankan president and the defense secretary, they have been successful in articulating a vision that what has been going on in Sri Lanka is simply a war against terror. And the so-called international community, including the US, seem to be—are buying into that argument. And then that is one of the reason why even though the UN has issued a call for immediate ceasefire, even though the government of the United Kingdom has issued a call for a ceasefire, including our government, our own government, the government of Canada, they have called for an immediate ceasefire, but the government of Sri Lanka has conveniently and comfortably ignored the call.
PERIES: Are they willing to sacrifice a independent state, Tamil nationalist aspirations, in order to have a more peaceful situation in the region?
CHERAN: Well, I mean, I do not think so, because this is yet another catastrophe, but the Tamils in Sri Lanka have gone through several catastrophes, and, you know, they have not given up their reasonable demand for justice, equality, and self-determination. In fact, you know, I would argue this has never been an ethnic conflict. This has emerged as reasonable demands, the fundamental rights, the human rights, and minority rights demands from the Tamil population. At some point in history, in the 1980s, it got labeled into an ethnic conflict. And now it has been relabeled or rebranded as a war against terrorism or by the government. So as long as the fundamental rights and the human rights and the civil and political rights of the Tamil minorities remain, you know, unsolved, the conflict will go on. So I do not think the Tamil community will give up that just struggle for equality, dignity, and self-determination.
PERIES: So most people see this as a surge by the government, an unprecedented surge, in order to eliminate the LTTE. Is that possible?
WE ARE WORKING ON LAST PARA WILL SEND SOON
CHERAN: I would like to start off by saying one important point: why the government of Sri Lanka continues to refuse the call for a ceasefire. The main argument seems to be that every time they declare a ceasefire, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam regroup and rearm and re-energize themselves and come back to fight for another day. The government of Sri Lanka has amassed enormous amounts of arsenal, and they got into all kinds of deal with governments of China, India, Russia, and Iran. And they have also built a huge army. So the advantage seems to be on the government’s side simply because of the numbers. So in that sense, you know, surge has worked in terms of capturing more and more territory previously controlled by the LTTE. So that’s not necessarily mean that the mission has been accomplished. So the war will continue in different forms.