Remembering Mullivaikkal – 2021 May 18
Mullivaikkal Memorial Text delivered by Pashana Abeywardena
As a member of the Sinhala nation, for me, this is a moment of shame, a moment of guilt and a moment of pride. The shame and the guilt are connected to my inability to deny and brush off my individual responsibility, just like many of my comrades, to prevent the monstrous atrocities committed against the Tamil nation. The pride is owning the trust of the surviving members of the Tamil nation to the extent of being invited to remember and commemorate those who died in Mullivaikkal.
Fifteen minutes after 12 years, to revisit and reflect upon the genocidal onslaught in Mullivaikkal is what is expected from me. Nearly four hundred thousand traumatised and starving population, who were deprived of medicine, deprived of food and sleep, cornered into a diminishing small patch of land and attacking them from the sea, air and land is what marks the ‘inglorious Victory Day’ of the Sri Lankan state, which is being celebrated on the streets of Colombo every year since 2009.But it didn’t stop there.
Summarily executing the survivors, raping women and making hundreds, if not thousands, to disappear, including children, before herding the rest into internment camps and so-called rehabilitation camps were the preliminary steps taken towards to build a “one country – one nation”. What underlies this newly found ‘One Country – One Nation’ is piles and piles of skeletons of the generations whose will to freedom and equality was crushed with the military might of an ethnocratic genocidal state.What do we call these monstrous crimes? How do we define these monumental atrocities committed through decades, which reached their culmination point in May 2009 in Mullivaikkal?
Is it ethnic cleansing? Is it war crimes? Is it crimes against humanity? or is it what he international criminal law calls as the crime of crimes, the GENOCIDE?On one hand, the Sri Lankan state and their international backers seem to be believing that the Tamils want to call their plight as genocide because it offers them a certain privilege in the eyes of the rest of the world. But is that what it is about? Is Genocide a privilege, which surviving members of a nation desperately fighting to win? On the other hand, there is also an opinion that Tamil nation shouldn’t insist in calling the crime by its true name – which is Genocide – because the atrocities they were subjected to is not defined as such by international powers or those who decide what is genocide and what is not. The fundamental flaw of this thinking is to overlook the basic fact that the crime of genocide is not a proposal that needs to be voted and endorsed unanimously by those who hold power. No consensus is needed among the powerful to accept and name the crime what the Tamil nation have been subjected to for decades, and what you are going through every day, every hour and every minute even 12 years after Mullivaikkal.
As the person who coined the term Genocide, the Polish scholar Raphael Lemkin said, “the genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation. It is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups”.
To establish the fact that there was a coordinated plan carried out with the intent to dismantle the essential foundations of the collective national life of the Tamil nation and to destroy them in whole or in part is not a special status the Tamil nation need to win from the powerful by impressing upon them.Proving the crime of Genocide is a matter of investigating, examining, analysing and exposing the historical process, that in essence intended to destroy the national identity of the Tamils and to impose the national identity of the opprssor, the Sinhala Buddhist nation.
That is something I cannot analyse and elaborate on within the limited time allocated to me. But 12 years since the massacres in Mullivaikkal, the coordinated plan to destroy the essential foundations of the collective national life of the Tamil nation still remain to be investigated thoroughly and proven.
Every human being who died since the first half of the twentieth century until first half of the twenty first century for being a Tamil and for expressing their will to live as free men and women with dignity who would fight and die against the conditions of enslavement and oppression are waiting for the living to deliver them justice.
Naming the crime fearlessly, withstanding the pressures that come from the global powers, is the first step to win that justice. Mullivaikkal is not a name of a place; it is a name of a crime.