Sivagnanam Sritharan is a newly elected Tamil politician in Sri Lanka.
The following is his maiden speech to Parliament on 8 May:
Honourable speaker, respectable members, on behalf of my people who have sent me as their representative and my self I wish to express my congratulations and greetings to you all.
I stand here on the ashes of my destructed nation with the bones of my relatives kissing my feet, in the hope and faith that our peoples just rights will be granted with the assent of the people, for the Tamils who had been doing penance and struggling for the freedom which they cherish more than their dear life.
Standing in the building gifted by the nation, which at the end of the second world war was completely vanquished and annihilated by the destruction of the nuclear bombardment, of which it has not completely recovered from the radiation, but now shining as an economic power, I am glad to make my maiden speech with great faith in the future.
There are ample examples in history showing that all those who are over run have not lost for ever, nor are all those who were destroyed not destroyed for ever.
Rome was destroyed time and again by Turkish Empire and other European nations to rubbles. Using the very same rubbles it produced cement to rise as a leading nation. The sad songs carved on those stones have changed into songs of awakening.
Japanese and Romans have proved to the whole world that when a nation or a race when conquered by military might, and faced with great destruction, will find another path to rise again.
We were crowned as terrorist. World powers and regional powers destroyed our army and our progeny in the pretext of eliminating the terrorist. In the pretext of fighting the tigers they unleashed a war against the Tamil people.
Many thousands of Tamils were killed. Many others were maimed. The missing persons tally is yet complete. Property worth many millions were looted and destroyed. The number of Tamils who have lost all there wealth and confined within barbed wire fences has exceeded hundred thousand.
The Ceylon government was aided and abetted openly and in the sly to do this atrocity by World super powers and regional powers. Today these very same superpowers are pointing their fingers at us for war crimes and human rights violation. They are stretching their hands to choke our throats. The very same people who rendered their shoulders to destroy us, now wants to use us to enslave you.
Our worthy brothers! Should we follow in the path laid by those who set you against us and us against you, so that they could enslave us all?
There was time when we were recognized as two separate races of one nation. Should we not safe guard us and our nation? You should have realised now the need for understanding and respect between the two races. A wrong notion might have been forced upon you to use our destroyed military strength, and our crushed struggle for freedom, thereby our position of weakness to force upon us a unity.
It is time for you to realise the truth that this kind of attitudes and the thoughts raised from the roots of such attitudes has caused sixty years of struggle and thirty years of armed struggle for freedom. Please throw off far away from your mind these thoughts that cause to spill blood from your mind. There is no evidence in history that there was unity between the oppressor and the oppressed. There is no example of peace. Allow us to continue as we are and you as you are and join to build our nation.
Let not your hand choke our throat. Let not our teeth scar your hands. You have a traditional land, language, economy and unique culture. Accept we too have all these.
Beloved! While we the Sri Lankan were facing great losses, foreign armed business men brokers robbed us in millions with great profit. Not only this, during the war and after they applied immense pressure on us and robed us of our natural resources and human labour.
The limonite deposit from Pulmottai is being robed. India has already drawn plans to rob the lime deposits and oil resources from the north. On the other side Russia has already signed agreement to rob oil resource. By Sethu ocean development plan resource of living creatures of the ocean is destroyed. It has gone to the American hands. Under the pretext of attracting foreign investment in the free trade zone our people’s labour is exploited with low wages.
The tourist industry have thrived to the extent of advertising Ceylon as a ‘women’s paradise’ at the expense of our cultural heritage and degrading our women. More than fourteen thousand juvenile boys and girls are used in the sex trade and thus loose their future.
Yes, our natural resources and human labour has been exploited and the nation is pushed to poverty. To deliver us from this great danger we must unite with freedom and wake up. There is no majority or minority should not become a vain slogan but a reality. In future there should be no oppressor nor oppressed is our deep desire.
Further, in this environment I realise it is our main responsibility to dispel the suffering of the people of Killinochi and Mullaithivu district, who have faced the evils of this war and its aftermath.
We have faced the war directly. In this war planes dropped bombs directly on us and missiles pierced our bodies. Gun bullets pierced us. While death pursuing us we ran from one place to another. Not knowing where to go we took shelters on the tents by the side of the highways. Yet we could not avoid deaths. We could not avoid loosing our body parts. We ran without a way to burry the dead. We lack food and drinking water. We had no place to even attend to the call of nature. We were not sure of our life next moment. More then three hundred and fifty thousand of us were cornered at Mullaivaikal.
The actions taken to show the world as good culture and humanitarian pushed us into death hole. Leaving the dead behind others crossed the Nanthikkadal. Our life was curbed inside refugee camps in Vavunia. We who made the Vanni land as a warehouse of food and fed others were reduced to stand in line for a palm full of food provision. Today some of us with six metal sheets and relief food for six months were resettled. Others are still in the camps.
More than a year has passed since the war. How many years we will have to get rid of our suffering is the prime question among our selves. Still thousands are suffering in the detention camps under the pretext of terrorist. Parents are standing in rain and sun for hours to se their children. Yet many are roaming far and near not knowing where the children and women are. Everyday there are notices put out to find the fate of the wounded that were taken on helicopters.
Honourable members of the assembly! In a democratic nation this is our life. We have to rise again from this. We are waiting to join you to protect our natural resources and human resources pilfering by foreign nations. But you must realise that this is possible only if we are living as human beings. Try to appreciate the words of our honourable president that we are all humans of this nation. How can one who is denied of rights and the one who deny the rights live as brothers? Our brothers, on behalf of our people I appeal to you to allow us to restart our lives. In this mango shaped island nation on the revolving globe I request you to forget what happened before Christ was born, and start focussing on solving the racial problems of the twenty-first century with modern thought. With the mind set that Singhalese people and Tamil people are joint owners of this land a new political government must be formed.
At present Singhalese have an attitude that they have conquered the Tamils and the Tamils have an attitude of pain and hate. Consider how proclaiming that this is one nation and then go on to celebrate the Poonakari victory festival, Killinochi victory festival and in the coming days from May 12th to 18th to celebrate Army victory celebration is going to break and destroy the hearts of Tamils. By a large army the island may appear to be united, however in heart the island in still divided. Singhalese people are aware how Lord Buddha performed penance to attain nirvana. The time has come for the Singhalese brothers and the people of the world at large to aware of the fact that the Tamils after loosing more than two hundred and fifty thousand people are observing penance to achieve their rights. Not willing to share the power with their own brothers, the governments of the past went around begging from other nations. I do not know how long it will take to realise by this action our Island Ceylon has gone under feet of other nations.
A race that subjugates another race cannot live in peace itself. That country too can never achieve liberation. Further by the actions taken to subjugate, they will be enslaved by other nations. If Sri Lanka wants to build a nation of freedom and wealth it should begin with recognition of other races and preparedness to share the power with them. Today’s question is whether the present government has the courage, foresight and conviction to implement it.
In the leadership of the elder politician and our party Mr. Sambanthar we are ready to offer this opportunity. This government should make use of this historical opportunity and provide a solution acceptable to the Tamils and build a new Sri Lanka. If this opportunity is let go, then history will direct in another direction it desires.
The government has the responsibility to understand minds of the Tamils who were destroyed by Tsunami and war share their grief and respect their individuality and come up with a fair and just suitable solution. I conclude my maiden speech appealing all of us to join as two independent races and build our nation.