Tamils in Canada vote for independent homeland in Sri Lanka
In the latest such vote to be held by Tamils of Sri Lankan descent living abroad, members of the diaspora across Canada overwhelmingly voted “yes” on a referendum held Saturday calling for an independent homeland.
Tamils of Sri Lankan origin across Canada overwhelmingly voted “yes” on a referendum held Saturday calling for an independent homeland in the island nation.Skip to next paragraph
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It's the latest in a series of such votes held in Sri Lankan Tamil communities in Europe and North America, and organizers say the purpose is to apply international pressure on Sri Lanka to devolve more autonomy to Tamils.
Political analysts say this goal is unlikely to be achieved anytime soon, but that the votes may help reinvigorate the pro-Tamil Tiger diaspora in the wake of the Tigers' devastating military defeat this year after decades of fighting.
“The referendum has been organized by groups supportive of the Tamil Tigers,” says Dr. Narenda Subramanian, associate professor of political science at McGill University, who specializes in South Asia. “They’ll use this as a way of revitalizing their pro-Tiger network outside Sri Lanka. They may be laying the foundation for a transnational Eelam government, a legitimate self-governing authority outside Sri Lanka that will one day take over a future Tamil state in Sri Lanka - in the event that ever happens.”
According to Mr. Subramanian, the decades-long war, which ended last May, only destroyed the Tamil Tigers’ military capacity and activities in Sri Lanka. He says the Tamil Tiger network outside Sri Lanka is still fairly intact, operating covertly under different front organizations even in countries like Canada that have slapped a ban on the rebel group.
Canada vote only the latest
Canada is the third country to be holding such a referendum this year. It is home to the largest Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora in the world, an estimated 150,000 people.
The first referendum was held last May in Norway, which is one of the few Western countries that hasn’t banned the Tamil Tigers. Norway brokered the 2002 cease-fire between the Tamil Tiger rebels and the Sri Lankan government, which was torn up formally in Jan. 2008.
The diaspora in France voted on the referendum just last weekend.
The turnout was high in all three countries, according to the pro-Tamil Tiger website Tamilnet, which also reports that the vote was 99 percent “yes” in all three countries.
In the referenda, people of Sri Lankan origin were asked to vote “yes” or “no” on the following statement: “I aspire for the formation of an independent and sovereign state of Tamil Eelam in the north and east of the island of Sri Lanka on the basis that the Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka make a distinct nation, have a traditional homeland, and a right to self-determination.”