Even before this year's Sri Lankan elections, with president Mahindra Rajapaksa's re-election on Tuesday, Tamils across Europe had started taking to the ballot boxes in political protest of the current administration's human rights violations. The referendum is intended to raise international awareness of the lack of democratic freedom Tamils face in their Sri Lankan homeland, and to encourage a re-avowal of international involvement to help the many displaced and un-empowered Sri Lankan Tamils. Last week there were still 80,000 internally displaced people within the country.
The move is part of a global action by the global Tamil diaspora, many of whom migrated from Sri Lanka due to unrest in their homeland. The first referenda were held in Norway, then in Canada, France, Switzerland, Germany and Holland. Results so far indicate around 95% in favour of independence.
Since the war's end in May 2009, 300,000 internally displaced people within Sri Lanka were kept in militarised detention centres, without the freedom to leave and often lacking sufficient provisions of food, medicine or sanitation. Although many have apparently been re-settled, the conditions in which they find themselves are often inadequate. With homes and livelihoods destroyed, it will take many months before many farmers can even get their land back into shape to even begin to grow productively.
By voting to make heard their opinion, the diaspora are exercising a freedom denied to those back at home in Sri Lanka. The country's constitutional sixth amendment makes it illegal for anyone to “directly or indirectly, in or outside Sri Lanka, support, espouse, promote, finance, encourage or advocate the establishment of a separate State within the territory of Sri Lanka.” If they do, they face the removal of 'civic rights' for up to seven years. These include the right to obtain a passport, sit for any public examination, own property, or engage in any trade or profession needing a licence, registration or other legal authorization. Sri Lanka is a country where journalists are regularly intimidated and disappearances of apparent political dissenters well known, even international observance or foreign humanitarian aid is controlled strictly by the ruling party. Tamils who now enjoy democratic freedom outside of Sri Lanka want to make a stand.
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