Dear Metta Spencer:
My appreciations about your efforts to achieve peace. I have some very critical comments about your article [Sept. 1997 issue of Peace] with UTHR (University Teachers for Human Rights] member Rajmohan, which lacks in following:
Are you sincere about peace? If yes, then it is worth spending some time and energy with you to put our sincere views. Please be honest in telling us whether you want to support the Sri Lankan government, which ruthlessly subjugates the Tamils. If you want the oppressive Sri Lankan government to win, then you are not sincere about peace and we do not need to waste our time and energy.
All I can say is you have hurt the feelings of many Tamils who are suffering due to the ruthless violence of the Sri Lankan government. Just two days ago it massacred Tamil political prisoners in a Jail near Colombo.
Since you have asked a direct question, I will give a direct answer - as interviewer, hot as editor of Peace Magazine.
1 and 2) 1 do regard the UTHR as credible, honest human rights activists.
3) Regrettably the vast majority of Tamils may indeed oppose the UTHR, though it is hard to be sure, since the Tigers intimidate their opponents.
Yes, there have been many abuses of Tamils' human rights. The appropriate solution to such violations is to enhance democratic governance. Having studied separatism comparatively, I can virtually never support secession - even in cases (e.g. Tibet) where the inhabitants had been deprived wrongfully of their land.
(The Dalai Lama himself does not call for complete independence, but only extensive local autonomy.) Secession is counterproductive, usually bringing prolonged violence and reducing, instead of enhancing, democracy and civil liberties.
In practice, international law does not condone unilateral secession, and it would help if all nations would refrain from recognizing states that declare independence unilaterally. However, if the international community takes a stand against separatism, it must at the same time offer stronger guarantees to victimized citizens, since they will no longer be able to resort to secession. Thus in extreme cases, UN protectorates could be established to replace repressive regimes. And the Inter-national Criminal Court should prosecute rulers who abuse their citizens.
Until such a new international regime is established, citizens must protect their civil rights by nonviolent resistance, not by warfare. Briefly and half-heartedly, the Tamils tried nonviolence some years ago. Try again! You do not protect your own human rights by violating those of others.
Metta Spencer, Toronto