The commemoration of the 23rd anniversary of the Pongu Tamil Declaration took place at Jaffna University, marking a significant event in the region's history.
On Wednesday, a commemoration was observed at the Pongu Tamil Memorial Obelisk, situated in front of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Jaffna.
The gathering paid homage to the Pongu Thamizh Declaration, a pivotal moment in the struggle for Tamil rights.
In 2001, amidst the suppression by the occupying Sri Lankan military, the Jaffna University community organized a massive uprising event themed "Pongu Tamil."
Despite facing challenges, including security checkpoints and restrictions imposed by the Sri Lankan security forces, over ten thousand people, comprising university and high-school students, residents, and representatives of civil organizations, demonstrated on January 17th, urging the government to respond to the unilateral ceasefire declared by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and engage in negotiations.
Thousands more people were turned away by Sri Lankan security forces at checkpoints set up along the major roads leading to the university, residents said. Reporters were not permitted into the university either.
Following this, there were mass protests and rallies held throughout the North-East, particularly in Vavuniya and Batticaloa in support of the Pongu Thamil rally in Jaffna.
Hundreds of undergraduates of the Eastern University in Batticaloa and the College of Education in Vavuniya gathered for peaceful rallies urging the Sri Lankan government to start peace talks with the LTTE and to recognize the Tamil people's right to self-determination.
The rallies were later echoed in Tamil diaspora communities worldwide in 2008.
The Pongu Thamil Declaration articulated the aspirations of the Tamil people, emphasizing the withdrawal of the Sri Lanka Army from Tamil land and the establishment of an interim administration with full powers entrusted to the LTTE.
The international community was urged to recognize and support this interim administration.
Excerpts from the Pongu Thamil Declaration stated, "We want our land. Hence Sri Lanka Army should leave our land. To restore normalcy in our lives, an interim administration with full powers should be handed over to the LTTE. The international community should come forward to recognize such an interim administration."
"We cannot think of peace while our lands and homes are occupied by the government troops. Under this circumstance, peace talks should be held on the basis of traditional homeland, self-determination, and Tamil nationalism concepts and a just and lasting political solution should be found for the ethnic conflict."
The commemoration day, organized by the Jaffna University Students' Union, saw the participation of University Senior Lecturer M. Lambirayan, the University Staff Association, and students.