he National Union of Students’ International Students Campaign, which represents hundreds of thousands of students from around the world studying in the UK, has voted to affiliate to Tamil Solidarity and give support to its campaigns.
The motion was brought to the campaign’s annual conference in Milton Keynes on April 25th by Belfast Metropolitan College. Manoj Kumar, an Indian Tamil and the former president of Middlesex University Students Union, gave a speech introducing the motion and describing the violence and racism faced by Tamil people in Sri Lanka driven by its dictatorial government. Opposition arguments that the Campaign should avoid getting involved in “political” matters were rebuffed by Edmund Schluessel of Cardiff University, who reminded the conference that the International Campaign had a long history of facing outward and reaching out to students facing crisis around the world. The motion passed easily with around 40 of the 55 delegates voting in favour.
NUS already has policy on many crisis spots around the world, and is currently campaigning to free student activist Maxwell Dlamini from imprisonment and torture in Swaziland. Dlamini is the former president of the Swaziland National Union of Students and is being held by Swaziland’s monarchy as a result of his political activities. The debate on Tamil Solidarity was the first time NUS has considered the question of Sri Lanka, and the International Students’ Campaign’s decision will become part of national policy at NUS’s next conference.
Full Text of the motion
International Students Conference Believes:
1. Many reports, including from the UN, have exposed what amounted to a genocidal war against Tamilspeaking
people in the north and east of Sri Lanka.
2. The repressive Sri Lankan government is trampling democratic rights
3. Freedom of speech – opposition politicians, trade unionists, civil rights campaigners, and journalists
continue to face repression and severe restrictions remain in place on the media.
4. Freedom of assembly – access to Tamil-speaking areas is strictly controlled and freedom of assembly does
5. Workers’ rights – the establishment of so-called ‘free-trade zones’ is leading to the super-exploitation of
labour, without trade union and other rights. The Sri Lankan government is brutally anti-union.
6. The right to a decent life – public services are being privatised, and workers’ conditions are being attacked
across the board. A military ‘land grab’ of the Tamil-speaking areas comparable to the settlement of
Palestinian land is also taking place. This will also facilitate rapid commercialisation of the island’s resources.
7. The Tamil diaspora, including thousands of students, has shown tremendous determination in its struggle
8. Tamil Solidarity’s platform includes demands for an independent war crimes investigation consisting of
representatives accountable to workers poor people from all communities, chosen by them and observed by
international trade union and human rights organisations. Support for independent trade unions with full
trade union rights, free from intimidation and state interference; and defence of the right to selfdetermination
which means support for a mass movement of Tamil workers and poor for the right to
determine their own future. Full and equal rights of any minorities to be guaranteed in all areas.
International Students Conference Resolves:
9. To affirm its solidarity with Tamil-speaking and all oppressed people in struggle in Sri Lanka
10. To publicise the activity of Tamil Solidarity and other events organised by the Tamil community in defence
of their rights.
11. To support the development of independent trade unions in Sri Lanka and to help monitor the conditions
in the free-trade zones
12. To affiliate to Tamil Solidarity and actively support their work