Tamils living in Britain have reacted angrily to David Cameron’s vague promise to call for an ‘independent’ review of war crimes in Sri Lanka.
The prime minister’s statement yesterday is seen as a cynical attempt to placate Britain’s 300,000 strong Tamil community – a significant electoral constituency.
Tamils in Britain are outraged that the Commonwealth heads of government meeting (Chogm) is going ahead in Sri Lanka this month and, even worse, David Cameron and foreign secretary William Hague have decided to attend.
The Tamil Solidarity campaign rejects the claim that their participation will compel the government of Sri Lanka to investigate allegations of war crimes, in particular during the final months of the conflict which ended in May 2009.
Many reports have detailed the horrific slaughter, systematic use of rape by armed forces and other atrocities, most recently the third documentary by Callum Mcrae for Channel 4. Each report has been met with denial and denunciation by the Sri Lankan government.
Manny Thain, Tamil Solidarity joint national secretary, said: ‘Rather than put pressure on the regime of president Mahinda Rajapaksa, Chogm will give him a world stage. He will use the event to claim the status of a world leader. He will boast of a reinforced legitimacy as Commonwealth heads of government line up to shake his hand.’
Any criticisms of human rights abuses expressed during Chogm will be extremely mild and superficial. There will be no clear call for a truly independent inquiry into war crimes allegations – an inquiry which includes representatives of the communities affected.
There will be no call for real steps to be taken to end the continued oppression and effective military takeover and settlement of Tamil lands in the north and east of Sri Lanka.
There will be no unequivocal call to end the relentless attacks on the democratic rights of people throughout Sri Lanka – the erosion of press freedom, attacks on trade union and political activists, and on human rights campaigners.
Tamil Solidarity has called another in a series of protests outside Downing Street on Friday 15 November, 4-7pm, to coincide with the opening day of Chogm. We will be sending a clear message that David Cameron and William Hague are not attending Chogm in our name.
We will never forget this act of betrayal.
On the same day, our sister campaigns in Europe, India and Malaysia, as well as in Sri Lanka itself, will be organising similar protests.
For more information, interviews, etc, please contact:
Senan, Tamil Solidarity international coordinator: 07908 050 217
Manny Thain, Tamil Solidarity joint national secretary: 07974 794 695
The protest outside Downing Street on Friday 15 November will take place from 4-7pm. Jeremy Corbyn MP has already agreed to address the protest, alongside campaigners from the Tamil diaspora, representatives of a number of trade unions, and other organisations.
Paul Murphy, Socialist Party (Ireland) MEP, supports this day of action.
We will update media outlets as other named speakers confirm attendance.
The ‘Report of the Secretary-General’s Internal Review Panel of United Nations Action in Sri Lanka’ (November 2012) said: ‘The [UN] Panel of Experts stated that “[a] number of credible sources have estimated that there could have been as many as 40,000 civilian deaths”. Some government sources state the number was well below 10,000. Other sources have referred to credible information indicating that over 70,000 people are unaccounted for.’
Taking discrepancies in census returns into account, however, many people now put the total of Tamils killed or disappeared around 100,000.
On 1 September 2013, Navi Pillay, UN high commissioner for human rights, sharply criticised the Sri Lankan regime following a visit to the country, saying that it ‘is showing signs of heading in an increasingly authoritarian direction’.