QMSU passes ‘Free The Tamils’ Motion

Queen Mary, University of London passes the ‘Free the Tamils’ motion recently. Now the student union officially supports the points raised in the motion and campaign groups such as SAGT(Students Against Genocide of Tamils) and TS(Tamil Solidarity).

Following is the full text of the motion that passed.

QMSU Free The Tamils Motion

This union notes:

1. That since independence in 1948 thousands of Tamils have been ethnic

cleansed by the state from their traditional lands in the North-East of the

island to make way for state-aided Sinhalese colonisation1, 2, 3, 4, 5. All of

the districts in the North-East exhibited Tamil majorities in the early 20th

century with the entire region being over 97% Tamil speaking in 1911

with a 1.8% Sinhalese minority6, 7. By the end of the 20th century Tamils

have become a minority in previously Tamil majority areas such as

Trincomalee, with former Tamil villages being renamed in Sinhalese to

complete the transfer1.

 

2. That in 1956 Sinhala was made the sole official language in Sri Lanka to

the exclusion of Tamil thus rendering the Tamils as officially illiterate9.

 

3. That all peaceful protests carried out by Tamils against this oppression

were suppressed by repeated unleashing of state and mob violence, such

as the anti-Tamil pogrom in 1956 where over 150 Tamil civilians were

massacred9.

 

4. That further state-sponsored anti-Tamil pogroms in 1958, 1977, 1981

and 1983 resulted in thousands of murders, rapes and Tamil properties

being destroyed13. In July 1983 alone over 3000 Tamil civilians were

massacred in less than a week in a pre-prepared and well-orchestrated

pogrom that triggered the war13.

 

5. That in the 1977 general election the Tamil people overwhelmingly voted

for an independent Tamil state45.

 

6. That in 1981 the Jaffna Library which housed over 95,000 Tamil books

including many irreplaceable manuscripts was burned to the ground by

the Sri Lankan police following orders from government ministers, an act

aimed to erase the cultural heritage of the Tamils10.

 

7. That since the inception of war in 1983 hundreds of massacres of Tamil

civilians have occurred11, 12, 13. One notable example was the Chemmani

mass graves in Jaffna where a corporal of the Sri Lankan army admitted

that up to 600 dead bodies of Tamil civilians were buried after being

tortured, raped and executed with impunity14.

 

8. That up to 2002 it has been estimated by the World Health Organisation

that around 215,000 people have been killed due to war in Sri Lanka15,

with the vast majority of civilian deaths being Tamil13.

 

9. That the Sri Lankan security forces have committed thousands of acts of

rape against Tamils for decades with cases documented by groups such as

Amnesty International16,17 and the Medical Foundation for the Care of

Victims of Torture18, 19.

 

10. That from December 6, 2005 to February 5, 2009 more than 3,750

extrajudicial killings of Tamils have been documented, approximately

30,000 Tamils suffering serious bodily injury, and more than 1.3 million

displacements (a number far exceeding displacements in Kosovo which

lead to genocide counts before the International Tribunal for the former

Yugoslavia)13, 48, 49.

 

11. That no member of the security forces since 2005 has ever been

prosecuted or punished for atrocities against Tamils, including torture or

murder13, 44, 49. Indeed, in more than 60 years, only one prosecution has

been pursued for rape, murder, torture, or other crimes against Tamils,

and that one isolated exception was for peculiar reasons13, 49.

 

12. That according to UN statistics Sri Lanka has the highest rate of

disappearances in the world20. Likewise, Human Rights Watch have

determined that the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) is responsible for

widespread abductions and “disappearances”21, 22. According to UN

sources over 13,130 Tamils who were interned by the GoSL in

concentration camps had disappeared between May 27 and May 30 this

year23.

 

13. That Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and South

African anti-Apartheid activist wrote in The Guardian on the 15th of May

200824 “The systematic abuses by Sri Lankan government forces are among

the most serious imaginable. Government security forces summarily remove

their own citizens from their homes and families in the middle of the night,

never to be heard from again.”

 

14. That all Tamil areas are occupied and administered by a Sinhalese

military. In Jaffna, the largest Tamil city, there are 45,000 Sinhalese troops

controlling 500,000 Tamils – one soldier for every 11 people8.

 

15. That the GoSL prevents free media access to the Tamil areas26, 27. That

over 30 media workers – both Sinhalese and Tamil – critical of the

government’s war effort have been killed since 200425.

 

16. That in the first 5 months of 2009 over 20,000 Tamil civilians in the Vanni

region were massacred by the Sri Lankan army as a result of

indiscriminate bombardment28, 29, 30, 31.

 

17. That up to 30,000 Tamil civilians have been left severely disabled by this

final onslaught with many losing multiple limbs32.

 

18. That during the final onslaught refugee camps, schools and hospitals were

repeatedly bombed by the Sri Lankan army in the Vanni region33.

 

19. That from September 2008 the GoSL had banned all international aid

agencies from working in the Vanni region thus removing the presence of

international observers34. The GoSL also prevented the entry of essential

food and medicines thus causing unnecessary starvation and death of the

civilian population in the warzone35.

 

20. That the British government endorsed the sale of over £13.7 million of

weapons to the GoSL during the last phase of the war36.

 

21. That around 300,000 displaced Tamil civilians were detained for over 5

months behind barbed wire in army run concentration camps where they

have been subjected to disappearances, executions, torture and rape37, 38,

39, 40.

 

22. That 1/5 children in these camps have been said to have been abducted

or separated from their families by Sri Lankan forces in May41.

 

23. That thousands of civilians have died due to infectious disease and

malnutrition in the camps with aid groups estimating that the death toll

was as high as 1400 a week in July 200942.

 

24. That around 150,000 Tamil civilians still remain detained in these

crowded camps46 and are vulnerable to human rights violations and

outbreaks of infectious disease especially in the current monsoon season,

where heavy rains have caused sewage to flood the camps43.

 

25. That Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have repeatedly

called for the detention camps to be closed down immediately and have

called for an independent, international inquiry into human right

violations that have taken place in 2009 in Sri Lanka.

 

26. That the EU has extended the GSP+ concession that allows tax-free

garment exports from Sri Lanka to the EU zone until next year. This is

after being lobbied by M&S, the British Retail Consortium and other firms

involved in the Sri Lankan garments trade50. This is despite the criteria

for qualification explicitly stating that the country should have a good

human rights record.

 

This union believes:

 

1. That the Tamil people of Sri Lanka have suffered over 60 years of

oppression and acts of genocide at the hands of successive Governments

of Sri Lanka on the basis of their ethnicity.

 

2. That the Tamil people have a right to self-determination and that they

should be able to freely determine their own political status in their

traditional homeland in the North-East of Sri Lanka. An UN referendum

should be held in the North-East just as was done in Kosovo and East

Timor to let the people living there freely decide how they would like to

be governed.

 

3. That the GoSL should ends its occupation of the Tamil areas and accept

the wishes of those who live there by immediately withdrawing the

occupying Sri Lankan army.

 

4. That there should be an independent, international inquiry into all the

alleged human rights violations and war crimes committed by all parties

in the conflict in 2009. Accountability for war crimes must be ensured and

perpetrators must be prosecuted and brought to justice, internationally if

required.

 

5. That the British government’s role in arming, funding and abetting the

GoSL to fight this war against the Tamil people is abhorrent. Their silence

and lack of condemnation for the GoSL violations of human rights and war

crimes is a sign of their complicity in the atrocities.

 

6. That the detention of hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians in

concentration camps is inhumane and unjustified and should cease

immediately.

 

7. That all civilians that have been evicted from their ancestral lands in the

North-East should have a right to return, and that the GoSL should cease

the grabbing of land from the Tamil speaking people by Sinhalese

colonists.

 

8. That media freedom should be upheld throughout the island. Aid agencies

and human rights monitors must be given full access to the camps.

 

9. That the EU’s decision to not revoke the GSP+ concession despite Sri

Lanka failing to comply with the human rights criteria needed to qualify is

hypocritical and puts the EU’s credibility into question.

 

10. That those countries such as Sri Lanka which do not abide by

Commonwealth principles such as the upholding of human rights and the

opposition to racial oppression47 should be suspended from the

organisation.

 

11. That despite its contemporary and geopolitical relevance, the Sri Lankan

civil war is an internationally neglected academic subject, which the

university can use as a platform to enhance its reputation as a globally-

committed and socially-responsible institution, as well as its revenue.

 

This union resolves:

 

1. QMSU will lobby the university (including the Principal and senior staff in

the School of Humanities and Social Sciences) to implement significant

academic activity (teaching and research) in the history, politics, law and

literature associated with the Sri Lankan civil war into undergraduate and

postgraduate study.

 

2. QMSU will provide support to the continued suffering of Tamil people in

Sri Lanka through its media.

 

a. QMSU.org will have a slide on its homepage centrepiece for all of

January 2010 which directs readers to a permanent dedicated

page with the latest developments concerning this motion. There

will also be a news article published on the front page of the

website informing people of the latest news in the area for at least

2 weeks in January.

 

b. There will be a news article in QMessenger relating to this motion

every semester. There will be a 400 word feature dedicated to the

Tamil people in Cub every semester.

 

c. QMSU will release press statements comprising the facts, beliefs

and resolutions made through this motion. This press statement

will be delivered at the very least to the Principal of QMUL, the

NUS, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Foreign Secretary and news

organisations as appropriate.

 

3. QMSU will send a similar motion on this issue to the NUS Society &

Citizenship zone of NUS conference 2010.

 

4. QMSU will endorse and support events in relation to this motion where

appropriate. This includes fair financial assistance for branded campaign

material for local and national demonstrations such as posters & leaflets.

 

5. QMSU will write a letter to the national Stop the War Coalition and will

request their support in relation to the situation at hand, whilst

reminding them of the international nature of the conflict.

 

6. QMSU will write an open letter of condemnation to the British

government for endorsing the sale of over £13.7 million of weapons to the

GoSL during the last phase of the war, as well as for the recent statement

by MP Des Browne saying that Sri Lanka is now a ‘safe’ place for Tamils.

 

7. QMSU will write a letter to the Commonwealth encouraging them to

suspend Sri Lanka because of its atrocious human rights record and

constant failure to abide by the organisation’s core principles.

 

8. QMSU will write a letter to the EU, British government, British Retail

Consortium and Marks & Spencer condemning them for extending and

supporting the GSP+ concession to Sri Lanka.

 

9. QMSU will officially support ‘Students against the Genocide of Tamils

(SAGT)’, and ‘Tamil Solidarity (TS)’ campaign groups.

10. QMSU will officially support Amnesty International’s ‘Unlock the Camps’

campaign.

 

 

References

1. Robert Muggah, 2008 – Relocation failures in Sri Lanka – pp86, 88, 90, 116-

117, 123. Zed Books, London.

2. Daily Telegraph, 26th May 2009. Sri Lanka accused of ‘ethnic cleansing’ of

Tamil areas – Available URL –

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/srilanka/5382676/S

ri-Lanka-accused-of-ethnic-cleansing-of-Tamil-areas.html

3. Robert Kilroy-Silk, M.P. & Roger Sims, M.P – United Kingdom

Parliamentary Human Rights Group Report on February 1985 –

“Witnesses also confirmed allegations made to us that whole villages have

been emptied and neighbourhoods have been driven by the army from their

homes and occupations and turned into refugees…We can say, without

doubt, that the Government is driving Tamils from their homes and does

intend to settle Sinhalese people in these areas.”

4. The Sunday Times magazine – Simon Winchester – 18 August 1985 – A

Village that died in a day – Available URL:

http://www.tamilnation.org/indictment/indict036.htm

5. University Teachers of Human Rights (J) – 13th February 1995 – Padaviya-

Weli Oya: Bearing the Burden of Ideology – Available URL:

http://www.uthr.org/bulletins/bul4.htm

6. EB Denham, Ceylon at the census 1911, Colombo Government printer,

1912.

7. Robert N. Kearney – Territorial Elements of Tamil Separatism in Sri Lanka

p573. Source: Pacific Affairs, Vol. 60, No. 4 (Winter, 1987-1988), pp. 561-

577 Published by: Pacific Affairs, University of British Columbia Stable

URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2759183 Accessed: 10/05/2009 10:17

8. Reporters San Frontieres – 24th August 2007, Jaffna’s media in the grip of

terror – Available URL:

http://www.rsf.org/spip.php?page=article&id_article=23380

9. Tarzie Vittachi – 1958, Emergency ‘58 – Available URL:

http://www.tamilnation.org/books/eelam/vitachi.pdf

10. Prof. Virginia A Leary; Ethnic conflict and violence in Sri Lanka: Report of a

mission to Sri Lanka on behalf of the International Commission of Jurists

(July-August 1981)

11. North-East Secretariat of Human Rights – 2007. Lest we forget Part I –

Available URL: http://www.nesohr.org/files/Lest_We_Forget.pdf

12. North-East Secretariat of Human Rights – 2008. Lest We Forget Part II –

Available URL: http://www.nesohr.org/files/Lest_We_Forget-II.pdf

13. Bruce Fein, 2009 – United States of America v. Gotabaya Rajapaska and

Sarath Fonseka – Grand Jury Indictment for Genocide – pp18-19, 22-38, 51-

139, 178-182, 219-553, 733-744 – Available URL:

http://www.tamilsagainstgenocide.org/

14. World Socialist Web Site – 25th June 1999 – Eyewitness account from Sri

Lanka: Tamil mass graves excavated in Chemmani – Available URL:

http://www.wsws.org/articles/1999/jun1999/sri-j26.shtml

15. Ziad Obermeyer – 19th June 2008. Fifty years of violent war deaths from

Vietnam to Bosnia: analysis of data from the world health survey

programme, BMJ – Available URL:

http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/bmj.a137

16. Amnesty International – 2002 – Sri Lanka: Rape in custody – Available URL:

http://asiapacific.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGASA370012002?open

&of=ENG-2AS

17. Amnesty International – 1997 – Sri Lanka: Extrajudicial execution / rape:

Murugesupillai Koneswary – Available URL:

http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA37/013/1997/en

18. M. Peel, A. Mahtani, G. Hinshelwood and D. Forrest – Medical Foundation

for the Care of Victims of Torture – The Sexual Abuse of Men in Detention in

Sri Lanka – The Lancet, June 10, 2000; vol. 355; pp. 2069-2070. Available

online:

http://www.sangam.org/2008/10/Sexual_Predation.php?uid=3108

19. Medical foundation for the care of victims of torture – 2009 – Torture once

again rampart in the Sri Lanka conflict. Available URL:

http://www.torturecare.org.uk/resources/publications/2105

20. UN Working group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances – 2009 –

Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances

Available URL:

http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/disappear/docs/A.HRC.10.9.pdf

21. Human Rights Watch, June 4th 2009, Sri Lanka – Disappearances by

security forces a national crisis – Available URL:

http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/06/04/sri-lanka-disappearances-

security-forces-national-crisis

22. Human Rights Watch, 2009 – Sri Lanka’s Ghosts – Available URL:

http://www.hrw.org/node/62462

23. Inner City Press, June 2nd 2009, In Sri Lanka 13,130 Missing IDPs Reported

But Downplayed By UN, Journalist Beaten – Available URL:

http://www.innercitypress.com/untrip3may3srilanka060209.html

24. Desmond Tutu, 15th May 2008 – No right to be there – Available URL:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/may/15/norighttobet

here

25. Amnesty International, 1st September 2009 – Sri Lanka jails journalist for

20 years for exercising his right to freedom of expression – Available URL:

http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/news/sri-lanka-jails-

journalist-20-years-exercising-right-freedom-expression-20090901 –

26. Al Jazeera,13 Feb 2009, Listening Post – Conflict coverage in Sri Lanka –

Available URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEqqg-sPmKA

27. Channel 4 News, 5th May 2009, Grim scenes at Sri Lankan Camps –

Available URL:

http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/politics/international_politics/

grim+scenes+at+sri+lankan+camps+/3126257

28. Channel 4 News, 29th May 2009, Sri Lanka – 20,000 civilians killed –

Available URL:

http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/world/asia_pacific/sri+lanka+

20000+civilians+killed/3180857

29. The Times, 29th May 2009, The hidden massacre: Sri Lanka’s final offensive

against Tamil Tigers – Available URL:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article6383449.ece

30. The Times, 29th May 2009, Times photographs expose Sri Lanka’s lie on

civilian deaths at beach – Available URL:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article6383477.ece

31. Le Monde, 28th May 2009, L’ONU a caché l’ampleur des massacres au Sri

Lanka – Available URL: http://www.lemonde.fr/asie-

pacifique/article/2009/05/28/sri-lanka-l-onu-a-cache-l-ampleur-des-

massacres_1199091_3216.html

32. Daily Telegraph, 24th May 2009 – Up to 30,000 ‘disabled’ by Sri Lankan

shells – Available URL:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/srilanka/5378047/

Up-to-30000-disabled-by-Sri-Lankan-shells.html

33. Human Rights Watch, May 8th 2009, Repeated Shelling of Hospitals

Evidence of War Crimes – Available URL:

http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/05/08/sri-lanka-repeated-shelling-

hospitals-evidence-war-crimes

34. BBC News, 8th September 2008, Sri Lanka bars foreign aid staff – Available

URL: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/7604933.stm

35. Radio Australia, 9th September 2008, Sri Lanka orders aid agencies out of

the North – Available URL:

http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/programguide/stories/200809/s2359

170.htm

36. The Times, June 2nd 2009, Britain sold weapons to help Sri Lankan Army

defeat Tamil Tigers

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article6410718.ece

37. The Australian, 2nd July 2009, Tamil refugees forced into sex rackets –

Available URL:

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25721366-

25837,00.html

38. Channel 4 News, 25th August 2009, Is this evidence of war crimes in Sri

Lanka? – Available URL:

http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/world/asia_pacific/execution

%20video%20is%20this%20evidence%20of%20war%20crimes%20in%

20sri%20lanka/3321087

39. The Times, 25th May 2009, 200,000 Tamil civilians imprisoned in Sri

Lankan Manik Farm camp – Available URL:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article6355503.ece

40. Channel 4 News, 17th June 2009, Fresh Claims over Tamil casualties –

Available URL:

http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/world/asia_pacific/fresh+clai

ms+over+tamil+casualties/3217257

41. The Independent, May 22nd 2009, Families trapped in Sri Lanka camps fear

for missing children – Available URL:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/families-trapped-in-

sri-lanka-camps-fear-for-missing-children-1689240.html

42. The Times, July 10, 2009, Tamil death toll is 1,400 a week at Manik Farm

Camp in Sri Lanka – Available URL:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article6676792.ece

43. Human Rights Watch, August 17th 2009, Sri Lanka – Flood threaten Camp

detainees. – Available URL:

http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/08/17/sri-lanka-floods-threaten-

camp-detainees

44. Amnesty International – 11th July 2009, 20 years of Make Believe – Sri

Lanka’s Commissions of Inquiry – Available URL:

http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA37/005/2009/en

45. Robert N. Kearney, Ethnic Conflict and the Tamil Separatist Movement in

Sri Lanka. p905 Source: Asian Survey, Vol.25, No. 9 (Sep 1985), pp. 898-

917. Published by: University of California Press. Stable URL:

http://www.jstor.org/stable/2644418 Accessed: 26/11/2009 14:14

46. CNN – 25th November 2009, UN: 150,000 still in Sri Lankan Camps –

Available URL:

http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/11/24/un.srilanka/

47. Commonwealth – 22 January 1971, Declaration of Commonwealth

Principles – Available URL: http://www.commonwealth-of-

nations.org/Beliefs_And_Summits-Declaration_of_Principles,22,14,1

48. The Boston Globe – February 15th 2009, Genocide in Sri Lanka – Available

URL:

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2

009/02/15/genocide_in_sri_lanka/

49. Bruce Fein – February 5th 2009, Investigation of U.S. citizen and U.S. green

card holder for genocide, war crimes, and torture against Tamils in Sri

Lanka – Available URL:

http://www.tamilsagainstgenocide.org/NewsStory.aspx

50. ColomboPage – October 29th 2009, New hope for GSP+ concession to Sri

Lanka – Available URL:

http://www.colombopage.com/archive_091/Oct1256831176KA.html

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