Report of the Tamil Solidarity annual general meeting
By Piriyasha Jeyanayagam
Tamil Solidarity’s annual general meeting (AGM) took place on Saturday 10 December at Unite the Union’s building in London. It consisted of two ram packed sessions. The first was the annual report of the activities throughout the year, plans for 2017 and the election of a new National Coordinating Committee. The second consisted of a discussion about the latest developments in India, including the ‘demonetisation’ policy of Narendra Modi, and the situation in Sri Lanka.
The day began with opening remarks by Bharathi as chair. Keerthikan gave the report of 2016, including helping to initiate the Refugee Rights campaign which is being led by Tamil refugees and being supported by Tamil Solidarity. It is an important breakthrough in the community and a campaign that is seen to give more confidence to the refugees to fight back.
There were also contributions made about the student work progress that was taking place – with specific reference to SOAS, Queen Mary’s and the University of Sheffield. An increasing interest and desire to get back involved is developing among students again.
The high media presence of young Tamil Solidarity activists of has also been noted by the community and made a positive impact in support of what the campaign stands for. In addition, Tamil Solidarity played an important role in support of Jeremy Corbyn’s election – and re-election – as Labour Party leader.
The trade union work conducted for the past year was elaborated on by Isai Priya who was able to identify the trade unions who have and who continue to affiliate with the Tamil Solidarity campaign. The trade union movement, which organises over six million workers across Britain, highlights the fact that they are the natural allies of the Tamil people and other oppressed sections in our society.
This important link was reinforced by the solidarity greetings and addresses given to the AGM by Dave Hunt, London and South East regional organiser for the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), a trade union organising low-paid workers in food and hotel. Kumaran Bose, a BFAWU activist fighting against victimisation by his bosses, also spoke at the AGM. As did Hugo Pierre, from the executive of Unison Black Members group – Unison is the largest public-sector union in Britain.
In the finance report, where the accounts were presented, explained and agreed, the high level of financial commitment, and of volunteer work, was highlighted. Tamil Solidarity has a strong tradition of giving importance to finance – our income coming from regular donations and subs from workers, students, refugees, etc., and through affiliations from trade unions, and not from big businesses. It’s important that more finance is collected for more work to be done.
Nadesan outlined the plans for 2017 which was a proposal of four main topics. These included continuing our support for the Refugee Rights campaign, increasing our work with the trade unions and in colleges, and developing a new campaign to demand the release of political prisoners in Sri Lanka, among other demands.
The session concluded with Manny Thain introducing proposals for the National Coordinating Committee (NCC), which were voted on and agreed by the AGM. As Tamil Solidarity has developed more responsibilities are being taken on by a wider group of people – and these are now reflected on the NCC. It was an important session, maintaining the campaign’s open democratic structure and process, allowing members and trade union affiliates to discuss issues and decision-making.
The second half was a riveting discussion, co-led by Jagadish Chandra, from the New Socialist Alternative, India, and a founder in 2009 of the campaign Stop the Slaughter of Tamils – the predecessor of Tamil Solidarity. He spoke about demonetisation of cash within India by Modi, and other developments in that country. Senan, international coordinator of Tamil Solidarity, talked about the situation in Sri Lanka and the lack of an alternative for the oppressed members of Sri Lanka. The floor was then opened for questions and contributions which made this session all the more engaging.
In summary, the success of the year in Tamil Solidarity is evident in the increase in contributing members and a successful opening of the Refugee Rights Campaign. It can be concluded that it has been a positive year for Tamil Solidarity and the success is expected to continue next year.
Thanks for ntamilnews.com for the pictures