Thousands of people gathered in Trafalgar Square for the Mullivaikal massacre commemoration on Saturday. This massacre in May 2009 marked the final assault on Tamils by the Sri Lankan armed forces, under orders from President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his regime.
There was a two-minute silence, and the lighting of the ‘eternal flame’. Dance, poetry and song were used to tell the tragic tale. It was a very emotional event, everyone present affected by the war and its aftermath.
The leaflet produced by Tamil Solidarity, to protest against the invitation to Rajapaksa to attend the queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations was very well received with enthusiasm especially among young people there to get involved.
Martin Powell-Davies, on the executive of the National Union of Teachers, pointed out the important role that trade unions can play in informing people of the situation in Sri Lanka, and building support for the struggle of Tamil people. Unlike the politicians under the influence of big business interests, trade unionists are the real allies of the Tamils because their interests are those of other working class people in Britain and internationally. Martin got the biggest cheer of the day when he called for a citizen’s arrest to be made on Rajapaksa if he attends the jubilee.
Many speakers, including MPs from the main parties, strongly criticised the Sri Lankan regime, with one of the most common calls being that there should be an international investigation into war crimes. Yet the political establishment – New Labour, Tory and Lib Dem – have done nothing to bring the regime to account.
Manny Thain, Tamil Solidarity national secretary, questioned the politicians’ claims of support for Tamil-speaking people. Their words are fine enough, but they must be backed up by real solidarity and action on issues such as the deportation of Tamils back into the arms of the brutal regime, and to cancel Rajapaksa’s visit to Britain. What is clear is that the people at the top only act when they are put under massive pressure from below. An important part of the Tamil Solidarity campaign is to take the issues into the trade unions, universities and colleges, including at the National Shop Stewards Network conference on 9 June.
The annual Mullivaikal commemoration is a way to mourn those who have died and remember all those who have disappeared. It is also a way to reunite and rededicate ourselves to the struggle for the rights of Tamil-speaking people including the right to self determination.