Following reports of protests in London and Manchester
Manny Thain, Tamil Solidarity national secretary
A constant stream of Tamils flowed into Parliament Square on Tuesday 18 May. Many thousands assembled to mark the first anniversary of the Sri Lankan government’s declaration of victory in the brutal civil war that had raged for nearly 30 years. This was an important event, bringing people together in solidarity – and also defiance. Unfortunately, it was hardly covered in the mainstream media.
Several of the speakers in the square were MPs from Britain’s establishment political parties. But none of them have any solutions for the Tamil-speaking people. On the contrary, successive governments have strengthened economic and military links with Sri Lanka.
The leaflet distributed by Tamil Solidarity, for the rights of workers and all oppressed people in Sri Lanka, was very well received. We put forward the importance of drawing together Tamil-speaking people alongside other working-class and poor who are suffering at the hands of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s authoritarian rule. In Britain, an important part of that is taking the issues into the trade union movement, with the aim of developing direct links between workers.
There was some coverage of a report, published on 17 May by the International Crisis Group, which calls for Rajapaksa’s regime to be investigated for war crimes, such as the repeated shelling of civilians, hospitals and humanitarian operations. And Tamil Solidarity will continue to do all we can to expose and campaign against the hypocrisy and repression in Sri Lanka.
For a longer statement on the ICG report: http://www.tamilsolidarity.org/?p=1069
Manchester Day of Action
A team from Tamil Solidarity leafletted Manchester city centre between 5 and 6 pm on 19th May. With placards demanding human rights and the closure of the camps we gave out several hundred leaflets to students using the Central Library and to shop and office workers hurrying for trams and buses. There was absolutely no hostility and a good deal of interest.
The Tamil Solidarity meeting in the evening started with a minute’s silence in memory of the tens of thousands of Tamils killed in the civil war a year ago – as Tamil Solidarity claimed at the time and as the International Crisis Group report has confirmed in the last few days.
Lawrence, a Tamil comrade, reported on the magnificent commemorative event outside the Houses of Parliament the day before, when up to 15000 Tamils crammed into the square, and the meeting was able to view photographs Lawrence had taken. He also recalled the highlights in the activity of Tamil Solidarity over the last year – protesting at embassies world-wide, taking the struggle to the European Parliament, challenging New Labour government ministers.
A number of Tamil comrades were unable to attend as they were only just returning from London but a lively and wide-ranging discussion followed, covering the key role of the working class in the so-called developing countries, the prospects for the self-determination of Tamil Eelam, comparisons between Russia 1917 and the India of today, the tactics to be followed by peasant movements such as that led by so-called Maoists in certain states of India, and the overwhelming importance of an international struggle against imperialism.
Our work in the North West continues. We are determined to follow up trade union affiliations, especially NUT, PCS, UNISON and RMT branches. We will use freshers’ week at Manchester University to re-launch our solidarity work there and with the help of a Tamil comrade in UNITE who attended, we will organise a photographic and video display of the struggle in Sri Lanka.