As university students, who are not particularly aware of the situation around the world, we found that this meeting informative. We had the opportunity of meeting Tamil solidarity members during fresher’s fairs and the joint student meeting at our university in autumn. We were interested in the ideas that they presented and as a consequent we were invited to the public meeting in ‘Liverpool discussing ‘Britain’s arms sales to Sri Lanka and the UNHRC resolution.’
The Tamil meeting started at 6.30 p.m. We were welcomed by members in an appreciative manner and they filled us in on the discussion (due to our delayed arrival from Sheffield). During the discussion a member expressed his views of the low mood of the Tamil struggle in diaspora and Sri Lanka; and predicted that in a few generations it may become almost non-existent. Tamil Solidarity member made an example of us as the ‘second generation’ and said that there still an interest in the politics that take place back home (although this is not to the same extent as when the armed conflict was at a high point). Other topics such as the general levels of lack of political voice for the Tamils representation in the island itself was also discussed.
The second half of the meeting (which was conducted in English) consisted of Trade Unionist, Students, local activists, local Tamil community, International Solidarity groups, and Socialists. Some topics that were discussed within the two hours included caste oppression, the UN’s failure when they ordered their staff to abandon the Tamils during the war and imperialistic influence of China, India and the US over Sri Lanka is a key factor over the recent Sri Lankan presidential elections. Tamil Solidarity participated in the main debate for the common candidate proposal and put forward a candidate that would stand on a clear programme against all forms of oppression to satisfy all the layers of society in Sri Lanka.
The recent UNHRC reported concluded the many crimes had taken place taken place and called for hybrid court investigation. However, it was discussed that this was not enough as nothing was or would be done to bring justice to the war victims. It was also mentioned that the UN actually one point congratulated the President of Sri Lanka for concluding the war, even though it was proved that a vast majority of Tamils were killed inhumanely. Another point that was discussed was the fact that Tamil Solidarity was the only Tamil diaspora representation for the protest against Modi’s visit to Britain. Modi is a man that has a lot of blood in his hands and they expressed their negative feelings towards him in a public protest. Modi was previously banned from UK and it was mentioned that when Modi came to power, the ban from UK was revoked for economic advantages.
Furthermore, another topic that was revealed was the fact that Jeremy Corbyn attained a lot public voice during his anti-cuts campaign and during his victory. Tamil solidarity welcomes him when he condemned Britain’s arm sales to countries of the Middle East in particular, this resulted in the British government revisiting the policy on arms sales to the Middle East. It was brought up that alongside trade unions, workers, students and oppressed layers we must work with Corbyn to put pressure on the British government to stop arms sales to Sri Lanka.
The speaker also spoke about sexual violence in Sri Lanka. A certain case was mentioned regarding the rape of the school girls called Vidya. She mentioned that it was one rare occasion when everyone in Jaffna, starting from a Muslim kid’s school shutting down and many other across the south came together to fight this oppression of women in Sri Lanka. The women in Sri Lanka face multiple form of oppression incidence of rape is high but often goes unreported. One main cause is the attitude of the police to women. Many women expect the first reaction of the police would be to judge the girl as ‘eloping’ or ‘having affairs’. In Vidya’s case also same and although the perpetrators were arrested, they have not been brought to justice and the prosecuting lawyer was removed and replaced by a government lawyer.
The meeting ended with how as a community we can approach things, encourage the Trade union branches to support Tamil struggles and take the campaign to a regional and national level will be important to extend this discussion. The meeting ended with socialising with Tamil refreshments, Rolls. Vadai and tea.
Sheffield University Students