Tamil representatives, solidarity and human rights campaigns and individual activists converged on the European parliament on Wednesday (1 June). They came from eleven countries – in Europe, Sri Lanka, India, Australia and New Zealand – to a hearing hosted by Socialist Party Ireland MEP, Paul Murphy, on behalf of the European United Left-Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) group of MEPs. Heidi Hautala and Soren Sondergaard, also participated.
Manny Thain, National co-ordinator, UK, Tamil Solidarity
With well over 100 participants, it was a good reflection of the spread of opinion among Tamil-speaking people. It was an opportunity to raise issues in three sessions: origins of the conflict; the war and its aftermath; the prospects for lasting peace.
At the end of a packed afternoon of discussion a resolution was passed. Following a thought-provoking discussion, a number of amendments are to be added before it is published. Most significantly, however, it promoted the idea of the need for a GUE/NGL fact-finding delegation to Sri Lanka as soon as is feasible. Closing the hearing, Paul Murphy said he would do all he could to make it a reality and expressed his willingness to go.
The resolution recognises the horrific scale of the massacres in the final months of the war in 2009. It calls for the closure of the secret prisons still in operation, along with the need to give the details of all those in detention, missing or dead. It demands the closure of all army camps in the north and east. And it takes up the need for trade union and other essential rights for all working class and poor people in Sri Lanka. This includes, of course, the right of self-determination for Tamil-speaking people. The resolution opposes the provision of military hardware and training, and financial support to the Sri Lankan regime of Mahinda Rajapaksa by western and other powers.
The hearing was timely. It came soon after the second anniversary of the ‘end’ of the war, and just after the release of a United Nations interim report which recognised, at long last, the scale of the death and destruction in 2009. It also took place on the day the Sri Lankan regime was hosting a meeting in Sri Lanka to promote its false propaganda on the war.
Despite the growing and damning evidence, the regime still claims that the killing of 40,000 (at the very least), mainly civilians, and the imprisonment of hundreds of thousands in prison camps were humanitarian exercises. It is hard to know what is most shocking: the absolute brutality or the sheer hypocrisy.
No doubt the regime will claim that those participating in the hearing are all ‘terrorists’, the allegation levelled against all who oppose its authoritarian rule. In reality, the hearing drew together various groups and individuals who are looking at ways to ensure that the struggle for Tamil rights is maintained. Delegates from Tamil Solidarity put forward its strategy of building a campaign linked to the organised working class, in particular the trade unions. We believe that this would provide a solid base of support among millions of workers, and would link the Tamil issues to this potentially massive social force.
Of course, it is correct to lobby and take the protest to the establishment institutions, such as the United Nations, European and British parliaments, embassies and other bodies at the same time. It would be wrong, however, to believe that these institutions will come to the rescue of the Tamils. At the end of the day, they reflect the interests of the dominant world powers. Tamil-speaking people must rely, above all, on their own power of mass mobilisation, alongside their natural allies in the trade union, workers’ and socialist movements. What is clear, is that with MEPs such as Paul Murphy, Tamils and other oppressed people do have some friends in these places on which they can rely.
Full text of the agreed resolution will be posted here once the amendments are agreed.