The All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils (APPGT) and British Tamils Forum (BTF) hosted an international conference from 7th to 9th November to get the political support of the Indian and UK governments. They also invited representatives of other ruling parties and opposition party leaders. Tamil Solidarity was invited to this event as well. After careful consideration, however, Tamil Solidarity decided that we would not be able to participate in the event. Below is the letter we sent to BTF to explain why.
Dear British Tamils Forum
Thank you for the invite to the event you have organised in the House of Commons on 7 and 8 November. After careful consideration, however, we do not feel that we can participate. But we would like to take this opportunity to outline why that is the case.
As you are aware, we have worked tirelessly to build a campaign to widen awareness in the terrible situation faced by Tamils in Sri Lanka. Tamil Solidarity seeks the support of working-class organisations, such as the trade union movement, and communities in Britain – who we see as the natural allies of the Tamil-speaking people – and to link them with the struggle of oppressed people internationally.
In the course of building this campaign we have participated in a wide variety of events and activity, organised by ourselves and by other organisations such as yours. And we are committed to continue to do so.
Although we agree with the need for an independent international investigation into war crimes in Sri Lanka – it is, in fact, one of our demands – we do not feel that this parliamentary forum will be a step towards that goal. Unfortunately, it has to be said that the majority of the participants at the event are part of the problem rather than the solution.
We need not remind you that the establishment political parties in Britain, in and out of power, stood by while tens of thousands of Tamils were slaughtered. Worse still, successive governments have continued to arm, support and train the Sri Lankan armed forces, and have offered little more than occasional and very mild criticism of the regime of Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The record of their counterparts in South Asia is no better. As for the BJP, it is a party based on right-wing chauvinist, sectarian politics which divide working-class, poor and oppressed people, cutting across the very unity Tamil Solidarity was set up to promote.
In our view, therefore, we feel that participating in such an event, which would involve putting our name to some sort of communiqué or resolution, would compromise the kind of independent grassroots campaign we have worked so hard to develop.
While we must decline your invitation to participate in this event, therefore, we hope you will accept that this is being done on a principled basis. From our point of view, it does not alter the constructive relationship our two organisations have built, and we look forward to working with you in the future.
Yours in solidarity,
Manny Thain, Tamil Solidarity national secretary