A cross-party group of British MPs have pledged their continuous support and help to the Tamil people until true justice and accountability is established for all that went wrong for them in Sri Lanka.
Ministers and MPs including UK Justice Minister Chris Grayling expressed such support during a dinner yesterday in London hosted by UK All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils and British Tamil Forum in London.
Below is the press release in full released by British Tamils Forum:
Activists, journalists, religious leaders, politicians of all parties and prominent members of the British Tamil community arrived at the Royal Horseguards Hotel in London yesterday for the annual dinner of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils (APPGT). The event began with a traditional Bharatanatyam dance performance and welcome speeches by Mr V Ravi Kumar, co-ordinator of BTF, and Lee Scott MP, who is the chair of the APPGT.
Mr Ravi Kumar reminded the seated guests that the recent change of government in Sri Lanka does not alter the Tamils’ position that they are the victims of genocide under successive Sinhala dominated governments. He also thanked the media in the UK, particularly Channel 4 News and Callum MacRae, for helping expose the Sri Lankan state’s actions to the outside world. Mr Ravi Kumar maintained that Tamils believe an end to the genocide is not possible without a fundamental restructuring of the Sri Lankan state and its institutions and without recognition of the Tamils’ right to self-determination. Pointing out that the new government has promised to protect the military – which continues to occupy Tamil lands – and those in the previous government from the threat of international justice, Mr Ravi Kumar called on the international community to resist the new Sri Lankan government’s call for more time. Mr Ravi Kumar also drew attention to the continued military occupation of Tamil lands on the island.
Throughout the dinner, guests heard impassioned speeches from MPs of all parties, including Ed Davey, John Mann, Siobhain McDonagh, UK Justice Minister Chris Grayling, Ivan Lewis, Robert Halfon, Tom Brake and Gavin Barwell. Guests also saw a video message from the Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband and Nick de Bois MP read a message sent by the Prime Minister David Cameron.
Common themes in these speeches included praise for the Tamil community’s role in the United Kingdom and for its hard work and success in raising awareness of the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka. UK Justice Minister Chris Grayling said that parliamentarians of all parties were proud of their relationship with the Tamils.
Several politicians expressed regret that they and many in the UK establishment did not heed the fears of UK Tamils in 2009 that an atrocity was imminent and that they were focussed like never before on making sure that it would never happen again. Some MPs went as far as to say openly that they believed genocide had occurred in Sri Lanka; all accepted that Tamils were the victims of human rights abuses and that it is right that there be a war crimes investigation.
During their speeches, and during interviews given to the media beforehand, MPs and MEPs agreed that the change of government in Sri Lanka does not mean that their work is over. They urged the UK Tamil community to maintain its work, and promised to continue their own efforts until true justice and accountability is achieved. The Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Island, Ivan Lewis MP, insisted that only a solution which recognised the right to self-determination of the Tamil people would be acceptable. Charles Tannock MEP told the media before the event that the EU’s GSP+ trade concessions, which Sri Lanka was stripped of in 2010, will not be reinstated until actual improvements are seen to the lives and rights of Tamils, despite any changes in government.
The final speech was by Dr V Tharmaratnam, a Tamil doctor who trained and practised in the de facto state of Tamil Eelam and who was present during the final stages of the war in 2009. He spoke movingly of the horrors he witnessed at that time and how he still suffers from PTSD and flashbacks today. He described how his hospital was repeatedly shelled by the Sri Lankan army, even though the LTTE had, at his request, moved all weapons far from the hospital site and the hospital had clearly been marked out by a Red Cross flag and ambulances parked outside. He reminded those present that the subjugation and abuse of Tamil people by particularly the Sri Lankan military still continues and urged the UK to do its best to bring about a demilitarisation of the North.