Tamils campaign for Human Rights in British Parliament

"This gives us an insight as to their Eelam project; the expelling of the Muslims from the North and the killing of  the Muslims in the east, in the mosques, in our villages, while we were asleep, and while we were worshipping. This was mass murder."

Bazeer asked, "What has the international community done for these acts of genocide against the Muslims by the LTTE?"

Features -The Island   (11.03.2006)

Tamils campaign for Human Rights in British Parliament

by Dushy Ranetunge

The towering figure of Mr Vivekananthan, an ex-LTTE activist from Germany stood at the public entrance to the Palace of Westminster last Tuesday, 7th March 2006 at 5.30 pm. He thoroughly checked the identities of those who were arriving for unquestionably the most important and influential Tamil campaign meeting since the proscription of the LTTE as a terrorist organisation by the British Government.

Mr. Vivekananthan directed the participants through the lobby that divides the House of Commons from the House of Lords, to the Commons terrace marquee, which has spectacular views of the River Thames and the buildings on the South bank, including County Hall and the London Eye.

The list of invited speakers included Mr Barry Gardiner MP and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for competitiveness, responsible for Delivery and Efficiency; Mr Andy Love MP, the Chairman of the British Parliamentary group for Sri Lanka; Lord Toby Harris, who was appointed by the Home Secretary as his nominee to the Metropolitan Police Authority; Mr Jeremy Corbyn MP; Mr Edward Davy MP; Mr Stephen Pounds MP; Mr Sadiq Khan MP; Mr Mike Grapes MP, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee; and Ms Angela Ward MP.

This Tamil campaign meeting at the Palace of Westminster was not aligned to either the LTTE or the Sri Lankan government. Many had been former sympathisers and apologists of the LTTE but had over the years realised that Tamils had ‘jumped from the frying pan into the fire’, by opting for the LTTE. They had realised that the LTTE does not present the way to the Promised Land. The LTTE’s Promised Land was a tyrannical mono ethnic hellhole devoid of freedom of speech, the right of dissent, democracy or human rights.

The LTTE has followed a strategy of military confrontation with the numerically superior Sinhalese majority of over 14 million. This confrontational strategy of Tamil nationalism has decimated Tamil culture and society, reducing the self proclaimed sole representatives to depend on child soldiers to continue the struggle.

Many Tamils at the event approached this correspondent and requested that their identities be kept confidential. They said, "If we remain anonymous we can do much more to usher in peace to our country". They were fearful of LTTE intimidation and assurances were given that the names of those who wished to remain anonymous would not be mentioned in this article.

Scottish Devolution

The opening address was by Barry Gardiner MP. He was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1957 and educated at two of Britain’s premier Universities, St Andrews and Cambridge. In 1983 he won the John F Kennedy scholarship to do research at Harvard.

He said, "In one of the first gatherings of Tamils that I had addressed several years ago, I spoke of a tiny Island off a large continent that was split into two, that had great beauty but its people had for generations been incapable of living together. I then explained that the island to which I was referring to was actually Britain, and I spoke as a Scotsman, as somebody who comes from Scotland and who was born in Scotland. The historic conflict between the Scots and the English has gone on for over a thousand years in Britain. But this government (Labour) was eventually able to broker a settlement of devolution in the setting up of the Scottish parliament. Ten years ago I spoke as a Scotsman of my dream that one day it might be achieved and we have now achieved it in this country and I hope that it gives you hope, that these differences that have continued for so long are not insuperable and that a general political settlement acceptable to all sides can be achieved."

He spoke of the underlying problems with the ceasefire agreement between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE having to be addressed. He mentioned his meeting with President Rajapakse and the President’s interest in the British model of devolution. He highlighted the shift in Colombo’s thinking from an Indian style of federal structure to a British style of devolution as a compromise solution acceptable to all parties. He was confident that there were things within the devolved administration in Britain that could be used to take the political dialogue in Sri Lanka forward.

Tamils for democracy

Mr. Rajasingham Jayadevan, the leader of the Tamil Democratic Congress addressed the gathering and stated that there were Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese present in the audience and welcomed them all including the guest speakers. He stated that meeting was very different from the others that he had organised because the previous meetings had been attended by only Tamils, but that meeting had a multi ethnic representation.

He also emphasised that what was seen there was not one Tamil group, but a formation of several Tamil groups. The Island met ex-members of the LTTE, members of TULF, PLOTE, ENDLF etc. There were also Tamils from Denmark and Norway who were keen to follow developments in London.

Mr Jayadevan stated that the meeting coincided with his release by the LTTE who had held him in captivity in the Vanni and released him on the 8th of March 2005 after intervention by the British Authorities.

Mr Jayadevan is not a British citizen, but he is resident in the United Kingdom.

He expressed his tireless resolve to help end Sri Lanka’s conflict peacefully, without further violence, which has affected the Tamil community very badly.

This Tamil political movement has the support of the international community. The LTTE’s intransigence and criminal and violent activity are trying the patience of the international community which is beginning to encourage alternative democratic political formations among the Tamil Diaspora where the LTTE relies on for its funding and logistics. This is a process that will isolate the LTTE and deny it any political legitimacy.

Mr Jayadevan spoke of cyber terrorism from Norway, referring to the LTTE site Nitharsanam.com, which is controlled from Norway. He stated that he had been a victim and that Mr Bazeer from the Muslim Information Centre had also been a victim. Mr Bazeer had been portrayed as a Osama Bin Laden supporter and various defamatory articles written about him.

The LTTE has also defamed Mr Ramraj on the internet, alleging that he had been convicted of narcotics offences, after an altercation in Geneva before the Palais de Nations last month. Mr Ramraj has not been convicted of any narcotics offences. However, Mr Velummylum Manoharan, who was the head of the LTTE International Secretariat in Paris was convicted of narcotics offences in France.

Mr Jayadevan stated that a British MP had also been a victim. Mr Gareth Thomas MP had made a speech and the LTTE completely distorted his speech and published it giving a completely different interpretation favourable to them. Gareth Thomas MP is the Under Secretary of State in the Department of International Development.

The Muslim Factor

Mr Sayed Bazeer, Chairman of the Muslim Information Centre was the next to address the event. He stated that it was his second visit to the British Parliament. He stated that the first time he visited; it was for the propaganda of the LTTE.

"The meeting was to pass a resolution and it to be forwarded to the UN. Unfortunately the Muslims resisted signing the resolution because the Muslims were categorised as Tamil speaking people rather than Muslims. As a result the organisers of the meeting gave up passing the resolution."

"This time we are here under different circumstances in which we are here to voice democracy as Tamils and Muslims and even Sinhalese who are concerned about democracy in Sri Lanka. (The LTTE intimidated Tamils and Muslims from exercising their vote at the last Presidential elections.)

He thanked Barry Gardiner MP for raising concerns in the British parliament about the ethnic cleansing of Muslims from the North of Sri Lanka by the LTTE. He stated that this meeting was being held in March, the same month in which the Muslims were chased away from Jaffna.

"The magnitude of the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict is no longer two dimensional, it is three dimensional," he added.

Quoting Raymond Whitaker from The Independent newspaper of 2nd May 1993 he said, "It is not simply a struggle between the Sinhalese who comprise 80% of the nearly 16 million populations, and the Tamil minority. Some of the worst massacres have been within the Sinhalese community and both sides have at one time or the other have persecuted the even smaller Muslim community"

He spoke of communal harmony between Tamils and Muslims until 1990.

"From 1990 onwards, the LTTE had a plan in mind to make the North and the East a mono ethnic region for the Tamils. This was clearly explained by one of the veteran journalists called Sivaram also known as Taraki. In 1993 Taraki wrote "The LTTE’s position on the Muslims has been made very clear through their actions but their statements have as a whole tended to be very vague. They usually blame one group or the other working with the army. Although it is said that the Tigers promised the Muslims chased from their homes that they will be allowed to resettle in their homes once the war was over, it is now apparent that cleansing the North and the East of Muslims is a part of the Eelam project."

"Taraki wrote this article under the heading "The LTTE’s genocide of the Muslims" Here he used the word genocide, but later became an LTTE sympathiser and editor of the TamilNet and he was posthumously honoured by the leader of the LTTE, Prabakaran as great man, in Tamil, Maamanithar."

"This gives us an insight as to their Eelam project; the expelling of the Muslims from the North and the killing of the Muslims in the east, in the mosques, in our villages, while we were asleep, and while we were worshipping. This was mass murder."

Bazeer asked, "What has the international community done for these acts of genocide against the Muslims by the LTTE?"

"The fact of the matter is that we are all victims of civil war like our Sinhalese and Tamil brothers. Our rights enshrined in the Universal declaration of human rights are frequently breached by the LTTE".

"We are encouraged by the forces now emerging from within the Tamils to campaign for democracy and fight for equality of all communities. We see the emergence of Tamil democratic forces in the United Kingdom and elsewhere as harbinger to democratic values. Although being silent, a sizable number of Tamil people long for a dignified peace in Sri Lanka without being subjected to the will of the LTTE. We view this kind of democratic movement as bringing change to the culture and Tamil mindset."

He stated that Muslims were encouraged to be identified with the newly emerging Tamil democratic movements and work together for human rights and equality.

Mr Bazeer quoted from Anthony King "Labour feared that, if nothing were done to try to satisfy Scottish and Welsh aspirations, not only would the labour party lose seats, but either Scotland or Wales or both might declare themselves independent; the United Kingdom might disintegrate. Accordingly Labour manifesto in October 1974 stated "the next labour government will create elected assemblies in Scotland and Wales. It took about 25 years for British Governments or the Labour party to fulfil their promises.

The LTTE appears to have not given up their thirst for Tamil Eelam.

He went on to state that in Sri Lanka those who stood for human rights and democracy were subject to intimidation and their lives are in danger.

Mr Bazeer concluded by appealing the audience to remember the 75,000 Muslims who were expelled from Jaffna. (Part II on Monday)

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