Diaspora conference in London calls for immediate ceasefire
[TamilNet, Friday, 27 March 2009, 22:27 GMT]
45 Tamil dignitaries from 21 countries gathered in London on Wednesday and Thursday to resolve that an immediate ceasefire in Sri Lanka was essential and that humanitarian access to the Vanni should be permitted immediately. The delegates also said that the Eezham Tamils should determine their own destiny and emphasized that the people of the traditional Tamil homeland had not only given their democratic mandate to the homeland concept, but they also have reiterated that mandate at every juncture of their political discourse.
Des Browne sitting on the far right, with Sen Kandiah (British Tamils Forum), Mike Griffiths (Member of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party) and Lord Falconer (former Lord Chancellor)
Wednesday saw the delegates take part in an internal session, addressing issues such as the humanitarian tragedy, the genocidal war and the right to defend, the political processes of establishing legitimacy and the role of international actors in the conflict. Based on discussion papers, the delegates established their position on each of the four issues and shared them with the group.
At the end of Wednesday, a resolution was drafted that covered the main points the conference participants wished to be stressed. This resolution was then unanimously affirmed by a show of hands on Thursday.
Lord Falconer speaking at the diaspora conference in London
On Thursday, the delegates were addressed by distinguished speakers including American civil rights campaigner Rev. Jesse Jackson and Des Browne MP, the British Special Envoy to Sri Lanka and former defence secretary. Other guests included Lord Falconer, Siobhan McDonagh MP, Simon Hughes MP, Keith Vaz MP and Sir Jimmy Savile.
Rev. Jackson spoke of the moral obligation to stop the killing and the need to bring “resolution and visibility” to the conflict in Sri Lanka.
Des Browne spoke of the numbers killed, saying that 70,000 was probably an understatement. He focused on the pressing need, which he identified as the humanitarian crisis, and the hundreds of thousands of Tamil caught in the conflict zone.
Stating that civilians must have the freedom to leave the conflict zone, Mr. Browne said the situation was made worse by the largest number of casualties occurring in the safe zones. He condemned “these acts of violence” and said that he expected the Sri Lankan government to investigate every death.
Siobhan McDonaugh MP addressing the delegates of the diaspora conference
The British government is doing everything it can to bring about a ceasefire since Prime Minister Gordon Brown mentioned it in January this year, he said.
Nothing that the intention in appointing the special envoy was to focus on the final solution and the humanitarian crisis, he expressed the disappointment of the UK government that Sri Lanka had turned down the appointment. He mentioned that he would be reaching out to Diaspora groups in order to continue his role as Special Envoy.
Stating that the UK does not wish to impose a solution – “that is for the Sri Lankans to decide” – Mr. Browne said that like Northern Ireland, the only viable solution is a political one, not a military one.
[L-R] Rev. Fr. S. J. Emmanuel, Jan Jananayagam and Ana Pararajasingham, addressing the press conference.
The conference ended with a press conference on Thursday afternoon, attended by many London based Tamil and international media representatives.
The conference resolution is reproduced in full below:World Tamils Forum: London Conference, 26 March 2009
We, the 45 delegates from 21 countries at the Conference of World Tamils, having met and deliberated in London on the 25th and 26th day of March 2009:
- Are severely shocked and deeply concerned by the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in the Vanni and lack of any substantive reaction by the international community;
- Recognise that the Sri Lankan state is engaged in a genocide of the Tamil people of the island;
- Recognise that the Tamil people have the inalienable right to determine their own destiny;
- Recognise that the Tamil people have mandated the establishment of a free, sovereign state of Tamil Eelam as the only enduring solution;
- Recognise that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are the authentic representatives of the Tamil people;
And hereby we resolve that:
- All killings and attacks of Tamil civilians by the Sri Lankan state must cease immediately;
- Unimpeded humanitarian assistance to those in need in the Vanni must be allowed;
- The United Nations, International Non-Governmental Organisations, and the ICRC must have unfettered humanitarian access to the Tamil population and be permitted to re-establish a permanent presence in the Vanni;
- There must be an immediate ceasefire; and
- Negotiations for a political solution to the conflict must begin immediately after the ceasefire, based on the principle of self determination of the Tamil people.