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British MPs call for war crimes probes at Mu’l’livaaykkaal Remembrance
[TamilNet, Thursday, 20 May 2010, 09:36 GMT]
Parliamentarians from all three main British political parties addressed a rally Tuesday at Westminster to commemorate the forty thousand Tamil civilians massacred last year by the Sri Lankan government forces during the closing months of the island’s civil war. Addressing 10,000 people who filled the permitted space in Parliament Square, MPs from the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties, which comprise Britain’s new ruling coalition, and the main opposition Labour party were united in their condemnation of the war crimes and the need for international action on Sri Lanka’s war crimes.
"There should be an international independent investigation into the war crime charges against the Government of Sri Lanka" said Lee Scott, Conservative MP (Ilford North). He pledged his unwavering support for the Tamil people.
"We have a new obligation as the parties in government, I promise that we will work with our friends in EU, Commonwealth and UN to bring peace and justice in Sri Lanka," said Simon Hughes Liberal Democrat MP (North Southwark and Bermondsey).
Mr. Hughes said this was the time for Tamils and their friends to stand together and take practical steps to advance their cause.
"The last year has proved to many people that the Sri-Lankan government is incapable of meeting the political needs of the Tamil people." Virendra Sharma, Labour MP (Ealing and Southall), and Chair of All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils (APPG-T) said.
Other Parliamentarians who addressed the rally included Tom Brake, Liberal Democrat MP (Carshalton and Wallington), Andrew George, Liberal Democrat MP (St Ives and the Isle of Scilly), Robert Halfon, Conservative MP (Harlow), John Mann, Labour MP (Bassetlaw), Keith Vaz, Labour MP (Leicester East), John McDonnell, Labour MP (Hayes and Harlington), and Barry Gardiner, Labour MP (Brent North).
Other parliamentarians joined the crowd briefly at various times during the 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. rally.
Amongst the other speakers to address the rally were James Allie, Liberal Democrat Councillor (Brent), Robert Evans, former Labour MEP, Julian Bell, Labour Coucillor (Ealing), Mr Gupta, General Secretary, Hindu Council UK and Graham Williamson of campaign group ‘Act Now’.
A survivor of the slaughter in Vanni, who escaped from Muliyavaikkal on May 18 last year, shared his experiences of losing his father and cousins, of seeing people blown up in front of his eyes.
“We took the injured to hospitals, and they [the Sri Lankan government] targeted the hospitals,” he said.
He spoke of the shortage of food, especially milk powder for the babies. He mentioned seeing people queuing up for food and milk powder, only to have the queues shelled and bombed. “As the little food and milk powder the people had was being handed out, [the government] killed those in the lines,” he said.
“We believed our people protesting overseas would save us, but it did not happen. All the world countries were against us,” he noted.
The event began with a moment of silence in the memory of all those who had died, followed by the floral tribute in front of a ‘40,000’ sign, commemorating the lives lost. It concluded with a candle light vigil and those presenting taking an oath to not rest until the Tamils who remain in the camps are freed and justice is achieved for those who died.
In bleak contrast to the 72-day protests at the same location last year, Tuesday’s gathering was far more sombre, recalling the atrocities that could not be averted by the international community and reflection on the ongoing sufferings of their kith and kin in Sri Lanka, a statement by the organizers said.
Representatives from British Tamils Forum (BTF) and Tamil Youth Organisation (TYO) handed a memorandum at the Houses of Parliament calling on the British Government to use her leverage on trade through permanent withdrawal of GSP+ and prevention of IMF loan to exert pressure on the Sri Lankan government to uphold international law.
“British Tamils called on Britain to use her standing in the commonwealth, European Union, the UN, as well as her influence on other powerful nations and to ensure an independent international inquiry into the war crimes committed against the Tamil people during the war is initiated to bring the perpetrators to justice,” a statement from the organizers said.
The full text of the memorandum follows: Tamils Need Justice and Protection
On the 1st anniversary of the massacre of nearly 40,000 Tamil people by the Sri Lankan state, we the Tamil people of the Diaspora and other peace loving people are gathered here today to remember those who died as well as those who had their lives shattered by the physical and mental scars inflicted upon them. Heavy weaponry was used by the military during the offensive on densely populated areas and designated “Safe Zones”. Cluster bombs and chemical weapons were also alleged to have been used in the onslaught.
We are here to remind the world that the perpetrators of these heinous crimes against humanity are still at large and are still charged with governance to continue with their genocidal programme against the Tamil people in Sri Lanka. Evidence gathered by International Crisis Group in a report released on 17 May 2010 provides reasonable grounds to believe that government security forces “repeatedly and intentionally” violated international law by attacking civilians, hospitals and humanitarian operations.
Today the Tamil people have been left totally defenceless and in danger of obliteration in their own homeland under the jack boot of the Sinhala armed forces of Sri Lanka. Over 80,000 Tamil people are still held in concentration camps guarded by the Sinhala armed forces. Over 11,000 Tamil youth are held in undisclosed torture camps with scant disregard to their human rights. Local media reports give gruesome accounts of the fate of these youth who are held without accountability.
The Sri Lankan government is continuing to decimate the Tamil homeland. The land and property belonging to the Tamil people are being plundered by Sinhala settlers with state patronage. The street names and sign boards are being changed from Tamil to Sinhala, Tamil historical and religious sites are being destroyed and replaced by Buddhist temples across the traditionally Tamil North and East regions. The Tamil people face existential threat of unprecedented proportions whilst the world media and international attention is kept away by the Sri Lankan state. The Tamils have become a community in danger in their own homeland.
“UN was paralysed when political and diplomatic intervention was required to protect Tamil civilians in the Sri Lankan government campaign to wipe out the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam,” Lord Patton, Chancellor of University of Oxford, commented in an article in Financial Times in reference to UN’s inability to uphold the principle of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) to prevent such atrocities. Britain’s Responsibility to Protect
Owing to Britain’s political involvement in the history of the island, the Tamil people have reason to expect the British government to take decisive and effective measures to protect the Tamil community from total annihilation. The Sri Lankan government, embolden by its support from anti-Western alliances, continues to ignore with utter contempt all calls to respect international norms on human rights.
British Tamils want Britain to use her leverage on trade through permanent withdrawal of GSP+, prevention of IMF loan and her standing in the commonwealth, European Union, the UN, as well as her influence on other powerful nations to exert pressure on the Sri Lankan government to,
- Uphold international law and release all the people held in concentration camps across the island and resettle them in their places of origin
- End illegal, indefinite and arbitrary detention of more than 11,000 youths held in so-called rehabilitation centres and be given access to legal representation
- Allow unhindered access to the international media and aid agencies to the North & East of the island of Sri Lanka
- Halt all Sinhalisation of the Tamil areas, ethnic cleansing and decimation of the North & East
We want the British Government to ensure that,
- International aid is not diverted to purposes other than those for which it was entrusted to the Government of Sri Lanka
- The Tamil people are protected from ethnic cleansing and annihilation by the Sinhala State.
- An independent international inquiry into the war crimes committed against the Tamil people during the war is initiated and the perpetrators are brought to book.