London conference 'backs Tamil independence'
[TamilNet, Monday, 26 April 1999, 21:53 GMT]
(News Feature) An estimated five thousand Tamil people living in Britain attended a rally and conference titled 'Tamil Eelam Towards Independence,' at Alexander Palace, London on April 25, 1999, said the organisers, the Federation of Tamil Associations (UK). However, widespread speculation about a 'unilateral declaration of independence' at the event proved unfounded.
'The conference deliberated on the issues affecting the Tamil Nation in the island of Sri Lanka,' said the organisers in a press release.
'The Tamil people demonstrated their solidarity behind the leadership of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam,' said the Federation of Tamil Associations.
Robert Evans, MEP of Britain's ruling Labour Party gave the opening address to the conference. He said he "brought greetings from the European Parliament" and expressed his "support for the Tamil people" and said the situation Sri Lanka had been "forgotten" by the world.
The conference resolved to:
'accept and recognise the Tamil peoples (sic) right to self determination',
'accept and recognise the North-Eastern Province in the island of Sri Lanka as the Traditional Homeland of the Tamil Nation',
'accept and recognise the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as the legitimate representative of the Tamil People' and
'stop the ongoing war and withdraw the Sri Lankan Armed Forces from Tamil Eelam forthwith.'
'The conference concluded that these are essential prerequisites for a durable political settlement of the Tamil national conflict,' said the press release.
The resolution was passed with a show of hands from the conference floor. Speakers at the conference included Adrian Wijemmane, an academic who spoke on independence struggles and how, in his view, the situation in Sri Lanka could be seen in a similar light.
Representatives of about twenty Tamil community organisations also spoke in support of Tamil independence and the LTTE.
British Parliamentarian (Labour Party), Neil Gerrard, gave a speech supporting "self determination for the Tamils" and condemned the Sri Lankan government for it's human rights record and for not seeking a negotiated solution.
Vasantha Raja, former Rupavahini chairman, also addressed the conference, drawing parallels between the humanitarian situation in Kosovo and that in Sri Lanka.
Ms. Arjin Amedi, a representative of the Kurdish Freedom for Ocalan Campaign drew parallels with human rights situations 'faced by the Kurdish people in Turkey and the Tamil people in Sri Lanka'.
A speaker Committee for the Unification of the Revolutionary Left told the conference that Sri Lankan left wing parties such as the NLF and JVP 'are opposed to the war'.
A press briefing held part way through the conference was attended by Adrian Wijemmane, representatives of the Federation of Tamil Association and International Federation of Tamils (IFT), as well as Kumar Ponnambalam, of Sri Lanka+IBk-s All Ceylon Tamil Congress.
When asked by journalists about the widespread speculation about a declaration of independence at the event, James Karan of the IFT denied an announcement had been planned.
'UDI can only be announced by our leader in Tamil Eelam,' he said, referring to LTTE leader Vellupillai Pirapaharan.
'Our agenda is not set by the Sinhala press,' he said, in reference to recent reports in the Sri Lankan press that expatriate Tamils were planning to 'declare Tamil Eelam' at an event in Europe.