Feature Article

Ken Livingstone vows unwavering support for Tamils’ struggle

[TamilNet, Monday, 29 November 2010, 09:22 GMT]
Addressing the Tamil National Remembrance Day gathering in London Saturday, veteran British politician Ken Livingstone slammed the Sri Lankan state for “the terror [it] has waged against the Tamil community”, and vowed his unrelenting support for the Tamil people’s struggle. “The government of Sri Lanka is a disgrace to the international community,” Mr. Livingstone, a prominent figure of the Left in British politics said. “Behind the façade of voting there is no longer a democracy in Sri Lanka. I look forward to the day once again when Sri Lanka once again can become a real democracy, and get rid of the current war criminal who occupies the office of president,” he said of President Mahinda Rajapakse.

“I am with you in all you seek to do. I will be with you forever,” Mr. Livingstone told a packed assembly of some of the fifty thousand Tamils who attended the Nov 27 event in London.

Ken Livingstone
Ken Livingstone, a prominent figure of the Left in British politics, addressing the gathering in London on Tamil Heroes Day

Mr. Livingstone, a prominent politician of the opposition Labour Party has twice held the top office in London’s government. He was leader of the Greater London Council from 1981 until 1986, when Premier Margaret Thatcher’s government abolished it. When the office of Mayor of London was created in 2000 as part of devolution, he was twice elected to it – in 2000 as an independent candidate (his party fielded another candidate, amid internal wrangling, and in 2004 as the Labour candidate. He lost in 2008 to his Conservative Party rival, and is the Labour candidate for 2012’s election.

The flame of sacrifice
The flame of sacrifice
Adele Balasingham
Mrs Adele Balasingham paying homage to the fallen heroes at the UK event
Labour politicians Siobhain McDonagh and Ken Livingstone attending the Tamil National Remembrance Day event in UK
Remarking that Saturday’s event reminded him “how large and important the Tamil community is in this city”, Mr. Livingstone said he first became aware of the Tamils’ plight “nearly 30 years when I was leader of the Greater London Council and we started to get the first waves of refugees of Tamils coming here.”

“We got involved in trying to find housing, community centres and that was the first time that I began to understand the pain that has been inflicted on the Tamil people.”

“The government of Sri Lanka is a disgrace to the international community. With its disregard for human rights, and the transformation of what was once a democracy into effectively a dictatorship.”

Mr. Livingstone said he had rejected a Sri Lankan invitation to another event – also on Saturday – to celebrate the Sri Lankan armed forces. The invitation was extended by a person who rang his doorbell Thursday night. He recounted his reply: “Well I will be celebrating the Tamil community and its commitment to this city and commemorating those whose lives have been lost in the struggles of the last few decades;

“and I wouldn’t celebrate the Sri Lankan armed forces, because of the scale of the war crimes and genocide and ethnic cleansing that they are guilty of.”

Mr. Livingstone also condemned Sri Lanka’s High Commission in London for its efforts via a rightist newspaper to portray him prior to the mayoral elections in 2008 as ‘a supporter of Tamil terrorism’.

“I have to say to the Sri Lankan High Commission, it would have been more embarrassing if you had called for people to vote for me, given your appalling record on the abuse of your Tamil citizens and the terror that has been waged against the Tamil community,” he said.

“You can condemn me in eighteen months time when I am running for election in this city again, and I will wear it as a badge of pride.”

Mr. Livingstone concluded his speech with a pledge to work with the British Tamil Forum (BTF) to pursue an annual day for the Tamil community to host an event in Trafalgar Square, “so that Londoners in all their diversity can come and see and be part of what you have brought to this city.”



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