From Hot Spring, October 1996
The International Conference organised by the International federation of
Tamils, was held in London at Ealing town Hall on the theme, " The Tamil
Struggle for Self Determination".
It was held mainly to call upon all Sri Lankan expatriates and the
International Community to:
a) support the just and legitimate struggle of the Tamil people living
within historically defined territory in Sri Lanka,
b) recognise the right of self-determination of the Tamil people,
c) impress upon the Sri Lankan Government to de-escalate its military
aggression by withdrawing its troops from occupied Tamil territories and by
lifting the embargo on food, medicine and media in order to create conducive
conditions to initiate meaningful talks between the Sri Lankan government
and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to find a peaceful and lasting
settlement to the armed conflict and
d) engage in meaningful talks towards recognising the just rights of the
The conference was addressed by delegates from the UK, El-Salvador, Sri
Lanka, South India and South Africa.
The speakers included
Hon. Derek Fatchett MP
(Shadow foreign Secretary),
Hon. Robert Hughes MP
Hon. P. Khabra MP (Labour),
Hon. Christine Oddy MEP (Labour),
Mr. Barry Gardiner
(Labour Party candidate for Brent North),
Mrs. Lata Patel (Mayor of London Borough of Brent),
Dr. Surya Subedi (Snr. Lecturer, University of Hull),
Mr. Vasantha Raja (Former Chairman, Sri Lanka National TV - Rupavahini and
Former Presenter of BBC Sinhala Service ),
Miss. R. Madhura (HURT- Human Rights for Tamils),
Mr. Adrian Wijemanne (Author - 'War
and Peace in Post-Colonial Ceylon);
Dr. S. Ramadas (Founder, Pattali Makkal Kadchi - India)
Prof. Theeran, MLA (Leader, Pattali Makkal Kadchi - India)
Mr. Sigfrido Reyes
(Executive Secretary, Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front,
Mr. Gopal Veerabadhran (PASLO-South Africa); and
Dr. Vickramabahu Karunaratna (Nava Sama Samaja Party Leader - Sri Lanka).
The conference was well attended by people from all walks of life. The views
expressed by the delegates were centred on the plight of the Eelam Tamils and
the condemnation of the Sri Lanka government's ongoing military operations under
the cover of press censorship and emergency rule.
We quote excerpts from the speeches made by some of the delegates.
Derek Fatchett MP
(Shadow Foreign Minister)
"....there has to be a just political solution. The only people who can
resolve a conflict are the parties to the conflict themselves. I can see that
there has to be recognition of the legitimate wishes of the Tamil people and the
wish for autonomy on the part of the Tamil people....
" We would see it as our obligation as well as our right to further human
rights for all and therefore to criticise any actions that are a violation of
any human rights.
" ... we recognise alongside the military conflict that exists, literally
hundreds of thousands of people are in need of humanitarian support. I'm already
in opposition, been asking the British Government to put whatever pressure it
can on the Sri Lankan Government to ensure that legitimate aid gets through to
those who need legitimate aid...."
Barry Gardiner, Labour Candidate for Brent North:
" The war in Sri Lanka must be publicised, I commend the organisers of this
conference and pledge that I will do all in my power to keep international
attention focused on what the Tamil people are suffering.
"The question of International Humanitarian relief and the Sri Lankan
Government's aid blockade must be constantly highlighted. Economic pressure I
believe should be brought there to resolve this issue.
"The question of the supply of military hardware to resume such as Sri Lanka
must be stopped and Britain's role as a potential third party mediator with the
historical and moral responsibility must be promoted."
Robert Hughes MP:
" there is a tendency through ignorance to assume that the Tamil Tigers are
simply a terrorist organisation "
"... rather than being terrorists in my view, they are fighters trying to
protect their homes, wives and their children ..."
"Let's get the television cameras in there. Let's see what's going on. Let's
see whose word is right and wrong. Let's see whether you can believe what the
Sri Lankan Government authorities are telling us."
"...let's have the evidence in front of the television cameras and by
unbiased journalists. And let's see what's the effect is of the denial of the
Dr. Ramdas and Prof. Theeran emphasised the point that the Chief Minister of
Kalaignar Karunanithy has already spoken to the Central Government about the
plight of the Eelam Tamils and the Tamil Refugees. They said that they would
talk again to Kalaignar put pressure on the Foreign Minister, Mr. Gujral to
intervene in this matter to find a just and lasting solution to the Tamil
problem which will meet the demands and aspirations of the Eelam Tamils.
Mr. Sigfrido Reyes in his
speech said, " ... peace may be lasting and firm only if it is based upon
justice. And justice in this situation means that the Sri Lanka Government
finally recognises the right of Tamil people to choose what kind of state they
want to live in, even if their decision favours an independent state. Peace must
be based upon the right to each people to practice their own values, culture,
language and traditions, with a limit not more than that accepted by the
Dr.Vickramabahu Karunaratne and Dr.S.Ramadas