meets Tamil expats in London Report by TamilNet, 17 September 2008
Rowdy mayhem at the meeting addressed by the British Foreign Minister
Report by Sri Lanka Guardian, 16 September 2008
Meeting addressed by Rt Hon Lord Malloch Brown
(Compiled with BTF Press Report) - Report by Jaya BT E-Mail, 17
September 2008 - "Lord Malloch Brown in his introductory speech said
that it is enormously important that Ministers like Gareth and he should
have more of such opportunities to understand the concerns of people.
It is therefore very appropriate that they met with the Tamil community
considering the current situation in Sri Lanka for the Tamils."
We may be wrong, but a fair reading of the responses by
Rt Hon Lord Malloch Brown suggests to us
that the British Government appears to be following an approach not
dissimilar to that mapped out in the
Report by International Crisis Group
in February 2008 - (an International Crisis Group with
Board Members Former United Kingdom Cabinet Minister, Lord Patten of Barnes,
US Ambassador Thomas R Pickering and former Australian Foreign Minister
Gareth Evans) -
"So long as there is widespread support for separatism
and militancy in the diaspora, peace in Sri Lanka will be hard to come
by... Stronger political and legal pressure should be applied to the
LTTE outside Sri Lanka...Western governments’ policies on Sri Lanka
should consciously include attempts to open up political space within
their Tamil communities for non-Tiger political voices. Those
governments with significant Tamil populations should engage
representative civil society groups directly, ...
(whilst) actively guarding against any intimidation of anti-Tiger Tamil
groups... The Tigers should also be required to take some real steps
towards transformation before being accepted as a negotiation partner.
Such moves, however, may well require new leaders (of the LTTE).
Peace supporters should consider setting a deadline for renunciation
of a separate state, after which they would actively pursue
prosecutions of current LTTE leaders for war crimes and crimes against
humanity.... Countries should develop step-by-step benchmarks for
progress towards revoking the terrorist designation –
in part to encourage Prabhakaran’s
we have pointed out elsewhere, it is unfortunate that for the
distinguished members of the International Crisis Group, the roadblocks to
peace were 'separatism' and 'militancy' - not the
oppressive rule by a permanent and alien Sinhala majority within the
confines of a single state - an oppressive rule that had led to the
struggle for an independent Tamil Eelam and, in the last resort to
armed resistance. Wisdom is not always a function of gross national
product and western governments.... may want to recognise that the Tamil
people are not stupid. The struggle for Tamil Eelam is not about what the
LTTE may have done or not done. The struggle for Tamil Eelam is about
democratic right of the people of Tamil Eelam to govern themselves in their
homeland - nothing less and nothing more.
And, here let us be clear. Self determination, if it is to
mean anything at all, must mean exactly what it says - self
determination i.e. a people have the right to themselves freely
choose their political status and that includes the right to secede, if they
so choose. A people cannot be told: "We support your struggle for self
determination. You have the right to freely choose your political status,
but you may exercise it only in the way we tell you i.e. within
the territorial entity of the existing state".
We cannot help feeling that Rt Hon
Lord Malloch Brown was somewhat disingenuous when he declared -
"We need to recognise the reality that Britain is a
long way away from Sri Lanka but we have certain means and tools
available to us to influence but it is beyond our powers to force a
solution to this problem."
After all, distance did not prevent his Government
from proscribing the LTTE although no one has suggested that the LTTE posed
a threat to the security of the United Kingdom or that the LTTE has at
any time engaged in any activity against the United Kingdom. The Tamil
people are not devoid of wisdom. They know that the proscription of the LTTE
is directed to weaken the LTTE and render it more pliable.
"Countries should develop step-by-step benchmarks
for progress towards revoking the terrorist designation –
in part to encourage Prabhakaran’s
by International Crisis Group
in February 2008 - (an International Crisis Group with
Board Members, Former United Kingdom Cabinet Minister, Lord Patten of
Barnes, US Ambassador Thomas R Pickering and former Australian Foreign
Minister Gareth Evans)
The Tamil people also know that if the armed resistance to
the genocidal onslaught by a
murderous Sinhala nationalism fails, they will be left only
with Tamil pleaders, supplicants and collaborators who may gain some crumbs
from their master's table for themselves (and their next of kin) but will do
nothing to oust the alien Sinhala army from the Tamil homeland and prevent
continued alien Sinhala rule of the people of Tamil Eelam.
And as for the concern of Rt Hon Lord Malloch Brown that
'fragmenting nation states will make it difficult to sustain international
affairs' the words of Self
Determination & the Future of Democracy come to mind -
"...Let us accept the fact that states have lifecycles
similar to those of human beings who created them. The lifecycle of a
state might last for many generations, but hardly any Member State of
the United Nations has existed within its present borders for longer
than five generations. The attempt to freeze human evolution has in the
past been a futile undertaking and has probably brought about more
violence than if such a process had been controlled
peacefully...Restrictions on self-determination threaten not only
democracy itself but the state which seeks its legitimation in
The argument that to accord international recognition to
separate national formations will lead to instability in the world order
is not dissimilar to that which was urged a hundred years ago against
granting universal franchise. It was said that to empower every citizen with
a vote was to threaten the stability of existing state structures and the
ruling establishment. But the truth was that it was the refusal to grant
universal franchise which threatened stability . Self determination
is not a de stabilising concept. Self determination and democracy go hand in
hand. If democracy means the rule of the people, by the people, for
the people, then the principle of self determination secures that no one
people may rule another - and herein, perhaps, lies its enduring appeal. And
we may need to attend more carefully to the words of of Yelena Bonner (widow
of Andrei Sakharov) that "the inviolability of a country's borders against
invasion from the outside must be clearly separated from the right to
statehood of any people within a state's borders."
There may also be a need to pay closer attention to
Tamil leader Nadarajah Thangathurai said from the dock in February 1983
"Allegations are made that we are asking for
separation, that we are trying to divide the country.
When were we undivided after all?
Our traditional land captured by the European invaders has never been
restored to us. We have not even mortgaged our land at any time to
anyone in the name of one country. Our land has changed hands off and on
under various regimes, and that is what has happened. We have yet to
reach a stage when we can have our land for ourselves.What we ask for is
not division but freedom. "
That Nadarajah Thangathurai was murdered a few months
later in Welikade Prison whilst in the custody of the Sri Lanka government
lends perhaps additional significance to that which he said - and serves to
expose the machinations of a Sinhala nation which dares not speak its own
name and which seeks to masquerade as
as a 'multi
ethnic' Sri Lankan 'civic
nation' (albeit with a
Sinhala lion flag,
Buddhism as the
State religion and an
unrepealed Sinhala Only law).
Again, Nadarajah Thangathurai himself was not saying
anything new. The Gandhian Tamil leader, S.J.V.Chelvanayagam Q.C. said it
all in 1975 -
"Throughout the ages the Sinhalese and Tamils in the
country lived as distinct sovereign people till they were brought under
foreign domination. It should be remembered that the Tamils were in the
vanguard of the struggle for independence in the full confidence that
they also will regain their freedom.
We have for the last 25 years made every effort to secure our political
rights on the basis of equality with the Sinhalese in a united Ceylon."
"It is a regrettable fact that successive Sinhalese
governments have used the power that flows from independence
to deny us our
fundamental rights and reduce us to the position of a subject people.
These governments have been able to do so only by using against the
Tamils the sovereignty common to the Sinhalese and the Tamils."
"I wish to announce to my people and to the country
that I consider the verdict at this election as a mandate that the
Tamil Eelam nation should exercise the sovereignty already vested in the
Tamil people and become free."
We have said it before - and we say it again. An
independent Tamil Eelam is not negotiable. But an independent Tamil Eelam
will negotiate with an independent Sri Lanka the
terms on which two independent states may associate with one another in
equality and in freedom. Sovereignty, after all, is not virginity.
Said that, all this is not unknown to those at the helm of
international affairs today. The harsh reality lies elsewhere.
The denial by international actors of their conflicting strategic
interests in Sri Lanka (and
in the Indian Ocean region) draws a veil over the real issues that
any meaningful conflict resolution process in the island will need to
address. We cannot ostrich like bury our collective heads in the sand -
and, to mix the metaphor, ignore the elephant in the room.....Whilst
the goal of securing peace through justice is loudly proclaimed by the
international actors, real politick leads them to deny the
justice of the Tamil Eelam struggle for freedom from alien Sinhala rule.
The harsh reality is that on the one hand
international actors are concerned to use the opportunity of the
conflict in the island to advance each of their own strategic interests
- and on the other hand, Sri Lanka seeks to
use the political space created by the geo strategic triangle of US
-India-China ( for US read tri laterals - US, EU & Japan) in the Indian
Ocean region, to buy the support of all three for the
continued rule of the people of Tamil Eelam by a permanent Sinhala
majority within the confines of one state. The record shows that
Sinhala Sri Lanka seeks to engage in a 'balance of power' exercise of
its own by handing over parts of the island (and the surrounding
seas) to India, US and China. We have
India in the Trincomalee oil farm, at the same time we have a
Chinese coal powered energy plant in Trincomalee; we have a
Chinese project for the Hambantota port, at the same time we have
naval exercises with the US from Hambantota (to contain Chinese
presence in the Indian Ocean); we have the
preferred licenses to India for exploration of oil in the Mannar seas,
at the same time we have a similar grant to China and
a 'road show' for tenders from US and UK based multinational
corporations; meanwhile we have the continued presence of the
Voice of America installations in the island and the
ten year Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) was signed
by the United States and Sri Lanka on 5 March 2007...."
The International Dimensions of the Conflict in Sri Lanka
Here, we are not unmindful that sometimes,
the Tamil response
to the international community, takes on the characteristics of the
teen age girl's response in the pebble story.
"...It seems that we avoid confronting the
international community for fear of provoking its ire. We avoid seeking
an open dialogue with the international community on its own strategic
imperatives and the true rationale for its actions. We resort to
subterfuge. We say that our way is the 'anuku murai' - the diplomatic
way to 'approach' issues. We claim that this is the effective way.
But has this 'anuku murai' succeeded? Again the result of not
calling a spade a spade is that we confuse our own people. We confuse
our people by leading them to believe that the international community
is without sufficient 'cleverness' to respond to our subterfuge with its
own subterfuge and advance its own agenda. We confuse our people by
leading them to believe that all that needs to be done is to wake up the
international community to the facts and the justice of our cause and
all will be well. This is the limitation of our discourse. It is a
limitation that we need to transcend. Diplomacy may be the art of lying
without getting caught but a struggle for freedom is not..."
Black Pebbles &
It is not that each of one us should not
tirelessly, fearlessly and openly lobby against the genocidal onslaught
launched by Sri Lanka on the people of Tamil Eelam. We must. But at the same
time, we must equally tirelessly, fearlessly and openly espouse the
lawfulness and justice of the Tamil Eelam struggle for freedom from alien
Sinhala rule. It is not either or - it is both. The
genocide - but the struggle is for freedom." And we may want to
keep in the forefront of our minds the question -
who is lobbying whom and to what end?
During a community meeting attended by over one thousand British Tamils, UK
Foreign Minister Lord Mark Malloch Brown, said:
"UK Government believes that minorities in any country must have their right to
practice the fullest and free to expression of self determination. We are
extremely concerned about how this government behaves and treats the Tamil
community, and we are using all the means available to us to press the
government to do otherwise."
The meeting was organised by the Harrow West Member of Parliament and
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of Department for Business, Enterprise and
Regulatory Reform, Rt. Hon Gareth Thomas to discuss the current situation in Sri
Lanka with his Tamil constituents.
This meeting was also attended by Hon Robert Evans Member of European Parliament
for London, Member of Parliament for Leicester (East) and the Chairman of the
Home Affairs Select Committee Rt. Hon Keith Vaz and Harrow Councillor and Leader
of the Association of Tamil Councillors Thaya Idaikadar.
He said that both the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam were responsible for breaking of the Cease Fire Agreement and it is wrong
to blame just the one side for the breakdown. Commenting on the situation in the
East, Mr Brown said, on one level the situation is secure and peaceful than
before, but he does not see political reconciliation that will bring everyone to
the democratic political process.
Commenting on the current situation, Mr Brown said, "both sides should allow
access to the international humanitarian workers to help the people of North. We
are extremely concerned. We have through the Secretary General of the United
Nations and our High Commissioner made representations to both parties to ensure
free and safe access remain opened for humanitarian workers to assist the people
"British Government's overriding position is that there is no military solution
to this problem in Sri Lanka. This problem should be resolved by finding a
political solution." This message was relayed by me to the President, his
brother the Defence Minister, the Foreign Minister and the Chairman of the All
Party Representative Committee (APRC). UK government funded a trip of members of
the APRC to visit Northern Ireland to see for them at first hand of conflict
resolution. The aim was to aid the thinking so that they will come with
innovative solutions and to re-start the political process.
On harassment of journalists, he said he believes journalists should be given
access to the theater of war. "We are constantly pressing through the EU and the
UN to protect against these abductions and disappearances," Brown said, adding,
"We do not have the right to tell any country how to rule or run their country.
All we can do is with our international partners we can press for better
governance and compliance to human rights laws."
Hon Robert Evans Member of European Parliament related his experiences during
his various visits to Sri Lanka. He was non-apologetic for his team's press
statement after their recent visit to Sri Lanka as an EU Delegation. He
explained the various excuses that the GoSL gave to delay and possibly shorten
their trip to the East of Sri Lanka where he was scheduled to meet Pillayan, the
new Chief Minister and spend time exploring the ground situation without any
government agents present. He said that they were amazed how the government
claims on the one hand that the East has been 'cleared' yet the delegation was
not allowed to travel to Batticaloa (East of Sri Lanka) due to security
problems. In the end, the delegation never went to the East of Sri Lanka at all.
He also said how he found the LTTE running a very efficient general
administration and hospitals within the Vanni area soon after Tsunami struck Sri
The meeting came to a close soon after 8:30 p.m.