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British politicians mark Mullivaikkal anniversary with calls for accountability

Senior British politicians from across the political spectrum have commemorated eleven years since the massacres at Mullivaikkal with messages calling for accountability and genocide recognition, whilst also praising the British Tamil community for their resilience.

See messages from British lawmakers below.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said his “thoughts are with those who lost loved ones” and reiterated his government’s “support for reconciliation & accountability in Sri Lanka to build peace & prosperity for all”. His tweeted message though also spoke of the “close friendship” between Britain and Sri Lanka, as Raab confirmed he spoke to Sri Lanka’’s foreign minister recently.

Labour leader and former Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer said his thoughts are “with the British Tamil Community as they mark the 11th anniversary of Mullivaikkal, a day of remembrance to honour the memory of those victims who were killed and disappeared in the final weeks of the civil war in Sri Lanka”.

“Though communal acts of remembrance are not possible at this time, I know that Tamil communities across our country will be united together as they pause and reflect upon this solemn day,” he added.

“Mullivaikkal must also be a reminder that as well as commemorating those who are lost, we must bring the perpetrators of atrocities to justice. This can only occur through a renewed effort to seek truth, accountability and reconciliation - a purpose to which we must all remain committed.”

The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Ed Davey, sent his “thoughts and best wishes to the British Tamil community as we prepare for the 11th anniversary of Mullivaikkal, and remember those people were killed in the genocidal act against Tamil people”.

“I remember it all - to the suffering of the people in Sri Lanka and the diaspora here in the United Kingdom. I think it’s really important on this 11th anniversary to remember and continue the fight for justice,” he added.

“We cannot allow this horrific, horrific incident and the events leading up to it, to be forgotten. And we cannot end the search for justice. The call for an international independent judicial investigation needs to continue. I think the actions of the Sri Lankan government in the United Nations Human Rights Council (are) unacceptable. “

Lord Ahmad, UK foreign office minister, said that Britain “reiterates the importance of reconciliation & accountability to ensuring a peaceful & stable future for all Sri Lankans”. 

Jeremy Corbyn, former Labour leader and current MP for Islington, said he was “honoured” to join an online remembrance ceremony and said it was a “poignant day”.

“For those that have lost loved ones (there is) a sense of lack of closure on it because they haven’t seen any of the perpetrators of those terrible crimes actually brought the justice,” he added. 

“There has to be investigations of crimes that have been committed,” he added. “The Tamil people have suffered, not just in recent times but for decades and decades before that.”

Sam Tarry, Labour MP for Ilford South, said “May 18 marks a solemn day, where Tamils in Sri Lanka and around the world mourn the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians that were brutally massacred at Mullivaikkal in 2009”. 

“It is concerning that several of the men accused by the UN of being responsible for these deaths are now in the highest positions of power in Sri Lanka,” he added. “I echo concerns of the UN Human rights chief in February, regarding the reneging of Sri Lanka’s commitments to UN Human Rights Council resolution 30/1 and ongoing disenfranchisement of ethnic Tamils and Muslims.”

“I will continue to call on Sri Lanka to demilitarise the Tamil homelands in the North-East of the island, allow an international accountability mechanism that investigates and provides justice for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide; and a political power sharing solution in Sri Lanka that recognises Tamil people as a nation on the island with the right to self-determination. We have seen more than 70 years of ethnic tension and conflict in Sri Lanka. It is time for a lasting peace.

“The Labour party has made a manifesto commitment to Tamil and Muslim rights in Sri Lanka. To prevent further violence and protect the rights of all, we will work to ensure that future trade with Sri Lanka will be based on constructive yet critical analysis of it’s progress on accountability for mass atrocities, demilitarisation and a just political solution for all nations on the island of Sri Lanka.”

Elliot Colburn, Conservative MP, delivered a message on behalf of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils, said that as the world watches frontline workers battle the coronavirus pandemic “for many British Tamils, including those living in my constituency, the sacrifice of these frontline staff today will no doubt bring back memories of the medical professionals in Mullvaikkal who put their lives at risk to treat the injured in the midst of shelling and aerial bombing by Sri Lankan security forces”.

“Whilst we tackle the coronavirus pandemic our work continues to make sure that we do not forget the events of 20009, and that the crimes against humanity and genocide committed in Sri Lanka will be remembered,” he added. “We will continue to fight to ensure all those who committed those grave crimes are made accountable."

Janet Daby, Labour MP for Lewisham East and shadow minister for faiths, said the genocide remembrance day was a time to remember the conflict that “killed, terribly, so many Tamil peoples lives”.

She praised the Tamil community, stating that “many of you are activists in ensuring that this genocide is never forgotten”. “Stay strong and keep doing what you are doing,” she concluded.

Robert Halfon, Conservative MP, said “it is an incredibly sad time”. He went on to state,  “it speaks memories from a series of pogroms and atrocities, and the genocide of the Tamil people who once had autonomy and no long enough suffered over 70 years since the independence at the hands of the Sri Lankan government”.

“The Tamils deserve to be respected,” he added. “They deserve to have their autonomy. They deserve to have justice.”

"I wish you all well, justice, autonomy and recognition of the genocide.”

Kate Green, Labour parliamentarian and Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, sent her best wishes as the Tamil community “commemorate the appalling massacre in Mullivaikkal, when tens of thousands of Tamils lost their lives at the hands of the Sri Lankan military.”

“The world must never forget these terrible killings,” she added. “I stand in solidarity with the Tamil community against oppression and murder and in confronting hatred and protecting human dignity.”

Wes Streeting, Labour MP and Vice Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils delivered a message passing on his “reassurance that I and other members of parliament across all political parties will be working together, not just to make sure that the prosecution of historic rights abuses remains on the international community’s agenda, and that we see truth and justice and reconciliation come about but also to highlight the ongoing human rights abuses, in Sri Lanka during this lockdown.

“We’re with you, we’ll be campaigning with you and for you, and we will not rest until justice is delivered,” he concluded.

Theresa Villiers, Conservative MP, reflected back on the events of eleven years ago, stating it was “when Sri Lankan state forces persistently bombed an area where thousands of Tamil civilians had taken refuge”. 

"The Sri Lankan state encouraged people to go there, they told them they would be safe, and then they bombed them relentlessly," she added.

"It was a war crime. I want to see those responsible brought to justice. It is clear that thousands of innocent Tamil people lost their lives at the hands of the Sri Lankan state in circumstances which were completely unjustified."  

"It’s time to renew our commitment to accountability and justice in Sri Lanka, to see that those who are responsible for war crimes and brought to justice and held accountable."

Stephen Timms, Labour MP for Eastham, offered a reminder that "many in Sri Lanka are still suffering today” in his message.

“I hope though, that the world will insist on an independent international enquiry into what happened at the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka,” he added. “And insist as well that steps to deliver #accountability, justice and lasting peace for Tamils in the North-East of #SriLanka are finally delivered.”

“That is going to need an international independent investigation of the kind we have seen in elsewhere in Syria. The international impartial and independent mechanism, the IIIM. Myanmar, the independent investigative mechanism for Myanmar, IIMM. In order to break through the impunity in Sri Lanka which has hardened since the election of the current government.” 

Steve Baker, Conservative MP who served as Chairman of the European Research Group until February 2020, said “the massacre of Tamil civilians in Mullivaikkal shocked the world, and it is right we remember those who died”.

“The United Nations must continue to press for transitional justice and accountability for those who suffered,” he added.

Conservative MP and former minister Chris Grayling said “ it is more important than ever that in memory of those who lost their lives that we all work to ensure that nothing like this can ever happen again”.

Shaun Bailey, the Conservative candidate for London Mayor said, “I stand with London's Tamil community, as well as Tamil families around the world in their search for reconciliation and accountability”.

Claudia Webbe, Labour MP, extended “condolences to Britain’s Tamil community on the commemoration of the 11th anniversary of the genocide of Tamil civilians”.

“I will always be an ally of the Tamil community in Leicester East and across the UK,” she added. “We must do everything we can to stop such brutal acts of violence and hatred and facilitate accountability and transitional justice for those who suffered.”

Grant Shapps, Conservative MP and secretary of state for transport, said his thoughts are “with the British Tamil community”.

“It’s vital that we mark this day not only to remember those who are no longer here but also so that we never forget the suffering that the Tamil people went through so that it can never be allowed to happen again.”

Bambos Charalambous, Labour MP and shadow minister for the home office, commemorated the Mullivaikkal massacres, stating “genocide against any community is an international crime and recognition of this facet is essential in ensuring that it never happens again”.

Bob Blackman, Conservative MP for Harrow East, said today also marked “11 years of a lack of accountability or justice for the horrendous war crimes committed against the Tamils". 

“The outlook for justice in Sri Lanka has also turned dark with the return of the Rajapakse government,” he added. “I will always campaign and stand up as a voice for the Tamil community, and the endeavours of the Tamil community for peace, justice and reconciliation.”

Responding to the Labour leader’s statement, Gareth Thomas, MP for Harrow, said, ‘with the biggest Tamil community of any constituency I know just how important this terrible anniversary is to so many in Harrow as well as across the UK”. 

"I will continue to raise in Parliament the right of all on the island of Sri Lanka to have their human rights respected, to live free from the fear of torture & arbitrary arrest and for justice for the terrible loss of life particularly at the end of the conflict in 2009,” he added.

“Today marks eleven long years since the massacre at Mullivaikkal,” said Siobhain McDonagh MP.

Eleven years with so many challenges, so little process and so much pain. The images of those final days are scarred in my memory. The mass violation of human rights left a stain of injustice on Sri Lanka. The world looked away, but today we will not. 

Dawn Butler, Labour MP for Brent, said “we should never forget the lives lost and the lives taken from us”.

“I stand in solidarity,” she added. “May we never forget.”

James Murray, Labour MP for Ealing North, said “I know members of the Tamil community in my constituency and beyond will be remembering the atrocities of the civil war,” adding that this was a moment to “renew our commitment to seeking justice”.

“Today marks 11 years since the #Mullivaikkal massacre which resulted in more than 40,000 deaths and devastated the Tamil community of Sri Lanka,” said Labour MP Navendu Mishra.

“We will continue to stand in solidarity with all Tamils as they fight for justice, reconciliation and self-determination.”

Paul Scully, the minister for London, paid tribute to the British Tamil community, stating “ I want to celebrate what British Tamils have been doing in this extraordinary time of coronavirus and how it’s affecting our society”.

“They have been on the front foot as doctors, nurses, carers, essential workers and I want to say thank you to each and every one of them.”

“It’s disappointing not only to see little progress in achieving truth, reconciliation and justice to bring an end to that island’s dark chapter in the history, but also to note that the Sri Lankan government themselves have pulled away from their commitment that they made to the United Nations to make e progress on this," he added. 

"We as parliamentarians must make sure we do all we can do bring pressure to bear on that government for the benefit of the Tamil people."