Tamils remember those killed in the Vanni (Pictures: Tamil Guardian)
British Tamils came together to remember the victims of the Mullivaikkal massacre at Trafalgar Square on Saturday.
Commencing the event with a minute silence for all those who died at Mullivaikkal and during over 60 years of genocide, Tamils young and old alike paid their respects to those who died in the struggle for freedom by laying flowers.
Organised by the British Tamil Forum (BTF), the event was addressed by a wide range of speakers, and included moving dance and poetry acts by British Tamil youth, including from the Tamil Youth Organisation UK (TYO UK).
K. Ravi, BTF (video)
B. Visakan, TYO-UK (video)
R. Jeyaraja, BTF (video)
Addressing the event, Ravi Kumar of BTF, condemned the relentless colonisation, militarisation and oppression of the North-East, and stressed the need for an international investigation. Noting the work of the youth at the vanguard of the struggle against oppression both in the diaspora, and especially in the North-East, Ravi Kumar asserted that as the Holocaust became synonymous with the genocide of Jewish people, Mullivaikkal encapsulates the genocide of the Tamil nation.
Delivering the TYO UK's address for the 3rd anniversary of the Mullivaikkal massacre, Visakan Balakumar, said,
“Three years on, May 18th defines precisely what cannot be reconciled. As we remain confounded by our nation’s collective loss, the Sinhala nation praises its government and celebrates its military."
"What the Eelam Tamil nation calls genocide, the Sinhala nation calls ‘victory’. And so, on a day like today, as we remember May 18th at Mullivaikkaal, we are ever more resolved that our nation’s security, the island’s peace and the region’s stability lie in Tamil Eelam.”
The event was also addressed by the TNA MP, Sritharan. Detailing the subjugation of Tamils in the North-East and the stifling of the most basic rights of freedom of expression and freedom of speech, Sritharan urged Tamils in the diaspora to continue advocating the freely what those in the North-East could not. Dismissing assertions of a disconnect between Tamils in the North-East and the diaspora, Sritharan reiterated that what he could see in the hands of those stood before him, was what Tamils in the North-East yearned for.
|Lee Scott MP (video)|
|Simon Hughes MP (video)|
|Barry Gardiner MP (video)|
Referring to the building of Buddhist temples in Tamil areas, the deployment of security forces and the silencing of Tamil voices in parliament, Sritharan rejected the Sri Lankan government's rhetoric of reconciliation, and warned that unless there was meaningful progress, there was a grave risk that history would repeat itself.
Jan Jananayagam, of Tamils Against Genocide (TAG) said,
“The Vanni was above all a sanctuary. A sanctuary from the horrifying lawlessness of the Sri Lankan state and its military apparatus.”
“A military that runs amok today in the Tamil Eelam homeland, eroding and ultimately destroying every good it comes into contact with.”
“The first step of this work is the meticulous recording of the truth. The testimony of our witnesses, that we preserve now, will shape our both our future.”
Read Jan Jananayagam's speech in full here.
Lee Scott, Conservative MP and Chair of All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils (APPG-T) said, “until there is an international inquiry and justice, the victims cannot be in peace”, and added, “there is a long way to go but it will happen.”
The deputy leader of the Liberal-Democrats, Simon Hughes, said, "I am here because I believe that every people has a right to have a say about their future" and asserted that “we will never forget the tragedy.”
Arguing that the “world has let down the Tamil people”, Simon Hughes said,
"The UK government has a responsibility to do a better job to stand up for rights of the Tamil people"
"Unless there is a complete change in behaviour in Sri Lanka the CHOGM 2013 should not be held in Colombo”
|Baroness Victoria Borwick (video)|
|Cllr Alan Weinberg (video)|
Reflecting on the trial of Ratko Mladic, the Labour MP for Brent North, Barry Gardiner, asserted that “Rajapaksa should be quaking in his boots."
Barry Gardiner added,
“We will not stop. We will be here, each year, every year, until Rajapaksa faces the same fate as Mladic.”
Praising the significant contribution made by London Tamils such as in the world of business and in the NHS (National Health Service), Baroness Victoria Borwick, Deputy Mayor of London, said, "London has been a safe haven to escape to from the traumas and horrors of a civil war” and "you have made such a success of your lives here.”
The Conservative Councillor for Redbridge, Alan Weinberg, lamented that "it cannot be right that the genocide against the Tamils is a forgotten genocide" and pledged to continue to “fight so that Tamils can live free”.
Commending the Jaffna university students for their “courageous stand”, Dr Andrew Higginbottom, Principal Lecturer in Politics/Human Rights, Kingston University, slammed the UK government for inviting Mahinda Rajapaksa to the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Higginbottom asked, "why do you want a butcher at your royal feast?"
|Dr. Andrew Higginbottom (video)|
|Martin Powell-Davies, NUT (video)|
|Margaret Owen OBE (video)|
|Jujini Mano, TYO-UK|
|S. Sanju, TYO-UK|
|S. Sutharsan, TYO-UK|
|Jan Jananayagam, TAG|
Echoing his sentiments, Martin Powell-Davies of the National Union of Teachers said, “Rajapaksa should be arrested when he gets here”, adding that the “National Union of Teachers supports your demands for an international investigation”.
The barrister, Margaret Owen OBE, and the founder and president of Widows for Peace through Democracy, said that “it is time Sri Lanka is kicked out of the Commonwealth”, adding, “I've often been to Sri Lanka but I won't go again”.
Roger Evans, member of the Greater London Assembly, asserted that, “we cannot rest until we see justice done.”
In written messages, MPs and politicians across the UK remembered the massacre of Mullivaikkal:
Robert Halfon, Conservative MP for Harlow
“I urge the UK Government to recognise the terrible genocide that took place in Sri Lanka, and ask for an independent investigation by the UN into war crimes.”
“If Sri Lanka does not implement the recommendations of the ‘Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’ by the time it meets again this September; I believe that Britain should boycott the 2013 Commonwealth Summit in Sri Lanka.”
Paul Burstow, Liberal Democrat MP for Sutton and Cheam:
“The aftermath of the 2009 war in Sri Lanka is an international tragedy. It is my fervent hope that the recent report by the UN Panel of Experts will lead to an international inquiry similar to the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia.”
Ken Livingstone, Former Mayor of London and MP for Brent East:
“The terrible crimes committed by the Sri Lankan military against Tamil civilians during the final stages of the war are now undeniable. These crimes warrant the label of genocide. The UN resolution is an only a first step in the process of establishing a truly independent and international investigation into Sri Lanka’s conduct.”
Jean Lambert MEP for London, Green Party:
“The independent investigation into alleged crimes remains of utmost importance”
Grant Shapps, Conservative MP for Welwyn Hatfield:
“I’m pressing for there to be an independent thorough and credible investigation into accusations of violations of humanitarian and human rights law during the conflict.”
Gareth Thomas, Labour MP for Harrow West:
“Three years on from the massacre, we still have not got an independent international investigation into the human rights abuses which we all know that took place and the channel four has helped to expose to the world. UN has recognised the need for an investigation. I am willing to work with you all for that independent international investigation and bring justice.”
Stephen Hammond, Conservative MP for Wimbledon:
“There are some who might say Sri Lanka is the other side of the world and there is little we can do. But we should not turn our backs”
“I believe Sri Lanka must implement the recommendations of the "Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission" quickly and fully.”
Messages of remembrance from India were also broadcast, including from P. Nedumaran, G. Thirumurugan, K. Vaiko and Kolathur Mani.
Other speakers included Jujini Mano of the TYO UK, Rasayyah Jeyaraja of BTF, Manny of Tamil Solidarity, Tim Martin of Act Now and the film director Gowtham.
Poems were read by TYO UK members, Sutharsan and Sanju.
|Tamils gathered at Trafalgar Square|
|TNA MP Sritharan addressing the crowds|
|Tamils remember the dead in front of sacrificial flame|
|Crowds sign e-petition calling for an independent, international investigation|