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UK activists, unions and campaigners come together over Tamil question

Photograph BTF member @vakesan

In a landmark 'Solidarity Day', British Tamil activists, UK trade unions and rights campaigners from a wide array of communities came together to discuss the need for action on the Tamil question.

The event, which included speakers from Unison, Public and Commercial Services Union, National Union of Teachers, RMT Transport Union, Unite, a UK Based Turkish and Kurdish community centre, Youth Fight for Jobs and Education Campaign, Nepali political activist, Rape is No Joke campaign, Stop Boda Bala Sena and Committee for a Workers' International, as well as from event organisers - British Tamil Forum and Tamil Solidarity - focused on three key issues:

- Tamil people's right to self-determination

- An international, independent inquiry into the atrocities committed in 2009 and recognition of the genocide that has been perpetrated against the Tamil people by the Sri Lankan state over the last 65 years;

- Relocation of the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in November 2013, which is currently set to be held in Colombo – or, failing that, a boycott of this meeting by leading Commonwealth member states such as the UK.

In a press statement, BTF said:

'Representatives from the unions emphasised the common ground that exists between their organisations and the British Tamil community. They stressed the dual benefits the Tamil community stands to gain from playing a more active role in UK trade unions – both in terms of improving the welfare of the community in the UK and in bringing the suffering of Tamils in Sri Lanka to the attention of a large and sympathetic UK-wide audience.

The union representatives recounted the role the unions have historically played in bringing global injustices – such as Apartheid in South Africa – to the attention of the British public. They expressed their hope that this Solidarity Day would be the first step in making the Tamil freedom struggle a similarly prominent campaign among the union movement and wider British public.'

The event was held at SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies) in London on June 8th. Full list of speakers included below:

Hugo Pierre (Unison)
Chris Baugh (Public and Commercial Services Union)
Martin Powell Davies (National Union of Teachers)
John Reid (RMT transport union)
Paul Kershaw (Unite)
Representative from DAY-MER (UK-based Turkish and Kurdish Community Centre)
Paul Callanan (Youth Fight for Jobs and Education Campaign)
Awatar Dhakal (Nepali political activist)
Claire Laker-Mansfield (Rape Is No Joke campaign)
Firasul Fouz (Stop Bodu Bala Sena)
Santhosh Rengan (film-maker & students' union officer)
Niall Mulholland (Committee for a Workers' International)
Manny Thain, Sarah Sachs Eldridge, TU Senan (Tamil Solidarity)
Raj Vakesan (British Tamils Forum)

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