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Why Rajapakse’s case is different

“The Oxford Union has in the past faced criticism for inviting other controversial speakers also known for their racist views. However, President Rajapakse is in a different position from [far right leader] Nick Griffin or [Holocaust denier] David Irving.

“These previous speakers live in countries with a free and independent media and the rule of law. They could not therefore use the Oxford Union as a means of propagating unchallenged, noxious views or indeed as a platform for a campaign of concealment.

“However, President Rajapakse has crushed free speech in his own country and done his best to conceal from international attention the grave crimes committed in the Tamil speaking areas.”

Sixteen Tamil university societies wrote earlier this month, via the Tamil Youth Organisation (TYO), to the Oxford Union over its controversial invitation to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse. They did not get a response.

The university Tamil societies are those of Cambridge, Nottingham, King’s College London, Kingston, Cardiff, St. Georges, Westminister, Hertfordshire, Southampton, Queen Mary, Middlesex, Brunel, Greenwich, Imperial College, Central London, and City.

A reader's query to the the University of Oxford, meanwhile, produced this response:

"The Oxford Union is an independent debating society. Although most of its members are current or former Oxford students, it is not part of the University of Oxford. It has its own funding sources and premises, and the University does not have jurisdiction over its events."

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