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UK Politicians Consider Genocide of Tamils in SL

UK Politicians Consider Genocide of Tamils in SL

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Published by Maria Anderson

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Published by: Maria Anderson on Oct 09, 2013
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Tamil Guardian , 08 October 2013
The British Tamil Forum, in collaboration with the All Party ParliamentaryGroup for Tamils, held a forum on genocide at Porticullis House today.Following opening remarks from conservative MP, Lee Scott, the eventproceeded with presentations from 4 panel members ending with a shortquestion and answer session, which was chaired by Redbridge CouncillorAlan Weinberg.
The first panellist, KannanathanRajganna from Tamils Against Genocide (TAG) drew upon events thatpointed towards genocide and highlighted the intent behind thegovernment’s shelling of the no fire zone, prevalent altering of demographics in the North-East and examples of hate speech by severalmembers of the government.Dr Andrew Higgingbottom , a lecturer at the University of Kingston, nexttook the floor and argued that Navi Pilllay’s findings of land grab andmilitarisation illustrated that structural genocide was occurring in theNorth-East.#####Higgingbottom stressed that the Sri Lankan government was ejectingTamils from their traditional areas and resettling Sinhalese from the South,whilst also using coercive population control techniques. Condeming thereluctance of people to use the term of genocide when talking about theplight of those in the North-East, Higgingbottom stressed that the it wasimportant to remember that the genocide of the Tamil people occurredbefore the LTTE was even formed and highlighted that the Tamil call forself-determination predated the LTTE. Higgingbottom further argued that
many nations knew of the atrocities that were taking place in 2009 butremained silent, and highlighted the need for activists to pressure theBritish government to withdraw from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.Panelists Kannanathan Rajganna and Dr Andrew HiggingbottomShivani Jegarajah, a leading barrister from the Renaissance Chambers, tookthe floor by reiterating that David Cameron’s attendance of CHOGM wouldmean that genocide was being condoned by the British government.Reiterating that the genocide was not only confined to the killings in the NoFire Zone, Jegarajah took the room through the horrific experiences of rape, torture and murder in the asylum cases she had dealt with. Jegarajahalso highlighted attacks on freedom of expression in the North-East,reminding people that the current event and discussions would beimpossible to hold in Sri Lanka, consolidating the need for the Tamildiaspora to remain vocal. She further outlined that the oppressive grip of Sri Lanka was so strong that solicitors in the UK were unwilling to take upasylum cases, in fear of reprisals against their family members in theNorth-East.The floor was then given to an Associate Fellow of the Chatham House AsiaProgramme, Dr Chris Smith, who recalled on the unbelievable suffering hesaw in Vanni during his visit in 2009. Smith went on to highlight theeffectiveness of international pressure in forcing the government to
dismantle the unacceptable displacement camps whilst reiterating that thepeople had not been adequately resettled. Noting the considerable post-wareconomic development in the North-East, Smith made clear that theprogress was not to be attributed to the Sri Lankan government, butinstead to the resilience of the Tamil people. Smith described therestrictions placed on NGO work by the government and the High levels of militarisation in the North-East that lead to military involvement in everyday aspects of people’s lives. Smith condemned the Commonwealth’streatment of Sri Lanka, reminding the room the Rajapaksa would chairdiscussions on democracy and human rights until the next Heads of Government meeting.The panel presentations were followed by various questions from theaudience and general discussion between the audience and panellists.Contributing to discussion around the British government’s attendance of CHOGM, Dr Higgingbottom, reiterated that Cameron must pay a hugepolitical price if he attends.Alan Weinberg, highlighted parallels between Sri Lanka’s one nationrhetoric and Hitler’s racist campaigns.A question was posed to the panel that asked whether the use of the termminority when describing Tamils in Sri Lanka, was an inhibiting perceptionthat, in-fact, undermined the struggle against genocide. Responding to thequestion, Dr Smith conceded that this could be the case and that thecorrect terminology in such complicated situations was very important.Describing her experience of Sri Lankan officials, Margaret Owen, thedirector fo Widows for Peace through Democracy, linked the Sri Lankanrhetoric to the Weirnbergs comments, highlighting that officials worryinglyresponded to her demands for reconciliation with the Tamils, by stating, “There is no such thing as being Tamil, we are all Sri Lankan.” Several other representatives of movements against genocide also showedtheir support for the Tamil cause, urging the importance of highlighting theplight of people facing genocide.The discussions ended with the panel reiterating the need to change thenarrative of the situation in the North-East and acknowledge the genocidethat the Tamil people were subjected to.

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