A notable and resounding plea reverberated within the hallowed halls of the UK Parliament, urging the government to extend formal recognition to the grievous act of genocide inflicted upon the Tamil community in Sri Lanka. In a remarkable demonstration of unity and resolve, Members of Parliament across party affiliations converged in an extraordinary conference, held at Committee Room 10 in the British Parliament on June 14th, 2023.
This conference, meticulously organized by British Tamil organizations, brought together influential Tamil activists, legal professionals, and religious leaders, cementing their collective determination to seek justice and address the deeply entrenched structural genocide that continues to afflict the Tamil population. The impassioned appeal for the official acknowledgement of this harrowing chapter in history underscores the pressing need to confront the past and provide solace and closure to the victims and survivors. As the clamour for justice intensifies, the movement to recognize the Tamil genocide surges forward, assuming a pivotal role in the ongoing quest for truth and accountability.
The gathering convened with a specific focus on comprehensively addressing the persistent and systematic acts of structural genocide that have inflicted immeasurable suffering upon the Tamil community. The venue, filled to capacity, aptly mirrored the heightened sense of urgency surrounding this critical matter. This highly significant event provided a notable platform for distinguished speakers to deliver impassioned speeches, effectively illuminating the distressing and abhorrent atrocities endured by the Tamil people in Sri Lanka.
Through poignant narratives and compelling testimonies, the speakers meticulously highlighted the gravity of the crimes committed against the Tamil community. The stories shared underscored the urgent need for swift action, accountability, and redress. The gathering provided an invaluable opportunity to shed light on the extent of the atrocities and effectively emphasised the imperative for the international community to stand united in the pursuit of justice and the prevention of further human rights abuses.
By amplifying the voices of survivors, activists, and advocates, the event fostered empathy, understanding, and a renewed commitment to rectifying the historical injustices inflicted upon the Tamil Eelam population. This collective effort, uniting diverse stakeholders, represented a pivotal step towards creating awareness and mobilizing support for the cause of acknowledging and addressing the ongoing structural genocide faced by the Tamils.
The event commenced with a gracious welcome from Miss Kishani Vigneswararajah, a dedicated volunteer at the esteemed World Tamils Historical Society. Her introductory remarks set a poignant tone for the proceedings, expressing sincere appreciation to all attendees and underscoring the profound importance of uniting to confront the urgent issue of the Tamil genocide.
Following the warm welcome, a succession of powerful and impassioned speeches unfolded, delivered by esteemed individuals whose unwavering commitment to justice and accountability for the Tamil community was evident. Notably, Master Sharveen Shanthalingam, an ambitious and determined year 12 student, graced the podium. Serving as a volunteer at the esteemed World Tamils Historical Society, Master Shanthalingam opened the series of speeches with a resounding call to action. In his compelling address, he shed light on the ongoing atrocities endured by the Tamil people. His active engagement and fervent advocacy serve as a testament to the indomitable spirit and unwavering resolve of the younger generation in their pursuit of justice and preservation of the rich Tamil heritage.
The event was skillfully overseen by Mr Patrick Lewis, a highly regarded legal expert renowned for his specialisation in immigration, asylum, and human rights matters. As the esteemed chairperson, Mr Lewis assumed a pivotal role in steering the proceedings and delivered a compelling address that resonated deeply with the audience. His extensive expertise and profound understanding of the subject matter were evident as he underscored that those responsible for the 14-year conflict are held accountable.
During his address, Mr Lewis astutely emphasised the limitations and inadequacies of the Sri Lankan government’s ability to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the Tamil genocide. He highlighted the importance of external intervention and the involvement of independent entities to facilitate an objective examination of the atrocities committed.
By articulating these essential points, Mr Lewis further elevated the discourse surrounding the issue on the intricate legal dimensions and underscored the crucial role of international cooperation in addressing the Tamil genocide.
During the conference, Mr. John MacDonald MP, a prominent member of Parliament, underscored the crucial significance of enacting robust legislation to address the grave atrocities perpetrated against the Tamil community. He strongly urged the UK government to not only formally recognize the Tamil genocide but also to take concrete steps in enacting Magnitsky sanctions legislation. This legislation, he stated, would play a pivotal role in holding those responsible for the atrocities accountable and ensuring that justice is duly served.
Another esteemed Member of Parliament, Mr Virendra Sharma MP, brought attention to the collaborative efforts made by communities in Oxford, Harrow, and other parts of the United Kingdom. He commended their tireless dedication in leading legislative initiatives and engaging in protests against the Sri Lankan government and its president. Mr Sharma MP assured the audience of their unwavering support, both within the UK and Sri Lanka, emphasising the significance of fighting for future generations, preserving their cultural heritage, roots, and overall well-being. He stressed the importance of actively engaging with Members of Parliament and rallying their support in advocating for the Tamil people in Sri Lanka, urging attendees to ask, demand, and gather support from their elected representatives.
Sir Ed Davey MP, the distinguished Leader of the Liberal Democrats, passionately addressed the conference, emphasising the importance of never forgetting the immense suffering endured by the Tamil community. He drew attention to the persistent presence of the military in Sri Lanka and the distressing reports of abuse, including recent incidents involving the arrest of elected Tamil representatives. Sir Ed Davey MP asserted the urgent need for the UK to take action and hold the Sri Lankan army and government accountable for their actions.
He proposed implementing measures such as weapon trade sanctions and withholding trade benefits to address the flagrant breaches of international laws and sanctions. Additionally, the MP called for individual sanctions against the Rajapaksa brothers, aligning with Canada’s stance. Sir Ed Davey MP highlighted the economic crisis resulting from corruption and military control, calling countries like the UK to speak up and demand justice. He concluded by questioning the need for further evidence to recognize the responsibility of the Sri Lankan government in these matters.
During the conference, Mr V.S.S. Thananchayan, a prominent lawyer and activist currently residing in Sri Lanka, delivered a compelling speech about the ongoing injustices and advocating for justice. He accentuate the historical and territorial significance of the Tamil people as a distinct nation and raised concerns about militarization. Despite the official end of the war on May 18, 2009, Mr Thananchayan pointed out the disproportionate and pervasive military presence in the North and East regions of Sri Lanka, with an alarming reported ratio of one military personnel for every two individuals, as documented by Adayalam.
The substantial allocation of budgetary resources to the military had severe implications for the country’s fragile economy. The demand for demilitarisation, consistently voiced since 2009, had yet to yield tangible results. The military’s confiscation of private lands and vehicles had disrupted the lives of numerous individuals. Mr Thananchayan also highlighted the issue of Sinhala Buddhist colonisation, where Buddhist temples (Viharas) were constructed in predominantly Tamil areas. He highlighted that this deliberate effort was not aimed at fostering peace and harmony but was eroding the Tamil identity.
During the conference, His Holiness Velan Swamikal, the esteemed Coordinator of the Uprising Movement from Pottuvil to Polikandi (P2P), delivered a profound and insightful speech. He drew attention to the distressing phenomenon of structural genocide targeting Tamil temples, which seeks to eradicate the Tamil race and identity. Swamikal expressed deep concern over the destruction of temples and the simultaneous construction of viharas, citing specific examples such as the Vedukkunaari Temple in Vavuniya.
He highlighted the issue of military interference in sacred sites, including Kurundur Malai, and expressed disappointment over the lack of action taken by authorities to address these violations. Swamikal made a compelling appeal to the international community, particularly urging the involvement of the United Kingdom in the United Nations, to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court. He underscored the urgent need to protect the Tamil homeland and facilitate a referendum to determine the desired form of governance and democracy for the Tamil people.
Ms Sarah Jones MP, the esteemed Shadow Minister of State for Police, shared two key points during her address at the conference. Firstly, she emphasised the need for the country to shift its focus beyond internal matters and actively engage with the international community. She stressed that it is crucial for a nation to demonstrate concern and take action on global issues. Secondly, she acknowledged the support of 60 MPs who share a strong interest in the cause and expressed her commitment to initiating a parliamentary debate on the matter. Ms Jones’ remarks highlighted the significance of collective efforts and parliamentary engagement in addressing the Tamil genocide and seeking justice.
Mr Sam Tarry MP emphasised the urgent need for individuals to raise their voices and advocate for justice. He stressed the importance of demanding accountability and pushing for the involvement of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in addressing the Tamil genocide. Mr Tarry made a clear distinction between wars and genocide, pointing out that the atrocities committed against the Tamil people cannot be justified by conflating them with acts of war. He underscored the need for a comprehensive understanding and recognition of the unique nature of the Tamil genocide.
Ms Janani Jananayagam, the Chair of Together Against Genocide(TAG), delivered a passionate address at the conference. She mentioned the necessity of Tamil Genocide recognition, citing Canada’s acknowledgement of the Tamil genocide and the recognition of Black July 1983 as an act of genocide. Jananayagam drew attention to the demographic changes and land grabbing as forms of genocide and emphasised the urgency of formal recognition to prevent further injustices against the Tamil community and safeguard their identity and rights.
Mr Garath Thomas MP, the esteemed Shadow Minister for International Trade, addressed the issue of sanctions and human rights during the conference. Reflecting on the government’s response in 2009, Mr Thomas acknowledged the challenges in imposing sanctions at that time. He emphasised the importance of upholding human rights and labour rights as fundamental values. Mr Thomas expressed concern about the misuse of the Prevention of Terrorism Act against Tamils, stressing the need to hold perpetrators and human rights abusers accountable for their actions.
The conference served as a platform for impassioned speeches on the harrowing atrocities endured by the Tamil community. The participants underscored the urgent need for the UK government’s recognition and intervention in seeking justice and accountability for the crimes of genocide committed against the Tamil people. The conference emphasised the imperative of international recognition of the Tamil genocide and the imposition of targeted sanctions against those responsible, as well as the importance of preserving the Tamil community’s identity and rights.