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The Tamils need support; Sign the statement against the war on the Tamil people of Sri Lanka

8000 Australian Tamils and supporters protest in Canberra, April 18, 2009.

The following editorial appeared in Green Left Weekly issue #791, April 22, 2009.

April 18, 2009 -- One of the great crimes of modern times is occurring on the island of Sri Lanka without a word of protest from governments the world over. The Tamil people are facing genocide.

Already this year, the death toll of Tamil civilians exceeds 4000. Often dozens, and in some cases hundreds, are slaughtered in a single day in Sri Lankan Army bombings of the so-called safe zone, into which as many as 300,000 people are crowded.

Those Tamils who flee this zone are being placed into concentration camps by the Sri Lankan Army.

This brutal reality is almost entirely unreported, and not simply because the Sri Lankan government refuses to allow journalists access to the scene of its crime. Instead, the mainstream media is once again siding with the powerful.

When the issue is reported at all, the Sri Lankan government’s propaganda is repeated — the propaganda of a regime that refuses to allow a free press, with one of the world’s highest rates of journalists being murdered each year.

According to Sri Lankan propaganda, the military are merely fighting “terrorism”. It claims its war is merely against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), an armed group fighting for an independent Tamil homeland in the island’s east and north.

Yet Sri Lanka’s actions prove its war is against the Tamil people as a whole.

The actions of the LTTE are a response to the decades of discrimination and violent repression meted out to the Tamil minority by a state dominated by the majority Sinhalese ethnic group. Support for armed struggle grew among Tamils in response to the violent anti-Tamil pogroms in 1983 that killed more than 3000 people.

The solution to ending the decades-long war on the island, and bringing about desperately needed peace, is to end the oppression of the Tamil people.

First, and most urgently, there must be a permanent ceasefire declared. The mass killings must be ended. Food and medical supplies must be allowed into the “safe-zone”, without which aid agencies are warning of a terrible humanitarian crisis.

The Tamil people must regain their freedom of movement — the concentration camps must be closed.

Once this occurs, the conditions for a negotiated settlement to the crisis, which can resolve the issue of self-determination for the Tamil people, will exist.

However, powerful governments, in defence of powerful interests, are allowing the Tamil people to be sacrificed. In return, the powerful are manoeuvring for access to lucrative shipping routes and ports.

To avoid upsetting the racist and undemocratic regime in Colombo, that regime is allowed a free hand to implement a “final solution” to the Tamil question. Once again, the corporate elite is placing profit over human life.

People around the world who believe in social justice must raise their voices. The Tamil diaspora is desperately attempting to bring the plight of its people to the world’s attention. In their hundreds of thousands, they have marched in cities around the globe.

In India, dozens of Tamils have self-immolated to bring attention to the situation. In Australia, six young Tamils went on hunger strike for almost a week. They refused food or water, with a serious risk of death, in an appeal to the Australian government to press Sri Lanka to call a permanent ceasefire.

We cannot let them stand alone. Those who believe in social justice — political parties, trade unions, churches, social movements — must speak out against the atrocities occurring right now.

The powerful have abandoned the Tamil people, it must be ordinary people all over the world who use their power to force action.

When Israel levelled Gaza, millions marched in opposition. That movement must continue, and the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign seeking to isolate apartheid Israel is beginning to have effect. But that display of “people power” needs to be repeated on behalf of the Tamils.

International solidarity helped end apartheid in South Africa, despite Western governments siding with the regime. It helped the East Timorese win their independence, despite Western governments — including Australia — siding with Indonesia.

It is placing Israel on the back foot, despite the most powerful nations on Earth backing the oppressors of the Palestinian people.

Now, international solidarity must be mobilised to save the Tamil people and stop the genocide.

Support this very urgent struggle by joining the heroic campaign of the young Australian Tamils. Visit http://www.tamilsydney.com.]

Stop the genocide against the Tamils!

April 20, 2009 -- This statement was circulated at the World at a Crossroads conference hosted by Green Left Weekly in Sydney, April 10-12, 2009. A selection of the much larger number of people signed are included below. To add your name to the statement, email stuartmunckton@gmail.com.

* * *

Participants at the World at a Crossroads conference, Sydney April 10-12, recognise the genocide being carried out against the Tamil people by the murderous Sri Lankan government. The genocidal policies of the Sri Lankan government are a continuation of over six decades of systematic discrimination carried out against the Tamil population.

The drive towards genocide of the Tamils has intensified since the Sri Lankan government abrogated the peace process in January 2008 and embarked on the reconquest of the island's north through brutal war with devastating consequences for Tamils.

The last few months has been particularly brutal. More than 3500 Tamil civilians have been killed in a space of three months by the Sri Lankan state offensive. Tamils fleeing the fighting are being herded into concentration camps.

According to the former foreign minister of Sri Lanka, “A few months ago the government started registering all Tamils in Colombo on the grounds that they could be a security threat, but this could be exploited for other purposes like the Nazis in the 1930s. They’re basically going to label the whole civilian Tamil population as potential terrorists.”

Two-hundred thousand Tamils are now facing starvation.

We believe people throughout the world must become more vocal against this genocide and protest governments that support the Sri Lankan government. Governments such as the United States, Israel, China, India and Pakistan have all equipped the Sri Lankan army with high technology weapons, including illegal chemical weapons and cluster munitions.

The undersigned participants call for:

  • an immediate end to the Sri Lankan governments attacks on Tamils and for there to be an immediate ceasefire;
  • that diplomatic, economic and cultural sanctions be applied till the Sri Lankan government agrees to an immediate ceasefire;
  • that all military aid and assistance from governments to the Sri Lankan government must end immediately, because the money is being used to perpetrate genocide;
  • the IMF not to grant the Sri Lankan the use of $1.7 billion, as it will be used on military equipment to kill Tamil civilians;
  • that governments of the worlds to recognise and give full citizenship rights to Tamil refugees who have had to flee to avoid the genocide;
  • that the self-determination of Tamils up to and including their right to form an independent state must be respected by the governments of the world; and
  • that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam be taken off proscribed terrorist lists.

Initial signatories (see the full list at http://www.greenleft.org.au/2009/791/40764):

* Salim Vally — Spokesperson of the Palestine Solidarity Committee (South Africa); lecturer and senior researcher at the Education Policy Unit and the School of Education at Wits University;

* Michael Lebowitz — Director of "Transformative Practice and Human Development" at the Centro Internacional Miranda, Caracas; Professor Emeritus of economics, Simon Fraser University;

* Luis Bilbao — Union of Socialist Militants (Argentina); advisor to the Hugo Chavez government in Venezuela; editor of XXI magazine;

* Reihana Mohideen — vice-chair of international department of the Power of the Masses Party (PLM — Philippinnes); chairperson of Transform Asia, a gender and labour institute in South East Asia; editor of Socialist Dialogue magazine;

* Mericio Juvinal Dos Reis — Executive Director of the Luta Hamutuk Institute (East Timor);

* Ian Angus — Socialist Voice (Canada), co-founder of Ecosocialist International Network;

* Roger Annis — Socalist Voice (Canada),

* Ian Beeching — Vancouver Socialist Forum;

* Mike Treen — Nation director of organising, Unite union, New Zealand;

* Daphne Lawless — Socialist Worker New Zealand;

* Dr Brian Senewiratne — Singalese pro-Tamil activist;

* Tim Gooden — Secretary, Geelong and Region Trades and Labour Council;

* Jess Moore — Resistance national co-organiser;

* Dick Nichols — Socialist Alliance national co-convenor ;

* Peter Boyle — Democratic Socialist Perspective national secretary;

* Pip Hinman — Sydney Stop the War Coalition; Socialist Alliance

* Brianna Pike — DSP Sydney organiser;

* Stuart Munckton — Green Left Weekly co-editor;

* Emma Murphy — GLW co-editor;

* Peter Robson — GLW journalist;

* Tony Iltis — GLW journalist;

* Jay Fletcher — GLW journalist;

* Federico Fuentes — World at a Crossroads conference co-organiser, GLW journalist, editor of Bolivia Rising;

* Lisa MacDonald — World at a Crossroads conference co-organiser; DSP National executive;

* Chris Latham — National Tertiary Education Union, Murdoch University branch organiser;

* Jamie Doughney — Senior researcher at the Work and Economic Policy Research Unit, Victoria University of Technology.

* Terry Townsend — Managing editor, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

Comments

Tamil genocide can be halted only through people's solidarity

By Patrick Bond

(Centre for Civil Society seminar photos: http://www.ukzn.ac.za/ccs/default.asp?11,61,3,1737)

A delegation of Tamil leaders from Sri Lanka, Australia, Canada and Britain was hosted by the Centre for Civil Society on April 21. Thirty in attendance received background information from former Member of Parliament M. K. Eelaventhan, including the long history of colonial and post-colonial repression: 'The crux of the Tamil problem is land. In the name of wiping out the Tamil Tigers, the Sri Lankan government is wiping out our nation. This is racial discrimination and racial segregation, and it is so severe it amounts to genocide.'

From the Tamil Canadian diaspora, Sahabthan Jesuthasan discussed the contemporary genocide, dating to the early 1980s attempt to wipe out the culture, literature and language, including thousands killed in 1983: 'Many more thousands have been murdered in recent days.'

According to Australia-based Adrian //Fiancis, 'The significance of South Africa for this struggle includes a substantial group of people of Tamil descent, especially in Durban. Discrimination in Sri Lanka is similar to apartheid. The main difference is that the existence of our race in Northern Sri Lanka is in question. The SA government, more than any other government, has listened to their cries. But the immediacy of the situation requires an accelerated approach. The superpowers of the region are China and India. Their influence on the conflict, and provision of arms to the Sri Lankan government, is to propogate the genocide. When we worked through Mexico to put this onto the UN Security Council agenda, Russia and China have vetoed the discussion of the issue. They are complicit in the genocide by fuelling the government's military campaign. This genocide can be stopped by the UN, through sanctions or restrictions.'

Myuran Elango, a Melbourne-based journalist, explained why we know so little about the situation: 'Sri Lanka has no free press. Any journalist who dares to speak out is targeted by government-affiliated forces. Two dozen reporters were killed recently. This is the only country that has used the War on Terrorism as a way to muzzle the press. South Africa can be the first country that takes a step forward, to really raise world consciousness about the situation.'

According to Sahabthan Jesuthasan from Toronto, 'From 2006, the Sri Lankan government pulled out of the 2002 ceasefire agreement, a month before a Tamil state would have come into effect. In August 2006, a children's home (for orphans) was bombed indiscriminately, killing 61 school children. Their rationale was an absurd claim that the LTT was growing child soldiers. These childrens were entirely victims. 300 000 civilians are trapped in the war zone, in an 18 square mile zone. In 2006, we had a de facto government with 1/3 of the country. In the next couple of days, the 250 000 civilians are under immediate threat. Adrian lost 11 family members last week; we don't know where my family is, we haven't heard them since January. The Sri Lankan government killed two doctors and a nurse today.'

Local supporter Suvani Naidoo explained, 'In South Africa, the Tamil Youth Organisation is bringing to the society's attention the genocide. We want to raise widespread support for the aspirations of the Tamil people. We will have a celebration on 27 April in Bayview, Chatsworth. We want the government to lead the international calls for a ceasefire. And we need sanctions - diplomatic, economic, even academic - to put pressure on the government and isolate it.'

The three demands made by the Tamil liberation movement are:

* An immediate ceasefire leading to a permanent negotiated settlement.

* Immediate humanitarian assistance to the war zone.

* The LTTE should be recognised as the liberation movement and should be unbanned and destigmatised, the way the ANC was after 1990 (prior to which it was considered 'terrorist').

Durban social activist Roy Chetty reported that the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation is a key vehicle for material aid and solidarity. But political pressure is needed, too: 'The SA government is obsessed with being powerbrokers. That means they pull their punches, so as not to jeapardise relations. We should move further to boot the Sri Lankans from the Commonwealth and UN.'

As Prabha Bala from the UK observed, 'The ANC has had ties to the LTT for years. The Sri Lankan government won't listen to the SA government because of those ties.'

But what action can be taken against the extreme conflict unfolding now in the northeast of the island? If the SA government is as reliable an ally of the Tamil liberation movement as it is for democrats in Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Burma and Palestine, then only disappointment awaits these activists.

Instead, the kinds of people-people solidarity that South Africans helped pioneer will be needed. The seminar discussed material aid, but also the dockworkers' refusal to unload a Zimbabwe-bound shipment of 3 million bullets in April 2008 and a decision in February to refuse Israeli ship unloading. Prof Dennis Brutus' experiences with the anti-apartheid sports boycott were seen as a model for consciouness-raising, especially given that Sri Lankan cricket players are coming to Durban for the Indian Premier League. And a variety of other pressure tactics were discussed.

It is definitely time to act, to prevent immediate suffering and mass deaths; if the SA government is a half-hearted ally more prone to taking Chinese orders than following human rights principles, then civil society should redouble efforts to provide solidarity to the Tamil people.

I support the Tamil cause

I support the Tamil cause for self-determination.

Support Tamil people

I would like to show my solidarity with the Tamil people in the face of the Genocide conducted by the Terrorist Government of Sri Lanka.

As a Canadian Kurd, I would also plead to our government to:

1. Urgently intervene in Sri Lanka and do its utmost to save the innocent Tamils from the state orchestrated genocide.
2. Pressurize the Government of Sri Lanka not to deny the Tamil population food, shelter, medicine and other fundamental necessities.
3. To allow the UN and other international relief agencies access to the areas affected by the conflict.
4. To stop shelling and bombing Tamil civilian habitats, hospitals, schools and places of worship.

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