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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]

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

* * *

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

* 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

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