Sri Lanka: `This is a struggle for all of us. Not only Tamils but also for Sinhalese who value democracy' -- Bahu

Speech by general secretary of the Nava Sama Samaja Party (NSSP) Vickramabahu Karunaratne ("Bahu") at the Tamil National Remembrance Day, November 28, 2010, in London.

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I am thankful for the organisation of this event for giving me the opportunity to shed my tears in memory of those who gave their life to the liberation of Tamil homeland.

Tamils have been killed by successive Sinhala-chauvinist governments in Sri lanka, last but not the least by the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime. Not only Tamils, but also thousands of Sinhala youth who were sent for aggression in the Tamil homeland and to attack Tamils. Thousands of these young Sinhalese died in an alien land.

The misery created among the Sinhalese will also be shown its reaction in future. It is an irony of history that Sarath Fonseka who was selected to carry out this butchery against Tamils is also suffering in jail with Tamil political prisoners.

The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), which pushed, promoted and campaigned for Mahinda to carry out this war, is now beaten up by the same regime that came to power with the aid of the JVP. They are harassed, beaten and put in jail. They too are compelled to fight against the same regime they set up.

In this moment of sorrow let me mention some names.

Mahendran Nadesan was a member of my party for a long time and I was a witness to his marriage. Two days before being killed, he told me that he is not going to give up. He is no more.

Kumar Ponnampalam, whom I met when we were studying at Cambridge, came to my defence whenever I was hounded by the Sinhala governments. He also gave his life.

So was Raviraj. He campaigned with us in the south against the atrocities against Tamils.

Joseph Pararajasingham who stood for Tamils was with me in campaigns in Canada.

All their lives were taken by the state.

Twenty-four members of my party, including D.M.Chandawimala and A.K.Annamalai, gave their life for self-determination and autonomy. More than a 1000 Sinhala socialists and social democrats were killed by the Sinhala-chauvinist JVP.

This is a struggle for all of us. Not only for Tamils but also for Sinhalese who value democracy.

Yes, we have gone through defeat. Now, we have to get up and fight to overthrow this chauvinist militaristic regime to have democracy in the land.

Only then can we really bring justice to the country. Then only can we punish those who committed war crimes.

On behalf of the social democratic forces and the NSSP we have agreed to work with the British Tamil Forum (BTF) to bring democracy to our country.

In order to do that we are going to campaign to re-establish civil administration and the civil society in the North East, for the release of political prisoners and to find what happened to the disappeared.

Things are difficult at the moment but things are changing.

It is a military government in the North East at the moment. There is no civil society and no elected Tamil members of parliament are allowed there.

However, we have had a campaign for the disappeared and political prisoners in Vavunia where over 1000 participated. We definitely can build on that.

More and more are joining us and let us get together from today to fight for democracy and freedom in Lanka.

Portion of the crowd

Bahu attacked by government goons

NSSP general secretary Vickramabahu Karunaratne was attacked on his return to Sri Lanka by Aviation Authority officials on December 7, while police looked on. His vehicle was heavily damaged and several people received minor injuries. "Bahu" was attacked at the airport as he was being welcomed by NSSP officials, party members, trade union leaders, lawyers and human rights activists. Dozens of aviation officials surrounded him, calling him a "traitor" who wants to divide the country.

Dr Vickramabahu Karunaratna was returning to Sri Lanka after a visit to Britain to attend the 88th birthday celebrations of his dean at Cambridge, Professor Reg Goodwin. While in London, Bahu was invited to address several public meetings, notably Tamil remembrance day held at the Excel auditorium attended by tens of thousands, and a meeting at the House of Commons.

The government of Sri Lanka has accused Bahu and opposition parliamentarian Jayalath Jayawardena of organising the protests in London in collusion with Tamil Tiger supporters.

NSSP comes to an agreement with the British Tamil Forum

Text of full speech given by Vickramabahu Karunaratne to a public meeting held in South Harrow, London, on November 25, organised by the British Tamil Forum.

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In the war [against the Tamils] Mahinda Rajapaksa devastated the Vanni region and killed more than 70,000 people. In fact it could be 100,000. Although he claimed that it was a victory over the Tamil armed struggle, he concealed the conditions that gave rise to the rebellion.

The armed struggle is not the beginning but the result of many years of oppression. The government said 360,000 were living in the Vanni area at the start of the war. At the end of war 276,000 were encamped as refugees. Even a primary school child understands that nearly 100,000 were killed in between.

In addition 89,000 widows were found as war victims. It confirms the above figure.

Tamil Tigers were ferocious. However, they constituted a movement for liberation. A lie spread by government is that the LTTE never wanted a solution. The LTTE said that it agrees to internal self-determination as a united solution. They produced the document, Interim Self Government Authority (ISGA). In that they showed their willingness to come to a solution in a united country.

It is tragic that it was never translated by the Sri Lankan government to Sinhala. The government dismissed it without any negotiations.

The next occasion was after the tsunami. The LTTE proposed to work together and signed the proposal. But Mahinda Rajapaksa went to courts. Courts ordered to make a small amendment to the legislation. But the government claimed that the courts made it illegal.

In this manner they found a reason to carry on a genocidal attack.

President Mahinda says there will be prosperity and the government takes massive loans. As far as the north is concerned they are already aware that this type of development does not work. On the other hand the south has begun to understand what a folly they have committed by bringing him to power.

Global masters are demanding that they should be allowed to rob the resources and labour of the country. India is behind Mahinda. Mahinda declared that he is fighting India’s war. Mahinda is India’s puppet today. He survives because of the support of India and other global powers. He has carried out IMF directives and made massive cuts in welfare. Compared to inflation, the pay rise given by the budget is a drop in the ocean.

Free education is axed. Students are protesting.

The governments’ plan to land sea planes in the Negombo lagoon was opposed and stopped by the masses.

Workers, even those who supported Mahinda, are protesting. Estate workers are in unrest due to the price of flour and due to the general misery.

Development projects are not going to help the masses. Therefore the government is forced to attack those who rise up against these policies.

The military regime is continuing in the north-eastern Tamil homeland. There is no civil administration in the north. Not even a government agent [in charge of a district] is allowed to act as a civil servant. He is under the military rule. Why cannot elected members be given responsibility if there is no LTTE?

In the south state terror is used against students, fisherman, monks and of course workers who are against government’s bankrupt policy.

So it is clear that the Mahinda regime is not powerful. It was powerful earlier due to mesmerising the masses by the victory against Tamils.

The General [former army commander Sarath Fonseka] who was sent to organise the butchery has been declared the enemy of the regime. During the war we were told that the tender procedure was not necessary. Now he is accused of not going according to procedure. He was convicted but It is not judicial and not an open court decision, it was an institutional decision.

In a democracy, court hearings should be made public. The JVP that pushed, promoted and directed Mahinda to war is also being attacked.

The Sinhala-chauvinist state is collapsing not only economically but also ideologically. It is shaking.
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) believes that India will persuade Lankan regime to give devolution; for an extended 13th amendment. [The 13th amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution, adopted in 1987, granted some very limited powers to provincial governments.] If that is attempted Mahinda’s chauvinist base will crack. They will go away. He can't do the bidding of the masters.

It is foolish think that a racist ruler will turn around to deliver devolution. On the other hand, in order to carry on with the global economic agenda he has to hold to the Sinhala chauvinism.

One country one nation!

He is calling for Tamils with money to come and join him. What will happen to KP [Kumaran Pathmanathan, a former LTTE leader who has gone over to the side of the government] when the money is taken? He is a prisoner in golden shackles. Mahinda's Lanka has only place for plunderers, robbers and traitors. I don't think that anyone should be frightened as the government is in crisis. So we need to start fighting back.

The United National Party (UNP) is in crisis as the government has taken up their agenda. After Mullivaikkal when many were killed, we were sad. There were deaths in the south too. But Ranil Wickremasinghe joined Mahinda for celebrations.

The genocidal war has overnight become a reason to celebrate for the UNP. Even in the formal sense it is not an occasion to celebrate. Did they do the same thing in the south when the JVP was crushed? Then Mahinda was with us complaining world over. This shows an ethical and moral disaster.

Communist Party leaders are breaking away. Lanka Sama Samaja Party central committee members are breaking away. In the meantime, Sajith Premadasa wants to be a UNP Mahinda. Others who are opposed to this and want a social democracy are forming an alliance. The new social democratic alliance is built on two principles.

1. Against global capitalism.

2. Voluntary National integration that includes autonomy.

The Tamil diaspora should get involved in building the opposition. It is not the end of the world. The Tamil homeland can be reclaimed by fighting together. There are sections in the Sinhala society, particularly the workers, who are prepared to fight together.

I came to an agreement with the British Tamil Forum (BTF) to fight together to for democracy.

We need a civil administration in the north to break down the military rule. The TNA is elected by the people. They should be allowed to participate in rehabilitation. Local government members, civil administrators should be empowered.

In addition we can work on disappearances [of people] and the release of political prisoners. Sinhala majority thinking is changing in respect of the Tamil national question. I appeal to unite with equality and autonomy while respecting right of self determination.

The enemy is dangerous with its high-tech military repressive set-up. We need to have a strategy that does not sacrifice people.

War crimes are already proven. Once the monstrous regime is overthrown we can bring punishment through public court action. Appealing to global organisations is foolish. They are party to the crime. Social democrats agree to an investigation on war crimes. Israel committed war crimes. What has the UN done? I can't see justice from organisations run by global capital.

Let us fight together for justice, democracy and liberation.