‘War not over until SL Tamils achieve justice and self-determination’ – Corbyn

by Sujeeva Nivunhella in London

British Opposition Leader, Jeremy Corbyn said that until Sri Lanka’s Tamils achieve justice and self-determination the “war is not over”.

Addressing a meeting organized by ‘Tamils for Labour’ at the committee room in the Houses of Parliament last week, Corbyn said the Labour Party is committed to the cause of the Tamil people.

Although it is said that 2016 marks the seventh anniversary of the end of the conflict, it was not the end until Tamils achieve justice, self-expression and self-determination, he said.

Corbyn, who is also the Leader of UK’s Labour Party, further noted: “You have to go into the question of the human rights abuses, the camps that were set up, the missing people, the lack of freedom for journalists and independent observers, and about the issue being properly being taken up at the UN.

“Those issues have to be dealt with. Unless you solve the issue of the rights of people for their cultural identity, their rights, their language, their freedom, their ability to organise themselves as a community, then the war is not over, the conflict is not over. The situation will only rear its head again.

“Thousands have died during that war, thousands have lost their lives and families have suffered. Do we say it’s all over? No we don’t.

“When it comes to trade treaties, they must include a very clear definition of what human rights abuses are. If the trade partner is abusing human rights…then quite simply, we should not be treating them as a normal equal trading partner, we should put all the demands and pressure we would put for anybody else where there is abuse of rights going on. We, as a party, are very committed to the issues of human rights and justice.

“We are very committed to the rights of peoples, Tamil people, in this case, to achieve their justice, their self-expression and their self-determination.

“When I was first elected to parliament in 1983, there was a useful rule that any MP could take up any immigration case in the country, wherever it was. So every MP had the power to intervene on behalf of an asylum applicant to make representations to the home office. Because of the work of volunteers that did hundreds of cases

“As a result of this hard work, a very large number of people were not deported to Sri Lanka in 1983, ‘84 and ‘85. They were able to remain in this country, build their lives, run their businesses and be active in Tamils for Labour.

“When we had the camp in parliament square, people were staging hunger strikes to draw attention to the situation in Sri Lanka. 200,000 people marched through the streets of London and I was one of very few people who were not part of the Tamil community to join that march. I remember to this day, and am still angry about it, the utter silence of the majority of British and world’s media to the demonstration as well as the cause on the issue.

“The meeting tonight draws attention to the abuse of human rights and attention to the demands you are making. I hope ‘Tamils for Labour’ continue ensuring that we, as a party, remain committed to the needs and justice for the Tamil people”.

Responding to Corbyn’s speech, President of the Sinhala Association in the United Kingdom, Douglas Wickremaratne, said that the Sinhalese living in London should not vote for Labour at the forthcoming London Mayoral election. “They should not do so at the general election as well”.