Tamils for Labour held a successful fringe event during the Labour Party Conference, which took place on Tuesday the 28th of September 2021, was partaken by several Labour Party Shadow Cabinet members, Senior Parliamentarians, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Party members. The vice-chair of the Tamils for Labour Sarmila Varatharaj chaired the event.
The Leader of the Opposition, Rt Hon Keir Stammer MP and the Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Lisa Nandy MP have jointly sent a message of solidarity through the shadow minister for Asia and Pacific, Stephen Kinnock MP for Aberavon. The message assures that “the shadow Labour front bench team stands shoulder to shoulder with Tamils’ cause.”
Speaking at the event, Stephen Kinnock made it clear, “The Labour Party believes that there is a “very clear case” for referring senior Sri Lankan military figures to the ICC”. He called on the government and the international community “to apply so-called red notice on them” who were guilty of perpetrating these atrocities against the Tamil people. He said that the UK government should be pushing much harder for that and expressed his disappointment that it was not in the UNHRC resolution. Stephen Kinnock also called on the British Ministry of Defence to withdraw its military attaché in Colombo unless a reasonable explanation was given.
The shadow minister for Policing, and the Fire Service Sarah Jones, MP for Croydon Central said, “We are very grateful for the Tamil community being there, bringing diversity and bringing the warmth of the Tamil Community.”
The Shadow Financial Secretary to the Treasury, James Murray MP for Ealing North recalled the memories of 2009, “It was shocking to learn what happened in 2009 in terms of the crimes committed and the deaths and it is alarming that it continues to this day. I particularly demand the UK government to take action because we have a special responsibility”. He made it clear that the Labour Party would continue to be allies of the Tamil Community.
The Member of Parliament for East Ham Rt Hon Stephen Timms pointed out that, “It is clear now that things have gone a good deal worse in Sri Lanka since the most recent general election – a really grim situation. There is a real climate of fear in the country.” The Rt. Honourable MP called for, “The Defence Secretary Kamal Gunaratna is to be sanctioned, alongside the call for other senior Sri Lankan individuals, who are aligned to be sanctioned. I welcome the evidence gathering commitment in the recent resolution 46/1 of the UNHRC. This resolution does now need to be backed up by sanctions on war-crime accused individuals. What we all need to see now is a Labour Government which is going to be decisive on this, because Britain does need to play its part.”
The Shadow Secretary of State for Child Poverty, Wes Streeting MP for Ilford North, calls for “accountability and justice for historic human rights abuses and atrocities” committed in the Civil War in Sri Lanka, and also wishes to challenge current human rights abuses. Wes Streeting calls for the Tamils for Labour to “work together, fight together, and win together: for justice for the Tamil people, peace, prosperity and human rights for all of the peoples of the island of Sri Lanka.”
Janet Daby MP for Lewisham East thanked the Tamils for Labour for providing updates on Sri Lanka on issues concerning which are dear to the community. Janet said, “Atrocities are wrong, genocide is very wrong, and we must stamp it out.”
Stella Creasy, MP of Walthamstow, who was unable to attend the conference, sent a message prior to the event, “As a long-time supporter of the importance of standing up for the human rights of the people of Sri Lanka, I want to thank Tamils for Labour for all the work they do to help hold the UK Government to account and to champion the rights of our Tamil friends and neighbours.
Guest speakers from NGOs who provided a briefing during the event included, Melissa Dring, Campaign Director for Sri Lanka Campaign and Tracey Doig, Head of International Advocacy and Accountability for Freedom from Torture. They said the UK had played a critical role with regard to Sri Lanka at the UNHRC and would continue to publicly call for the Sri Lankan government to improve its record on human rights and accountability. However, they expressed concerns for the UK government sending mixed messages with some of its bilateral engagements with the Sri Lankan government and security forces.
The Sri Lanka Campaign and Freedom from Torture requested the support of the Labour Party to ensure that the UK government sends a clear signal to the Sri Lankan government that it would not tolerate impunity and human rights violations.
The Sri Lanka Campaign and Freedom from Torture also requested Sri Lanka’s police force was known for torture and human rights violations, hence the Police Scotland must stop training them.
Speaking at the event, the Tamils for Labour’s newly elected Chair Lakshan Chitrakumaran said, “this event provided an incredible message to the Labour Party that the Tamils for Labour have and will continue to stand with the Labour Party, and continues to bring in young, passionate, and drive the people to help bring into power, a Labour Government, that can support the Tamil Community in bringing an end to the continuing structural genocide in Sri Lanka.
The Tamils for Labour as a Labour Party support group requests the party to adopt the following 4 tier policies on Sri Lanka:
a) Accountability and Justice in Sri Lanka: 146, 679 people are unaccounted for in 2009
i) Set up an International Criminal Justice mechanism for Sri Lanka
ii) Stop the Cycles of Violence, Militarisation and Land grab in the North and East of Sri Lanka
iii) Recognise the Genocide of Tamil people in Sri Lanka
b) The Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime: Apply Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime Act and list the perpetrators of serious atrocity crimes in Sri Lanka against the Tamil people.
c) Stop unethical trade with Sri Lanka: Apply phased out calibrated sanctions as effective leverage and develop a time bound implementation plan of actions. (These actions are carefully considered to minimise hurting the civilian population. Food, medical and other essential supplies are excluded from this list of sanctions.)
d) Political Solution for Tamils in Sri Lanka:
i) Recognise the Tamils as a Nation, their Traditional homeland in the North and East of Sri Lanka and the Right to Self Determination
ii) Political solution based on the legitimate aspirations of Tamils with International arbitration for the successful conclusion.