Saturday, May 02, 2009

Green MEP speaks at Sivan Kovil temple on Sri Lanka crisis


Following the petition we organised with Tamil residents to highlight the desperate situation of those trapped in the ongoing conflict in Sri Lanka, today we had a meeting at the Sivan Kovil temple.

Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London was there to listen to residents' concerns and talk about her role as a member of the European Parliament's Human Rights Sub-Committee and Delegation to South Asia (SAARC). From my point of view it was particularly useful to listen to the presentation from the British Tamil Forum on the background to the long-running conflict, as my knowledge of the historical context was at best sketchy.

The meeting was packed with over a hundred Tamil residents present, including a number from Ladywell. There was considerable discussion over what the British government could/should be doing to resolve the crisis, as well as whether the decision by the European Parliament a few years ago to add the Tamil Tigers to the list of banned terrorist organisations was the right thing to do, or whether it was in fact an obstacle to negotiating a peaceful solution. There was also some debate over whether EU economic sanctions against Sri Lanka would help, or whether Sri Lanka could simply turn to other markets with similarly poor human rights records, such as China, Libya and Iraq.

Comparisons were made with the recent bombings in Gaza and the lack of media coverage of the Sri Lankan conflict in contrast, although many more have died in Sri Lanka. The point was made that there has been next to no media coverage of the recent visit to Sri Lanka by the Foreign Secretary David Milliband, where his calls for a ceasfire were resoundingly rebuffed by the Sri Lankan government. Likewise, very few column inches were devoted to covering the huge central London demonstration, while page after page was written about Susan Boyle.

People spoke of their concern at what they called the 'scorched earth' policy of the Sri Lankan government, the alleged use of chemical weapons, the indiscriminate aerial bombardment that has led to so many civilian deaths and the destruction of many civilian buildings such as hospitals and orphanages. They were also concerned about the internment camps that those fleeing the conflict zone are being forced to go to and the lack of access to the region both for aid agencies and international media. If the Sri Lankan government has nothing to hide, they said, why don't they let the world's media in so they can see exactly what is going on? Any victory of the Sri Lankan government over the Tamil Tigers will be a pretty hollow one if it comes at the cost of human rights.

Jean also talked about the number of journalists (both Tamil and Sinhalese) who have been killed for reporting the conflict, an issue she highlighted in a New Statesman article this week to mark World Press Freedom Day.

Perhaps the phrase that stays with me from today's talk was the woman who said that so many of us have become 'emotionally blunted' to the ongoing violence and horror; that we are so used to hearing stories of people being slaughtered that we no longer feel compelled to react or protest.

Tamil residents in the UK have behaved with enormous dignity over the last few months as horrors continue to unfold in their own country and the recent demo in London with over 100,000 participants was moving and impressive. The government owes it to the 300, 000 Tamil residents in the UK, as well as those still trapped in the confict region, to do all it can to stop the violence and secure a lasting ceasefire. It should also cancel any export licences for arms sales to Sri Lanka and impose a ban on any future sales until human rights are respected.

15 comments:

Jim Jay said...

This was a really moving meeting. Thanks for the report.

bob said...

Thanks, Sue, for highlighting this important issue.

Mango said...

The 'British Tamil Forum' is an LTTE front organisation.

Is it now official Green Party policy to support the LTTE in establishing a racist, mono-ethnic statelet in Sri Lanka?

If yes, please also be consistent and the support the BNP to establish the same sort of statelet in the UK.

Sue said...

It's Green Party policy to respect human rights and for people to be free of oppression and persecution, whatever their ethnicity, but I suspect you know this really.

I'm concerned when governments deny the international press and aid agencies access to an area of their country where there are widespread reports of human rights abuses and civilian deaths (on both sides). It makes me think they have something to hide.

Your comment about the BNP is again silly nonsense.

Mango said...

Sue, Thanks for taking the time to reply.

As a local non-Tamil, non-racist, resident, I'm delighted that "It's Green Party policy to respect human rights and for people to be free of oppression and persecution, whatever their ethnicity,"The LTTE exists (well, existed) solely for the creation of an ethnically pure Tamil-only homeland, carved out of a multi-ethnic Sri Lanka. This is an undisputable, objective fact.

In 2005, the LTTE so fervently supported by your Tamil 'friends', ethnically cleansed the Muslim population from Northern Sri Lanka. This is a fact.

I guess they couldn't make their ethnically pure omlette without cracking a few eggs?

http://tinyurl.com/okn7o2

The LTTE later apologized (during the 2000 peace talks) for this act and asked the Muslims to return. Few Muslims have taken up the offer. These unfortunate Muslim citizens of Sri Lanka still languish in IDP camps. Perhaps now they'll be able to return to their homes?

Oops!

The BNP exists to create a white-only England/UK or at least a part of the UK. This is an undisputable, objective fact. The BNP have yet to ethnically cleanse anyone in the UK.

Why do you deny what the LTTE stands for? Is it embarrassment or ignorance?

What is the essential difference between the BNP & LTTE, other than their skin colour and the fact that the BNP do not, yet, have suicide squads, heavy artillery and their own Navy?

Your answers would be appreciated. Saying my assertions are 'silly nonsense' isn't intellectually sustainable.

I understand that Greens always laud sustainability.

Further, the LTTE's war-making capacity was sustained by sections of the Tamil diaspora. Weekly & monthly contributions paid for the LTTE's arms.

When you next meet your LTTE-supporting Tamil diaspora, ask them how much they contributed to the 'boys', whilst keeping their own children safe in London.

INGO & Human Rights organisations operating in LTTE-controlled areas have been amongst their best supporters.

They have smuggled in weapons, communications equipment etc. They even gifted their heavy earth moving bulldozers to the LTTE, when they were asked to vacate the area, prior to the final offensive.

The Norwegian-funded NPA waited until the Army captured LTTE areas to inform the SL Govt that their heavy vehicles had been 'captured' by the LTTE.

.."When the Norwegian People’s Aid, a Norwegian Government funded NGO says its heavy earth moving vehicles, trucks & tractors have been “stolen” by the LTTE – those who know of NPA track record will immediately recall how NPA was party to the secret smuggling of arms to an insurgent group (Sudan’s People’s Liberation Army) in Sudan.

Viewing the massive bunkers that the army have taken over, the trenches that delay army advances it is very easy to assume that these trenches, bunkers etc could not have been built overnight – which immediately necessitates that if these vehicles etc were “stolen” it should not have taken till the army’s advancement to actually inform the Government.

The soldiers who overran the Stanley Base and other camps found electricity generators, water pumps, tents, water dowsers belonging to INGOs (Media Centre for National Security)."
http://www.asiantribune.com/?q=node/13504

The Sri Lanka government and people, in fighting a battle of survival against the LTTE do not need to have their actions approved by various Western bloc organisations. The country is no longer a colony.

I presume the Green Party is generally against colonialism or any remnants thereof? Right?

During heavy fighting, the Government is not under any obligation to allow aid agencies and reporters access to the front lines, especially when these groups have consistently given 'aid and comfort' to the LTTE.

Finally can you explain how the Green Party policy to "respect human rights and for people to be free of oppression and persecution, whatever their ethnicity," can be maintained in an area controlled by the LTTE?

Sue said...

Just to be absolutely clear: I'm not in any way a supporter of LTTE, but I am a supporter of human rights, and it looks abundantly clear to me that both sides in this conflict have carried out atrocities and thousands of civilians have died or been injured.

I'm not interested in taking sides in this (a little late now anyway, perhaps), but I think it is important that both sides know the international community is watching, and will push for those guilty of war crimes to be prosecuted. I hope that is the case anyway. I am also concerned that both Sinhalese and Tamil journalists have been killed for reporting this conflict - that is wrong - freedom of the press is key in a democracy.

Out of interest Mango, do you know how many non-Tamil Sri Lankan residents there are in Lewisham? I've only really met Tamil residents in Ladywell, no Sinhalese that I'm aware of.

Mango said...

Sue,
Thanks for replying. I appreciate it.

But please answer my question on the difference between the BNP & the LTTE. Is it too difficult?

Your answer is a fantastic example showcasing the mindset of a Western bloc politician deciding that the 'International Community' consists mainly of a human-rights obsessed West and also deciding what's 'acceptable' when a legally constituted democratic government battles possibly the worst terrorist organization to emerge since 1945.

The International Community consists of more than simply UK/EU/US and their client states.

Countries strongly supporting Sri Lanka include India, China, Cuba, Philippines, Malaysia, Syria, Thailand, Indonesia, and Lebanon. Remember them?

You say you're not a supporter of the LTTE. Your inaction and/or indulgence of its' front organisations in the UK makes you and the Green Party complicit in their racist struggle and the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians, including the LTTE's own child soldiers and pregnant suicide bombers.

Hell of a way to demonstrate the LTTE's commitment to gender equality, no?

It's unfortunate that you (and the Green Party) are unable to 'take sides'.

Does that mean that in a nasty conflict between a virulently racist terrorist organisation and a legitimate democratic government, the Green Party does not 'take sides'?

Thanks for clearing that up.

If Sri Lanka had continued to listen to the all-knowing human-rights-obssesed West, the LTTE would have achieved its' dream of an ethnically cleansed mini statelet. Thankfully it did not.

The London-based Tamil residents whose impressive demonstration so moved your MEP did not utter one word of criticism of the LTTE and its' actions. Not even when the LTTE were shooting escaping Tamil civilians.

The West, Green Party and the ridiculous Milliband have the sheer chutzpah to witter on about 'war crimes'.

Aiding and abetting in murder is as good as doing the murder itself. The West and its' craven politicians have indulged the LTTE for 20+ years. Where was the Green Party, then?

In the overall 'human rights' equation, who should prevail? The LTTE or the Govt?

i.e. will human rights be better served through a victory by the Govt or the LTTE?

Civilians have been killed by both side. No argument. Civilians always get killed in wars. The trick is to shorten the war and minimise casualties.

For the Green Party MEP to even utter the words 'negotiated peaceful solution' with the LTTE shows extreme naivety or stunning partiality in favour of a bona-fide, 100% guaranteed terrorists.

I trust you know that LTTE broke the previous ceasefire with a whole series of assassinations, to compound the ones which had made them infamous including Rajiv Ghandi.

I'm not a communalist (i.e. its' irrelevant whether someone's Tamil or Sinhalese or Muslim or Burgher or Uzbek for that matter:), so apart from friends who happen to be Tamils, I'm sure there are Sinhalese in Lewisham and across London.

What happens in London matters in Sri Lanka. Some amongst your nice Tamil ladies will continue to financially support the LTTE in Sri Lanka. Do you agree with that?

I'll leave the best 'till last. The Sivan Kovil, where your meeting was held, where supporters of the LTTE (including the Green Party) met is an LTTE-controlled temple.

Oops.

http://tinyurl.com/r66oqb

"The London Siva Kovil is controlled by the LTTE activists and the temple premises alleged to be regularly used for LTTE secret meetings. The pro-LTTE trustees even went to the extent of cancelling the memorial event for Late Maheswary Velutham [an adviser to an anti-LTTE political party] who was slain by the LTTE in Jaffna Sri Lanka in May 2008."If I'm wrong, please publish, on your website, a list of the temple's trustees. They should be delighted to prove their non-LTTE bona-fides and their commitment to peace and goodwill to all men.

What was the Green Party saying about human rights? Press freedom? War crimes?

Sue said...

Mango, I haven't claimed to be an expert on this - just a local councillor trying to listen to the concerns of local residents on this issue, and a fellow human being concerned that thousands of people on the other side of the world are being killed, with weapons sold by UK companies amongst others.

I wouldn't for a moment hold up the West as some kind of paragon of virtue, but you dismiss the West as being 'human rights obsessed' as though a regard for human rights is somehow frivolous or decadent, then precede to list a whole load of countries not exactly known for upholding human rights.

Jean was clear in her criticism of the LTTE at that meeting - none of us are labouring under the illusion that they are blameless freedom fighters, but neither are the Sri Lankan government, which she also pointed out.

I'm not going to answer your question about the LTTE and the BNP - I haven't pretended to be an expert on this and I'm not about to start now.

Both sides have accused the other of ethnic cleansing, both have waged sophisticated propaganda wars, both have caused untold suffering.

The important questions now are surely how do you get relief to the many thousands who need it as soon as possible, and how do you get lasting peace. For the former, you should surely start by giving the Red Cross and other international aid agencies (and international means just that, not just Western) unfettered access to the camps so they can do their job, and as for the latter, the experience in nearly every other similar conflict around the world is that at some point the two opposing sides had to sit down and negotiate - bombs alone don't bring a lasting solution. Without that, I fear violence will only return. And if you don't want the rest of the world to think you've got something to hide, you allow the media access to the region.

Finally, you may be interested in the statement Jean issued on this last week.

Mango said...

Sue,

Thanks again for replying. Again, I find your inability to answer simple, straightforward questions, troubling.

Either you believe that the BNP and LTTE are racist organisations wedded to an ethnic exclusivist-based world-view or you don't.

What is it you find so frightening about answering that question?

You don't have to be an expert to answer that question.

You're a member of the Green Party. What's your party's position on it?

If they haven't yet managed to formulate a position, use the internet or better still, ask some of those nice Tamil ladies about what sort of state they wanted carved out of Sri Lanka.

Thousands of people are (were) being killed because of a terrorist organisation that refused to compromise on their demands for an ethnically-pure separate state.

You simply omit to state basic facts.

UK companies do not provide arms to Sri Lanka. But, UK-based LTTE-supporting Tamils provide funding for the LTTE's arms purchases.

The LTTE is a banned terrorist group in the UK. Many of your residents support them. These are uncontestable facts.

The West's concern for human rights is indeed frivolous and decadent. Security, the right to not be blown up by suicide and bus bombs comes before human rights.

Under the guise of human rights, the West, the UK in particular tried to stop the SL govt from finally destroying the military capacity of the LTTE.

Had the West been successful, the LTTE would've survived to continue their blood-letting. So, is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Remember, you can't answer with 'negotiate and ceasefire' because that was tried and found not to work.

These human rights you worship, please explain how they applied to the Afghan wedding parties that appeared to unfailingly attract the attentions of NATO airpower.

How did human rights advocates prevent the LTTE from recruiting child suicide bombers?

Ah, that lovely phrase 'ethnic cleansing'. I've shown you proof of how it was the LTTE which engaged in ethnic cleansing of the muslims from Northern Sri Lanka.

If the govt had done the same, there wouldn't be any Tamils anywhere in Sri Lanka other than in areas they claim for themselves.

In fact, Tamils are found all over Sri Lanka. Again, this 'both sides' are as bad as each other is simply not tenable. It proves that the Green Party equates the LTTE with a legitimate, elected democratic government. Is that your party's position?

Could you please also find out why the meeting was held in an LTTE fronted temple?

You wouldn't hold these meetings in a BNP pub or clubhouse, would you?

The 'lasting solution' to this particular problem can only be started by destroying the LTTE. How else could it be done?

The LTTE murdered every Tamil politician that tried to go for a compromise deal.

I don't recall the West looking for 'negotiated solutions' in 1945 as the Allied juggernaut bore down into Berlin, incidentally, to crush another racist ideology.

Finally you claim not to be an expert on the Sri Lanka conflict.

Yet you're happy to lend your name and the Green Party's name to a petition on behalf of the Tamil residents of Lewisham in demanding a ceasefire in Sri Lanka.

No mention of the LTTE's actions in using 100,000+ civilians as human shields/shrapnel sponges to protect themselves against the Sri Lanka Army.

Then the Green Party uses the premises of a LTTE terrorist-controlled temple to hold a meeting about the Sri Lankan conflict.

This definitely deserves further investigation.

I'll answer your remaining points next.

Mango said...

Sue,

Still no reply. Why the uncharacteristic silence from the Green Party?

Why are you unable and unwilling to answer direct questions.

Your website says:
"We are always happy to take up issues on behalf of residents in the ward."

I'm a resident of your ward.

I have the following issues, namely questions asked on my earlier posts and about the use of a temple known to be a front for a banned terrorist organisation.

In any event, the answers (or rather the evasions) you gave will form the basis of news story to be published in the national press.

I thought it only fair to tell you that. I'm sure you and the Green Party will be delighted to see press freedom in action.

I think its called 'speaking truth to power', right?

Jim Jay said...

"In any event, the answers (or rather the evasions) you gave will form the basis of news story to be published in the national press."

I look forward to seeing that - please forward the link to whichever BNP publication you'll be writing it for, I'm sure it will be enormously influential among the residents of Ladywell, many of whom are grieving for those they've just lost at the hands of the Sri Lankan government.

Mango said...

It's amazing how you presume I'm a supporter of the BNP. Any proof?

Do your IQs drop when you support the Green Party?

I see no condemnation of the the terroristic LTTE for using 100,000+ civilians as hostages.

That's how they died. By their so-called protectors shooting at them as they tried to flee and also from Army cross-fire.

Many of the same local Tamil residents who grieve for their relatives also (illegally) funded the LTTE.

But that's too difficult for the Green Party to acknowledge, I guess.

If residents of Ladywell are killed in terrorist bombings, which I hope never happens, then they'll appreciate that they can't choose to support terror groups in Sri Lanka and decry support for terror groups intent on bombing London.

Or are the lives of Londoners more valuable than Sri Lankan lives that have been lost through LTTE terror?

But this is all too complicated for the Green Party.

Mango said...

Normally the LTTE try to target non-Tamil civilians with their suicide and bus bombs. But often they don't care.

This is the result of how money collected by some Ladywell residents is spent.

Murdering schoolchildren of all ethnicities in Colombo.

http://tinyurl.com/qelxx7

Yes, they definitely advanced the cause of an ethnically pure Tamil homeland through this operation.

Do please keep supporting those nice Tamil ladies of Ladywell.

Mango said...

Jim Jay,

In my haste to reply to you, I hope you'll forgive me for this dreadful omission of two further tiny, tiny details.

At your next meeting of the Ladywell LTTE support group, do please ask your grieving Tamil residents, how many of their relatives were shot by the LTTE as they tried to escape from their LTTE 'protectors'.

There's even aerial surveillance footage of this happening on a beach in the LTTE zone.

Finally. if it isn't too painful, please ask the support group about the LTTE policy of 'one child per family'.

Not a Chinese-inspired population control method adopted by the LTTE, although the end result was the same.

They insisted that every family in the now-defunct state of 'Eelam' had to contribute one child for induction into their fighting force.

Mango said...

Here you go Jim Jay.

Fame at last for your leaderne, Jean Lambert's sterling efforts to increase poverty in Sri Lanka.

http://tinyurl.com/ykfkukr

Enjoy.