Growing discontent and frustration with British Tamil Forum

  1. Eight years on since the massacre – no justice delivered

Every year since 2009, 18th May has been remembered as Mullivaikal day, a day when Tamil- speaking people come together to remember the brutal massacre and slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Eight years on, the feeling of despair, sadness and anger is stronger than ever. Justice continues to be denied while the victims suffer in silence.

For many young people living in Britain, taking part in the 2009 protests was one of their first political acts. A strong sense of unity and the need to fight was felt during these protests. The genocide by the Sri Lanka government mobilised hundreds of thousands of Tamil-speaking people onto the street, calling on the British government, the UN, etc, to save the Tamils. In response they only received silence and repression from the British government and the international institutions.

Tamil Solidarity has been insisting from the start that no justice or solution can be achieved within the framework of the UN or by lobbying governments that are causing misery to millions of people. Yet some Tamil organisations continue to invest all their eggs in the UN and in lobbying MPs who have no record of defending the rights of ordinary people – either in Britain or internationally. This strategy is demobilising the tens of thousands of people that came out on the streets in 2009. The lack of a clear perspective and strategy from these Tamil organisers is driving people away from political participation.

  1. No clear strategy to build fighting force is demobilising the Tamils from politics

This year’s Mullivaikal commemoration was organised in two places by two organisers – TCC and BTF. Tamil Solidarity received an email from young activists who had collected over 2,000 signatures in opposition to the way the BTF event was organised, specifically the banning of the Eelam flag. We have published this online and it can be read here:

This letter was read and shared widely in the social media. As we have mentioned in that article: Tamil Solidarity agrees that those who supported the struggle in the past have every right to fly their flag at an event like Mullivaikal. This day is not just a remembrance day, but should be a day of defiance. We remember the dead on this day to build a fight for the living. It would be wrong to narrow this day to organisational petty differences.”

The Mullivaikal event cannot be claimed by any organisation, it is a public event to which people come to show their respect and to remember the dead. However, following the BTF’s banning of the flag – which is seen as a symbol of resistance and struggle – discontent and frustration was felt in the community towards the BTF and its organisers.

  1. Lack of politics in Mullivaikal event

Mullivaikal has mobilised tens of thousands of people including more than 30,000 Tamil-speaking people in 2010. However this year, fewer than 2,000 took part in the event organised by the TCC outside 10 Downing Street. Tamil Solidarity was the only political group in attendance who was distributing leaflets and engaging in political discussion. Although TCC organisers encouraged the holding of the flag, their confused political approach was exposed when they launched the event by raising the Union Jack flag and singing “God save the Queen”, the UK national anthem.

While there is enormous sympathy for the victims of the war and potential support for the struggle for Tamil people’s rights among workers and young people in Britain, that is not the case for the British capitalist establishment. Successive British governments under Blairite New Labour and the Tories have not acted to defend the Tamil-speaking people in Sri Lanka. In fact, the British government was supplying arms to the Sri Lankan government during the time of the massacre. Around the world the Union Jack is rightly seen as a symbol of oppression by the struggling people. The flag and the anthem do not help to differentiate between those parts of Britain which are on the side of the oppressed and those which are on the side of the oppressor.

Tamil Solidarity works very closely with the trade unions in Britain that represent millions of working class people. We are the only campaign that works within the Tamil-speaking population that links the Tamil struggle with the struggle against attacks on all workers’ rights in Britain. We are campaigning against cuts to vital services such as the NHS and education and fighting for a £10 an hour minimum wage, for decent affordable homes and services for all, etc.

We are actively engaging in the general election and calling for a support for Jeremy Corbyn’s policies. We work with our natural allies – other oppressed communities, the working class, students, etc. We also clearly distinguish between the state and ordinary people. Raising the union flag and singing the national anthem is making an appeal to the UK state that is oppressing millions of workers, students etc. This method will not provide a shortcut to build the support for the Tamil struggle among the working class in Britain – it’s is only by engaging in united struggle against all oppression and by fighting for all our rights that we can win their support. Tamil Solidarity opposes the raising of the Union Jack and singing of the national anthem during the Mullivaikal event.

  1. Beginning of the end for people support for the BTF marked in this year’s Mullivaikal

The BTF-organised Mullivaikal started at 5pm, after the TCC event, in which less than 200 people attended.  Some attended both events to mark their protest towards BTF. As per BTF tradition, the day included speeches by Tory and right-wing Labour MPs. Outrageously they also included the flag of India and China during the event, governments that were arming and financing the government during the massacre! It was an event for some BTF members and their families. Despite having had the advantage of organising on Mullivaikal day previously, despite investing heavily towards the mobilisation, despite having significant media coverage – the BTF claims to be the biggest organisation in the Tamil diaspora – they could not even mobilise their own members, let alone the people. It is a clear indication that their own members are not satisfied with the political direction.

The strategy of lobbying any MP, regardless of their policy or record is not getting an echo anymore. More and more Tamil-speaking people are searching for an alternative to continue the struggle. The attendance of the BTF event this year marks an end to the mass support for putting forward lobbying as the only strategy for the liberation of Tamils. The final straw that broke the camel’s back has been the unwillingness of UN to act and unconditional support of BTF and TNA for it regardless. When the UN gave two more years to Sri Lanka this year, these organisations didn’t register an iota of opposition. Instead they welcomed the UN’s inaction.

  1. It is vital to build a new struggle

For the Tamil-speaking people both in Britain and in Eelam the need to struggle for our fundamental rights are increasing. The land grab, disappearances and oppression by the Sri Lankan government are a daily feature of life for those who live in Sri Lanka. For them the only choice available is to build a voice to demand their rights. The protest against the land grab in Keppapilavu, protests for jobs by graduate students, protests by the families of the disappeared, are just some examples of how this is starting to be done. What we need is a mass organisation that will set as its goal to mobilise the Tamil-speaking masses, based on far-sighted political perspectives which includes the need to build alliances with other oppressed sections of society is vital. This organisation should uncompromisingly fight for the democratic and national rights of Tamils, while maintaining its independence by resisting all influence of the establishment.

We urge all youth, students and workers to come forward to build such a fightback. We urge everyone – don’t be disappointed or demoralised by the failure of these organisations. We should never surrender our desire to fight and let the ruling elite in Sri Lanka and in the diaspora get away with murder. Our silence can only strengthen them. We masses should seek out new methods and organisation to continue our struggle.

Let’s separate ourselves from the failed methods and unite together in struggle. Contacts us to further discuss.