The theme of the meeting was to remember the dead and fight for the living. This year’s Mullivaikal 11th year remembrance was held online due to ongoing COVID-19 related health crisis. However, there was large active participation – which showed there was clear appetites exist for alternative ideas that we are putting forward. The interest was very especially amongst the youth and many were interested in getting involved.
The English meeting had speakers from Tamil solidarity, Tamil Freedom coalition, UCL Tamil society and Socialist party. And the Tamil meeting panellist were from New Socialist Alternative, May 18 movement and Tamil solidarity. Both meetings had fantastic contributions and high political clarity. The world in economic turmoil exacerbated by the coronavirus crisis and the post COVID era not being like anything that the current world economic situation has faced was clear.
Most importantly the meeting noted the ongoing political crisis that the Tamils are facing. Although the armed conflicts have ceased, the conditions that gave rise to the war have in fact worsened. Already Sri Lanka is facing heavy debt repayments and its GDP growth considerably slowed – which is worsened by the coronavirus pandemic. The country now had plunged into a deep recession. With no new jobs created along with existing poverty, there is no bright future exist for the most oppressed in Sri Lanka. The government, however, stepped up militarisation and started to whip up chauvinism in order to counter the anger and struggles that will rise from deteriorating living conditions. A glimpse of this is the recent freeing and pardoning of a criminal who had killed innocent Tamils and children. At the same time, no political prisoners had been released.
The lockdown has meant worse suffering for millions of people especially the poor. This is the case all over the world, particularly in neo-colonial countries. Uprisings is seen in Lebanon. It is clear that it is the working people and the poor who are suffering the worst effects of the current crisis.
Britain had seen the worst number of deaths in Europe – second only to America. Areas, where the poor Black and Asians were living, hit hard. In Newham, for example, the highest number of deaths in Britain is recorded. It is no accident. Firstly the Tory government’s reluctance in handling the crisis contributed to the large death toll. Secondly, Newham is one of two poorest boroughs in Britain. A high number of BAME workers living in this borough, the majority of them is ‘key workers’ – who work in cleaning, catering, transport, shops and hospitals. They are the most underpaid workers. They also have forced to work without the appropriate PPE. They have put in this vulnerable position. Hence they are catching the virus quickly. They also live in overcrowded houses, with many generations living under one roof. East Ham in Newham has a high proportion of Tamil speaking people. Labour council, in this place, had carried out cuts to funding to local NHS hospitals and vital services. This also contributed towards the unpreparedness to dealing with the virus and eventual unnecessary deaths.
The reality is that it is the ordinary working people who are paying the price. Black and Asians are going to suffer most of the economic consequence. There’s already a recession developing in the world economy. The pandemic exacerbated this economic crisis. Although we know of death tolls despite the varying figures it still doesn’t give you the full picture of the misery, particularly in the case of asylum seekers, who don’t have the required documentation to claim benefit when they lose their income. With reports of hotels workers sleeping rough in the streets of London it’s no wonder there’s growing anger amongst the ordinary working people and students.
All the governments are only keen to defend their big business allies. So much so that the Amazon boss would be the first trillionaire in the world, Besos has applied for funding from the government. Using this furloughing scheme they aim to get richer. The reality is that the current economic system, capitalism doesn’t work. Those who act on behalf of the system have tried to solve the problem by taking state intervention on a massive scale. They’ve bailed out the big businesses and put profit of the rich first and not the needs of the majority. The Labour party is putting no opposition for the government’s handling of the crisis, paving a need for an alternative independent party that will act in the interest of the ordinary workers, students, ethnic minorities, asylum seekers and other oppressed sections.
The mainstream parties in Sri Lanka SLFP, UNP and the now new SLPP all are different faces- but offer no real alternative representative for the Tamil people. TNA is just paying lip service and happy to save their seats in parliament and work with anyone who comes to power. With no real opposition, there is an urgent need to build an independent alternative for the Tamil people alongside with other oppressed sections.
The hypocrisy of the Indian government, in particular in Tamil Nadu government in not allowing the Mullivaikaal remembrance day being held is somewhat expected, seeing the treating of the Tamil refugees in Tamil Nadu but also the workers, students and other oppressed sections, particularly caste-based oppressions. Here too arises the need to build an alternative force alongside the oppressed sections.
11 years have passed but nothing has changed, no justice has been attained. We cannot put forward the same tactics. The world economic crisis will change the role of the UN. The Indian government will face an unprecedented number of deaths due to hunger and poverty and deteriorating living conditions would pave way for protests and struggles, which will be responded like the Sri Lankan government in a repressive manner. The Rajapakse government will become more authoritarian and get more control. They want to change the constitution and further attack the rights of the minorities. The Tamil right to self-determination including separation, fight to release the political prisoners, de-militarisation, returning the land will all come under attack. As poverty increases, there will be a large number of deaths. Even more than the genocide that took place. We must build a fightback by linking up with the struggles of the Sinhala workers, with oppressed Muslims and Hill country workers.
From this crisis, more data has emerged on the conditions that the Tamil workers facing in Britain, Canada and other countries. The younger generations and workers need to link up their struggles with other students, asylum seekers, ethnic minorities and Trade unions – and along with our allies build a strong united fight. We remember the dead and fight for those living.