Rajapaksa invited to top university

Howls of outrage have greeted the news that the prestigious Oxford Union debating society has invited Sri Lankan president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, to address it on Thursday. And hundreds of protesters went to Heathrow airport as the man with the blood of tens of thousands of Tamil-speaking people on his hands touched down in Britain on Tuesday evening. In the meantime, he is wining and dining at the Dorchester hotel and will meet with secretary of state for defence, Liam Fox – while we pay the bill for his security.

Tamil Solidarity has contacted the Oxford Union by phone and email to demand that this event is cancelled, pointing out the long list of well-founded, well-documented allegations against Rajapaksa and his regime. Unfortunately, we have not been able to get through to the people responsible for taking this outrageous decision and, as yet, we have not received any reply to our email – which we carry below for your information. (If we do receive a reply we will carry it on this website.)

It is not too late, however, for the Oxford Union, part of Oxford University, to change its decision. Emails and phone calls explaining why this meeting should not go ahead can help put pressure to force a rethink. Contact: 01865 241 353 or: enquiries@oxford-union.org


Dear James Kingston and the Oxford Union

We note with grave concern your invitation to president Mahinda Rajapaksa to address the Oxford Union this week.

Despite protestations to the contrary by the president and his regime, the brutality and excesses of the Sri Lankan armed forces in their prosecution of the civil war have been well documented. Let it be clear, we are not talking here about unsubstantiated reports. There is irrefutable evidence of the massacre of thousands of Tamil civilians, especially in the final weeks of the war last year. Irrefutable proof of the bombing by Sri Lankan armed forces of emergency hospitals and aid centres. There has been a series of criticisms from agencies such as the United Nations, International Committee of the Red Cross, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, to name just a handful. Now, this week, Channel 4 News has released further footage of summary executions which everyone, apart from the Sri Lankan regime and its representatives, agrees is authentic.

Following the brutal finale of the war, hundreds of thousands of Tamil-speaking people were rounded up in open prison camps and held in the most horrendous conditions, lacking basic sanitation, health and other essential services. Still, today, so-called ‘secret’ camps are in operation.

We could add many more examples – and invite you to look at the reports on our website – to illustrate the true nature of the regime, the head of which you have now invited to address your meeting.

This decision is a gross insult to the hundreds of thousands of Tamil-speaking people in Sri Lanka and worldwide, who are still grieving the loss of loved ones and who are trying to cope with the trauma, distress and fall-out from this most brutal of conflicts.

We urge you to rescind this invitation immediately.

Yours faithfully

Manny Thain, Tamil Solidarity national secretary