Review of the EU position on Sri Lanka

The European Parliament voted on positions regarding the 19th Session of the UN Human Rights Council on 16 February. The Parliament now calls on the UNHRC to establish a war crimes investigation intoSri Lanka.

Speech delivered by Paul Murphy – click here

What was agreed and what was defeated

Amid the acute crisis in the eurozone the future of the European parliament itself hangs in the air. Democracy and human rights are being undermined in countries such as Greece and Italy with European technocrats implementing almost colonial style rule. The savage austerity they propose is vigorously opposed by millions of working people in these countries and in Portugal,Spain,Ireland and Britain. But the right-wing MEPs, only represent the interest of big businesses and therefore the states that continue human right abuses.

Three years have passed since the horrible massacre of Tamil-speaking people took place in Sri Lanka. But the right-wing in the EU is still insisting on ‘welcoming’ GoSL’s actions. This is best illustrated by the recent vote in the EU Parliament.

Below is the original compromised version proposed and the amendment put forward by the right-wing group. The proposed changes are highlighted.

Compromised position put forward:

Stresses the need to further support efforts to strengthen the accountability process in Sri Lanka and continue to call for the establishment of a UN commission of inquiry into all crimes committed, as recommended by the UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka; invites the Sri Lankan Government to send an invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression;

Amendment of the right: European conservative and reformist, European people’s party etc

Calls for support efforts to strengthen the accountability process in Sri Lanka to be furthered, as recommended by the UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka, and welcomes the Sri Lankan Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Committee’s recent report; calls on the Sri Lankan Government rapidly to implement the report’s recommendations, and in particular to address concerns regarding human rights violations;

The politics of the right are very clear from the above amendment. They carefully removed the ‘call for the establishment of a UN commission of inquiry into the crimes committed’. Instead this amendment adds a ‘welcome’ to the disgraceful report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).

It is clear that the right-wing do not want the current Sri Lankan regime to be held accountable for the immense crimes they have committed. Instead they want to find a way to ‘work with’ the GoSL by welcoming their worthless inquiry. They are prepared to bury the history of massacre and crimes against humanity, just so their big business associates can make money from the graveyard.

What kind of investigation is necessary?

Clarity is needed when calling for an international independent investigation. Right-wing UN or EU politicians will only ‘use’ the plight of oppressed Tamil-speaking people to advance capitalist or big business interests in Sri Lanka. So it is essential to demand the involvement of international human rights bodies, trade unions etc, in the investigation – not representatives of the state.

The GoSL is incapable of establishing an ‘independent’ investigation. The abject failure of the LLRC is proof of that. That is why this call for an independent inquiry in Sri Lanka should not include any state forces. Instead those involved should be elected from among the real victims of the crime. It should also include human rights activists, trade unionists and genuinely elected members from all communities to make it a really representative, democratic and accountable body that can investigate the war crimes impartially and properly.

Anyone who agrees with this democratic and correct method of inquiry would support the amendment of the GUE group in the EU Parliament, put forwarded by Paul Murphy MEP, and Søren Bo Søndergaard MEP. The full text of which is as follows. Additional text is highlighted.

Stresses the need to strengthen the accountability process in Sri Lanka and continue to call for the establishment of a UN Commission of inquiry into all crimes committed, as recommended by the UN Secretary General’s panel of Experts on Sri Lanka; invites the Sri Lankan government to launch an invitation to the UN Special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; notes that the Government of Sri Lanka’s Commission of Inquiry on Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation published its report in November; voices its concern about the nature of this report and its insufficient criticisms of the actions of the Sri Lankan armed forces; notes, however, that the criticisms made have been denounced by the Government of Sri Lanka; considers it, therefore, imperative to set up an independent inquiry which involves representatives of all communities and trade unions in the country and is monitored by international human rights groups, trade unions and other international, non-governmental bodies;

Note here that this amendment clearly makes the case for the establishment of a genuine inquiry and exposes the limitations of the LLRC.

Though this resolution can be supported by the Tamil-speaking people, we were under no illusion that the European Parliament would take such a good position at this stage. All the right-leaning MEPs ganged up against this amendment – meaning the left position of being prepared to put up a strong and serious fight for the oppressed Tamil people is not the general position of the rest of the groups.

It seems they all argue there could be a ‘positive’ outcome from the GoSL. This is dangerous given recent developments in Sri Lanka. Not only has both militarisation and defence expenditure gone up higher than during the war, there is also a real danger of further massacres and further undermining of basic democratic rights in the East and South of Sri Lanka. The regime is increasingly unpopular among the masses and the only way it knows to retain power is through strengthening the military grip on government affairs. But it will not go unchallenged. People will take to the street to fight back against the enormous increase in fuel and other prices, as the masses did in Nigeria earlier this year, as well as to protect the rights of education, pension, etc. The GoSL hopes the threat of violent and murderous reaction will keep such movements from developing –but such intimidation must be challenged.

European and other states refused to take a hard stand against the Rajapaksa regime during the last months of the bloody war in 2009. This allowed the horrendous massacre to unfold unhindered. Their complacency once again shows that they will not act to prevent further deterioration of democratic rights or to stop the killing in Sri Lanka. The GUE resolution was an attempt to take a hard stand against the GoSL.

Oppressed Tamils will welcome the call for a UN investigation – this is a step forward from the appalling position of ‘welcoming’ the GoSL. However we must continue to reject and challenge the right-wing politics of passing responsibility to the UN and continuing the underhand relationship with the Sri Lankan regime. Tamil-speaking people should identify clearly those who they can trust and who they can work with.

We must oppose right-wing politics

As expected almost all the right-wing groups supported the conservative and reformist amendment that had as its main intention not upsetting the genocidal GoSL. Despite the clear anti-oppressed actions of the right, there still may be some who argue that we should not act against them in order not to ‘alienate’ them!  Surprising though it may be, there are genuine human rights activists who were also drawn into these argument – maybe in fear of facing the consequences of confronting of those in power.

But the focus must be on building support among the working and all exploited people rather than bending in fear of those in power. What if the ‘powerful government decides to take revenge’ they ask. But the working and poor masses hold the real potential power in their hands. Unlocking that must be our aim.

Let us take the example of the ruling Conservative Party in theUK. If you take into consideration the number of people who refused to vote in the election, the Conservative Party only managed to get a minority vote. They could not form a government without going into coalition with the Liberal Democrats. And yet they now dictate local and international policies based on their very right-wing pro-business stance. Millions of people are suffering as a result of their austerity measures. They now face overwhelming opposition.

Instead of begging favour from the rotten establishment in Britain or Sri Lanka we should aim to find our natural allies among all those who oppose austerity, exploitation and repression. After all they make up the vast majority of the world’s population – the working and exploited masses – and are potentially the most powerful force there is.


Our strategy should not be that of finding a way of pleasing the government in the hope of a positive outcome – but one of fighting to get our interests and aims achieved.

None of these right-wing politicians have the interest of working people in mind. The interests behind their actions are big business’s interests. Hence their ‘extra friendliness’ with the GoSL.  We know the story of the so-called ‘Flying Fox’ who enjoyed luxury holidays in the warm embrace of the dictatorship in Sri Lanka.

Among those who lent their recent support to the genocidal regime in the EU parliament were Marina Yannakoudakis Conservative MEP for Londonand Nirj Deva Conservative MEP for South East.Marina’s  claim that she represents Londoners is grossly false. Both she and Nirj own multimillion businesses and only represent the rich. Apparently Nirj was also a fellow of Vishwa Kirthi Sri Lanka Abhimaniya! This Sri Lanka Abhimaniya also subscribes to the idiotic argument that ‘poverty elimination will not work – instead what we need is a wealth creation’! But this ‘trickle down’ idea has been shown to be utter codswallop. Massive wealth accumulated in the US and UK has failed to eliminate poverty. In fact today the wealthy have hitherto unseen riches while increasing numbers face brutal impoverishment. This argument is a direct attack against the poor of the world. And those who promote it must be opposed vehemently.

Let us unite to fight them all.