Tamil Solidarity: twinned with grassroots campaigns

Tamil solidarity was invited to take part in the twinning ceremony of Kingston and Jaffna. We decided not to endorse this event. Here is the statement that we send to the organisers as a reply. 

Manny Thain, National organizer for Tamil Solidarity

Tamil Solidarity welcomes any opportunity to strengthen the links between Tamils in Sri Lanka and those in Britain, and around the world. Indeed, we have always campaigned tirelessly – at times, in the face of fierce opposition – to take up the causes of workers, youth and the oppressed.

We have taken solidarity action in support of Jaffna university students whenever they have been attacked by Sri Lankan state security forces.

We stood shoulder-to-shoulder when young women and girls suffered sexual violence and murder in the north and east of the island – and continue to do so.

We have spoken out in defence of Tamil Muslims attacked by Bodu Bala Sena and other right-wing chauvinistic groups.

We stand with working people, fishing communities and poor who are being hit by poverty pay, eviction from properties and price hikes in basic, essential goods.

And we back the demands for jobs, homes, health and education, democratic rights and justice for all peoples in Sri Lanka.

These are our people.

Our aim is to widen and deepen our links with them, and to unite them with their natural allies in the organised workers’ movement (the trade unions in Britain), with campaigns for good public services, free health and education, for social housing and with other people fighting for their rights internationally.

We are acutely aware that – in spite of some fine words (usually during elections or to look good in the media) – successive governments in Britain have done little or nothing to really help the Tamil-speaking people of Sri Lanka gain the right to self-determination. Or to take forward the demand for a genuine, public investigation into war crimes. Or the issue of the land-grab and military occupation. Or the tens of thousands of disappeared…

Meanwhile, Tamils in Britain – often with Tamil Solidarity among the organisers – can be seen frequently protesting for these basic rights.

And they are increasingly part of the campaigns against savage cut-backs to essential public services – cuts brought in by both councils and governments.

We are not taken in by the posturing of figures in the political establishment, whether that be David Cameron at the Commonwealth meeting, or MPs who speak at Mullivaikal commemorations while their governments attack the NHS and other services which Tamils and millions of other people need.

That is also why Tamil Solidarity did not take up the invitation to take part in the ceremony organised by Kingston upon Thames council to twin the borough with Jaffna district.

We understand that some people will say that this initiative, however limited, is another way of shining a light on the issues faced by Tamils in Sri Lanka. However, we have to ask: who is it for? And what does it really mean?

In reality, it is one more deal at the top. It will play well in the media. The politicians smiling and shaking hands will gain some publicity. Who knows, it might lead to a few business deals.

It will not, however, do anything to take forward the life-and-death struggle of the majority of the people in Jaffna.

In addition, at a time when the Tory council in Kingston is implementing Tory government cut-backs, which are hitting working-class communities particularly hard, it has to be seen as a cynical political stunt. It is a way of trying to win over the Tamil community – by a cosmetic, superficial exercise – while the council’s policies are actually directed against them.

In short, Tamil Solidarity is interested only in genuine ‘twinning’: that of building unity by strengthening our interlinked campaigns and struggles.