The message from Tamil Solidarity at the RMT Black and Asian national conference

This weekend Tamil Solidarity actively took part at the RMT Black and Asian national conference in Liverpool. This is the message that we delivered to the eager trade unionists.

A message to trade unionists

“Last week, the accused war criminal, Maithiripala Sirisena visited the UK to dine with the Queen. The newly elected President of SL was the general secretary under the Rajapakse regime, which is responsible for the massacres of thousands of innocent Tamil civilians. Sirisena especially is renowned for his links with the Sinhala chauvinists group Bodu Bala Sena.

The visit took place amidst of several protests taking place in London where over thousands demonstrated against the visit of Sirisena, amongst them Tamil diaspora and human rights activists, He also met the Tory leader David Cameron, already renowned for his brutal austerity measures in Britain. This man against all demonstrations and please by the Tamil diaspora went into SL for CHOGM promising to make enquiries into the war crimes. It has been over a year and nothing has happened since.

For all the sympathy he feigned during the election for working people, Sirisena defended and helped implement the attacks on living standards and democratic rights carried out by the Kumaratunga and Rajapakse governments. He is thoroughly complicit in the promotion of Sinhala chauvinism and the crimes committed against the Tamil population during the civil war.

Last weekend also saw the world celebrating international women’s day, instead in SL there’s a culture of impunity especially with regards to sexual violence against girls and women and large number of disappearances, this is mainly attributed to the high military presence with in some villages the ratio being 1 military personally for 3 civilians. A recent headline that has surrounded much controversy would be the gang rape of a 13 year old school girl in the war torn village who was raised up by her grandmother due to the loss of her parents during the war and when the crime was reported the police had cautioned the grandmother to keep her mouth shut otherwise will be put in prison for causing shame on the granddaughter. The girl who disappeared one day without telling her grandmother was found dead (probably due to suicide).

UNHRC resolution into an international crime enquiry that was to come out in March in the gone session has now been pushed back to September. Buying more time for the current neoliberal party coalition to make international business deals, otherwise given SL’s bloody history of human rights abuses, there will be a ban on trade sanctioned against the country.

Since the so-called end of the war in May 2009 evidence has been amassed to expose the Sri Lankan military’s genocidal slaughter of the Tamil-speaking people. Channel 4’s Killing Fields documentaries graphically showed targeted bombing of field hospitals and terror.

But in the aftermath there is no peace as democratic rights are being trampled underfoot. Journalists and any voice of dissent face repression. Access to Tamil-speaking areas is strictly controlled and freedom of assembly does not exist there. The establishment of so-called ‘free-trade zones’ is leading to the super-exploitation of labour, without trade union and other rights. Public services, such as health and education which have been of a very high quality, are threatened with privatisation. A military ‘land grab’ of the Tamil-speaking areas comparable to the settlement of Palestinian land is also taking place. This will also facilitate rapid commercialisation of the island’s resources.

The recent fall of the Rajapakse regime does not mean there’s good news for the Tamil-speaking and oppressed layers of the community. The Sirisena and the neo-liberal far right-wing party coalition would only continue to sanction these brutal measures.

As health minister from 2010 to 2014, Sirisena sought to suppress every struggle by health workers for better conditions. He sought court orders to ban strikes and protests. In response to a strike by health workers for higher pay IN 2014, he deployed the police and military into the hospitals.
There are more than one million people with kidney disease in the rural areas of Sri Lanka, most of them paddy farmers. Sirisena rejected proposals by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that the Colombo government take action to address the crisis, such as improving the supply of clean water and banning some toxic chemicals that are linked with kidney disease.

The international community stood by whilst these atrocities were committed. The Tamil diaspora is very well organised and in 2009 Tamils around the world protested demanding their governments to save their relatives in the homeland. None of the governments acted to save the innocent; instead they safeguarded their own interest. This remains as a war with no or little international witnesses and one that has systematic elimination of cultural and religious practice in those areas with higher Tamil population.


This created a much needed gap intervention, which is why TS formed, with a clear program to work alongside workers, trade union, students, and people who fight for their rights i.e. national allies for the oppressed Tamil people. One of the main objectives of Tamil solidarity is to take the Tamil struggle to working class movement in Britain. Given the enormity of the attacks on living standards trade union activists are incredibly overworked. We think that by clearly showing the Tamil diaspora how trade unions support their cause we can help unions in Britain to recruit unorganised Tamil workers. We also believe that campaigning inside the unions on these issues will encourage Tamil members to become actively involved in their unions. We have also launched a join-the-union campaign encouraging Tamil diaspora to join a union.

This is mainly because the Tamil community like many ethnic minorities communities in the Britain are isolated and do not integrated much, in addition due to them coming over here as refugees and asylum seekers and their struggle with language and low levels of skills makes them susceptible to racism unleashed by parties such as the UKIP. By joining the union they can be part of a bigger force to combat racism.

We have always explained that the trade union movement has enormous capacity for real solidarity – workers’ solidarity and huge potential strength. We’ve had various union affiliations such as the NUS and Unison (nationally), RMT (London region) and various other union branches. We are campaigning to build genuine independent trade unions in Sri Lanka that can be vehicles to challenge the on-going repression. We need the support of the international labour movement in this.

I would like to thank you for your support so far and as you to continue supporting us.

Uniting will only strengthen all our struggles. We need all the support that you can give.”


Tamil Solidarity activist