Trade unionists and other activists condemn CHOGM

Trade unionists and other activists condemn the decision of the British government to take part in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), due to be held in Sri Lanka in November.

Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to the UK, Dr Chris Nonis, claimed yesterday in a BBC interview that the government of Sri Lanka is investing billions of dollars in development and has ‘rehabilitated’ tens of thousands of people! He also claimed that major improvements have been made in reconciliation with Tamil-speaking people.

He said that the recommendations of the regime’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) have been implemented in full. Yet he failed to mention that some of the LLRC’s recommendations have been rejected by Mahinda Rajapaksa’s regime.

Furthermore, Dr Nonis failed to answer the questions of the current attacks taking place against the Muslim population, and the curtailing of democratic rights including the freedom of speech. The latest report by Amnesty International highlighted a number of these issues.

Tamil Solidarity rejects the government propaganda that democracy and living conditions had improved.

In a conference organised by Tamil Solidarity and the British Tamils forum on Saturday 8 June, a number of leading trade unionists are expected to attend to add their voices to this opposition. The trade unions are a potentially powerful force for solidarity for the Tamil-speaking people because they are made up of the workers employed in the public services and in companies all across Britain.

This is not new, of course. The trade unions in the past came out in solidarity with workers internationally at times when the British government supported regimes such as apartheid South Africa or Libya. However, this is the first time that trade unionists are raising their voices in a large number regarding the Tamil issue.

As we know, according to the United Nations, over 40,000 people were killed by the Sri Lankan military in the last months of the war in 2009. The Sri Lankan regime stands accused of war crimes and crimes and against humanity.

Holding CHOGM in Sri Lanka – and the British government and crown announcing that they will send representatives – has angered tens of thousands of Tamils living in Britain. A number of trade unionists will come together on Saturday to condemn this decision at what will be a significant event.

Martin Powel Davies, on the national executive committee of the National Union of Teachers, said: “Its an absolute disgrace that the Commonwealth Heads of Government are meeting in Sri Lanka.”

A number of members from the executives of several trade unions are expected to share the same commitment at the meeting on 8 June.