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From The Socialist newspaper, 20 November 2013

Sri Lanka: Cameron's empty promise of war crimes inquiry

TU Senan, Tamil Solidarity

Prime Minister David Cameron recently shook the blood-stained hand of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. But when Labour leader Ed Miliband criticised him for attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) in Sri Lanka he was crying over spilt milk.

Miliband seems to have "set a new record for opportunism" - Labour only really started to talk about Chogm once the meeting was taking place. Worse - it was actually in power when the genocidal slaughter took place in Sri Lanka in 2009.

The hundreds of thousands of Tamil-speaking people who took to the streets in London demanding action were ignored - not a peep while an estimated 70,000 Tamils were being slaughtered. And worse again - just after the massacre it was Labour that agreed to Chogm in Sri Lanka.

Despite accusing Ed Miliband of knowing nothing about foreign affairs, he "barely gets out of Islington", Cameron has nothing to brag about. He claims he helped to 'shine a light' on the Sri Lankan regime by taking the British media with him. And he now threatens to call for a war crimes inquiry.

But there is plenty of evidence proving the war crimes committed by the Rajapaksa regime. The most recent is the Callum Macrae documentary, broadcast by Channel 4 weeks before Chogm.

No one can deny that the prime minister's visit to Sri Lanka brought media attention. But there are no substantial gains for those demanding justice and rights. This 'shine' from his light was short lived.

Cameron did manage to get attention when he proposed a time limit for the regime's promised internal inquiry - and insisted that international action would be required if Rajapaksa has not delivered by March.

This has been one of the key demands of Tamil activists. Though it is a small gesture, yet to be acted upon (if ever), even this little shift was forced by pressure from protests.

No Tory votes

A few months back Tamil Solidarity launched a strong campaign among the Tamil community in Britain with the slogan of 'not a single vote or not a single penny for the Conservatives'. The Conservative party risked closing the door to ever getting the Tamils' vote due to its decision to take part in Chogm.

However, a communication sent around by the PM's press office on 18 November stated that Cameron told Rajapaksa that "if these investigations are not begun properly by March then I will use our position on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to call for an international inquiry".

Does this mean that the time limit for the Sri Lankan government to conduct its sham inquiry has been extended? It's not difficult for the Sri Lankan regime to come out with some sort of inquiry like that of its bogus Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).

The LLRC recommendations go nowhere near providing justice for Tamils and even then the government has not acted on the recommendations of the body it initiated. Then the 'condemnation' could be limited to a strong resolution in the UNHRC in March.

Tamil Solidarity argued from the start that the any inquiry should be conducted by a "people's tribunal consisting of representatives accountable to working class and poor people from all communities, chosen by them and observed by international trade union and human rights organisations. Only such a body could be truly free of the influence of the Sri Lankan government and their international collaborators".

While China holds a veto in the UN - and India has a final say in these matters - hope of getting the UN to investigate the Rajapaksa regime is grim. Both these governments funded and supported the genocidal slaughter in 2009 and have helped him to cover up ever since. They also now invest heavily in Sri Lanka.

The real reason behind the western shift towards a critical stance was revealed by Cameron: "How do we advance free trade if we are not there... How can we do that from 4,000 miles away?"

Western interests in the South Asian region have to compete with increasing Chinese influence. Breaking the Sri Lankan regime is increasingly linked to breaking the Chinese influence. But Tamil Solidarity argues that even the pressure from this contradiction will not push things beyond regime change - or towards an acceptable political solution.

Any genuine attempt to bring justice for Tamils will have to be linked to meeting the national aspirations of the Tamil masses. Building a mass movement of the oppressed Tamils along with other oppressed masses within Sri Lanka, India, in the region and across the world is vital. This should take precedence in every aspect of Tamil activism. Cameron's attempt to divert the Tamil masses into developing illusions in the 'inert' UN is a trap.

Tamils in Britain are affected massively by the Tory-led attacks on our services and education. The young generation of Tamils who are coming out of universities now find themselves jobless, poor and forced to rely on their parents for support. And all this is taking place while Labour puts up no fight.

None of the main political parties has any genuine interest in defending either poor people in Britain or the oppressed internationally. This is why Tamil Solidarity urges the Tamils to link up with those who fight back. This is why the 'Join a union' campaign was launched and the link with the trade union movement is promoted.

This is also the reason why Tamil Solidarity argues that initiatives such as the RMT union-led Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) should be welcomed and participated in.

Through uniting we will grow in strength - strong enough to challenge the western interests as well as the brutal regional and Sri Lankan governments. Cameron and the whole of the establishment's interests stand diametrically opposed to this strategy.

The defence of Tamils' interests in Sri Lanka is linked to the defence of the class interests of Tamils and other working people in Britain. Cameron exposed this in an indirect way when he said Miliband is "too weak to stand up to Len McCluskey- too weak to stand up for Britain abroad". Len McCluskey is a general secretory of Unite the union.

In other words Cameron was asking the Labour leader to break the backbone of the working class in Britain and at the same time push for free trade interests internationally.

Our fight will not be over until we win all our rights. We will not be trapped by illusory gestures.

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In The Socialist 20 November 2013:


International socialist news and analysis

Seattle: 90,000 votes for socialist change

Victory for socialist in Seattle!

Philippines: Typhoon damage worsened by capitalism

Sri Lanka: Cameron's empty promise of war inquiry


Socialist Party news and analysis

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Fight the Tory witch-hunt against Unite

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Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

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