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From The Socialist newspaper, 22 April 2009

Tamil action to stop the war continues

STOP THE Slaughter of Tamils (SST) campaign followed up on the massive national demonstration against the war in Sri Lanka on 11 April with a public meeting in central London.

Manny Thain

This broad, international campaign, launched in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, drew an enthusiastic response, with Tamils from around London in attendance.

Jan from Tamils Against Genocide forcefully made the case that, according to United Nations criteria, the military/political strategy of the Sri Lanka government can only be described as genocide. She called for this to be recognised by the British government and 'international community' and for them to take action.

Senan, SST coordinator, outlined the aims and objectives of SST, drawing on his personal experience of previous military attacks on Tamil people in Sri Lanka in the 1980s. He explained why a working-class based alternative needs to be posed to try to cut across the sectarian hatred being fomented by Sri Lanka's Rajapakse government.

The discussion which followed was passionate, sharp and wide-ranging. Many Tamils, knowing their relatives and friends are caught in a death-trap, feel that all Sinhalese people - the majority in Sri Lanka, the leaders of whom hold the reins of power - are complicit in the slaughter. That is a completely understandable reaction.

Nonetheless, one Tamil woman made the point that her family was saved during the pogroms of the early 1980s by Sinhala neighbours. Sectarian hatred is being cynically manipulated by Rajapakse's nepotistic regime and forces allied to it for their own ends.

As well as campaigning to end the slaughter and to demand basic human rights for Tamils in the north, SST fights for democratic rights throughout Sri Lanka. Sinhala workers and poor are severely oppressed. Living standards are worsening by the day as prices of necessities rocket and basic services are cut.

All opposition is brutally crushed. Many independent journalists and trade unionists have been rounded up and murdered. Leaders of the United Socialist Party (the Socialist Party's counterpart in Sri Lanka) have received death threats. However difficult it may be in the short-term, this makes it essential to mount united working-class resistance to the regime's policies of war, murder and oppression.

In Britain, we have a responsibility to raise awareness of these issues and expose the hypocrisy of the British government, in particular to the organised working class. At the recent National Union of Teachers conference, for example, Socialist Teachers produced a leaflet which highlighted the SST campaign and issues.

Several Tamils at the meeting are also tube workers and RMT union members. The No2EU: Yes to Democracy euro-election list was raised as a pro-working class, anti-war alternative in that election.

The meeting agreed to protest outside the Department of International Development on Wednesday to draw attention to government backing of the Sri Lankan regime. The following week there will be a protest outside the BBC against the deafening silence of the media.

After the meeting, a delegation from SST went to Parliament Square to show solidarity with the protest there. SST has been liaising with student protesters, drafting a trade union appeal letter which they adopted. At a time of general media silence, it is vitally important to deepen the links with the besieged Tamil population. Although still very new, the SST has proved to be a very positive addition to the existing Tamil campaigns.

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In The Socialist 22 April 2009:

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Marxist analysis: history

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Stead McAlpin: Protesting in London

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