British politicians mark Maaveerar Naal

British politicians mark Maaveerar Naal

27 November 2020

Parliamentarians and government ministers from multiple political parties across the UK, marked Maaveerar Naal with messages of tributes and solidarity to the Tamil community in the UK and in the Tamil homeland, for those who sacrificed their lives in the Tamil struggle for freedom.

Paul Scully, Minister for London and Conservative MP for Sutton and Cheam

Paul Scully marked Maaveerar Naal with a message to address the fallen Tamils and called on Sri Lanka to address the “dark chapter of the island’s history”.

“Friday 27th marks the end of 3 days of commemoration for Maaveerar Naal. When [clay] lamps are lit and Tamils who died for their cause in the civil war. This isn’t a time to look at division. It is a time to commemorate those who died.”

Scully urged that Sri Lanka needs to be “looking at the truth, reconciliation and justice to close the chapter of that civil war” which would allow “Tamils in Sri Lanka and around the world can feel safe and can close the dark chapter of their island’s history.”

Sam Tarry, Labour MP for Ilford South

Sam Tarry marked Maaveerar Naal by standing in “solidarity with Tamils in the North-East and in the UK” and emphasized that Britain needs to “play a leading role to find a peaceful political solution in Sri Lanka […] that respects the right to self-determination for the Tamil people”.

“Today marks Maaveerar Naal. A day across the Tamil community in Sri Lanka and major cities across the world where Tamils remember those that died resisting state oppression.”

Tarry stated that the Tamil community would be concerned about how current incidents foreshadow a bleak future for them on the island with “human rights against Tamils and Muslims rapidly deteriorating”. He added, “The UN has been clear the Tamils have a fundamental right to remember their war dead on November 27. Sri Lanka’s new government has rejected UN resolutions calling for international accountability mechanisms for war crimes and that is clearly unacceptable.”

Tarry stressed the “ongoing militarisation of [the] Tamil homeland, the attacks and intimidation against civil societies and journalists are a serious concern” and that Sri Lankan officials accused of war crimes must “clearly face targeted sanctions”.

Sir Ed Davey, Leader of Liberal Democrats and MP for Kingston & Surbiton

Sir Ed Davey marked Maaveerar Naal with a message of solidarity to Tamils and reaffirming them of the Liberal Democrats’ commitment to working with the Tamil diaspora to campaign for justice and human rights.

“It’s an honour to be able to join you on Tamil National Remembrance Day to remember the people who have lost their lives, their families, their friends, people who’ve been injured and [people] who’ve been disappeared and we still don’t know where they are.

The British government, the international community needs to recognize the Tamil’s right to self-determination. It needs to demand Sri Lanka halts the implementation of its discriminatory policies against Tamils. We need an international investigation into the genocide that occurred.”

Davey urged the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to “find a way” to reinstate the Sri Lankan government’s commitment to be “held to account”.

He insisted that the international community concerned needs to extend to “China and India [as] they have a responsibility to join the call for human rights, peace and justice.”

Addressing the “thousands of mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers who are still looking for the disappeared family members the Sri Lankan government promised to help,” Davey described that the Office of Missing Persons “has been a charade”.

Siobhain McDonagh, Labour MP for Mitcham and Morden

Siobhain McDonagh, who described herself as “a long-standing friend of the Tamil community” marked Maaveerar Naal with a message to the Tamil community that addressed the difficulties of remembering remotely and highlighted Sri Lanka’s “road to reconciliation”.

“We reaffirm our strong belief that only truth, justice and accountability will set Sri Lanka on Sri Lankan on a path to lasting peace. Since we last gathered, that path appears to have stretched even longer,” she said

McDonagh stated she was “alarmed” by the Sri Lankan government’s ongoing incidents of human rights violations, “including renewed threats of violence against the Tamil community.”

She also stated that she was “profoundly concerned that the Sri Lankan government has withdrawn from the UNHCR council resolution 30/1 calling for the promotion of reconciliation and accountability and human rights” and that the UK must “ensure a new substantial resolution is passed at the upcoming human rights council session in March.”

McDonagh reiterated her important role as Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APGG) for the Tamil community has pushed for the matter of Sri Lanka’s injustices are addressed on the floor of the House of Commons.

“The mass violation of human rights has left a stain of injustice on Sri Lanka, the road to reconciliation may still be long but I sincerely hope that days like today provide you with all the strength to continue your fight for justice until you have access to the human rights and justice that you all so clearly deserve.”

Virendra Sharma, Labour MP for Ealing, Southall

Virendra Sharma marked Maaveerar Naal by remembering and coming “together to pay respects to those who suffered from horrendous acts of violence by the Sri Lankan authorities.”

Sharma offered his solidarity to the Tamil community and expressed his disapproval at the Sri Lankan government’s clampdown on commemoration activities across the North-East.

“On this Tamil National Remembrance Day, we reflect and pay our respects to those who gave their lives for the cause of self-determination and freedom.

We all believe in the protection of human rights, justice and freedom for all. I stand today in solidarity with the family of those who suffered from the war crimes committed in Sri Lanka.

It is wrong that [the] Sri Lankan government has intensified its crackdown on the commemoration, preparations made by the families of the fallen in the lead up to the Remembrance Day this year.

I do not believe that these harmless acts of respect and reflection on the part of the families of those who are mourning their loved ones pose a national security threat as claimed by the government agencies.”

Wes Streeting, Labour MP for Ilford North

Ilford North MP and Vice-Chair of the APPG on Tamils, Wes Streeting marked Maaveerar Naal with a tribute to the fallen and reiterated his commitment on pursuing accountability and justice for the Tamil community against the Sri Lankan government.

Streeting underlined the need to “to recognize the hurt and pain that families still suffer not just as a result of their own experiences of those terrible events, but also the sense of despair they feel at the missing. Never knowing what happened to their friends, their family and their loves who simply disappeared. I want to reaffirm my support once again to pursue truth, justice and accountability for all of those responsible for perpetrating those unspeakable crimes during the Sri Lankan civil war and my commitment to keep up the pressure to tackle ongoing human rights abuses in Sri Lanka today.

I want to make sure that through the process of truth and justice we can lead to a future based on reconciliation. You have my commitment that I will leave no stone unturned in keeping up the pressure on our own government to show the leadership it needs to at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, and I hope we will see through the international community the Sri Lankan government held to the account for the commitments that it’s signed up to at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.”

Stephen Timms, Labour MP for East Ham

East Ham MP, Stephen Timms, marked Maaveerar Naal noting that humans rights conditions in Sri Lanka have “gone backward”.

Quoting the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Timm notes that “the government has been unable to deal comprehensively with the past, risking a repeating cycle of violence and human rights violations”.

Timms further notes that “far from protecting the goals of 30/1 resolution, the government of Sri Lanka announced that it was pulling out from the resolution”.

He stated this was is in a context where pardons are granted for war criminals such as Sunil Rathnayake. Commenting on this case he maintains that, “the Presidential pardon, is an affront to victims and yet another example of the failure of Sri Lanka to fulfill its international human rights obligations”

Timms also criticized the government’s crackdown on civil freedoms citing a report in which the UN the special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association highlighted issues of surveillance. “Members of civil society also expressed fear of how this information may be used in the future,” he added.

He further reiterated a call for an independent international investigation into war crimes, stating “The problems in Sri Lanka can’t be resolved without an independent international inquiry on what happened at the end of the civil war. I shall continue to press the UK Government to demand one.”

Elliot Colburn, Conservative MP for Carshalton and Wallington

Carshalton and Wallington MP and Chair of the APPG on Tamils, Elliot Colburn, commemorated Maaveerar Naal noting the continuing injustices the Tamil community face in Sri Lanka.

“To many Tamils in the UK, Sri Lanka and across the world, today will be difficult. 11 years on from the armed conflict in Sri Lanka and the emotional, as well as the physical impact, is still being felt. It is only right for families to be able to come together to remember the thousands who lost their lives and the right to remember is an integral part of the reconciliation and justice process. For many, there also remain unanswered questions about the fate of their loved ones who went missing during the conflict and they’re yet to receive truth and justice.

Unfortunately, the APPG continues to receive reports of concerns for human rights in Sri Lanka which is why we’re concerned the government has withdrawn its support for an international mechanism to address these concerns in the UN human rights council”.

He further commended the contributions of the British Tamil community in fighting against the coronavirus and noted doctors who had sadly passed away due to the virus.

Colburn maintained that the APPGT “would continue its work to push for an international mechanism at the UN Human Rights Council to address the human rights concerns that we’ve heard about and we look to the UK to provide that global leadership that we really need”.

Bob Blackman, Conservative MP for Harrow East

Bob Blackman acknowledged Maaveerar Naal as the national day for remembrance for “Tamils that died fighting for freedom and justice” and stressed the need to have the “healing of the transparency” for what happened to Tamils, particularly in the latter stages of the armed conflict.

“The end of the civil war led to a position of 280,000 Tamil incarcerated in barbed-wire camps. 146,000 people of Tamil origin are not accounted for. It is only by ensuring that the war crimes committed at the end of that war are properly investigated and those responsible are brought to account for what they did, the decision they took and the actions taken by other soldiers on their behalf. Tamils are not able in Sri Lanka to remember this day.

Despite the harassment and intimidation and threats of arrests, many people will gather in the North-East and commemorate the dead. They have to do so in private and they are in threat of military action if they do.”

Robert Halfon, Conservative MP for Harlow

Harlow MP Robert Halfon paid tribute to the Tamil community on Maaveerar Naal and emphasized the need to recognize the genocide against Tamils by the Sri Lankan government.

“I want to pay my respect to those who lost their lives fighting for freedom and justice in Sri Lanka, and to their families. Tamil Remembrance Day symbolized by the gloriosa lily serves as such an important opportunity to remember and pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their nation.

So many Tamil people, so many innocent Tamil people have suffered so much. We must recognize the genocide that took place in Sri Lanka and across the world today we come together in public and in private to commemorate the innocent. The fathers, the mothers, the brothers, the sisters, the sons and the daughters, the friends, that have been lost.

My thoughts are with you all at this time and I look forward to the day when the genocide is recognized internationally and when the Tamils have real autonomy in Sri Lanka and that human rights are respected forever.”

Related Articles:
27 November 2020 : Diaspora Tamils mark Maaveerar Naal
27 November 2020 : Tamil newspapers commemorate Maaveerar Naal amidst military crackdown
27 November 2020 : LIVE – British Tamils commemorate Maaverar Naal online
27 November 2020 : Sri Lanka’s security forces crackdown on Maaveerar Naal

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Writer and Journalist living in Canada since 1987. Tamil activist.

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