26 June, 2022


Tamils’ Meeting Shows Continuing Rift In Labour Party Regarding Foreign Policy

By TU Senan

TU Senan

TU Senan

Tamils for Labour organised what was probably its biggest ever meeting on 11/04/2016. The main attraction for the 400+ people in attendance – many of whom were young Tamils – was the chief speaker, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Labour Party leader and leader of the opposition.

Hilary Benn MP, shadow foreign secretary, Chuka Umunna MP, former shadow business secretary under Ed Miliband, gave speeches, as did a number of other Labour MPs. Journalists Callum Macrae, Frances Harrison and Sonya Sceats, who have written in detail about the plight of the Tamils were also on the platform.

What stood out a mile was the enormous gulf between the approaches to foreign policy within Labour. While Keith Vaz MP tried to claim that the Labour Party differs fundamentally from the Tories, Hilary Benn demonstrated that his position was not that different to Liam Fox, the much-hated and disgraced ex-Tory foreign minister, and his successors.

Benn has previous. Last December, for example, while arguing that Labour should “resist isolationism” and in favour of bombing Syria, he launched a direct attack on Corbyn. His “we must confront evil” speech that he delivers in the parliament is infamous. It led to his promotion as a possible challenger for Corbyn by the right wing of the party, and the establishment media. Anti-war activists were disappointed when he survived the reshuffle that followed but not surprised that he has not changed his views on foreign policy.

Benn lectured us. But failed to produce any substantial statement that could satisfy those who attended. Although he threw in terms such as “autonomy” as a possible political solution to be considered in some distant future, his central theme was an insistence on following the Tory line of continuing trade treaties with Sri Lanka as key policy. This was despite Sonya Sceats, from Freedom From Torture, and many other activists setting out factual details of the ongoing torture, injustices and unwillingness of the current government to offer any substantial political concessions.

He was, however, sharply taken up by Corbyn who spoke after him. Jeremy gave his foreign secretary a little lesson in what defending universal human rights actually means. He indirectly questioned Benn’s ‘moral compass’ by stating that “trade treaties must include the meaning of human rights. If a trade partner is involved in any form or method of compulsion – ie torture – they should not be treated as equal trade partners”. He explained that he is committed to the struggle of the Tamils to achieve their self-determination”.

It is this difference that pulled such a crowd. Prior to Corbyn’s victory in the Labour leadership election, Black and Asians in Britain did not attend Labour meetings with this enthusiasm. In fact the Black and Asian community, facing the brunt of the Tory-led onslaught on essential services, are alienated from all the establishment parties.

Chuka Umunna admitted that support for Labour among Black and Asians is at an all-time low. In a limited way a reversal of this has taken place in recent times not because of fundamental change in Labour, but because of the enthusiasm and momentum created by Jeremy Corbyn and his willingness to stand up and articulate at least some of the demands that are of immediate concern for the working people in Britain – such as defending the NHS, free education, fighting low pay and so on.

What we are seeing in Jeremy Corbyn is the election of a leader whose foreign policy approach brings him into direct conflict with the majority of his party leadership. The much-hated former PM Tony Blair famously asked if those who voted for Corbyn to be leader should have a “heart transplant” . Umunna packed his speech with arrogance and ignorance – he seemed to think this was part of the launch for his campaign to be the new leader. They are all plotting to oust Corbyn before 2020.

This raises an important strategic question for the Tamil diaspora as well as those in Sri Lanka who want to resist the neoliberal austerity offensive. The current Sri Lankan government enjoys all the support it can get from western powers for the clear reason that Benn pointed to – the changed approach to trade with the west.

When Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire’s told British Tamils to get on planes to see human rights progress first-hand it understandably appalled many in the diaspora as well as human rights activists. Those who seek justice for the war victims have a choice – they can walk into a blind alley with the Conservative Party and their UNP partners in Sri Lanka; or they can stand firm on human rights and mobilise support for the democratic and national demands of the Tamil masses.

At a time when working class people from all ethnic backgrounds are facing an attack on their rights, at a time when the UNP is planning to privatise everything in sight, where the Tamil diaspora stands is crucial. Are we going to stand with the IMF and their partners who aim to contribute to the deterioration of workers’ conditions in Sri Lanka or stand firm against them. The latter cannot be done other than by defending the rights of all – Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim and hill country workers. Without doing that the demand for national rights will not have legitimacy in the eyes of those at the receiving end of the upcoming onslaughts. It will not be possible to reach out to the wider population of Sri Lanka to get support for the demand for self-determination while we can be seen to stand with their oppressors.

That we can win all our rights with the help of right-wing international governments is the most bogus claim. The British Tamil Forum, notable in its absence at this Labour meeting, has in the recent past made significant efforts to link itself closely with the Tories. It is also in the process of strengthening its ties to the current Sri Lankan government. Such tactics will only strengthen the hands of chauvinists such as the previous regime. Even if the BTF argues that they have no concern about what goes on in the south of Sri Lanka, the fact remains that they will not win any rights for Tamils with this strategy. Hugo Swire made the above infamous statement at a BTF meeting and that stand was not heavily challenged by the BTF. The Tories have made their attitude towards the any political solution crystal clear, time and time again. Their rotten and regressive role of the Tories in ‘solving’ any conflict, is elementary level for any political student. While answering one of the questions at the meeting, Hilary Benn spelled out that the Labour right’s approach would not offer a way forward either. His party leader’s speech did not shift him in any way.

When Hilary was reminded that seven years had passed since the end of war, he came out with a horrendous answer that shocked the audience and other activists. He reminded us how long it had taken for justice to be considered following Bloody Sunday! It is disgusting that it took ecades before they are talking about who killed who. This further deepened the scar rather than heal it. Benn not only offended the Tamil victims of war but also the victims in Ireland.

Time does not heal without justice delivered. To say that the Tamils have to wait decades before they can see any justice is to deny justice and let the criminals and offenders off the hook. All for what? Trade treaties – so that big businesses can open a secret account in Panama? We must reject this foreign policy – it does not benefit the workers in Britain and takes public services away from Sinhala and Tamils in Sri Lanka and it denies justice and national rights to the Tamils.

The outrage felt in the room was given voice by Callum Macrae who immediately responded to this point and reminded the meeting that “justice doesn’t have to wait” and in fact it is of the utmost urgency to deliver justice in order to prevent further conflicts and the escalation of existing problems. Who won the debate? Well it was Callum who was mobbed by the youth to the extent that it took hours before he managed to depart the building. This is a lesson for the left in Labour too – if you want to win the hearts of the Black and Asian youth show them that you’re ready to challenge the Tories in Labour like Hilary.

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Latest comments

  • 9

    natu pakkam JT’s are always good at picking the losing part – nothing new and good for the island.
    You even tried to take away Prof Kumar David’s Common Candidate initiation and clip it on to your lapel.

    Yesterday at parliament Corbyn turned out to be a turncoat Briexit
    Labour won’t win with Corbyn at the helm- what a shame as most who like him speak like Donald Trump are disenchanted as he has moved sideways from most promises since elected.

    Barry was initially demanding that UK not leave NOW
    Next week,Obama to offer his friendly opposition to Brexit during visit to UK.

    Keep it up nutter from extreme left you are doing good to Lanka perhaps KP, Karuna Pottu amman would felicitate you one day at Colombo.

    • 6

      TU Senan

      RE: Tamils’ Meeting Shows Continuing Rift In Labour Party Regarding Foreign Policy

      “When Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire’s told British Tamils to get on planes to see human rights progress first-hand it understandably appalled many in the diaspora as well as human rights activists. Those who seek justice for the war victims have a choice – they can walk into a blind alley with the Conservative Party and their UNP partners in Sri Lanka; or they can stand firm on human rights and mobilise support for the democratic and national demands of the Tamil masses.”

      Remember, for Britain, it is their interest first. They actively participated in the illegal Iraq Invasion with the Criminal Bush, claiming WMD and killed a million Iraqis, made 5 mullion homeless, left Iraq in shambles and left ethnically, religiously and racially divided. Furthermore, they have also participated in making a mess in Syria.

      Now they want Tamils to get on planes and see progress on human rights. Of course there has been progress for the Tamils, Muslims and Sinhala as well. Disappearances and white vans are not there. However, the war crimes have not been fessed up and move on because of Sihala Buddhist Nationalism and Racism.

      Same story with Vellahala Castism and Racism. Even though less severe than before, it is still there visible in many fronts.

      By the way, the effect of the Tamil LTTE, yes Tamil LTTE, can be seen where they have ethnically cleansed Muslims and and before that Sinhala from the Northern Province, a War Crime. Those Tamils who get on those planes should see that, along with the progress made on human rights, compared to MaRa brothers.

      Are there many Tamils who are stupid and of low Intelligence? Some Tamils claim their their Intelligence, or stupidity, is bi-modally distributed. Is it like the Vellahala and the non-Vellahalas, with the Vellahalas close to the origin?

      There is a traditional cure for it. Go and poison, some poor non-Vellala Tamil wells, and put some fences around the Temples to keep non-Vellahalas them out, from getting too close to the Vellahala Gods. Is that a war crime, or human rights crime? Why are the Tamils not talking about is? Vellahalism, like Wahhabism, who dislike and hate non-Vellahalas and non-Wahhabies?

      Now getting a better understanding of the bimodal IQ distribution of the Tamils, as published in CT. The Story Of Two Graphs drawn by A Tamil Man: By Mahesan Niranjan Onion Prices and Tamil IQ Distributions


      The bi-modal IQ distribution of Tamils.


  • 9

    “That we can win all our rights with the help of right-wing international governments is the most bogus claim.”

    To understand why it happens, one should examine the class nature of Tamil nationalism.
    Why is Tamil nationalism fearful of mass politics and mass struggle?
    BTF, TGTE and the various post- and neo-LTTE outfits have one thing in common: their faith in imperialism as their Messiah. That dates back to pre-independence days.

    The late A. Sivanandan (founder of the journal, Race and Class) was a remarkable exception among Tamil intellectuals in the UK. He had following among the Black community and some of the South Asian communities with a large working class component. Where did the Tamils and Sinhalese miss out?

    The problem is at home firstly.
    A Tamil leadership should emerge that views problems of other nationalities the way it does that of Tamils. It should take up issues of democracy and fundamental rights of all oppressed sections of people.
    We have a leadership which cannot speak up for its own oppressed. (See Sampur, poaching by Indian trawlers, Chunnakam oil contamination and several more.)
    That needs to be changed.

    Tamil nationalism hanging on to the coat tails of imperialists weakens the voice of the slowly growing number of Sinhalese who wan a fair solution to the national question.

    • 1

      A. Sivanandan is still with us – semi-retired but alive and kicking at 92 years old.

      • 3

        Thank you.
        Terribly terribly sorry about the mistake. No excuses.
        I am glad to know that he is around and trust that he is still politically active,

    • 3

      Sekara: “A Tamil leadership should emerge that views problems of other nationalities the way it does that of Tamils.”

      Hear, hear!

  • 5

    Let us get one thing right, political parties in other parts of the world are set up to get elected to local parliaments and that is rarely achieved by pandering to the latest immigrants on their patch. If anything, nowadays, the growing votes are garnered by parties that question unchecked immigration and asylum. But political parties are smart and they know that the Tamils are there to stay, so it pays them to make soothing noises, in the hope that when the newcomers get the vote, they will not forget those who helped them.

    The fact is that business trumps human rights. Even more, AID, even in the form of soft loans, trumps human rights without as so much as a backward look. (Tiananmen Square, eat your heart out).

    When foreign leaders/politicians raise the question, they will at best get an insipid smile. Sometimes, they will get an earful. Gone are the days when it was “Yes Sir, Yes Sir, three bags full Sir”.

    There is no harm for Tamils (and others) in the Diaspora to cultivate ‘support’ from local politicians but DO NOT expect them to perform miracles.

    HOWEVER, IF you want action, it pays to work with those here in Sri Lanka where delivery of the answers will take place.

    AS for justice, do NOT raise your hopes too high. It took over twenty years to get Radovan Karadžić. In any case, in our beautiful paradise there are people still waiting for justice for the dirty business of 1958, 1977 and 1983. What about 1971? and 1987-89? Of course, there is also all the outstanding atrocities on both sides during the 1984 to 2009 ‘war’. Many of the people are alive and doing well.

    Senan, this is a cruel world. We will soon celebrate the 7th anniversary of the end of the war. But there are still people crying themselves to sleep every night.

    Meanwhile, take comfort, there is a GOD after all. The Great Liberator who on the day after ‘victory’ had dreams of being ‘King’ for life is now in tears because HE and his Queen had to endure watching their baby, Prince Yoshit, being taken away to the clinker. Prince Namal is pleading for retention of the family security detail. AND Gota is dreaming of being the WHITE KNIGHT that saves Mother Lanka. AGAIN!

    You cannot make these stories up, Senan.

  • 1

    I had been the UK for 48 years and always voted Labour.

    There are always rifts among political leaders, but the leaders stay together as one party.

    EU policies are mainly socialist and that is why the Labour party leaders will ask to stay in the EU.

    • 2

      “”I had been the UK for 48 years and always voted Labour.”

      Rolling stone gathers no moss.!!

      Just like you there are native whites too who have no idea of multi-party in a democracy.

      Its people like you who make a nation stagnant and putrid.

      It takes 1000 votes to be a local Councillor and there are quite a few JT councillors elected by SARC members because they got party nomination- some Sinhalese because they knew President of country but as Pres lost they did not even get nominated.

  • 4

    Why don’t you all make a visit to Natchikuddah in the Mannar district and take a close look at the plight of the people? There are many who are “war widows”‘ and they only have a roof over their heads (metal roof, usually). It was sizzling hot when we were there from the 11th to the 14th of this month. The government has laid power cables along almost every street, laid fine roads, and there is also water on mains. But there are no community development projects, no support for the desperately helpless, no water for agro based development, no industries of any sort. There are schools and almost every child goes to class.

    We are a small group of Christians from different “ethnic” (a dirty word in my opinion)background and we are preparing to provide assistance for poultry, dairy, goat rearing and some other small enterprises. If all of you stop your political gibberish and DO something, it will help these unfortunate souls. It is not important who was right and who was wrong: what can we do NOW?

    • 1

      “”If all of you stop your political gibberish and DO something,””

      It is the job of the elected white clad clerks who sit at kotte (called parliament) to provide the opportunity for employment and create those jobs.- that is democracy/communism/fascism.
      If you are in the business of `christian` keep that to yourself please because Christianity itself means charity- “”poultry, dairy, goat rearing and some other small enterprises.””
      have you no bigger idea than promoting faith- the emotional thing??

      Even Singapore did not call in the church or charity to be what it is. Even in europe pews are empty but we have faith.

      • 1

        It so happens we are a Christian Charitable institution. I am aware that there are Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim charitable institutions as well as NGOs and secular institutes like the Red Cross. If the mention of “Christian” is offensive to you, I apologize. But I stand firmly behind what I say, that we Sri Lankans should look at the human suffering of these war-affected families. There was one youngish woman, whose left eye was blown away leaving a deep, gaping recess where her eye should be. Needless to say, she has lost her sight totally in both eyes. Her husband has to do some labour work to put food on the table and her young 9-year old daughter is left with her except when she goes to school. This small child has lost her childhood and acts more like an adult. The day was steaming hot and we were unable to stay seated in the verandah of their “house” because of the heat but this poor unfortunate lady has to lock herself in the house when her daughter goes to school or market. That is why I say that “talk” is not going to help. It has to be a definite hands-on immersion in their lives.

        • 0

          I have seen all charities functioning. Especially in north east india nepal etc by american missionaries and their stupidity. They offer money to a man and he goes drunk and beats wife and children – it is very common so the government of india has restrictions – special visa.
          Then UK has the maximum charities in the world- we are fed up of the corruption that goes on- we see it first hand. Under freedom of info act- only the public bodies are liable to divulge info not private and charity includes private. So there has been discussion after largest childrens charity was shut because of corruption. Now charities are taking away 5 pence for shopping bags and this has angered the public. Be honest but don’t tell us crap. I personally hand `bread for the poor` at the church though i am not baptised or christian. Even oxfam I know director living at Manchester and how they live- most cant afford to live like them.They are political tools- why do foreign dignitaries on visit meet the foreign INGO because you have convinced them. I know a director of a charity but she stays dir housing and care – honest person, team player (£1 billion housing for poor) but will never take the position of CEO who does not work.
          When you say don’t bull us with your talk dont realise that resistance like this is better than the gun and people take note and that in turn makes the work you do easy. – nothing in this world exist as wholes and parts in their natural context. think next time before you critise. If you were a true christian you would never have commented- that is how the church works.
          We run a church though we are not baptized or Catholics.- it is a game of trust We don’t talk about it as it makes poor church goers jealous- we are convinced with what we do,.

  • 3

    Jeremy Corbyn is a gift to the Tories. Just as Ted Milliband, another loser on the ‘electoral’ horizon. Labor will suffer a greater defeat than in 2010 at the next election. Courting with a band of ex terrorists for votes has no place with British mainstream voters.

  • 2

    The white master shall deliver We Thamizh Demezh Eezham :D Just like the white master delivered We Thamizh from Thamizh Nadu to the newly discovered 100% native original traditional We Thamizh homelands in Sri Lanka as slave labour :D

  • 4

    Sorry mate, the World has moved on.

    Sekera, in this column has pointed the way. Start, from home. Get involved, with the real people, on the ground.If you are doing this deja, well done. Carry on.

    Waving the flag, from afar will only get you so much.

    As Spring Koha opines, all politicians are using you. For them, it’s PR and your vote. For you, it’s PR and then, nothing.

    President Sirisena is on record stating, the Sinhalese can live in peace only when the Tamils can live in peace. What better thought.

    Further, find the buggers in the diaspora, who thought it was a brilliant idea to take money from the Rajapaksas and enforce an electoral boycott that led to where we are today. Start from your own, if you seriously want Justice for the dead.


  • 0

    It is not worth writting comment to your mean article(s).

    Anyway what is you background? Are you a supporter of the LTTE or Anti.

    However you are in the 1st standard in the international politics.

    By writting mean article you can’t improve your knowldge, do read more books on international politics.

    • 0

      After the LTTE had been wiped out in Sri lanka in may 2009 , many so called tamil leftist have worn the mantle of leasership for Tamil or become spokesperson. If anyone who has been closely watching Tamil diaspora in the Uk cannot miss this guy , T. Senan who is renewing Tamil nationlism in a sophisticated format as a so called leftist.

      He is an anti sinhalese and a modern version of the LTTE .

  • 0

    Tamils for Hillary, Tamils for Obama, Tamils for Labour …. wonder whether there is a Tamils for ISIS, Tamils for AlQaida …. These people are willing to lick anybody’s boots

  • 1

    British took these Indian colonial parasites during the British-Indian Empire to British dominions in tropics. Now these parasites have bred out the locals in places like Mauritius Guyana, Fiji and soon they will be doing the same in places like UK, Australia, Canada.

  • 3

    Has Callum joined Vellala Wiggy’s Two State Eelaam Party?..

  • 1

    I admire Callum Mackrae.
    He says Justice does not have to wait.
    True,Justice delayed is Justice denied!

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