Colombo Telegraph

The Curious Incident Of “Issue 53” That Exposed The Tamil Tories

By TU Senan

TU Senan

As well as offering a way to end austerity and improve the living standards of the 99% of people, paid for by the richest 1%, Corbyn’s election manifesto also includes an improved position on foreign affairs. This includes sanctions on military and defence aid to Sri Lanka. All the key demands to improve the rights of Tamils in Sri Lanka put forward by the Tamil community have been accepted by Corbyn and John McDonnell in a number of interviews, statements, and when they’ve participated in meetings.

In effect, the 13 demands put forward by the five key Tamil parties in Sri Lanka during the 2019 presidential campaign are supported. These were rejected by all the right-wing parties. In fact in Sri Lanka, the only candidates to support these demands were Siritunga Jayasuriya of the United Socialist Party (USP) and the Tamil candidate Sivajilingam.

Therefore the many diaspora organisations who claim to support these demands face an easy choice in the British general election. Corbyn’s policies have clear benefits for both the Tamils, Sinhala, Muslims in Sri Lanka and all workers and young people in Britain.

Of course, it’s not so simple for those on the right. They always claim to be “supporting people’s interests” while in reality defending only their own interests. Only a very small elite group among Tamils support the Tory party. They attempt to propose themselves as the Tamil ‘community leaders’. But they did not have anything in this election to “sell” to the Tamils as the Tory party has failed to actually commit to anything in their non-manifesto. The only thing they have going for them is the past episode of David Cameron visiting Jaffna and refusing to shake hands with Mahinda Rajapaksa. But that was just for show – none of the promises of that “backward” prime minister came to pass. Now they are cornered. So they invented a stunt. Gambling on Tamils’ inability to understand English, their offer to Tamils goes no further than a potential misinterpretation of the Tory manifesto.

On page 53 of the Tory manifesto there is one sentence saying they will support the reconciliation process in some countries and listing Sri Lanka and Cyprus as examples. They added that they will “maintain our support for a two-state solution” in the Middle East. But why do they refuse then to mention Israel-Palestine?

How do the pro-Tory Tamils explain the party’s close links with many right-wing dictatorial, human rights-abusing regimes across the world – which includes the Israeli government?  The Tories are also promising in this election to take legal action against any council if they propose to boycott Israel. Instead this term of “two state solution” is picked up by the Tamil Tories in their campaign to get votes for the Conservative Party in this election. They claimed the Conservative manifesto supports a two state solution for Sri Lanka in relation to Tamils.

The British Tamil Conservatives (BTC) are a small outfit that has no support among Tamils. When Tamil youth took to the social media ridiculing their false propaganda and lies, their tune changed. Now they claim that the “Conservative party supports the two-state theory by comparing Sri Lanka to divided countries”. They further state that it ‘implies’ Tories support a two-state solution.

The British Tamils Forum (BTF), another group suffering declining support among Tamils, released a statement on this. Some of the key leaders of the BTF are Conservative Party members. Their statement is embarrassing – the BTF claims that they contacted the cabinet ministers and MPs to explain to them what was written in English in the paragraph on page 53. To their dismay they confirmed that what it meant was what it says. The BTF statement confirmed that Conservative Chairman Paul Scully personally wrote to clarify: “The commitments on Sri Lanka and Cyprus were simply about continuing existing efforts” and that two-state line is not about Sri Lanka. But the BTC are still reading what they want and campaigning on lies.

This mess of lies and confusion came to be known among Tamils as “issue 53”, but the BTF has nonetheless declared that they will remain neutral! By ‘neutral’ they mean they will not support Corbyn’s policies officially while key leaders have continued to support the Tories. The rift between the BTC and BTF is not even political – but due to a personal clash between some individuals we have been told.

What is a ‘neutral’ position? It was a disgraceful act when some decided to be ‘neutral’ during the genocidal war of 2009 in Sri Lanka. How can someone remain neutral while a massacre is taking place? Similarly, it is absolutely outrageous for any organisation that claims to be leading the struggle of oppressed Tamils to remain neutral in the British general election. The majority of Corbyn’s policies (including the position on Tamils and Sri Lanka) give us a clear choice. It is not a coincidence that those who reject Corbyn’s manifesto also chose to support the capitalist UNP candidate in Sri Lanka. The Tamil National Alliance campaigned for the UNP while claiming that they will work with any Sri Lankan government – a position supported by the BTF.

This position has nothing to do with defending the rights and interests of Tamils. It is a class position – a position to defend the capitalist class, the big business bosses’, interests. They try to hide their true intentions behind the word ‘neutral’.

What has all the effort and money that has gone into lobbying and other shenanigans achieved? Money raised by workers and young people in the main. Getting the so-called “international community” to act is the result they peddle – but no results have been forthcoming. A major victory for them would be to get a country like Britain to at least put a sanction on military and defence support for Sri Lanka. A Corbyn victory is the only route on offer to this, but they still refuse to support it. Defending their own class is far more important to these fake defenders of Tamil interests than anything else. The Sri Lankan state, now led by the butcher of Tamils, has nothing to fear from this lot. 

Tamils must reject the bogus politics, instead mobilise towards strengthening real fightback. This means standing firm on our principles – our key demands – and only seeking an alliance with those who are serious about delivering on rights for all and an end to all forms of oppression.

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