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Labour Party : GOSL is ‘inhumane’

October 3, 2009

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Channel 4 – McDonagh on Sri Lanka: ‘Watch Channel 4 News’

Addressing the final day of the 2009 Labour party conference, former Labour whip Siobhain McDonagh MP draws attention to Channel 4 News’s coverage of events in Sri Lanka.

The Labour party conference in Brighton turned its attention to the aftermath of the civil war in Sri Lanka today.

In his speech, Foreign Secretary David Miliband said –

“In those democracies, like Sri Lanka, where civil war claimed lives and liberty, we say governments have a duty to uphold the civil, social and political rights of all their citizens, whatever their ethnicity or religion.”

The conference went on to debate – and pass – a resolution which condemned “the detention by the Sri Lankan government of 300,000 men, women and children” as inhumane.

The resolution also called for journalists to be allowed to enter Sri Lanka and report what is happening in the camps, and for the withdrawal of Sri Lanka’s favoured trading status.

Debating the resolution, former Labour whip Siobhain McDonagh described Sri Lanka as “a country where we can see on Channel 4 News young men, naked and bound, shot at close range.”

On 25 August Channel 4 News broadcast footage which appeared to show Sri Lankan forces executing Tamils.

The footage allegedly dated from January of this year, several months before Sri Lanka declared victory over the Tamil Tigers after a civil war that had lasted more than a quarter of a century.

Sri Lanka’s government disputed the authenticity of the footage, but it nonetheless prompted the United Nations to call for an investigation. UN rapporteur Philip Alston remarked: “This videotape seems to have most of the characteristics of a genuine article.”

On 7 September Channel 4 News broadcast new film which appeared to reveal the victims of Sri Lanka’s war, suffering poor conditions in UN-funded camps.

Four days later, on 11 September, Professor Rajiva Wijesinha, spokesman for Sri Lanka’s ministry of disaster management, appeared on Channel 4 News, questioning the authenticity of the film shown on 7 September and of the earlier footage.

Paul Kenny GMB Gen Sec Emergency Resolution Intro Conf

Sen Kandiah Tamils for Labour Speech Conference

Tamilnet – British MP urges boycott of Sri Lanka goods

Siobhain McDonagh MP, Mictham & Morden, UK, during the Labor Party conference held Thursday appealed to the delegates, and to the millions of live TV viewers, to shoulder their own commitment on the Sri Lanka issue, urging that a boycott of goods and avoiding holidays in the unsavory state would ensure their money would not “prop up that government.” During the event, the sitting government party passed a resolution condemning the treatment of Tamils in the island by that government.

“Next time you want to buy underwear from Marks & Spencer, you want to buy a t-shirt from Next, you want to go on a holiday of a lifetime in a beautiful island off the coast off India – Do you really want to spend your money on a government that chooses to lock 300,000 people up behind barbed-wire.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Australians for Tamil Justice permalink*
    October 3, 2009 1:38 pm

    Paul Kenny, General Secretary, GMB

    Introduction to Emergency Resolution on Sri Lanka

    Labour Party conference, 1 Oct 2009

    Conference, the civil war in Sri Lanka is over and that’s good news, but we now know what should be happening, now is the time for reconstruction, reconciliation for building the peace.

    But something else is happening on the ground, something we should all be very worried about.

    Men, women and children are being rounded up and placed in camps. More than a quarter of a million Tamils are living in desperate conditions and nobody hears them.

    Families lie awake at night crying for their loved ones, loved ones they cannot reach and get no word from.

    And how bad is life in these camps?

    The Sri Lankan government have turned away foreign journalists because they are afraid of the world hearing the truth.

    But stories seep out and they tell of desperation and heartbreak.

    The camps are tightly packed and they are surrounded by barbed wire. They are tightly guarded. Life for people in these camps is truly desperate.

    The Sri Lankan government calls them welfare villages but history has very different name for them.

    Do we care? Of course we do.

    Our Labour movement is a national movement.

    One that says we stand by the oppressed. One that stands foursquare for human rights. One that promotes human dignity.

    This conference has no shame in calling for a humanitarian solution in Sri Lanka. It should have no hesitation in calling for the government in Sri Lanka to keep its promises. It should have no hesitation in saying to the authorities there, “Open your doors, let in the journalists, what do you have to hide?”

    The Sri Lankan government has made promises to the United Nations and world governments, including our own, to close these camps and let the people return to their homes and it’s not happened. They have not kept their promises, but we must hold them to those promises.

    And Things could get worse very quickly.

    The monsoon rains are due and with them comes the risk of flooding. Already heavy rains have flooded latrine pits causing raw sewage to flow around the tents that people live in.

    So there is no time to lose. Our government must keep up the pressure.

    We can’t just complain about the regimes we don’t like, we’ve also got to tell other regimes, whether it’s in Sri Lanka or in the US, as in the case of the Miami five, that justice is justice.

    We must demand, we must demand, that Sri Lanka opens its doors to aid charities and journalists.

    We must demand that relatives on the outside get full details of who is being held, where and in what conditions.

    And demand Sri Lanka does what human dignity requires –

    Let these people free!

    The suffering of the children in these camps must touch the hearts of everybody in this hall.

    So let’s go back and do what we do. Let the message go out from here, from Labour, that we hear you – You can trust us to help the Tamil people.

    Please support this resolution.

  2. Australians for Tamil Justice permalink*
    October 3, 2009 1:39 pm

    Speech by Sen Kandiah,

    Leader of Tamils for Labour,

    Labour Party Annual Conference 2009, 1 October 2009

    Conference,

    One thing all us Tamils have in common, is family in Sri Lanka. And all of us are receiving horror stories on a daily basis. What we are talking about is nothing less than concentration camps – holding our family, our loved ones.

    A cousin of mine is in one of the camps. He is 55 years old. His age is benefit to him. He tells us of the appalling things happening to young people:

    Some disappear. Some move to other camps. Young girls are being raped. Children are being taken from their parents. What threat do they pose? The answer is none. They are innocent kids who want to run and play like our kids – but they can’t. Instead, they cower in the corner, under the control of soldiers wielding AK47’s.

    And why don’t you hear about all this? Because the government in Sri Lanka has closed its doors to the outside world.

    Our Prime Minister was good enough to see me, to hear about my people’s suffering. He said – “we will do the right thing.”

    The Tamil people of Sri Lanka have suffered 60 years of oppression under the Sinhalese majority.

    This cannot go on.

    For me there’s only one answer – self determination for the Tamil people.

    Let the Tamil people set their own destiny. That’s our ultimate objective. What I say to you today – is please support this motion calling for the closure of the concentration camps and give our people the food, the medicine, the dignity they deserve.

    But most of all, give us our freedom.

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