A warm welcome to all, distinguished guests and friends particularly those who have braved the journey to London from Sri Lanka and to members of the GTF from around the world. I salute and thank you all here, for your continued contribution with dedication and commitment to help us in our hard walk to freedom, It’s a struggle based on truth and justice for accountability, reconciliation and peace in Sri Lanka
I want to place on record, the sincere appreciation and gratitude of the Global Tamil Forum to the Members and Officials of the British Parliament, who have helped to make this event possible today.
Three years ago, we had our inaugural conference in this parliament thereby highlighting not only the historic responsibility of the British to take a leading role in the third and international phase of the Tamil struggle. But also reminding ourselves in the Global Tamils Forum, to look to the British and British Parliament, supported by British Tamils to stand on the front-lines of the struggle.
Hence the British Parliamentarians and officials giving us the opportunity again to host this conference here at a critical juncture – at a time, when international scrutiny on Sri Lanka is intensifying is a positive sign that the British Parliament and its organizations are accepting their role and responsibility in our struggle.
Turning to our homeland we see things getting worse everyday. Instead of a post-war move towards rebuilding the country for the better, Sri Lanka's Government of the Rajapaksha Dictatorship has turned out to be an authoritarianism, that tolerates no opposition or criticism, neither from within the country nor from the outside world. Disappearances of civilians including many journalists are on the increase and even civic and religious society leaders have a fear gripping them. Some of the civic and religious leaders whom we invited for this event, even from among the majority Sinhalese, are unfortunately not here because of genuine fear of the Government.
The changes to the Constitution and the recent impeachment of the Chief Justice Besides exposing the tension and break down of relations between the Legislative and the Judiciary, has shown to the whole world to what depth of authoritarianism, the present Government can descend to.
While parading as a respected member of the international community, and receiving enormous financial aid and military support to fight its projected war against “tamil terrorism” and wishing to be in the limelight of international events like the CHOGAM, it still remains uncooperative, if not arrogant, to international demands on good governance and respect for human rights. This is one other reason why Sri Lanka needs a fundamental constitutional reform not only for permanent peace to end the ethnic conflict but also for true democracy and future prosperity of the island.
Working to highlight this need for Sri Lanka is our common responsibility. Your convictions and views about the present crisis within Sri Lanka and about what has to be done by the international community is an indispensable support for our efforts – the efforts of all the diaspora Tamils.
We have programmed our recent efforts as a four-pillars Project
1. to lobby international support to expose human rights violations and war crimes of the Sri Lankan Government,
2. to bring closer to one another all Tamil organisations within and without Sri Lanka to a common political ground and to formulate a common statement to articulate Tamils legitimate aspirations
3. to engage with civil society leaders from the non-Tamil society in the south of the island,
4. and to provide a stable international humanitarian support to our people to rebuild their lives in their homeland.
Hence todays event, crying out for justice and accountability, is not a stand alone event. It is an important part of our four pillar program to work towards finding a permanent political solution for the country. It is a solution that we owe to the whole country, to all Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims – especially to the hundreds of thousands who were either targeted during the last six decades of mob and state-violence, or who were massacred mercilessly and inhumanly at the last stage of the war. We owe a solution to those who continue to pay the ultimate price for survival, even today with their lives.
GTF is three years old and was born as a consequence of the last two phases of the Tamil struggle. Appealing to the majoritarian democracy within the Sri Lankan parliament And non-violent protests for 30 years failed misereably. And defending the Tamils and their homeland from State terrorism brought more and more death destruction and displacements and finally, due to the miscalculation of the Tamil struggle for human rights merely as Tamil terrorism helped Sri Lanka towards a mass massacre of Tamils.
It is on this background and as a consequence of these two phases of the struggle, GTF was founded to serve as a diaspora leadership in the new international phase of the Tamil struggle. It is a unique network of Tamil diaspora organizations, to work in conjunction with the Tamils and their leadership in the island and to provide a leadership service among the diaspora and at the international level for the continuation of the struggle.
Being a network of country-organizations, whose directors meet as a board at least twice a month, and at the same time to be engaged at the international level with Governments and Organisations, we have a steering committee and an office in London. Through the dedicated efforts of the steering committee and of the office in London we prepare the engagements with governments and non-governmental organizations.
It is not an easy task for various reasons. Our mode of operation, unlike that of a country organization, is determined by its unique and double character of being an international network with international engagements – all organised from the Steering Committee and Office in London. This is at times misunderstood and criticized.
But we will try hard, I can assure you, with our inclusive approach but disciplined with our constitution, and above all committed to the noble cause of Tamil liberation to improve as we go along..
We are proud of our country organizations, engaged both in keeping the diaspora Tamils active and united in this struggle As well as informing and lobbying the respective governments and people for our cause.
Engaging in international diplomatic work has been a steep learning curve for many of us. We have learnt sincerity and pragmatism in pursuing our goal is important, Conviction and persistence in arguing our case is paramount, consistency in what we say wins us credibility, and compromise for the greater good is needed for a successful solution.
Whilst being mindful of all the above realities we have been consistent in taking forward our work with the conviction that we will be judged by not only in what we say, but also in what we do, and how we contribute for a permanent political settlement for all our people.
We have made good progress on many fronts,become a trusted partner for the democratically elected Tamil political parties on the ground. We are exploring the common political ground with all the Tamil üarties and civic leaders towards formulating a common statement and we are engaging with the progressive forces of the South In which fundamental constitutional reform takes the centre stage. Only that we believe can pave the way for all communities in the island to realize their legitimate aspirations, and live in a true democracy in their homelands.
The voices of support for our efforts has emerged from Tamil Nadu to South Africa, from Europe and the American continent. We, Tamils, are delighted with the unified voices of Madame Jayalalitha, Kalaighar Karunanithi, Vaiko, Pala Nedumaran and others. We welcome India's increasing interest in the Tamil issue and we firmly believe India's involvement is important to ensure justice and a permanent political settlement for Tamils. The mounting international pressure and scrutiny on Sri Lanka led by the United States, United Kingdom, European Union and others and calls for independent international investigation are clear evidence that the international community is simply losing its faith on President Rajapakshe.
As I said three years ago at the inaugural dinner here in London, we are on the high road to freedom for our people. Dogs can bark from either side of our path. Challenges and suffering we will encounter but we will not be deterred or discouraged. With a deep conviction that truth and justice will ultimately triumph Against all forces which try to rob our God-given dignity and rights with your support and encouragement, my dear friends, We will march on courageously for Truth and Justice.!.