Feature Article
2ND LEAD (Correction)

Irish, Tamil, Sinhala activists expose British colonialism as root cause of their national conflicts

[TamilNet, Friday, 19 May 2017, 23:36 GMT]
“Ireland and the Irish are no strangers to State oppression [...] Over 70000 Tamils were killed during the final phase of the last war [...] The World [establishments], in some instances, encouraged it,” said Joe Austin, the president of the National Graves association at the Mu'l'livaaykkaal Remembrance Day in the north of Ireland on Friday. He was addressing a workshop participated by Irish activists, Eezham Tamil survivors of genocide such as Tamilvani who was featured in the documentaries by the Channel 4 and exiled Sinhala activists. Rev Fr M V E Ravichandran, a civil society activist from Jaffna, also participated in the event. Sinn Féin politician Pat Sheehan said people should not look at the conflict in Ireland through the prism of colonialism. The conflict in Ireland is about Colonialism, he said. Professor Jude Lal explained how the Colonialism formed the genocidal SL State.

Belfast Tamil mural
The mural on Tamil Eelam struggle is featured at the international wall in Belfast alongside murals dedicated to other struggles

Pat Sheehan is a former IRA political prisoner who spent over 15 years in Maze prison and was involved in the 1981 hunger strikes.

“Unfortunately, the 1921 Ireland-Britain accord, meant for us in the North of Ireland, partition and subjugation,” Pat Sheehan continued.

He also touched upon the narratives pursued by the British in framing the political question in Ireland as a ‘religious’ and ‘communal’ conflict.

“The sectarian and religious divisions in Ireland were in fact caused by the British and entered into the conflict [...] Irish republicans, Catholics and nationalists, became second-class citizens in the partitioned north of Ireland through institutionalized discrimination. A perpetual majority was engineered by the British,” he said.

Pat Sheehan also touched upon the dynamics, which evolved in the modern IRA armed struggle. All the pogroms and disorder, left the Irish defenceless. Self-defence was organized by the revived IRA, he said.

“As Irish republicans we want an independent and sovereign united Ireland without British interferences,” he said.

Professor Jude Lal Fernando spoke on the geo-political context of the armed resistance of the LTTE to the unitary State created by British imperial interests.

He explained how the context of Irish partition was different from what Tamil independence meant in the island of so-called Lanka.

The workshop was conducted at Conway Mill, which is an Irish republican co-operative and educational centre, being run by ex-political prisoners and Sinn Féin activists.

Exiled Sinhala writer and media activist Bashana Abeywardane also attended the discussions.

Mr Abeywardane has been a key activist in exile, who brought the video clips that exposed SL military executions in Vanni. The Channel 4 published the video clips and later followed it up with a series of documentaries in which Ms Tamilvani was featured as an eyewitness.

Tamilvani Wijendran, said she was honoured and privileged to participate in such an historic event between Tamils and the Irish.

She also came with a revelation: “When I was going to give witness statements at UN venues, I was repeatedly told not to use the word genocide”.

“While we were in Vanni, we were given false hope that the UN would receive us when exiting Mu'l'ivaaykkaal. Instead, the SL military detained us in concentration camps. The UN has failed us,” she reiterated.

“Still, I had some hope, that the international community would deliver justice, but I was left disappointed. This event here has given me hope, it has changed the way I see the process of Justice. Personally, I feel that Tamil Eelam state is the only solution for us and I hope I will spend my last days there,” Tamilvani continued.

Belfast commemoration
Fr Ravichandran addressing the activists paying tribute at the Republican plot in Milltown Cemetary, Belfast, on 18 May 2017

Fr Ravichandran, who had come from the homeland said that the UNHRC resolutions built hope among the Tamils on the ground that something would happen. “But the UN abandoned us again. Now the Sri Lankan State has been given more time and space to carry on the structural genocide for two more years,” he said.

He continued: “The Irish people have the paradigm to understand the Tamil struggle and the heart to recognize nationhood. While being here, we feel our identity as a nation among the Irish republican sisters and brothers. Whereas the UNHRC discourse didn’t recognize Tamil national existence or what happens to us as genocide”.

Fr Ravichandran gave an update on the current situation in the Tamil homeland, marked by military occupation and structural genocide and the continuing struggles of the Eezham Tamil grassroots at the absence of the political hierarchy of the TNA in taking up their struggle.

* * *

The commemoration at Belfast also saw the participation of activists hailing from Basque country, South Korea and Bahrain, who expressed their solidarity to the Eezham Tamils.

Gontzal Martinez de la Hidalga, a Basque and internationalist activist from the organization Komite Internazionalistak emphasised that both the IRA and LTTE struggle was on behalf of their respective oppressed nations and conducted in the spirit of humanity against imperialism and capitalism.

He also connected the struggle the struggle of the Political prisoners in Eezham with the ongoing hunger strikes conducted by 1,600 Palestinian political prisoners languishing in Israeli prisons, which have been going on for over 32 days.

Father Sung Hwam Kim, a leading activist from Jeju island, in South Korea opposing the newly established U.S Naval base and the militarization of east-asia, expressed his solidarity to the Irish and Eelam Tamil struggle for justice and freedom.

* * *

The memorial events in the north of Ireland were held at Belfast and at Derry on 18 May.

May 18 Remembrance at Belfast
May 18 Remembrance at Belfast

The main event was undertaken at the republican plot at the Milltown Cemetery, where 77 Irish republican martyrs were buried including the IRA volunteer Bobby Sands, who led the 1981 hunger strikes.

Joe Austin, explained that the site was the most sacred location for the Irish republicans as their heroes were buried there and pointed out the numerous instances of desecration of the sites as well attacks on the Irish during burial ceremonies of their dead during the ‘troubles’ by British soldiers, RUC and loyalist paramilitaries.

Belfast meeting
The speakers at the memorial meeting in Belfast

Peader Wheelan, a member of the National Graves Association and an ex-IRA political prisoner, explained the role of British Intelligence Chief Frank Kitson, in the counter-insurgency operations during the Malaya emergency, Aden uprising in South-Yemen, and the Mau Mau struggle in Kenya in designing the COIN strategies that had been deployed against the Irish republican movement and people.

He said regarding the spirit of freedom fighters addressing the Tamil delegation: “When the World told these fighters they couldn’t and that all the odds were against them, these men and women fought for the liberation of their peoples, just like you’re heroes and martyrs did.”

“The weapon of freedom, is not arms or bombs, but the spirit. No matter what might be deployed against it, it can’t be destroyed,” he said.

“Tamil people, when they hold the spirit and aspirations, they can’t be defeated,” he said adding that the commemoration event on May 18 was the beginning of a long process of comradeship and solidarity between the Irish and the Eezham Tamils.

There was also discussion at the Pat Finucane Centre, where the organisers explained how the British counter-insurgency and atrocities in Ireland was based on the ‘experiences’ gained by the British COIN in Malaya, Aden, Kenya, Brunei and Cyprus.

Sinn Féin Member of Parliament in the EU, Martina Anderson, who is a former political prisoner for 13 and half years, also participated in the meetings with the Tamil diaspora and exiled Sinhala activists.

There was also an Irish lament in the Gaelic language sung by an ex-IRA women political prisoner commemorating the 3 IRA volunteers assassinated by the British Special Air Service (SAS), in Gibraltar on 6th of March 1988. The lament was sung on Mu’l’ivaaykkaal Remembrance Day in dedication to the great heroes of Eelam. It was followed by the Tamils playing the Tamil Eelam Maaveerar song, which was dedicated to the martyred IRA freedom fighters.

Joe Austin concluded his remarks by stating: “[w]e are aware that the Sri Lankan authorities have destroyed the LTTE Heroes tombs. We will remember every Easter both the Irish and the Tamil Heroes.”

The ceremony concluded with the Irish organisers presenting the Tamil delegation with the Irish republican flag in which Bobby Sands tomb was draped in.

Irish muralists associated with the Sinn Fenn had also painted a mural at the international wall along the Falls Road, expressing the collective solidarity of the Irish republican community towards the Eezham Tamil national liberation struggle.

The mural was officially unveiled during the commemoration and it was followed by a Sinn Féin representative articulating the significance of having the Eezham Tamil resistance mural placed at the international wall, alongside murals dedicated to the Kurdish PKK liberation struggle, to former Chilean socialist president Salvador Allende (whose government was toppled by the CIA and Allende was killed in the military coup which brought General Pinochet to power).

There were also murals dedicated to Fidel Castro and revolution in Cuba, to the Palestinian liberation struggle and to the Spanish Second Republic and the socialist in the Spanish civil war depicting an Irish brigade who volunteered in the battle against General Francisco Franco . Moreover, he expressed the resolute support of the Irish people and the republican movement to the Eezham Tamil national struggle.

The transportation facilities for the Mu’l’li’vaaykaal Remembrance across the republican strongholds of Belfast, was provided by a co-operative consisted of ex-Irish political prisoners.

The event concluded on 18th of May in Belfast at the Ann Culturann, where the ‘No fire’ documentary was screened followed by a public discussion chaired by former political prisoner and deputy director for Relatives for Justice Andree Murphy with an panel consisting of and Laurence Mckeown, an surviving IRA hunger striker and a filmmaker.

The commemoration of the Mulli’vaykal genocide in Derry unfolded at the Free Derry wall followed by the unveiling of a mural of the Eezham Tamil struggle painted by a Diaspora Eezham Tamil artist.

Tamil Mural at Derry
Tamil mural on the Free Derry wall was unveiled during the memorial event on May 18

There were speeches held by Kevin Campell, and Raymond McCartney both Sinn Fenn councillors for Derry at the Northern Ireland legislative assembly.

One of the Main organizers of the event in Derry was the Bloody Sunday Trust and the Pat Finucane Centre as well as the International Human rights Association – Bremen and Irish Forum for Peace in Sri Lanka.

The remembrance event conducted at Bloody Sunday museum was dedicated to the victims of British state terrorism, which in 1972 resulted in the deaths of a dozen Irish civilians in Derry.

There were speeches by various Diaspora activists, exiled Tamil activist and Tamil survivors of genocide, as well as Irish activists and political representatives at the memorial site of the Bloody Sunday memory.

Memorial event in Ireland
A section of the participants at the meeting held in Derry

There Tamil activists laid flowers at the memorial site of the Bloody Sunday massacre. An Eezham poet in exile dedicated his poem to the freedom fighters of both Eelam and Ireland. Some of speakers were, Robin Percival, who is a central figure in the Bloody Sunday Trust and by John Kelly, a family member of some of the victims of the Bloody Sunday massacre.

The Channel 4 documentary was screened at the Free Derry Museum, followed by an public meeting and discussion, and an speech made by Callum Macrae, the director of the documentary at the event.

* * *

The memorial events held in the north of Ireland, and the solidarity work amongst other oppressed nations of the world, has convinced Eezham Tamil diaspora of where the spirit of justice, solidarity and humanity is anchored, commented the Tamil participants who took part in the memorial events at Belfast and Derry on Mu'l'livaaykkaal Day.

The lapse of years since the genocide has also exposed the ulterior motives of the US and UK bandwagon managed UNHRC and the so-called reconciliation and ‘development’ processes.

“The U.S and U.K axis of powers and their regional allies and agent states, complicit in the Genocide against Eezham Tamils, are de-nationalizing and de-politicizing Tamil national question, criminalizing the Eezham Tamil national liberation struggle. They are the deniers of genocide and nationhood. Here in the North of Ireland, Tamil nationhood and sovereignty is recognized, the national aspirations for statehood rationalized and genocide commemorated,” a young Tamil diaspora activist who was present at the event told TamilNet on Friday.

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