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The Tamils need support

Green Left Weekly #791 editorial:

The Tamils need support

One of the great crimes of modern times is occurring on the island of Sri Lanka without a word of protest from governments the world over. The Tamil people are facing genocide.

Already this year, the death toll of Tamil civilians exceeds 4000. Often dozens, and in some cases hundreds, are slaughtered in a single day in Sri Lankan Army (SLA) bombings of the so-called safe zone, into which as many as 300,000 people are crowded.

Those Tamils who flee this zone are being placed into concentration camps by the SLA.

This brutal reality is almost entirely unreported, and not simply because the Sri Lankan government refuses to allow journalists access to the scene of its crime. Instead, the mainstream media is once again siding with the powerful.

When the issue is reported at all, the Sri Lankan government's propaganda is repeated the propaganda of a regime that refuses to allow a free press, with one of the world's highest rates of journalists being murdered each year.

According to Sri Lankan propaganda, the military are merely fighting "terrorism". It claims its war is merely against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), an armed group fighting for an independent Tamil homeland in the island's east and north.

Yet Sri Lanka's actions prove its war is against the Tamil people as a whole.

The actions of the LTTE are a response to the decades of discrimination and violent repression meted out to the Tamil minority by a state dominated by the majority Sinhalese ethnic group. Support for armed struggle grew among Tamils in response to the violent anti-Tamil pogroms in 1983 that killed more than 3000 people.

The solution to ending the decades-long war on the island, and bringing about desperately needed peace, is to end the oppression of the Tamil people.

First, and most urgently, there must be a permanent ceasefire declared. The mass killings must be ended. Food and medical supplies must be allowed into the "safe-zone", without which aid agencies are warning of a terrible humanitarian crisis.

The Tamil people must regain their freedom of movement and the concentration camps must be closed.

Once this occurs, the conditions for a negotiated settlement to the crisis, which can resolve the issue of self-determination for the Tamil people, will exist.

However, powerful governments, in defence of powerful interests, are allowing the Tamil people to be sacrificed. In return, the powerful are manoeuvring for access to lucrative shipping routes and ports.

To avoid upsetting the racist and undemocratic regime in Colombo, that regime is allowed a free hand to implement a "final solution" to the Tamil question. Once again, the corporate elite is placing profit over human life.

People around the world who believe in social justice must raise their voices. The Tamil diaspora is desperately attempting to bring the plight of its people to the world's attention. In their hundreds of thousands, they have marched in cities around the globe.

In India, dozens of Tamils have self-immolated to bring attention to the situation. In Australia, six young Tamils went on hunger strike for almost a week. They refused food or water, with a serious risk of death, in an appeal to the Australian government to press Sri Lanka to call a permanent ceasefire.

We cannot let them stand alone. Those who believe in social justice and political parties, trade unions, churches, social movements must speak out against the atrocities occurring right now.

The powerful have abandoned the Tamil people, it must be ordinary people all over the world who use their power to force action.

When Israel levelled Gaza, millions marched in opposition. That movement must continue, and the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign seeking to isolate apartheid Israel is beginning to have effect. But that display of "people power" needs to be repeated on behalf of the Tamils.

International solidarity helped end apartheid in South Africa, despite Western governments siding with the regime. It helped the East Timorese win their independence, despite Western governments including Australia siding with Indonesia.

It is placing Israel on the back foot, despite the most powerful nations on Earth backing the oppressors of the Palestinian people.

Now, international solidarity must be mobilised to save the Tamil people and stop the genocide.

[Support this very urgent struggle by joining the heroic campaign of the young Australian Tamils. Visit http://www.tamilsydney.com