Tamils in UK lobby MPs for recognition after war

Tamils in UK lobby MPs for recognition after war

February 25, 2010   12:00 am

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Sri Lankan activists are meeting senior British politicians in London at the start of a new campaign for an ethnic group crushed in the country’s bitter civil war.

 

Foreign Secretary David Miliband and his shadow counterpart William Hague are among the MPs in what is a cross-party sign of support for Tamil attempts for recognition following the bloody end to the conflict last year.

For decades, the Tamil Tigers fought a separatist war in Sri Lanka in the hope of creating an independent homeland for Tamils. They were seeking to protect themselves from discrimination at the hands of the ethnic Sinhalese majority.

 

The conflict penetrated the heart of the country with the Tamil Tigers carrying out devastating suicide bombings in the 1990s.

 

But, in May last year, government forces seized the last areas controlled by Tamil Tiger rebels.

 

The Tamils claim tens of thousands were killed by government forces, although nobody can independently verify exactly how many people died and the government disputes this figure.

 

But tens of thousands were driven into makeshift camps or fled from the country, including a woman Sky News spoke to who escaped to Britain with her two daughters.

 

Lochana - Sky News is withholding her real name for fear of reprisals against her family in Sri Lanka - said she hoped there would be international recognition for the new Global Tamil Forum.

 

The forum wants international recognition for Tamils who she said have been “broken” by the way they were crushed by government forces at the end of the civil war. Lochana said she was forced into a camp with her two daughters and contemplated suicide because conditions were so bad.

 

In the end, the mother managed to escape by bribing her way out of the camp.

 

She admitted to being a member of the Tamil Tigers, who are banned in the EU as a terrorist organisation.

 

But the new Global Tamil Forum says it is a non-violent organisation which wants to campaign for self-determination for Sri Lanka’s ethnic Tamils.

 

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The UK firmly believes that the only way to achieve lasting and equitable peace in Sri Lanka is through genuine national reconciliation. The UK will engage with all members of the Sri Lankan community who share this goal whether overseas or in Sri Lanka.”- (Sky News)

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