Tim Martin, one of the directors of human rights group Act Now was invited to Oxford on Wednesday, June 9th to give a lecture at the Oxford Union, once described as the "world's most prestigious debating society".
Linked but not controlled by the University the Oxford Union has a long history of hosting international figures and celebrities from politicians to military figures to stars and has proved a valuable training ground for many future politicians from Britain and other countries. For example, in the same week a General in the US Army, the Maharajah of Jodhpur and various UK politicians spoke and debated including John Major a few months ago.
Tim was invited to speak about his experiences working as a humanitarian aid worker in Sri Lanka, in the northern region where the conflict took place, the reasons why he took part in a 21 day hunger strike in Parliament Square, about his campaigning work with Act Now and what he believes the International Community (IC) can do for Tamils in Sri Lanka.
Tim explained that he went to Sri Lanka to help repair the damage caused by the devastating 'Boxing Day' Tsunami. He explained how he had witnessed first hand the atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan government, lived with the fear from daily shelling and ariel bombardments from the Sri Lankan armed forces and heard the first hand accounts from his friends about the atrocities of the past.
He told the students how after returning home he felt compelled to campaign in the UK for a ceasefire in Sri Lanka and to expose the true scale of the human rights violations that were taking place. Then in May 2009 he launched a 21 day hunger strike as he felt it was the only way to keep the spotlight on Sri Lanka amidst the MPs expense scandal and the problems in Gaza. The hunger strike initially started outside the US Embassy calling upon the then new President Obama to move his satellite over the area and calling for the IC to act to avoid further genocide.
He explained to the audience how the UN had a responsibility to protect and had once again failed both Tamil civilians and the IC by refusing to intervene meaningfully in Sri Lanka and that despite promising not to allow another Rwanda or Darfur, they had done exactly that.
He particularly attacked those members of the UN Human Rights Council who hypocritically backed Sri Lanka's conduct of the war and explained how according to human rights groups, the council is controlled by a bloc of Islamic and African states, backed by China, Cuba and Russia, who protect each other from criticism. He also criticised the UK for supplying arms and aid to the Sri Lankan Government which allowed them to slaughter civilians.
Even after the end of the war over 300,000 of the survivors including 50,000 children and 20,000 amputees were herded into concentration camps in appalling conditions. Some 80,000 are still held there.
Since that time he and Act Now have continued to campaign in favour of a political solution to the conflict and are calling upon the IC to investigate the War Crimes that took place and to expose the ongoing human rights violations. Ultimately Act Now believes that a UN supervised referendum such as occurred in East Timor is the mechanism to bring about a peaceful conclusion to the conflict. A process of boycotts and sanctions are required to pressure Sri Lanka to strike such a deal. This was the reason why Act Now is campaigning so hard to obtain the withdrawal of the EU's tax concession to Sri Lanka.
After the debate Tim said "The audience were shocked to hear about the scale and scope of the atrocities visited upon Tamils going back many years. A number promised to become involved in the campaign to bring War Criminals to justice and to support an economic campaign against Sri Lanka. Given that many in the audience are destined for top level posts in Government and Industry this bodes well for the future. I would urge all those reading this account to get involved in our campaign to bring peace and justice to Sri Lankan Tamils. We can win but not without everyones help!"
SIGN THE PETITION
As part of the fightback we need to highlight the Sri Lankan Government's murderous attitude towards Tamils. We need an investigation into allegations of war crimes and other crimes under international law and those responsible must be prosecuted before independent criminal courts.
We urge you sign the following petition calling upon the UN to investigate Sri Lanka rights violations at Amnesty International