Protest against CHOGM in Sri Lanka intensifies in Tamil Nadu

( October 13, 2013, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) 'Boycott CHoGM in Sri Lanka', a narrowed down and concrete demand reverberating from its parent 'Boycott Sri Lanka' movement is now gaining impelling strength all over the world, especially in India. While Tamils around the world and many international human rights organizations have called for an independent international investigation of war crimes by Sri Lanka, the Common Wealth Council has planned to enthrone the alleged war crimes perpetrator Mahinda Rajapaksa as the “Commonwealth Chairperson-in office” for the next 2 years in the CHOGM summit which is to be held in Sri Lanka between November 15- 17, 2013.

If the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meet (CHOGM) is held in Sri Lanka, a country that has least regard for Human Rights, it would only encourage the perpetrators of the genocidal war crimes against the Tamil civilians of Sri Lanka and deny its victims their justice. The allegations of Sri Lankan government’s genocidal war crimes and crimes against humanity have been well substantiated by the UN Expert Panel, Dublin Permanent People’s Tribunal Award and the London Channel-4 documentaries. Sri Lanka has violated all the core beliefs of the Commonwealth of Nations as declared in 1971 Singapore Declaration of Commonwealth principles of equal rights for all regardless of race, colour, creed or political belief.

At present, Sri Lanka infamously stands as the third unsafe nation for journalists with a record of killing more than 60 journalists. Earlier in January 2011, internationally renowned writers like Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy and Orhan Pamuk boycotted the Galle Literary festival held in Sri Lanka, citing the lack of freedom and safety for journalists.The Commonwealth Lawyers Association observed the controversial removal of Sri Lanka’s Chief Justice due to lack of judicial independence and transparency in Sri Lanka. Lawyers from more than 50 countries have appealed Commonwealth nations to boycott CHOGM in Sri Lanka.

The demands to expel Sri Lanka from the Commonwealth and to change the CHOGM venue out of Sri Lanka are being taken to the various sections of people in Tamil Nadu by many political movements and student communities through various campaign modes viz. street protests, train campaigns, pamphlets, conferences, hall meetings, public meetings and through social network portals. The students especially are getting organized for the massive protest against CHOGM in Sri Lanka.

In Chennai, 63 year old veteran political leader, Comrade Thiagu started his fast unto the last protest on October 1, 2013, demanding the Indian government to take necessary actions to expel Sri Lanka out of Common Wealth Council. He has written an appeal letter to the Prime Minister of India listing out the Human Rights abuses, War crimes and the Genocide committed by the Sri Lankan government and urged the government of India to ask for the change of venue from Colombo to some other Commonwealth Capital or, if at all there is no change, to boycott the CHOGM at Colombo. The demands put forth by Thiagu gained support from various political parties and movements. Refusing to undergo medical treatment, Thiagu is continuing his indefinite hunger strike even after being forcefully admitted to the government hospital by the state police. In spite of complete black out by corporate media house, the protest against CHOGM in Sri Lanka is slowly and steadily spreading across the state. Students and youths are engaged in street campaigns and bike rallies appealing the Indian Prime Minister to boycott CHOGM. State wide protest by various political parties is scheduled on October 11,2013. On the same day , the students movement has planned for rail roko protest in Chennai.

The 'Boycott CHOGM in Sri Lanka' drive has gained unequivocal support from various political parties, progressive movements and rights activists all over India. The people and political parties of Tamil Nadu are nearly unanimous in appealing Indian Prime Minister to boycott CHOGM if it is held in Sri Lanka. Besides the Tamil Nadu based political parties, the state unit of National parties like BJP and Congress have appealed the Prime Minister to boycott CHOGM in Colombo. Notably, the Union Minister Mr. G.K.Vasan has appealed the Prime Minister not to attend the summit in Sri Lanka.

Medha Patkar, National Convener of National Alliance of People’s Movement (NAPM) has planned a nationwide campaign to mobilise public support against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s proposed visit to Colombo for CHOGM meet. The movement plans to reach out to people in 15 major cities covering the 12 states from 17th October to 30th October, 2013 and thereby persuading the PM to boycott CHOGM meet in Colombo.

The Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harpner on a veracious account has decided not to attend the upcoming Commonwealth summit stating “Canada is deeply concerned about the situation in Sri Lanka. The absence of accountability for the serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian standards during and after the civil war is unacceptable.” Internationally renowned human rights organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and International Crisis Group call for the CHOGM venue change out of Sri Lanka.

Due to the apartheid policies, South Africa was kept out of the Commonwealth from 1961 to 1994. India was one among the frontrunners in the campaign against South Africa’s apartheid policies and supported the suspension of South Africa from Commonwealth Council. But,it seems like India might take a different stand on human rights abuses in Sri Lanka. After a short visit to Sri Lanka this week, India's External Affairs Minister Salman Khursid expressed that he would participate in CHOGM at Colombo. Now, the question before the Indian Prime Minister is whether to honour the international humanitarian principles and the appeals of Tamil Nadu people and rights activists across the country or to honour his ‘friendly' war crimes accused neighbour Sri Lanka by participating in CHOGM in Sri Lanka.