I was meant to travel to Sri Lanka this week as part of an official delegation from the GUE/NGL (Left group in European Parliament). The idea to travel to Sri Lanka came from the meeting I hosted in the Parliament a few months ago about the massacre of Tamils in Sri Lanka. My wish to go was strengthened by the many meetings I have had with the Tamil Diaspora, and others active on the issue of Tamil rights, in the recent period.
I am very disappointed that I was not able to travel this week and I know many other people will be disappointed too. I want to reassure you that I still intend to visit Sri Lanka and that I will do everything possible to make this happen.
Two years after the end of the Civil War, I wanted to see for myself how the situation in Sri Lanka had developed. I had hoped to undertake an independent visit and to meet with both Tamil and Sinhala speaking trade unionists and civil society organisations.
I wanted to travel to the North of the country and had requested access to the detention camps. Furthermore, I wanted to meet Gunasundaram Jeyasundaram, an Irish citizen of Tamil origin who has been detained without charge in Sri Lanka for more than 4 years. The visit would have greatly assisted in deepening my understanding of the situation in Sri Lanka and the Tamil Community in particular.
However, the Sri Lankan Embassy informed me last week that they would need more time to consider my visit to decide whether to give me a visa. I attach the letter I received. While I believe that the Embassy´s answer is largely motivated by political reasons, I will contact the Embassy again this week to reaffirm my wish to travel to Sri Lanka and to provide them with all the information needed in order to grant me a visa. I will also be raising this today at a meeting of the South Asia delegation in the Parliament.
I am very disappointed that I was not able to travel this week and I know many other people will be disappointed too. I want to reassure you that I still intend to visit Sri Lanka and that I will do everything possible to make this happen. I was looking forward to meeting with many activists on the ground in Sri Lanka and am very grateful to you for all the support you have offered me in terms of facilitating meetings with activists in Sri Lanka.
In the meantime, I will continue to highlight and speak out against what I consider to be war crimes of the Rajapakse regime and to defend the right to self determination by the Tamil people in Sri Lanka. I will also continue to speak out against the ongoing militarisation of Sri Lankan society and against the repression used against any opposition to the Sri Lankan regime. The whole of the working class, poor farmers and poor people, Sinhala and Tamil, are victims of this repressive government in my opinion.
On Wednesday, October 12, I will participate in a public screening of the Channel 4 documentary “Sri Lanka´s Killing Fields” and in a panel debate that is taking place in the European Parliament in Brussels. The meeting is initiated by Amnesty international, Human Rights Watch and the International Crisis Group. Callum Macrae, the editor of the Channel 4 Documentary will be present as well.
I would be very pleased to meet as many of you as possible at this public screening.