Rebecca Long Bailey, the Member of Parliament for Salford and Eccles and also the Shadow Minister for Education, has emphatically called upon the British government to take decisive action to ban Sri Lankan Army Commander General Shavendra Silva, alongside other individuals implicated in war crimes, through the Global Human Rights Sanction Regime. In a momentous virtual meeting held on Friday, August 11, 2023, at 12:00 noon, Long Bailey engaged with various stakeholders on this critical issue.
The virtual meeting, led by legal expert and human rights advocate Mr. Geeth Kulasegaram, brought together significant figures including Sen Kandiah, President of Tamils For Labour; representatives from The Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice (SLC), including Campaign Director Benjamin Kumar Morris, Yvonne Schofield, representing the International Legal Center for the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide (ICPPG), Mr. Nilakin Sivalingam, and Anushan Balasubramaniam, a direct survivor of torture.
Geeth Kulasegaram addressed the meeting, tracing the historical context of Sri Lanka and underscoring the exhaustive evidence already submitted by organizations like ITJP and ICPPG to warrant the ban of Sri Lankan Army Commander Shavendra Silva. Silva’s role in the loss of countless innocent Tamil lives during the final war in Sri Lanka demands immediate action, and despite this evidence, the British Foreign Office (FCDO) has not yet taken decisive measures. Additionally, Kulasegaram highlighted the ongoing atrocities under the command of Shavendra Silva, including human trafficking and torture, urging the FCDO to stand in solidarity with the affected Tamil community by banning the Sri Lankan Army Commander.
Yvonne Schofield, representing SLC, emphasized the compelling evidence of war crimes, mass graves, and genocide attributed to General Shavendra Silva in Sri Lanka. She asserted that these actions demand a ban on all war criminals, including Silva.
Sen. Kandiah echoed the sentiment, pointing out that Shavendra Silva’s involvement in war crimes had been documented by the United Nations, and both the United States and Canada had imposed travel bans on him. He expressed disappointment in the FCDO’s lackluster response to over 50 parliamentary requests for the ban, and he called for improved engagement between the British foreign ministry and the Tamils.
Rebecca Long Bailey, actively engaged and receptive to the stakeholders’ perspectives, expressed gratitude for the Eelam Tamils’ insights and experiences, noting that this marked their first meeting. She acknowledged the gravity of the genocide against the Tamil community in Sri Lanka and requested further information to enhance her understanding.
Anushan Balasubramaniam, a victim of the atrocities, shared his own experience and regretted the lack of previous engagement between the Tamil community and local parliamentarians. Long Bailey assured her unwavering support for the affected individuals and aligned herself with the four core demands presented by Geeth Kulasegaram. She committed to advocating for the FCDO’s action to ban Shavendra Silva on behalf of her constituents, joining the All Party Parliamentary Group for British Tamils (APPGT), and participating in the All Party Parliamentary Group for Magnitsky Sanctions (APPG for Magnitsky Sanctions). Additionally, she pledged to create a video message advocating for the ban of war criminal Shavendra Silva.
Regrettably, the absence of prior engagement between the Tamil community and local parliamentarians, despite the significant Tamil population in the Manchester area and the presence of various Tamil organizations, is a sobering realization.