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Saturday, 11 December 2010






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When terror struck home of Free Speech

The savage arm of terror of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) that has with its bloody trail of assassinations and other killings, especially of all persons who opposed its violence and silenced the voices of dissent among the Tamil community, in Sri Lanka and abroad, last week struck at the home of free speech - the Oxford Union, the home of Free Speech.

Parliament at Westminster - Mother of Parliaments. Pic. courtesy: Google

In cancelling the address by President Rajapaksa for what it states are security threats from unnamed, but readily identifiable sources, those who lead the Oxford Union today have made it clear they are incapable of living up to the laudable standards of those who went before them in upholding their belief in the Freedom of Speech.

Opinion makers

The decision of the Oxford Union to invite the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to address its members was in keeping with its policy of inviting a broad range of prominent politicians, heads of state, other key opinion makers and blazers of new thinking from around the world.

Founded in 1823 as a forum for discussion and debate, at a time when the free exchange of ideas was a notion foreign to the restrictive University authorities, it proceeded to become the best-known defender of the Freedom of Speech and upholder of dissent, which are at the very core of Democracy.

The source of the security threat to the Oxford Union, its members, and invitees did not operate behind an impenetrable curtain of secrecy.

It is none other than the pro-LTTE Tamil expatriate lobby in the UK and their fellow travellers among extremists, unthinking radicals, vote hungry politicians and those bleeding hearts still carrying the burdens of Britain’s past record of colonialism and imperialism.

There is little doubt that the remnants of the LTTE have successfully manoeuvred these varied groups into giving them the appearance of a powerful organization, enabled by the easy use of the Internet, modern communications technology and sophisticated propaganda.

Violence and terror

This security threat that frightened the Oxford Union into retreat is the result of manipulation by a hard core group of LTTE cadres still marketing the policies of violence and terror, under the pretence of speaking for the Tamil people of Sri Lanka and regrettably supported by a handful of the foreign media.

There is not much difficulty in identifying the source of this threat as being the same as those who carried a miscalculated demonstration at Heathrow Airport, when President Rajapaksa arrived in the UK last Monday.

All the banners that were on display and the slogans that were shouted at the Meeting Point at the Arrival section of Heathrow made it clear that the organizers were the rumps of the LTTE still functioning in the UK and claiming to be a Tamil Diaspora.

They have no intent of ever returning to their homeland of Sri Lanka and not even to the failed dreamland of a Tamil Eelam, to achieve which Velupillai Prabhakaran shed so much blood of the Sri Lankan Tamils and other communities in Sri Lanka, while carrying on the most profitable trade in arms smuggling and human trafficking, among other crimes.

British Democracy

It was the same desperate group ‘determined in their desperation to tarnish the image of British Democracy, too - that gathered for their hooligan demonstration near the Dorchester Hotel, wrapped up in the flag of the LTTE’ which remains banned in the UK as an international terrorist organization.

The buckling of the Oxford Union under threats from such forces raises serious questions for the future of democracy in the UK itself, as well as in other Western democracies that through their refugee and asylum laws and often misguided protection to those who falsely claim to be under threat in their countries of origin, give an open ticket for action to criminal and extremist elements. The LTTE with its fellow travellers have bitten the hand that fed them and shamed the land that gave them shelter in what they succeeded in doing at the Oxford Union.

The inability to take necessary action against the highly bloated threats from such groups is not what is expected from a country where modern policing began with Sir Robert Peel and his Bobbies; is the home of Scotland Yard and boasts of Special Anti-Terrorism Laws and institutions. The fear of violence that drove the leaders of the Oxford Union to their shameful act of giving in to terror and especially the targeting of Freedom of Speech, is a timely and apt demonstration of the dangers that democracies face in giving shelter to those who are avowedly against the very principles of democracy.

Eye opener

This is also an eye opener to the very large number of moderate Tamils, whether in the UK or elsewhere, on the need to mobilize to overcome the disgrace and danger that a group of extremist Tamils, imbued with the belief in violence and terror, brings to the Tamil people, whether in Sri Lanka or outside; a people who have a worthy heritage of tolerance, understanding and non-violence in community relations. Are they to give the leadership of the Tamils worldwide to those who have the least respect for democracy and its core principle of Freedom of Speech?

It is indeed a sad day for Democracy that this assault on Freedom of Speech took place in the land that has the Mother of Parliaments and which takes great pains, at times even misguided, to spread democracy to other countries, societies and cultures. It is an even worse day for the Oxford Union to be led by people of straw, who lack the spine to stand up to threats of violence that target the very foundation of Free Speech on which the Union has been built. If it follows this beginning, will the Oxford Union be anymore able to throw up the democratic leaders of the world as it has done since its inception?

Let Freedom of Speech thrive against terror, with the Oxford Union regaining honour in its protection.


LANKAPUVATH - National News Agency of Sri Lanka
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