Address by Mark Thompson RFJ
Truth, Justice, Freedom Rally with the Sikh people
(London Sunday 5th June 2016)
Firstly I’d like to thank the organizers of today’s rally for the invite and importantly the opportunity to address you all – it is indeed a great privilege and an honour to stand here with you in solidarity.
I want to commend you all for what is truly a wonderful turnout – a turnout that speaks volumes – it is an inspiration that you should take heart from, and from which to rally your cause – your unfinished business.
Today by your presence here you have spoken in tens of thousands – yours is a collective voice that cannot be silenced and whilst you gather here and elsewhere the memory of those you commemorate, their cause and their sacrifice, an ultimate sacrifice, cannot be extinguished.
My name is Mark Thompson (Marcas Mac Tomais in my native tongue).
I represent an organization in Ireland called Relatives for Justice – a grass roots human rights NGO representing hundreds of families of those killed in Ireland during the recent decades of conflict and struggle.
We have many similarities and parallels. We are two nations that historically share strikingly similar parallels.
We are two peoples with a sophisticated and rich tapestry of culture, language, customs, ways, religions, and traditions – advanced and civilized long before imperialist invaders.
We are two very distinctive peoples on two very different parts of the globe yet both living with the horrendous effects and legacy of colonial imperialism and all of the awful impacts that flow from such unwarranted, unjust, and violent interference in our homelands.
We are two nations engaged in struggles for social, civil, and human rights, struggling for national self-determination, struggling to be free from repression and occupation and the legacy of the past that requires resolution.
In many respects are histories are interwoven in the policies, practices and patterns that originated and were crafted in this imperial city we stand in today.
The decisions made here generations ago, the policies and practices of its armed forces, historically and even in more recent times, still resonate and have impact. They require focus, acknowledgement, recognition and accounting for.
Real and meaningful change that acknowledges that past within a rights based framework is now required.
We have much in common and as a representative of Relatives for Justice here today I stand in solidarity – international solidarity – with you and your people
Our collective historical experience in both our lands are one of occupation held by military force, repression, corruption of the rule of law and courts, the legal banning of our cultural rights and religion.
We too have witnessed the law used as a tool for oppression, discrimination and inequality – violence, brutality, torture and murder all carried out with absolute impunity.
We have both witnessed the use of misinformation, censorship, State controlled death squads, the use of pseudo gangs to terrorize, and the partition of our land with a built in majority and misrule.
We have witnessed the division of people, the creation of sectarianism deliberated created for the purposes of maintaining control, and for distracting from the core causes of occupation, injustice and its legacy.
We have witnessed the taking of food from our people on an industrial scale to feed England and its armies forcing an imposed famine – in our language we call it An Górta Mór, the great hunger. This in turn saw millions leave through forced emigration, with no option, forced from their homeland, which is why today the Irish populate all coroners of the globe.
So we stand here today and we remember historically the millions of lives lost through imperial colonialism across the globe, and we also take hope from the Kenyan and Malayan peoples who in this very same city recently and successfully brought their cases for justice to the Supreme Court seeking remedy and reparations – and most importantly for the TRUTH about those awful events; beheadings, mutilations, torture and murder – not from “terrorists” but from a terrorist nation.
We take hope from their struggle too that there is light at the end of tunnel that can sometimes appear to have an endless darkness.
We especially remember and celebrate the tens of thousands affected in our own homelands; we especially remember the thousands killed in more recent times – the horrendous murders at the Golden Temple and consequently elsewhere throughout 1984 of your people and since then in your struggle – the struggle from truth, justice and freedom.
Today we bear witness to that struggle and suffering that screams out to the world for truth, justice and freedom – we say in the words of Martin Luther King ‘Let freedom ring’ – we say let the truth be told – let accountability and justice be laid directly at the doorsteps of those ultimately responsible for the most egregious human rights violations you as a people experienced.
Let both our people’s take hope from one another that whilst we struggle in our homelands and through our diaspora throughout the world that our solidarity with one another renews our strength, our courage, our conviction, and our resolve to continue our respective struggles for truth, justice and freedom.
This year, 2016, is the centenary of the Easter Rising when Irishmen and Irishwomen throughout Ireland struck a blow for independence that liberated most of Ireland from British occupation. Unfortunately our country was partitioned and a civil war ensued. We too have unfinished business in terms of the issue of Irish unification post the British colonial involvement in our country, from which many of todays problems stem from.
The struggle in Ireland in more recent times has moved from one of war, with no winners or losers, to one where negotiations were brought about and where a power sharing executive in a devolved government is now in place, where former IRA leaders hold power with their British/unionist counterparts. The military conflict has largely ended and unification will now be pursued within a new political framework and context that was never before available.
However, during an intensive period of secret talks and then open negotiations that lasted well over a decade before agreement was finally reached the one consistent theme of opponents to Irish nationalism and unification (British securocrats etc.) was to seek to divide us as a people. This employed all sorts of tactics including violence and fear and is not unique.
In the struggle in South Africa more people died during negotiations than at any other period. Our leaders worked closely with Mandela – our Madiba as he was more affectionately known – and we learned so much from their struggle and they from ours.
That is the type of international solidarity I speak of here today. Today we struggle for truth and justice for past violations – for freedom.
We challenge revisionism.
We struggle for historical clarification and the recovery of historical memory.
In many respects our justice – the truth – will set us free.
And so in that context I want to appeal to you to keep the faith of your quest for all that it legitimate and right.
I want to appeal to you to stay unified – unity is strength.
There is hope – truth, justice and freedom can and will be achieved.
I want to appeal to you to stay focused – don’t be divided – don’t be fractured as a people by false and empty promises – keep focused and true to the principled convictions of those we remember and celebrate today.
I want to conclude my remarks here today by telling you that we too experienced Hunger Strikes – deaths in the prisons – deaths of those while incarcerated. They too made ultimate sacrifices for a greater cause.
I come from a part of Belfast called Twinbrook – it is where IRA Volunteer Bobby Sands who lead the 1981 Hunger Strike that saw 10 courageous men die, came from too.
Bobby Sands was the IRA leader in the H Block jail, where several hundred Irish POW’s were brutalized in a process designed to break them and consequently the Irish struggle for justice, equality and freedom.
From his prison cell and during his hunger strike Bobby Sands was elected an MP to the British parliament contrary to Margaret Thatcher’s claim that he had no support.
Bobby Sands was not just an IRA Volunteer and revolutionary. His life was multi- dimensional. He was a community leader, activist, a singer, a songwriter, a poet, as well as a son, husband, father, brother and comrade to many.
From his H-Block prison cell, naked all but for a remnant of a blanket, deprived of paper, a pen, without adequate light, living in his very excrement in that prison cell, enduring forced body searches, beatings and torture, Bobby Sands wrote prolifically on pieces of cigarette paper, the empty spaces on the pages of a bible, anything he could write on with a biro secreted on his person and passed
between scores of fellow prisoners. It was their only real contact with the outside. These writings were wrapped in clingfilm and smuggled through very rare prison visits to the outside world.
Bobby wrote a poem entitled The Rhythm of Time from which I read an appropriate extract;
…It is found in every light of hope, It knows no bounds nor space It has risen in red and black and white, It is there in every race. It lies in the hearts of heroes dead,
It screams in tyrants’ eyes,
It has reached the peak of mountains high, It comes searing ‘cross the skies.
It lights the dark of this prison cell,
It thunders forth its might,
It is ‘the undauntable thought’, my friend, That thought that says ‘I’m right!’
You are right and your struggle is right! Thank you.