‘ARE THEY ALIVE?’ – Tamils demand on so-called Sri Lanka Independence Day

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‘I WISH all Sri Lankans around the world a happy celebration and continued peace and prosperity in the coming year,’ said a statement harping on ‘post-war reconciliation’ released from the office of the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, on the eve of Sri Lanka Independence Day on 4th February.

But the imposed celebration was largely ignored on the island, while abroad, the day drew protests across the world by Eezham Tamils.

‘The Sri Lankan High Commission has invited the Sri Lankan community to a reception to celebrate their independence. We will assemble outside the embassy to condemn the Sri Lankans celebrating while denying the Tamils their right to independence,’ a call for protest in London said.

Demonstrations were held in London, Toronto and Oslo.

Addressing protesters in Oslo, Conservative Party (Høyre) leader Erna Solberg called for war-crimes investigations.

In the previous years, the occupying SL troops used to create a semblance of celebration in the Tamil districts, by intimidating the people.

But this time the people decided to ignore such intimidations.

They largely stayed indoors while street checks and the presence of troops in the streets were intense.

Pressed by the SL military, only the shops in Jaffna flew the Sri Lanka flag.

The Sri Lanka Government Agent, Imelda Sugumar, hoisted the Sri Lanka flag at the secretariat in Jaffna.

Only the music of the Sinhala anthem was played in Jaffna, while the anthem was sung in Sinhala in Ki’linochchi and Vavuniyaa secretariats.

In Vanni and in the East, the floods have blunted the enthusiasm of even the SL occupiers from demonstrating simulated celebrations.

Tamil activists in London distributed leaflets and collected signatures in prime locations including Kings Cross, Liverpool Street, Victoria, Waterloo, Paddington, Oxford Circus and Oxford Street.

The British Tamils Forum (BTF) re-launched its campaign ‘Are they Alive?’ to coincide with the so-called Sri Lankan Independence Day.

And hundreds of Eezham Tamils demonstrated outside the parliament in Oslo on Friday.

Demonstrators in front of the Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Toronto carried placards urging the Sri Lankan occupiers to leave Tamil Eelam.

In London, the demonstrators hoisted the Tamil Eelam national flag opposite the Sri Lankan High Commission premises, to fly level with the Sri Lankan flag.

At the instigation of the High Commission officials, the British police objected to the Tamil Eelam flag, but the demonstrators questioned the legality of the objection. The police, after verifying the matter with higher authorities, didn’t intervene.

Later, Sri Lankan High Commission officials sent out some ‘counter-protesters’. As tension developed, police intervened and sent these ‘counter-protesters’ back inside the High Commission.

To threaten the demonstrators, and to blunt participation, the Sri Lankan High Commission started videoing them.

The SL government effectively uses a threat of arrest and abduction of any demonstrator identified by the video images, if they happen to visit the island.

Parallel to the demonstration outside the High Commission, there was another one in front of the British PM’s official residence at 10 Downing Street, and the Eezham Tamil community also organised a signature campaign in different locations in London, against detentions and disappearances in the island.

Meanwhile, there were also protests against UN Secretary General, Ban ki Moon, when he came to address a lecture organised by the Department of Politics and International Relations of Oxford University on Wednesday.

‘I want to be re-elected. 40,000 innocent people were massacred in Sri Lanka and I did nothing. You decide,’ the placards carrying the picture of the Secretary General read.

During the question and answer session following his address, there was a question from Tim Martin of Act Now on Sri Lanka.

‘The UN has failed to “prevent and protect” in such countries as Sri Lanka where up to 40,000 innocent civilians were massacred in 2009’ he said.

‘Will you ensure during your term that those responsible are brought to justice? Will you ensure there is a proper independent investigation into war crimes and will you push for a UN referendum as the situation in Sri Lanka is the same as in south Sudan?

‘The people have the same cultural differences, a different language and a different religion’ he asked.

The main point of Ban ki Moon’s reply was that ‘political stability and justice should go hand in hand.

‘And that is what I have been doing to achieve even in Sri Lanka and I will continue to do that.’

Deliberately tilting the balance to destroy the political stability of Eezham Tamils and then talking of hand in hand political stability and justice, is a double injustice, commented a diaspora activist.

l Recently, the occupying SL military in Jaffna is directly engaged in the registration of individuals and families in the Jaffna peninsula.

Every day, covering area by area, the SL military, is distributing forms to collect information, and is insisting family photographs, including of children, be given to them.

The activity of the SL military is reminiscent of the Nazi practice before the Holocaust, and is causing terror in the minds of the people in Jaffna, said a human rights activist.

Meanwhile, an undeclared curfew has been imposed in Jaffna by the SL military and police, who have almost brought the movement of people on the street to an end after 6.00pm, by harassing them through numerous checkpoints after dusk.

Earlier, the registration was limited to the resettled people from Vanni. However, citing the recent killings and robberies, the military has started registering all the residents.

This is is being intensively carried out in the islets, Thenmaraadchi and in the remote villages throughout the other areas.

Informed sources said the terror-campaign in Jaffna was let loose first through killings, abductions and a smokescreen of robberies. Later, the militarisation of policing came into effect and now the ‘Nazi-style’ registration.

All are aimed at a permanent Sinhla military rule of Eezham Tamils for a long time to come, the sources said.

The local media has been ‘instructed’ to report that all the ‘robbery’ cases have been resolved and gangs identified and arrested.

However, enquiries with relevant police sources show that no such things took place.

The militarisation campaign is being carried out on one hand by the SL Colonial Commander in Jaffna, Maj Gen Mahinda Hathurusinghe – said to be backed by SL Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa; and on the other hand by elements aligned with SL Colonial governor Maj Gen Chandrasri – said to be backed by SL Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapaksa. But both the factions are agreed on the common aim of militarisation for the subjugation of Tamils, the sources further said.

Meanwhile, TNA parliamentarian Suresh Premachandran, on Sunday morning, questioned whether the registration of civilians in Jaffna is taking place under instructions from Colombo or by the SL military command occupying Jaffna.

l At least 100,000 Tamil civilians, from around 25,000 families, have been affected by the flood in the two districts of Vavuniyaa and Mullaiththeevu in Vanni.

Sand dunes erected by the Sri Lanka Army are obstructing the flow of water reaching the sea. Hence the villages are flooded. The uprooted families are still not allowed to resettle between Mullaiththeevu and Puthukkudiyiruppu.

In the meantime, informed sources said the occupying military was promoting the idea of opening transport services via the Anuradhapura-Ma’nalaa’ru road, thus opening up the way for Sinhala colonisation.

The Kanakaraayan tanksluice gate has been opened to release excess water.

9,484 members of 2,466 families have been displaced and sheltered in more than 45 centres in the two districts.

Ira’naimadu tank and other important tanks have also been opened to release the excess water.

In the Vavuniyaa district alone, in three DS divisions, 72,394 members of 17,731 families have been staying in 34 welfare centres, and in Mullaiththeevu 1,102 members of 308 families are in centres.

Land routes and communication with interior villages in the Vanni district remain cut off due to heavy rains following the severe floods, raising fear among the people that main irrigation tanks could breach at any time.

Public servants working from outstations in the region have left their offices.