‘BRITAIN, Britain – stop the war!’, ‘British media – break the silence!’, ‘Don’t hide – genocide!’, were some of the slogans shouted by more than 10,000 Tamils and their supporters, who filled Parliament Square on Wednesday evening.
It was the second London demonstration this week to demand an immediate halt to the killing of Tamils in the north-east of Sri Lanka.
They carried placards and banners demanding that the EU, Britain and the rest of the international community bring pressure to bear to halt the bombing of Tamil areas now and to stop aiding the Rajapakse regime in Sri Lanka.
Other slogans included: ‘India – shame on you!’, ‘Don’t kill – Tamil people!’, ‘Long live – Tamil people!’, ‘Rajapakse – terrorist!’ and ‘We want – Tamil Eelam!’
Wednesday’s mass protest followed a 125,000-strong march through central London last Saturday, the biggest show of support so far for the Tamil people.
Kumran Satkunaraja, Bose Vijay and a group of demonstrators spoke about the situation in Sri Lanka and the demands of the Tamil people.
One of them said: ‘The Tamils want the Sri Lankan terrorist government to stop the war immediately!
‘Every day they are killing people with bombs from the aircraft and on the ground.
‘Every day more than 40 or 50 people die.
‘More than 500,000 Tamil people are in Vanni. The Sri Lankan government don’t send anything – food, medicines – everything is being stopped and people die every day.
‘Civilians get moved by the Sri Lankan army into “safety zones’’ and then they get shelled by the Sri Lankan armed forces! They are killing them, not protecting them.
‘They don’t care about the Tamil people because they are the minority.
‘The British government should be stopping this war. They must push the Sinhalese government, they must tell them: You must stop the war immediately.
‘Two days ago more than 125,000 people marched in London to support the Tamil people in Sri Lanka.
‘But the BBC, they don’t show anything. The BBC is taking the side of the government of Sri Lanka.’
He added: ‘We are very unhappy with the statement issued by the Western bloc – Japan, the US, the EU and Norway.
‘They wanted the Liberation Tigers to surrender their arms and go for negotiations.
‘These co-chairs for Sri Lanka have been involved in the peace process for the past six years.
‘They didn’t say this for the past six years, but now they think the Tamils fighting for our freedom are weak, that they can issue this statement supporting the government of Sri Lanka.
‘If Tamils fighting lay down their arms it means we accept slavery of the Sri Lankan and the Indian governments.
‘But the Tamil fighting spirit is there. It’s not going to happen.
‘The LTTE will not surrender and the Tamil people will never allow them to surrender.
‘The arms of the Tamil Tigers are to free Tamil people from a Sri Lankan tyranny supported by the Indian government and, as we understand it, Indian troops have been supporting the Sri Lankan army for the last six months, fighting along with them against the LTTE, and that means the Tamil people.’
They added: ‘The British government, they can do it. Gordon Brown can stop the attack on the Tamil people.
‘Some Tamil people are being refused asylum and when this government sends them back to Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan government are waiting there and detaining them and are killing them.
‘And no journalists are allowed in. Why not?
‘It is like Gaza, every day 40 or 50 people are being killed in my country but BBC is not saying anything.
‘Britain must put pressure on the Sri Lankan government to stop the war and bring peace to the country and the second thing they can do is stop giving aid to Sri Lanka – Britain, the EU and all the countries assisting Sri Lanka – now.’
Demonstrators said that Wednesday’s protest was timed to coincide with the anniversary of Sri Lankan independence from Britain in 1948.
Arun Nathan, from Birmingham, said: ‘The innocent civilians are being killed by their own government.
‘The international community does not know what is going on in Sri Lanka because the world media is banned.
‘They can’t say anything independent of what the Sri Lankan government says.
‘Most of the news you hear in the West is influenced by the Sri Lankan government, which is very sad, because we here in the civilised world, like the UK and America, are actually more concerned about animal rights, but no one bothers about the human rights abuses that are going on in Sri Lanka!
‘Yesterday they bombed the hospital and killed more children.
‘They had already been wounded by the shells and bombs. They died on the spot. The International Red Cross confirmed this news.’
David Ganesaratnam, from London, said: ‘’I just want the British government to do everything to stop the war and save Tamil civilians and don’t believe everything the Tamil government says.
‘They are killing innocent kids, women, pregnant women, and they are saying they are “terrorists’’.
‘That can’t be. It’s impossible. We have photos and live images, they can’t say it’s not so.
‘The government starts to say the LTTE are killing Tamils, it’s not true.
‘The LTTE are fighting for more than 30 years for Tamils. They are fighting for our homeland.
‘We want a homeland. We want freedom.’
Andrew Vethanayagam, from Wales, said: ‘The reason we are here is quite simple.
‘The Sinhalese won independence from Britain in 1948, that is 61 years ago, and the Tamils lost theirs.
‘British people don’t know about our problem.
‘Before the Dutch and English people captured Sri Lanka in the 18th century, Sri Lanka was separate kingdoms.
‘In 1948, when the Buddhist government declared the freedom for Sri Lanka, there was no separation, so the Sinhalese became the majority.
‘Everything was turned for the benefit of the Sri Lankan government, they didn’t listen to the Tamil people.
‘With Indian, Chinese and Pakistan government support, Sri Lanka is killing Tamil people. You can look and see the photos.
‘Now 600,000 people are displaced and the Sri Lankan army now is killing those people.
‘The government in Britain has a duty to resolve the problem.
‘They have to organise a ceasefire first and they have to give a guarantee for the lives of Tamil people in Sri Lanka.
‘LTTE is the representative of the Tamils and they have to organise any peace talks or negotiations with them.’
Dr Inthu Kumar said: ‘We are here, but not only in London, not only in Britain, but all over the world Tamils are staging different forms of demonstrations today, demanding the Sri Lankan government halts the genocide of the Tamil people.
‘In India, Tamil Nadu is supporting today’s demonstration.
‘The schools across Tamil Nadu are shut today.
‘This is the day of independence for Sri Lanka. But for Tamils it’s the death of their rights to live with dignity and equal rights, so we’re not celebrating.
‘We’re here because what’s going on at the moment in Sri Lanka, in Vanni, concerns most of us.
‘We are here to support the Tamils in Sri Lanka, to demand a stop to the war and for the right of self-determination for the Tamil people.
‘Three people have already died for our cause, two in Tamil Nadu and one in Malaysia.
‘Muthukumaran, a journalist, burned himself to death a few days ago.
‘He wrote a statement before his death asking for the Sri Lankan government to stop the war.
‘Everywhere we are taking to the streets with these demands: one, stop the war; two, stop the bombing – the Sri Lankan armed forces are using cluster bombs; and three, send medical aid to the Tamil areas immediately.
‘The international community must put sanctions on Sri Lanka, that’s the only way to get them to stop the bombing.
‘In a war zone, under humanitarian law, they should avoid hitting hospitals.
‘Several people died in an attack on the only functioning hospital in Puthukkudiyiruppu, including one nurse.’
Selliah Ravi Kumar, from London, said: ‘In the so-called safe areas set up by the government, the families are being separated by the government, young from old, and the young ones – girls and boys – are being taken to the middle of Sri Lanka, to Anurathapura, and nobody knows what is happening to them.
Their families have no knowledge of their well-being, even whether they are still alive.
‘We want the international bodies like the UN and EU to force the Sri Lankan government to stop its war on the Tamil people.
‘There should be action from the UN Security Council.
‘Within the last month, over 1,000 people have died and the death toll is continuing to rise and there is no access for the media.
‘The Sri Lankan armed forces have even used cluster bombs.’
Shana Nava, from the British Tamil Forum, said: ‘The Tamils have been left out of the so-called democracy in Sri Lanka.
‘The British government has to speak out in the international arena.
‘The Sri Lankan government is using banned weaponry – cluster bombs and some kind of incendiary bombs which are causing burns to civilians – and they are clearly bombing hospitals – which are marked with the white cross – from the air.’