STOP THE ETHNIC CLEANSING OF TAMILS IN SRI LANKA – demands mass rally in Westminster

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Demonstrators demanded a halt to the bombing of the Tamil areas in northern Sri Lanka by the Sri Lankan air force
Demonstrators demanded a halt to the bombing of the Tamil areas in northern Sri Lanka by the Sri Lankan air force

‘WE want Tamil Eelam!’, ‘Don’t kill Tamil people!’ shouted more than 1,500 people demonstrating opposite the Houses of Parliament in Westminster on Wednesday evening.

It was the second mass rally in London to demand an end to all British support for the Sri Lankan government and its military assault on the Tamil people in the north of Sri Lanka.

Leaflets handed out by demonstrators urged: ‘Act Now. Stop Genocide in Sri Lanka.

‘The Sri Lankan Government is currently engaged in the ethnic cleansing of the Tamil Minority.

‘The Government of Sri Lanka has ordered all International volunteer organisations (INGOs) out of the Northern Region where the conflict is taking place.

‘And as the Government does not allow any International Media in the area there are no witnesses of the ongoing Genocide.

‘Over 100,000 Tamil Men, Women and Children have been killed. . .

‘1,000,000 Tamils have fled the country. . .

‘Half a Million Tamils have been displaced. . .’

‘The British media and British government are not looking at our problems in a positive way,’ said Joy Pooranachandran, who joined the demonstration.

‘The British media is not giving any prominence to our struggles and we have come here to show ordinary people that our people are dying every single day back home and our people are suffering.

‘They don’t have any food or shelter, they are living under trees!

‘Self-determination is our basic need that we are asking for, and we are asking for the support of the British people to recognise our self-determination struggle.

‘At present in India, in every part of India, lots of people are coming out onto the streets and asking the Indian government to recognise our Tamil people’s struggle as a struggle for self-determination.

‘We want to especially tell Indian people that we want to work together and we appreciate whatever you are doing for us and please keep supporting us and help us to get our freedom.’

Selva Jaya said: ‘The time has come to stop the ethnic cleansing.

‘We are just here to let all the capitalists know the time has come to end the ethnic cleansing of the Tamils, the state terrorism.

‘And the time has come for the UK government to recognise the LTTE, who have been fighting against this state terrorism, as freedom fighters, not terrorists, and the time has come to de-proscribe the LTTE.

‘They are the sole representatives of the Tamils.’

Puni Selwaratnam, from the British Tamil Forum, said: ‘This is a very serious problem that has not been attended to by the international community in any way.

‘No action has been taken against the Sri Lankan government.

‘Bombing hasn’t stopped, people are still suffering.

‘It’s not only in Vanni, the whole of north-east Sri Lanka is full of internally displaced people.

‘And vast swathes of the north-east are “high security zones’’ and it’s so highly militarised that even the so-called normal residents can’t move about freely.

‘And because the journalists are banned from the north-east, Colombo-based civil societies make fact-finding missions to various parts of the north-east and give the south and the rest of the country a glimpse into the fear and hopelessness of the people living behind the 21st century iron curtain of the north-east.’

She added: ‘They have increased the regulations on the media and two days ago they arrested one Tamil TV journalist and one Tamil journalist has been in detention for more than eight months.

‘And Sinhalese lawyers appearing for Tamils have in the last few months received death threats and one lawyer, who is the director of Transparency International, they threw a grenade into his house about two months ago.

‘And peace activists and conscientious Sinhalese people who criticise the government have been vilified by various government ministers.’

Richmond Park Liberal Democrat MP Susan Kramer addressed the mass rally.

She said: ‘Some of us at least are making sure your voice is heard, but we need you here in numbers. Others will be coming.’

Kramer went on to say that: ‘The Tamil people have a right to self-determination.

‘They need the right to determine their future. It is part of basic human rights.

‘I have heard stories from my constituents, which I know are very real, who are unable to get basic medical supplies through to the Tamil areas in the north of Sri Lanka and in Vanni province.

‘The British government needs to make a real effort to get a solution.

‘We probably need an international mediator, in the way Norway was, and there must be real international pressure.

‘There is no military solution, there must be a political solution.

‘NGOs should be allowed in.

‘The Sri Lankan army military siege should be lifted immediately.’

Nimalan Seeva, from the British Tamil Forum, said: ‘There is a continuous ethnic cleansing going on which is increasing and the government of Sri Lanka is openly celebrating the military war that it has launched on its own people, denying access to journalists and NGOs.

‘We want the world to recognise the Tamils’ right to self-determination and that’s the only way we can get the Sri Lankan government to stop the genocide.’

Thambyrajah Kana, another member of the Tamil Forum, said: ‘In southern India, for the first time, the Communist leaders are coordinating and mobilising the whole party and public bodies like students organisations, labour unions, and cultural and sports bodies, under one umbrella for a mass demonstration supporting the Sri Lankan Tamils.

‘They are only asking the Indian government to put more pressure on to stop the killing and recognise the Tamils’ rights to self-determination.’

Labour MPs Joan Ryan (Enfield) and Siobhan McDonagh (Mitcham and Morden) also came to join the rally.

‘We’re very deeply concerned about the humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka,’ said Ryan.

‘We’re very concerned about the indiscriminate bombing and the deaths of so many Tamil civilians and the numbers of displaced people.

‘Winter is now in front of us. We’re on the cusp of a humanitarian crisis and the Sri Lankan government is planning to double the military budget and there is no military solution to this situation.

‘The government of Sri Lanka needs to undertake peace talks.

‘We need a political solution.

‘We can’t stand by and see the situation get worse.’

Asked if she was in favour of the demand from demonstrators for sanctions on the Sri Lankan government, Ryan said: ‘The British government is aware of how serious the humanitarian situation is and agrees we need a negotiated settlement in Sri Lanka and we are pressing the government to work harder and do more, in conjunction with the EU, and find a way forward, and also work with India. Their voice is important as well.’

But demonstrators demanded an immediate end to all British military and economic assistance to the Sri Lankan government.

Kingston-upon-Thames councillor, Y. Yoganathan, told News Line: ‘All these people are here because their voice isn’t heard.

‘They are standing here and demanding freedom, especially the freedom to live in their own homeland without fear, like any other citizen.

‘They are Ceylon Tamils asking for their own right to live there. That is their right.

‘They are just killing people because they are Tamil.

‘There has been systematic ethnic cleansing for the last 35 years and our people are crying for food and medicine.

‘And they are blocking these supplies to these people, even though they are citizens, and that is a war crime and nobody is challenging that, not even the British government.

‘We want sanctions immediately, no arms or any aid to the Sri Lankan government, which has “GSB-plus’’ status (favoured trading status) with the EU.’

Dr Josephine Francis said: ‘Journalists who speak out against the Sri Lankan government are being arrested, disappeared and killed.

‘One journalist has been held in detention for more than 150 days without charge.

‘It doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world and the British government is not saying anything about it.

‘The media is talking about Zimbabwe. Why are they not talking about Sri Lanka?’