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united kingdom
& the Struggle for Tamil Eelam

Tamils march in London over Sri Lanka�s concentration camps

 21 June 2009

Over 100,000 says TamilNet An estimated 20,000 says BBC

"...The UK, the USA, and other European countries which had banned the LTTE, having played a major part in its demise, found themselves unable to protect the now defenceless Tamil civilians from the onslaught by the Sri Lankan state. The Sri Lankan government used its sovereignty as a shield to keep away these countries whilst it carried out its genocide with impunity. It is continuing to use the same argument to prevent the international community from investigating its war crimes against Tamils..."  BTF Memorandum to UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown

Over 100,000 Tamils march in London over Sri Lanka�s concentration camps
 - TamilNet, 21 June 2009

Over one hundred thousand expatriate Tamils in Britain marched Saturday through central London to express their outrage at international inaction over Sri Lanka�s massacre of tens of thousands of Tamils and the suffering of hundreds of thousands more enduring starvation, disease, disappearance, rape and torture in Colombo�s internment camps. Dressed in black, carrying placards and several hundred Tamil Eelam flags, the protesters marched from Hyde Park to rally at Embankment. The event was organised by the British Tamil Forum.

The protestors began forming up at midday and began their march at 2:00 p.m. By the time the lead protestors reached Haymarket, the hundred thousand-strong column stretched the mile-long length of Piccadilly and up Park Lane. The rally began at 5.30 p.m.

To facilitate the march, the Police closed off traffic in one direction along the three-lane Park Lane and Piccadilly roads and along Haymarket, past Parliament Square and one direction of the thoroughfare along the Embankment.

Hundreds of red and yellow Tamil Eelam flags fluttered in the summer breeze as the marchers chanted slogans, handed out leaflets to tourists and spectators crowding the pavements and balconies of central London. Several Union Jacks were carried by the protestors.

�The protests we have been doing [in the Diaspora centres], at last has opened the conscience of the Western world,� a BTF spokesman said. �For example, the mainstream media has begun to expose the scale of the tragedy suffered by our people.��Our struggle has now shifted to the hands of the Diaspora,� he said.�We have gathered here today to begin the next chapter of our long struggle to come.�

Tamil expatriates were joined by delegations from Columbian, Kurdish, Palestinian and some Indian communities in Britain, as well civil liberties and social justice groups.

At the front of the protestors� column were mobile street theatres depicting Sri Lanka�s militarized concentration camps where hundreds of thousands of Tamils are detained without access to sufficient food or medicine and suffering escalating abuse.

Groups of Tamil people, including � elderly, children, families, dressed in blood-stained clothing and bandages marched within squares of barbed wire bearing signs with names of known concentration camps. Other protestors dressed in military uniform threateningly wielded batons to symbolize the ongoing brutality.

Leaflets handed out set out the protestors� demands about Sri Lanka�s abuses: �[1] Stop the disappearances, rapes and torture occurring daily at the internment camps, and find all those who have already gone missing [2] Free people from the camps immediately so that they can return to their normal way of life [3] Bring the perpetrators of the genocide against the Tamils to justice.�

Protestors marching as inmates of internment camps of all the districts of North-East Another leaflet stated: �The Tamil community, disappointed and embittered by the failure of the UK and other international powers to prevent the recent carnage despite constant and repeated warnings, are demanding that the international community must at least now act decisively to save the estimated 300,000 civilians in these camps, who remain in grave danger.�

The protestors gathered on Embankment by Blackfriars Bridge where a stage had been set up, decorated in Tamil colours of red and yellow and a banner demanding �Free Tamils from Nazi style concentration camps! Prosecute the war criminals of the Sri Lankan State!�

The rally was addressed by British political personalities, including Tony Benn, Simon Hughes MP and Jeremy Corbyn MP, as well as Tamil and British human rights and social justice activists.

Veteran politician Tony Benn condemned the Sri Lankan state�s violence against the Tamils as crimes against humanity in which Britain continues to play an unacceptable. He also criticised the British media for the woeful lack of coverage the conflict in Sri Lanka has received, compared to similar conflicts around the world.

Raji Nesaraja, representing the Tamil Youth Organisation (TYO), said the recent events in Sri Lanka were �nothing short of genocide�.

In a stirring speech that illustrated the strong feelings amongst young Tamils in the UK, she went on to say that, following repeated and desperate warnings of an impending bloodbath, young Tamils were left dumbfounded and disappointed by the UN�s complete lack of response.

She however expressed her optimism in the awakening of all sections of the British Tamil community in the past few months, and, observing that �we are witnessing a global uprising of Tamils,� vowed the Tamil struggle would be taken forward.

Jan Jananayagam, who stood as an independent candidate at the 4 June European election, winning a historic record of 50,000 votes for an independent, urged everyone to work tirelessly until the Tamils of Sri Lanka enjoy the same rights that Tamils take for granted in the UK.

She also reminded the crowd of the power of their vote in a genuine democracy, and urged them to ensure they make their individuals vote count during the next UK general election towards the cause of stopping Sri Lanka�s genocide..

Andy Higginbottom, secretary of the Columbia Solidarity campaign and lecturer in human rights at Kingston University, called claims that the LTTE used civilians as human shields during the conflict the �first lie of the international media� and the �first propaganda victory of the Sri Lankan government�. He went on to denounce the inaction of the UN during the conflict, and the pitiable resolution passed by the UN Human Rights Council following the conflict, an �absolute and utter disgrace�.

Simon Hughes MP, a senior Liberal Democrat and long-time supporter of the Tamils, praised the �fantastic courage and determination� that UK Tamils have shown in the past few months, and assured the crowd that there were many non-Tamils that supported them in their aspirations.

Cllr Julian Bell, leader of the Ealing Labour Party and researcher for the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils (APPG-T) admitted that members of the APPG-T share the Tamil community�s feelings of being let down by Britain�s Labour government.

He said the APPG-T were working hard to ensure that the food and medical aid that UK Tamils collected and sent to Sri Lanka on board the Mercy Mission ship, which was recently turned away by the Sri Lankan authorities, would still reach the desperate Tamil civilians there.

Dan Mayor, national organiser for the Socialist Worker Party, angrily dismissed complaints about the alleged police cost during the 73 day Tamil protest at Westminster, saying that the Britain had made much more money through the sale of military equipment to Sri Lanka.

He blamed the US/UK led �War on Terror� for masking the political question in Sri Lanka and weakening the Tamils� position and making possible Sri Lanka�s brazen onslaught against the Tamils.

Jeremy Corbyn MP, Labour politician and chairman of the human rights organisation Liberation, called for a complete economic boycott of Sri Lanka, saying �the tourism must stop, the arms must stop, the trade must stop�.

Tim Martin, former aid worker and director of the charity Act Now, was loudly cheered by the crowds as he thanked them for the huge support he received from UK Tamils during his recent 21-day hunger strike in Parliament Square. Revealing that Bob Geldoff and several other international celebrities have begun pledging their support for the Tamils struggle against Sinhala oppression, he urged UK Tamils to �keep on fighting� for the freedom of their people in Sri Lanka.

Police presence was light throughout the event. Officers closing off side roads, so protestors could pass and guiding tourists and others seeking to reach places on the other side of the column of marchers.

Officers worked with several hundred Tamil volunteers to keep the crowd moving steadily and there were no riot police, in contrast to some other major protests in London. Media helicopters and police chopper remained aloft for the duration.

An estimated 20,000 people have marched in London in support of the minority Tamil population in Sri Lanka - BBC, 21 June 2009

In May government forces wiped out the Tamil Tiger leadership, ending a 26-year war between the army and rebels.

More than 250,000 people are displaced from their homes in northern Sri Lanka, according to the UN. The demonstration follows a 73-day protest for peace in the country that ended on Wednesday and featured mass sit-ins blocking central London roads.

Many of those at Saturday's demonstration waved black flags representing the civilians killed in the last phase of the conflict. They carried placards accusing the Sri Lankan government of genocide and asking for thousands of displaced people held in camps to be released. Some of the campaigners compared the plight of displaced Tamils in Sri Lanka to Nazi Germany.

The comparison with Nazi Germany will shock - but it should do

Suren Surendiran, of the British Tamils Forum, said: "The comparison with Nazi Germany will shock - but it should do. "There are hundreds of relatives here who do not know what has happened to their next-of-kin. Genocide is happening before our eyes in Sri Lanka and the international community has taken little or no action to help. "We have held talks with Gordon Brown but now we are calling for action."

Several main routes through the centre of London were closed to allow the march to take place.

The Tamil Tiger rebels started fighting in the 1970s for a separate state for Tamils in Sri Lanka's north and east. They argued Tamils had been discriminated against by successive majority Sinhalese governments. The UN says thousands of civilians were killed in the war earlier this year.

BTF Memorandum to Rt Hon Gordon Brown Prime Minister, 20 June 2009 [also in PDF] [see also British Tamil Forum Press Release ]

The Rt Hon Gordon Brown Prime Minister
10 Downing Street London

MEMORANDUM To: The Prime Minister From: British Tamil Forum on behalf of the Silenced Tamil People Date: 20 June 2009


On 19th May 2009 the Sri Lankan government announced that the war in the island had ended with the elimination of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who have been fighting to reinstate the lost sovereignty of the Tamil people, through an armed struggle.

The British having unified the Tamil and the Sinhala nations for administrative convenience during their rule in 1833 left the shores of the island leaving the people of the Tamil Nation as a �minority� in a �unitary� Sri Lanka. No sooner the British left, the Sinhalese used their "majority" status to alter the constitution which had some protection to the Tamils as a �minority�. This was a clear breach of trust under which the Tamils acceded, albeit reluctantly, to cohabit under a unitary constitution. Tamil people have been subjected to racist discrimination and persecution with genocidal intent since 1948 by the Sinhalese. Over the last sixty years Tamils, through their democratically elected representatives, having tried and failed to redress their grievances through peaceful means were forced to take up arms for their defence and liberation.

Every agreement to satisfy reasonable demands in order to co-exist with the Sinhalese was unilaterally abrogated by successive Sinhala leaderships. Democratic and non violent protests by the Tamils were met with violent suppression, using the Sinhala armed forces and through pogroms orchestrated by the Sinhala state. The sustained violent oppression of Tamils gave rise to an armed movement, the LTTE, which had been a deterrent that prevented major pogroms on Tamil people since July 1983.

However, following the 9/11 attack on the US soil, the LTTE fell foul of the blanket proscription, in the pretext of �war on terror� by the West, with disastrous consequences for the security and existence of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka. The UK, the USA, and other European countries which had banned the LTTE, having played a major part in its demise, found themselves unable to protect the now defenceless Tamil civilians from the onslaught by the Sri Lankan state. The Sri Lankan government used its sovereignty as a shield to keep away these countries whilst it carried out its genocide with impunity. It is continuing to use the same argument to prevent the international community from investigating its war crimes against Tamils.

Tamil Nation

The International Community, branding the Tamil people as a �minority� and labelling their struggle as �separatist�, has failed to recognise the struggle for what it is. This is a struggle to evict an alien occupying force from the Tamil homeland. The Tamil people refuse to be treated as less than equal partners in a �unitary� state, formed by the forced union of two independent nations. The Sinhala nation is using its �majority� status to persecute the Tamil people and to plunder the Tamil nation's resources. It has been systematically decimating the Tamil population to fulfil its vision of making the island an exclusive Sinhala state. The Tamil nation will continue its fight until a solution is reached where all its citizens feel free from oppression and persecution.

The Present Situation

Massacre of defenceless Tamil civilians by the Sri Lankan State

The Sri Lankan government used the code �human shield� to describe the people who had taken refuge in a sliver of land away from the advancing army. The political leaders of some nations around the world, who too were using this description, had anticipated the Sri Lankan government to behave in accordance with international norms by respecting the �human� element of this phrase. Satellite photographic evidence and frantic phone calls received from people on the ground during the final moments of the onslaught; now confirm that the Sri Lankan government used all the fire power at its disposal, including internationally prohibited chemical weaponry, which resulted in over 53,000 defenceless Tamil civilians; men, women and children being killed or disappeared.

This was a premeditated act of Genocide of tens of thousands of innocent Tamils in the pretext of eliminating a �few� LTTE combatants. Innocent Tamils held against their will in Nazi style concentration camps.

Over 270,000 Tamil people, who escaped death from the bombing campaign by the Sri Lankan government, are now held in barbed wire enclosures surrounded by heavily armed Sinhala soldiers. These people have homes of their own, in which they lived until recently and are now prevented from returning to their abode.

They have no freedom of movement and have no access to outside world. No friends, relatives or even the Tamil members of parliament are allowed to visit these people. Possession of a mobile phone is prohibited in these camps and people are held against their will in isolation from their kith and kin detained in other concentration camps.

The Sri Lankan government has imposed stringent restrictions on access by international aid agencies which are waiting to help these people. It has turned away the ship �Captain Ali� which was carrying humanitarian aid supplies donated by the British Tamil Diaspora and backed by British parliamentarians. Although the cargo of the vessel was thoroughly checked by Sri Lankan security forces, who confirmed that it was entirely of essential humanitarian supplies, the Sri Lankan government turned the ship away.

Persons taken away from camps by security forces, para-military groups and Buddhist monks

The youth who arrived in the concentration camps are being taken away for interrogation and are disappearing without trace. Rape and murder of young Tamil women are rampant in these camps. No lists are forthcoming of persons held in these camps and the people removed from these camps are not accounted for.

Very young Tamil, Hindu/Christian children are being taken away by Sinhala Buddhist monks to an alien environment in the south of the island for forced religious conversion.

The information being leaked from these camps indicate that a very large proportion of these people are suffering from trauma as a result of witnessing the massacre that took place around them. Even the UN Secretary General Mr Ban Ki-Moon, now concedes that the conditions in the camps in Vanni are the most appalling that he has ever seen. These are further corroborated by recent investigative news reports by Channel 4 journalists.

During the final weeks of the war, the UN and governments in the West were adamant that Tamil civilians flee into the government controlled areas, without any assurance as to their safety and wellbeing. These civilians are now detained behind barbed wire in death camps and at the mercy of the barbaric Sinhala state and their military.

Sri Lankan state refuses to release details of the innocent Tamil detainees to their relatives, the organisations of the Tamil Diaspora or the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Instead the Sri Lankan state and the military are preoccupied with destroying any evidence of their most horrific crimes against humanity.

We the British Tamils Forum urge that the British Government intervenes to demand:

1. Immediate registration and identification of all Tamils in the camps in the presence of international monitors in order to prevent disappearances.

2. Immediate release of details of the detainees to the ICRC and the organisations of the Tamils Diaspora.

3. Immediate and unfettered access to international aid agencies and media. 4. Immediate release of all the Tamils held in the Nazi style concentration camps so that they can return to their homes and a life of normalcy.

5. Sri Lanka, which is notorious for extra judicial killings, torture and rape, to adhere to the Geneva Convention and to treat all Tamil Prisoners of War (POWs) accordingly.

6. Facilitation of the prosecution of Mahinda Rajapakse (President of Sri Lanka), Gotabaya Rajapakse (Defence Secretary) and Lt. Gen Sarath Fonseka (Chief of Sri Lankan Army) for War Crimes against Tamils.

Yours sincerely Mr Nathan Kumar Chairman

cc. Rt Hon David Cameron MP Leader of the Conservative Party
Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP Leader of the Liberal Democrats
Rt Hon Alex Salmond MSP Leader of the Scottish National Party
Rt Hon Leuan Wyn Jones AM Plaid Cymru Leader & Deputy First Minister



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