British Tamils stage largest ever march protesting genocide, mandating Tamil Eelam
[TamilNet, Saturday, 31 January 2009, 21:50 GMT]
More than one hundred thousand British Tamils marched through central London Saturday condemning Sri Lanka’s war against their people and calling for an independent Tamil Eelam. The unprecedented response on one of the coldest days this year turned out to be the largest ever gathering of the British Tamil community. It seems almost half of the Eezham Tamil community in Britain joined the march Saturday. While the turnout reflected the anger and outrage over the genocide committed on Tamils by Colombo and its international abettors, significant focus of the march was the demand for the recognition of Eezham Tamil sovereignty in the island of Sri Lanka. It was actually a mandate, the organizers said.
Protesters carried large flags of red and yellow – the Tamil national colours – and banners condemning the genocide of Tamils by the Sri Lankan state and expressing their support for an independent Tamil Eelam.
Many expatriate organizations and associations had printed leaflets which they handed out en route. Some focused on recent massacres by the Sri Lankan military, others outlined the ’60 years of Oppression’ faced by the Tamils of Sri Lanka, many others highlighted ‘Genocide’.
Many of the marchers had made up their own banners and posters; some highlighted the slaughter of Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka Army and Air Force attacks especially in the past month in Vanni, others slammed various members of the international community, especially India and Japan. There were calls on the British government and the UN to act.
One community organization passed out cards bearing a petition to the British government demanding the de-proscription of the LTTE, drawing enthusiastic response.
The protesters chanted slogans, including “We want – Tamil Eezham!”, “Pirapaharan - our leader!”, “Stop killing – Tamil People”, “Rajapakse - go to hell!”
“We’re here in solidarity and unity with our suffering people in Vanni,” said an official with the British Tamil Forum, a prominent Diaspora organisation and a key association organizing of the event.
“There is widespread and deep seated anger [amongst expatriate Tamils] at Sri Lanka’s cowardly attacks on civilians and also at the international community which is supporting this,” he said.
“We are also here to reiterate once again our support for the Tamil demand for national self-determination and political independence,” he said.
“The brutality of the Sri Lankan state is plain to see now, as well as the ruthlessness of those states supporting it, he added.
“The recent past has underlined yet again why it is necessary for the Tamil people to have the security of our own state”
The protesters included every social category of the diverse Tamil community in Britain including large numbers of second and third generation youth as well as recently arrived people from the Tamil homeland, older professionals and teenagers, merchant bankers and market traders.
Young families fielded a swarm of push-chairs and strollers or carried young children. Many elderly Tamils braved the near freezing winds to make the long walk from Millbank to Temple on the Embankment.
Youth banged drums, chanted slogans through megaphones, handed out leaflet.
The ranks of hundreds of stewards further expanded as people responded to calls for volunteers to help marshal the marchers and assist the elderly.
London’s extensive network of Tamil-owned and Tamil-run businesses closed their doors for the day in solidarity. Many businesses reportedly subsidized coaches from Tamil-dominated suburbs to the central London to enable families with small children and the elderly to be able to participate.
Tamil satellite television channels transmitted the event to Diaspora centres and Vanni.
"More than 50,000 were at the demonstration," a spokesman for London's Metropolitan Police told AFP earlier on in the day. Thousands more descended on the route from Millbank to Temple, joining the marchers as they passed.
The marchers began gathering at 1pm on Millbank, near the Tate gallery. By 2pm the riverside road, which had been closed to traffic was filled and roads leading back to Pimlico and Vauxhall stations were also full of Tamil protesters.
The text of a petition to British Premier Gordon Brown signed by many of the marchers follows:
“I express my solidarity with the people of Tamil Eelam in their struggle against Sri Lankan state oppression and I support their efforts to liberate their homeland in the North and East of the island of Sri Lanka and to restore their sovereignty over it. I believe, as they do, that only the establishment of the secure and independent state of Tamil Eelam can ensure the well-being of the Tamil people and their right to self rule.”
“As I am unable to express my feelings and support to the brave men and women who are fighting an armed struggle for a just and legitimate cause, with a full democratic mandate of the Tamil people, for the entire Tamil community in Sri Lanka, I as a law abiding citizen of this country demand HM’s Government de-proscribes the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) immediately.”