Thousands of Tamils, alongside Canadian officials, gathered at Queen's Park outside of the Ontario Legislature for Pongu Tamil (Tamil Uprising). Supporters called for social justice, human rights and Tamil independence in Sri Lanka.
It has been three years since Canadian Tamils marched the streets of Toronto and elsewhere around the world. Tens of thousands of Tamils across the globe are urging for the end of violence in Sri Lanka, calling for international investigations to the alleged war crimes committed during the final days of the war and demanding self-determination for Tamils in Sri Lanka.
On Saturday, approximately 5,000 Tamils gathered at Queen’s Park in Toronto in front of the Ontario Legislature. Alongside Canadian officials and members of various community organizations, Tamils took part in Pongu Tamil (Tamil Uprising) where they urged “Tamils Right to Self-Determination” and independence for Tamils.
Mohan Ramakrishnan, Chairman and National Director of the National Council of Canadian Tamils (L), and New Democratic Bramalea Gore Malton Member of Provincial Parliament, Jagmeet Singh.
Representatives from the National Council of Canadian Tamils (NCCT) argue that the Sri Lankan government, led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, is detaining thousands of political prisoners, taking part in colonialism and conducting ethnic cleansing through Sinhalese settlements that are subsidized.
Neethan Shan, former Ontario New Democratic Party candidate and NCCT National Director and Vice Chairperson, explained that after 10 years of travelling around the world, Tamils are united in Queen’s Park. Tamils are standing in solidarity for the ultimate determination to ensure Sri Lanka is liberated, Tamil Eelam is free and occupying forces “leave our homeland.”
Thousands then showed their support by yelling “yes” when asked if Tamils are united or not.
“We remain unalloyed and unrepentant supporters of the uncompromisable principles of our national liberation struggle: homeland, nation, and self-determination,” said spokesperson for the National Council of Canadian Tamils, Krisna Saravanamuttu, in a prepared statement. “The struggle for freedom and self-determination are democratic principles mandated in the 1976 Vaddukkodai referendum, the Thimpu Declaration of 1985, and re-affirmed globally by the 2009 Vaddukkodai referendum.”
Former Ontario New Democratic Party candidate for Scarborough Rouge River, Neethan Shan.
The event saw various musical performances, speeches thanking the Tamil community and an appearance from the Occupy Toronto movement. Much of the crowd sported Canadian and Tamil Eelam flags and chanted slogans calling for freedom for Tamils.
“We see people wanting rights, I see people seeking justice and I see people that are crying and saying how come the people that perpetrated the atrocities in Sri Lanka are not brought to justice yet,” said Scarborough-Agincourt Liberal Member of Parliament Jim Karygiannis.
“The Sri Lankan government, like an ostrich, has stuck its head in the sand. If you were to come in by boat to this country and claim refugee status, we might put you away in prison for five years and might not allow you to land for another five years and when your family joins you, it will be another nine years.”
Scarborough-Agincourt Liberal Member of Parliament, Jim Karygiannis delivers address at Pongu Tamil rally.
The multiculturalism critic also read a message from Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae where he congratulated the Tamil community for their determination and hard work and promised that the federal government will work harder to champion human rights.
Other speakers involved Saturday were John Cartwright, Toronto and York Region Labour Council president, Jagmeet Singh, New Democratic Party Bramalea-Gore-Malton Member of Provincial Parliament, and Carroll Eason of the United Steelworkers.
Peggy Nash, NDP Parkdale-High Park Member of Parliament and candidate for the NDP leadership, was invited to the event, but later declined to attend due to scheduling conflicts.
Sri Lanka’s Tamil National Alliance leaders travelled to the United States and Canada this week where they met members of the Obama administration, United Nations officials and Canadian community leaders.