Arrival in London
The Heathrow airport was raucous Sunday as Eezham Tamils waited for President Mahinda Rajapaksa to arrive in London. The several hundred protesters spontaneously coalesced to urge the British government of not allowing Rajapaksa, who many allege is a war criminal, from entering the country.
Rajapaksa, alongside his wife, Shiranthi, arrived the following day, however. Tamil activists told TamilNet
that the Scotland Yard allegedly leaked news that he would be arriving Sunday by a Sri Lankan Airways flight. On Monday morning, the same crowd staged a protest outside London’s Park Lane Hilton hotel for six hours where hundreds held placards urging his arrest.
A small group of Sinhalese later arrived on the scene to hold a counterprotest in support of the Sri Lankan president’s attendance to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
Throughout the rest of his visit to London, a series of protests have been planned. One demonstration was planned for Wednesday during the Commonwealth Economic Forum where Rajapaksa was scheduled to deliver an address. The second rally was staged a few hours after at the Commonwealth Secretariat’s official lunch with the queen.
Due to concerns of the large demonstrations, Rajapaksa canceled his keynote speech
. However, the London Guardian is reporting that he did attend the lunch. Photos
show Queen Elizabeth speaking briefly with the Sri Lankan head of state and shaking his hands.
A spokesperson for the Scotland Yard told Times of India
that it agreed to guarantee the president’s security, but his aides decided it was in their best interests to not attend the event organized by the Commonwealth Business Council.
Protests have been staged around the world, including France, Norway, the United States and Canada.
Outside of the British Consulate on Bay Street in downtown Toronto, dozens carried Canadian and British flags as well as signs insisting on the United Kingdom arresting Rajapaksa. Many carried posteres telling Canada to “boycott Sri Lanka,” demanding justice for the “Tamil Genocide” of 140,000 and “arrest the war criminal.”
Carrying a bullhorn, one young girl shouted at the British consulate Rajapaksa is a “war criminal.”
Wednesday’s demonstration, organized by the National Council of Canadian Tamils (NCCT), was established to highlight that Rajapaksa’s attendance to the Jubilee celebrations is “counterproductive” to the reports by the United Nations that show war crimes were committed in the country during the final stages of the war in 2009.
“At the backdrop of a recent UN Human Rights Council resolution which highlighted Sri Lanka’s ongoing violations of human rights and international law – that was spearheaded by the Commonwealth countries – it seems counterproductive that the leadership of the commonwealth would invite the Sri Lankan President to one of their most prestigious celebrations,” said Krisna Saravanamuttu, the NCCT National Spokesperson.
Arul Nalliah, NCCT Chairman of Ontario, reiterated the atrocities that have transpired in Sri Lanka and noted that he believes Rajapaksa will postpone the next general election, which is set for 2016.
When asked if there is any strong opposition in Sri Lanka, Nalliah chuckled and said there is no one in the country that can fight Rajapaksa and the United People’s Freedom Alliance because of his power and the fact he controls two-thirds of parliament.
“Terrible things are going on there,” said Nalliah.
New torture claims
The London Guardian
is reporting that a Tamil victim is claiming the Tamils who were deported back to Sri Lanka last week by the British government are being tortured.
One Tamil asylum seeker told the London news outlet that for 17 days, he was tortured by Sri Lankan government forces. During the two-week time span, he received a flogging on his back with electrical wire and he was also suspended upside down by chains around his ankles.
“I came here with a hope," the Tamil accuser said, who did not want to be identified and used the alias Hari. "I believed that the UK authorities would consider my case reasonably but, regardless of all my history and the evidence, they sent me back and I had to suffer again."