Record crowd at London Tamil Remembrance Day
[TamilNet, Wednesday, 28 November 2007, 17:27 GMT]
Over twenty five thousand expatriate Tamils in Britain gathered Tuesday to mark ‘Tamil Remembrance Day’ to pay their respects to those who had died in the Tamil liberation struggle. The event, organized by Tamil National Remembrance Foundation, an association of families of Tamils who had fallen in the Tamil struggle, was held at London’s ExCel arena. Amid resumed conflict in Sri Lanka, it was the largest attendance at the annual event, despite Tuesday being a working day, organizers said.
Mrs. Adele Balasingham lighting the flame of sacrifice.
ExCel officials said attendees had filled the 21,000 seats and that several thousand more people arrived at the venue, filing in as others left.
At the start of the event, the mother of a fallen LTTE fighter lit the welcome flame as people took their seats in the hall decorated in the traditional Tamil colours of red and yellow.
Joan Marie Ryan, Labour Party MP, 27th Nov 2007 London ExCel
Keith Vaz, Labour Party MP, 27th Nov 2007 London ExCel
Virendra Sharma, Labour Party MP, 27th Nov 2007 London ExCel
The Heroes Day address by LTTE leader Vellupillai Pirapaharan was broadcast live on large screens.
Attendees observed a minute’s silence.
Mrs. Adele Balasingham, wife of the late Anton Balasingham, the LTTE’s political strategist and chief negotiator who passed away last year, thereafter lit the flame of sacrifice.
The people then filed past two ‘pandals’ set up as monuments to place handfuls of flower petals as a mark of respect for those who had fallen in the Tamil struggle.
Large quantities of the Tamil national flower, the karthigaipoo (gloriosa lily) were among the petals, attendees said.
Thereafter they watched a series of Tamil dramas, traditional dances and other cultural events staged by performers in the Tamil Diaspora as well as a number of speeches.
The keynote address was delivered Mr. Suba Veerapandian, a veteran Tamil nationalist politician from Tamil Nadu.
The event was also addressed by three British parliamentarians - Keith Vaz, Virendra Sharma and Joan Marie Ryan - from the ruling Labour Party.
A message of support from another British MP, Simon Hughes of the Liberal Democrats, who was attending his mother’s funeral Tuesday, was read out.
Mr. Vaz and Mr Hughes head the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils.
A message of support to the Tamil community from the mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, was also read out.
Mr. Vaz called for a negotiated solution and warned said if the Sri Lankan government continued the war, separation would become inevitable.
"I can totally understand the demand of some Tamils for an independent state. These calls will only get louder and louder unless there is just peace," he said.
Ms. Ryan pointed out that over 70,000 Tamils had died in the struggle. Mr. Sharma said he had long supported the Tamils’ demand for their rights.
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