Rally at UN against Sri Lanka's genocide draws over thousand protesters

[TamilNet, Thursday, 25 September 2008, 16:56 GMT]
Over one thousand American Tamils, Canadian Tamils and friends of Tamils protested Wednesday in front of the United Nations Headquarters in New York to draw attention of the United Nations, demanding sanctions against Sri Lanka, and advocating to invoke the principle of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) as a means to halt what the protesters alleged "genocide of Tamils." The protesters also denounced the visit to the UN by the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa. About 20 Sri Lankan Government supporters, including Buddhist monks, showed up briefly for a counter protest.

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Weeks before his visit to the UN the Rajapaksa government expelled all NGOs including the UN from the areas of conflict.

Food and medicine to the trapped Tamil population was blocked while the Government armed forces emboldened by Iranian and Chinese funding were engaged in indiscriminate aerial bombings and artillery shelling of heavily populated Tamil enclaves, killing innocent civilians and displacing over 200,000. The protesters chanted "Rajapaksa, don't come to the UN, go to The Hague."

Speaking at the rally, Dr. Ellyn Shander, a US physician who volunteered in Sri Lanka after the Asian Tsunami, drew parallels to the Nazi holocaust with the plight of the Tamils in Sri Lanka and accused the Sri Lankan government of committing genocide against Tamils.

Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran, a New York attorney, who participated as legal advisor to the Tamil delegation during the peace talks that followed 2002 Norwegian brokered Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) between the Liberation Tigers of Tamileelam (LTTE) and the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL), faulted the United Nations for acquiescing to the Lankan demand and withdrawing UN aid agencies from Tamil areas. He denounced the failure of the UN for not taking steps to protect the civilian enclaves like it had done at other conflict areas of the world.

Ms. Usha Sriskandarajah from Toronto spoke as a mother on the travails of the women and children living under trees without food and medicine and under constant barrages of artillery shelling and pleaded with the international community to take protective measures without delay.

A petition signed by the rally attendees addressed to the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon was handed over at the UN. The appeal stated that the Government of Sri Lanka has abdicated its responsibility to the Tamil inhabitants of the island and the international community embodied in the UN must begin to enact its ideals for the unilateral protection of the vulnerable Tamil people.

The petition proposed possible actions by the UN such as sending an independent monitor from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, setting up internationally supervised safe havens for civilians in active conflict zones, a total ban on military aid to Sri Lanka, prosecution of the individuals in the Sri Lankan government and its armed forces for ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity and genocide on the island, and arranging for a special session on Sri Lanka.

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