Large Tamil rally in London

[TamilNet, Sunday, 01 February 1998, 23:59 GMT]
Thousands of Tamil people staged a march and rally in London today, condemning the Sri Lankan government and expressing support for the LTTE. The event was organised by the United Tamils Organisation to "mark fifty years of oppression by Sinhala Sri Lankan governments" according to a press release issued by it earlier today.

The march, led by an Irish band, began at 11.30 am from Marble Arch, moving via Park Lane, Piccadilly and Haymarket to Trafalgar Square.

The protestors carried placards and shouted slogans condemning the Sri Lankan government and supporting the LTTE. Thousands of small red flags and hundreds of red balloons bearing the LTTE crest were carried by marchers.

A life size hoarding of the LTTE leader, Mr. V. Pirapaharan, was carried at the front of the procession and a mini-van with three canvass paintings followed behind the marchers. The paintings included those of a church being bombed and an image of the island of Sri Lanka with the Tamil areas ringed by barbed wire.

uk_demo_feb01_2.jpg Several activists handed out leaflets to large numbers of tourists and British people in the areas along the march. The procession arrived at Trafalgar Square at about 12.45pm. Once the Irish band had finished, a Scottish piper also performed.

At Trafalgar square, the base of Nelson's column provided a makeshift stage for the rally. The Tamil Eelam flag was raised to applause from the crowd. The rally was addressed by several speakers, in both English and Tamil.

Notably, three British MPs, Neil Gerard, Simon Hughes and Jeremy Corbyn delivered strong condemnations of the Sri Lankan government and spoke supportively of the Tamil campaign for self determination. Their strongly worded speeches drew applause from the crowd.

Mr. Simon Hughes said that "Britain had a duty and moral obligation" to "undo what had been done", in reference to Britain's combining of the Tamil areas with the Sinhalese areas before making the island independent.

Mr. Hughes said he was scheduled to make a trip to Sri Lanka this year, where he would repeat his views to the Sri Lankan government "from Jaffna and from Trincomalee".

uk_demo_feb01_1.jpg
Rally in Trafalgar Square
Rev. Dr. S.J.Emmanuel, the former Diocese of Jaffna, condemned the Sri Lankan government's war in the Tamil areas as unjust and called for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

Mr.A.C Shanthan of the UTO, addressed the corwd in English, and said that the current Sri Lankan government "had done the most harm to the Tamil people". Another UTO official, speaking in Tamil, said that "the Tamil people are not celebrating 50 years of independence, but are marking 50 years of Sinhala oppression" and he said the Sri Lankan government was "falsely celebrating the golden jubilee in the name of all peoples of the island".

Another UTO official, said he was delighted with the public's response. "This is a clear indication of the Tamil peoples' feelings" said Mr. Theepan, noting that the public response would have been even greater if it were not for the bitter cold.

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