3000 Tamils protest in Canberra

[TamilNet, Sunday, 08 February 2009, 16:50 GMT]
More than 3000 Tamils from Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra attended a rally at the Lawns of the Parliament House in the Australian capital Canberra on the 5th of February 2009 to raise the deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Vanni, calling the Australian Government to stop the genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka. The rally was organized by the Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations (AFTA), an umbrella organization representing the Tamil Australians.

Ms. Julie Owens speaking
Ms. Julie Owens speaking
Hon. John Murphy speaking
Hon. John Murphy speaking
The rally started at 10.30 a.m. with participants carrying placards and banners with messages on the dire humanitarian situation unfolding in Vanni, and accusing the Sri Lanka Government of perpetrating genocide on Tamils.

Hon. Laurie Ferguson, Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs and Settlement Services; Hon. John Murphy, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Trade and Ms . Julie Owens, Member for Parramatta came out to the Lawns and addressed the protestors.

They announced that the Foreign Minister was to issue a media statement later that day that will announce the allocation of $5 Million to the displaced people of Vanni through ICRC, rally attendees said.

Hon. Maxine MaKew, Parliamentary Secretary for Early Childhood Education and Child Care and a close associate of the Prime Minister invited an AFTA delegation to her parliamentary office. AFTA delegation during the 30 minute meeting explained to her the situation in Vanni in particular and Rajapaksa government's attitude towards Tamils. AFTA told the Secretary that Tamils have no faith in Rajapaksa's government with regard to any political settlement, and only a UN Security Council resolution for an immediate ceasefire, a return to normalcy is possible, AFTA spokesperson said.

Maxine promised to take AFTA's submission to the PM and convey the delegation's concerns to the PM.

The main demands in the submission were:

    AFTA’s plea to you at this critical phase of a people’s struggle for peace with justice is to reverse the current situation on the ground in the Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka by taking up a resolution at the United Nations Security Council that recognises the ongoing genocide of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka and calls for,
    • an immediate ceasefire,
    • an end to the genocide,
    • the restoration of normalcy in the Tamil homeland and for
    • political negotiations between the Sri Lankan State and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to resume with UN assistance, to find a political solution that recognises Tamils’ right to self-determination so that they could live to their fullest potential as a people with dignity and self-respect and in security."
AFTA delegation with Richard Lindsay, First Secretary at the British High Commission
AFTA delegation with Richard Lindsay, First Secretary at the British High Commission
The protestors later marched to the British High Commission, then to the American Embassy and finally to the Indian High Commission.

At the British High Commission Mr Richard Lindsay, First Secretary, Foreign and Security Policy, at the American Embassy, Mr Virgil B. Strohmeyer, Political Officer, and at the Indian High Commission, deputy High Commissioner Mr. Vinod Kumar met with the AFTA delegation and listened to the concerns raised by the protesters.

AFTA told the British consulate official that the de-colonization process in Sri Lanka was incomplete and the British government has a moral responsibility to complete that by immediately announcing publicly that the British Government recognises the Right to Self-determination of the Tamil people.

To the American official, while conveying their appreciation of the comments made by the Secretary of state Hillery Clinton, AFTA emphasised that an early intervention by the New President Obama only can save the Tamils from Genocide in Sri Lanka.
Hon. Laurie Ferguson speaking
Hon. Laurie Ferguson speaking
AFTA Chair person and Secretary with  Virgil B. Strohmeyer, political officer at the US Embassy
AFTA Chair person and Secretary with Virgil B. Strohmeyer, political officer at the US Embassy
AFTA expressed to the Indian official the concerns of the protestors on the direct involvement of the Indian military involvement in the war in Vanni. AFTA through a submission appealed to the Indian Prime Minister to stop immediately the military assistance to the Sri Lankan forces, prevent the Genocide of Tamils through an immediate ceasefire and facilitate a dialogue between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE for a durable and dignified political solution.

Outside the High Commission, protestors shouted slogans condemning the Indian Military Assistance to the Sri Lankan security forces and at one stage some one brought out an effigy of President Rajapaksa.


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