2nd lead:

Record crowds throng Jaffna Pongu Thamil rally

[TamilNet, Friday, 27 June 2003, 12:33 GMT]
Around hundred and fifty thousand people crammed the Jaffna Medical College grounds and its environs for the Pongu Thamil rally Friday said the organisors of the event. Pongu Thamil calls for the immediate return of thousands of homes and lands occupied by the Sri Lankan armed forces in the northern peninsula. The Pongu Thamil flame was lit by the Vice Chancellor of the Jaffna University Prof. S. Mohanadas. Buddhist nuns, monks and two officials from the Sri Lankan Prime Minister’s office were among the special guests.

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The head of the LTTE’s women’s wing hoisted the national flag. The meeting began on schedule at 4.30 p.m. the organisers said.

Meanwhile, angered crowds smashed a model of a Sri Lankan armed forces high security zone that was put up on the grounds, depicting the occupation of towns, villages, homes and farms of Tamils in Jaffna.

“This is the largest gathering of people that Jaffna has seen in more than fifteen years. More than 600 vehicles of all types are still plying the roads bringing in more people”, one of them told TamilNet.

In 1987, massive crowds gathered in Suthumalai Jaffna to hear Mr. Pirapaharan, the leader of the Liberation Tigers, speak.

Mr. Saman Athauda, media coordinating secretary to Sri Lanka’s P. M was also present among the guests.

Massive processions of people from Vadamaradchi, Thenmaradchi, Jaffna town and suburbs and the islands marched from four points around the Jaffna University, converging on the grounds around 3.45 p.m.

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Pongu Thamil declaration released at the end of the celebration said the an interim administration with full powers for the northeast province should be handed over to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and it should be recognized by the international community.

Excerpts from the Pongu Thamil declaration:

"Sixteen months have passed since the signing of the ceasefire agreement by the Government of Sri Lanka and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. However normalcy has not returned in the Jaffna district. Instead a climate of war has once again been imposed on us. We can no longer live in this climate.

"We want our land. Hence Sri Lanka Army should leave our land. To restore normalcy in our lives, an interim administration with full powers should be handed over to the LTTE. The international community should come forward to recognize such interim administration

" We cannot think of peace while our lands and homes are occupied by the government troops. Under this circumstance peace talks should be held on the basis of traditional homeland, self determination and Tamil nationalism concepts and a just and lasting political solution should be found for the ethnic conflict."

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