Feature Article

Grand finale for Pongku Thamizh in London

[TamilNet, Sunday, 13 July 2008, 02:41 GMT]
Around 30,000 people attended the Pongku Thamizh (Tamil Upsurge) rally in London at the Rorehampton Vale sports ground on Saturday, choking traffic in one of the highways, said the organisers. A number of British parliamentarians cutting across party lines, international representatives of liberation movements, rights activists, and politicians from Tamil and Sinhala communities addressed the event, and sent messages in support of the event. Even by conservative estimates, nearly 150,000 Tamils of North America, Europe, Africa and Australia have so far demonstrated their support to the cause of Eezham during the last one-month through Pongku Thamizh 2008.

The overwhelming response of Diaspora Eezham Tamils to the call of Pongku Thamizh was not only impelled by the stepped up sufferings in Sri Lanka, but also was due to suppressed anger over the attitude of the International Community, opined an independent observer reading the mood of the people who attended the London rally.

Pongku Thamizh, London, 2008

Dr Bajram Rexhepi, the former Prime Minister of Kosovo and current Mayor of Mitrovica, spoke of the similar history between the Tamils and the Kosovans. He mentioned that though they had international support, the intransigence of the Milosevic government meant that Kosovo remained oppressed until they fought for their freedom. Mentioning that the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was identified as a terrorist organisation by a number of countries, he said his country was finally freed in 1999, but even then they had to prove that they would not abuse their people’s human rights, which they finally succeeded in doing in February this year.

“It was not easy,” said the first elected and internationally recognised post-war Prime Minister of Kosovo, adding that “we will show solidarity and support for your struggle.”

Professor Thiyagaraj Dasaratha Chetty, Pro Vice Chancellor of the University of Qwazulu Natal and a member of the African National Congress restated his government’s position that there can be no solution without the involvement of the two principle parties and that no solution can be imposed from outside. The Liberation Tigers are engaged in an armed struggle as a response to structural failures and though two states may be the answer, that too has problems that need to be addressed, he said. The South African government is willing to help with all efforts that lead to reconciliation and peace, he said.

Pongku Thamizh, UK
Pongku Thamizh, UK
Pongku Thamizh, London, 2008
Pongku Thamizh, London, 2008
Pongku Thamizh, London, 2008
Pongku Thamizh, London, 2008
Pongku Thamizh, London, 2008
Pongku Thamizh, London, 2008
Pongku Thamizh, London, 2008
Pongku Thamizh, London
Pongku Thamizh, London, 2008
Liam MacUaid, editor of Socialist Resistance and a member of Respect, spoke of his family’s experience of being forced to leave their home (in Belfast) at the end of the guns of an occupying army. He expressed the solidarity of the workers with all oppressed people, such as the Tamils.

A message of support from Dr. Vickramabahu Karunaratne of the Nava Sama Samaga Party (NSSP) was read out by local party member Sashie Peiris, in which he expressed his regret at being unable to attend, and his support for the Tamil cause.

Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrats Foreign Affairs spokesman expressed the need to ‘get the message’ to the Sri Lankan government that they need to get back to the peace negotiating table. He also called for an end to the human rights abuses in Sri Lanka.

Andrew Pelling MP (Conservatives) said the problem in Sri Lankan can only be resolved by negotiation and called on the parties to come back to the table.

Welcoming the efforts by Britain that resulted in Sri Lankan being removed from the UN Human Rights Council, Virendra Sharma MP (Labour) stressed that there was no quick fix. "Sri Lanka is not just a failed state", said the Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils. "There is more." Mr Sharma said he understood that the crowd felt Tamil Eelam was the only solution and promised to work with the British government to force the Sri Lankan government to take steps towards solving the conflict.

Mike Griffiths, the General Secretary of the Trade Union UNITE said while he understood the Tamil suffering, there was great ignorance of it among the British populace. Stating that many peoples cry for self-determination, he said Tamil raises are raised too in the same cry at events like the Pongku Thamizh gathering. Pledging to re-double his efforts to restore peace in Sri Lanka, Mr. Griffiths called on all those gathered to do the same.

Comparing her experiences as a migrant to Britain, Siobhan McDonnagh, Labour MP, spoke of understanding Tamil experiences and thanked the Tamils for their contributions in Britain.

Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP (Liberal Democrats) called for there to be many more opportunities to hear Tamil voices expressing their opinion. “It is deeply important to anyone concerned with human rights and justice that we get a political solution that recognises the cultural and linguistic identity,” she said. She urged all parties to return to the negotiating table and called for an end to human rights abuses.

Dawn Butler MP (Labour) spoke of seeing the Tamils “walking with purpose for a purpose” to attend the event. Stressing that governments must listen to the sound of so many Tamil voices, she stated her belief that change was possible. “We will make a change together,” she pledged.

Messages of support were also received from Tony Benn MP (Labour), Robert Evans MEP (Labour), Stephen Hammond MP (Conservatives), Simon Hughes MP (Liberal Democrats), Susan Kramer MP (Liberal Democrats), Joan Ryan MP (Labour) and Roy Padayachie (South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Communications).

Independent sources said that more than 25,000 people attended the event though the estimation by the Metropolitan Police was between 20,000 and 30,000. A small number of police were present, as were security officials organised by the event organisers to ensure the event was peaceful and crowd control was maintained.

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarian S. Jeyananthamoorthy said that Tamils have historically ruled themselves, and that this has been denied them since the colonial times. “Tamils are fighting now to reclaim what is ours,” he said.

S Kajendren, TNA MP for Jaffna, spoke of the war currently being fought on Tamil soil. “The Tamils are not terrorist,” he said, expressing the hope that the freedom of the Tamil people would be achieved soon.

Thaya Iddaikarar, British Tamil Councillor, compared the Tamil struggle to the sacrifices the British people were prepared to make in their defence of the Falkland Islands.

Solicitor Matt Foot expressed his shame at being a British citizen when the government, elected on an ethical foreign policy, banned liberation struggles like the LTTE and the PKK. “Seeing you gives me hope that we can fight,” he said.

Other speakers included Suresh Krishna, of the Tamil Councillors Association, former Kingston Mayor Yogan Yogananthan, Merton Mayor Martin Whelton,

The event began with the lighting of the common flame of sacrifice by the parliamentarian for Batticaloa, S. Jeyananthamoorthy, followed by the traditional moment of silent respect.

The folk dance drama that followed was an interactive event, with full participation. Expression of support for Tamil Eelam were greeted with overwhelming applause from the audience, and chants of “We want” roused the crowd to its feet with responses of “Tamil Eelam”.

The programme also included traditional Nathaswaram music, the broadcasting of a poem by poet Puthuvai Ratnathurai, and dancing by local youth to Pongku Thamizh songs. David Pararajasingham of the British Tamil Forum delivered the welcome address, before the politicians took to the stage to express their support.

Arriving from across the British capital, with some making the journey from outside London, Tamils gathered to reinforce the global call for “motherland, nation, self-rule”. The traffic congestion attendees blocked the main A3 road leading to the event, with the traffic backed up for over a mile even after the event had begun.

As a balloon flew overhead expressing the sentiment that “Tamil Eelam must be free”, mini stages set amongst where the Tamils were gathered commemorated the great rulers of the Tamil kingdoms in Jaffna, including Sangkiliyan, Ellalan, Pandara Vanniyan and Princes Kuruvichchi Nachchiyar.

As is now common at all Tamil events in London, a food stall provided traditional foods and soft drinks, while children were entertained with face painting, balloons and flags. Shops around the grounds also sold Tamil Eelam t-shirts and umbrellas.

The large crowd, waving the red and yellow flag in the Tamil colours, braved the weather to turn out in force, with most staying through to the end despite periodic bouts of rain. The red, black and yellow Tamil Eelam umbrellas were not only colourful, but also useful in the British weather.

Photos from other Pongku Thamizh 2008 rallies:

Pongku Thamizh, 2008, Canada
A section of the participants in Pongku Thamizh event in Canada where more than 75000 participated on 05 July, 2008.
SA Pongku Thamizh
A dance programme at the Pongku Thamizh event in South Africa on 21 June, 2008.
Pongku Thamizh in Sydney, Australia
Pongku Thamizh in Sydney, Australia, held on 06 July, 2008.
Pongku Thamizh, Melbourne
Pongku Thamizh, held in Melbourne, Australia on 05 July.
Pongku Thamizh, Italy, 2008
Around 500 Tamils took part in the Pongku Thamizh rally in Milan in Northern Italy, on 15 June, 2008.
Pongku Thamizh, Palermo, Italy
Around 1000 Tamils took part in the rally in Palermo, Italy, on 29 June, 2008.
Pongku Thamizh, Denmark
Denmark observed Pongku Thamizh on 14 June, 2008.
Pongku Thamizh, Germany
Pongku Thamizh 2008 in Germany
Pongku Thamizh, Germany
8000 Tamils marked Pongku Thamizh in Germany on 28 June, 2008.
Pongku Thamizh, Switzerland
More than 4000 Switzerland Tamils observed the rally on 05 July, 2008.
Pongku Thamizh, Belgium
Tamil Upsurge rally in Belgium on 23 June, 2008.
Pongku Thamizh, Norway
Around 3000 Tamils took part in Pongku Thamizh in Oslo, Norway on 14 June, 2008.
Pongku Thamizh, Netherlands
Pongku Thamizh in Netherlands on 22 June, 2008.
Pongku Thamizh, Sweden
Pongku Thamizh in Sweden, marked on 28 June, 2008.
Pongku Thamizh, Finland
Pongku Thamizh in Finland on 16 June, 2008.
Pongku Thamizh, France
More than 7000 Tamils attend Pongku Thamizh in France on 18 June, 2008.
Pongku Thamizh, NZ
Eezham Tamils in Auckland, New Zealand, mark Pongku Thamizh on 14 June, 2008.



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