(AFP) – Apr 11, 2009
LONDON (AFP) — Some 100,000 demonstrators marched through central London Saturday to demand a truce in Sri Lanka, as similar protests were held in Scandinavia and Paris against Colombo's offensive on Tamil rebels.
Waving flags and placards and chanting for a truce, they streamed through the city's Trafalgar Square and on to Hyde Park behind a large banner reading "Britain act now! Immediate and permanent ceasefire in Sri Lanka."
Abirami Pararajasingam, 21, a neuroscience student on the London rally, said her parents did not know whether close relatives were still alive as the Sri Lankan army seeks to crush the remaining Tamil Tiger rebels.
"People in the West do not realise how bad the situation is," she said.
London's Metropolitan Police estimated 100,000 people were on the march and said three arrests were made for public order offences.
It was the latest in a series of protests in recent weeks staged by the Tamil community in Britain which numbers between 250,000 and 300,000.
One of two Tamils on hunger strike in London since Tuesday to protest against the Sri Lankan military campaign gave up his fast and made a speech to the demonstrators.
Sivatharsan Sivakumaraval, 21, ended his protest after gaining assurances that he can travel to the United States to inform US authorities about the Tamils' plight, the director of the Act Now campaign, Tim Martin, said.
His fellow hunger striker, 28-year-old student Prarameswaran Subramaniam, agreed to take liquids on Friday but was continuing his fast next to the Houses of Parliament in London, with doctors monitoring his condition.
Up to 3,000 Tamils marched in central Paris, organisers said, while police put the number at around 1,700. Four Tamils at the site have been on a hunger strike for five days to press for a truce in Sri Lanka.
"No genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka," "Sri Lanka is a terrorist state," and "President (Nicolas) Sarkozy help us," the protestors said.
About 400 demonstrators gathered outside the Norwegian parliament in Oslo, a day after a similar number protests there.
In Copenhagen, about 50 demonstrators gathered near the foreign ministry building for a fourth straight day.
"We're calling for an immediate ceasefire, to send food and medicine into the conflicted area and to condemn the so-called 'welfare camps,' where people are dying and women are getting raped," spokesman Godfrey Manoharan told AFP in Oslo.
Sri Lanka's government says it is in the final stages of defeating the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who launched a campaign in 1972 to create a separate Tamil homeland on the Indian Ocean island.
Suren Surendiran, of the British Tamils Forum, which organised the London march, described the situation as a "genocide."
"This is about doing something today. The people here have lost direct family members. They are here for a reason. They are worried about their next of kin."
He said that Britain, the former colonial power in Sri Lanka and one of the five United Nations Security Council permanent members, had a "moral obligation" to intervene.
The UN fears that thousands of civilians will be killed or wounded as the Sri Lankan military keeps up its bid to crush the Tigers. Colombo has resisted calls for a fresh truce, saying it would only help the Tigers.
Copyright © 2014 AFP. All rights reserved. More »