British Tamils once again embarked on a rally through London on Friday, 23rd July 2010 calling for justice for victims of war crimes in Sri Lanka. In a symbolic yet solemn show of unity and hope, a “midnight vigil” was held from 9pm commencing from opposite Westminster Abbey to Downing Street.
The first of its kind to be held by a minority group in London, thousands of Tamils and non-Tamils gathered carrying candles, placards, banners and hoisting flags appealing to the UK establishment and the UN to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sri Lanka. Westminster Council, the Mayor’s Office and the Metropolitan Police offered tremendous support to enable this momentous vigil to take place.
The commemorative vigil marks the 27th anniversary of Sri Lankan state sponsored anti-Tamil pogroms in which thousands were slaughtered and serves to remind us that the injustice continues today.
The midnight vigil inaugurated a “Walk for Justice” from the heart of British Parliament, through
France and Switzerland to the UN Human Rights Council offices in Geneva. Mr. Sivanthan, a British Tamil youth, will be joined by supporters and well-wishers on a two-week walk to raise awareness and amalgamate support for calls to the:
1. UN to initiate an independent international probe into war crimes committed in Sri Lanka
2. Allow access to Prisoners Of War
3. For all internally displaced persons to be resettled into their own homes. A memorandum is to be handed to the UN in Geneva on 6th August 2010
4. Boycott of Sri Lanka until it respects international laws
The walk for justice to the UN coincides with the recent appointment of a UN advisory panel by Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. The Sri Lankan government has shown clear opposition to any prospect of independent monitors investigating war crimes in Sri Lanka. Government backed blockade outside UN office in Sri Lanka, threats to UN staff and possible denial of visas to the appointed UN advisory panel reflect a hostile reaction to a body that only has an advisory role. Sri Lanka must be reminded it is a democratic country which has subscribed to UN covenants and Geneva Conventions and is obliged to comply with the obligations to which it has signed up to.
Community leaders and well-wishers signed the war crimes book to pledge their support for the calls to the UN. The two-week walk to the UN aims to unite Tamils across Europe hope and the wider community to join calls to highlight the need for UN to uphold international laws to ensure that justice is universal and to set precedents for other rogue states.
British Tamils reiterated calls for boycott of Sri Lanka until it respects international laws. An international day of boycott is taking place on Saturday 31st July 2010 across US, UK, Canada, Australia and Europe to take forward this campaign.
The event concluded at 11:30pm with speeches from representatives of Tamil organisations and other community leaders. A memorandum containing the 4 basic and fundamental humane and humanitarian demands to the UK Prime Minister will be handed at 10 Downing Street on Monday 26th July.
Statement read out in front of 10 downing street London
Dear friends, fellow Tamils, well wishers and supporters of Tamil’s freedom in the island of Sri Lanka, on behalf of British Tamils Forum, I thank you all, for this historic event. I would also like to give a special welcome to our Sinhala Brothers and Sisters including Exile Journalists who have joined us here today - these Sinhala Brothers and Sisters had no choice other than to simply leave the country to escape the murderous Rajapakshe regime run by Mr Rajapakshe and his Brothers.
Today, you have gathered in thousands and in doing so, you are sending a clear message of resilience to President Rajapakshe and his cronies! This also sends a message of hope to our Tamil Brothers and Sisters that we will not rest until they are free from the oppressive State.
Tamils want justice from an independent international war crimes investigation in Sri Lanka but our voices have been silenced by the murderous Rajapakshe regime that will join the list of Rwanda, Srebrenitsa and many others. It is events like these that keep the memory of many innocent people who perished in the hands of the murderous Rajapakshe regime. This is why the Sri Lankan Government does not want to see us Tamils to be united in the call for freedom. It is our duty to ensure that the true face of the Terror State of Sri Lanka is exposed - First to the international community and eventually at the international war crimes tribunal in the Hague.
Friends, a year is gone, since the war ended, but the conflict hasn’t ended! I repeat the conflict hasn't ended!
It is clear that the Sri Lankan Government is taking all the steps to wipe out all the evidence of crimes against humanity they committed. They are killing those who they think can be witnesses for war crimes. If the Government of Sri Lanka has got nothing to fear, why are they shying away from international Governments, Agencies and Journalists? Why have they refused access to the UN Panel? This more than a year after the war has ended. Why is the Sri Lankan Government refusing to even publish the list of the prisoners of war that they illegally hold without access? Why? Why? Why?
Friends, we must tell the international community that trying to get concessions from Sri Lanka, which is not just a Failed State but also a Racist State, will not work! It didn’t work with Hitler, it didn’t work with the Khmer Rouge, it didn’t work with the then leaders of Rwanda, it didn’t work with Milosevic, it didn’t work with the apartheid regime in South Africa – It doesn’t work with regimes like these – FULL STOP!
It is our duty to demand no words but action from the coalition Government in our adopted home and from the rest of the world if they care for humanity.
Today, it also marks the 27th anniversary of the Black July massacre of thousands of innocent Tamils that showed the true face of Sri Lanka to the world. Many years have gone and we have lost many more during that time. No where in the world over 40,000 innocent people got murdered in cold blood in broad day light in such short space of time, like what happened in the Northeast of Sri Lanka, last year!
Let’s remember them with a minute’s silence.
Ladies and Gentlemen with tears rolling down our cheeks we, the British Tamils Forum, with the support of the Tamil Diaspora and international community, will work as hard as it takes to ensure that
One - An Independent International Investigation into War Crimes in Sri Lanka takes place and the perpetrators get punished
Two – we gain access to the Prisoners of War
Three – we Boycott Sri Lanka until it respects human rights
I ask you, all of you, to join us in this long march for freedom and justice!
Thank you very much! Go home safely