Around 150 determined and angry protesters and activists gathered outside Downing Street to protest against CHOGM taking place in Sri Lanka. On the 9th of October an important warning was given to Cameron not to attend CHOGM but he chose to attend the meeting ignoring our warning and shaking the blood-soaked hand of Mahinda Rajapaksa. Among other slogans, “Cameron, Cameron , Blood on Your Hands” was the one that protesters kept roaring across the street.
Throughout the demonstration there were speeches from leading trade union activists including April Ashley, the branch secretary for Southwark Unison, Kevin Parslow, secretary for a Unite branch, and John Reid, RMT London regional secretary. Even those who couldn’t attend sent messages of support such as Chris Baugh, the assistant general secretary of the PCS civil service union and Martin Powell-Davies, NEC member of the NUT teachers’ union.
The first speech was from Keerthikan Thennavan, Tamil Solidarity joint national secretary. He explained Tamil Solidarity’s reason for calling the protest. Then came TU Senan, the international coordinator of Tamil Solidarity, talking about the importance of working together with the trade unions, our true allies. He talked about the incredible courage of the Tamil women who had approached Cameron to demand action about their disappeared loved ones despite the regime’s show of brutality against the British media. Mayu spoke in Tamil, raising the issue that no matter which pro-business political party was in power they would have still chosen to attend CHOGM. He mentioned the importance of having a party that represents us. Several others also spoke including Isai who gave a moving speech and appeal to continue the fight for our rights.
Unlike the 9th of October this protest wasn’t to give warning but to demonstrate internationally that the representatives that have attended CHOGM are not really representing our community and to tell this government that by attending CHOGM you have lost the support of this community.
A spirited gathering of 100 to 120 enthusiastic and angry, predominantly youth gathered at the Town hall in Bangalore on 15th November to protest against the CHOGM event in Sri Lanka. Though the city had seen few protests on this issue in the course of the week, observers said this was the most vocal & substantiative of all.
As the photos from the protest graphically depict that the demands and concerns were raised in the most effective manner through the posters prepared for the event. It was mentioned by the many first-timers that they had come to the protest after seeing the posters and reading leaflets in various locations of the city of Bangalore.
The meeting was addressed by several leading members of the supportive organisations who had joined the protest. Rajan C of the Karnataka Tamil Makkal Iyakkam, Paul Newman of Naam Thamilar, Ravanan of Periyar Dravida Kazagam, Fr. Ambrose Pinto, Principal of St’ Aloysius College, and Fr. George of Indian Social Institute of Bangalore dwelled upon the Genocidal War in Sri Lanka and how the Govt. of India is guilty in supporting such a gross violations in that country.
Jagadish G Chandra of the New Socialist Alternative (CWI-India) making the introductory remarks explained the current situation in Sri Lanka and how the CHOGM was an attempt to whitewash Mahinda Rajapakse’s regime. He also opined that the recent expose by Channel Four Documentaries had put a spotlight on the horrendous human rights abuses that have gone on for years, and the coming period would be crucial for the Activists around world to build up the struggle to bring justice the Tamils in Sri Lanka.
The event was jointly organised by Tamil Solidarity, May 17 movement, Solidarity Youth Movement and New Socialist Alternative as part of the world wide protests initiated by Tamil Solidarity Campaign. In India apart from Bangalore the protests were conducted in Chennai, Trivandrum, Palakkad and Thrissur too.
Jagadish G Chandra
An agitation to demand India to boycott CHOGM in Sri Lanka was staged outside the Kerala Secretariat in Trivandrum on 14 November 2013. This protest was organised and led by the Solidarity Youth Movement, Kerala in conjunction with Tamil Solidarity. More than 80 youth participated in this protest and slogans condemning the Tamil genocide in Sri Lanka were raised. Also, sister organisations of the Solidarity Youth Movement, such as Students Islamic Organization played an active role in the protest. This initial protest was followed by a demonstration in Palakkad, a district in Kerala with a larger Tamil population, and by another demonstration in Trissur, which is the cultural capital of the state.
Shareef, leader of the Solidarity youth movement condemned the Rajapaksa government for its treatment and torture of the Tamil citizens, for killing them in hundreds of thousands and for suppressing the truth from the rest of the world. He made a plea to the Indian Government to desist from playing a further role in the oppression faced by the Tamils through its failure to condemn the Rajapakse regime. Nikhil Iqbal, from Solidarity, addressed the protestors and spoke of how systematically the Tamils were oppressed in the island. He underlined how the protest was organised to show support to the boycott call spearheaded by Tamil Solidarity in the UK and of the range of protests in various countries. Writer Meena Kandasamy addressed the gathering and compared the Gujarat genocide of 2002 and the Tamil genocide of 2009 and drew parallels between the rise of Narendra Modi and Rajapakse. The final speaker at the meeting, activist Magdalene outlined the harassment and rapes faced by Tamil women in the North in Sri Lanka and described the various stories she had heard of torture. Several student and women representatives also addressed the agitation.
It is also interesting to note that members of the special branch police, Kerala had also turned up at the peaceful demonstration.