A small but militant group of Southampton University students took their protest against the genocide of the Tamil people to the local civic centre and regional BBC building on Monday 18 May. Banners highlighting the devastating humanitarian crisis and the exclusion of the media and aid agencies from the warzone drew attention from people, many of whom seemed to be unaware of the disgusting atrocities the Tamil people face.
Southampton Socialist Students
The protest entered the civic centre building chanting: “UK government – blood on your hands”, in response to the silence of the New Labour government. The surprised security guards attempted to throw the group out of the building. But the protestors refused to leave until they were allowed to present 34 letters, one for each elected councillor, outlining the situation in Sri Lanka and demanding national and international action against the genocide.
The protest then moved on to the BBC building where the doors were swiftly locked on our approach. The head of programming for the south west region came down to speak to the protestors. This gave us an opportunity to express our disgust at the lack of balanced coverage that the crisis in Sri Lanka has received. He was extremely uninformed about the conflict, so we filled him in on the last 30 years. We presented him with a letter, and then took our protest to the town centre.
Through our local action we wanted to mark the fact that thousands of civilians have been murdered by the Sri Lankan government’s brutal campaign to crush the LTTE. Our demonstration coincided with the Sri Lankan government declaring: “the end of the war”.
But the Sri Lankan government’s tactics of sustained military action against civilians is short sighted. An armed resistance against national oppression cannot be defeated through murdering their people. The events of this year will further ingrain the suffering and devastation of the Tamil people onto the minds of the younger generation who will not give up the fight.
The fight for true equality and democratic rights for the Tamil people in Sri Lanka must continue, in Sri Lanka and through international solidarity. We, young people, workers and trade unionists, must continue to organise a mass campaign for the rights of the Tamil people and their right to self determination. The war may be over in the eyes of the government, but for Tamil people, who have lost everything, this is the beginning of a fightback for basic human rights.