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Unwelcome reminder in Berlin

Sri Lankan embassy officials attempt to counter Tamils protesting against war crimes with a display of their own purporting to show how the military saved Tamil civilians.

One day each year foreign embassies and some government institutions in Berlin throw their doors open to the general public to show their premises and promote their tourism potentials.

This year the annual ‘All Nations Festival’, which has been organised for over decade by the German Foreign Minister, was held July 2.

However, Sri Lanka’s efforts this year were confronted by an uncomfortable reality – German Tamils demonstrating outside over Sri Lanka’s mass killings of Tamils in the final months of the war in 2009.

Activists particularly wanted to draw attention to the fact that Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Germany is Major General (retd) Jegath Dias, who commanded some of the troops responsible for the massacre of over 40,000 Tamils in just five months.

They gathered outside the Embassy’s premises between 11am and 6pm, the duration of the open day.

In front of large banners focussing on Gen. Dias and war crimes, activists handed out leaflets and spoke to passers-by about Sri Lanka’s genocide.

They also set up a display screen which showed video footage of some of the war crimes committed by Sri Lanka’s military.

Infuriated Sri Lankan embassy staff made several unsuccessful attempts to compel police to disrupt the protest.

However, the protestors pointed out to police that they were in compliance with all German laws.

The embassy officials also protested to police about the demonstrators flying the Tamil national flag. At one stage police suggested the demonstrators put their flags away to defuse the embassy’s anger.

However, the demonstrators argued as there were no legal restrictions on flying the Tamil national flag, the Sri Lankans’ demand was unacceptable. The police accepted the protest should be allowed to continue as scheduled.

Having failed to pressure the police, embassy officials then attempted to set up a counter display on the embassy’s perimeter fence, purporting to show how Sri Lanka had saved Tamil civilians. But in the strong winds, the glass displays blew over and broke.

Embassy officials also attempted to intimidate the protestors by coming up close to take photographs of them.

Apart from the Sri Lanka’s national flag, the embassy was flying a Buddhist flag from its upper story to underline the country’s Sinhala-first ethos.

In a statement on the open day, Sri Lanka’s External Affairs ministry naturally made no mention of the demonstration. Instead it said the embassay “drew massive crowds and the visitors were overwhelmed by the warmth and friendly atmosphere.”

Report, photos pathivu.com