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British Tamils commemorate Remembrance Day

Tens of thousands of British Tamils attended Eelam Remembrance Day events held across the capital and the UK, honouring the sacrifice of those who gave their lives for to the struggle for Tamil Eelam - the nation's heroes.

In a spectacular display of national pride, venues were decorated lavishly in red and yellow. Bunting was strung along the entrance, with large replicas of the Eelam homeland and flags of red and yellow, Eelam's national colours, welcoming the crowds in.

Every event commenced with the hoisting of the British flag and the Tamil Eelam flag. Crowds rose to stand as the Eelam flag was raised up high. Photographs of heroes were arranged immaculately at venues, and honoured with the Gloriosa lily - Eelam's national flower.

With the 27th November falling on a Sunday this year, for many, particularly amongst school and university students, this was there first Remembrance Day. Eelam merchandise proved hugely popular amongst the diaspora youth, with t-shirts depicting the Eelam flag especially so.

Remembrance events took place in Barking, Croydon, Northolt, Sydenham and Wembley, as well as Coventry and Glasgow. ExCel, the venue where Remembrance Day had been held on previous years was unavailable this year, as the hugely popular TV series, Top Gear, had pre-booked the premises.

Mindful of the Sri Lankan government's brutal attempts to suppress any remembrance events in the Eelam homeland, diaspora Tamils were yet more defiant and determined to honour and remember the nation's heroes.

Remembrance events were attended by a number of UK MPs and councillors including: Virendra Sharma (MP for Ealing and Southall, and vice chairman of All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils), Mike Gapes (Labour MP for Ilford South), Margaret Hodge (Labour MP for Barking), Siobhain McDonagh (Labour MP for Mitcham and Mordem), Teresa Pearce (MP for Erith and Thamesmead), Andrew Pelling (former MP for Croydon Central), Robert Evans (former MEP), Nana Sante (Councillor from Harrow) and Julian Bell (Leader of Ealing Council).

MEP Jean Lambert, was unable to attend a Remembrance event in person, but sent a letter:

"We continue to push for investigations into both past and ongoing reports of disappearances, and for any perpetrators to be held accountable, whoever they may be."

In addition to special guests Mani Arasan and Jeyapragasam, speeches and televised broadcasts were also given by Kasiaananthan, Vaiko and Pala Nedumaran. Jeyananthamoorthy addressed crowds at Croydon.

Detailing the huge progress made over the past year, Siobhain McDonagh said,

"Over this year, since the last Remembrance Day, you have gained many friends, and more people aware of your experiences in Sri Lanka. I was thinking about what had happened in the last year,  in the last year, you've had the report from the UN Secretary General's representatives acknowledging that war crimes took place, acknowledging that 40,000 people have been killed.

"You have had the enormous support of Channel 4 with the Killing Fields documentary, which has put the Sri Lankan government on the back foot and has given the Tamil community internationally, the opportunity to say out loud what has happened and have people listen."

Former MEP, Robert Evans, condemned Sri Lanka's war crimes and said that Sri Lanka has questions to answer in "international courts".

Highlighting the Tamil Youth Organisation's recent cricket boycotts,  Evans urged the English Cricket team not to go to Sri Lanka to play their national team in Spring 2012.

Mike Gapes (Labour MP for Ilford South) reiterated the need for an "independent, international inquiry", a call echoed by his colleague, Margaret Hodge (Labour MP for Barking).

Hodge pledged that the labour party will "continue to work with the British Government in calling for the international community to conduct an independent and credible investigation into allegations of war crimes in Sri Lanka."    

Father of Murugathasan Varunakulasingham lights lamp, Wembley

Adele Balasingham honours heroes, Croydon

Former MEP, Robert Evans, pays his respects to Eelam's heroes, Wembley

Jan Janananayagam, from Tamils Against Genocide (TAG) hoists British flag, Wembley

Andrew Pelling, former MP for Croydon Central dismissed the Sri Lankan government's recent rhetoric on pursuing truth and accountability as a "passing remark", and asserted that "it is vital that Tamils have their full justice".

"It is crucial that the Tamils who are such an important part of the British community continue to lobby," he added.

Urging Tamils to continue pressing the UK government to act, Nana Sante, said,

"It is the little things that citizens do that make a different. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor. Silence encourages tormentors."

"Do not let others forget. I hope the Tamil community remembers the people who died needlessly. Will come together with other communities on Holocaust memorial day in Harrow so we can remember the genocide."


Members of the Tamil Youth Organisation (TYO-UK) addressed crowds across multiple venues.

See here for TYO's 2011 Remembrance Day address. Extracts reproduced below:

"From Egypt and Libya, to those being killed on the streets of Syria, the youth have always and will always be the vanguard of any nation's struggle for freedom.

Our struggle is no different.

From Sivakumar, the Jaffna student who committed suicide to escape torture in police custody in 1974, to Thileepan who fasted unto his death in 1987, to the valiant sacrifice of our heroes.

The Tamil youth of every generation have protested against the Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinism they faced, and campaigned for the freedom of our people. The youth displayed a resolve like no other to struggle for what is right and just.

And we - Eelam's youth of today - who have now been entrusted with this incredible honour, possess that very same resolve."

"In countries across the world, the Tamil youth, as a combined global force have worked tirelessly on similar campaigns and protest events. And still we will go on as yet more youth come forward."

"Our nation's freedom, our nation's security, our nation's very existence, lie in independence. Eelam is the only answer to truly lasting peace. This conviction is not the words of young blood, thirsty for war. 

"On this day of all days, we the Tamil nation know full well the price of a struggle for freedom.

"Our conviction is based on a reasoned analysis of events, both past and present - a genocide of our nation took place; it continues to take place; and in over 60 years, not one single olive branch or move towards equality has occurred, to give us even an inkling of hope that the future will be any different to the past."

"On this day we - Eelam's youth - say to you: it is this on-going genocide of our nation, that makes us yearn for an independent, sovereign state of Tamil Eelam.

"We, the youth, are not here to wait for tomorrow. We are our nation's today."

"Eelam's struggle for peace goes on."


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