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Diaspora Tamils protest, fast in increasing numbers; call for ceasefire

Tamils across the Diaspora took to the streets in unprecedented numbers calling for an immediate end to the Sri Lankan government’s war efforts that are now targeting the estimated 300,000 civilians in the safe zone. Meanwhile, sit in protests have continued unabated, some since Monday 6 April. Also continuing are hunger strikes by Tamil Diaspora members, concerned about the plight of their relatives in the Sri Lankan government declared safe zone.
 
The UN has echoed the fears of Tamils that thousands of civilians will be killed or wounded as the Sri Lankan military keeps up its bid to crush the Liberation Tigers.
 
Colombo has resisted all calls for a truce, saying it would only help the Tigers. Though some military commanders have started talking about a potential truce, the Sri Lankan military continues shelling and bombarding civilian areas, and this has resulted in more Tamil taking to the streets, as the intensity of the conflict kills an increasing number of Tamil civilians each day.
 
London
 
In London, the sit-in in front of the British parliament continues, with thousands of Tamils gathered there each day. More than 5,000 British Tamils on launched the sit in outside the House of Commons in London on Monday 6 April demanding an immediate stop to Sri Lanka's "genocidal war" against Eelam Tamils.
 
The protest, led by youth, started in the green opposite the British parliament Monday noon and the demonstrators moved to Bridge Street blocking all traffic through Westminster Bridge and Victoria Embankment.
 
The protesters waved hundreds of Tamil Eelam national flags and carried signs and placards depicting the plight of civilians being killed in the attacks by the Sri Lankan forces and demanded an immediate ceasefire.
 
British Tamil students who organised the spontaneous protest said the sit in will continue until the British government responds positively to their demand.
 
Two men jumped into the Thames, protesting the lack of action against the Sri Lankan government’s genocidal war against the Tamils.
 
At many times, the Police was seen preventing further people joining the sit in. However Tamils continued to pour into Westminster to join the protest.
 
The police eventually moved the protestors back onto the green on Tuesday 7 April, using heavy tactics that saw a number of people injured. Six people were also arrested, but most were released soon after.
 
Police say the demonstrators' action is unlawful because they did not give notice of the rally, which initially led to the closure of Westminster Bridge. And officers requested that flags bearing images representing the Tamil Tigers be removed.
 
But it was not all confrontational with the police. “This is not a public order issue but a political matter. Involvement by politicians at the highest level is what is needed," was the comment of a senior police officer at the site of the demonstration.
 
Suren Surendiran, of the British Tamils Forum, said the protest had been led by students, but that people of all ages from across the UK had joined in.
 
"These are people who have relatives and friends in Sri Lanka; people who have lost brothers and fathers and sisters," he said.
 
"As British citizens, they want the UK government to act. Rather than just calling for a ceasefire, they should go to the UN security council to demand one."
 
Vijay Mahalingam, 28, of Harrow, said: "We are here to call on the British Government and other governments of the world to wake up to the problems in our homeland, Sri Lanka.
 
"Last week, the most powerful men in the world were here in London but there was no mention of the struggle lots of our people have to face on a daily basis."
 
Meanwhile a rally through the streets of London drew more than 200,000 Tamils through central London Saturday 11 April to demand a truce in Sri Lanka.
 
Waving flags and placards and chanting for a truce, they streamed through the city's Trafalgar Square and on to Hyde Park behind a large banner reading "Britain act now! Immediate and permanent ceasefire in Sri Lanka."
 
London's Metropolitan Police estimated 100,000 people were on the march and said three arrests were made for public order offences.
 
It was the latest in a series of protests in recent weeks staged by the Tamil community in Britain which numbers between 250,000 and 300,000.
 
Leicester and Coventry
 
In cities around the UK too, Tamils took to the streets in anger, calling for an immediate ceasefire and demanding that the UK government intervene immediately.
 
On Tuesday 7 April, Tamils in Leicester gathered in front of the city centre Clock Tower to express their concerns about Tamil civilians dying in Sri Lanka and their opposition to the actions of the Sri Lankan government.
 
Similarly in Coventry, students organized a sympathetic fast on Monday 6 April to express their solidarity with Tamil civilians in the war zone.
 
Paris
 
Protests against the carnage of innocent Tamil civilians in Vanni, held by French Diaspora Tamils in order to draw the attention of the International Community and launched in several popular places in Paris, continue unabated.
 
The hunger strikes also persist, as four Tamils continue to not take food as a means of pressing for a truce in Sri Lanka.
 
On Saturday April 11, up to 3,000 Tamils marched in central Paris, organisers said, while police put the number at around 1,700.
 
"No genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka," "Sri Lanka is a terrorist state," and "President (Nicolas) Sarkozy help us," the protestors said.
 
Ottawa
 
Protest by Canadian Tamil expatriates continued Saturday 11 April with several thousands joining the protest, CTV news broadcast announced.
 
"The demonstrators, who arrived largely from Toronto and Montreal, are part of worldwide Tamil protests against what they describe as a deadly military offensive by the Sri Lankan military. Shouting "Tamil Tigers, freedom fighters," the protesters called on Canada to reverse its 2006 decision to list the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as a terrorist entity under the Anti-Terrorism Act. They are also calling for an immediate ceasefire," Canadian daily Globe and Mail reported.
 
"We don't even know if [our family] are living or not," said protester Kalyany Nagarajah, who was born in Sri Lanka and lives in Toronto.
 
"They just want to destroy the Tamil people, that's what they want," the Globe report said.
 
"We've asked [the United Nations] for an immediate ceasefire. We're very worried, of course, of the hostilities that are taking place but particularly worried for the civilians that are in the combat zone [in Vanni]," said Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon Thursday, according to a report in National Post.
 
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff also called on Canada to pressure the UN secretary general to appoint a special representative to Sri Lanka to push for a ceasefire
 
"The humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka has continued to deteriorate, causing grave concern to the international community and demanding urgent and co-ordinated action to end this conflict," Mr. Ignatieff said in a statement, according to the National Post report.
 
Sydney
 
More than 4,000 Australian Tamils converged in Sydney Wednesday 8 April, causing police to block Elizabeth Street and bringing evening peak hour traffic to a standstill.
 
The rally which was organised overnight, called on the Australian government to use their diplomatic powers to pressure Sri Lanka into entering a ceasefire.
 
"Tamil Tigers! Freedom Fighters!" cried the crowd as they waved the national flag of Tamil Eelam and carried placards of LTTE leader Velupillai Pirapaharan.
 
"Until the world stops Sri Lanka's genocide of the Tamils, we will gather and rally again and again and we will not rest until we get our Tamil Eelam!" called out John Yogan as he addressed the crowd in Sydney.
 
Melbourne
 
In Melbourne a car rally for peace was attacked by Sinhala protestors as they drove through the centre of the city on Saturday 4 April noon.
 
A group of around 50 Sinhala expatriates, some of them allegedly inebriated, attacked the car-rally demonstration organised by the Eelam Tamil Diaspora protesting genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka and demanding immediate end of the war waged by the Colombo government.
 
A few Eelam Tamils were injured and their cars were damaged in the attack. One of the attackers also reportedly got injured in the melee.
 
The attack is said to have taken place while the cars in the rally were waiting for signal on Exhibition Street. The attackers were reportedly returning from a parallel demonstration by them that took place 2 km away from the junction.
 
A young journalist who was taking photographs of the demonstration said that the mob tried to snatch his camera and that he was injured on the neck.
 
The Sinhala demonstrators also snatched away the flag and banner displayed by one of the cars of the Tamil rally that strayed close to the venue of their demonstration.
 
New York
 
Meanwhile, in New York, three days of hunger-strike and protest against Sri Lanka's egregious rights violations and horrific killings against the more than 200,000 Tamil civilians caught up in the war were held between Tuesday 7 April and Thursday 9 April.
 
Several hundred protesters from different states took positions in front of the Indian mission from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., protested in front of the Mexican mission from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., and assembled to protest in front of the U.S. mission between 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm on the final Thursday.
 
The protesters appealed to the UN missions to take steps to facilitate a ceasefire.
 
 The protesting Tamils submitted memoranda appealing to the UN missions take urgent steps to ensure that adequate medicine and food reach the civilians trying to survive in the safe zone.
 
The memoranda expressed appreciation to Mexico for its efforts in the UN to keep the Sri Lanka issue alive.
 
UN Security Council's presidency is taken over by Mexican Ambassador Claude Heller from April.
 
Heller on April 2 told the press that he is open to additional briefings on the "important" situation in Sri Lanka.
 
Scandinavia
 
About 400 demonstrators gathered outside the Norwegian parliament in Oslo, a day after a similar number protests there.
 
"We're calling for an immediate ceasefire, to send food and medicine into the conflicted area and to condemn the so-called 'welfare camps,' where people are dying and women are getting raped," spokesman Godfrey Manoharan told AFP in Oslo.
 
In Copenhagen, about 50 demonstrators gathered near the foreign ministry building for a fourth straight day.
 
Netherlands
 
In the Netherlands a peaceful fast a protest turned ugly when the Police interfered on Friday 10 April and tried to stop it.
 
Protestors had gathered in front of the Dutch parliament on Monday 6 April and had been staging a peaceful protest demanding an immediate ceasefire in Sri Lanka. Five of the protestors began a hunger strike, vowing to fast until a ceasefire was declared or until they died.
 
Dutch police said that the hunger strike was illegal and tried to stop it. When the hunger strikers and their supporters refused to stop, the police cordoned the area and moved in.
 
In the ensuing melee, about 30 Tamils were arrested, reports said.
 
All those arrested were released the next day and the hunger strikers continue their fast.