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Hundreds of Tamils commemorate Mullivaikkal Genocide at Southend-on-Sea with lanterns and memorials

Around 300 Tamils living around the coastal town of Southend-on-Sea in England descended on a beach at dusk on 17 May to remember their loved ones who perished in the genocide of Mullivaikkal on the island of Sri Lanka 15 years ago.

This event was one of many in Britain in the lead-up to Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day, which is marked annually on 18 May.

The usual noise and party atmosphere of Shoebury East Beach was replaced by quiet reflection, floral tributes, memorial speeches and poems, culminating in the mass release of hundreds of biodegradable floating memorial lanterns into the waves. 

Mullivaikkal kanji was also served to participants and local residents in the vicinity, at a time the same innocuous activity in the Tamil homeland has been met with banning orders, arrests and intimidation by Sri Lankan authorities.  

Among the participants in Southend were several survivors of the genocide. One of them, Mrs Nishanthini Shandrathasan, said to Tamil Guardian it was apt that a beach was the setting for this event, given the location of the Tamil genocide fifteen years ago was also a beach in Mullivaikkal. She lit the symbolic memorial flame before the most poignant moment of the event when everyone present released memorial lanterns in the water. The lanterns were soon carried to the deep sea, the flickering lights still visible by the receding tide, which had peaked with impeccable timing only a few minutes earlier. 

An event organiser said their wish was for this type of memorial to become widespread and for them to take place on multiple beaches in Britain and afar during the Tamil Genocide Remembrance Week from 12 to 18 May. "We need to make Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day as much part of the psyche as Holocaust Memorial Day is, and Mullivaikkal kanji has to become a symbol of the horrors experienced by our people so future generations never forget", she said.

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