22 January 2008
Tamils around the world have called for a global boycott of SriLankan Airlines, the island nation’s main international carrier, in protest at the Colombo government's decision to unilaterally end the Norwegian facilitated ceasefire agreement between the government and the LTTE.
Announcing the boycott, the London-based British Tamils Forum claimed that £12m in foreign currency earned annually by the airline was being used to reinforce the government's war chest.
Some 30,000 of the 300,000 persons of Tamil origin living in the UK use Sri Lanka's national carrier to fly to the country each year from the UK, the British Tamils Forum noted.
"The Sri Lankan government has abandoned all pretence of observing a ceasefire while resorting to an escalating war on the Tamils corralled into an ever tightening military cordon in their traditional homeland," said Ivan Pedropillai, of the British Tamils Forum.
The Sri Lankan government announced that it was annulling the cessation of hostilities with the Liberation Tigers on January 2, and the agreement came to an end on January 16 at the end of the two week notice period.
The truce, signed in 2002, had been largely ignored since mid-2006, with fighting becoming widespread in recent months across Sri Lanka.
“We appeal to our fellow Tamils ... to understand that travelling with Sri Lankan Airlines is tantamount to paying the government of Sri Lanka to buy the weaponry with which to kill our own people in their homeland in Sri Lanka,” Pedropillai said.
"We appreciate that flying with other airlines to Colombo may involve some delay in transit stopovers."
Pedropillai also urged Britons to avoid taking holidays in Sri Lanka: "We extend this appeal to our other British compatriots who want to travel on holidays to Sri Lanka to think of the deaths and destruction that their money paid will eventually cause among the Tamils of Sri Lanka and to kindly avoid such travel."
There are an estimated 350,000 Tamils of Sri Lankan origin in Canada and around 100,000 each in the United States and South Africa. The British Tamils Forum claimed it was supported by counterpart organisations in Europe, Canada, USA, Australia and India to launch the worldwide campaign against SriLankan Airlines.
Sri Lankan Airlines is partially privatised with 43% of the shares owned by the Dubai-base Emirates Airline. The airline declined to comment on the boycott threat.
Pedropillai sought to distance his group from the LTTE, saying while it shared the Tigers’ “political goals,” it believed in struggle through legal and peaceful means.
Sources at the Sri Lankan High Commission, however, told The Guardian that such campaigns had failed in the past.
“They have tried many times to request the Tamil expatriate community living in the UK to boycott even Sri Lanklan products," the source said, "but they failed. The people did not listen. They are trying to find an opportunity to hit the Sri Lankan government.”