Last updated 00:49 GMT 16 Nov 2013 Cameron meets Uthayan journalists in Jaffna British Prime Minister David Cameron made a historic visit to Jaffna on Friday, during which he met with journalists and staff at the Uthayan newspaper, displaced people at a refugee camp and Tamil political leaders. Mr. Cameron pointedly left the much vaunted Commonwealth summit just after it was officially launched to travel to Jaffna, having arrived in Colombo the previous night from his visit to India. He is the first foreign leader since 1948 to visit Jaffna, once Sri Lanka’s second wealthiest city after Colombo, before decades of armed conflict and discriminatory state policies. Jaffna has been under government control since 1995. The symbolic move boosted Tamil morale in a city gripped by an all pervasive military presence which prevents many from resettling in their army-occupied homes and terrorises political, civil society and media activity. It also infuriated the Sri Lankan government, particularly his planned visit to the Uthayan, press reports said. Mr. Cameron flew to Jaffna by military plane, after the Sri Lankan government cancelled all flights to the north earlier this week, to be confronted by what he later described as "incredibly powerful" images. The first of these came at the outset of his visit, when Mr. Cameron's vehicle and those of accompanying British journalists were mobbed by relatives of people ‘disappeared’ by Sri Lankan security forces in Jaffna, desperate to seek his help in locating the missing. Mr. Cameron had been meet in the library with Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran, accompanied by Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader R. Sampanthan and TNA parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran. Police struggled to hold back hundreds of people waiting for the Premier to arrive, and as his convoy left the library, they broke through the cordon to thrust pictures of their loved ones against vehicle windows, Britain’s ITV reported . Others pressed photographs and petitions into the hands of the foreign journalists. See below a video of the chaotic scenes taken by The Telegraph journalists from inside their vehicle. Saro Sripavan, mother of three, told The Hindu she has been looking for her husband for seven years now. “He was working as manager in a cooperative society and went missing in 2006. Till date, I have no information about him,” she said, looking at his photograph. “Every time someone important comes to Jaffna, we all assemble and try to highlight our concern, but ultimately I know only I have to look for my father,” said her son Sripavan Daneesh, who works as a sales executive. Speaking to Tamil Guardian later in the evening, Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam of the Tamil National Peoples Front (TNPF), reflected on what he had seen at the protest through out the day. "They [relatives of the disappeared] have lost it all and have nothing else left to lose," said Mr. Ponnambalam, "but they still hope, because that is all that they can do and t hat is what drew them out in such numbers, despite the security forces." He explained, "the agony and pain that the parents, children and relatives of the disappeared and those surrendered does not end here. What we saw today was a transcendental agony which forms part of their daily existence." Describing the moment when hundreds of protesters rushed forwards and broke through the police blockade, Mr Ponnambalam said, "even the security forces could not contain their pain." "Despite so many broken promises by the world and its leaders, these people still come for these protests hoping that one day they will be able to hear about their loved ones whether dead or alive." Mr. Cameron was also confronted by a state-sponsored demonstration condemning international pressure over Sri Lanka’s war crimes. (See the BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson’s revealing report here ).
One of the largest corporate donors to Britain's Conservative Party, and a key sponsor of the Commonwealth business event in Colombo this week, has been shown to have close links to the family of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa. According to Corporate Watch , Hastings Trading e Serviços Lda, a company owned by the Lyca Group, bought a 95% share in a dormant firm registered with Rajapaksa's nephew, Himal Lalindra Hettiarachchi as reported by the Sunday Leader in 2009. The company went on to receive a key license to operate cutting-edge wireless broadband frequencies in Sri Lanka, forcing the state-owned telecoms company to merge. Lycamobile has donated over £530,000 to the Conservative Party since 2007, becoming one of its largest corporate donors. The firm is also one of the Gold Sponsors of the Commonwealth Business Forum, currently underway on the sidelines of the Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka. Deals worth more than $2bn are expected to be sealed during the forum, according to the Colombo government.
Student societies across India and the UK released a statement Tuesday, continuing calls for a boycott of the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). 28 Tamil organisations, in a joint statement, deplored the British Premier’s decision to attend CHOGM and consolidated their calls for heads of states to boycott the summit in Sri Lanka.
Tamil students across UK universities began getting ready for the ‘Breaking the Silence’ genocide campaign this week, as the British Prime Minister is set to attend the Commonwealth leaders' meet in Sri Lanka. The campaign, which has now become an annual event that takes place each November in a number of UK universities was set up to 'break the silence' on genocide of Tamils in the North-East after the events of 2009.
New footage obtained by Channel 4 news shows Tamil journalist Isaipriya alive and held by the Sri Lankan Army, contrary to earlier government reports.
A Pre-CHOGM Forum entitled “The Commonwealth in Colombo: Prospects for the 2013 Commonwealth Summit” was held in Senate House last week, while Tamils protested outside against Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister GL Peiris, who was earlier reported to be one of the speakers, but he was replaced by Ambassador Chris Nonis. The proceedings started with the Deputy Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Secretariat, Ms Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba, who in her introduction to the event, said that no Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting would take place without focus on the political values of the...
Speaking at a Jaffna press conference at the Jaffna Press Club on Monday, Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) leader Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam praised the people of the North for demand for self-determination expressed by their votes at the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) elections last month. Listen to press conference in Tamil here: Standing by the TNPF’s decision to boycott the election, Gajendrakumar said that the Tamil people of the North were to be praised for rejecting Sri Lankan rule in the Tamil homeland, and for expressing their enduring desire for the right to self-determination, despite all the obstacles and hardships they have faced in the four years since the end of the armed conflict. " We also view this [election result] as something special. As you well know, our party boycotted this election completely ." " But despite that, we did not ask the Tamil people to boycott the election or to act in a way that we instructed. As you well know we did released a written statement, that only a few media outlets covered. In that way, we left the election to the conscience of the people ." " As far as we are concerned, even today, the [Tamil] people have clearly expressed their aspirations, namely, firstly, they have categorically rejected the Sri Lankan state's conduct and rule within the Tamil homeland . Secondly, with regards to Tamil political aspirations, even today, they have once again, resolutely voted for the right to self-determination, seeking the reaffirmation of our nationhood, and unanimously, for the freedom of a nation ; in a vote that has no historic precedence ." " We bow our heads to their [Tamil people's] act " Gajendrakumar said that his party would work to keep the people actively engaged in politics, outside of election time.
After taking his oath in Jaffna on Friday, P Deniswaran of TELO went to Mannar to celebrate in being appointed a Minister in the Northern Provincial Council.
Newly sworn in Chief Minister of the Northern Province CV Wigneswaran and other TNA members who have been appointed to the Northern Provincial Council took their oaths in Jaffna, at the Veerasingham Hall earlier today. (Picture courtesy of Tamil Mirror)