Visiting Sri Lankan PresidentMahinda Rajapaksa having experienced a series of demonstrations and protests of thousands of Tamils and Human Rights activist throughout Wednesday at London’s key locations, left the UK with a sense of disgrace, disgust, disappointment and failure.
Coaches full of Tamils from Europe and all parts of the UK gathered outside the Mansion House at 8AM in the morning in the city of London where the Sri Lankan President Rajapaksha was scheduled to give a speech on Wednesday morning, 6 June 2012 in the Diamond Jubilee Commonwealth Economic Forum. However on Tuesday, 5 June 2012 the Commonwealth Business Council gave the following message in their website:
“After careful consideration the morning sessions of the Forum on Wednesday 6th of June have been cancelled and will not take place. The event will therefore commence with lunch at 1300hrs followed by the originally planned afternoon sessions beginning at 1400hrs”.
This was due to the expected protesters gathering in the heart of the square mile in London after the Jubilee long weekend holidays.
Protesters started marching from Mansion House at 9.45 AM through London’s streets and reached Marlborough House at 11.45 AM where Mahinda Rajapaksa had lunch with the Queen and other leaders of
Commonwealth countries. When passing through the streets to the Marlborough House, the Queen saw the protesters chanting slogans and carrying placards and banners with various inscriptions condemning the presence of Mahinda Rajapaksha in the UK.
While wishing the Queen on her 60th anniversary of accession to throne, protesters opposed the invitation to the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The protesters were carrying Banners and placards read the following “War criminals are not welcome in the UK”, “Expel Sri Lanka From Commonwealth” , “Sri Lankan President a wanted War Criminal!”
The demonstrators later gathered in front of Park Lane Hilton Hotel where Rajapaksa was staying. While leaving the Hotel around 5.30PM to the airport, Rajapaksa’s car was showered with eggs, water bottles and slippers coming from some angry protestors.
Ravi Kumar a senior member and executive committee member of British Tamils Forum said “In December 2010, the Oxford Union unilaterally cancelled a scheduled speech by disgraced Sri Lankan President war criminal Mahinda Rajapaksa.” He further states that “ Both the Oxford Union speech and the Mansion House speech were cancelled because of notification of massive protests organised by the British Tamils Forum (BTF). We are pleased that common sense prevailed in both instances.”
Despite of the minor incidents due to high emotions, the whole protest was peaceful. The organisers with the full cooperation of the Metropolitan police managed minimum disruption to London Commuters.
British Tamils Forum takes this opportunity to thank all police officers on duty yesterday for their cooperation and considerate nature towards the feeling of the protesters.
It is unfortunate that the British government decided to entertain a war criminal during Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. It is worth noting that the Canadian Prime Minister has said in no uncertain terms that he would boycott CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) to be held in Sri Lanka in 2013 if there is no improvement in the human rights situation in Sri Lanka.
Abductions and torture are commonplace in Sri Lanka and journalists who attempt to report the truth are threatened with violence and some have even disappeared. Recently the US government was successful in bringing about a resolution in the UN Human Rights Council against Sri Lanka. This resolution was co-sponsored by 40 other countries.
The European Union continues to impose sanction in the form of not providing GSP+ concessions to exports from Sri Lanka.
The British Prime Minister admitted in the Commons that there should be an independent investigation in Sri Lanka into what happened there during the war in 2009. The panel of experts appointed by the Secretary General of the UN said that both sides committed war crimes and crimes against humanity but most of the civilians died because of artillery shelling by the Sri Lankan armed forces. It is estimated that more than 40,000 civilians perished in the no-fire zone set up by the government of Sri Lanka. President Mahinda Rajapaksa is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
BTF continues to call for an international independent investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Sri Lanka and also call for suspension of Sri Lanka from the Commonwealth.