MASS RALLY IN LONDON AGAINST LTTE ACTIVITIES IN UK

By Thilak S. Fernando

Thousands of Sinhalese are on schedule to take to the London streets on 17 May 1998 to get the message across to the British Prime Minister Tony Blair that 'enough is enough' and ban the LTTE terrorist organisation in the UK and shut their offices down from London. The solidarity march where all Sri Lankan Organisations coming together will go down in history books as this is going be the first instance where Sinhala unity is shown with vigour in London.

Initially, Sri Lankan expatriates in the UK organised a mass demonstration in front of No. 10 Downing Street, British Prime Minister's official residence in London, on 21 February 1998. Initially hundreds of Lankans gathered on the first Saturday representing The International Campaign for the Liberation of the Sinhala Nation and Motherland, Association of Sri Lankan Lawyers Overseas, Sri Lankan Solidarity Movement in London, World Youth Organisation, Federation of Sri Lankan Associations in the UK and Sinhala Bala Mandalaya as well as patriotic individuals.

After a four-hour long peaceful demonstration a petition signed by several thousand Sri Lankans addressed to Mr. Tony Blair was handed over with a request to ban the LTTE in the UK and shut down their offices in London.

This was an opportune moment as the London Evening Standard on 3 February 98 carried an article distinctly conveying the message that ' if the British Government wished to close down the LTTE operation in London they could do so, and the Excuses given so far were lame'. This particular article, photocopied into thousands, was distributed to a good cross section of the Londoners who happened to go pass the demonstration. Among the many placards carried by the protesters the following phrases became eye catching to the passers by:

Massacred By Tamil Terrorists Funded By the British Welfare State

Thousands of Tamil Tiger Terrorists are living in the UK as bogus refugees, abusing the British Welfare System. They collect in excess of 25 million annually (Source: Evening Standard, 03 Feb 98) through their international headquarters in London (211 Katherine Road, London E6).

Why Are They Allowed To Operate Legally In the UK?

Initially the vigil was expected to last only seven days in front of Downing Street from 8.a.m till 10 p.m. from Monday to Saturday. Many took turns beating the wintry weather on the roadside pavement, exhibiting Sinhala unity and how much they do love and care for their country. Speaking to Sri Lanka Express, Gamini Keerthichandra said that the demonstration and the vigil had been most productive in the sense that it was the first instance that many Sinhala patriotic movements joined hands with each other to show their solidarity to fight against terrorism in Sri Lanka and to remind the British Government that the LTTE is a banned terrorist organisation in Sri Lanka and other countries in the world including the USA. This has also been a unique opportunity, according to Keerthichandra, to brief and educate many British government Ministers and members of parliament who were either ignorant of what is happening in Sri Lanka at present or being brain washed by the LTTE organisation; how they raise funds over 25 million Pound Sterling per year from the U.K for its terrorist activities in Sri Lanka.

Having been successful in enlightening many British parliamentarians and the general public about the damage the Tiger terrorist groups can do if they are allowed into Britain as refugees and asylum seekers to wage a terrorist war in Sri Lanka, the Vigil outside Tony Blair's residence attracted many patriotic Sinhalese to turn up at Downing Street on a daily basis, the outcome of which was that the organisers extended the vigil week after week until May 17 when it will come to a culmination with a mass rally across London, starting from Hyde Park Corner and ending up at Trafalgar square. The Sinhala strength is so powerful this time and it is thought that it will be an eye opener for many misguided politicians and parliamentarians. At Trafalgar Square even Lord Nelson will not be able to turn a blind eye, one Sinhalese quipped last Saturday at the vigil.

Millions of signatures are being collected so far from a good cross section of sympathisers of Sri Lanka and a final petition will be handed over again exerting continuous pressure on the British Prime Minister to take remedial action to bann the LTTE in London.

Coincidentally, Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister, Lakshman Kadirgarmar during a lecture London on 15 April on Global Impact of International Terrorism at Chatham House used forceful words to describe the role of the LTTE Organisation and said ," there is a degree of passivity in its reaction to the role that this terrorist organisation plays in this country that causes very great distress to the Sri Lankan people. It is difficult for them to understand, indeed it is very difficult for me to understand why is not possible, and why means cannot be found to at least make it clear to this terrorist organisation that their presence in this country in all its multifaceted manifestations is unwelcome. One has not seen that happening! "

The initial vigil has edified more and more people about the relentless campaign of the LTTE terrorist organisation. Although it was all initiated by Gamini Keerthichandra and W. A. Leelasena a steering committee has been formed with representatives from all Sinhala Associations to work harmoniously towards one goal - To get the message across to the head of the British Government about what the world has been saying and doing about this ruthless terrorist organisation and why are the British nursing them on British soil.