Tamil protest against anti-Sonia protest in London

(March 19, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) The effort by few campaigners to protest against President of the Indian National Congress Party, Sonia Gandhi in London failed to attract the crowd to the scale of the protest held against President Mahinda Rajapakse in December 2010.

All leading Tamil organizations did not subscribe to the protest call and even the Tamil media did not give publicity, for the demonstration initially called by the Assistant Director of ‘ActNow’ S Yogalingam.

Extensive text messaging and email campaign was carried out to assemble people at the Commonwealth Foundation 8 Northumberland Avenue, London WC2N 5BY at 5.30pm on 17 March 2011 to protest against Sonia Gandhi who was the guest speaker at the forum on 'Women as Agents of Change'.

About 25 people including non-Tamils belonging ‘Actnow’ organisation participated in the demonstration. ‘Actnow’ Directors Tim Martin and Graham Williamson too joined the protesters.

The press release circulated by the organisers following the demonstration stated:

On this Thursday 17th March the President of the Indian National Congress Party, Sonia Gandhi spoke to the Commonwealth Foundation on 'Women as Agents of Change'.

India was an important supporter of Sri Lanka's military offensive nearly two years ago. They were also instrumental in 'persuading' the West in turning a blind eye to the atrocities that took place against civilians in the latter part of the conflict. Mrs Gandhi and the Congress Party were thought to be driven by revenge against the rebels. Their actions however, not only resulted in the massacre of innocents, also condemned many Tamil civilians, particularly women, to destitution with little means of earning a livelihood.

Consequently the human rights group Act Now held a demonstration outside the Commonwealth Foundation building in Central London and handed out hundreds of fliers to the attendees in the queue.

Meanwhile Act Now Directors Graham Williamson & Tim Martin were in the lecture. After the speech Tim Martin was introduced to Sonia by Kieth Vaz and was able to have a good conversation regarding the issues in Sri Lanka.

Tim said to Sonia he had heard her talk about women as agents of change but what about the innocent Sri Lankan Tamil women who have been raped, murdered, mutilated and tortured. What about the tens of thousands of war widows which struggle to make ends meet. How will they become agents of change?

India supported the war in Sri Lanka with military assistance, a war which massacred up to 40,000 innocent civilians, according to Gordon Weiss a former UN spokesman. What will you do now to ensure that these vulnerable Tamil women have a chance to become agents of change. What will you do to ensure young Tamil schools girls in the North are stopped being found dead at the bottom of wells after being raped by the Sri Lankan army? What will you do to ensure that these women can live in freedom without fear.

Sonia replied that she was extremely concerned about the situation in Sri Lanka and that her government would do everything they can to bring change.

Overall the event was successful and continued to remind Sonia about the atrocities which continue to take place in Sri Lanka.

The campaign leading to the demonstration showed overwhelming opposition for the protest. Strong sentiments were expressed against the protest and frustration started creep in for the pro-demo campaigners. There use of language became rude towards Sonia Gandhi and the anti-demo campaigners.

Respectable and strong campaigners for the Tamil right Mr Gunabalasingam in his response to the demonstration stated: ‘Its looks like a very unthoughtfull exercise and a long term damage to our common cause. The organisaors if any? should rethink’

Another response of Dr Mahen stated: ‘Our total ignorance of the geopolitics of the Indian ocean had cost us so dearly that today we are totally helpless to go to the aid of our people who are orphaned in the north and east. I think we need to grow up.’

A leading Tamil activist N Paramakumaran went on ask the organisers to be positive and said: ‘ I hope that those who organise this demo show our (Diaspora) solidarity for Indian people, Indian Government and call for the Indian Congress Leader to bring justice to those behave inhumanely towards our innocent Tamil people during May 2009 in Mullivayykkal. It would be unwise for anyone demonstrating against Sonia Ganthi (widow - Another Victim of LTTE) but she can definitely help us to bring those GoSL "war criminals" to ICC’.

R Jayadevan, the General Secretary of the Alliance for Peace and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka (ApRSL) in his two responses to the pro-demo campaigners stated:

First response:

‘Please note this is very immature, definitely foolish and lacks farsightedness to play mature politics without building more hatred against India that is not necessary and will be harmful for us.

‘These actions can only prolong the pain and sufferings of our people. Please do not behave foolishly. Those who are doing this can only be considered ‘agents of Sri Lanka’.

‘I too am a victim of the IPKF. I lost my dear mother and brother to the Indian army. I have not forgotten and am still pained but have forgiven with the mature sense and for the sake of our suffering people. We cannot allow them prolong their sufferings.

‘If you win in your demonstration, the Tamil people will loose. If you loose, it will be the victory for our people. Therefore your effort must fail.

‘I am forwarding this personal message to all my contacts to inform them of this foolhardy and anonymous campaign of the anonymous sycophants.’

Second response:

‘First of all, we must learn to acknowledge our own faults. We are always good at finding faults with others, caricaturing those who do not subscribe to our values with slang and also have become specialists in apportioning blame on others over our own failures. We always think we are the perfect and the mighty and attempt to sit on moral high grounds to blame others.

‘We need a mature visualization of the Indian interest in the region. India will not participate in divisive politics and break countries. The opportunity we had in the late 80’s to strengthen our hands with India was slaughtered by the joint effort of Premadasa and Prabakaran. We are still paying the price for this.

‘There is so much duplicity in our conduct and we pretend not to know them and let our emotions to dictate us. You say Sonia and Mahinda are murderers and they murdered 40,000 Tamil in the final Vanni battle. Whilst Mahinda must take the larger share for the slaughter, LTTE too is not innocent. I have known accounts of LTTE’s anti-brotherly activities in the war front. I was also in touch with unwilling Tamil youngsters who were forced to fight giving scant regard to the cries of their dear ones.

‘The pro-LTTE groups must engage in mature discussions with wider forums. Get some experts, analysts and politicians and listen to them and broaden your thinking beyond the bunker politics that is dictating for very many years now. We must move beyond Viko, Nedumaran etc and see a much wider India.

‘If the demonstration is focused on demanding India to engage positively to resolve the conflict, I will support it. If it is to reflect your hatred, then the right thinking people will not join you. You must realize there over 200,000 Tamils in the UK. Few going to the Commonwealth Foundation and holding the LTTE flags will be seen only as an irritation. If the current campaign is negative agenda, it will be not different to the violent attack on the Indian High Commission when BTF held a demo soon after the defeat of the LTTE.

‘The original noticecirculated did not bear any organisations name. If this is part of the BTF and TNG effort, I regret it will only cause more problems for these organizations. I hope it is not the case. There is no difference in the thinking of Sri Lanka and organisers of the demo. I wonder whether this is an extension of the agenda of GoSL to use the very same crowd that demonstrated against Mahinda in London to go against Sonia. Hope it is not.’

Dr C P Thiagarajah made his opinion critical of India and reflecting his emotions against Sonia Gandhi for not fairly dealing with the Tamils. He stated: ‘The Indians think that Eelam Tamils Human Rights and development could be controlled by them as they wish because they are an ineffective minority in Sri-Lanka (Percentage wise). Sastri, Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia never consulted the Tamils before taking any political decisions over their rights and living as equal citizens of Sri-Lanka. It is very necessary that the awakened Tamil Diaspora should show to this women that Tamils are an educated lot and will not tolerate hoodwinking. Where are the 50000 houses promised to the Vanni Tamils whose homes were pulverised by the racist Sinhala army without any consideration for civilian life. What happened to the 100 tractors given to the Tamils. Most of them had been misappropriated by army personnel. Did India look into all these. Now 2 years on the Tamils are suffering because of Indians blunder in supporting Rajapakse's racist ethnic cleansing war.’

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