Posts Tagged ‘Sri Lanka’

11 October 2008

Monday, October 11th, 2021

It was the start of the final 100 days of the Bush adminstration and the ‘Hands off Iraqi Oil’ coalition whose members included Corporate Watch, Iraq Occupation Focus, Jubilee Iraq, PLATFORM, Voices UK, and War on Want and was supported by the Stop the War Coalition and others had come to Shell’s UK headquarters at Waterloo to protest against plans by Britain and the USA for Iraq to hand over most of the country’s oil reserves to foreign companies, particularly Shell and BP.

Iraq had nationalised its oil by 1972, and it provided 95% of its government income. Many had seen the invasion of Iraq by the US and UK (along with Australia and Poland) as largely driven by the desire to gain control of Iraq’s huge oil reserves and the US had engaged consultants to help it write a new oil law which it got the Iraqi cabinet to approive in 2007 which would give foreign oil companies – including Shell and BP, long-term contracts within a safe legal framework. But large-scale popular opposition meant the Iraqi parliament failed to approve the new law. But in June 2008, the Iraqi Oil Ministry went ahead with short-term no-bid contracts to the major foreign oil companies – including Exxon Mobil, BP, Shell, Total and Chevron and later these and other contracts were made more favourable to the oil companies.

After the protest at Shell’s offices the protesters marched to protest outside the BP HQ in St James’s Square and then to the US Embassy, and I left to cover the London Freedom not fear 2008 event outside New Scotland Yard. Similar protests were taking place in over 20 countries to demonstrate against excessive surveillance by governments and businesses, organised by a broad movement of campaigners and organizations.

The London event highlighted the restrictions of the right to demonstrate under the Labour government’s The Serious Organized Crime and Police Act 2005, (SOCPA),, the intimidatory use of photography by police Forward Intelligence squads (FIT), the proposed introduction of ID cards, the increasing centralisation of personal data held by government, including the DNA database held by police, the incredible growth in surveillance cameras, ‘terrorist’ legislation and other measures which have affected our individual freedom and human rights.

For something completely different I walked a quarter of a mile down Victoria Street to Westminster Cathedral where people were assembling for the Rosary Crusade of Reparation, one of the larger walks of public witness by Catholics in London.

This tradition began in Austria in 1947 with the roasary campaign begun by a priest praying for his country to be freed from the communist occupiers. The first annual parade with the statue of Our Lady of Fatima took place in 1948 in Vienna on the feast of the Name of Mary, Sept 12, which had been established by Pope Innocent XI in 1683 when Turkish invaders surrounding Vienna were defeated by Christian armies who had prayed to the Blessed Virgin.

As the procession to a service at Brompton Oratory began I walked back up Victoria St to Parliament Square, where a number of other small protests were in evidence. All over the centre of London there were people giving out leaflets about the growing problems faced by Tamils in Sri Lanka, where they allege a program of ethnic cleansing is being carried out by the government. International media are banned from the Tamil areas of the country and NGOs have been ordered out of some areas, so there are few reports of the war. Worse was to come and in 2009 in the final stages of the war conservative estimates are that 70,000 civilians were killed in the the Mullivaikkal massacre.

Others in the square were protesting against the UK’s scandalous treatment of asylum seekers and calling for the asylum detention centres to be closed down.

Brian Haw was still there, and I wrote:

Facing Parliament, Brian Haw‘s peace protest continues – he has been there for almost 2700 days – over 7 years – and it will soon be his 60th birthday. Brian says that now the police seem to have largely abandoned attempts to get rid of him legally there have been a number of odd attacks against him and others in the square – which the police have ignored. I took some time talking to a man who smelt of alcohol, was talking nonsense and acting unpredictably – and who then went and started to insult Brian. One of the other demonstrators stood between him and Brian who was filming him. I put down my bag as I took photographs in case I needed to step in and help, but fortunately he eventually moved away.

There were others protesting in Parliament Square, including one man who asked me to take his picture. He told me his name was Danny and that he had been there on hunger strike for two weeks, protesting over his failure to get his case investigated. He claimed to have been abused by police and social services following an incident in which as a seven year old child in Llanelli he was implicated in the death of a baby brother. I was unable to find any more information about his case.

Finally I saw a group of people walking past holding leafelts with the the word CHANGE on them and rushed after them to find they were Obama supporters hoping to persuade Americans they met to register and vote in the election. It was time for me to go home.

Parliament Square
Rosary Crusade of Reparation
Freedom not Fear 2008
Bush & Cheney’s Iraq Oil Grab


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A Hero Remembered, Olympics and Iraq

Wednesday, August 4th, 2021


Some photographers love to travel, but I relish the great variety of events I have been able to photograph in London, (as well as the city itself.) Saturday 4th August 2012 demonstrates that well.

Raoul Wallenberg was clearly one of the great heroes of the twentieth century, and played a huge role while working as a Swedish diplomat in Budapest in 1944-5. Historians now question the popular claims that he saved as many as 100,000 Jews and suggest the actual figure may be between 4,500 and 9,000, but as one of them commented, his “fame was certainly justified by his extraordinary exploits.”

Wallenberg and his fellow Swedish diplomat Per Anger issued thousand of official-looking “protective passports” identifying the bearers as Swedish citizens and rented over 30 buildings in Budapest which he declared to be Swedish territory. According to Wikipedia these eventually housed almost 10,000 people. The money for these came from the American Red Cross and it was apparently at US request that Wallenberg was posted to Budapest.

Wallenberg was not the only diplomat in Budapest issuing protective passports to save Jews, with others being provided with Swiss, Spanish and Portuguese documents. He is also said to have persuaded the Germans not to blow up the Budapest ghetto and kill its 70,000 inhabitants, though the Italian businessman Giorgio Perlasca who was posing as the Spanish consul-general claims that it was his intervention that saved them

Swedish Ambassador Nicola Clase speaks about Wallenberg

Wallenberg disappeared on 17th January 1945 after being summoned to see the commander of the Russian forces encircling the city to answer charges he was involved in espionage. He was taken to Moscow and little definite is known about him after than although the Soviet Government in 1957 released a document stating he had died in prison, probably of a heart attack on 17 July 1947. But there were later reported sightings of him. Documents released in 1996 by the CIA show he was working with their wartime predecessor.

Wallenberg was born on August 4th 1912, and a ceremony took place in his honour around the Wallenberg memorial, sculpted by Philip Jackson outside the Western Marble Arch Synagogue. It was a moving event, led by Rabbi Lionel Rosenfeld with Rector Michael Persson from the Swedish Church in London reading Psalm 121 and giving an address about Wallenburg who he called an ordinary man who was brave when the time came and had followed the Lutheran ideal of living, a calling to be yourself and to do good for other people. The Swedish ambassador also spoke about him.

Earlier I had been at the Olympics. Not the thing on Stratford Marsh, but a rather smaller event organised by War on Want outside Adidas on Oxford St, claiming that workers making clothes for the official sportswear partner of London 2012 get poverty wages are not allowed to form unions and have little or no job security.

War on Want point out that around the world thousands of workers producing clothes for Adidas are working for poverty wages that do not cover basic essentials like housing, food, education and healthcare. Many have to work beyond legal limits, up to 15 hours a day to scrape a living. And workers who try to organise trade unions face harassment and sacking.

The games began with badminton, and then moved on to hurdles, but police told them it was too dangerous on the pavement in Oxford St. They were made to move around the corner. Adidas sent along someone from their PR Agency to give misinformation to the press, but there was damning information on the War on Want web site on wages and conditions in factories in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and China producing goods for Adidas. I don’t expect things have changed that much for these workers since 2012.

Finally I made my way to Iraq Day 2012, “organized to celebrate the games with a hint of Iraq flavor” by the Iraqi Culture Centre in London and sponsored by Bayt Al Hekima- Baghdad in conjunction with the Local Leader London 2012 program.

There were some unplanned and fairly dramatic events on stage, and one of the performers stormed off the platform, furious at what she felt was cultural discrimination against the Kurds, and a group of Kurdish musicians were told they had to leave the stage, but generally it lacked much interest for me.

I was sorry for the many Iraqis and others who were unable to eat the Iraqi food that was on offer – for this event was taking place during Ramadan. I had been asked to photograph a fashion show that was a part of the programme, but for some reason it didn’t take place when it should have, and I had to leave before it happened.

More on all of these:

Iraq Day Festival
Raoul Wallenberg 100th Anniversary
Adidas Stop Your Olympic Exploitation


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


More from May Days: 2011

Wednesday, May 6th, 2020

May Day 2011 was a Sunday which helped swell the numbers gathering at Clerkenwell Green, though perhaps the trade union groups were rather less numerous than usual. But of course the usual communist and socialist groups were there, and the CPGB-ML with their large image of Stalin and a banner with a quote from him with letters picked out in yellow to spell ‘resist’ along with the word revolution.

A new group in this year’s march was ‘Justice for Domestic Workers‘ (J4DW), a self-help group for migrant domestic workers and part of the hotel, restaurant and catering branch of the Unite the union. They were using the event to launch a new petition urging the UK government to change its position and endorse the 2011 ILO convention on Domestic Workers. The UK joined the ILO in 1919, but since the Tories came to power in 2010 have only ratified conventions on Maritime Labour and Fishing.

There was a large group from the Latin American Workers’ Association, calling for justice for refugees and asylum seekers, with the message ‘No-One Is Illegal’ carried by two of their younger supporters.

As in previous years there was a very strong representation of nationalist communist groups from London’s Turkish, Kurdish and Cypriot communities as well as a large group of Sri Lankan Tamils calling for the war criminals from Sri Lanka to be taken to the International Criminal Court and asking why the UN and NATO had not intervened when their community in Sri Lanka was facing massacre.

I followed the march a short distance, stopping to photograph until the end of the march had gone passed me, then decided to go home rather than continue to the rally in Trafalgar Square.

London May Day March


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Black Day

Wednesday, May 8th, 2019

Tamils have little to celebrate on Sri Lankan Independence Day following their catastrophic defeat in the civil war, brought to an end after 26 years of fighting with the defeat of the Tamil Tigers in 2009.

As a placard states, this is a ‘Black Day for Tamils’. Sri Lanka got its independence from British rule as Ceylon on 4th February 1948, with a government including prominent Tamil leaders. But in 1956 S W R D Bandaranaike became prime minister declaring himself “defender of the besieged Sinhalese culture” and made Sinhalese the only official language of the government greatly heightening the tension between the Sinhalese and Tamil communities, whose language and culture was under threat. When Bandaranaike tried to soften his approach to avoid the conflict, he was assassinated by an extremist Buddhist monk in 1959.

Increasing conflict between the two ethnic groups led to the formation of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in 1976, calling for an independent Tamil state, Tamil Eelam, in the north and east of Sri Lanka. Intermittent clashes developed into a full-scale civil war in 1983. The LTTE as well as conventional fighting also carried out suicide bombings and assassinations and was designated as a terrorist group by many countries, including the UK, where it remains a proscribed organisation.

Since the end of the war efforts at peace and reconciliation appear to have been rather half-hearted, and attempts to bring war criminals to justice have been prevented by the Sri-Lankan government.

The LTTE adopted a flag showing a tiger jumping through a circle of bullets, with crossed black bayonets on a red background, with their name on it, and in 1990 a version of this without the English and Tamil text was adopted as the national flag of Tamil Eelam. Though banned in Sri Lanka it is widely used by Tamils at protests abroad, and though some feel its association with the LTTE makes it illegal in the UK, the police seem to be decided against attempting to take action which would probably fail in the courts.

It was a dull and damp morning in London, and I only stayed around an hour at the protest outside the Embassy in a Bayswater backstreet before leaving for another event in South London.



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