Posts Tagged ‘Tamil Eelam’

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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Tamils remember Mullivaikkal massacre

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019

The British colonised Ceylon and in the nineteenth century it was a major source of coffee grown on British owned plantations. When the coffee crops began to fail, efforts were made to replace coffee by tea plants and seeds from Assam in India. Although at first this was unsuccessful, by the end of the nineteenth century tea had replaced coffee as the major export crop.

Sri Lankan Tamils had lived in parts of the island since at least around the 2nd century BC, but the tea plantations imported Indian Tamils to the hill areas in large numbers. Following independence in 1948, the Sinhalese-led government deported large numbers of the Indian Tamils and also made life difficult for the Sri Lankan Tamils, severely limiting employment opportunies, suppressing their culture and encouraging anti-Tamil riots, leading to the start of a civil war in 1983.

One-third of Sri Lankan Tamils now live outside Sri Lanka, the largest group, around 300,000, being in Canada.  There are thought to be between 100,000 and 200,000 British Tamils living in the UK, the figures vague as Tamil was not one of the ethnic groups listed in the UK census, though people could write it in.

Over 70,000 Tamils are thought to have been killed in the earlier phases of the Sri Lankan Civil war, but it came to a particularly disastrous and bloody end in 2009, on a small strip of land at Mullivaikkal, where 40,000 Tamils, around half of them civilians, are thought to have been killed, mainly by shelling by Sri Lankan government forces in what they had designated as a ‘no-fire’ zone, but some by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The numbers are highly disputed, with huge variations between government and Tamil sources, but there is no doubt that it was a massacre on a terrible scale. According to the Tamil Guardian:”

After providing an initial death toll of 40,000, the UN found evidence suggesting that 70,000 were killed. Local census records indicate that at least 146,679 people are unaccounted for and presumed to have been killed during the Sri Lankan military offensive.

May 18th, the date on which this protest took place is widely marked as Mullivaikkal Genocide Remembrance Day

The protest I photographed included some graphic re-enactments of shooting (though only with crude wooden guns) and many people with bandages and fake blood, giving plenty of photographic opportunities. And unsurprisingly, feeling run high. Tamils want Sri Lanka to face prosecutions by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and a referendum in Sri Lanka to lead to the setting up of an independent state, Tamil Eelam.

More on the protest: 10 Years since Mullivaikkal massacre
A week earlier I photographed a group of Tamils at Downing Strike begining a week of hunger strike for their demands:
Tamil Genocide Hunger Strike


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