Tamil hunger strike and mass march in London
11 April 2009
As hundreds of students and young Tamils keep up their spontaneous vigil and around 150,000 march through the capital, two hunger strikers lie in a large makeshift tent in Parliament Square, bundled in blankets and being attended by family and friends.
One of the hunger strikers, 28-year-old Prarameswaran Subramaniam, has lost his entire family in a brutal civil war, as Sri Lankan armed forces close in on hundreds of thousands of Tamils in the north of the country.
Both young men looked extremely weak.
Sivatharasan Sivakumaraval, 21, has refused food for five days. His aim is “to save people in Sri Lanka and to get a ceasefire”. He himself had not lived there since the age of five. He wants a separate homeland for the Tamil nation.
He believes he is following in the steps of Mahatma Gandhi, the spiritual resistance leader who “preached peace in this way and achieved independence in the end”. Siva believes it may take a long time to achieve this aim.
“Gordon Brown’s government has never come to talk to us,” he said. “Some MPs, like Simon Hughes, have come, but not Brown or anyone from the government. The British government bears a great responsibility for us. They gave freedom to Sri Lanka and therefore they have more responsibility than other governments. They are backing the Sri Lankan government by providing funds and weapons.”
The two have only agreed to take liquids after five days without food or drink, and Sivatharasan says he will only break his fast after being promised that he could join an official delegation to Washington, the UN and Brussels.
Near the tent was 18-year-old Sivaniya Sivakumanara and Visakan Blakumar, 16. Sivaniya said: “We are all gathered here to call for an immediate ceasefire. This protest is organised by British Tamil Students. Thousands of civilians are dying every minute in Sri Lanka. Women are being forced to abort their babies. The Sri Lankan government is doing nasty things to Tamil civilians. We need a ceasefire and now.”
Her friend, Visakan, said: “Tamils trapped in the north of Sri Lanka are under the impression that the UN and foreign powers are coming to their rescue. They have put their faith in them.
“I think the two state solution is the only possible solution. Before the European colonial powers came to Sri Lanka, there were two separate kingdoms – the Tamil kingdom in the north and the Sinhalese kingdom in the south.
“Before the British joined the two kingdoms in the area together for administrative reasons. When they left, they left control in the hands of the Sinhalese majority. As soon as Sri Lanka got independence, the Tamils have been continuously mistreated by state-sponsored violence.”
Thousands of Tamils travelled from Germany, Switzerland and elsewhere to join the march along the Thames Embankment. Demonstrators of all ages were shepherded by hundreds of organisers wearing bright yellow bibs, many of them women. Placards targeted the British government, media complicity and silence as well as Sri Lankan president Rajapakse.
Thousands of Tamils occupied Westminster Bridge earlier this week in the build-up to Saturday’s mass protest. They surprised the Metropolitan Police in a mass sit-down organised, like today’s protest by text messaging.