Canadian Tamils mourn 50 years of Sri Lankan "Oppression"
| Date: 19980204
More than 1500 Tamil Canadians peacefully demonstrated in front of the Sri Lankan High Commission in Ottawa today to protest the treatment of Tamils as Sri Lanka celebrates its 50 years of independence from the Great Britain. The marchers condemned the atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan government forces. "Canadian Tamils mourn while Sri Lanka celebrates… Half a century of independence has failed to secure the advancement of Tamils and the government shows no reluctance in bombing and shelling of populated Tamil areas and cultural and religious monuments" stated the press release of Human Rights Forum which organized the rally.
The protesters carried placards and shouted slogans condemning the Sri Lankan government for its 50 years of human rights violations against Tamil people in Sri Lanka.. One placard read "Sri Lanka uses rape, food and medicine as weapons of war". The other read "50 years enslavement for Tamils". Some carried paintings which included bombed Navaly St Peter's church. Another placard depicted an image of the island of Sri Lanka with the Tamil areas ringed by barbed wire.
More than 10,000 leaflets were handed out to Canadians and tourists. "Despite the frigid cold temperature in the capital, the turn out for the demonstration exceeded to our expectation" said Pat Paramananthan, co-ordinator for the Human Rights Forum. "Tamils are sending a clear message to the international community that they are not going to take the Sri Lankan government's killing lightly" he said. "Today is a black day for all the Tamils. We want the Canadian government to push the Sri Lankan government to lift the media censorship and to expose its human rights violations". said Sita Sitambalam, president of the Eelam Tamil association of Canada.
The Ottawa demonstration was part of a series of week long protests by Tamils in various parts of Canada. On Feb. 1, 1998, 25,000 people demonstrated in front of the Ontario provincial legislature condemning the Sri Lankan government. There are simultaneous demonstrations taking place in different parts of Canada to mourn the Sri Lanka's independence. In Toronto, more than 600 Tamils took part in a day-long fasting. All Tamil businesses closed their doors and hoisted black flag to symbolize their mourning. Several hundred marched peacefully in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Thousands more participated in rallies in London, Paris and other western capitals. Analysts say that there are genuine human rights violations happening in Sri lanka against the Tamil people and there is a need that the Sri Lankan government must negotiate with the LTTE for a peaceful settlement.
The Indian Ocean island nation, known earlier as Ceylon, gained independence from the British on Feb. 4, 1948, after almost 450 years of foreign rule. Once considered a tropical paradise, Sri Lanka has been ravaged by the conflict between Tamils and Sinhalese. More than 80,000 people, mostly Tamil civilians have been killed in the on going war.