The Sri Lankan state claimed to be near to military victory over the Tamil Tigers as Socialist Worker went to press.
For weeks now the Sri Lankan army has been waging a brutal war in which thousands of civillians have been killed and more than 300,000 people have been forced to flee their homes. Thousands have been herded into so-called “no fire zones” and then bombarded by the Sri Lankan army.
Red Cross director of operations Pierre Kraehenbuehl described the situation as “nothing short of catastrophic”.
Anger at the treatment of the Tamils sparked angry demonstration across the world, with large protests in Paris and London on Monday.
Chanting “Britain, Britain, save the Tamils” and “Gordon Brown open your eyes”, some ten thousand Tamil protesters surged through police lines to occupy Parliament Square in London. Two roads outside parliament were blocked as people sat down.
“Hundreds of Tamil people are dying every day – we can’t let this go on,” said Sayan Selvaratnan, who was given asylum in Britain eight years ago. His parents remain in the north of Sri Lanka.
The police didn’t seem to know what to do. Every time a senior officer tried to intervene, protesters simply stood up and surrounded them.
There were students from at least 19 different colleges on the demonstration. They were joined by parents with children, school students and, later, by people who came from work.
They gathered at the makeshift tent which houses Parameswaran Subramaniyan, who has been on hunger strike for over two weeks demanding the British government acts to secure a ceasefire in Sri Lanka.
Many on the demonstration were angry that the British government was not listening to them, despite the fact that they had held a march of over 100,000 people in London earlier this month. One man compared what’s happening to Israel’s assault on Gaza.
Inside parliament the Labour speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin, disgracefully accused Tamil protesters of using children as human shields against the police.
Meanwhile Tory MP Gerald Howarth complained that, “The situation in Sri Lanka is nothing to do with this House.”
Howarth is very much mistaken. Many atrocities currently being carried out in Sri Lanka are conducted with weapons made in Britain and licensed for sale by the British government.
New Labour’s support for the “war on terror” has also helped to legitimise actions such as those of the Sri Lankan state.
It looks likely that Sri Lanka will defeat the Tamil Tigers, at least for the time being.
But a military victory for the state will not address the discrimination or poverty faced by thousands of Tamils.
The war will also have created thousands more angry and displaced people, bringing the prospect of increasing violence – not of lasting peace.
SWP meeting on Sri Lanka’s war: Friday 1 May, 6pm, Room 3B, ULU, Malet Street, central London