Protests paralyse missions

Tamil supporters blockade India House

A rally of Tamil supporters outside India House caused major disruption to the High Commission last week, prompting the mission to send an official letter of complaint to the Foreign Office.

The protest was against India’s alleged backing of the Sri Lankan armed forces’ assault on the LTTE.

According to police, a group of 100-200 protesters blockaded India House, waving placards and shouting slogans demanding an immediate ceasefire. A démarche was sent to the South Asia Directorate of the FCO office requesting immediate action.

This follows an earlier incident in which 3,000 protesters gathered outside the mission before a group broke through police lines, entered the mission and smashed windows. Five people were arrested for criminal damage but no staff were injured.

Similar attempts to raid the Sri Lankan High Commission were thwarted but a group of 40 protesters did manage to get near enough to hurl missiles at windows, causing damage and injuring two police officers who were admitted to hospital.

Three protesters were arrested, one for violent disorder, another for criminal damage and a third for a public order offence.

Tamils also targeted the Chinese Embassy last week in protest against China’s support for the Sri Lankan government.

Sri Lankan High Commissioner Nihal Jayasinghe told Embassy that the offensive was in its final stages, but that the remaining civilians trapped inside the LTTE stronghold were being used as human shields, making it difficult to avoid casualties.
Des Browne MP, who chaired a visiting group of British MPs last week, urged the LTTE to release civilians and appealed to the Sri Lankan government to “uphold their commitment to refrain from using heavy weapons.”