Tamil Protest in Parliament Square: Students on Hunger Strike to the Death
9 April 2009
The Tamil protest against the ongoing civil war and crackdown on Tamil-held areas of Sri Lanka by Sri Lankan government forces entered its fourth continuous day today in Parliament Square, London.
Two Sri Lankan students, currently studying in London, one aged 21 and the other 28, have been on a full hungerstrike since Tuesday, accepting no food or water until a ceasefire is declared. Their condition has understandly started to deteriorate considerably and they are both very weak. Doctors taking part in the protest and ambulance crews are at hand and on stand by in case either of these men loses consciousness. They are currently not able to stand anymore.
Although the protest has entered its fourth day, the police are refusing to
allow the protesters to erect any tents to accommodate protesters overnight or as shelter against the rain for fear that the area will become a tent city. This includes not allowing a tent to be put up to allow for medical care needed for any protesters and particularly the hungerstrikers. However, a canopy has been set up as it is raining. Negotiations are currently underway with the police to allow a tent to be set up for medical aid.
There is currently (lunchtime, 9 April) around 3000 protesters in Parliament Square. They have stated that they will not leave until a ceasefire is declared and urge that more pressure be applied on the Sri Lankan government by the British government and the international community. Prayers were held last night in Parliament Square by different Sri Lankan faith community leaders.
Numbers have fluctuated between 300 to several thousand protesters throughout. The Tamil protesters do not intend to break the law and hope to keep their protest peaceful.
Maria Gallastegui from the ongoing Parliament Square campaign, supporting the action, said, "the international media needs to highlight what's going on in Sri Lanka and what¹s going on in Parliament Square. Two students here are on complete hunger strike. That¹s how serious the situation is. They need support and solidarity."
Most of the support thus far has come from the Tamil community in the UK and the protesters and Peace Strike are calling for more humanitarian support from the wider community. There is a civil war ongoing in Sri Lanka and the civilian casualties have been mounting all year. Furthermore, many people are in towns that have been cut off by government forces and there is scant respect for many civilians caught up in the conflict. This is an anti-war protest. All anti-war and human rights activists and groups are welcome.
The protest started at lunchtime on Monday organised by Tamil community groups and many Tamil students on their holidays. The protesters demands are simple and clear: we want a ceasefire and we want it now. Their means are wholly peaceful, even if their protest is deemed illegal under current UK laws. On Monday night and into Tuesday morning, the protesters, including men, women and children, occupied Westminster Bridge bringing traffic to a standstill. Since then, the protest has largely been confined to the green in Parliament Square and is ongoing.
Time to stop the war
A larger action is planned for Saturday 11 April, organised by the British Tamil Forum, is set for 1pm, starting at Embankment Tube to end at Hyde Park. The organisers emphasise that anyone joining the march and demonstration must be peaceful.
 Under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2004, any demonstration(undefined) within one mile of Parliament needs to be authorised by the police at least one week in advance.
IMMEDIATE PRESS RELEASE
Friday 10 April 2009
TAMILS AND MP PETITION TO BE PRESENTED TO DOWNING STREET:
PETITIONER ARRESTED YESTERDAY
3.30pm, FRIDAY 10 APRIL 2009
A delegation of Tamils will deliver a petition to 10 Downing Street with the Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes in an attempt to get the UK government to intervene in the crisis in Sri Lanka.
Yesterday, a British women who escorted a delegation of Tamil women to Downing Street was arrested under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 which prohibits demonstrations without police authorisation.
Maria Gallastegui was arrested about 7pm last night after she would not leave Downing Street until the delegation had seen a representative of the Government. She was told that no-one was available to see them as there are all on holiday. Ms Gallastegui was held by police overnight and released, without charge, at 12 noon today. She said:
"We went to Downing Street because the situation is an emergency. There are two young men on hunger strike in Parliament Square who are in a critical condition.
"All these people have been outside Parliament for days yet the British Government are on holiday and can not be contacted. There is an emergency below decks that needs to be dealt with but it appears that no-one is even steering the ship.
"We went to our neighbours, the government, to appeal for help for the hundreds of thousands of people in Sri Lanka who are in grave risk, but they are all on holiday. There is clearly no political will to address this issue."
There will be a major demonstration on Saturday 11th April calling for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Sri Lanka.
For background to the Tamil situation: