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14 February 2018

Tamil youth march for justice: sack the 'cut-throat' brigadier

Isai Priya, national chair, Tamil Solidarity

Brigadier Priyankara Fernando's cut-throat threat to peaceful protesters outside the Sri Lankan High Commission on 4 February caused massive outrage. It has increased the determination of Tamil youth to bring the war criminals to account.

Leading Tamil Nadu news outlet News7 had over 100,000 views and 4,000 shares of the footage - on the day of the protest alone! Tamil Solidarity's online petitions of complaint to the foreign ministries in Sri Lanka and Britain have reached over 1,500 signatures.

This mass action won a temporary victory on 6 February when the Sri Lankan foreign ministry suspended Brigadier Fernando. However, within a day, the Sri Lankan president, after talks with army chiefs, got involved to remove his suspension - causing more outrage.

Tamil Solidarity appealed to other groups and organised a joint protest 9 February. Over two thousand mainly young Tamils and their supporters took part in another mass demonstration.

The Sri Lankan military's alleged crimes include summary execution of Tamils by throat slitting. Brigadier Fernando himself was reportedly involved in an alleged shelling of a hospital.

We demanded the immediate dismissal of Brigadier Fernando for drawing his finger across his throat in a deliberate threat against peaceful Tamil protesters.

The demo gathered outside the Sri Lankan High Commission with banners, placards and chants calling for immediate action. We then marched to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with drums and chants.

Solidarity messages and speeches were given outside Foreign Office, including from Brian Debus of Hackney trade union council, and Helen Pattison of London Socialist Party.

Tamil Solidarity placards demanding an end to the land grab, release of political prisoners, information on the disappeared, and the right to self-determination, stood out. Our leaflets and petition got a great response.

We were the only Tamil organisation doing this, with leaflets in Tamil and English, discussing what needs to be done next and how to take the movement forward. Ten Socialist Party members took part in the protest and we sold 85 copies of the Socialist.

The vast majority of young people there were open to our ideas and understood the need to build a united struggle with other oppressed communities, students and the working class, who are all our natural allies - people who will stand with us. Fighting together we can win our rights.

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