’Rajapaksa can’t attend the meeting because the police can’t guarantee his safety’. That was the attempt to explain away the Sri Lankan president and war criminal’s no-show at the Mansion House in the City of London on Wednesday 6 June.
Of course the real reason, obvious to anyone in the area, was the thousands of protesters, almost entirely Tamil, who gathered on the pavement outside. Many young people and families with children attended.
A Tamil Solidarity spokesperson quoted by the ITV News website explained what motivated the protest: "This butcher and his dictatorial regime is still brutally repressing the Tamil-speaking people and trampling democratic rights.
"Britain has enough war criminals without Rajapaksa, with the blood of hundreds of thousands on his hands, 40,000 in the last weeks of the war alone, being invited for the Jubilee".
Tamil Solidarity campaigners made a big impact on the event. Their striking placards, posters and leaflets were enthusiastically snatched up and distributed.
But this successful event also confirmed what Tamil Solidarity has been arguing for some time - that capitalist politicians cannot be trusted to act on behalf of oppressed people or their supporters.
It is the protests of ordinary people that can have success. We argue that the campaign, injected now with a new confidence to fight back, must be escalated.
The idea of reaching out to other young people, workers and trade unionists in Britain proved very attractive to young people on the demo especially.
Tamil Solidarity will have a stall at the National Shop Stewards Network conference on Saturday 9 June and this event was also advertised on every leaflet.
Protesting against Sri Lanka’s president Rajapaksa’s visit to London, 6.6.12, photo Sarah Sachs Eldridge
Having scored one victory the protest went on the streets where thousands more joined it with Tamil people having travelled overnight from France, Switzerland, Germany and other European countries. It headed for the Commonwealth Secretariat building on Pall Mall.
This marked the highpoint of a very good week of protests, starting with an angry ’welcoming party’ at the airport forcing the President to sneak into Britain.
Tory MPs plan a visit to Sri Lanka. Deportations of Tamils from Britain to Sri Lanka are ongoing, with the horrendous torture suffered by some exposed in the Guardian.
And the aggression of the Sri Lankan government towards the Tamil-speaking people and all voices of dissent, including increased militarisation and settlement-building in Tamil areas shows that there is a huge amount to fight against. But struggle is back on the agenda.