Toronto – Canadian Tamils took part in a remembrance memorial around the world to commemorate the one-year civil war anniversary, which saw 40,000 of Tamil civilians killed. In Toronto, thousands of Tamils united at Queen’s Park for justice and peace.
The tumultuous and tragic war in Sri Lanka was waged for decades. It has been several months since the Sri Lankan President announced that he would close the detention camps and release the detainees. It has been a few months since the President won re-election. It has been one year and nothing has changed for the Tamils, except for more bloodshed and tears.
“Tamils unite for justice”
On Tuesday, tens of thousands of Tamils, peace activists, government officials and other concerned citizens gathered worldwide to remember the 40,000 Tamils who lost their lives and the 50,000 who were severely wounded, while at least 100,000 more still remain in the Sri Lankan barbed-wire camps.
During the global remembrance on May 18, which has been declared as International War Crimes Day, Toronto held its own memorial at Queen’s Park. Numerous speakers, ranging from Toronto Councillor and Toronto Transit Commission Chairman Adam Giambrone to Markham Councillor Logan Kanapathi to various youth activists across the Greater Toronto Area, urged Prime Minister Stephen Harper and international bodies to investigate the alleged war crimes of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and others involved.
Thousands of Toronto Tamils dressed in black to remember and mourn those who perished, while still hoping for an affirmative conclusion so Tamils can live in peace and have the “right to self-determination.”
As dusk arrived and the event was coming to an end, thousands lit candles and remembered the fallen. The Tamil event leader insisted that they let the flame burn until Wednesday’s rally in front of the United States Consulate on University Avenue in Toronto.
What do officials say?
Keynote speakers addressed the concerns that the Canadian government and the international community have remained “silent” and “turned a blind eye” to the situation in Sri Lanka. One Canadian union leader accused the Canadian Prime Minister of attempting to gain business contracts instead of worrying about those who are suffering.
The word “shame” was used to describe the reprehensible actions of Sri Lanka, Canada, India, NGOs and other governmental bodies around the world. Representatives of many organizations called for sanctions against Sri Lanka. One speaker wanted the Prime Minister to remove the Sri Lankan consulate Yonge Street and St. Clair Avenue and the Sri Lankan Ambassador.
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has written and submitted a large number of reports detailing the ongoing crisis in Sri Lanka and the oppression being applied to the Tamils.
“Every time the international community raises the issue of accountability, Sri Lanka establishes a commission that takes a long time to achieve nothing… UN Secretary General should put an end to this game of smoke and mirrors and begin a process that would ensure justice for all the victims of Sri Lanka’s war,” said Brad Adams of the HRW earlier this month.
Adams’ sentiments couldn’t be agreed on more by Tamils worldwide and those who advocate human rights. One youth speaker quoted Martin Luther King, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The chants of “No peace, no justice” were heard throughout Queen’s Park.
The latest news out of Sri Lanka
On the day of the memorial, Channel 4 News published an article that stated the Tamil killings were ordered from the top of the Sri Lankan government, which has been corroborated by a senior army commander and a soldier in the frontlines.
“Definitely, the order would have been to kill everybody and finish them off. I don’t think we wanted to keep any hardcore elements, so they were done away with. It is clear that such orders were, in fact, received from the top,” said the senior Sri Lankan army commander.
This report was handed out to reporters and attendees all over Queen’s Park and was mentioned during one speech.
On Monday, the Canadian Tamil Congress sent a press release to highlight a new report by the International Crisis Group (ICG), which also stated that Sri Lankan security forces “shelled civilians, hospitals and humanitarian operations.”
The ICG concluded its findings with the means of witness testimony, satellite images, government documents and other methods, which all state that war crimes were committed in Sri Lanka.
On Wednesday, another remembrance memorial will be held throughout the world. In Toronto, a demonstration will be held in front of the U.S. Consulate.
Senthan Nada, Toronto spokesperson for the Coalition to Stop the War in Sri Lanka (CSTWSL), told Digital Journal that the fight will continue through peaceful means. Nada explained that press releases will continue to be sent out, an international representation for Tamils everywhere will be established, rallies will still occur to bring the Tamil message directly to the people and Tamils will never quit.
As one musician at Tuesday’s event said, “Your arm may get tired for 15 minutes, but the victims in Sri Lanka have been dying for 30 years.”