‘What do we want? Release Jaffna students. When do we want it now!’ Yesterday these words rang out through the streets surrounding the .
An emergency protest to demand the immediate release of Jaffna University Students was called at less than 24 hours’ notice to take place on Friday 7 December.
The protest was organised by Tamil Solidarity and was the launch of the new campaign: ‘Release all the political prisoners in Lanka’.
As well as Tamil Solidarity members, Tamil people and representatives from a number of different organisations in the UK who fight for the rights of the people attended.
Socialist Students national organiser Claire Laker-Mansfield explained that students in the UK were shocked at the brutal treatment meted out to students in Jaffna after they tried to organise a memorial event to remember the people who lost their lives in the war. She said students in great numbers would protest the fact that students in Sri Lanka may be arrested and could be held for up to 18 months without charge, a huge transgression of democratic rights.
Claire said that students would also take inspiration from the courage of students standing up to such a repressive government.
The organiser for Youth Fight for Jobs, Paul Calanan explained that young people and working class people would understand that this action by the Sri Lankan regime was nothing to do with protecting the safety of ordinary people in Sri Lanka. But it has everything to do with trying to stamp on every sign of protest.
Rob Williams, national chair of the National Shop Stewards Network, was the next to speak. The Network organises trade unionists across the six million-strong TUC and Rob pledged to build solidarity and protest across it.
Rob explained that the links between Tory MPs, who are happy to accept hospitality from this regime with so much blood on its hands, would be exposed.
Pete Dickenson, a member of the UCU university lecturers’ union pointed to the role of other brutal regimes such as that of China and explained that a united struggle of students and workers will be needed.
Sarah Sachs-Eldridge from Tamil Solidarity apologised to the neighbours of the embassy for disturbing them but appealed to them to join the growing protest movement against the regime that slaughtered over 100,000 in the final phase of the war alone in 2009. She explained that this would only be our first protest and also that Tamil Solidarity groups would protest around the world.
Sarah reported on the launch in Sri Lanka of a campaign by lefts and others, the Movement for the Release of Political Prisoners.
She also explained that to fight the dictatorial regime we could have no faith in the UN or the governments across the world who represent the super-rich 1% elite. Instead we can take inspiration from the masses who rose up in North Africa and the Middle East and in Europe and fight for of the Tamil-speaking people and all oppressed.
All the speakers sent a solidarity massage to the students in Jaffna and demanded their immediate release, and the release of all the political prisoners in Lanka.
Tamil Solidarity will organise another protest soon. Protest called for next Wednesday is now been postponed . We will also be supporting the protest on Monday and working with many other groups to build the new campaign.