Despite LTTE listed as a banned outfit in UK
British police turned blind eye while Tamil protesters waved LTTE flags

By Sujeeva Nivunhella in London

President Mahinda Rajapaksa arrived in the UK aboard SriLankan Airlines UL509 on Monday night amidst protests by pro-LTTE Tamils in London. He was here to deliver a talk at Oxford University at the invitation of Oxford Union. Scores of Tamils thronged the Heathrow Terminal 4 where the aircraft carrying the Sri Lankan leader and his 40-member entourage touched down. Although the LTTE is a proscribed terrorist organization in UK, these demonstrators waved LTTE flags and shouted anti-Sri Lankan slogans.

They had even shouted at the Sinhala passengers who were coming out of Terminal 4 and some of the protesters had even gone to the extent of threatening these passengers while the British Police looked on. Amidst the rumpus, the President was taken to ‘Windsor Suite’ in Terminal 5 where VIPs are generally received.

Rajapaksa was welcomed by the Sri Lankan High Commissioner in London Nihal Jayasinghe after which the entourage was driven under police escort from Heathrow Airport to Dochester Hotel in Park Lane, London.

President was accompanied by Foreign Affairs Minister G. L. Peris, Higher Education Minister S. B. Dissanayake and MP Sajin Vass Gunawardena.

There were no official engagements for the President on Tuesday who rested while some members in the group did some shopping or visited friends .

President had a private dinner at the residence of a close friend of Sajin Vass Gunawardena. On Wednesday, the  President met with UK and EU Parliamentarians in London., amongst whom were Rt. Hon. The Lord Naseby of the Conservative Party who is also the Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Sri Lanka (APPG-SL), Lord Sheikh of the Conservative Party the House of Lords, Lord Dholakia of the Liberal Democrat Party and member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Sri Lanka (APPG-SL), Lord Grocott of the Labour Party House of Lords, Lord Wallace of Saltair of the Liberal Democrat Party House of Lords, Nirj Deva, Member of European Parliament, Geoffrey Van Orden, Member of European Parliament, James Wharton of the Conservative Party, MP House of Commons, Nigel Evans of Conservative Party, MP House of Commons and David Amess of Conservative Party, MP House of Commons.

Dr. Liam Fox, Secretary of State for Defence of the United Kingdom also called on the Sri Lankan leader at the hotel and discussed aspects of ]wider sharing of power in and development assistance from the UK.

While British Ministers and MPs were paying courtesy calls on the President , high ranking officials of the entourage received calls from Oxford Union that they were reluctant to go ahead with the speech, as planned, due to the sheer weight of demonstrations expected to be held in front of the Oxford University. 

Oxford Union members were receiving calls and e mails in large numbers from pro-LTTE Tamils and by that afternoon they had succumbed to the pressures and decided to cancel the speech. "Security concerns" were cited.

As soon as the President heard that the speech was cancelled he wanted to leave UK immediately.  Arrangements had been made for the President and the delegates to stay at ‘Randolph’ hotel in Oxford on Wednesday night but this was cancelled.

On Thursday, Commonwealth General Secretary Kamalesh Sharma called on the President. In the evening Rajapaksa arrived at the High Commission in London and met with the Sri Lankan Diaspora before leaving for Colombo.

During the President’s visit to London, Channel 4 and some other media outlets aired programs on alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka.

An application was also filed by the pro-LTTE Tamils in London in the magistrate’s court of West Minister  seeking a  warrant for the arrest of the President and Major General Gallage but the application was not pursued, sources here asserted.

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