Wrong report on MR’s Olympic plans embarrass UK Tamils

Spokesman says he didn’t confirm attendance

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Those who had organized protests against President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s participation at the inauguration of the London Olympics on the basis of an exclusive report in the UK’s The Independent reacted angrily as the Sri Lankan leader didn’t turn up.

Highly embarrassed UK based Tamil Diaspora groups are believed to have found fault with The Independent for failing to be accurate in its coverage of President Rajapaksa’s impending visit hence caused an unprecedented humiliation.

 UK based sources told The Sunday Island that the Global Tamil Forum (GTF), the British Tamil Front (BTF) and Tamils against Genocide (TAG) had made elaborate arrangements to launch a large scale protest campaign targeting President Rajapaksa.

They felt the presence of the international media in London for the Olympics coverage could be exploited to heap pressure on the government over accountability issues.

Responding to The Sunday Island, sources said that Diaspora groups, which spearheaded mass protests during President Rajapaksa’s visits there in Dec 2009 and June 2012, had called for a continuous protest campaign on the basis of The Independent report.

 Asked whether President Rajapaksa had contemplated attending the London Olympics, presidential spokesman Bandula Jayasekera said that he never confirmed the President’s participation, though Jerome Taylor of The Independent inquired about the possibility.

When asked whether President Rajapaksa was planning to be at the Olympics or the opening ceremony, the spokesman had said that the President may attend. Asked whether the President would attend the opening ceremony, Jayasekera had replied, "most probably."

"The bottom line is that GoSL never confirmed President Rajapaksa’s participation. That’s it. I didn’t respond to Taylor’s queries as regards possible meetings between President Rajapaksa and UK Ministers and whether an interview could be arranged with the President."

Jayasekera said that Taylor admitted that the President agreeing to an interview was unlikely due to the sour relationship between The Independent and the GoSL.

The External Affairs Ministry told The Sunday Island that within hours after Taylor contacted Jayasekera, UK based Tamil groups launched a campaign probably on The Independent’s assurance that the Sri Lankan President was coming for Olympics.

On the day of the inauguration of the Games, the President enjoyed a musical show at the Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Performing Arts Theatre.

An online report posted on The Independent reported the planned protests in a story headlined: `‘London 2012: UK Tamil community set for mass protests as Sri Lanka’s controversial president confirms he will attend Olympics’ on July 25.’’

Taylor reported that Rajapkasa’s presence in the UK has often prompted large demonstrations from Britain’s Tamil community who accuse his government of carrying out widespread atrocities against civilians and combatants during the 2009 war that finally wiped out the Tamil Tiger insurgency.

The UK media quoted GTF spokesman Suren Surendiran as having said they were looking at possible legal avenues they could pursue against the Sri Lankan delegation when they arrive in Britain.

He added that Rajapaksa might be getting away from being arrested by hiding behind the cover of being a head of state. Anyone else joining him with blood in their hands must know that the Tamil community at the United Kingdom would deploy the full strength of the available legal instruments against them.

TAG spokesman Jan Jananayagam said that there was convincing evidence that Sri Lankan government was responsible for ethnically motivated crimes against humanity and continuing persecution of other ethnic and religious groups in Sri Lanka.

He went on to add that they have released a report this week showing how government institutions such as the police and military under Rajapaksa’s command are involved in a systematic network of politically motivated disappearances as well as abduction for ransom.

British Tamil Forum (BTF) has appealed to all Tamil people to participate in the protest campaign organized against arrival of President Rajapaksa. The protest demonstration is planned opposite side of the Billingsgate fish market at the Aspen Street that would begin at 5pm in the evening and go on till 9pm.

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