BRUSSELS/COLOMBO: Thousands of supporters of a Tamil state protested in Brussels yesterday against “genocide” by the Sri Lankan government, urging the European Union to send observers to see the situation on the ground.
“The Sri Lankan soldiers are killing 50 Tamil every day, and that is just in the so-called ‘protected areas’,” said Siva Ram, a Tamil protester from Paris.
Organizers put the turnout at around 30,000 although police put the figure at 5,000.
“We want to tell the world and Europe to stop the genocide in Sri Lanka,” said Suveetsan Sivapula, from Germany.
The noisy protest, organized by the Tamil Youth Organization, took place 100 meters from where EU foreign ministers were meeting in Brussels’ European quarter.
Meanwhile, the United Nations yesterday accused the Tamil Tigers of seizing one of its staff members and pressing him into service, as the rebels struggle to avoid a defeat in a shrinking war zone in northern Sri Lanka. A statement from the UN in Colombo said it “fears for the safety of one UN national staff member, and three dependent family members who were forcibly recruited over the weekend by the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam).” The charge comes as the Sri Lankan military said more than 1,500 people had fled the war zone in the last several days. The government accuses the rebels of using civilians as human shields in a desperate attempt to avoid defeat as the military closes in to finish off a 25-year civil war.
The United Nations statement said the worker and family members, including a 16-year-old girl, were forced inside a government-declared “safe zone.” It did not describe what the rebels asked the group to do.
It said another UN staff worker taken two weeks ago has not been released despite repeated requests. The rebels are struggling to hold onto a shrinking swath of land on Sri Lanka's northeast coast.