Tamil students from universities across London commemorated “Youth Maaveerar Naal” on Friday evening, honouring those that gave their lives for the freedom of Tamil Eelam.
Organised and held in Guy’s Campus in King’s College London, more than 70 students gathered to pay their respects to their fallen heroes.
The event began with the lighting of the traditional lamp by representatives from different universities and the raising of the British and Tamil Eelam National Flags. This was followed by the lighting of the candles by the audience and observance of a moment of silence and to honour those that made the ultimate sacrifice.
The students then lined up to place Karthigaipoo flowers (The national flower of Eelam Tamils) on a memorial.
Representatives from universities then came forward and gave speeches in English and Tamil, as well as reciting poems and moving performances.
Tharshan Kumaran, representing the Tamil Youth Organisation, spoke of the sacrifice made by the men and women of Tamil Eelam, saying,
"These were people like you and I. They also had dreams and ambitions,,, These were future doctors, lawyers, entertainers, teachers, artists and future parents… but recognising the dire circumstances our people were living through... our brothers and sisters rose courageously to be the van guards of our nation’s inalienable right to exist, so that one day each one of us could live out our own dreams in our own homeland, free and dignified."
A stirring musical performance of by Joel Joseph, a student at University College London who recently performed at the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony, alongside Rachael Raathuja Rajan particularly moved the audience. Performing “I Was Here”, the lyrics spoke of those who had left their mark on the world and made a difference.
The sentiment was echoed by Visakan Balakumar, a student at Imperial College London, who went on to say that remembrance alone, was not enough, and called on the Tamil youth in the diaspora to take up the struggle for their kith and kin in their homeland. In particular, the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting was highlighted as a key working point, and called upon university students to rally behind a campaign calling for a change of venue away from Sri Lanka.
Poems in Tamil were recited by Deno from City University and Gowsi from the Tamil Youth Organisation.
A student from King’s College London’s Tamil Society, gave a powerful speech recognise the grand scale of the sacrifice made by those who had given their lives. She said,
"Today, we students have once again reunited to honour thousands of our fallen heroes who have sacrificed their lives for the freedom of Tamil Eelam. It’s heartbreaking to say that all of their graves have now been desecrated and destroyed by the Sri Lankan state. However, our maaveerar will never remain unmarked pages in our history. Each one of these courageous men and women will remain forever engraved in our hearts, serving as pillars of our nation."
"To cause the premature death of an innocent person is murder. To cause the premature deaths of large numbers of innocent people on racial and ethnic grounds, to destroy the very fabric of a nation, that is genocide. Faced with this genocide, this massive onslaught against our nation, these men and women displayed a bravery that has been unmatched, and rose up stand as our protectors, our guardians."
See the full text of her speech here.
Also speaking at the event was Simon Hughes, Member of Parliament and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, a party in the ruling British coalition.
He told the audience that he believed what occurred on the island “unarguably was genocide”, calling it “one of the greatest tragedies of the century” and stated that allegations of war crimes must be investigated and prosecuted. He went on to highlight the CHOGM 2013 meeting, due to be held in Sri Lanka, stating,
“To go and support a regime that has not answered questions [regarding war crimes] is clearly not acceptable”.
Hughes spoke out particularly on the case of media freedom saying,
“What is really really sad about Sri Lanka, particularly in the parts that are Tamil Eelam, is the media intimidation that takes place.”
The MP also spoke on the case of a separate state for the Tamil nation, noting that,
“Every people has a right to put a case to run and lead themselves”.