Malaysian Tamils protest civilian casualties in Sri Lanka


Kuala Lumpur: Thousands of Malaysian Tamils Sunday staged a peaceful rally to protest the loss of civilian lives in Sri Lanka but said they did not support any militant organisation.

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Deputy Federal Territories Minister M. Saravanan said the rally was meant to show concern for the loss of lives of Tamil civilians, The Star newspaper website reported.

“We urge the international community, including Malaysia, not to support the actions of the Sri Lankan government and help the Tamil community there to live peacefully,” he said.

The rally, which closed the political divide among the Tamil lawmakers, was organised by World Tamil Relief and several NGOs.

The government sought to dissuade people from joining the rally and the police asked people to ignore SMS inviting them.

The rally was illegal as it was not given police permission, but it was allowed to take place.

It began at 10 a.m. and ended peacefully around three hours later, the website reported.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE), who have been decisively defeated by the Sri Lankan armed forces, enjoy a measure of support among Malaysian Tamils. But the organisation is banned in Malaysia, besides 29 other countries.

Malaysia is one of the dozen signatories supporting a Sri Lanka-sponsored resolution at the UN human rights body at Geneva, and has viewed unfavourably any connection with the LTTE.

Tamils in Malaysia, who form the bulk of the ethnic Indian population, have demanded a war tribunal against Sri Lankan leaders.

The Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), a constituent of the ruling Barisan Nasional alliance, has urged the government not to back a Sri Lanka-sponsored resolution at the UN on the current developments in the country.

MIC chief S. Samy Vellu said Saturday he would write to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak on the issue, New Straits Times newspaper reported Sunday.

“Tamils in Malaysia constitute 1.4 million of 1.8 million Indians in the country. As such, their feelings have to be respected.

“There has to be a war tribunal in Sri Lanka to bring those people who perpetrated crimes against the Tamil community in their war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE),” Vellu said in a statement.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay last week backed calls in the West for an independent inquiry into possible war crimes in the tiny zone in Sri Lanka which she said might have become a “killing field”.

Fending off outside criticism, Sri Lanka Saturday presented to the UN Human Rights Council a draft resolution stating the “principle of non-interference” in internal matters and respect for its sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.

Geneva-based monitoring group UN Watch denounced Sri Lanka’s text as “an outrageous abuse and show of contempt”.

“Sri Lanka does not deserve to be praised, but rather condemned for blocking humanitarian emergency relief to thousands, (and) creating conditions leading to the spread of diseases,” UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer said.

The UN said the conflict had killed between 80,000 and 100,000 people since erupting into a full-scale civil war in 1983. About 300,000 Tamils are presently in refugee camps.