Sri Lanka’s cricket team began their tour of England Saturday with a match against Middlesex that was accompanied by a protest at the Uxbridge ground by Tamil expatriates and others. A group of several dozen protesters holding banners, placards, and Tamil Eelam flags chanted slogans through megaphones and played drums, as some passing cars blew their horns in support.
The protest, organized by the Tamil Youth Organisation (TYO), was supported by other Tamil organisations and campaign group Act Now, representatives of which joined the protestors. The protestors took up position, in agreement with police, along the main road, but close enough to the edge of the grounds to watch England, captained by Andrew Strauss, bat against Sri Lanka.
The chanting began at 10am, before the match started, drawing the curiosity of arriving spectators, and ended at 4pm, to stay well within the time period agreed beforehand with the police.
Amongst the chants led by activists with megaphones were: “Boycott Sri Lanka cricket,” “Not to Zimbabwe, No to Sri Lanka”, and “War crimes, war crimes – say no to Sri Lanka”. The chants were interspaced by drums, including booming miruthangams.
Two large banners stated “Killing Tamils is not cricket. Stop genocide. Boycott Sri Lanka” and “It is genocide. Boycott Sri Lanka”.
The enclosure set up by the police for protestors was located next to a busy road and the banners drew the attention of passing motorists, some of whom responded enthusiastically to another sign: ‘Horn for the Tamils’.
“We are calling for a boycott of Sri Lankan cricket until that government accepts the international community’s demands for accountability for the war crimes against the Tamil people,” he said.
With the sounds of the noisy protest carrying across the ground all day, a couple of spectators had objected to police, but the right to protest was being upheld, a reporter with one British daily told protesters.
“We intend to exploit the attention drawn by the Sri Lankan cricket tour to further build public awareness here [in UK] of the Colombo government’s conduct,” Nandakumar said, adding that further protests will take place outside later matches.