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Tamil stronghold a ghost town A Sri Lankan soldier is seen aboard a military helicopter as it flies towards the newly recaptured Tamil rebel held town of Mullaittivu Jan. 27, 2009. --> The rebel-patrolled streets of Mullaittivu were empty yesterday except for stray dogs, abandoned cows and a few government soldiers. Consulate shuts for day as hundreds protest 'atrocities' against Tamils in Sri Lanka
Jan 28, 2009 04:30 AM Comments on this story (32) Raveena Aulakh
Lesley Ciarula Taylor
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in front of the Sri Lankan consulate yesterday to condemn the alleged killing of dozens of Tamil civilians by the government in the island nation Monday, calling it ethnic cleansing and genocide.
"The (Sri Lankan) government's atrocities against Tamils are unacceptable," said Jey Jeyarasalingam, 25, a student at the University of Toronto. "They are killing innocent people, little children. The situation is so bad but the international community is not even talking about it."
The consulate closed its doors for the day as almost two dozen police officers monitored the gathering. Waving signs and shouting slogans, protesters of all ages started to congregate outside the consulate on St. Clair Ave. W. near Yonge St. just before 11 a.m. and stayed till 5 p.m.
When Gaza was being pounded by Israeli forces, it made headlines everywhere "but no one seems to care about the condition in Sri Lanka," said Jeyarasalingam, holding an enlarged photograph of two dead children lying on a floor. "Things have never been so bad in Sri Lanka."
The civil war in the tiny country has raged for almost three decades and thousands have been reported killed. The rebel Tamil Tigers have been demanding a separate state for minority ethnic Tamils in the island's north and east, but on Sunday Sri Lankan forces captured the Tamil Tigers' last major stronghold, confining the rebels to a narrow slice of jungle.
The neutral International Committee of the Red Cross said hundreds of civilians have died in the past two weeks and 250,000 are trapped by intense fighting between government forces and the Tamil Tigers.
Earlier there was tension when about a dozen demonstrators walked into the consulate at about 10:30 a.m. and demanded to speak to consul general Bandula Jayasekara. "He said `I'm not talking to terrorists' and called the cops," said Thennavan Amuthan, one of the protesters. "He called us terrorists." In an interview, Jayasekara pointed out that Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam is a banned organization and "these people (protesters) are clearly their sympathizers."
At Ryerson University, about 30 students staged a 30-hour fast from noon Monday in the student centre lobby to educate colleagues about the war between the Tamils and the Sri Lankan government. The group was collecting signatures for a petition to send to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said Kaviraj Nagarajah, president of the Ryerson Tamil Students' Association and an aerospace engineering major.
At 28 hours without food and water, Nagarajah said most of those fasting were "doing sort of okay." Nagarajah immigrated to Canada five years ago with his parents, who he said were apolitical. His father had been injured by shrapnel in a bombing shortly before they left.
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Moratuwa, Western, Sri Lanka