Tamil protest in downtown Ottawa enters second week
Published Tuesday, April 14, 2009 8:03PM EDT
About 2,000 Tamils remained in downtown Ottawa on Tuesday as their protest near Parliament Hill entered its second week, continuing to draw people from Toronto, Montreal, and the United States.
"I've been here since Tuesday and I've been to three different houses of Tamil people I don't even know," said Sahavthan Jesuchasan of Toronto.
Priyants Nallaratnas, another protester, is proud that his mother remains on a hunger strike - aside from warm water every 20 minutes.
The City of Ottawa is accumulating a large overtime bill for police officers, paramedics, and delayed bus drivers. Residents and local politicians are wondering who will pay these costs, as well as for damages associated with the volume of protesters in the downtown core.
The World Exchange Plaza notified tenants on Tuesday that free weekend parking may be cancelled for the duration of the demonstration.
Tamil supporters believe the disruptions are a necessary cost to protect their compatriots -- despite most cabinet ministers and MPs remaining away from Ottawa over the long weekend. They are demanding greater action by the Canadian government to end Sri Lanka's bloody civil war.
The protests also continue in the capital after the Sri Lankan government ordered a two-day suspension of its military offensive against Tamil Tiger rebels to ostensibly allow tens of thousands of trapped civilians to leave the war zone.
The protesters want more Canadian pressure in favour of a permanent ceasefire.
"We are sorry for the trouble. I understand there are a lot of officers working for us," said one Ottawa participant. "We appreciate that. But the same time, our relatives, our loved ones, are over there, dying everyday."
The United Nations says about 100,000 civilians are trapped in the war zone with dozens dying every day. The government and aid groups accuse the rebels of using civilians as human shields and have called for their release. The rebels and rights groups have accused the military of firing into the safe zone -- a charge the military denies.
The Tamil Tiger rebels are fighting to create an independent homeland for ethnic minority Tamils, who have faced decades of marginalization by successive governments controlled by ethnic Sinhalese. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the violence.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon released a statement Saturday that urged the Sri Lankan government to comply with UN principles for displaced persons.
Cannon also blamed at Tamil Tigers (LTTE) for preventing civilians from leaving LTTE-controlled territory, pointing to "disturbing reports of shelling in the government-declared no-fire zone."
The LTTE has been deemed a terrorist organization by the Canadian government.
With reports from CTV Ottawa and The Associated Press