Tamils around the world have called for a global boycott of Sri Lankan Airlines in protest at the Colombo government’s decision to end its six-year ceasefire with rebels.
The Sri Lankan government officially annulled the cessation of hostilities with the rebel Tamil Tigers two weeks ago.
The truce, signed in 2002, had been largely ignored since mid-2006, with fighting becoming widespread in recent months across Sri Lanka.
Today, eight civilians and two policemen were killed in the south of the country in an attack by the Tigers, officially called the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE.
Announcing the boycott, the London-based British Tamils Forum claimed that £12m in foreign currency earned annually by the airline was being used to reinforce the government’s war chest.
Sri Lankan Airlines is, in fact, partially privatised with 43% of the shares owned by the Dubai-base Emirates Airline.
As many as 300,000 Tamils from Sri Lanka live in the UK. There are an estimated 350,000 in Canada and around 100,000 each in the United States and South Africa.
“The Sri Lankan government has abandoned all pretence of observing a ceasefire while resorting to an escalating war on the Tamils corralled into an ever tightening military cordon in their traditional homeland,” said Ivan Pedropillai, of the British Tamils Forum.
“We appeal to our fellow Tamils … to understand that travelling with Sri Lankan Airlines is tantamount to paying the government of Sri Lanka to buy the weaponry with which to kill our own people in their homeland in Sri Lanka.
“We appreciate that flying with other airlines to Colombo may involve some delay in transit stopovers.”
He also urged Britons to avoid taking holidays in Sri Lanka: “We extend this appeal to our other British compatriots who want to travel on holidays to Sri Lanka to think of the deaths and destruction that their money paid will eventually cause among the Tamils of Sri Lanka and to kindly avoid such travel.”
Sri Lankan Airlines declined to comment on the boycott threat. Sources at the Sri Lankan High Commission, however, said that such campaigns had failed in the past.
“They have tried many times to request the Tamil expatriate community living in the UK to boycott even Sri Lanklan products,” the source said, “but they failed. The people did not listen. They are trying to find an opportunity to hit the Sri Lankan government.
“The government decided to abrogate the treaty because there’s no point in having a document that serves no purpose.
“The Tamil Tigers were carrying out atrocities even before the treaty was ended.”
More than 70,000 people have been killed since 1983 when the LTTE began its paramilitary campaign for a separate homeland for the minority Tamil population.
The Sri Lankan foreign minister, Rohitha Bogollagama, claimed that the rebels had used the ceasefire simply to rebuild their military strength.