By Sujeeva Nivunhella in London
In the backdrop of pro-LTTE activists demanding the expulsion of Brig. Priyanka Fernando, Sri Lanka’s Minister Counsellor in London, the veteran army officer defended his action saying it was meant to portray that the LTTE leader was dead, when demonstrators continued to shout “our leader is Prabakaran”.
Brigadier Fernando is accused of making a “throat slitting gesture” when pro-LTTE Tamil demonstrators protested during Sri Lanka’s 70th Independence Day celebrations at the High Commission in London. He was promptly recalled by the Foreign Ministry, but the order was later revoked by the President.
He said that he showed the Lion Flag on his uniform to indicate he is ready to give his life for his motherland. “I made the ‘throat sign’ for the second time to convey the message that everything was now over”.
LTTE sympathizers continue to lobby for the expulsion of the Defence Attache, but the move has seen Sri Lankans domiciled in London and other parts of Europe rallying in support of the military officer.
Meanwhile, two members of the Global Sri Lanka Forum who were waving Lion flags to counter Friday’s protest by LTTE activists, were hospitalized after they came under attack.
Questions have been raised by concerned Sinhala groups on how LTTE supporters were permitted to wave Tamil Eelam flags and display a big cut-out of Prabakaran during the protest when the LTTE remains a proscribed terrorist group in the UK.
The British government turned a blind eye to this brazen violation of the law, they pointed out, while querying whether Britain would allow Al-Qaeda or ISIS sympathizers to protest carrying their terror outfit’s flags and cut-outs of their leaders.
With UK-Sri Lanka relations on an upward trajectory over the past three years, political observers believe the pro-LTTE diaspora is trying to capitalize on the Feb. 4 incident to jeopardize the close rapport between the two countries by calling for the expulsion of Sri Lanka’s Defence Attache.
One observer noted that with the dawn of peace, Tamils can now live anywhere in Sri Lanka. As a result, many Tamils who applied for political asylum are no longer granted visas to remain in the UK.
“That’s why they are trying desperately to cash in on any incident to push their asylum applications to stay in the UK”, he said.