Rare Singapore protest over Sri Lanka war

Agence France-Presse

Four people held a rare protest march in tightly controlled Singapore on Wednesday to appeal for British help in ending the war in Sri Lanka, a report said.

Outside of a designated free speech park, public gatherings of five people or more without a police permit are illegal in the city state.

Careful to remain within the law, four men marched on Wednesday morning from the city’s Little India district to the British High Commission about four kilometres (2.5 miles) away, The Straits Times website reported.

About nine percent of Singapore’s multi-ethnic resident population are Indian, and many of those are ethnic Tamils.

“It was the British colonial government that arranged for Tamils to move to Sri Lanka so it’s responsible,” V Thamizhmaraiyan, 54, a bus driver who led the quiet march, said in The Straits Times report.

Sri Lanka’s president predicted on Wednesday the total defeat of Tamil Tiger rebels within a few days, while as many as 250,000 civilians may be trapped in the combat zone, according to UN agencies.

At the British High Commission, the Singaporean protesters handed over a letter conveying their appeal, the news report said.

A High Commission spokeswoman confirmed they had received a letter addressed to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown from four men.

“The letter is an appeal to the UK to help in stopping the violence in Sri Lanka. We have forwarded it to London,” she told AFP.

She added that the men were not carrying any placards or shouting slogans.

Thamizhmaraiyan, the protest leader, was quoted as saying he had the support of many Tamils in Singapore but they did not join the march because they feared arrest.

“I assured them that we could not be carrying placards and banners and would not be doing anything illegal but they were still fearful,” he was quoted as saying.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday called on both sides in Sri Lanka’s conflict to allow a “temporary no-fire period” to evacuate casualties and allow relief in.