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Friday, 16 February, 2001, 19:20 GMT
Tamils campaign against UK Tiger ban
Tamil Tigers
Tigers warn that a UK ban would destroy the peace process
Sri Lankan Tamils have urged Britain not to ban the Tamil Tigers under a new terrorism bill due to come into force on Monday.

Students in northern Jaffna have collected more than 50,000 signatures on a petition asking Britain not to ban the rebels, whose international secretariat is in London.

There have also been demonstrations against a ban in rebel-controlled areas in eastern Batticaloa district.

Tamil newspapers
Tamil newspapers on sale in London: UK decision eagerly awaited

Britain has yet to say whether it will include the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on a list of organisations proscribed under the new Terrorism Bill.

Decision looms

Sinhalese nationalists in Colombo say they plan to hand over their own petition with a million signatures to the British High Commission on Monday urging London to enforce the ban.

The Tigers, for their part, have warned that the delicate peace process will be seriously undermined if they are banned in Britain.

The Tigers have already been banned in India and the United States, and Interpol recently posted Tiger chief Velupillai Prabhakaran and his associates on its website of most wanted men.

The British bill replaces the old the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which has been blamed for miscarriages of justice.

Velupillai Prabhakaran
Tiger chief Velupillai Prabhakaran: one of Interpol's most wanted men

But the new law also creates a much wider definition of terrorism.

Signatures

Reports from Jaffna say 6,000 students from the university and the technical college have signed a letter to British Home Secretary Jack Straw calling on him not to ban the Tigers.

The students have also started collecting signatures in schools, hospitals, government departments and private houses.

They say they have more than 50,000, although they aim to collect 10 times that many.

The Jaffna University students union has also written to the US ambassador in Colombo asking him to persuade the Sri Lankan government to start peace talks.

Local journalists also say a group of Catholic priests and students met the deputy US ambassador in Jaffna.

They reportedly said Tamil Tiger rebels were widely considered to represent the Tamil people and therefore should not be banned in Britain.

Reports from Batticaloa say 5,000 people, including many school children, took part in demonstrations calling on Britain not to ban the Tigers.

University students in government-controlled areas of Batticaloa are planning a demonstration next week in support of the right of self-determination for Tamils.

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See also:

13 Feb 01 | South Asia
Tiger warning over UK ban
19 Jan 01 | South Asia
Tiger warning over ceasefire
28 Jul 00 | South Asia
Sri Lanka urges Tiger ban
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