Sri Lankans ‘saw the Palestinian issue as a colonial problem and supported their cause’
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COLOMBO: Protesters in Colombo gathered for another rally in solidarity with Palestine on Thursday, after Sri Lankan MPs jointly urged the UN to stop the ongoing Israeli onslaught on Gaza.
Sri Lankans have been taking to the streets to show their support for Palestinians since the beginning of Israel’s deadly bombardment last month.
The support comes also from Sri Lankan parliamentarians, more than 150 of whom signed on Tuesday an open letter to the UN secretary-general demanding that the intergovernmental body “swiftly act by taking necessary steps to be imposed on Israel to stop its onslaught, oppressions, and aggressions against the people of Palestine.”
Dozens of people took part in the protest held in front of the Colombo Fort Railway Station on Thursday, carrying banners and placards reading “End! Israeli Apartheid Rule,” “Palestinian Lives Matter,” and “Stop Bombing Gaza,” along with Palestinian flags.
“(We want) to show solidarity with the Palestinian people and express our opposition at the Israeli regime, and also express our anger at the way Israel, with the help of the US, (are) conducting this war,” Srinath Perera from North-South Solidarity Group, which organized the rally, told Arab News.
Israel has reportedly killed more than 11,500 Palestinian civilians living in the besieged enclave. At least 4,600 children are believed to be among the dead, as Israeli forces continued their attacks and hit hospitals, ambulances, schools, and refugee camps.
Sri Lanka’s solidarity with Palestine stems back to its early days of independence in 1948, as post-independent Sri Lankan governments and people “saw the Palestinian issue as a colonial problem and supported their cause,” Ameen Izzadeen, senior journalist and international editor of The Sunday Times weekly, said.
“During the heydays of the Non-Aligned Movement, Sri Lanka had been on the forefront of championing the Palestinian cause. Even after the Non-Aligned Movement lost its relevance after the demise of the Cold War and countries in the Middle East started normalizing ties with Israel, Sri Lanka continued to support the Palestinian cause,” Izzadeen told Arab News.
Support for Palestine continued “despite Sri Lanka’s diplomatic relations with Israel,” he said, which were established in 1956. Tel Aviv was a key supplier of advanced military hardware for Colombo during the civil war fought from 1983 to 2009. Today, most Sri Lankans are pro-Palestine.
“The Sri Lankan government has stuck to the country’s traditional policy of support in the Palestinian cause … (and) most of the youth are pro-Palestinian,” Izzadeen added.
Naina Mohammed Ameen, president of the Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum, said Sri Lankans across the country had been holding various gatherings to educate the public on what was happening in Gaza.
“At the moment, every day there seems to be a protest and workshop on explaining the Gaza situation. It is not only Colombo, all over the island (there are) many protests and discussions on the Palestinian issue,” Ameen added.
“This Palestinian solidarity movement represents the Muslims, Tamils, Sinhalese, not only that there are many political parties … Sri Lankan people are expecting the freedom of Palestinian people.” Arab News
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