Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Call to Organize Picketing of Stores

by Mr. J..., May 29, 2009

It is important to realise that Britain and the EU (not China and Russia) are the largest overseas customers of the Sri Lankan textile, tea and tourism industries. Since repeated appeals for justice have been largely ignored by political world leaders and the UN, is it not time we changed tactics and targeted consumer demand in the West?  

Dear Friends:
 
This is an urgent call on the Tamil diaspora in the West to organize large scale picketing of major shops to boycott of Sri Lankan products.   Given the pathetic response from the international community and the UN, Western governments like Britain are unlikely to go through with actual economic sanctions against Sri Lanka. However, if consumers abroad (particularly those in the West who buy Sri Lankan-made products) boycott Sri Lanka, its economy will be hit as foreign revenue will fall. It is important to realise that Britain and the EU (not China and Russia) are the largest overseas customers of the Sri Lankan textile, tea and tourism industries. Since repeated appeals for justice have been largely ignored by political world leaders and the UN, is it not time we changed tactics and targeted consumer demand in the West?  
 
Boycott Sri Lanka AirlinesI do not understand why the Tamil diaspora has so far confined boycott campaigns against Sri Lanka to local shops and businesses in their own community. Why haven’t we been protesting on every high street outside the major retail shops likes M&S, Next and GAP (which sell clothing made in Sri Lanka) and encouraging the wider public not to buy Sri Lankan garments? Under the law in Britain we have the legal right to picket any public pedestrian highway as long as we are peaceful and do not cause an obstruction. Travel agents could also be targeted to boycott Sri Lankan tourism. The local media in every area could be notified in advance to give publicity.
 
At the moment the Tamil diaspora is still in shock and our responses at this time may be emotional. However, by contrast to the mass protests in Westminster, small groups of pickets spread across many different locations, standing outside retail branches with placards and distributing leaflets, can be highly effective. The boycott could be sustained for a prolonged period, hitting Sri Lanka’s revenue. Many other boycott campaigns in the past (e.g. to protest against South Africa and Israel) have been fairly successful. It may take time at first to build up momentum, but it does work. Grassroots action like boycotts can also spread awareness amongst the wider public by engaging directly with them on the high street (instead of being hidden behind police barricades in Westminster).
 
In practical terms, here is what is required to organise a boycott picket campaign:

  1. A small committee with contacts to organise and co-ordinate the campaign.
  2. Hundreds of volunteers spread across different areas.
  3. A list of target high street shops (which sell Sri Lankan products) and the location of their branches.
  4. Printed placards and leaflets that explain concisely why Sri Lanka should be boycotted, what products to boycott and how to identify these.
  5. Central collection/distribution points for volunteers to pick up and return leaflets/placards.
  6. A database of email addresses and mobile phone numbers of volunteers, split by area.
  7. Modest funds to support the campaign (e.g. money to design and print material).

Although the campaign may be at a national level, it should be co-ordinated with similar boycotts in other Western cities to have maximum impact.

The Tamil diaspora must switch from mainly mass demonstrations in Western cities to grassroots picketing of retail stores that sell Sri Lankan products. 
 
Regards  
 
Mr J.......  
London

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