Tamils continue Ottawa protest

KENNETH JACKSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:29 AM ET

OTTAWA -- For a brief moment, Tamil-Canadian protesters nearly had one of their demands met when they pulled down their controversial tiger flags.

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon's office was preparing to release a statement after the Tamils stopped flying their flag.

However, the protesters decided they would only lower their flags for the morning and the flags were flying again by noon.

Cannon's office then decided not to release a statement.

"We will monitor over the next days but our position stands," Catherine Loubier, Cannon's spokeswoman, wrote in an e-mail to the Sun.

When asked whether that meant the Conservative government might meet with the protesters soon, she said not yet.

The feds have said as long as the protesters support the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) -- a group the government considers a terrorist organization -- and fly a flag they believe is the Tigers', the government will not address or meet with them.

The LTTE have been fighting for independence from Sri Lanka for 25 years. The war has resulted in more than 70,000 deaths.

The protesters argue the flag, which shows a tiger and two crossed rifles circled with bullets, is their national flag and a symbol of freedom.

"We don't want to give the Canadian government any further excuses to (not) come and meet with the hunger strikers," protest spokesman Senthan Nada said early yesterday. "We are holding our messages high."

MEETING SOUGHT

Nada said the group might be prepared to lower the flags again, but the government would have to propose a time to meet.

"I'm not sure though if everyone would do that. It's their national flag," he said.

In addition to wanting to meet with government officials, the protesters also want the government to recall the Canadian high commissioner in Sri Lanka and to push for a permanent ceasefire in the south Asian country.

Then the protesters say they'll leave Wellington St. Hundreds of protesters lined the street in front of Parliament Hill for a ninth day yesterday.

Meanwhile, Julius James, 34, the hunger striker who went to hospital Tuesday, remained there yesterday.

He didn't drink water for four days and was taken to the hospital with stomach pains.

Four other strikers, one as old as 74, intend to continue their protest.

KENNETH.JACKSON@SUNMEDIA.CA


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