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Oxford Union cancels Rajapaksa's lecture under LTTE activists' pressure

December 2, 2010 - London

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa's scheduled lecture at the Oxford Union, debating society of the Oxford University, has been cancelled because of "security concerns".

Rajapaksa is on an official visit to the United Kingdom at the invitation of the Oxford University, and was due to speak at the institution on Thursday.

A statement by the Oxford Union said that "due to the sheer scale of the expected protests, we do not feel that the talk can safely go ahead".

Rajapaksa's secretary, Lalith Weeratunga, said that the decision to cancel the talk had been made unilaterally by Union, "reportedly as a result of pressure applied" by pro-Tamil Tiger activists. statement released by President Rajapaksa said that he was "very sorry" that the talk had to be cancelled, "but I will continue to seek venues in the UK and elsewhere where I can talk about my future vision for Sri Lanka".I will also continue in my efforts to unite all the people of our country whether they live in Sri Lanka or overseas," the BBC quoted Rajapaksa, as saying.

Oxford police had earlier warned that thousands of protesters would converge if the talk went ahead, presenting a major security challenge.

UK based Tamil groups are trying to obtain an arrest warrant against Rajapaksa over 'war crimes and human rights violations' during the last phase of combat between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) last year.

"We have instructed a prominent legal firm and have spoken to former lord chancellors. We know that at least 40,000 civilians were killed at the end of the war. This man was the commander in chief and he's coming to speak to the Oxford Union. He should face a proper trial," Sen Kandiah, founder of the British Tamil Forum, an umbrella group representing Tamils in the UK, had said.

The UK accepts universal jurisdiction for war crimes offences, which means that those accused of atrocities can be arrested in Britain wherever the offence was allegedly committed.


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