Harlesden man walks from London to Geneva in call to end violence in Sri Lanka

Sathiyasivam Sinnaya who walked from 10 Downing Street for Geneva

Sathiyasivam Sinnaya who walked from 10 Downing Street for Geneva - Credit: Archant

Sathiyasivam Sinnaya is also asking for independence for Tamil people

A Harlesden political activist has walked halfway across Europe to request independence for Tamil people in Sri Lanka and call an end to the violence.

Sathiyasivam Sinnaya, 35, who was granted political asylum in the UK in 1997, has covered 525 miles on foot from London to Geneva in 12 days where he also delivered a request for a referendum on Tamil sovereignty to the UN office.

Sri Lanka was embroiled in a bitter civil war between the government and breakaway Tamil Tigers rebel group between 1983 and 2009. The conflict claimed thousands of civilian lives, and both sides have been accused of committing atrocities.

Mr Sinnaya started his journey in front of 10 Downing Street on February 20, where he was supported by fellow activists and friends.

The former bus driver, who now owns a company which trains other bus drivers based in Bridge Park Community Leisure Centre in Harrow Road, Stonebridge, said:” I just wanted to do something for my country. I did this walk because I want justice for victims of war, and a peaceful resolution, so everyone can get back to normal life.”

His route took him from London across the English Channel to Dieppe, and then by country and back roads through the length of France and Switzerland. He walked between 30 and 60 miles a day, from 8 am until late afternoon, and slept in a transit van which his friends drove alongside him as support.

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The group moved through remote rural areas and occasionally found nowhere to buy food, so Mr Sinnaya would have to continue his walk with just a banana and a piece of bread for sustenance.

He said:” We did not want to stay in any hotels or have any comforts out of solidarity with all the people who suffered because of the war. I did not find the conditions difficult because it was much worse for those who lived through the conflict.”

Mr Sinnaya was born into a wealthy family in the mainly Tamil north-eastern part of Sri Lanka, and claims that he was forced to flee to Britain after he was threatened with kidnapping.

His family still lives in his home town, but the activist says that, even though he would like to return to his home country, it would not be safe for him to do so.

He added: “I was welcomed in Britain and it is a great country, but I do not have anyone here, I am completely alone and it is very hard.”

The activist has been honoured by the Tamil Society of Britain for his effort.