A public awareness campaign asking shoppers in Britain to boycott products made in Sri Lanka and sold in popular stores like Marks & Spencer continued last week with several members of the Tamil Youth Organisation (TYO) handing out leaflets and talking to shoppers on Oxford Street Saturday. Similar TYO events took place over the Christmas period in shopping centres in London’s suburbs, mirroring Tamil activists’ campaigns in other parts of the world, and those of other UK-based organisations like ‘Act Now’. In the midst of the January sales, central London retailers are in their busiest times of the year.
Despite the cold weather Saturday, groups of activists at different locations on UK’s premier shopping street spent several hours handing out leaflets, distributing thousands of leaflets and talking to shoppers, some of whom returned bought items.
Our goal, like other campaigners, is to continue to raise awareness of Sri Lanka’s treatment of the Tamil people, and [Saturday’s] was very successful in that regard,” a TYO official told TamilNet.
“We were pleasantly surprised to find, in comparison to our past campaigns, greater awareness of Sri Lanka amongst shoppers. Many people pledged in future to check products’ made-in labels and also to spread the word!”
“Some people also took leaflets to distribute in support and occasionally a few joined us for a short while,” TYO activists said
Some shoppers also took back their recently bought products made in Sri Lanka.
In Harrow, alarmed M&S shop staff came out to meet the campaigners.
“They calmed down when we explained the boycott was aimed at Sri Lankan products, not their company, though of course they still weren’t happy,” an activist said.
Textiles and Garments is Sri Lanka’s biggest export earner with $3.2 billion in 2009 – but garment production has a large imported component, reducing the value-added.
The UK is said to be second largest market (after the United States) for Sri Lanka garments, accounting for 27% of garment exports.