Sri Lanka politics and commentary

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Friday, October 9, 2009

Hunger striker's £7m Big Mac: Tamil who cost London a fortune in policing was sneaking in fast-food

By Stephen Wright

He was the hunger striker at the centre of one of the longest-running demonstrations ever mounted in Britain. For weeks Parameswaran Subramaniyan lay in a tent outside the Houses of Parliament as Tamils protested about the plight of relatives under attack in Sri Lanka. At one stage, his supporters claimed he was 'critically weak'.

The protest finally ended in June, but two revelations put it back in the spotlight yesterday.

First, police said it had left them with a £7.1million overtime bill.

Then it emerged that Mr Subramaniyan, 28, had eased his ordeal by secretly eating McDonald's burgers. Scotland Yard surveillance teams using specialist monitoring equipment had watched in disbelief as he tucked into the clandestine deliveries. A police insider said: 'In view of the overtime bill, this has got to be most expensive Big Mac ever.'

Scotland Yard made no official comment but senior sources said police decided against dragging the bogus hunger striker out of his tent for fear it would start a riot.

One source said: 'This was such a sensitive operation that it was felt officers could inflame the situation if we brought the hunger strike and demonstration to a premature end. This is a further example of the complexities of policing London today.'

The Yard figures revealed that officers pocketed nearly five times more overtime on the Tamil demonstration - which at times brought Westminster traffic to a standstill - than they did for the G20 summit of world leaders in the capital in early April.

The overtime bill for policing the Tamils was nearly as much as the one for foiling the country's biggest-ever terrorist plot, to blow up several trans-Atlantic flights in 2006, which added up to £7.3million.

The police response to the 7/7 terrorist attacks in London in 2005 resulted in overtime payments of £21.7million.

Yard insiders believe the huge amount of resources diverted to the 72-day Tamil demonstrations contributed to a 9 per cent increase in burglary across London in the past six months.

Police mounted a 24-hour presence in Parliament Square from April 6 to June 17.

Several hundred protesters were at the site every day with the numbers swelling to thousands each time there were fresh reports of civilian deaths during the Sri Lankan government's offensive to end its 25-year civil war against the separatist Tamil Tigers.

Protesters were calling on Britain to stop Sri Lanka shelling the last rebel-held enclave, where thousands of civilians were trapped.

Details of the over-time bonanza were revealed in a paper submitted to the Metropolitan Police Authority, which oversees the running of Britain's biggest force.

Tim Hollis, a vice president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said in the MPA paper: 'Overtime figures reflect the realities of modern policing, including its unpredictability.

It must be remembered that overtime generally reflects a cost effective and flexible way of meeting additional demands.

'It must, however, be always carefully monitored, calculated and authorised.'

The Metropolitan Police said in a statement: 'The policing operation for the demonstration within Parliament Square also catered for a number of associated events and protest sites.

This included an increase in resources for Prime Minister's Questions, the London Marathon, a march in support of the Tamil community totalling 110,000 people-and protests at the Indian and Sri Lankan High Commissions.

'A total of 29,838 officers worked during this 72-day period.

'Levels of officers deployed varied based on what police were dealing with.

'The peak for the static protest in Parliament Square reached 5,000. A march on April 11 was attended by in the region of 100,000 people.'

Around 80 people were arrested in connection with the demonstrations.

Earlier this year it emerged that one unidentified constable in the Met was paid more than £100,000 after doubling his salary with overtime-The force declined to identify where the officer worked, but those involved in royalty and diplomatic protection overseas are traditionally among the top earners.

Official figures also showed that Met officers earned the most in overtime of any force.

There were 2,296 PCs taking home between £50,000 and £60,000 a year; 339 collecting more than £60,000; 53 on £70,000 or more and 12 over £80,000 - at least £38,000 more than their basic salaries.

More than 12,000 PCs in 35 of the 51 forces in England, Scotland and Wales claimed over £6,000 each in overtime last year - a rise of 20 per cent on their salaries.

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