Australia's neglect of Tamils exposed

September 7, 2009

More than 100 people attended a meeting organised by the Sri Lankan Human Rights Project at the University of Sydney on August 31.

The meeting focused on the Tamil struggle for self-determination. It took place after a video was released by Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka, which depicted the brutal killing of a Tamil by the Sri Lankan Army.

The meeting was co-sponsored by the University of Sydney's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies and the University of Technology Sydney's Centre for Independent Journalism.

Former Australian diplomat Bruce Haig told the meeting the Australian government always saw the Tamil Tigers "as a group of rebels". He believed this attitude had worsened since Australia joined the so-called war on terror.

He said: "[Prime Minister Kevin] Rudd has failed to make the case for the Tamils and we can all share in that shame."

John Whitehall spoke of his experience as a medical practitioner with many liberation movements, including the Tamil Tigers. He said: "The Tigers were different. They had land and a civil administration making them an effective de facto government."

Tamil solidarity activist Dr Sam Pari also spoke on the history of the Tamil struggle for self-determination. Eyewitness testimonies of Sri Lankan Army atrocities were read out to the audience.

Journalism lecturer Wendy Bacon announced that the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism would soon release a report on Australian media complicity with Sri Lanka's war on the Tamils.

On the same day of the meeting, a Sri Lankan judge sentenced prominent Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainayagam to 20 years hard labour on "terrorism" charges.

His "crime" was to write articles critical of the Sri Lankan Army's brutal military offensive against the Tamils.

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