New book highlights plight of Tamil refugees

Losing Santhia was launched on July 27.

Eighty people attended the launch of Ben Hillier’s new book Losing Santhia, which was organised by the Tamil Refugee Council on July 27. Santhia was a Tamil refugee from Sri Lanka who had been a member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and who died in Indonesia in 2017.

Hillier, an editor of Red Flag, visited Indonesia and Sri Lanka to find out more about her life. He said her story was not unusual, as thousands of Tamils had fought and died in the struggle for national liberation.

Hillier said that Tamil youth felt they had no choice but to take up arms because every political avenue for seeking justice had been closed off. A big problem was that the socialist parties in the predominantly Sinhalese south of the island had capitulated to chauvinism.

Hillier said that his book includes some criticisms of the LTTE's strategy. However, it also includes an essay by LTTE theorist, the late Anton Balasingham, to allow reader to see how the Tigers themselves explained their strategy.

Hillier said that the LTTE were militarily defeated in 2009 due to imperialist support for the Sri Lankan government. Tamil areas are now under heavy military occupation, with bases every six to 10 kilometres in some areas.

State-sponsored colonisation schemes are transferring Sinhalese settlers into Tamil areas.

However, he said there are some hopeful signs of a resurgence of activism. Tamils are campaigning around issues such as land rights and the fate of those who disappeared during the war.

Hillier spoke of the need for a combined struggle by the Tamils in the north and east of the island and the Sinhalese workers and peasants in the south, adding that the responsibility for creating a united struggle lies with the Sinhalese left parties, rather than the Tamils.

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