The Tamil Refugee Council’s (TRC) online rally on February 5 demanded an end to the military occupation of Tamil Eelam — the Tamil name for their traditional homeland in the north and east of the island of Sri Lanka.
The rally demanded self-determination for Tamils and called on the Australian government to stop aiding the Sri Lankan government’s genocidal policies.
In a video message, Tamil refugee Priya spoke about the racist repression of Tamil culture, language and religion and the occupation of their land. She said that Tamils do not regard February 4, the anniversary of Sri Lanka’s independence from Britain, as “independence day”. On that date in 1948, she said, power was handed from one oppressor to another.
Along with her husband Nades and two daughters, Priya was seized by police in their home in Biloela in March 2018. After being detained in Melbourne and on Christmas Island, the family now lives in Perth under threat of deportation.
Former NSW Green Senator Lee Rhiannon recalled how, during her visit to Sri Lanka in 2013, she observed military bases with Buddhist stupas at their entrances, while displaced people were living in shanty towns. She was told about prisoners being killed and children taken from their parents, and about Tamil refugees being tortured after they were forced to return to Sri Lanka.
The meeting also heard from N. Kandeepan, a member of the Tamil National People’s Front. He spoke about the massacre of Tamils in 2009 which, he said, was comparable to massacres in Rwanda and Srebrenica. He also spoke about the “structural genocide”, which has been the policy of the Sri Lankan state since 1948, and continues today.
He said Tamils live under “one of the heaviest military occupations in the world”. They suffer arrests and disappearances. They are denied the right to memorialise their dead. Their freedom of speech is restricted.
Despite the repression, Tamils continue to protest. Kandeepan mentioned recent protests in which participants declared February 4 a “black day”. He called on the international community to: refer Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court, or a special tribunal, to be tried for the crime of genocide; to recognise the north and east of Sri Lanka as the Tamil homeland; and to recognise the right of the Tamil nation to self-determination.
TRC member Niro Kandasamy said that the United Nations had failed Tamils. She called for solidarity to be built up, citing a successful campaign in Scotland to end the training of Sri Lanka’s Special Task Force by Scottish police.
Palestinian activist Jennine Khalik addressed the parallels between the Palestinian and Tamil struggles and academic Helen Jarvis spoke of her work as part of the Permanent Peoples Tribunal, which is investigating the murder of journalists in Sri Lanka.
TRC member Renuga Inpakumar said that the Eelam Tamil community is continuing to fight for justice.