Solidarity protests mark Tamil Oppression Day

February 8, 2021
Tamil solidarity protest in Melbourne. Photo: Chris Slee

About 60 people rallied outside the State Library on February 6 to demand an end to the oppression of Tamils and Muslims in Sri Lanka. A protest was also organised in Parramatta in Western Sydney.

February 4 marks the anniversary of Sri Lanka’s independence from Britain in 1948. The Tamil Refugee Council (TRC) describes February 4 as Tamil Oppression Day because the new government has introduced discriminatory laws.

“One of the first acts of the new government was to disenfranchise more than 1 million Tamils. They later passed the Sinhala Only Act denying the Tamil language equal status and making Sinhala the country's only official language. The state became increasingly chauvinist, discriminating against Tamils in employment and education, all the while colonising Tamil lands with Sinhala-Buddhist settlers,” the TRC said that on February 3.

Peaceful protests were met with “a combination of indifference and violence”, according to the TRC. Tamil youth took up arms. The military conflict ended in 2009 with “a genocidal offensive by the Sri Lankan military that left tens of thousands of Tamils dead”. Today “Tamil lands remain under heavy military occupation”. Muslims are also oppressed.

Greens spokesperson Samantha Ratnam addressed the protest and criticised successive Australian governments for “aiding and abetting” the Sri Lankan government. She called for trade relations between Australia and Sri Lanka to be cut.

After the speakers, the crowd marched to the Park Hotel where 12 refugees remain in detention.

Former NSW Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon addressed a protest in Parramatta where she said the protest was part of four days of actions calling on the United Nations to establish an independent investigation into allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed by the Sri Lankan state on Tamil communities.

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