More than 500 people attended a dinner of the Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) on February 4.
The ATC, formed in 2009, campaigns for the rights of Tamil people in Sri Lanka, who have been subject to discrimination, oppression and massacres at the hands of successive racist Sri Lankan governments since the independence of Sri Lanka in 1948.
The ATC has helped gather evidence of war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan government during its war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who fought for an independent Tamil homeland in the north and east of the island until their military defeat in 2009.
The gathering watched a video that showed a young Tamil woman describing the bombardment of hospitals by the Sri Lankan military in the final stages of the war.
Dr Siven Seevanayagam told the audience that “structural genocide” takes place in Sri Lanka today. He said thousands of Tamils are still held in prison camps, nearly three years after the end of the war.
Seevanayagam said that the Australian government is reluctant to challenge the Sri Lankan government because it helps to stop Tamil refugees coming to Australia on boats. He said that if Tamils were safe in Sri Lanka, Tamil refugees “would stop tomorrow”.
Professor Patrick McGorry, a psychiatrist who treated Tamil asylum seekers in detention centres and was Australian of the Year in 2010, also spoke. He said the people in the detention centres were nearly all genuine refugees, but have a lot of difficulty being accepted by the authorities.
McGorry, who was born in Ireland, drew parallels between the Tamil and Irish people. Both had fought against oppression, and in both cases ethnic cleansing has created a large diaspora.