Tamils call for permanent settlement, express solidarity with Palestine

May 20, 2024
Protesting on Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day in Naarm. Photo: Chloe DS

Protests marked Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day on May 18, 15 years since the peak of the genocide against Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Eelam Tamils and supporters condemned the Sri Lankan government for its continuing oppression of the Tamil minority. They called on Labor to end its support for Sri Lanka’s regime and to give Tamil asylum seekers protection.

About 200 people gathered in front of the Dandenong Library before marching to the office of Labor MP Julian Hill.

Many communities came to show their support for survivors of other genocides.

Aran Mylvaganam, founder of Tamil Refugee Council, spoke about Mullivaikkal Day — when Sri Lanka became the country with the “most disappeared” people in the world.

Hundreds of thousands of Tamil people were massacred in 2009 as part of the Sri Lankan government’s military occupation, supported by Australia and Israel.

Mylvaganam was 11 years old when the Sri Lankan air force bombed his school. “I watched my 13-year-old brother being cut in half by bomb shrapnel”, he said. Sri Lanka called this a “war for peace campaign” and the world supported them.

“As they murdered women and children, the international community was debating whether there was evidence of Tamil Tigers using these children as child soldiers,” Mylvaganam said.

“Every time I see Netanyahu threatening to go into Rafah, I’m reminded of Mullivaikkal.”

He said Tamils and Palestinians share similar histories, rooted in the British empire’s rule.

“We not only share histories of land grabs, displacements and massacres, we are also caught up in Western powers using our struggle to advance their interests in these regions. We also share similar experiences, with the Australian government supporting the genocide of our people.”

Mohamed Semra, anti-racism campaigner and refugee from Sudan, told the rally that the civil war in Sudan “has torn our lives apart” and that Sudanese people “can’t help but feel a similar narrative out there that we don’t have control over ... this situation has a tremendous parallel with what the Israeli regime is doing in Palestine right now.”

Hazara refugee and United Workers Union member Taqi Khan expressed his solidarity with Palestinians. He said the Hazara and Palestinians have both suffered for many years.

He said since the Hazara genocide under Abdur Rahman Khan, with British complicity, in the 1880-90s, many Hazaras are persecuted by the Taliban to this day.

“They are forced to live as refugees in … Syria, Iran and Iraq, where they have no identity or human rights. I can feel the pain of the Palestinian people because we face the same problem in Afghanistan for many years and we don’t have voice here.”

Adolf Mora, a West Papuan activist and who fled the Indonesian military occupation, and pro-Palestine activist Jacob Andrewartha from Socialist Alliance also spoke.

In Gadigal/Sydney, Nithurshi, a child of parents who survived the 2009 genocide, told the Tamil Refugee Council-organised May 19 rally that Sri Lanka continues to be unsafe for Tamils, with their lands, sacred sites and livelihoods under threat.

Nilla, an eyewitness to the genocide and who was only nine at the time, expressed the pain she carries every day. She said it is important to keep resisting the Sri Lankan regime.

Rawan Arraf, from the Australian Centre for International Justice, said it was wrong that leaders of the Sri Lankan government and military have not been held accountable. She called on Labor to “disengage” from the Sri Lankan war criminals, arguing targeted sanctions are needed.

Greens Senator David Shoebridge reminded the protest that 170,000 Tamils lost their lives in the last years of the massacre. He said Australia should support a case in the International Court of Justice for genocide against members of the Sri Lankan regime.

Both Labor and Liberal governments have helped to fund the Sri Lankan secret police to hunt down Tamils and the Sri Lankan navy to intercept Tamil refugee boats, he said.

“The complicity of the Australian government in the oppression of Tamils continues. We will step up the campaign to support Tamil claims for asylum in this country,” Shoebridge said.

Ian Rintoul, from the Refugee Action Coalition, said there is a direct connection between Sri Lanka in 2009 and the Israeli genocide against Palestinians in Gaza today: Labor was in government then and it is now, and it must act.

“Thousands of Tamil refugees are being denied permanent protection,” he said, adding that Labor's asylum seeker deportation bill should be opposed.

Renuga Inpakumar, from the Tamil Refugee Council, said “history is repeating itself”, pointing to Gaza.

“The 2009 genocide was a testing ground for how to attempt to silence liberation movements. But we will continue to resist, just as the Palestinians are doing at present.”

She said Sri Lanka needs a two-state solution: Tamil Eelam and a Sri Lankan state. Tamil Eelam must be independent and live side-by-side with Sri Lanka.


Photo: Chloe DS

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