Tamils reject 'terrorism' allegations

Issue 

Two leaders of Melbourne's Tamil community have been arrested and charged with terrorism offenses. Aruran Vinayagamoorthy and Sivarajah Yathavan have been accused of diverting funds raised to help tsunami victims to assist the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The LTTE, which is fighting for self-determination for Sri Lanka's oppressed Tamil minority, is considered a "terrorist" organisation by the Australian government and corporate media, although it is not on the Australian government's list of proscribed terrorist organisations. The Howard government has chosen to ignore the state terrorism of the Sri Lankan government forces against the Tamil population.

Murugupillai Sivakumar, the president of the Eelam Tamil Association of Victoria, told Green Left Weekly that the allegations of aid funds being diverted to the LTTE are false. The aid has been used to help people in the north and east of Sri Lanka, areas devastated by decades of war, as well as by the December 2004 tsunami.

Sivakumar said that the aid funds have been used for specific projects such as building houses, water tanks and roads. Since 85% of the area is administered by the LTTE, much of the aid goes to LTTE-controlled areas, but this does not mean it goes to the LTTE.

Sivakumar said that the Sri Lankan government has been preventing the restoration of normal life in the north and east of Sri Lanka, and that international aid allocated for use in the north and east has been blocked. He argued that the Sri Lankan government wants a military solution to the ethnic conflict.

Sivakumar said that the Sri Lankan government is using its "propaganda machine in Australia" to portray Tamils as terrorists and silence the Australian Tamil community. Anti-Tamil groups in the Australian Sinhalese community have accused Australia's Tamils of collecting funds for the LTTE and these allegations have been given uncritical media coverage. Similar allegations are being made in other countries, and Sivakumar said, "It seems like a coordinated effort".

Sivakumar said that while Australian Tamils do not want to interfere in the judicial process, they cannot remain silent, because "the whole Tamil population is a target".