Visiting Tamil professor speaks


By Kerryn Williams

MELBOURNE — More than 100 people gathered at the Mount Waverley Community Centre on September 9 to hear Professor Chandrakanthan speak about the war against Tamils by the Sri Lankan military.

Chandrakanthan is based at Concordia University in Montreal, and was attached to the University of Jaffna from 1980 to 1996. He witnessed the bloody capture of Jaffna in 1995 by the Sri Lankan army.

Chandrakanthan spoke of the history and current state of the Tamil struggle, and gave a vivid account of the suffering of the Tamil people during decades of war at the hands of the Sri Lankan military.

Since 1983, 50,000 Tamils have been killed; many were children. He spoke of mothers who, having witnessed the murder of their teenage sons, are forced by the army to sign false statements that their dead sons were members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Chandrakanthan, who between 1992 and 1995 was president of Jaffna's Centre for Mental Health and Counselling, described the "Jaffna syndrome": many survivors of Sri Lankan military atrocities suffer from schizophrenia, fear of light and certain sounds, and see and hear things which don't exist. He described teenagers who scream at the sight of uniforms.

The meeting heard how under the present Sri Lankan government, the largest number of Tamil civilians have been killed, arrested, tortured and disappeared.

Chandrakanthan spoke out against western governments which claim to be "neutral" in the conflict. Such "neutrality" is a "sin against humanity", he said.