A new report shows why Tamil refugees fear being sent back to Sri Lanka, and why it is essential to campaign against the Australian government's policy of deporting them or pressuring them to return "voluntarily", writes Chris Slee.
Sri Lanka has a long history of discrimination against Tamils. In 1948 Tamil plantation workers were deprived of citizenship. In 1956 Sinhalese was made the sole official language, denying the Tamil language equal status, writes Chris Slee.
More than 500 Tamil demonstrators tried to march to the site of a destroyed Hindu temple at Kanniyaa in the Trincomalee district of Sri Lanka on July 16.
The Sri Lankan army and police have used the bombings of churches and hotels on Easter Sunday as a pretext for repression, targeting people who have no connection with the group responsible, the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ – National Monotheism Society).
The NTJ, an extremist Islamic group, is believed to be linked to the Islamic State, based in Iraq and Syria.
Sri Lankan police have been raiding numerous Muslim groups with "Thowheed" in their name, even if they are opposed to the NTJ. As of May 2, at least 130 Muslims had been detained, according to Tamilnet.
Sri Lanka has had a violent history in the seven decades since its independence in 1948. But this history did not include any major conflict between Muslims and Christians. Both Muslims and Christians have in recent years come under attack from Buddhist chauvinists. Why then, did the bombers target Christians?
About 4000 Tamils rallied in Mullaitheevu on the northeast coast of the island of Sri Lanka on August 28, Tamilnet reported.
They demanded the return of land previously confiscated from its Tamil owners and given to settlers from Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese ethnic majority, as well as the abandonment of irrigation projects that will result in further Sinhalese settlements in Tamil areas.
The Tamil Refugee Council has again called on the Australian government to end the deportation of Tamil asylum seekers to Sri Lanka, after the United Nations found evidence of widespread torture in the country.
The report of Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson, released on July 23 after his latest mission to Sri Lanka, concludes: “[I]mpunity is still the rule for those responsible for the routine and systemic use of torture, and countless individuals are the victims of gross miscarriages of justice resulting from the operation of the PTA [Prevention of Terrorism Act].
Two people died and homes, vehicles, shops and mosques were burnt during anti-Muslim riots in Sri Lanka.
The riots began in Kandy on March 5 and spread to other nearby towns. Victims accused the police of failing to protect them in the early stages of the violence. A state of emergency was declared on March 6.
On November 27, known to Tamils as Heroes Day, those who died fighting for an independent Tamil homeland were commemorated at ceremonies throughout the north and east of Sri Lanka.
More than 1000 students marched through the streets of Jaffna demanding freedom for Tamil political prisoners on November 14.
An appeal issued by the Jaffna Universty Students Union read: "At least 132 Tamil political prisoners are languishing in the prisons of Sri Lankan state across the island. Many of them have been detained for years without trial".