Two groups of Tamils walked from Glen Waverley and Sunshine to the Melbourne CBD on March 15 to “alert Australians to war crimes and genocide in Sri Lanka”. The walkers converged in front of the State Library, where a rally was held. The Campaign for Tamil Justice organised the walk to coincide with a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The UNHRC meeting had been expected to hear a report on Sri Lanka by the UN human rights commissioner, but this has been delayed for at least six months.
In his latest article “New threats of war and fascism” (GLW #1045), John Pilger gives a distorted account of the wars in the former Yugoslavia. He condemns the “criminal record” of the Kosova Liberation Army (KLA), but seems to absolve the Serbian government of any wrongdoing. In reality Serbian chauvinism, promoted by the Slobodan Milosevic's government, was central to the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s amid the collapse of the Soviet bloc. The formation of the KLA was a response to the chauvinist politics of the Serbian regime.
Tamil women whose relatives are missing completed a three-day hunger strike at Nalloor, a town in the north of Sri Lanka, on March 8. The women, led by Northern Provincial Council member Ananthy Sasitharan, were demanding an international investigation into the disappearance of their relatives, who were arrested or abducted by the Sri Lankan armed forces. The women were joined by young people who had finished a four-day march from Mullivaikkaal, site of the genocidal massacre of Tamils by the army in the final stages of the war, which ended in May 2009.
About 150 relatives of missing people protested outside a hearing of the Presidential Commission on Missing Persons in Trincomalee, a city on the east coast of Sri Lanka, on February 28. The protesters were mainly Tamil women whose relatives are still missing after being arrested or abducted by the Sri Lankan armed forces. They expressed their lack of confidence in any commission appointed by the Sri Lankan government, and demanded investigations by a United Nations team.
The Refugee Action Collective held a public meeting in Melbourne on February 23 to discuss the situation in Sri Lanka after the January 8 presidential election, at which Maithripala Sirisena defeated incumbent president Mahinda Rajapaksa. Trevor Grant, the author of Sri Lanka’s Secrets: how the Rajapaksa regime gets away with murder, told the meeting that Sirisena had been a member of Rajapaksa’s cabinet for 10 years. He was acting defence minister in May 2009, in the final days of the war, when the slaughter of Tamils by the Sri Lankan armed forces was at its height.
Maithripala Sirisena has taken office as president of Sri Lanka after winning the island's January 8 election. Sirisena won 51.28% of the vote, defeating incumbent president Mahinda Rajapaksa, who got 47.58%. Seventeen other candidates won 1.14% of the votes between them. Rajapaksa had been elected president in 2005 and re-elected in 2010. In his first term, he presided over the most brutal phase of the war between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa is being challenged by Maithripala Sirisena, who was until recently one of his ministers, in the January 8 presidential elections. However, many Tamils and leftists see little difference between the two. Sirisena is being supported by the opposition United National Party, and has promised to appoint UNP leader Ranil Wickramasinghe as prime minister. There are 16 other candidates.
The Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption, appointed by the Abbott government and headed by retired judge Dyson Heydon, released its interim report on December 19. The report called for criminal charges to be laid against several Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) officials, including charges of blackmail against the CFMEU's Victorian state secretary John Setka and assistant secretary Shaun Reardon.
A subsidiary of the giant construction company Grocon was fined $250,000 in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on November 21 for “failing to ensure a safe workplace”. The charge related to the deaths of three people when a wall collapsed in March last year. The wall blew over in a strong wind and fell onto a footpath in Swanston Street, Carlton. An advertising hoarding attached to the wall may have contributed to the collapse. However, the wall was in such poor condition that it may have fallen over anyway.
Sinnathamby Krishnarajah was arrested on October 25, in Kilinochchi, a town in the north of Sri Lanka. His “crime” was to photocopy forms printed from the internet to be used for making affidavits to a United Nations investigation of war crimes committed during the war between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The LTTE, which had been fighting for an independent Tamil state in the north and east of the island, were defeated in May 2009. Since then, Tamil areas have been under military occupation by the Sri Lankan army.
The Court of Justice of the European Union has annulled the EU’s ban on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The ban was imposed in 2006. The Council of the EU claimed that the LTTE, which had waged an armed struggle for an independent Tamil homeland against the Sri Lankan state, was a terrorist organisation. After its military defeat in May 2009, the LTTE no longer exists in its original form of an armed independence movement. However, the continued ban on the LTTE has restricted the peaceful political activities of Tamils campaigning for human rights and national self-determination.
Yet again, the Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate (a federal government body set up to attack unions in the building industry) has launched legal action in the Federal Court against the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU). The inspectorate said on September 12 that CFMEU organiser Theo Theodorou was alleged to have told the director of a demolition company wishing to work at a Carlton building site that: “as [the demolition company] is working in the city, it needs to obtain an enterprise agreement with the CFMEU for its employees”.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) fought for an independent Tamil homeland in the north and east of the island of Sri Lanka. The group was formed in response to discrimination against the Tamil people by the Sri Lankan government, after peaceful protests had been repeatedly met with violent repression. It waged an armed struggle for nearly three decades. The LTTE was militarily defeated in 2009, and no longer exists. Yet people are still being penalised for alleged links with the group. This is happening in Sri Lanka, in Australia, and in other countries.
Was I a Stranger in My Homeland? By Malavi Sivakanesan Xlibris, 2013 Malavi Sivakanesan was eight years old in 2003 when her father, a Tamil dentist living in exile in Norway, went back to his homeland in Sri Lanka to set up a mobile dental clinic. He not only carried out dental work himself, but also trained local people to continue after he left. At the time, there was a ceasefire between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
During a recent visit to China, Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa signed an agreement to give China 1200 acres of land in the Trincomalee area on a long term lease for “defence-related development”. Part of this land is occupied by temples, mosques, schools and houses. The Tamilnet website said about 450 families will lose their homes. Those affected are mainly Tamil-speaking Muslims. China’s plans for the area are unknown. However, Trincomalee’s renowned natural harbour, situated on the north-east coast of the island of Sri Lanka, was used as a naval base by the British.
Journalist Nic Maclellan spoke at a public meeting in Melbourne on July 10 about his visit to New Caledonia to observe the May 11 elections. Maclellan said New Caledonia was colonised by France in 1853. Indigenous Kanaks have been reduced to a minority in their own country. Kanaks are now 44% of the population. In addition to settlers from France itself, there are also people from other French colonies in the Pacific (Tahiti, Wallis and Futuna), as well as people whose ancestors came from former French colonies such as Vietnam and Algeria.