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.
The Australian government says there is no need for people to flee Sri Lanka because it is a democratic country. It also claims that, following the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in May 2009, Sri Lanka is a “society at peace”. But the end of the war does not mean the country is at peace. It just means that the violence is now one-sided. The Sri Lankan army still commits acts of violence against the Tamil people, but the Tamils can no longer fight back.
In the Shadow of Gallipoli By Robert Bollard NewSouth, Sydney 2013 On April 25, 1915, Australian troops landed at Gallipoli on Turkey’s coast. They were part of a British imperial force aiming to capture Constantinople (now called Istanbul) and the land alongside the narrow waterway linking the Mediterranean to the Black Sea. It was hoped this would enable British ships to enter the Black Sea and bring supplies to allied Russia.
Three Muslims were killed and about 10,000 made homeless after attacks by Sinhalese Buddhist mobs during the week starting June 15. Violence began in the town of Aluthgama after a rally by the Sinhalese-Buddhist chauvinist group Buddhist Power Force (BBS). It then spread to several other towns. Muslim-owned shops, houses and vehicles were burnt by the mobs. Police were sometimes present, but did nothing to stop the violence. The BBS has been engaging in a campaign of anti-Muslim propaganda and violent attacks for several years.
Students and staff at Jaffna University lit candles on May 21 to remember the Tamils who died in May 2009 when the Sri Lankan army carried out a genocidal onslaught in the final days of the island's decades-long civil war. Tens of thousands of men, women and children were killed as Sri Lankan government forces bombarded them from land, sea and air.
About 300 pensioners, unemployed people and sole parents attended a rally called by the Fair Go for Pensioners Coalition on May 21. Marion Lau, deputy chairperson of the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria, spoke of the injustice of the federal government’s plan to force workers, including those in heavy manual jobs, to work to the age of 70 before they can get the age pension.
The fifth anniversary of the end Sri Lanka's civil war will be marked on May 18. In 2009, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who fought for nearly 30 years for an independent Tamil homeland in the north and east of the island, were defeated. In the final days of the conflict, tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were killed in a horrific aerial, naval and land artillery bombardment carried out by the Sri Lankan armed forces.
More than 100 people attended a forum on the federal government’s proposed amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act. The meeting, called by the Darebin Ethnic Communities Council, was held in Northcote Town Hall on April 24. Attorney-general George Brandis was invited to attend, but did not show up. Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus told the meeting the government’s planned changes amount to scrapping the existing law against racial vilification. He said this would give a “green light for racism”.
About 200 people rallied in Melbourne on March 27 to express their opposition to the death sentences imposed on 529 Egyptians at a mass trial of alleged members of the Muslim Brotherhood in the city of Minya. Protestors held placards with slogans including “Say yes to democracy and no to brutal dictatorship”, and “Say yes to justice and no to a corrupt and complicit judiciary”. Mahmoud Hegazy told the rally that the charges included membership of an illegal organisation (the Muslim Brotherhood), incitement to violence, and the murder of one policeman.
The United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a US-sponsored resolution on “Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka” on March 27. But the resolution makes no mention of the plight of the Tamil people. The word “Tamil” does not appear once. The resolution expresses “serious concern at the continuing reports of violations of human rights in Sri Lanka, including sexual and gender-based violence, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture and violations of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly”.
Addressing the United Nations Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva on March 14, Ananthi Sasitharan said: “We request this assembly calls for an international investigation on genocide, and as an immediate step, to come out with a mechanism to stop the ongoing genocide of Eelam Tamils.” The Tamil ethnic minority in Sri Lanka is largely based on the island's north and east. With Tamils facing discrimination and violent pogroms, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam waged a decades-long armed struggle for an independent state.
Members of the National Union of Workers (NUW) employed at the Super A-Mart warehouse in Somerton have maintained a presence outside their workplace since being locked out on March 7. The workers held a one-day strike on February 28 in support of their campaign for an enterprise bargaining agreement, which would be the first ever signed at the warehouse. They called another strike on March 7, but were then locked out indefinitely by the company.
Three Australian unionists recently returned from Bangladesh gave a reportback to a forum in Melbourne on March 5 on the conditions experienced by its clothing and textile workers. The meeting was organised by Australia Asia Worker Links (AAWL).