Throughout March, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) will be reviewing the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, among other countries, at it meeting in Geneva. At last year’s session, the UNHRC passed a resolution calling on the Sri Lankan government to “conduct an independent and credible investigation into allegations of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law”.
“Contrary to popular belief, the end of the war has actually deepened the ethnic conflict. This is because the underlying causes for the conflict have not been addressed and in certain ways exacerbated”. These were the words of C. V. Wigneswaran, chief minister of the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) in Sri Lanka, addressing an academic conference in capital, Colombo, on February 13.
A wave of protests has broken out in recent months against militias in Libya’s cities. The militias are armed groups originally formed during the 2011 civil war. Most are based in a particular town or region, but they sometimes try to exercise power over a wider area. There is widespread resentment at their arbitrary exercise of power. One protester told the Libya Herald that the militias “terrorise, steal and kidnap people”.
Three hundred firefighters gathered in Treasury Gardens on December 12 and marched to Parliament House to protest against inadequate staffing levels. United Firefighters Union secretary Peter Marshall said the former ALP government had promised to employ 342 extra firefighters and had allocated money for this purpose. However, the Coalition government has failed to implement the planned increase. Marshall said that this puts community safety at risk. He said that the bushfires royal commission showed the need for more firefighters.
More than 1000 students protested against the closure of the Jaffna University on December 2, TamilNet said. The university was reopened that day after several weeks of closure. All universities in Sri Lanka had been closed during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to prevent them being used as organising centres for protests. But in the case of Jaffna University, situated in the predominantly Tamil north of the island, the closure was prolonged to prevent students from marking Heroes Day on November 27.
Nearly 1000 workers at the Ansell Lanka factory in Sri Lanka’s Biyagama Export Processing Zone have been on strike since October 11 in protest against the sacking of their union branch president. Later, 10 other union members were also sacked. The striking workers set up a camp at the bus stop outside the factory. The company obtained a court injunction banning the camp.
A meeting of about 160 residents called by Moreland City Council voted unanimously to reject the proposed East West Link on November 12. The first stage of the major road project is planned to link the Eastern freeway with the Tullamarine tollway at an estimated cost of $8 billion. Residents called instead for the money to be spent on improved public transport. Andrew Munro, from the Metropolitan Transport Forum, spoke of the need for more investment in public transport.
Last month, the High Court heard a case brought by lawyers for Ranjini, a Tamil woman who was accepted as a refugee but is being held in indefinite detention because ASIO considers her a security threat. Ranjini is one of 47 people in this situation. They face the prospect of spending the rest of their lives in detention because ASIO claims that they are “likely to engage in acts prejudicial to Australia’s security”. Ranjini’s lawyers said detaining people for life without charge, trial or conviction for any crime is illegal. The High Court has reserved its decision.
The proposed East-West tunnel being built in Melbourne’s inner-north has been delayed again as residents prevented soil testing by staging rolling protest actions. But the battle is likely to resume soon. The East-West tunnel was originally proposed in 2008. After a community campaign, the former Labor state government dropped the proposal, but Premier Denis Napthine’s Coalition government revived the $8 billion plan in 2011.
The Tamil National Alliance won an overwhelming majority in the Northern Provincial Council elections held on September 21. TNA leader C. V. Wigneswaran is expected to become chief minister of the Northern Province, a predominantly Tamil area in the north of the island of Sri Lanka. The TNA, with 78% of the vote, won 30 of the 38 positions on the NPC. The United Peoples Freedom Alliance, the party of Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa, won seven positions, while the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress won one.
Jeff Halper, the leader of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), spoke about his ideas on the future of Palestine and Israel at Melbourne University on September 19. The ICAHD campaigns against the demolition of Palestinian houses by the Israeli occupation regime. It has rebuilt 187 houses that had been demolished.
“The worst genocide of this century” was how Paul Newman, professor of human rights at the University of Bangalore, described what has happened to the Tamil people in Sri Lanka. Newman was delivering the Eliezer memorial lecture, in memory of Professor CJ Eliezer, the founder of the Eelam Tamil Association of Victoria, at Monash University on August 25. Newman was speaking on democracy in south Asia. He began by outlining some common features of the south Asian countries including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka, before discussing Sri Lanka in more detail.
Locked-out Yallourn power station workers were joined by hundreds of people at a rally outside the offices of their employer, Energy Australia, in Melbourne on August 16. The company, a subsidiary of the Hong Kong-based China Light and Power, locked out all 75 shift operators, members of the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU), on June 21. The workers had been limiting power output as part of a campaign of protected industrial action in pursuit of a new enterprise agreement.
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the main party representing Tamils in Sri Lanka’s parliament, has selected 36 candidates to contest the Northern Provincial Council elections, to be held on September 21. Sri Lanka’s northern province, which is mainly inhabited by Tamils, has been under military rule since the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009. The LTTE fought for nearly three decades for an independent Tamil state in the north and east of the island.
About sixty people attended a meeting on “America’s Pacific Push” on July 25. Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, spoke about the growing US military presence in the Pacific. Examples included the expansion of a missile test range in Hawaii, the building of a naval base on South Korea’s Jeju Island despite strong resistance from local people, and the plan to station 2500 US troops in Darwin. Gagnon said that US bases in Australia play a crucial role in US military strategy.
A former Tehran University student, Behzad Bargheri, spoke to 50 people at a public meeting on Iran on July 20. Bargheri told the meeting in Melbourne that during the 1980s the Islamic Republic regime took “harsh and bloody measures” to suppress the left. Many thousands of leftists were arrested, tortured and murdered. The universities were closed for several years. When they reopened they had been purged of leftist students.