Sri Lanka's parliament voted on January 11 to impeach Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake. This enabled President Mahinda Rajapaksa to dismiss her and appoint a new chief justice, Mohan Peiris. Bandaranayake was appointed as chief justice by Rajapaksa in May 2011. However, she antagonised him by ruling that a new law was unconstitutional. This law is aimed at setting up a new government body, known as Divi Neguma (a Sinhalese phrase meaning “raise the island”), which is supposed to promote economic development and social welfare.
Two student leaders from Jaffna University who were detained under Sri Lanka's draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act were released on January 22. Jaffna University Student Union president V. Bavanandan and Science Faculty student activist Shamugam Solomon were taken into custody with two other students on November 29 and 30.
I left the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) in July last year after working there for 22 years. I was given a redundancy package. My job had not been abolished, but a clause in the ATO enterprise agreement says: “An employee whose services can no longer be effectively used in their current job because of changes in technology or work methods or changes in the nature, extent of organisation of the ATO [can be given a package].” This is popularly called the “not coping with change” clause.
More than 60 people attended a meeting on January 24 to discuss the Coburg Structure Plan. This plan, put forward by the Moreland City Council, will allow the construction of 10-storey buildings adjacent to existing homes in Coburg, an inner-northern Melbourne suburb. The meeting was called by newly elected Socialist Alliance councillor Sue Bolton, whose electorate includes Coburg. Bolton told the meeting that most residents she had spoken to did not know about the plan.
Socialist Alliance candidate Sue Bolton was elected to Moreland City Council in Melbourne’s northern suburbs in the October 27 elections. The election provided a shake-up with the ALP losing three councillors and its outright majority on council. The Greens retained two councillors although their vote dropped in all three wards. The Socialist Alliance gained its first councillor position in Victoria and a Liberal Party member was elected to Moreland Council for the first time. The Democratic Labor Party retained its councillor.
Menaha Kandasamy, the president of the Ceylon Plantation Workers Red Flag Union, recently visited Australia at the invitation of Australia-Asia Worker Links. Kandasamy told Green Left Weekly the union mainly represents workers on tea and rubber plantations, though recently it has begun organising domestic and garment workers.
More than 100 people attended an October 17 talk by Professor Damien Kingsbury of Deakin University titled “Why are the Tamils fleeing Sri Lanka?”. The meeting was organised by the Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project. Kingsbury outlined the history of Sri Lanka. He said that British colonialism created a centralised administration of the previously separate Tamil and Sinhalese areas of the island. After independence in 1948, Sinhalese politicians established a “majoritarian” political system that discriminated against the Tamil minority in terms of language, employment and education.
Fifty people attended a meeting in Coburg on October 6 to protest against the installation of "smart meters" by electricity distribution companies in Victoria. Two similar meetings had already been held in nearby Brunswick. The meters enable remote reading of electricity use every half hour, remote connection and disconnection of electricity, and differential charging at different times of the day, among other functions.
Tamil Nation in Sri Lanka By Ron Ridenour New Century Book House Chennai, India Available in Australia via www.resistancebooks.com Ron Ridenour's Tamil nation in Sri Lanka is a history of the struggle of Tamils on the island of Sri Lanka for self-determination. Ridenour explains the reasons why many Tamils took up arms to fight for an independent Tamil state. He shows the history of racism in Sri Lanka and the violent repression carried out by successive governments against peaceful Tamil protests.
More than 1000 members of the United Firefighters Union (UFU), along with supporters from other unions, marched to the Victorian parliament house on September 13 to protest against funding cuts to the Metropolitan Fire Brigade and the Country Fire Authority. UFU members marched in their uniforms, despite attempts by management to intimidate them not to do so. Leaked Treasury documents obtained by the union show that the Metropolitan Fire Brigade will lose $25 million and the Country Fire Authority $41 million in the first year of the cuts.
More than 100 people attended the first Melbourne showing of the film Silenced Voices: tales of Sri Lankan journalists in exile on September 6.
Civil rights lawyer Rob Stary has called for a Senate inquiry into Australia's role in the war in Sri Lanka. Stary defended three Australian Tamil men charged with terrorism offences in 2007. He said such an inquiry would look at the reasons for the decision to prosecute the three. Stary made the call when delivering the Eliezer Memorial Lecture at Monash University on August 26. The lecture is held annually in honour of Professor C J Eliezer, a leader of Australia's Tamil community who died in 2001.
The article below is based on a talk given at a Socialist Alliance meeting on June 26 in Melbourne by Chris Slee, a member of the SA Melbourne branch. * * * The Socialist Alliance supports the right of the Tamil people to self-determination. A resolution adopted at an SA national conference reads: "Socialist Alliance recognises that Tamils are an oppressed nation within Sri Lanka, and supports their right to self-determination.
Photos by Ali Bakhtiavandi
Privatisation polices have been stepped up since the end of the war between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in May 2009, says Ranath Kumarasinghe from Sri Lanka's New Socialist Party (NSSP) Kumarasinghe is features editor of Haraya, a Sinhala language newspaper published by the NSSP. He recently visited Australia to speak at the Marxism 2012 conference, organised by Socialist Alternative in Melbourne over Easter.
About 200 people attended a meeting on Sri Lanka organised by People for Human Rights and Equality, a group of people of Sri Lankan origin now living in Australia. The meeting was addressed by Basil Fernando, a director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, and Britto Fernando, co-convener of the Platform For Freedom, a coalition of groups in Sri Lanka campaigning for freedom of expression and the right to live.