Chris Slee

The predominantly Tamil northern province of Sri Lanka was at a “complete standstill” on October 13, according to Tamilnet. All public and private businesses were shut down.

The strike was called by 20 grassroots movements to demand the unconditional release of all Tamil political prisoners.

Protesters blocked the A9 highway, and blockaded the secretariat of the Colombo-appointed governor of the Northern Province.

The next day protesters with black flags confronted Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena who was visiting a school in Jaffna.

Students and staff of Jaffna University rallied on October 4 in support of three Tamil prisoners who are on hunger strike.

The prisoners are accused of having been members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which fought for an independent Tamil homeland in the north and east of the island of Sri Lanka, until defeated in May 2009. The Sri Lankan government’s victory was accompanied by a genocidal massacre of tens of thousands of Tamil civilians.

Deakin University researcher Ronan Lee believes Australia’s links with the Burmese military must stop in light of its recent campaign of violence against the Rohingya.

Lee, whose research focus is Burma, made these comments at a Darebin Ethnic Communities Council forum on Burma the Rohingya refugee crisis held on September 16.

Lee gave some historical background, noting there is evidence that the Rohingya have lived in what is now Burma’s Rakhine state for hundreds of years.

Tamils and Muslims in Manaar, a town in the north of Sri Lanka, rallied on September 5 in solidarity with the Rohingya people of Myanmar. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have been forced to flee Myanmar in recent weeks due to military attacks.

Many Tamils and Muslims see similarities between the situations in Sri Lanka and Myanmar. In both countries, Buddhism is the dominant religion and Buddhist monks have helped incite hatred against religious and ethnic minorities.

More than 500 people attended a rally called by the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV) on September 9 in solidarity with the Rohingya people of Myanmar (Burma).

Rally chair Adel Salman, the vice-president of the ICV, said genocidal policies against the Rohingya have been carried out for decades. The Rohingya were citizens of Burma when it became independent in 1948, but were deprived of citizenship after a military coup in 1962.

More than 200 people participated in a rally and march for refugee rights on September 2. A similar rally was also held in Sydney.

The demonstration was organised at short notice by the Refugee Action Collective in response to the federal government's decision to end the $100 a week income support for people who were brought to Australia from Manus Island and Nauru for medical treatment and evict them from the houses they are living in. This will initially affect 100 people, but may eventually affect many more.

About 100 people attended a rally outside Parliament House on August 26 to protest against the proposed new citizenship law.

Speakers denounced the plan to make permanent residents wait four years before applying for citizenship, and the proposed university-level English language test.

Lebanese migrant Dalal Smiley said many migrant women will be "forever locked out of society" by the language requirement.

Federal shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the new law will keep many migrants from becoming citizens and having the right to vote.

Sixty residents of Fawkner, a northern suburb of Melbourne, attended a meeting on August 27 to hear an update on the campaign against the proposed redevelopment of the site of the former Nufarm chemical factory.

One of the chemicals made in the factory was Agent Orange, which was used by the United States during the Vietnam War. Local resident Sally Beattie told the meeting Agent Orange is still causing birth defects in Vietnam today.

Workers employed in the Corporate and Technical Division of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) will vote on a new enterprise agreement during the two weeks beginning on August 31. The Corporate and Technical Division includes non-firefighting employees of the MFB, such as payroll and finance staff and computer technicians.

The Court of Justice of the European Union issued a ruling on July 26 that confirmed an earlier General Court decision removing the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) from the EU's list of "terrorist organisations".

The LTTE was an armed organisation fighting for an independent Tamil homeland in the north and east of the island of Sri Lanka. It was formed in response to decades of discrimination and repression against the Tamil minority by the Sri Lankan government.

More than 100 people attended a public meeting called by the Refugee Action Collective (RAC) on July 24 to discuss how to break bipartisan support for offshore processing. The discussion focused on ways to change Labor Party policy.

Chairperson Margaret Sinclair read a message from Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus, who said Australia has a "responsibility to take a greater number of refugees than we do". She said the current intake is "shameful".

A rally called by the Campaign for Democracy in Sri Lanka was held in Federation Square on July 16. Protesters are opposed to the creation of a private medical college, the South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine. The Government Medical Officers Association has called for SAITM to be nationalised.

Speakers condemned police attacks on students, doctors and others protesting against the privatisation of medical education, including when 96 students were injured during a police attack against a demonstration on June 21.

Tamils from the village of Thunnaalai on the Jaffna Peninsula of northern Sri Lanka took part in angry protests after the murder of a Tamil worker by police on July 9.

Tamilnet said: “A police post was smashed by angry villagers on Sunday and there were also incidents in which SL police vehicles were stoned by the public in the area. Traffic remained blocked as the protesting villagers had put tires ablaze across the roads.”

Eighty tenants and supporters rallied at the Northcote public housing estate on June 24 to protest plans to evict the tenants and demolish their homes.

Northcote is one of nine public housing estates the Victorian Labor government wants to demolish. It wants to sell the land to private developers who would build high rise units. Some "social housing" would also be built.

Addressing the rally, Aboriginal activist and public housing tenant Viv Malo linked the planned evictions to the history of dispossession of Aboriginal people.

A proposed law restructuring Victoria's fire services has been referred to a parliamentary select committee, and will not be put to a vote until parliament resumes in August. This follows the expression of "concerns" about the law by conservative crossbenchers in the upper house.

The proposed law would end the antiquated situation where regional cities and a large part of the Melbourne metropolitan area are covered by the Country Fire Authority (CFA), and receive an inferior service. 

The Victorian Labor government has announced its plans for restructuring Victoria's fire services.

Currently, the Metropolitan Fire Brigade covers only part of the Melbourne metropolitan area, while the Country Fire Authority (CFA) covers not only rural areas but also regional cities and many of Melbourne's suburbs.

The proposed law would create a new body, Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV), which would cover the whole Melbourne metropolitan area and regional cities.

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