The Victoria Refugee Action Collective held a forum on March 20 called “Persecuted in Sri Lanka, detained in Australia: the plight of Tamil refugees”. Former journalist Trevor Grant said the Australian public has been taught to be fearful of refugees. The language used to speak about them — including terms such as “illegal” and “border protection” — is designed to create fear. Grant, who is active in the Tamil Refugee Council, spoke of the use of torture and rape by Sri Lankan government forces against Tamils.
About 200 Sensis workers chanted "Our jobs: yes, outsourcing: no, John Allan has to go", at a rally outside Telstra's Melbourne head office on February 28. John Allan is the CEO of Sensis, a Telstra subsidiary that has announced plans to sack 700 workers. Lorraine Cassin, the secretary of the printing division of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), told the rally that 400 of the jobs would be transferred to Manila and Mumbai.
The Sri Lankan army has demolished hundreds of houses inside its “high security zone” (HSZ) at Valikaamam on the Jaffna peninsula in the north of Sri Lanka, a February 11 Tamilnet report said. The houses belonged to Tamils who had been driven from their homes 20 years ago when the HSZ was established.
About 80 residents held a rally outside Coburg Town Hall before a meeting of Moreland City Council on February 13. They then went into the Council meeting and raised their concerns during question time. The rally was organised by Save Coburg, a residents group recently formed in response to the proposed new Coburg Structure Plan. This plan includes 10-storey buildings alongside existing homes.
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.