Tamils

About 4000 Tamils rallied in Mullaitheevu on the northeast coast of the island of Sri Lanka on August 28, Tamilnet reported.

They demanded the return of land previously confiscated from its Tamil owners and given to settlers from Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese ethnic majority, as well as the abandonment of irrigation projects that will result in further Sinhalese settlements in Tamil areas.

Other demands included an end to “nature reserves” that prevent Tamil fisherpeople from fishing in lagoons.

Refugee activists are stepping up pressure on Qantas to halt its participation in the deportation of refugees from Australia, hoping this will help increase pressure on other airlines to follow suit.

Protests are planned outside Qantas offices in Sydney and Melbourne and a campaign has been launched to petition Qantas and 11 other airlines not to let the Australian government use their aircraft, pilots or crew to deport a Tamil family back to danger in Sri Lanka.

The Tamil Refugee Council has reported that asylum seeker Thileepan Gnaneswaran, who was deported on July 16, separating him from his wife and 10-month-old daughter, was arrested on unknown charges on arrival in Sri Lanka and later released.

His wife and daughter were both granted safe haven enterprise visas on July 11, two days before Gnaneswaran was issued with a removal notice after his claim for protection was rejected. Their separation will almost certainly be permanent as her visa does not allow for family reunion and she cannot return to Sri Lanka.

Eighty people rallied in Dandenong, an outer Melbourne suburb, on February 11 against the planned deportation of Santharuban, a former member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who sought asylum in Australia after the defeat of the LTTE in 2009.

The LTTE fought for an independent Tamil homeland in the north and east of the island of Sri Lanka. Former members of the movement continue to be "disappeared, detained, tortured, and harassed by the Sri Lankan security forces", according to a statement by the Tamil Refugee Council (TRC), which organised the rally.

Three Tamil political prisoners, who had been on hunger strike for 38 days, ended it on November 4.

The decision came after a delegation of Jaffna University Student Union leaders promised to build a grassroots campaign for the freedom of all political prisoners.

Tamilnet said the students and their supporters pledged to organise a “village to village information campaign”. By “mobilising the masses”, they aim to pressure Tamil members of parliament to make freedom for political prisoners a condition of support for the Sri Lankan government’s budget.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s enthusiastic embrace of Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is reprehensible, the Tamil Refugee Council said on November 2.

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.

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.

Tamil and Muslim fisherpeople marched on the Musali Divisional Secretariat on November 9. They were protesting against plans to establish a settlement by the Sinhalese ethnic majority in their coastal area of Sri Lanka's Northern Province.

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