Chris Slee

More than 1000 students marched through the streets of Jaffna demanding freedom for Tamil political prisoners on November 14.

An appeal issued by the Jaffna Universty Students Union read: "At least 132 Tamil political prisoners are languishing in the prisons of Sri Lankan state across the island. Many of them have been detained for years without trial".

More than 100 people attended a rally in defence of public housing at the Walker Street Estate in Northcote on November 11.

The Victorian Labor government has announced a "public housing renewal program" that will involve the demolition of nine public housing estates across Melbourne. The land will be sold to developers who are likely to build high rise towers in place of the current low rise buildings.

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.

The October 17 edition of The Age has a front page story about bullying and sexual harassment in the Country Fire Authority (CFA).

The article said: "Women working for the CFA have been sexually assaulted and harassed amid a culture of fear, bullying and impunity, according to a leaked internal report whose existence has been a tightly held secret until now."

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.

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