Monday, September 3, 2012

Australian government: Rajapaksa's partner in genocide

Brian Senewiratne in Perth
On Saturday September 1, around 45 people attended a presentation in Fremantle on the human rights crisis in Sri Lanka presented by Dr Brian Senewiratne. Brian is a Socialist Alliance member in Queensland and veteran campaigner for the rights of the Ilankai (Sri Lankan) Tamils, and staunch advocate for the right of Tamil self-determination.

While Brian comes from the majority Sinhalese community and has multiple family ties with the ruling elite (his cousin was a former president), he's famous for staring down the death threats and and insults thrown at him by government stooges.

Australian society remains largely ignorant of the reality on the ground, and at best the Australian media offer the naive hope that with the so-called "end of the war" the situation might be improving. In fact the the reality is very grim in both the South, where an activist, journalist or government critic is "disappeared" at least every five days (23 journalists have been murdered in the last four years); and in the Tamil homelands of the North and East where violence and ethnic cleansing meet the legal definition of genocide.

The meeting was called by the newly formed WA Network for Human Rights in Tamil Eelam and Sri Lanka. The network grew out of conversations between SA members Sam Wainwright and Ram Subramaniam. The military defeat of the Tamil Tigers in 2009 has provoked much discussion within the Tamil Diaspora about the way forward for their struggle.

They recognised the desperate need for a campaigning initiative open to both Tamils and non-Tamils; and which would take up the cause of all exploited and oppressed people in Sri Lanka and Tamil Eelam regardless of their ethnicity; and without compromising on the right of Tamil self-determination.

No surprise that there has been a surge of refugees fleeing violence from Sri Lanka, some even attempting to make the entire crossing of the Indian Ocean without stopping. The genocidal violence of the Government of Sri Lanka and the determination of the the Labor and Liberal parties to "turn back the boats" go hand in glove. But they also gives us the opportunity to truly expose the inhumanity of Australia's policy and the violent nature of the Rajapaksa regime.

As if on cue, the next day Deputy Leader of the Opposition Julie Bishop declared that Sri Lankan asylum seekers should be transferred back to the hands of the Government of Sri Lanka without even looking at their claims! The Sri Lankan Navy has even won thanks from the the Australian government for "stopping the boats" by firing on them. In fact leading figures in the Rajapaksa regime have been profiting from "people smuggling" at the same time.

The new network has put out a draft "Charter for Human Rights in Sri Lanka and Tamil Eelam" for which it's gathering supporters. A certain campaign is the call to boycott the 2013 CHOGM to be held in Colombo. Under the pressure of its big and well organised Tamil Community Canada is threatening not to attend, something Julia Gillard has ruled out.

At the Perth and Fremantle Activists Centres you can also get hold of the new book Tamil Nation in Sri Lanka by Rod Ridenour which is very good background reading for those who would like to know more.

By Janet Parker

UPDATE: There will be a protest outside Julie Bishop's office at 12 noon on Friday 7 September in response to her comments about Tamil refugees.

Below: How the Fremantle Herald reported Brian Senewiratne's visit: