December 13, 2011 Comments Off on Because I am Tamil…
New Matilda (28/11) by Brami Jegan
As Tamils gathered this week to remember those who died in the civil war, the call for an independent investigation into war crimes in Sri Lanka is getting louder, writes Brami Jegan
Yesterday I joined hundreds of thousands of Tamils across the world — in the UK, France, Germany Switzerland, America and India — to remember those who died in the 26-year struggle for our independence. It was day of haunting sadness.
The day is called “Maaveerar Naal”. Veerar in Tamil means “warrior or hero”. Maa means “great”. Naal means “day”.
It is held each year on 27 November, the date the first Tamil Tiger, Shankar, died in combat in 1982. I was two years old.
Alongside 2000 Tamils at a park in Silverwater in Sydney’s west, I wept for the 40,000 Tamils that were massacred by the Sri Lankan Government in 2009. I paid my respects to those who sacrificed their lives for my freedom.
I remembered the months of paralysing fear my family went through while my father was in the former conflict zone. I went to bed each night petrified of waking up to news he had been killed in an aerial attack by Sri Lankan Kfir jets or drones.
I honoured my dearest friend K, and the hours of laughter we shared together. A night I will never forget is when we sat under monsoon stars in Tamil Eelam in 2006, talking about life and love, war and peace till 4am in the morning. He kept the electricity generator running for me, even though it would have cost him more than he could afford because he knew I was scared of the dark. He died fighting for my identity.
The Sri Lankan Government is on a witchhunt to silence anyone that dares speak out about theatrocities committed against the Tamils. I have the honour of being on their list. This has only strengthened my resolve.
When people ask me where I am from, I say “I am Tamil”. I am not a Sri Lankan. A regime that has brutalised, terrorised and murdered, does not speak in my name.
The Mahavamsa, the great chronicle of Sri Lanka, is interpreted by the country’s rulers as“proving” that Sri Lanka is a Sinhalese Buddhist island. It can equally be read as the story of how the Sinhalese and Tamils founded the country together. In the story, the Tamil King Elara ruled with equal justice and was accepted by both communities.
As a diaspora Tamil I have struggled to understand my privileged place in the west. There is nothing I want that I can’t have. But since I first returned to Sri Lanka in 2002, I have had no peace of mind.
At the age of 22 I came face to face with the horrors of war: orphaned children; adults and children who had lost their arms, legs and eyesight; Tamil women who had been raped by the Sri Lankan army; men who had been tortured. The memories are endless and terrifying.
How do I reconcile my fortunate life with these stories? How do I explain to my western friends the pain and suffering I have witnessed? How do I not let their pain become a part of me?
I feel incredibly lost in post-war Sri Lanka as do many other diaspora Tamils. What is our role now?
Two and a half years ago genocide was committed against the Tamils of Sri Lanka and the entire international community did nothing to stop it.
The horrifying images of war crimes and crimes against humanity shown in Channel Four’s ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’ were a stark wake up call to the world. The broader understanding and perception of the Tamil struggle is shifting.
UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper, our former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser have come out strongly in favour of an independent war crimes tribunal for Sri Lanka. As has the UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts, Amnesty International, International Crisis Group, and Human Rights Watch.
Shamefully our Prime Minister and Foreign Minister won’t add their voice to this call for an independent investigation.
I don’t know if there will ever be an independent war crimes tribunal for Sri Lanka. But the Arab Spring has shown the world that anything is possible. Hope must continue in some form.
The war no longer defines me. But the struggle forever will. I am a Tamil and with that comes a responsibility. A responsibility to myself, to my father, to K and to the Maveerars to honour the sacrifices and strength of my ancestors: “Because you died, we continue to live”.
July 17, 2010 Comments Off on Er…you listen and you decide who is speaking the truth
ABC Radio Australia Asia Pacific – Tamil terrorist claims exaggerated: former UN spokesman
The former spokesman for the United Nations in Colombo has accused the Sri Lankan government of branding Tamil asylum seekers as terrorists, fearing they might become witnesses in a war crimes tribunal if they are granted asylum in Australia.
The UN has established a panel to investigate whether a war crimes tribunal is appropriate in regards to the last months of Sri Lanka’s civil war, which, ended early last year. Since then 1,129 Sri Lankan asylum seekers have arrived in Australia, with about 30 per cent being granted asylum, 7 per cent being refused and sent back and the rest of the cases still pending. The Australian media this week published comments by a Sri Lankan security analyst, who said up to half of all Tamil asylum seekers had links to the Tamil Tigers, and that the Tamil Tigers had links to Al Qaeda. Former UN spokesman Gordon Weiss, says those claims are false and risk inflaming the debate over immigration in Australia.
Presenter: Liam Cochrane
Speakers: Gordon Weiss, former spokesman for the United Nations in Sri Lanka
ABC Radio Australia Asia Pacific – Tamil Tigers linked to Al Qaeda: High Commissioner
The Sri Lankan High Commissioner in Canberra, Senaka Walgapaya, stood by the comments that many Tamil asylum seekers are in his words “hardcore fighters” and that there were links between the Tamil Tigers and Al Qaeda.
He says Sri Lanka does not want to interfere with Australia’s immigration process, but believes some Tamil asylum seekers pose a security threat to Australia.
Presenter: Liam Cochrane
Speakers: Senaka Walgapaya, Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Australia
July 16, 2010 Comments Off on ATC in the media – Tamil voices heard
In contrast to their initial article, The Australian has published a second article that has incorporated the opinions of Tamil community representatives and non-Tamil independent experts to give the Australian public a much more balanced approach to the topic. We thank The Australian for listening to the views expressed by many who were concerned with the approach The Australian had initially taken on this issue.
The Australian – Tamil Tigers at the front door
SRI Lankan asylum-seekers with links to Tamil terrorists pose a dilemma for Canberra.
IN October last year a Sri Lankan mother packed up her two small children and a few belongings, paid her savings to a people-smuggler and boarded an unseaworthy boat in Indonesia, bound for Australia.
Shayana (not her real name) hoped it would be the final leg of her family’s long journey to escape the bloodshed and tumult still wracking their homeland after 26 years of civil war.
But it was not to be. More
The Australian – Tamil Tiger is extinct, and regime knows it
LEADERS slander Tamil refugees because they don’t want them to reach our shores, says Gordon Weiss.
SRI Lankan government warnings that half the Tamils seeking asylum in Australia have links to terrorists are dangerous, mendacious and self-serving. More
July 16, 2010 Comments Off on Any wonder why they may want to flee SL
Is there any wonder why Tamils suspected of links with the Tamil Tigers would want to flee Sri Lanka?
Former Tamil Tiger rebels detained in Sri Lanka say they have been ill-treated in government camps with no basic facilities.
In letters and phone calls to BBC Tamil, ex-militants say they have been “tortured and beaten” in the centres.
They accuse camp guards of being corrupt and demanding bribes before releasing detainees. More
July 14, 2010 Comments Off on SL puppets at it again
October 29, 2009 Comments Off on Australia says it wont use force
Australian IT – Rudd confident of extension for Oceanic Viking
Radio Australia – Australian PM faces mounting political storm over asylum-seekers
Wall Street Journal – Surge in Refugees Presents a Problem for Australia
October 28, 2009 Comments Off on News: White vans, asylum seekers & more
Matt Wade, 28 October 2009
SAMSUN Nihara’s pain shows in her dark eyes. Her husband and son disappeared more than a year ago.
Her nightmare began last September, when her 24-year-old son, John Reid, vanished. He and his fiancee were returning from a trip to a beach north of Colombo, when the van he was driving was blocked by four armed men on two motorcycles.
They hijacked the van, dropped the woman at a busy Colombo intersection and sped away. Mr Reid has not been seen since.
The family’s crisis deepened a month later, when Ms Nihara’s husband, K. A. Anthony, became the target. Four men burst into the tiny two-room home in central Colombo at 4am and took him away.
”I saw them all,” says Ms Nihara. ”They said they were from the military – one was in uniform.” More
Matt Wade, 28 October 2009
The Age: Morality and Politics don’t mix
Shaun Carney, 28 October 2009
The current political argument over asylum seekers is one occasion when, superficially at least, our parliamentary system works: all sides get an airing, reflecting the breadth of views across the community. We should let them all in, we should keep them all out, some will be terrorists, some will be diseased, most of them are legitimate, most are frauds, we should take full responsibility for any boat headed for Australia, we should share responsibility with Indonesia.
You don’t have to move around our society too much before coming across those views, whether you like some of them or not. Few issues divide Australia more thoroughly or prompt such a degree of contempt between the opposing sides. More
David Marr, 28 October 2009
Christmas Island is a place of brutally honest names. Above The Settlement on a mountain of petrified bird shit called Phosphate Hill is a cluster of tin huts that once housed construction workers. Though now fenced, guarded and filled with asylum seekers it’s still called the Construction Camp.
Anyone visiting this place – as Human Rights commissioners Catherine Branson, QC, and Graeme Innes did a few months ago – can tell this is a secure detention centre holding lots and lots of children. They found 53 there and counted 36 without families, children who had made their way to the island on their own.
There were children everywhere when I visited the Construction Camp a few weeks later. After being signed in and giving up my mobile phone, I was led under escort to a big tin hut where women and children were gathered for a session with the nurse. The place was clean and grim. Underfoot was a wild bunch of Tamil children. More
Brisbane Times: Indonesia governor rebels on refugees
Tom Allard, 27 October 2009
AN INDONESIAN governor has lambasted Kevin Rudd’s policy of warehousing asylum seekers in his province, declining to allow the Australian Customs vessel Oceanic Viking to berth and railing against the notion Riau Islands should become a ”dumping ground” for irregular immigrants.
The outburst came as the Australian judge who decided the Tampa case, Tony North, criticised the United Nations’ processing of refugees and called for an international tribunal to ensure asylum seekers were not subject to a ”lottery”. The raw hostility of the Indonesian governor and other senior politicians in Riau Islands to the arrival of 78 asylum seekers from Sri Lanka on board Oceanic Viking casts serious doubts over the agreement between the Australian Prime Minister and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for Indonesia to take more potential refugees seeking to come to Australia. More
The Australian: ‘We’d rather die than go ashore here’: Sri Lankan asylum-seekers
Simon Kearney, 28 October 2009
THE 78 Sri Lankan asylum-seekers aboard the Oceanic Viking have threatened to kill themselves rather than walk off the ship and be interned in Indonesia.
The Australian visited the ship, anchored in the South China Sea 10km southeast of the island of Bintan, yesterday morning to find the Sri Lankans in an open area below the top deck at the stern.
They told their story by throwing messages in plastic bags tied to empty plastic water bottles into the water. Three messages were written in Indonesian and a fourth, containing this chilling threat, was written in English.
“If your country don’t want find us a good solution better we will close our life in here,” the unsigned letter said. More
Reuters Alertnet: Sri Lanka behind closed doors
HPN, 27 October 2009
In July 2009, a Times journalist reported that 1,400 people had died in Manik Farm camp following fierce fighting between the Sri Lankan army and Tamil Tiger rebels (LTTE). This article looks at the truth behind these claims and the difficulties faced by humanitarian aid agencies in assessing the conditions faced by the displaced in the camps. More
Bernard Keane, 28 October 2009
Can the Prime Minister run and hide? With this Opposition, probably. Still, the pursuit of the Prime Minister over the Oceanic Viking made, inter alia, for a rather more interesting Question Time yesterday than we’ve had in some months.
The Government’s line on the Oceanic Viking — expertly put by a cool and impressive Stephen Smith on ABC Radio this morning — is essentially sound. Australia assisted Indonesia to aid a stricken vessel in its waters. Those on board don’t get to pick and choose where they go having been rescued.
Nevertheless, various parties on the Left and the Right are hellbent on whipping this into a Tampa-esque crisis. And the Government is constrained by its own rhetoric from stating the obvious: this is essentially an Indonesian matter.
It’s a bit like all those questions about schools spending that Julia Gillard fielded earlier in the year, in which she had to answer for the bodies actually implementing the schools component of the stimulus package- state education authorities. But because this Government is all about “ending the blame game”, any reference to State bureaucrats stuffing up could never pass Gillard’s lips.
In the same way, you won’t hear Rudd declare that the people rescued by the Oceanic Viking are Indonesia’s responsibility, even when they are. Not when he is heavily dependent on “regional cooperation” to help keep the boats away.
This made for elaborate ducking and weaving in Question Time yesterday. Five times the Prime Minister was asked about what he knew about arrangements relating to the vessel. Five times he avoided the question, giving brief answers full of fudge like “the normal agency of the Australian government” and “I cannot recall each step in that sequence of events” and “there are diplomatic negotiations which occur between governments”.
“Tough but humane” eventually appeared, although a much-anticipated and — as always -– unprompted refusal to make any apology didn’t.
He tried to throw his pursuers off — first with a reference to the “dirt-digging” email , for which a question had been reserved for a Anthony Albanese comedy routine later. That didn’t work, despite Rudd blatantly defying the Speaker and continuing to discuss it after he was told to stay relevant. But, asked a fourth time, he succeeded, baiting the Opposition and particularly Philip Ruddock and Kevin Andrews into an angry exchange over the detention of children and children overboard.
Both Ruddock and Andrews rose to complain — quite how it is possible to reflect in any way adversely on Ruddock’s integrity in a way he failed to achieve during his time in office is one of the sublime mysteries of Australian public life, but that didn’t stop him remonstrating — as did a number of other Opposition figures.
It was in the ensuing uproar that Speaker Jenkins appeared to come close to doing his block, with a particularly extended version of his schoolteacher trick of staying silent until everyone notices and shuts up. The silence went on so long Christopher Pyne eventually and hesitantly ventured “are you going to speak?”
Things settled down after that. The Opposition switched to infrastructure and other matters. Albo got to do his comedy routine about the Opposition email on digging dirt, reprising his e-security routine from the Godwin Grech incident. The question had been scheduled for earlier but the outbreak of animosity occasioned by the asylum seeker questions prompted them to delay it. Christopher Pyne then asked Julia Gillard about education, prompting her to approach the Dispatch Box carrying only her pen, always a sign she’s about to bite. She didn’t disappoint, giving a brief but vintage performance full of swipes at The Australian, the lack of Coalition policy and Pyne’s “bellows and yaps”.
Jenny Macklin later rose and spoke, quite movingly, about the apology to the Forgotten Generation, supported by an emotional Steve Irons. The momentary imposition of genuine feeling briefly imposed a sense of civilized behaviour on the House, although it didn’t last too long.
What about Wilson, I hear you ask. Wilson had a quiet day by his standards, until the end. Irons asked Justine Elliot about the numbers of aged care places in Perth. She was three sentences into her answer when Wilson rose to declare “this is a question about supplying assistance and facilities to aged people with dementia. It is wrong for the minister to raise issues either of the past or, more particularly, to read a diatribe of expenditure that is not materialised. Give the old people a go!”
Needs no comment, really.
Reuters Alertnet: India offers $100 mln to help Sri Lanka refugees
S. Murari, 18 October 2009
India offered Sri Lanka on Sunday $100 million to help war refugees return home and rebuild the country’s ravaged north, as New Delhi seeks to engage in the island nation’s post-war reconstruction and retain influence.
Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said India was willing to provide the aid package to Sri Lanka if it submitted a “plan of action” on rehabilitation of Tamil civilians.
“Our concern is that the displaced Tamils should be resettled in their homes as early as possible,” the minister told reporters in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. More
Tamil National: Unlock the camp: Rally in London against Sri Lanka
18 October 2009
Several thounsand Tamils marched through Central London Saturday, 17 October to protest against the continued detention of civilians in Sri Lankan camps and calling to end 150 days arbitrary detention in camps and for an international independent probe into war crimes.
Over 280,000 Tamil civilians including at least 50,000 children in miserable and squalid conditions are illegally kept in camps run by the Sri Lankan military.
British Tamil Forum and Tamil Youth Organization (UK) jointly organized the protest rally urging to unlock the camps and end 150 days of forced detention of civilians, international independent probe into war crimes and Ban Ki-Moon charged with inaction. More