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Home > International Relations in the Age of Empire > International Frame & the Tamil Struggle > Australia.& the Tamil Eelam Struggle > Chance for Kevin Rudd to change Sri Lanka policy - Bruce Haigh, former Deputy Australian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka
Chance for Kevin Rudd to change Sri Lanka policy
The roots of the civil war in Sri Lanka go back to the mid-1950s, but from 1983 the conflict between the Sinhalese and Tamils of the north has worsened after the Sinhalese armed forces moved against the Tamils.
The minority Tamils sought an equal footing with the Sinhalese, including the use of their language in official and daily transactions. This was not granted and the Tamils rightly saw this as the beginning of a move to marginalise them in the social, cultural, political and economic life of their country.
The Bush administration, thrashing about to demonstrate dominance over world terrorism, saw Sri Lanka as an easy target in the PR war, after Iraq proved not to be so. It provided a technically bankrupt and chronically corrupt Sinhalese government with the military training, money and hardware to crush the Tamils — and that is what has been taking place over the past four years.
The head of the Australian Federal Police, Mick Keelty, went along with this analysis and had Sri Lankan Tamil organisations, soliciting funds in Australia for hospitals, schools and the armed struggle, proscribed under the Terrorism Act John Howard had the same attitude to the African National Congress in South Africa, and yet in the face of reality of Nelson Mandela as president of South Africa with considerable domestic and intemational support — he gave Mandela the Order of Australia.
Kevin Rudd has gone along with the Keelty/Howard analysis, which says very little for the capacity he has allowed the public service, post-Howard, to analyse these and related issues and provide advice without intimidation.
As a former diplomat and Australian deputy high commissioner to Sri Lanka, I believe Rudd must show policy independence from Howard, as well as compassion and courage with respect to the civil war in Sri Lanka, and the resultant genocide being committed against the Tamils.