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Home  > International Relations in the Age of EmpireInternational Frame & the Tamil Struggle > Australia.& the Tamil Eelam Struggle > Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations to Senate Standing Committee, 1 December 1991

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the tamil Struggle for freedom

Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations to
The Secretary , Senate Standing Committee on Finance & Public Administration

Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600

1st December 1991

Dear Sir,

The Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations is grateful to the South Asia Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade for the opportunities given from time to time to express the Federation's concerns in respect of the conflict in Sri Lanka.

We are particularly grateful that the Department has been able to meet our representatives on several occasions at short notice.

In this brief submission we wish draw the attention of the Senate Standing Committee to the following matters in respect of the ongoing conflict in Sri Lanka between the Government (which represents the numerically stronger Sinhala Nation) and the smaller Tamil Nation.

We believe these matters to be of significance to the Department of Foreign Affairs in advancing Australia's foreign policy interests.

The mechanism for the gathering of reliable information in regard to the events in the North� East of Sri Lanka:

Given that a large proportion of the Sri Lankan media is either Government Controlled (Radio, TV and large sections of the Print Media) or controlled by Sinhala businessmen (Most of the independent Print Media), the "news" reported is highly biased and often slanted to influence the international community in favour of the Sri Lankan Government.

In addition, the Sri Lankan Government is known to pursue a policy of discouraging international reporters from visiting the war torn Tamil Homeland.

In view of the above, it is suggested that the Senate Standing Committee considers the establishment of a Consulate in the North East of Sri Lanka (the Tamil Homeland) to enable the Foreign Affairs Department direct access to information.

We believe that the establishment of a Consulate in the Tamil Homeland would also act as a deterrent by containing the Sri Lankan Troops from committing atrocities for fear of exposure.
It is also suggested that in the interim period the Australian High Commission considers sending its officials to the Tamil Homeland to assess for itself the true situation at periodical intervals.

Opening up channels of communications with the Tamil Leadership - The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE):

According to Justice Satchi Ponnambalam, a judge of the Supreme Court in Belize and the author of "Sri Lanka: The National Question and Tamil Liberation Struggle" (Zed Books, London 1983), the conflict in Sri Lanka is between the Tamil people whose interests are advanced, protected and defended by the LTTE and the state of Sri Lanka under the leadership of the President of the Republic, his ministers and the armed forces employed by the state.

Dr J Wilson of the University Of New Brunswick and the author of "The Break-up of Sri Lanka" (published in North America by University of Hawaii Press 1988) views the LTTE as the "authentic spokespeople for the Tamil people".

(These views were articulated at the International Tamil Eelam Research Conference held at the California State University in July this year where papers were presented by Justice Ponnambalam and Dr Wilson).

The Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations too views the LTTE as the party representing the Tamil Nation in the ongoing conflict in Sri Lanka.

In the light of the above, it is suggested that the Australian Government develops direct channels of communications with the LTTE. This should enable the Foreign Affairs Department to assess for itself the issues considered to be important by the Tamil people and assist in any resolution to the conflict through international intervention initiated by Australia.

Developing a policy which reflects the reality that Sri Lanka is a State that comprises two nations:

The prestigious and influential "Asia Week" in its editorial of 13th September 1991 advocates a confederal solution to the conflict in Sri Lanka by drawing attention to the emerging new world order and suggests that the Conflict in Sri Lanka could be resolved through a range of alternatives from "one country two systems" to a "confederal union of sovereign states".

In its appeal dated 30th September 1991 to the Heads of Commonwealth Governments, the Social Responsibility and Justice Commission of the Uniting Church of Australia has stated that a solution to the conflict in Sri Lanka could be found either through a system of confederation between a Sinhala State in the south and a Tamil State in the north or through the emergence of two independent states.

In a letter to the President of the Canberra Tamil Association, Senator Powell of the Australian Democrats has put forward the view that the resolution of the conflict in Sri Lanka should involve the "establishment of a quasi state in the north-east of the country".

Mohan Ram, the Indian author of the book Sri Lanka: The Fractured Island" (Penguin Books India, 1989) concludes that "any solution to the ethnic conflict needs to be radically different and have as its foundation a recognition of Sri Lanka's reality-that it comprises two nations".

The views expressed above support the Australasian Federation of Tamil Association's position that any political solution to the conflict in Sri Lanka must be based on the reality that the island is home to two nations and that each of these nations are in occupation of well defined regions of the island.

We suggest that the Department of Foreign Affairs takes this into account in developing its policies in relation to Sri Lanka.

Provision of Humanitarian Assistance to the Tamil Homeland in Sri Lanka:

We would request that humanitarian assistance is provided direct to the Tamil homeland via NGOs operating within the Homeland.

Aid to Sri Lanka:

In view of the gross violations of Human Rights by the Sri Lankan Government, the Australian Federation of Tamil Associations would like to see the Australian Government suspend aid to Sri Lanka.

Over 11,000 civilians in the Tamil Homeland are known to have been killed since the resumption of the war in 1990.

While the North has been subject to intense aerial bombardment, entire villages in the East have been denuded of Tamil presence following large scale massacres by Government troops and "vigilantes" armed by the Government. In addition, an embargo on food and medicine has been imposed by the Government as part of its calculated effort to beat the Tamil population into submission.

The attitude of the Government and the local media (state owned and others) to international opinion is best illustrated by the following:

In June 1991, the British High Commissioner for Sri Lanka His Excellency Mr David Gladstone was expelled by the Sri Lankan Government following the High Commissioner's criticism of the Sri Lankan Government's human rights record.

In late 1990, Ms Deana Hodgin, (a US Reporter who had managed to visit the war ravaged Tamil Homeland) raised at a press conference the phenomena of the Government bombing its own civilians. The Minister of Defence responded by expressing his regret that she had not been shot! It was response which made Ms Hodgin refer (in a letter to Congressman Yatron) to this incredible "mentality" and say "That's the mentality you are dealing with - human rights is not an idea with much currency for the Sri Lankan Government. Quiet diplomacy is no an option for our policy in Sri Lanka" (Letter to Congressman Yatron by Deana Hodgin dated 7th November 1990 and published in the "Tamil Nation" of November 1991.)

Just two weeks after a massacre of 180 Tamil civilians at Kokadadicholai in the East on the 13th of June 1991, the "Sunday Island" newspaper of the 2lst of June chose to publish a picture of the survivors in its features column listing out reader response under its regular column "Funny Captions".

Once again revealing the local media's total lack of sensitivity to the suffering of the Tamil people.

Given that neither the Government nor the Sinhala people whom it represents are in any way concerned about the ongoing atrocities, the genocide of the Tamil people is likely to continue unabated unless the International Community acts promptly and responsibly in persuading the Sri Lankan Government to end these atrocities and seek a political solution.

The only way open to the International Community to persuade the Sri Lankan Government is to suspend all aid until the Government improves its human rights records and embarks upon a course that would result in a peaceful resolution to its conflict with the Tamil Nation.

The Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations considers the suspension of aid to Sri Lanka to be a vital tool in achieving this end.

International intervention:

The Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations is of the view that the conflict in Sri Lanka could be brought to an end through the intervention of the International Community.

In this regard, we welcome the efforts of the Australian Government to involve the Commonwealth in a mediatory role in the conflict between the Sinhala and Tamil Nations in Sri Lanka.

Also, the Australian Democrats in a message to the Australasian Federation o� Tamil Associations have stated that they call upon the Australian Government to take a more active role within the United Nations to see that this matter (the conflict in Sri Lanka) is dealt with and pressure is brought upon the Sri Lankan Government to result in an immediate cease-fire to be followed by a United nations sponsored negotiations.

(Message sent by Senator Vicki Bourne to the Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations on the occasion of a demonstration in Sydney on the 30th of November 1991).

Furthermore, we believe there are other governments (both within the Commonwealth and outside the Commonwealth) which are equally anxious to bring an end to the violence in Sri Lanka.

Given the above, perhaps the Australian Government should consider a role for itself in bringing about international pressure to compel the Sri Lankan Government enter into negotiations with the LTTE.


We would respectfully urge that the Senate Standing Committee gives serious consideration to the above in formulating its policy in respect to Sri Lanka.

Yours Sincerely

Ana Pararajasingham
Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations

Enclosed a document entitled "Forty Years of Human Rights-Sri Lankan Style". (A publication authored by Mr Nadesan Satyendra of the Cambridge based "Tamil Rights Group" and published by the Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations.)



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