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
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
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
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
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.
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
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 oŁ
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
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.
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.)