John Murphy, (Federal Member for Lowe) speaking in the
Australian House of Representatives on 1 June 1999 at
10.48 p.m declared:
"I rise tonight to speak about the plight of Tamils in
the war-torn country of Sri Lanka. The Tamil community
constitutes one of the most significant cultural entities in
my electorate of Lowe. It is widely acknowledged that the
Lowe electorate is the Tamil 'capital' of Australia.
On 4 August 1998, the Sri Lankan government extended its
state of emergency to the whole of the country. This measure
was in force in the capital Colombo and in the north and
east of Sri Lanka, where separatists belonging to the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have been waging a bloody
struggle for independence.
Today, the civilian Tamil population
continues to be a target of military operations by the
Sri Lankan armed forces. As a consequence,
arbitrary arrest and indefinite detention are continuing
to occur regularly within the Sri Lankan army-occupied
regions of the Tamil homeland. There are more than
825,000 displaced Tamil civilians living under appalling
conditions that include
acute shortages of water, food and medicine. In the
northern Vanni region of the Tamil homeland there is
an embargo of essential food and medicine in violation of
At the present time we are hearing so much about the
of war in Kosovo. Why are we not hearing about Sri
Lanka's war? Because it is a hidden war due to the
strong ties between the Sinhalese dominated Sri Lankan
government and the major Western powers.
alongside: Buddhist Monk inspects Sri Lanka artillery at the
war front in 1998 ) Both scenarios
racially dominated military
oppressing an ethnic minority. Both have resulted in
massive displacements, sightings of
mass graves and evidence of
genocide. Both situations have resulted in two of the
gravest disasters and crimes against humanity.
Multiple massacres have occurred in townships in the
east and north of Sri Lanka. An attempted democratic mandate
by a 70 per cent vote by Tamils to separate from Sri Lanka
in 1977 has been systematically denied.
I have the greatest respect for the Tamil community. They
are perhaps one of the best organised ethnic communities in
Australia. Since I was elected to this House in 1998 I have
received representations from several Tamil organisations
and individuals. These and other associations form an
international network of Tamil community organisations
seeking a peaceful solution to the ongoing bloodshed in Sri
What then is the solution to the 15-year civil war in Sri
Lanka? In fulfilment of this drive towards a peaceful
solution, the Tamil community is asking for a
withdrawal of security forces from the occupied Tamil
homeland, a lifting of the embargo on essential food and
medicine and a political solution to the conflict with the
Tamil people that would enable the Tamil people to choose
their own political and national status.
The Tamil people call on Australia to
assist them in their appeal for negotiations to take
place under the auspices of a neutral third party acceptable
to the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil leadership under
the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
I strongly urge this
parliament to support the independence of the Tamil
people from the state of Sri Lanka.
It is foolishness for us to ignore this 15-year bloody
conflict that sees no end in sight because the Tamil and
Sinhalese people cannot peacefully coexist under one
government. Our immediate regional history has shown
that Sri Lanka is one clear example where the
demographic reality requires a separation of states.
The alternative to this course of action is for Australia
to participate in the grave destabilising influence of Sri
Lanka melting down into a further 15 years of protracted
civil war that may threaten to further destabilise our
immediate region. Like Kosovo, a political and peaceful
solution to the conflict can be achieved only in the absence
of ongoing-armed conflict. The Tamil people cannot negotiate
under the auspices of military oppression.
I call on the Australian government to take urgent action
to press the Sri Lankan government to
(1) withdraw its security forces from the occupied
(2) lift the
embargo of essential food and medicine;
a political solution to the conflict with the Tamil
people that would enable them to choose their own
political and national status; and
(4) recognise the
Tamil right to self-determination
as stipulated in article 1 of the International Covenant
on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights and the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,
which states : All people have the right to
self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely
determine their political status and freely pursue their
economic, social and cultural development.
I call for negotiations to take place and to be overseen
by a third party acceptable to the Sri Lankan government and
the Tamil leadership, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
Australia has an obligation to play a role in bringing about
a lasting and plausible peace for Sri Lanka and the
achievement of a peaceful Tamil homeland-a dream shared by
the million Tamils world-wide."