Newsletter

ATC refutes statement made by Minister Mano Ganesan that it is safe for Tamils to return to Srilanka

Mr Ganesan wants the asylum seekers in Australia to return to Sri Lanka. He claims that it is safe for them to return, “If anyone has broken any law, they may be questioned about it," he tells SBS Tamil. "But, they will not be taken to torture camps.”  

However, not all Tamils in Australia subscribe to that view.  

Dr Sam Pari, spokesperson of the Australian Tamil Congress says, “There is evidence that torture and arrests continue in Sri Lanka, even after the new government has taken office, with the International Truth and Justice Project alone documenting at least 36 cases of Tamils being tortured."

The International Truth and Justice Project, named by Dr Pari, is just one of many rights groups who allege the abuses are still continuing despite the war ending, officially, in 2009.

There remains no independently verifiable documentation of this though, as  there has been no international inquiry into war crimes and human rights abuses committed during or since the civil war by either the government or the rebel Tamil Tigers. This is despite repeated calls for an inquiry from no less than the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Dr Sam Pari of the Australian Tamil Congress says that "Sinhalese attorney and human rights activist, Lakshan Dias, has fled Sri Lanka this month because of threat to his life by the Justice Minister."

"Bold statements such as this by Minister Mano Ganesan makes one question his credibility.”

While activist Lakshan Dias's current whereabouts could not be confirmed, various rights groups and bloggers report that the prominent lawyer has left the country following speaking out on alleged human rights abuses against the Christian community. The American-headed NGO Human Rights Watch reports that on June 17, 2017, Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe threatened to “take necessary steps to remove Mr. Lakshan Dias from the legal profession” after the outspoken lawyer alleged attacks on Christians at 160 churches across the country.  

Full Article : Click here

 

ATC statement on recent issues in the NPC

The Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) wishes to express its disappointment at the events unfolding within the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) surrounding the corruption investigation of Northern Provincial Council (NPC) ministers, and the attempts by certain factions in TNA with the support of the Opposition, to impeach NPC Chief Minister, Justice Wigneswaran. 

The ATC has worked with the TNA over the last several years to help bring about justice for the Tamil people in the island of Sri Lanka. With due respect for elected political representatives, the ATC supports the need for investigations into corruption allegations of those in public office. Furthermore, the ATC strongly believes corruption should be stifled and investigations should take place in a free and fair manner, without the intimidation of witnesses or acts undermining independent investigations.
 
The ATC condemns any acts disrupting political honesty and integrity, and has confidence that elected representatives of the TNA understand that their democratic rights should be exercised to reflect the aspirations and needs of the people who voted them in.
 
As a supporter of democratically elected Tamil representatives, the ATC, as a diaspora organisation with interest in the well-being of kith and kin living in the island of Sri Lanka, urge the TNA to amicably resolve any grievances and bring to an end this highly divisive issue.
 
The ATC also urges Chief Minister, Justice Wigneswaran to take necessary steps to unite all TNA members and deliver tangible socio-economic benefits for our people who have been affected by the war. The ATC hopes the NPC lead by the Chief Minister, Justice Wigneswaran will function with more vigour and focus on improving the education and living standards in the Northern Province
 
 

Collective memorialisation is a fundamental right

29 May 2017

The Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) is deeply disturbed and strongly condemns the ongoing acts of surveillance, intimidation and harassment by the Sri Lankan state of family members and civil society leaders found engaging in commemoration activities of loved ones who perished eight years ago.  

This month Tamils world over marked the 8th year since over a hundred thousand Tamils were killed due to the Sri Lankan government's military onslaught in the island's north - a campaign riddled with allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

On 17 May, ruling that it threatened “unity" and "national security" a local court issued a two week ban on memorialisation activities near a commemoration monument in Mullivaikkal East that had been erected earlier. Over the past week several reports have risen of acts of intimidation and harassment by Sri Lankan police and military of those involved in memorialisation events. The most prominent has been the repeated summoning for questioning by the police of Fr. Elil, a Tamil priest involved in such remembrance events. He along with a young Tamil man who assisted in creating memorial stones have been interrogated and asked to sign statements in Sinhala, a language not native to them.

Collective remembrance is a community’s fundamental right and peaceful gatherings help heal a grieving community. Acts of intimidation and obstruction of such fundamental rights goes against ‘good governance’ and ‘reconciliation’. 

The ATC is humbled to hear, however, that amidst such threats by the state, Tamils in the North and East of the island of Sri Lanka continued to publicly commemorate the ‘Mullivaikkal Remembrance Day’ on 18 May with Tamils around the world, including Australia, joining them.

Meanwhile, ATC stands in support with the families of the disappeared holding a peaceful protest in Kilinochchi. This protest demanding answers from the Sri Lankan government on the whereabouts of disappeared family members has now reached its 100th day.

For further details: 

Adayaalam Centre for Policy Research

Amnesty International

The International Truth and Justice Project 

Sports journalist Trevor Grant dies, aged 65 -The Age-Greg Baum

 

Trevor Grant, who died on Sunday, was brave in everything he did.

As a sports journalist for 40 years, he took the mission of speaking truth to power more to heart than any of his kind. At media briefings, he was invariably front and centre, asking the hard questions, and not in the least intimidated by any of the hard men he was confronting. Some heads are still shaking now. His writing had the same direct quality, but was also elegant and beautifully crafted, a rare combination. The byline alone told you the story would be worth reading.

After retiring early from journalism, Grant – Shorty, or Shortarse to all – took his zeal and compassion in a new direction, as an activist for the disenfranchised and downtrodden. He worked on behalf of refugees, especially from Sri Lanka, and wrote a book on atrocities in their homeland, Sri Lanka's Secrets  How the Rajapaksa regime gets away with Murder. Geoffrey Robertson wrote the foreword. In 2013, the former cricket writer led a movement to boycott the Sri Lankan cricket team in Australia.

Grant tackled other improprieties; for instance, poker machines in the AFL. Periodically, he turned up in the letters pages of the papers he once graced as a journalist. On air, in print or in person, always one quality shone through, that authorities were not going to get away with it.

His last challenge was cancer. In 2015, aged just 63, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, the asbestos cancer, almost certainly from decades of working in two newspaper offices. While undergoing sometimes gruelling treatment, he pursued the media companies for damages and wrote and spoke about his plight, not in self-pity, but so that others might understand and be emboldened. The injustice hurt more than the cancer. But on Sunday, he succumbed, aged just 65.

Grant, one of three brothers, was born in 1951. He went to Hampton High and began in journalism as a copy boy and cadet at the short-lived afternoon paper Newsday in 1969. He soon showed his talent with a front page story on Vain, the champion racehorse. When Newsday closed the next year, he moved to the Sporting Globe, then The Herald (both now defunct). After an enterprising stint in England, he returned to work for The Age until 1989 then for the Herald Sun until 2009. He wrote brilliantly about AFL, cricket, golf and racing, indeed on any topic where there was a story to be told or a wrong to be righted.

He was boon companion on cricket tours, without ever allowing himself to be lulled. In Pakistan in 1988, for instance, his hard line against the machinations of team management would rebound on him for years. He had no regrets, nor was he shaken in his stance.

He was an avid and capable golfer, though of course yearned always to be more capable; he could not have been more avid. He was also a fervent Collingwood supporter and a selector of their team of the century, but there are plenty of Collingwood people to tell you that he never let his love of the Magpies get in the way of his journalistic integrity.

He had the utmost respect of his peers and elders, and was warm and solicitous towards all colleagues, and so had a wide circle of friends. For them all, this is a sad day.

Grant accepted that he was dying, saying it comes to everyone, but to him sooner rather than later, and so until the end he displayed astonishing equanimity about it. That did not mean that was any easier for him than anyone else. It just meant that he approached dying the same way he approached living, with all the courage he had. He is survived by a son, Matthew, and a daughter, Caroline.

A memorial service will be held at Woodlands Golf Club at 2pm on Friday.

 http://www.theage.com.au/sport/sports-journalist-trevor-grant-dies-aged-65-20170306-gurtps.html

 

Trevor Grant

Sri Lanka still unsafe for Tamil asylum seekers to return

Sri Lanka still unsafe for Tamil asylum seekers to return

 17 February 2017

 

 

The Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, speaking at a press conference in Canberra together with the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, urged asylum seekers who had fled the country to return. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe emphasized in his statement, "Come back; all is forgiven; it is quite safe in Sri Lanka; we are just starting the missing persons office.”

 

The Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) would like to categorically state that Sri Lanka has not reached a point where every Tamil asylum seeker can just return without worrying about the consequences; indeed Sri Lanka is far from it.

 

Juan Mendez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on ‘Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment’, in a report released only a month ago, recommended to the international community “to ensure that the principle of non-refoulment is upheld by not returning to Sri Lanka persons, in particular Tamils, who may be at risk of torture or ill-treatment, in accordance with Article 3 of the Convention against Torture.”

 

The draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) remains in force, and there have been several arrests under this law in the past year. It has been reported that many people imprisoned under PTA were forced to confess under torture, and Sri Lanka has yet to come up with concrete plans to provide redress for those unjustly detained under PTA.

 

Nearly eight years after the end of the war, the Sri Lankan military is still occupying significant portion of the land belonging to the Tamil people and the military intelligence and interference is ever present in day to day lives of Tamils.

 

Former president Chandrika Kumaratunga, the chairwoman of the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation, stated that women who were widowed during the 37-year conflict were among the victims of abuse by officials who frequently demand sexual favours just to carry out routine paperwork.

 

ATC acknowledges that the present Sri Lankan government has made notable reforms in governance, particularly in relation to diluting executive powers and allowing for media and civil society freedom. However, the advances on issues that are critical for the wellbeing of Tamil people – returning land occupied by the military, releasing prisoners long held in detention, tracing thousands of missing persons, and ending abuses by security forces, including torture by police – are extremely slow to non-existent.

 

Most Tamils fled Sri Lanka due to persecution and torture by the state.  Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s statement addressing such people “Come back, all is forgiven’ is grossly insensitive to say the least. ATC would like to register its strong disappointment and condemnation. Such statements only reflect that even the current government has not acknowledged injustices inflicted upon the Tamil community.

 

ATC earnestly calls upon the Australian Government not to take any blanket measures towards Tamil asylum seekers, but to assess each individual case carefully; in particular, those with past political involvement should be assessed with extra care before decisions are taken on outcome and possible repatriation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contact:

 

Jega Jeganethan

 

1300 660 629 ( from overseas Tel: +61 2 94234741)

 

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 Notes to Editors

 

Formed in August 2009, the Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) is the national body of Australian Tamils. We encourage the positive participation of Tamils in Australian society, highlight issues of importance to Tamils, uphold core Australian values and engage other communities, governments and organisations in addressing the socio-cultural and political concerns of Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka. ATC  is absolutely committed to a non-violent agenda and it seeks a lasting peace in Sri Lanka, based on justice, reconciliation and a negotiated political settlement. For more information please contact  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or www.australiantamilcongress.com 

 

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