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The Tamil Struggle for Equality in Sri Lanka

Once known as a tea-exporting, cricket-loving paradise (Ceylon), Sri Lanka has gained international notoriety for more disturbing reasons. Sri Lanka consistently makes its way into the list of failed states, has been voted out of the UN Human Rights Council, and was positioned near the bottom of the press freedom index. It had also illegally detained more than 300,000 people in internment camps, and has an atrocious human rights record with hundreds of enforced disappearances occurring each year for which no one has ever been brought to justice . While international condemnation and action against the Government of Sri Lanka has been restrained, progress has occurred on at least two fronts, with the UN recently calling for a full independent war crimes investigation and the European Union withdrawing trade concessions to Sri Lanka due to their appalling human rights record.

Working with Asylum Seekers

ATC members of WA continue to provide wel-fare and moral support to the detainees in the Perth Detention Centre. They have also been helping asylum seekers with resettlement into the community. Concerned ATC members in WA contacted their local Members of Parliament dur-ing the protest at the Villawood Detention Centre.

Work with asylum seekers

Last week, in an act of desperation Tamil asylum seekers climbed on to the roof of the Villawood De-tention Centre. There was widespread media cover-age of this issue. The ATC National Coordinator for Refugees and Migrants made himself available and worked with DIAC officials and the Tamil asylum seekers.

      He also gave several media interviews to ex-press the legitimate fear of persecution faced by Tamils in Sri Lanka. Media personnel present had mentioned how his participation in interviews was very useful in explaining the concerns of the Tamil asylum seekers to the wider public.

Meeting with DFAT

A NSW political team representative met with some officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). The officials were updated on the impact of the 18th amendment and the need for the Australian government to push for international NGOs to be present in order for any foreign aid be-ing pledged for development. ATC‘s Blueprint docu-ment was appreciated by the officials.

Mahinda Rajapaksa’s new powers are unnecessary and dangerous

NATIONAL constitutions come in two main types. Some are prescriptive, enshrining freedoms, curtailing the powers of the state and generally hampering would-be dictators. Others, however, tend to the descriptive, and are often revised to catch up with changes that have already happened. Into this class can be put Sri Lanka‘s 1978 constitution, this week amended for the 18th time, with unseemly haste.

      The Sri Lanka described in the revised charter is not a pretty place. It is one where the forms of parliamentary democracy are preserved but the substance has become subordinated to almost untrammelled presidential power.

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