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Australian Tamils commemorate Tamil Genocide Day

Australian Tamils commemorate Tamil Genocide Day


On 18 May 2020, eleven years since the Sri Lankan state’s genocide against the Tamil nation reached its peak, the Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) joins millions globally in commemorating the hundreds of thousands of lives lost in the genocide committed by the Sri Lankan state against the Tamil nation. 
 
UN reports and human rights organisations have accused Sri Lanka of having committed war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Tamil community. To date no independent investigation has taken place; nor have any perpetrators of mass atrocity crimes been brought to justice.  

The ATC believes the only credible path to achieve criminal accountability and justice for mass atrocity crimes committed against the Tamil people, including for over 146,679 Tamil people unaccounted for during the final stages of the war in the Vanni region, is through an international criminal mechanism such as an international criminal tribunal on Sri Lanka.

“Today we mourn over 70 years of oppression and annihilation of our brethren at the hands of the Sri Lankan state, its security forces and its ultra-nationalist Sinhala Buddhist led mobs. Sri Lanka's continuing state oppression and persecution of the Tamil people and its persisting military occupation of the Tamil homeland only further justifies the Tamil nation’s struggle for self-determination,” said ATC Chairperson, Mr Manokaran. “In addition to being a day to mourn and reflect, the commemoration of Tamil Genocide Day should be a powerful platform of hope for the survivors and victims that the international community is committed to achieving accountability and justice,” he added. 

This year the annual remembrance event will be held as a virtual worldwide gathering on the 18 May 2020. 

COVID19 and Plight of Asylum Seekers

10 April 2020 

The impacts of Covid-19 have been wide and far-reaching with many Australians facing loss of income leading to an inability to provide for themselves and their families. The Federal Government has been quick to ensure Australian citizens and residents facing hardships as a result of Covid-19 have access to income support or the Job Keeper Wage Subsidy. This however, is not the case for the thousands of asylum seekers who have lived in Australia for years waiting for their protection claims to be assessed and have been contributing to the Australian economy throughout their time here. 

At the moment, there are over 60,000 people in Australia on temporary visas who do not have access to any government support to help them through these difficult times. Some of these people do not even have access to Medicare to help maintain their health. The Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) calls on the Australian government to allow people on temporary visas the same access to income support and Medicare that Australian citizens have. 

For asylum seekers in particular, the lack of any form of stability over the past few years have been grim. The government has cut funding for the Status Resolution Support Service (SRSS) over the years which had significant impacts on many families. Many of the thousands of asylum seekers who have now lost their jobs or are at risk of losing them have worked in cafes, restaurants and factories for many years. Without access to adequate support through SRSS or access to any form of income support, Job Keeper Wage Subsidy or Medicare, many families will be forced into a dire situation with no way to pay rent, access the health system, provide medication for their families or sustain any quality of life.  

It is our grave concern that without adequate support from the Australian government, people on temporary visas will be brought to the streets. At the very least, all people in Australia should be granted equal access to government supports and continuous access to Medicare 

This is not acceptable in a nation like Australia and the ATC stands with our asylum seeker population, many of whom are Tamil, in demanding that Federal Government support is made equally accessible to people on temporary visas.  

For further information, please contact NSW Director for ATC, Avi Selva on 0434 395 537. 

 

 

ATC Statement on UNHRC, SL withdrawal and OHRHC report

The Sri Lankan government has announced its intention to withdraw from UN Human Rights Council (HRC) resolutions 30/1 and 40/1 which it cosponsored 5 years ago. With the UNHRC session due to begin this week the Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) would like to highlight a few key factors for consideration by the Australian government and other member states of the UNHRC.

The Tamil community has strongly felt the UNHRC resolutions over the past decade, including those cosponsored by Sri Lanka, have not been taken seriously by Sri Lankan governments as they continued to avoid implementing agreed upon commitments and sought extensions repeatedly. In light of their recent decision to withdraw from the resolution altogether, which further proves warnings by the Tamil community that the cosponsoring was in itself not genuine and a delaying tactic, we are extremely concerned that the process of accountability and justice cannot be achieved through the UNHRC alone and alternative mechanisms such as through an international criminal tribunal must be pursued.

The report last week by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights warned of “various signs indicating a possible reversal of past commitments by the Government which would setback the promotion of reconciliation, accountability and human rights, reduce civic space and erode important institutional safeguards in Sri Lanka”.

This of course concerns the Australian Tamil community deeply as over the decades it has been the Tamil community that has been most affected by persecution, human rights abuses and acts of mass atrocity crimes. 

A decline in human rights will also mean more Tamils risking their lives to seek asylum elsewhere, including attempting perilous boat journeys to Australia.

We ask that Australia take all these concerns into consideration and take a strong stance at the UNHRC session to ensure that successful mechanisms which can actually obtain justice for the victims and survivors of mass atrocity crimes are established. Accountability for the gross violations of international humanitarian law should not be given an opportunity to be further delayed.

 

 

 

ATC welcomes the travel ban imposed by the US on Commander of the Sri Lankan army, Shavendra Silva, and his family.

The Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) welcomes the travel ban imposed by the Unites States of America (USA) on Commander of the Sri Lankan army, Shavendra Silva, and his family.  

The USA cites Silva’s command responsibility for “gross violations of human rights, namely extrajudicial killings, by the 58th division of the Sri Lanka army during the final phase of Sri Lanka’s civil war in 2009” as reasons for his travel ban.  

The ATC calls on the Australian government to take similar steps in acknowledging command responsibility by Sri Lankan political and military personnel who have mounting evidence of mass atrocity crimes against them.

 Most recently, on 14 January 2020, the Australian Defence Attaché at the High Commission of Australia in Sri Lanka and Australian military personnel joined Silva at an event. With Silva’s responsibility for gross violations of human rights being acknowledged by the USA, the ATC calls on the Australian government and military to cease such close relationships with an alleged war criminal.

 The ATC notes that in 2013 media reports had claimed that Major General Jagath Dias of the Sri Lankan Army was denied a visa to Australia due to allegations of war crimes.    

The ATC believes that though the Silva’s travel ban by the USA is a small step towards acknowledging the injustices faced by Tamils, justice for victims and survivors of mass atrocity crimes, and their families can only be achieved by holding perpetrators of these crimes accountable. To that end the ATC continues to call for an international independent investigation into mass atrocity crimes in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka elects new president, Tamils fear reprisals

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, former defence secretary and alleged war criminal has been elected as Sri Lanka's next president. 
 
The Tamil community within the island had participated in large numbers exercising its democratic will. However, analysis of results show that the country's ethnic division is at its furthest, with areas comprising the Tamil homeland in the NorthEast of the island voting against Mr. Rajapaksa. This forecasts a great challenge that lays ahead for genuine 'reconciliation', as well as legitimate fears of further violence and persecution of communities that are perceived to not have contributed towards Mr. Rajapaksa's election win. 
 
While the protest of families of disappeared Tamils seeking information on their loved ones who went missing after being taken into custody by Sri Lankan Armed Forces has now reached over 1000 days one of the main claims in Mr. Rajapaksa's campaign was that he would not recognise an agreement between the Sri Lankan government and UN Human Rights Council to investigate alleged war crimes during the island's ethnic war. 
 
The Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) calls on the Australian government to use its relationship with Sri Lanka to monitor and ensure that rights within the island of human rights defenders, journalists and Tamil activists are not curtailed, and that the Tamil community which has been subjected to persecution, violence and abuses by consecutive governments for decades is yet again not punished for simply exercising their democratic will.
 
Media contact: Dr. Sam Pari, Spokesperson, ATC - 0416206431
18 November 2019

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