A UN report released in March gives horrific confirmation of the terror that is forcing Tamils to flee Sri Lanka and seek asylum in Australia.
It comes at the end of a decades-long war between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), an organisation aiming for a separate state for the oppressed Tamil ethnic minority in the north and east of Sri Lanka.
The report describes the targeted killings of tens of thousands of Tamils by the Sri Lankan government. In the final stage of the war the Sri Lankan Army advanced into the Tamil area of Vanni, “using large-scale and widespread shelling, causing large numbers of civilian deaths.”
The military penned 330,000 Tamil civilians into an ever-shrinking area. These civilians fled the shelling but were held hostage by the LTTE. Both the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE are alleged to have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during the conflict. However the report points out that, “Most civilian casualties in the final phases of the war were caused by government shelling.”
The Sri Lankan Army shelled in “no fire zones”, where it had urged civilians to congregate. Government shelling also targeted hospitals, food distribution lines and International Committee of the Red Cross (IRCC) ships attempting to retrieve the wounded and their relatives from beaches.
Displaced people languished in massively overcrowded camps with horrific conditions, which the report notes caused unnecessary deaths. Rape of women was common.
The West supported the Sri Lankan government during the civil war. Sri Lanka is considered an ally in the “global war on terror”, while the LTTE is considered a terrorist organisation by many Western governments, including Australia’s.
Israel supplied aircraft to the Sri Lankan Air Force used in the shelling of Tamils.
In May 2009 the Sri Lankan Government declared victory and the end of 27 years of armed conflict.
But the grievances that triggered resistance by the Tamils have not been addressed. Ethnic discrimination, along with the ongoing “militarisation of the former conflict zone and the use of paramilitary proxies, all of which perpetuate a climate of fear, intimidation and violence” continues.
Clearly, the Tamils arriving by boat on Australia’s shores are not “queue jumpers”, they are desperate people fleeing war. They should be welcome.
By Lachlan Marshall