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Protesters rally against Tamil genocide

Organisers demanded an end to the military occupation of Tamil homeland.

Photography by Elizabeth Noonan

On Sunday afternoon, a rally against the genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka took place at Town Hall with about 100-200 protesters in attendance. The rally was organised by the Tamil Refugee Council and the Tamil Coordinating Committee of Australia. 

In May 2009, during the Sri Lankan Civil War (1983-2009), tens of thousands of Tamils were massacred in Mullivaikkal. Tamils are an ethno-linguistic group in South Asia, who continue to face persecution in Sri Lanka for their calls for self-determinacy and for the independence of their homeland, Tamil Eelam, in the north-east of Sri Lanka.

The organisers demanded an end to the military occupation of Tamil homeland, recognition of the Eelam Tamil’s right to self-determination, the release of prisoners of war, freedom of speech for journalists in Sri Lanka, and for the Australian government to stop aiding genocide and discontinue their military and naval support to Sri Lanka. The calls come as the Australian Joint Agency Task Force Operation Sovereign Borders gifted five aerial surveillance drones to the Sri Lankan police in April.

Uncle Bruce Shillingsworth gave the acknowledgement of country, and highlighted the common struggle between First Nations people in Australia and the Tamils in Sri Lanka. 

Following this, there were two minutes silence for reflecting and remembering the genocide.

Kathrini spoke next about her experience living through the war as a child, and then coming to Australia as a Tamil refugee. She recalled the Sri Lankan air force dropping bombs “like rain drops” on her, her family, and other displaced Tamils. Kathrini said “All that wasn’t just my past, it was my childhood. Every single one of us wants to remember my childhood but I don’t.”

The rally also featured support from socialist movements such as the Socialist Alternative, with speakers like Damien Ridgewell and Hersha Kadkol talking respectively about the Australian influence on the genocide and its connections to what has been occurring in Gaza. 

Ridgewell said that “the Australian government has been absolutely implicit in the genocide and repression of Tamils”, due to their ongoing support of the Sri Lankan government and military. He also clarified that it was “not just the Liberal government but the Labor party,” given that Kevin Rudd was Prime Minister during the 2009 genocide. 

Kadkol said that the same forces in the “international community” currently backing Israel were supporting Sri Lanka 12 years ago. She stated that “it is capitalism that we have to resist. The ruling class normalises genocide. It is a weapon for their pursuit of ‘business as usual.’”

The final speaker was Renuga Inpakumar, a member of the Tamil Refugee Council. She directly addressed the current Prime Minister, saying “Scott Morrison, you believe that you do God’s work. I have no idea what god you’re praying to because God by now would have told you: step off your high horse and help the Tamil community.”

Other speakers included Bruce Haigh, a retired diplomat who worked in South Africa during Apartheid, and Lee Rhiannon, a former Greens Senator.

The rally concluded with a march through the Sydney CBD, where protestors chanted “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” “I say Eelam, you say freedom!” and “Scott Morrison open your eyes – acknowledge Tamil genocide.”

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