In addition to the two Melbourne men who have been arrested, a Sydney man was extradited to Melbourne yesterday to face court over alleged links to the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers. Arumugam Rajeevan has also been charged with being a member of, and supplying money and assets to, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
The arrests and continued incarceration of the Tamil political activists in Melbourne for allegedly fundraising and being members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE or Tamil tigers) should be of great concern to the labour movement as a whole.
The men allegedly sent funds back to their homeland of Sri Lanka after the 2004 Tsunami which caused massive devastation to large parts of the country. Like many others in Australia they gave support to the minority Tamils in a time of desperate need. As activists they are also outspoken about the state sponsored persecution of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka and are supporters of the liberation struggle in the North and the East.
Many people raised money for people in Sri Lanka after the Tsunami, including members of the Socialist Party. This was required because for people in the Tamil areas ‘official’ aid wasn’t getting through. Many other people in Australia must be ‘guilty’ of the same ‘crimes’ as these two men.
The men are charged with being members of and supporting a ‘terrorist organisation’ yet the Tamil Tigers are not prescribed as a terrorist organisation in either Australia or Sri Lanka. This is in fact the first time that any Australian citizen has ever been charged and detained in jail in relation to a civil conflict in a foreign country.
It is clear that the Sri Lankan government has been lobbying the Australian government to crack down on Tamil activists in Australia. When the senior government minister De Silva visited Australia in February he met with representatives from both Federal and state governments. Obviously at the same time as raising funds for his own purposes, he was putting pressure on the Australian government to crack down on the Tamil community.
For over 25 years a civil conflict has been raging between the Sri Lankan government and the armed wing of the Tamil Tigers. In recent times the cease fire has broken down and it is fair to say civil war is back in full swing. It is not just the Tamil Tigers who are involved in terrorist activities. It is common knowledge that the Sri Lankan government has been behind hundreds of assassinations and kidnappings in recent months.
Members of the United Socialist Party in Sri Lanka (the sister organisation of the Socialist Party in Australia) are receiving death threats on a daily basis and have on several occasions narrowly escaped attacks. Whilst the Socialist Party in Australia and the United Socialist Party in Sri Lanka does not agree with the terror tactics that the Tigers are using we totally support the right of the Tamil people to have there own homeland if they wish.
At the same time we raise the fact that it is the Sri Lankan government who are the main perpetrators of terrorism in Sri Lanka, especially against the Tamil people, but also against trade unionists and anti war activists.
The labour movement in Australia has had a proud tradition of supporting liberation struggles around the world. From the struggle against the Apartied regime in South Africa to the struggle for independence in East Timor, Australian unions have been at the fore of international support. The Socialist Party calls on Australian unions and the labour movement internationally to not only support the liberation struggle of the Tamils in Sri Lanka but also to condemn the use of ‘anti terror’ legislation against political activist here.
If this legislation is allowed to be used against Tamil activists today it will be attempted to be used against anti capitalist, socialist and trade union activists in the future.
By Anthony Main