In its rush to gain political capital from events like 9/11 and the Bali Bombings, the Howard government has blurred the line between legitimate political activity and terrorism. Of extreme concern is the recent arrest of two Australian men for allegedly raising funds for Sri Lankan political organisation, Liberation of Tamil Eelam [LTTE].
Further clouding the arrests was that the Victorian Police chose to hold a press conference before the men had even been charged, let alone appeared in court.
Tamils enjoy a minority status in Sri Lanka with the Sinhalese making up the vast majority of the population. Civil conflict between the Sri Lankan state and LTTE has been spasmodic since 1983, with LTTE seeking an independent Tamil state in the North and East of the island.
Initially LTTE built its military capacity via intervention from Indian intelligence agencies who provided arms, training and monetary support in an attempt to divide the Tamil independence movements in the two countries. India’s intervention in the Tamil movement ended after the 1991 assassination of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by a LTTE suicide bomber.
The fact that the arrests come so soon after a recent visit to Australia by Sri Lankan Healthcare Minister Nimal Siripala De Silva, indicate the worldwide pressure being applied to crackdown on expatriate Tamils.
The sometime use of terror tactics by LTTE plays into the hand of the Sri Lankan state that has a history of oppressing the Tamil minority. Many organisations, including the Socialist Party, raised funds for tsunami victims, some of which went into Tamil areas, after our sister party in Sri Lanka reported that aid was not getting through.
When analysing the current arrests, one only needs to look back at the successful movement that brought independence to East Timor. In the current climate, the many Australians who campaigned for the right of Timorese self-determination would have found themselves under the same scrutiny currently experienced by expatriate Tamils.
By SP reporters