Melbournians/Sri Lankans/Tamils protest at ongoing Sri Lankan Genocide

Banner for a protest in Melbourne over Sri Lanka's treatment of Tamils

Banner for a protest in Melbourne over Sri Lanka's treatment of Tamils

This evening across from Flinders Street Station, I heard the unmistakable sounds of a protest rally.

“Tamil Tigers – Freedom Fighters!”
“Sri Lanka Sri Lanka – Don’t kill Tamils!”

A large-ish group of people had gathered to protest the ongoing ill-treatment of Sri Lanka’s Tamil population. The Sri Lankan government, under the guise of cracking down on the rebel Tamil Tigers, continues to wage a war against it’s civilian population, and the Tamils are among those at the short end of the stick. We see the same problems in Colombia, where the government uses the FARC guerillas as an excuse to continue mistreating indigenous and poor Colombians, and in Isreal, where Muslim terrorists are the favourite excuse for the government to build up an apartheid state against the Palestinian population. All of this, of course, goes on with the tacit support – in fact, through most of history, with the actual monetary and diplomatic support – of our own Western leaders, who generally refrain from kicking up too much fuss.

I was given a pamphlet directing me to these links – haven’t visited them yet, so be warned that there may be disturbing images.

You can contact the organisers of the protest at: networktamils(at)

A gathering of protesters outside Federation Square in Melbourne.

A gathering of protesters outside Federation Square in Melbourne.

3 Comments so far

  1. dubrockn on May 27th, 2009 @ 12:58 am

    I am not trying to start an argument but I have a question. Do the Tamil Tigers represent the Tamil People or are they Terrorists?

    Because if what I have read is true the Tigers have been killing civilians for a very long time. They have killed pacifist buddhist monks. They have killed civilian men, women, and children.

    This whole thing confuses me becuase I can’t see who wears the white hats and who wears the black. Is this ethnic cleansing or revenge killing? Can someone explain this to me in simple terms as apparently I can’t wrap my head around it.


  2. Dissembly (mel_david) on May 27th, 2009 @ 4:08 pm

    I don’t blame you, Dubby.

    I don’t have definitive answers; i haven’t looked at this conflict in a great deal of depth. All i can offer are the following observations;

    *One of the problems is that the Tamil Tigers – whoever they really are – represent a distraction from the Sri Lankan governments basic failure to serve its people. So when you say "I can’t see who wears the white hats and who wears the black", there’s no doubt anywhere that the Sri Lankan government wears the black hats. The question is, do the Tamil Tigers also wear black hats? Even if thats the case, it doesn’t make the Sri Lankan government the "good guys" – unlike the problems with the Tamil Tigers, the evidence against the Government is undisputed outside of Sri Lanka.

    *The Tamil Tigers are classified as a "terrorist" organisation, but that doesn’t tell you anything. Classification as a terrorist organisation depends on your political affiliation, not your actual tactics. (For example, Nelson Mandela in South Africa was a "terrorist" because he opposed Western allies, whereas the Mujahideen in Afghanistan were "not terrorist", because they opposed the USSR. Nowadays, the Taliban are "terrorist", because they opposed the US, but the Northern Alliance are "not terrorist", even though they have exactly the same beliefs and practises as the Taliban – with one exception: their support for the US.)

    So whether or not they’re "terrorist" doesn’t tell you anything.

    *The question is, how do they treat civilians, and what sort of policy/government/society are they fighting to create?

    You wrote: "the Tigers have been killing civilians for a very long time. They have killed pacifist buddhist monks."

    *I would add that Buddhist monks are anything but "pacifist". Buddhist monks have been known to actively campaign for the oppression of Tamils in Sri Lanka. With the blessing of the government, they were instrumental in a series of riots in the early 1980s that killed large numbers of Tamils. So a Buddhist monk isn’t necessarily non-combatant, especially in Sri Lanka.

    You also wrote: "They have killed civilian men, women, and children. "

    *I have heard similar reports. One of the problems is that the Western media has a history of distorting the truth when it comes to organisations like the Tamil Tigers (i.e. groups that are opposed to Western allies or business interests). This has been empirically documented for the US-media in Hermann & Chomsky’s "Manufacturing Consent – where the authors actually put similar issues side-by-side and examined the way the media treated them. They found that there was a great deal of bias in favour of US-aligned groups and against everyone else, and you can actually systematically quantify this bias.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if it operated in the case of the Tamil Tigers. I don’t know for sure, and i don’t have the real answer myself, but i am suspicious of at least some of the things that are said about them.

    I do know that, while the Tamil Tigers are a violent organisation (they’re combatants, after all), there was apparently a thirty-odd year history of non-violent protest etc… by Tamils against the Sri Lankan government/military/business establishment, and this came to nothing. So the Tigers didn’t just appear out of thin air to come ruin everybody’s day, they formed after the failure of more peaceful measures.

    I’m sure they’re not angels, and at the end of the day, i don’t know what the exact truth about the situation is (possibly nobody outside of the conflict itself will know for a long time). After all, if the history of the Middle East during the 20th century has taught us anything, it’s that if you go on killing civilians and oppressing people for long enough, eventually the only ones left standing are the ones ready to blow themselves up on a crowded bus. But based on my knowledge of similar situations elsewhere in the world, and of the way in which the media in English-speaking countries reports these situations, i would advise a degree of skepticism.

    You may find this blog post interesting:

    It deals with some of the same issues that have come up here.

  3. Tamils Nightly Vigil Continues in Federation Square, Melbourne | Melbourne Metblogs (pingback) on May 30th, 2009 @ 1:35 am

    […] while the Sri Lankan government works to block foreign media from entering. Earlier in the week, I reported on the existence of a protest group at Federation Square. Now, after seeing them there for the third night and talking to some of those involved, I’ve […]

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