May Day Arrests Target National Liberation Movement

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On May Day, two Australian citizens were arrested and charged with the vague, yet frightening, charge of supporting a terrorist organisation — the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE). This is despite the LTTE not being proscribed as a terrorist organisation in either Australia or Sri Lanka! The Melbourne men — Aruran Vinayagamoorthy and Sivarajah Yathavan — are members of the Australian-Tamil community. The pair helped raise humanitarian aid after the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami: 70% of the damage was in the Tamil-controlled part of the island. They are also outspoken activists against the State-sponsored persecution of Tamils and advocates of
Tamil self-determination. Both men — who have not been convicted of anything — are being held in solitary confinement in Melbourne’s Deer Park Remand Centre.

Legacy of oppression. The Tamil people, who live predominantly in the north and east of Sri Lanka, comprise 15% of the population. Since Sri Lanka gained independence from Britain in 1948, Tamils have been an oppressed minority. In the late ’70s the LTTE was formed to campaign for self-determination through a range of methods, including armed struggle. Tamil grievances include language discrimination: Sinhalese was declared the official language. Tamils have been excluded from government jobs and face discrimination in education. In 1981, Sri Lankan Police burned the Jaffna library, which holds works considered the centrepiece of Tamil cultural life. The community has also faced systematic State-sponsored violence and pogroms. The worst, in 1983, left 3,000 Tamils dead.

Criminalising a community. There are 30,000 Tamils living in Australia, most of whom retain links to their homeland. The LTTE — which runs a parallel administration in Tamil-controlled areas — is recognised as the representative of the Tamil people. The May Day arrests set a dangerous precedent by targeting one side in a civil conflict. The arrests have nothing to do with terrorism and everything to do with silencing dissent and criminalizing solidarity with a legitimate national liberation movement. Free Aruran and Sivarjah now! Drop the charges! Repeal the terror laws! For more info: www.a-trac.org

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