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The cost of exposing Sri Lanka’s murderous regime

The article below is by Brian Senewiratne , who is from Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese ethnic majority and a long-time Tamil rights activist. For his uncompromising stance against the long-term oppression, and current brutal military offensive, against the Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority by the Sinhalese chauvinist regime, he was recently barred from entering Malaysia and was singled out and victimised by Canadian and Australian immigration officials.

Senewiratne will present a workshop on the Tamil struggle for self-determination at the World at a Crossroads conference in Sydney, April 10-12. For more information, or to register, visit <http://www.worldatacrossroads.org>. He is also a member of the Socialist Alliance in Australia, and many of his writings can be found at <http://www.tamilcanadian.com>


There is a price to be paid by anyone who exposes what goes on behind the closed and censored doors of Sri Lanka – insult, intimidation and deportation. This is what I was subjected to in late March — in Canada, Malaysia, and Australia (where I have been a citizen for 32 years),.

I am a Sinhalese from Sri Lanka who has campaigned for four decades for the right of the Sri Lankan Tamil minority to live with equality, dignity and safety in the country of their birth.

The violation of their human rights now has the features of genocide, as has been documented in a dozen DVDs I have recorded and distributed worldwide.

Canadians for Genocide Education is a multicultural coalition of almost 50 organisations committed to equity in education on genocide. Its areas of interest and countries of concern are listed at .

They have an annual “Genocide Education Week”, where one person “from internationally renowned scholars/speakers of high intellectual caliber and credibility” is selected as the “distinguished speaker”.

Last year, it was anti-Zionist Israeli academic Dr Ilan Pappe, who spoke on the genocide of the Palestinians.

In 2009, I was picked to address the meeting on “Peace with Justice in Sri Lanka: Genocide of Sri Lankan Tamils — its causes and solutions”.

My mandate was “to trace the development of the ethnic conflict that has resulted in the violation of human rights of both the Tamils and the Sinhalese, which now features the genocide of the Tamil people”.

I argued: “Unless these fundamental problems are addressed, without delay, there will neither be peace nor prosperity in Sri Lanka, as the country slides inexorably and irreversibly into a fascist dictatorship, and a failed state.”

The presentation was on March 25 at the University of Toronto.

Canadian immigration’s ‘welcome’

I arrived in Toronto after a 25-hour flight from Australia (no small undertaking for a 77-year-old). I have been there many times — the last in June 2008 when I addressed a massive crowd of some 75,000 people — and have had no problems with immigration.

That was about to change.

I was subjected to a five-hour “investigation” by Canadian Immigration. There were various lame excuses — “The computers are down, we cannot find your conference” (despite it being on the net, the link to which I supplied).

Finally it was found. Hallelujah!

Then started the search. Everything in my suitcase was taken out, looked at in detail and photographed. Even my handwritten notes, including letters to patients, were scrutinised.

By now, I had missed my radio interview arranged for five hours after my arrival.

On the way to town, a Tamil who met me said, “Welcome to the real world, the world of the Tamils. Good to see a Sinhalese being subjected to what we Tamils have been subjected to for years”.

What we have seen is criminalising an ethnic group (Tamils). Now it is criminalising a point of view.

I went to an arranged meeting with Canadian MPs in Ottawa, who were shocked at what an invited guest had been subjected to.

Back in Toronto, I had addressed a group of young socialists the day before my main meeting at Toronto University.

After my one hour address, there was time for questions. Up shot the hand of one of the young socialists I had addressed earlier. “Have you been subjected to any harassment here in Canada?”

Here was my chance to tell the distinguished audience that their country had got into bed with a bunch of hoodlums. There were gasps of disbelief and “This is outrageous”.

Malaysia

I left Toronto that night for Kuala Lumpur to address a meeting of some 300 people, specially organised for me.

I arrived in Malaysia at 5.30pm. Five hours later, I was told that I was a “security risk” and would be deported.

What? A 77 year old doctor a security risk? Malaysia’s security cannot be that secure!

Six policemen and an immigration officer escorted me to the plane.

All the meetings, including one arranged in association with the deputy prime minister of Penang state, had to be cancelled.

I returned home after 33 hours “on the go”, telling immigration, “It is good to be back in a civilised country”.

It was not to be.

I have been an Australian for 32 years, and have travelled abroad many times. Never have I had a problem with the immigration department.

That was to change.

I was subjected to the identical treatment I had suffered in Toronto.

Consider this. Here is a citizen of Australia, invited to Canada as a “distinguished speaker” at an international forum at Canada’s best known university, returning home with a large plaque that in recognition of “dedication to inclusivity and equity in genocide education”.

Plaques and other awards notwithstanding, here I was being treated like an criminal.

What was behind this? Work it out yourself.

Who was being threatened by my presentation on the genocide being perpetrated on the Tamils? As we say in medicine, the differential diagnosis is very limited.

The finger points to those whose criminal activities were being exposed. Canada, Malaysia and my home, Australia, do not need to get into bed with this fascist dictatorship.

When that happens, it is time for all of us to sit up and worry.

All I can do is to bring this to the attention of the “court of public opinion” — and leave it to that court to act.


From: International News, Green Left Weekly issue #790 5 April 2009

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