Refugee supporters will join Tamil groups to protest outside tomorrow’s SCG cricket match to call for a sporting boycott of the Sri Lankan cricket team, and for Australia to welcome refugees fleeing that country’s repressive regime.
Protesters will gather at 9.30am, Thursday 3 January, on Driver Avenue, outside the main gates into the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Almost years after the end of the country’s civil war, when government forces massacred over 40,000 Tamils, the regime of President Mahinda Rajapaksa continues to commit vicious human rights abuses. The repression of the country’s Tamil minority continues, with Tamil areas in the north heavily militarised and Tamil farmers and fishers continuing to be driven off their lands and away from their source of income.
But dissent even among the majority Sinhalese population is also dealt with brutally, with over 15,000 people disappearing in “white van abductions” in the last three years, according to Amnesty International. Those disappeared include journalists and political opponents of the regime.
Yet the Australian government is helping to cover up these abuses by cultivating Sri Lanka as a partner in its efforts to prevent Sri Lankan refugees reaching Australia. It has also handed over more than 800 Sri Lankan asylum seekers to potential torture and death at the hands of the regime since August. Under its new notorious “screening out” procedures the Australian government has turned away hundreds of Sri Lankan asylum boat arrivals after perfunctory interviews.
“Foreign Minister Bob Carr’s visit to Sri Lanka just a few weeks ago was a disgraceful indication of the Australian government’s support for a regime that is guilty of serious human rights abuses in Sri Lanka”, said Nick Riemer, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.
“Carr promised more Australian assistance for the Sri Lankan navy and security forces to stop those fleeing persecution. The Labor government has turned a blind eye to regime’s history of kidnapping, torture and murder of its opponents. Gillard and Bowen know that asylum seekers being returned to Sri Lanka are being jailed and tortured but will not lift a finger to do anything about it
“The Rajapaksa regime is a ruthless dictatorship that deserves to be isolated by the international community. Australia’s support for the Rajapaksa regime makes a joke of Australia’s seat on the UN security council,” said Nick Riemer.
“As with the South African apartheid regime, Sri Lanka deserves a boycott of cricket tours and other sporting teams. “Sri Lanka President Rajapaksa uses the country’s cricket team to promote his dictatorial regime, being constantly photographed with the players and naming Colombo’s new cricket stadium after himself.
“We are calling on the Australian government to stop aiding this dictatorship in its persecution of the Tamils and crackdown on political dissent by immediately putting an end to forced deportations to Sri Lanka, and welcoming refugees fleeing persecution at the hands of the regime.
“We are also calling on all cricket lovers who care about human rights to join us in boycotting the Sri Lankan team during its visit to Australia.”
Further demonstrations are planned for matches later in January.
For more information contact Nick Riemer 0435 533 027 or Mark Goudkamp 0422 078 376
Category: Press releases