Sri Lankan Asylum Seekers
A few points on the asylum seeker issue:
The basic problem is that the conflict has gone on for over half a century (with roots going even further back) with no clear system for now resolving it. The Hindu Tamil dominated north should have been given a measure of local autonomy when the country became independent of Britain in 1948. Instead, an increasingly nationalistic majority Buddhist Sinhalese government in Colombo has ignored the local community demands. This has brought on its own adverse reaction from the Tamil community. As with other localized conflicts, one thing led to another in a gradual escalation of violence.
Of course it is smart to be wise after the event. But I wonder just how many seeds of future conflicts around the world are being planted today that will haunt us in a half a century's time because of a lack of a conflict-resolving approach to politics?
This is a conflict without any heroes. There is fault on both sides. This is probably one of the reasons why the Australian media have not given the conflict much coverage - it is so difficult to work out who is right and wrong in the current level of violence.
Certainly the Sri Lankan government could have helped matters by allowing the foreign media to visit the conflict zone in the north and check out independently the disputed accounts of what is happening. For example, there are allegations that the Tamil Tiger guerrillas have been holding their own civilians as "human shields" to make it more difficult for government forces to attack Tamil-dominated areas. We have no independent way of assessing the claims of either side.
The need for independent verification is all the more important given the skill of both sides with their spin doctors. Both sides have articulate intelligent spokespersons and good international media networks.
Ironically international journalist organizations claim that the conflict is one of the most dangerous for any journalist (irrespective of nationality) to cover.
One of the most interesting sources of information on the conflict may well be the asylum seekers on Christmas Island and elsewhere. They may well have seen war crimes committed by the government and Tamil Tiger forces. It would be important to have those witnesses interviewed to collect evidence on the war crimes.
To listen to the interview on Sri Lankan Asylum Seekers for the ABC click here.
Posted by: Webeditor at 9:20 PM