Published: The Canberra Times & The Australian Financial Review
The war in Sri Lanka is a civil war. Its roots go back to the mid 1950’s, but from 1983 the conflict between the Sinhalese and the Tamils of the north, erupted into civil war, after the Sinhalese armed forces moved against the Tamils. The Tamil Kingdoms of the north go back over 1,000 years.
The minority Tamils sought an equal footing with the Sinhalese, including the use of their language in official and daily transactions. This was not granted and the Tamils rightly saw this as the beginning of a move to marginalise them in the social, cultural, political and economic life of their country.
The Bush administration, thrashing about to demonstrate dominance over world terrorism, saw Sri Lanka as an easy target in the PR war, after Iraq proved not to be so. It provided a technically bankrupt and chronically corrupt Sinhalese government with the military training, money and hardware to crush the Tamils and that is what has been taking place over the last four years.
The head of the AFP, Mick Keelty, went along with this analysis and had Sri Lankan Tamil organisations, soliciting funds in Australia for hospitals, schools and the armed struggle, proscribed under the Terrorism Act. His mentor and benefactor, John Howard, had the same attitude to the ANC in South Africa and yet in the face of realty, i.e Nelson Mandela as President of South Africa with considerable domestic and international support, he gave Mandela the Order of Australia.
Kevin Rudd has gone along with the Keelty/Howard analysis, which says very little for the capacity he has allowed the public service, post Howard, to analyse these and related issues and provide advice without intimidation.
Rudd must show policy independence from the Howard regime, as well as compassion and courage with respect to the civil war in Sri Lanka, and the resultant genocide being committed against the Tamils.