Paul Maley, in The Australian, 29 May 2012
THE Sri Lankan government has accused the remnants of defeated terrorist group the Tamil Tigers of funding the passage of asylum-seekers to Australia. Sri Lanka says it is part of a campaign to convince the world that Sri Lanka is not safe for Tamils.
The claim — dismissed by the Tamil community and doubted by the Gillard government — came as authorities in Sri Lanka detained 113 asylum-seekers and six organisers as they prepared to leave for Australia.Sri Lankan police spokesman Ajith Rohana said the Sri Lankan nationals were arrested on Monday as they prepared to leave the country in a fishing trawler. They were arrested in groups in Colombo and the town of Negombo, about 30km from the capital. Their arrest comes amid a surge in asylum traffic. More than 1000 asylum-seekers have arrived this month, the first time the mark has been passed since August 2001, when 1645 arrived.
Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to Australia Thisara Samarasinghe told The Australian “certain organisations” were funding the travel of Tamil asylum-seekers to Australia. He accused the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE), or Tamil Tigers, of employing the smuggling issue as part of an elaborate PR campaign to discredit the Sri Lankan government, which has been accused of committing war crimes in its final offensive against the LTTE, which it defeated in May 2009. “This is nothing to do with your policy,” Mr Samarasinghe said. “This is the terrorists’ long-term plans to show the world that Sri Lanka is not a place to stay.” The Sri Lankan government denies accusation of war crimes.
Australian Tamil Association president Thiru Arumugam agreed there were now more Tamils travelling to Australia by boat, but rejected claims the LTTE was behind the increase. “Is there any evidence for claiming that?” he said. Mr Arumugam said the failure of the Malaysia deal plus the worsening plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka were the real reasons for the spike.