A “Fun Game.” Illuminating Tales of Tamil Asylum-Seekers from Sri Lanka, Today… late 2012

Michael Roberts

boat people-Ch science monitor Pic from Christian Science Monitor

TALE ONE: A Sinhala friend working among fishing and farming families on the eastern coast had an assistant and got to know the latter’s sister’s history. The sister, PDA, had a degree and had worked for an NGO at one time. But her husband was an asylum-seeker in Australia, having left by boat in 2008. Since then, he has been in limbo, still awaiting permanent status. The circumstances under which he left four years ago remain unclear. PDA had tried to get to Australia by boat and failed because the boat was apprehended. Notwithstanding this failure, she had left her NGO job and tried once again, this time from Puttalam. She also refrained from making her plans known to family and friends, particularly those she most confided in.  Eventually, her second attempt too had come a cropper. At present, she holds a government job but is still focused on getting to Australia.

COMMENT on the above example from Roberts: (1) The tale seems rather exceptional in that PDA is a graduate with a good employments history and capacities; but motivated to leave by her husband’s location in Australia. (2) Despite her previous arrests [short-term usually] as a “boat person,” she has not been subject to governmental discrimination and been able to receive a public service post …. No doubt aided by her professional certificates and job-history.

TALES 2, 3 AND 4 within an email note from a Sri Lankan Aussie working in a coastal area within the northern Vanni, dated 8th December 2012, with the opening line “Michael, the current asylum seeker issue is a difficult one.”

Tamil as-seekers-KRIS ARIA Pic by Kris Aria

TALE TWO: The Locality experience is that many are leaving for economically rosier pastures.  They have to sell much, pawn whatever they have or borrow to go.  Many here talk like it is a fun game.  Almost an entire sports team just vanished one day – all bound for Australia.  They think it is going to be easy and that even if they are returned, it won’t be for a while so they have a chance to earn money.

TALE THREE: One guy I know had a high paying job with an NGO (Rs100,000/month.[1] The job and the NGO’s tenure in SL ended.  He then got a high position with a government agency but was only getting Rs. 30,000/month, which he deemed insufficient to live on.  His father offered him his business to manage but he didn’t want to do that and instead went to Australia.  The father is rich and has several houses.  This is more of an extreme case of pursuing an economic dream, but people here laugh about going to Australia, like it is becoming the done thing.

TALE THREE: I know another guy who I knew in [the Locality].  Young.  Maybe 22years.  His life is not in any danger.  His father is very rich.  He and many cousins decided to go to Australia.  Several hundred have left from [the Locality] — they think it is a great adventure and similar to a ‘rite of passage’.

MY PAL’s COMMENTS: The annoying thing is that these people are ruining it for the genuine cases, and there are certainly a smaller percentage of these.  The government needs to stop hounding the former or even ‘live’ LTTE members.  It is counter-productive on many fronts.

* But as [concerned watchers] we cannot really bring this information to light because we are labelled as government sympathisers, anti-human rights agitators, and worse.  It is only brave Tamils who will be able to present this type of information.  It only hurts our case to even raise our voice regarding this.

* [There are ] too many compassionate hearts in Oz who don’t really want to consider different points of view and the evidence.  I am no government sympathiser but I like fair treatment of issues.  The Government of SL continues to shoot itself in the foot over too many issues now.

* [I have a] Tamil friend in [X, an Australian city] who works closely with asylum seekers and [among] those released into the community [who] says 95% are not genuine asylum seekers.

FOR MORE LITERATURE, SEE “A Flourishing Bibliographical Tree: Tamil Migration, Asylum-Seekers and Australia” http://thuppahis.com/2012/07/30/a-flourishing-bibliographical-tree-tamil-migration-asylum-seekers-and-australia/#more-6461

[1] Research assistants in a advocacy NGO earn anything from Rs 30,000 to Rs 75,000 per month. A junior executive in an advertisement agency in Colombo would be paid around 20,000 per month; while middling/senior presonnel would recive around Rs 50,000..


Filed under accountability, asylum-seekers, australian media, cultural transmission, economic processes, historical interpretation, immigration, Indian Ocean politics, island economy, LTTE, people smugglers, politIcal discourse, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, sri lankan society, unusual people, welfare & philanthophy, world events & processes

2 responses to “A “Fun Game.” Illuminating Tales of Tamil Asylum-Seekers from Sri Lanka, Today… late 2012

  1. Pingback: Asylum Seekers from Lanka: No Solutions in Sight | Thuppahi's Blog

  2. cass

    Hello Michael
    I hope your pal, the ‘Sri Lankan Aussie working in a coastal area within the northern Vanni’ isn’t an academic or a journalist. Because there is a degree of self absorption, which would sit ill on an academic or a journalist in this person’s comments given by you as

    ‘MY PAL’s COMMENTS: “* But as [concerned watchers] we cannot really bring this information to light because we are labeled as government sympathisers, anti-human rights agitators, and worse… It only hurts our case to even raise our voice regarding this.”

    Supposing Galileo had said ‘But as a concerned scientist I cannot really bring this information (that I have discovered) to light because I would be labeled as a heretic, imprisoned or even worse. It only hurts my case to even raise my voice regarding this.’ If Galileo had said this, today he would be known as a wimp and not as the father of modern physics. Galileo was no self absorbed wimp, he proclaimed the truths and information he had uncovered even though he knew he would be persecuted by The Church, imprisoned and even executed. Leave Galileo, there have thankfully been hundreds of thousands of men and women in the modern world, who have eschewed self interest and wimpishness to bring to light information they have uncovered, despite the risk that doing so would earn them negative labels and spoil ‘their case’. Because of such people human knowledge has advanced. Thankfully they seem to outnumber people like your friend who worry more about labels and ‘their case’

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