I: Letter from Eshantha Ariyadasa to Roberts, 21 May 2013
I am Eshantha Ariyadasa, presently a research higher degree student at Flinders University in South Australia. This is to inform you of a very tragic incident that happened to a Sri Lankan student Dhanushka Uswatte who is presently at the Flinders University reading for his honours degree.
According to Dhanushka, last Friday (10th May 2013), he was waiting for a bus at a bus stop with one of his Australian university friends. Suddenly an Australian (an Aboriginal) has appeared swearing at both of them, and has demanded that Dhanushka go back to his country. Dhanushka politely requested that he leave them alone, as they have done nothing wrong other than waiting to catch a bus. However unfortunately his request was ignored and Dhanushka was brutally attacked by this person. He suffered severe facial injury and had to undergo an immediate surgery at the Flinders Medical Centre in Adelaide. According to Dhanushka, two plates have been used during his operation underneath his left eye and just above his mouth to fix the fracture caused by this attack. He says, part of his face’s left side is still numb as some nerves too have been damaged. This incident has been reported to the police as well as to the officials of the university.
Dhanushka was hospitalized for five days but now has returned to his apartment and is surviving solely with the support of his few friends from both Sri Lanka and Australia. Dhanushka is a really having difficulties being a self-financed student, and has only come up to this level of education with an enormous difficulty. It seems to me that he is in no way responsible for this terrible occurrence, however it has left him with great financial difficulty and will limit obviously delay his important studies. He may not be able to attend university lectures and his part time works for a long while.
I strongly believe that Australia as a country that supports International students enormously and honour Human Rights greatly, should take necessary actions immediately.
I as a Sri Lankan, as well as a student from his same university, kindly appeal you to be an intermediary to this case. I strongly feel that Dhanushka needs your support as an adviser at this time as he is away from his family and his dear ones in his motherland. Sir, if you need any assistance or more information, I would with no hesitation ready to help you voluntarily. My contact no. is 04 0664 4259. I have written below the contact details of Dhanushka for your kind perusal.
Tel. no. 04 3365 5201
Address: 8 Greenock Rd,
Sturt 5047 SA
Sir, could you please forward this to the ASLA president?
Research Higher Degree (PhD) Student (Australia Awards Endeavour Scholarship), School of Social & Policy Studies (SSS 123) Flinders University, South Australia
II: Memo from Roberts
I spoke to Dhanushka on the phone today. He is in his fifth year at Flinders Uni and is studying nanotechnolgy. He was seated at a bus stand on Sturt Road with Alicia, a White Australian student, when an Aboriginal man passed with a young child of about six years accompanying him. The man came back . Let Dhanushka relate the sequnce of events that followed: “he head bumped me asking what are you looking at. When I said we are just waiting for the bus, he said ‘go back to you f**** country.’ Alicia said just walk away we don’t need any troubles, we are waiting for a bus. I knew he is going to hit me anyway regardless of what we say, so I apologized by saying I’m sorry if we did something wrong and stood up. Then he backed off which [led me to think] he was going and I turned to speak to Alicia to make her feel at ease … But then the Aboriginal man hit me in the face. I lost consciousness for a fleeting moment as next thing i remember i was on Alicia’s lap bleeding heavily…”
Alicia had assisted him back to the flat he shares with an East Timorese student. Friends had then helped him to the ER at Flinders Medical Centre at 11.00 pm that night. “I waited 4 hrs to see a doctor. After numerous X-ray and CT scans, doc said my nose is broken from two places and there is a fracture underneath the eye socket. surgery was on tuesday. They fixed the nose and the damage near eye socket was worse than they thought and they put 2 plates one underneath the eye and one to the left side of the nose. Half of my face is still numb due to the hit which damaged a nerve. According to the doctors, it could last for months. Its been 11 days but I’m still spitting blood. I have to go to the eye clinic next week as well. I had more than 40 tablets of painkillers since last thursday evening when I came home from the hospital and its barely helped to ease the pain.”
Dhanushka is from Rajagiriya and attended Ashoka college and then Royal College. He played cricket and Bhanuka Rajapaksa (of Royal who played for Sri Lanka’s U 19 team and was quite a star then) is among his buddies. Dhansuhka also plays cricket fro Flinders Uni in the Turf Tournament. I have therefore informed the Sri Lankan Cricket circle in Adelaide. Dr Charitha Perera who presides over the cricketing society is already aware of Dhanushka’s misfortune and one can be certain that the medical circles will attend to his needs to the best of their ability.
Ironically Sturt Police Station was/is just a stone’s throw from where the assault occurred. Dhanushka’s complaint of aasault is now in the Police Report 13/K87354. The assailant was in his thirties in Dhanushka’s estimation and quite big. I note here that there is a special aboriignal Park area not far from this road and a trifle to the south along Marion Road. It is likely that the man is from the Ngarrindjeri people — the local Aboriginal tribal group who see themselves as a “nation” –an usage rooted in its archaic meaning when “nation” and “tribe” were used interchangeably in the English language and was thus carried into the terminology of White expansion and settlement in Australia (as well as America). This is not quite the same connotation it carries after the French Revolution and its impact on political thought in the course of European imperial expansion in the centuries that followed. For a review of this topic written earlier for my work on SINHALA CONSCIOUSNESS, see “The Vocabulary of “Nation” in English in the Early Modern Period” inhttp://thuppahis.com/2011/07/10/the-vocabulary-of-nation-in-english-in-the-early-modern-period/
In wild surmise I suggest that it is possible that the Aboriginal man misinterpreted the conversation taking place between Dhanushka and Alishya as he passed and thought that they had demeaned him in some way. His bellicose command that Dhanushka should return to his country [he would not have known where precisely Dhanushka is from] can also be interpreted as one of the currents of thought among people (White, Black, Brown) at the bottom of the social order in Australia, some of whom believe that “boat people” are getting aid and drawing welfare benefits in ways which impact — that is reduce –the monies available to them.