The Murugappans of Lanka and Biloela …. And Gross Australian Generalizations about Sri Lankan Situations

Nick Gibbs, in 7 News, 24 May 2022, where the title runs thus “Biloela ready to Welcome Home the Murugappans”

Supporters of the Tamil family held in immigration detention believe their plight changed votes in Qld as the town of Biloela prepares to welcome them home.


There is hope the Tamil family taken from their home in Biloela four years ago will return for daughter Tharnicaa’s fifth birthday in just under three weeks.

Incoming federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers wants the family to return to the central Queensland town “as soon as possible” and is expecting to be briefed on the matter this week.  “As a Queenslander born and bred, sometimes we get unnecessarily caricatured about our approach to some of these sorts of issues,” Mr Chalmers told ABC Radio Brisbane on Monday.  “But Biloela is a big hearted, warm, welcoming town and the sooner we can get that beautiful family home to Bilo, the better.

Tharnicaa was just nine months old when the Murugappan family was uprooted from Biloela by authorities in March 2018 and placed in a Melbourne detention centre.

“She has had every birthday in detention, so it would be amazing for her fifth birthday to actually get to celebrate her freedom…a huge thing for a little five year year old,” family friend and long-time Home to Bilo campaigner Angela Fredericks said.

Tharni’s birthday is on June 12 and Biloela will hold its annual Flourish Multicultural Festival the day before. “We would love Priya and Nades to open that,” Ms Fredericks said.

Labor promised that the Murugappan family would be able to go home if they won the election, and Home to Bilo campaigners believe the issue changed votes in central Queensland.

“We were hearing from people who have voted LNP for 50 plus years, who changed their vote this election,” Ms Fredericks said. She delivered the news of a Labor victory to Priya once sure of the result late on Saturday night. “That immediate release of tears and then being able to actually breathe and know that this was it, it was just so beautiful to watch,” she said.

Supporters are now waiting for a new Immigration Minister to be announced before discussing next steps.

The family, who escaped Sri Lanka by boat from a protracted ethnic conflict targeting the minority Tamils, were given temporary protection visas but uprooted from Biloela by authorities in March 2018 and placed in a Melbourne detention centre.

They were then detained on Christmas Island in August 2019 and placed in community detention in Perth after youngest daughter Tharnicaa’s medical evacuation in June 2021 with a blood infection.

Priya, Nades and seven-year-old daughter Kopika have been granted bridging visas allowing them to remain in the country, but Tharnicaa is yet to be given one. That ensured the family remained in community detention in Perth, with their 12-month visas set to expire in September.


UPDATE 29 May 2022

The Biloela Tamil family: Priya and Nades Murugappan and their Australian-born daughters Kopika and Tharnicaa.  Photograph: Stephanie Coombes  …… Tamil family can return to Queensland town while their immigration status is resolved, Labor’s Jim Chalmers says ……………………. ,


Michael Roberts: “Shoddy Journalism. Standard Fare in Australia,” 30 May 2022

The Item in The Australian 24 May 2022, headlined “Biloela ready to welcome home Murugappan Family” has this line in a tale that is broadly similar to that above: ………………. “Nades and Priya Murugappen – who fled Sri Lanka and the persecution of Tamils to Australia in 2012 and 2013 respectively -married and had two children Kepika and Tharni, in Biloela.”

As this item indicates, Nades and Priya left Sri Lanka separately and entered Australia as illegal migrants before meeting up in Biloela and marrying. Their biography in Australia and Biloela indicates that the family is likely to prosper in the Biloela/Queensland environment; so there is little ground to deport them.

That stressed, I focus in critical vein on the lazy journalism perpetrated in The Australian by reporter Sarah Ison. There has been no attempt to ascertain in which part of Sri Lanka Priya and Nades lived before they travelled to Australia (presumably by illegal boat). Instead, they assert that virtually all Tamils in all parts of the siland in the years 2012-to-2013 were subject to intolerable conditions tantamount to persecution. 

Their timeline of 2012/13 happens to be three/four years after the long period of warfare between  the LTTE and the Government of Sri Lanka had come to a blazing end in May 2009.  It is well-known that as the tide of war had turned against the LTTE in early 2008 the Tigers had encouraged, cajoled, pressed and/or forced the civilain populace in the northern Vanni to move eastwards with their retreating army. As Pulendran, a civilian Tiger Commissar, told a fi ried in Europe: ‘if

In brief, at this stage the Tamils in remant Thamililam were hostages. However, this body of perhpas 300,000 Tamil personnel were only a segment of the  0000 “Sri Lankan Tamils” logged in the census of 2001.  There were Tamils in the Jaffna Penisnsula north of Tigerland and Tamils in the Vavuniya arena to the south, Tamils in Mannar Island and along the coast from Uswetikeyiyawa to Puttalam besides a substantial number in Metropolitan Colombo.

A significant proportion of these Tamils were probably sympathetic to the LTTE cause because of the threads of discrimination whihch some — I repeat “some” — had faced and because of the mini-pogroms and pogroms several encountered in 1958, 1977 and 1983. Nevertheless one must be alive to the presence of a well-heeled SL Tamil middle class in metropolitan Colombo as well as the towns Vavuniya, Puttalum, Negombo, Kurunegala, Kandy, Trincomalee et cetera.

That is why I ask for detailed biographies of Priya and the man Nades. Where were they born and where bred? How did they survive the travails of the last two Eelam Wars (1996-2001 and 2005-09)?

Such basic questions must also be informed by equally basic knowledge on the demographic distribution of the different ethnic groups in Sri Lanka (encompassing the distinction between Sri Lankan Tamils and Indian Tamils).

Without such inquiries, reporters Ison and Gibbs are indulging in putrid journalism. Their news items stink.



2011 Census



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5 responses to “The Murugappans of Lanka and Biloela …. And Gross Australian Generalizations about Sri Lankan Situations

  1. Gladstone Jebanasam

    What a sad and bitter commentary on this article from an Octogenarian put out to pasture in the Adelaide Hills, soon to front up at the Pearly Gates and who has been away from Sri Lanka for more than fifty years!!!

    What demographic information are you trying to convey with this same old same old colourful imaginary map of of your making, which should really be entirely coloured brown — We Sri Lankans are all brown people man!

    As I write this, close to a million SL passport applications have been made by young educated Sri Lankans wanting to leave Sri Lanka in the past three months alone to get away from the god awe full economic mess in that beautiful country.

    Pin down that Demographic sunshine ! So bloody sad !

    Gladstone Jebanasam
    (An Octogenarian old fart)
    Homebush NSW.

    • Prasanna

      I see a most familiar name Gladstone Jeba… Am curious now to know if it is GEC Jeba once from Deal Place.

  2. READERS in THUPPAHI: “I could have acted as an “OLD FART” and simply erased this comment. However the COMMENT by itself reveals the play of (A) Vengeance and (B) Puerile reasoning in day-to-day commentary of this sort. In deploying today’s conditions in Sri Lanka –admittedly and clearly awful these are — to assess events in 2009-12, the OLD FART displays a cardinal failure.
    The comment also suggests – and this word SUGGESTS is used advisedly — that Jebanasam is motivated by the force of VENGEANCE generated by the several sufferings imposed on SL Tamils from 1958 onwards.
    VENGEANCE, as a motivation amidst other imperatives, seems to drive Ceylonese/Sri Lankans of all ethnic backgrounds who migrated from the island from the 1950s onwards to comment in bitter tones about the events that have unfolded in Sri Lanka in recent years. The ‘pages’ of my email have been inundated with such material in the past year.
    Whether a searching self-examination would assist such personnel is an issue that I raise …. albeit in pessimistic vein.

  3. David Wei

    I hold no partisanship in the case of this Sri Lankan family but have not this family had their claim for asylum denied by seven different Australian courts? And why doesnt your ‘unbiased’ journalism mention this?

  4. Gladstone Jebanasam


    I really had no intention of upsetting you and making you put together such a long analysis relating to the warped state of my mind on this topic, all gleamed from my Tamil surname!

    Talk about drawing a long bow.

    How on earth can I prove you wrong? I can’t !!!

    By the way what’s David Wei on about ? what’s the number of claims for asylum got to do with what’s in store for this family which will be finally decided by the Australian courts after who knows how many appeals?

    That’s how the laws of Australia work.

    Gladstone Jebanasam,

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