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Australian Tamil referendum attracts media, provokes Colombo’s envoy

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 20 April 2010 09:41 No Comment]

vkr_86831_445 More than 10,000 registered to cast their votes in the referendum across Australia last weekend, on the creation of independent Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka, reported SBS Australia, citing organisers. However, the success of mass participation provoked Colombo’s envoy to retaliate that "the Tamils who are in Sri Lanka at the moment are perfectly happy to go on with the present system. It is only the Diaspora who are trying to force this thing on the people in Sri Lanka”. But, it won the support of John Dowd, the president of the International Commission of Jurists in Australia, SBS said, citing him saying that the referendum highlighted the aspirations as well as the plight of Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka. "Australians need to be reminded that there is a common obligation to these people who for centuries or indeed millennia have led their own lives there," John Dowd further said.

The results of the referendum, which includes postal votes as well, will be announced on April 22, the organisers told TamilNet.

The Tamil referendum in Australia has been declared a success by organisers and political activists, who were optimistic of its effects.

Challenging the assertion of Senaka Welgampaya, the Sri Lankan High Commissioner, the spokesperson of the Australian Tamil Congress Dr. Sam Pari called for a UN led referendum in the North-East to ascertain the Tamils opinion on the creation of an independent Tamil homeland.

John Dowd, the president of International Commission of Jurists, Australia Adrian Francis, the spokesperson of Tamil Referendum Council Australia (TRCA), an independent body established to run the voting process, said that the “present system the High Commissioner speaks about is the same one that led to the mass slaughter of thousands of Tamils," and added that the High Commissioner, along with the entire Sri Lankan establishment, "seem to ignore the fact that this mandate was one supported by the Tamils across the North East."

According to Sri Lanka-born Larry Marshall of La Trobe University, the timing of the referendum, less than an year after the end of the conflict in Sri Lanka is unhelpful.

"It’s a little too soon to try to plumb the feelings of the very confused and divided Tamil community in Canada, in Melbourne, in Australia, in the US, in Europe and to try to say that they speak with one voice, still for Tamil Eelam, for a separate state," SBS cited Mr. Marshall.

But, Speaking to Australian national media The Age, TRCA spokesperson for Victoria, Bobby Sundaralingam, said that the current plight facing thousands of Tamils at the hands of the Sri Lankan administration made participation a prerogative. “Tamils in Sri Lanka are voiceless and in a state of despair. It is the duty of the Diaspora to be their voice and express what the Tamil people want."

Local council candidate Pip Hinman, who visited a suburban polling booth to observe the event told media: “Just because they are safe in this country, they have not turned a blind eye to their people’s ongoing struggle for a separate homeland, they clearly want the Australian government to take a better position and support the Tamil people’s rights to live in peace and safety in Sri Lanka."

Citing the invaluable contributions of the country’s large Diaspora population, forced to Australia “as a result of the decades-long war against the Tamil people in Sri Lanka waged by several Sinhala chauvinist governments”, Hinman urged the Australian Government to “speak up for the right of the Tamils to form an independent separate homeland”.

Polling booths across NSW, Victoria and the A.C.T were bustling with voters throughout April 17th and 18th, according to reports by the TRCA.

“The mass participation illustrates the capacity of the Tamil people to organise themselves in a democratic fashion and more importantly, shows that the fate of our brethren and our nation is an issue that burns at the forefront of the conscience of millions of Diaspora across the world” said the TRCA spokesperson Adrian Francis.

Australia is the 10th country, but the first in the eastern hemisphere to conduct the referendum on the creation of independent and sovereign Tamil Eelam, the main principle of the Vaddukkoaddai Resolution of 1976.

The polls in several countries have delivered a resounding ‘yes’, the SBS observed in a lengthy coverage of the referendum in its World News.

[Full Coverage]

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