Tamil community is shocked to learn that Deakin University awarded an honorary doctorate to Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Tuesday purportedly on the basis of his work on “reconciliation, whilst ensuring accountability.”
The award reinforces falsehoods about the current situation facing Tamils in Sri Lanka. These falsehoods threaten the lives of Tamil asylum seekers in Australia who face being sent back on such claims.
In a joint press conference yesterday with Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull, Ranil Wickremesinghe claimed that “it is quite safe [for asylum seekers to return]”. However the United Nations and other human rights organisations have documented that torture, sexual abuse, “white van abductions”, continue against the Tamil population. The Australian government has legal obligations under the Refugee Convention and Convention Against Torture not to send people back under such conditions.
“The award sends a message that the heavy-militarisation, forced demographic change and ‘Sinhalisation’ of Tamil majority areas in the northeast, as documented by groups like International Crisis Group and Maatram Foundation, under the current Sri Lankan government is ok”, said Tamil Refugee Council spokesperson Avi Selva.
“The award and invitation to the Sri Lankan Prime Minister to give a private lecture, closed to the public, prevents critical questions being asked of him.”
“We are concerned these ties between Deakin University and the Sri Lankan Government are undermining grass-roots Tamil voices who are calling for change on the island. Figures such as the current Northern Provincial Council’s Chief Minister, a former Supreme Court Justice, representing the only majority Tamil province on the island, are not afforded similar welcome to the university.”
“Such an award and private event is not consistent with the objects of the university, outlined in the Deakin University Act of 2009 “to the benefit of the well-being of the Victorian, Australian and international communities”, to “elevating public awareness”, to “promoting critical and free enquiry….informed intellectual discourse and public debate within the University and in the wider society” and “to provide programs … in a way that reflects principles of equity and social justice””
A spokesperson from the Tamil Refugee Council will be available for media comment from 5-6:30pm outside the Deakin Edge building in Federation Square.
For further information, contact the Tamil Refugee Council 0410 197 814.