Sri Lanka Human Rights Project

About the Sri Lanka Human Rights Project

Primary Goal
This project advocates human rights norms as Sri Lanka's post-conflict situation rapidly deteriorates. In doing so, the project seeks to raise awareness about the country's censored emergency and help work towards a peaceful and just solution for the multi-ethnic people of Sri Lanka

Objectives

  • Establish relevant links with grassroots organisations, concerned NGOs, academics and parliamentarians in Australia. The resulting networks will serve as a conduit for the dissemination of public information and as a voice for Sri Lanka’s marginalised population.
  • Raise public awareness of Sri Lanka’s post-conflict situation with an emphasis on its human rights emergency and
  • In fostering awareness amongst the constituents of the Australian public, the project seeks to create a medium for dialogue and understanding between Sri Lanka’s ethnic groups

Project description
In light of the continued abuses committed in the aftermath of Sri Lanka’s civil war, the project aims to raise awareness about the country’s human rights disaster, which remains unrecognised by the greater international community. In highlighting the appalling conditions faced by Tamil people in government internment camps, the project raises calls for the Sri Lankan government to find a workable solution for the Tamil population. By encouraging the international community to develop a just environment, much needed peaceful dialogue can be further promoted amongst the multi-ethnic people of Sri Lanka.

Convenors
Associate Professor Jake Lynch, Director, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies


Brami Jegan, Visiting Scholar, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies


Gobie Rajalingam, Master of Peace and Conflict Studies Graduate

Patron
Bruce Haigh, former Australian diplomat to South Africa, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and Deputy High Commissioner to Sri Lanka

Conflict in Sri Lanka
In May 2009, after 26 years of failed cease-fires and ongoing civil conflict, the Sinhalese dominated Sri Lankan Government declared it had defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) after army forces captured the last patch of rebel held territory in the north east of the country. Nearly 215,000 people have been killed in the country’s civil war, with former Australian UN official in Sri Lanka, Gordon Weiss, stating that up to 40,000 civilians died in the last few months of the war.

Despite the Sri Lankan government promising the release of 300,000 illegally interned Tamils within 6 months of May 2009, more than 76,000 civilians remain in military run camps without adequate nutrition, shelter and sanitation. International aid agencies, media and the United Nations have been restricted access to the camps.

Campaigns

NOW SET THEM FREE
December 2009 marks the 61st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Freedom of speech and belief, and freedom from fear, represent the foundation of justice and peace in the world, it says. These freedoms must be protected, or people will be driven as a last resort to rebellion against tyranny and oppression. After sustained international pressure, the Tamil people of Sri Lanka are finally being let out of the squalid internment camps where they were locked up for six months after the end of the country’s civil war. But the freedoms we take for granted here in Australia are still being denied to them. That’s why the Sri Lanka Human Rights Project marks Human Rights Day with the call: Now set them free. Join us, as we give a voice to the silenced people of Sri Lanka.

NOW SET THEM FREE
UN HUMAN RIGHTS DAY ’09
an interactive art display, thematic dance and general public discussion

Saturday Dec 12, 2009, 10am - 4pm
Glebe Markets, Glebe Point Road

Events

Enabling Dialogue - CPACS Forums
By empowering subjugated voices and serving as a medium for censored narratives, the CPACS forums create a platform for raising awareness about Sri Lanka’s human rights disaster and encouraging action by the Australian and international community.

Past Events

6th February, 2010 – Sustainability Expo
Hosted by the CarriageWorks, held at Eveleigh, Sydney

Attended by over 700 members of the Australian public, NGO groups and activist organisations, the Sri Lanka Human Rights Project held a stall that hoped to carry the momentum achieved at Now Set Them Free (Glebe Markets), in December 2009. Through general public discussion, the circulation of flyers and the sale of tote bags, the Sri Lanka Human Rights Project, together with a thematic art display by the dance group Women for Justice, succeeded in raising awareness about Sri Lanka’s human rights emergency.
View the event flyer for more information.

28th February, 2010 – F.I.N.D
Hosted by the Tamil Youth Organisation, held at Sydney Baha’i Centre

The Sri Lanka Human Rights Project was invited by the Tamil Youth Organisation to facilitate a workshop that invoked and questioned the concept of activism amongst Australia’s Tamil youth. Encouraging participants to freely express their opinions, “activism” was analysed in the context of what needs to be provided to youth such that they are more involved in voicing their humanitarian concerns, while addressing issues that restricted them from being active in the past. Joined by special guest, Dr. John Whitehall (paediatrician, Associate Professor in Public Health at James Cook University and a Sri Lanka conflict zone field doctor), the Tamil Youth Organisation and the Sri Lanka Human Rights Project established relevant links with concerned members of the community and consequently strengthened the appeal against Sri Lanka’s humanitarian crisis.
View the event poster.

Sri Lanka: Human Rights Issues and Media Representation
At Monash University
Tuesday, 10 November 2009 6 - 8 pm
Lecture Theatre K321 (Halstead Theatre)
3rd floor, Building K, Monash University, Caulfield
View the event invitation for more information.

8th September, 2009 – Human Rights in Sri Lanka and Australia’s Role
Hosted by the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, the University of Sydney; held at Federal Parliament, Canberra.

Chaired by Associate Professor Jake Lynch, Director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, the event included addresses by:
Hon. John Dowd AO QC, President of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) Australia and Vice President of ICJ Geneva; Sharan Burrow, President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions; Dr John Whitehall, paediatrician and Associate Professor in Public Health at James Cook University; and Bruce Haigh, former Australian diplomat and Deputy High Commissioner to Sri Lanka.

Attended by some 40 policy makers, federal MPs and officials, the speakers examined the state of human rights in Sri Lanka and discussed the real situation faced by the country’s marginalised community today. The necessity of upholding human rights norms and protecting the persecuted people of Sri Lanka was emphasised in debates about Australia’s responsibilities in the Asia-Pacific region.
View the event invitation for more information.

31st August, 2009 – Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Emergency: Why is it being hidden and what can we do about it?
Hosted by the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies and the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism, with the support of Amnesty International, at the University of Sydney.

Chaired by the Director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, Associate Professor Jake Lynch, the event drew upon former Australian diplomat and Deputy High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Bruce Haigh, paediatrician and Associate Professor in Public Health at James Cook University, Dr John Whitehall and Tamil human rights advocate, Dr Sam Pari. The forum heard how the struggle of Sri Lanka’s Tamil population has become framed within the discourse of the ‘war on terror’, consequently diluting the country’s current human rights crisis in the eyes of the international community. In recounting the deprivation of needs and rights of the Tamil people, the discussion echoed the calls of the 300,000 Internally Displaced People (IDPs) who remain in the country’s internment camps.
View video recordings from the conference
View the event poster for more information

27th May, 2009 – Media Complicity: Reporting Gaza and Sri Lanka
Hosted by the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies and the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism at the University of Technology, Sydney

Chaired by the Director of the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism, Professor Wendy Bacon, the event drew upon three key speakers: Director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, Associate Professor Jake Lynch; Executive Producer of ABC’s World Today, Peter Cave; and journalist/author of ‘My Israel Question’ and ‘The Blogging Revolution’, Antony Loewenstein. Together, the speakers discussed the consequences of media censorship and how control over expression, opinion and information can lead to propaganda. Alluding to Sri Lanka and Gaza, the forum’s speakers highlighted the importance of the media in conflict situations, further suggesting how the media should be operate in such environments.
View the event flyer for more information

Get Involved

VOLUNTEER
The Sri Lanka Human Rights project is run entirely by volunteers. If you would like to become involved in the project, help out at events, or if you have skills you can offer (such as graphic design, for example), please contact Project Coordinator Gobie Rajalingam: .

PETITION
30 seconds is all it takes to support the 300,000 Reasons campaign and send a letter to Kevin Rudd to draw attention to the plight of 300,000 Sri Lankan Tamil citizens - men, women and children - who are being forcibly held in military camps. Simply go to: 300,000 Reasons to sign the letter.

To add the cause to your facebook account go to: Causes: 300,000 Reasons.

Press Gallery

Participants in the Sri Lanka Human Rights Project have written or appeared in the following articles:

Jake Lynch

Bruce Haigh

Brami Jegan

Gobie Rajalingam

Antony Loewenstein