SRI LANKA’S SECRETS: How the Rajapaksa Regime gets away with murder
By Trevor Grant
Monash University Publishing, $29.95
Sri Lanka’s Secrets is a must-read, particularly for Australian politicians and officials involved in the formulation of foreign and immigration policy toward Sri Lanka.
The author, Trevor Grant, details the final cruel days of the thirty-year civil war in Sri Lanka during which the Sinhalese armed forces murdered tens of thousands of innocent Tamil men, women and children. The tightly written and moving text is supported by graphic photographs conveying their own reality of the horror.
This was a war progressively forced on the minority Tamils. Initial discrimination in work and educational environments, following independence from the British in 1948, eventually led to state-sanctioned persecution culminating in violent attacks against Tamils in Colombo in 1983.
Many Tamils fled to the north of the country joining friends and relatives in what was already a Tamil majority enclave. The notion of a separate state was born as the only means of surviving Sinhalese chauvinism. A military force was established to protect these aims.
Horror: Sri Lanka’s Secrets: How the Rajapaksa Regime gets away with murder, by Trevor Grant.
Grant says it as it was and as it remains. This is a determined and forceful portrayal of the nature of Sri Lankan society and the corrupt regime running the country. The authority of this book is recognised in the foreword by Geoffrey Robertson QC.
Geoffrey Robertson endorses Trevor Grant’s scathing criticism of successive Australian governments for formulating foreign policy toward Sri Lanka on turning back boats rather than on the human rights of Tamils.
Grant also details the experiences of six Tamils tortured and harassed at the hands of the Sri Lankan military forces and the police. The accounts are gut-wrenching and difficult to read. The facts as detailed would make them eligible for immediate refugee status or would have had not the Minister for Immigration, Scott Morrison, not directed his department to ignore the rule of law and had not other agencies fallen into line.
He also provides an insight into life in the north of the island state for Tamils now forced to live under the heel of the boots of the military and police. A life of rape, enforced land confiscation and soldier settlement of a hand-to-mouth existence as authorities deny jobs to Tamils to prevent their economic prosperity. Why, you might ask? In order to prevent the accumulation of resources that might allow another attempt to secure a homeland.
It is not surprising that Australian politicians and diplomats on visits to the north have failed to notice the plight of the Tamils, whereas the British and other nations have, as have churches and NGOs.
At the end of the book Grant quotes the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, “Rwanda’s lessons were not implemented in Sri Lanka”.
The Tamils of Sri Lanka continue to undergo a process of genocide, a fact frequently noted by Grant. At a full session of the Rome based Permanent Peoples Tribunal held in Bremen, 7/10 December 2013, to consider evidence gained over three years found, “… that the State of Sri Lanka is guilty of the crime of genocide against Eelam Tamils.”
There is no doubt that Trevor Grant’s book has hit the mark. The Sri Lankan High Commissioner, Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe, met twice with the vice-chancellor of Monash University, Professor Margaret Gardner and apparently questioned the selection and approval process for publication of the book and all but sought withdrawal of the book from publication and distribution. He sought an apology for publication of the book.
It is alleged that Samarasinghe was associated with war crimes, but to date he has not been prepared to waive diplomatic immunity and fight the allegations through Australian courts.
It was pointed out to him that Monash University Publishing is an autonomous organisation, entirely independent of the University.
Earlier this month at Gleebooks in Sydney three men sought to disrupt a launch of the book. Shouting and screaming obscenities they were ejected by staff. They were believed to be Sinhalese security personnel attached to the Sri Lankan Consulate.
* Bruce Haigh is a political commentator, retired diplomat, who served in Sri Lanka and former member of the refugee review tribunal.