The establishment of Centres within a given country for the study of foreign countries is a well established international practice. There are several motives for the creation of such centres, other than the obvious motive of intellectual curiosity and the desire to contribute to the sum total of knowledge of the area concerned. It is imperative for Centres to establish clearly their objectives and the limits within which they operate. It is the purpose of this Manifesto to explain the reasons for the establishment of the Australian Centre for Sri Lankan Unity (ACSLU) which came into existence in August 1994.
As a small country Sri Lanka (SL) did not attract much international attention until the 1980s. Since then it has come into prominence as one of trouble spots in the world. This is not the best kind of publicity, but it is an unfortunate fact that most international attention has focussed on the armed conflict which came into prominence in the early 1980s. Since the 1970s international terrorism has come into world prominence with such movements as the Middle Eastern groups fighting against Israeli, the Irish Republican Army and Protestant Militias in Northern Ireland, the Basque nationalists in Spain, the Red Army Faction, and several other armed groups especially in the Third World. In the 1980s some SL Tamil groups, notably the LTTE, joined these armed insurgent groups fighting for their own cause. The "cause" for which the LTTE was fighting was the creation of a Tamil state to be carved out of the territory of SL. Since this objective was opposed by the SL government and people an armed conflict became inevitable, and this conflict has resulted in the loss of an estimated 35,000 lives in the past decade, not to mention other forms of damage and casualties inflicted not only to the principal parties but also to many others suffering what is now called "collateral damage".
The foreign interest which blossomed as a result of the SL conflict soon came to be biased towards one side in this conflict. It was the Tamil separatists who soon became the dominant force in shaping international opinion on this question. An informal organisation, which has been called the International Tamil Separatist Lobby (ITSL) soon emerged which was able to influence the international media, human rights bodies, political parties, and church groups, and even exert some influence on governments. The influence of the ITSL was subsequently countered to some extent by groups promoting unity or harmony in SL. They did much good work, but gradually membership disintegrated. Some became defunct, others appropriated by unrepresentative groups. By the 1990s there was little activity countering the activity of the SL separatists. By contrast Tamil separatist propaganda become increasingly sophisticated and prolific. It is to meet this vacuum that ACSLU is formed.
The objectives of ACSLU are the following:
There may be other groups that have similar objectives, and ACSLU welcomes their activity. However some objectives such as political activity, lobbying Parliamentarians, organising demonstrations and confronting human rights organisations, which are undertaken by some SL unity organisations will not form a part of the activity of the centre. Thus there can be no threat posed by ACSLU to any of these organisations. On the contrary the publications of ACSLU may well support their cause in many significant ways.
The standpoint of ACSLU is expressed in the following Five Principles, which are also the requirements for membership of the Centre: