The Australian Election and the SL Problem

A General Election to the Australian Parliament will be held later this month. While this election will be fought largely on domestic and global issues it will also have a bearing on the attitude of the Australian government to the Sri Lankan problem including the terrorism of the LTTE. Opinion polls have shown that the present Opposition the Australian Labor Party (ALP), currently led by  Kevin Rudd, has a commanding lead over the ruling Liberal-National Coalition (LNC). led by John Howard. The election is increasingly seen as a contest between Rudd and Howard with Rudd slated to win and Howard even projected to lose his seat. A Rudd triumph would be a great boon to the Tamil separatists, even to the LTTE. John Howard has supported the Bush line on terrorism while Rudd has opposed it. Howard recently made a statement that those who wanted Sharia should leave Australia and live in a Sharia country. Such an attitude is unthinkable of Rudd. Howard sent a boatload of Tamils refugees to Nauru where they are still languishing. Rudd would have welcomed them into Australia. Tamils have infiltrated into the ALP branches while Sinhelas have looked on from the sidelines.

Some people have interpreted the influence of the Tamil lobby on Australian politician (both in the ALP and the LNC) as being due to their ability to deliver the ethnic vote in a general election. This view has recently been stated by Ranjit Soyza, Spokesman for SPUR, who has issued a Media Statement about the relative strength of Sinhalese and Tamils in Australia (see below). This shows that there are nine times as many Sinhalese as Tamils. Ranjit's point seems to be that the Sinhalese should be a more powerful voting lobby than the Tamils, which seems to contradict the prevailing view that the Tamil lobby has been more successful with politicians in Australia. There are several factors, not mentioned by Ranjit, which may explain this apparent anomaly. Under Australian law only citizens can vote and not all of these persons may have taken out citizenship. However the numbers given in the Media Statement does not imply that the Sri Lankan vote will be a significant factor in any electorate. There is of course not pre-election commitment on the SL problem by either of the parties, or the individual candidates.

In the first place a greater percentage of Sinhalese are likely to be Jesuhelas than is the case in SL as a whole, and they are more likely to side with the Tamils. There are also many peaceniks and Helakoti represented amongst the Sinhalese. When the Tamils lobby politicians they are careful to include Sinhalese who are sympathetic to them in their delegations while the Sinhalese have not been able to produce any Tamil who openly subscribes to their political position. Probably the most prominent activist for the Tamil cause in Australia is Dr Brian Seneviratne who never fails to mention that he is a Sinhalese. Besides many Sinhalese who have migrated here are Helas and so are imbued with the dhanapalist (q.v. = See ACSLU Glossary) sentiment and are only concerned with their own welfare. If they show any generosity at all it is only towards the local Buddhist temple (merely to reserve a place in heaven in their next birth). Tamils on the other hand contribute liberally to the LTTE fund-raiser. Thus bare numbers of Sinhalese and Tamils in the SPUR Media Statement gives a distorted picture.

Even though he has not made a pronouncement on it Rudd will most likely support the Hillary Clinton line that not all terrorists are alike. There is a strong connection between the ALP and the US Democrats. In the US Hillary is the front runner in the Presidential race and will most likely be the next President. If the Rudd-Hillary team wins out there is going to be a marked change in the international community towards the SL conflict. Even in the UK Gordon Brown is trying to distance himself from the Blair legacy which was strongly pro-Bush.

The Canadian situation too seems to fall into this pattern. When the Canadian Conservatives banned the LTTE there was a general euphoria amongst the Canadian SL 'patriots'. But now we hardly hear a whimper from these patriots. The fact is the banning of the LTTE has hardly made any great change to the position of the LTTE in that country. I was one of the first to advert to this outcome when the 'patriots' were making a great song-and-dance about this. For this I was pilloried by the resident moron in this forum. I had read the underlying factors behind these international developments and seen that what has happened was not due to anything that GOSL or the 'patriots' had done but purely due to the way that the War on Terror has been going.

In Australia quite apart from the major parties (ALP and LNC) the Greens are likely to play a part, and may even end up holding the balance of power in the Senate. The Greens are even more pro-Tamil than the major parties. Since the Senate has some role in passing legislation we can see that if the Greens do capture the balance of power in the Senate they may be a factor emphasizing the Human Rights failures of GOSL more than those of the LTTE. Even though SPUR has added ‘Human Rights’ to the area of its concerns its credibility in this area is almost zero.

Even to a greater extent than other Western countries the religious factor is likely to play an important part. Both parties have lobbied the Christian evangelical vote. As may be guessed these Christian evangelicals are more pro-Tamil. In fact there are more Christians amongst Tamil migrants than amongst the Sinhelas, and all these play an important part in church organizations. Jesuhelas on the other hand are regular church goers but they rarely have a political impact. It used to be the case that the LNC was more likely to listen to the Christian lobby than the ALP. In fact there have been Labor Prime Ministers who were atheists (like Whitlam and Hawke). But this has changed with Rudd who is committed Christian. He is probably more theologically oriented than Howard who tends to be more led by practical considerations. This is an additional factor that the Tamils will welcome a change of Government with Rudd as Prime Minister.

So we will have to await the outcome of the election to see if there will be an impact on the Australian policy on the Sri Lankan problem.


SPUR

Society for Peace, Unity and Human Rights for Sri Lanka Inc

Media Release

10 November 2007

Election 2007 - Australian Census Exposes Myths of the Tamil Tiger Lobby

One of the media themes being orchestrated by the Tamil Tiger Lobby is that it is capable of influencing the result of the forthcoming Australian Federal Election on 24 November 2007.

The objective of this campaign is to create the perception that the Australian Government, present or future, would face an 'ethnic voter backlash' if it proscribes the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as a terrorist organisation. This line has been picked up even by some sections of the mainstream Australian Media. For example, the 'Weekend Australian' of 04 August 2007 carried an article entitled 'Tiger ban could bite Howard in his seat', in which it was claimed that the Coalition's chances in the NSW seats of Bennelong and Parramatta would be jeopardised if it were to proscribe the Tamil Tigers.

Much of the 'Hands off the Tigers' argument is based on the falsification of electoral strength, and the unsubstantiated premise that most Tamils in Australia support the LTTE, and would therefore vote against any Party that proscribes the organisation.

Given the Tamil community in Australia includes those from the South Indian State of Tamil Nadu as well as Malaysia, Fiji and Sri Lanka, it is highly tenuous, and indeed unfair by the Australian Tamils, to assume that there is majority support for the LTTE which is listed as a terrorist organisation in many countries.

The following 2006 Census figures released by Australian Bureau of Statistics show the total numbers of persons who claim Tamil 'Ancestry' in various geographic areas of Australia. The table also includes comparative figures of those who claim an Ancestry of 'Sinhalese', who form the majority community in Sri Lanka. These numbers, though not of the actual registered voters, reflect the relative proprtions of the groups.

Geographic Area

Sinhalese

Tamil

Australia

73,852

8,897

Victoria

37,394

3,081

New South Wales

21,321

4,331

Queensland

6,183

439

Western Australia

4,444

466

South Australia

1,930

149

Australian Capital Territory

1,881

352

Tasmania

340

46

Northern Territory

366

45

Source - Census 2006 Community Profiles, Australian Bureau of Statistics

Even a cursory analysis of the numbers immediately exposes the myth of a Tamil Tiger Electoral Lobby. Furthermore, the Census figures for some key Federal Electorates confirm that the numbers of pro-LTTE voters who could influence the outcome of even the most marginal seat would be negligible. Thus, even in NSW electorates such as Parramatta, Greenway, Lowe and Bennelong, the mainstream Sri Lankan community vastly outnumbers the small but vocal Tiger lobby. The differences are even more pronounced in the rest of Australia, in particular Victoria, where the pro LTTE vote would be insignificant compared to that of the well establised mainstream Sri Lankan community.

[The distribution by electorate has been left out]

Ironically, the LTTE which has a history of subverting the electoral process in Sri Lanka and several other countries is now attempting to influence the Australian Federal Election. It has brutally eliminated scores of Sinhalese, Muslim and Tamil politicians during Election Campaigns during which candidates are particularly vulnerable. Mr Rajiv Ghandi, the former Prime Minister of India who was blown up by a LTTE woman suicide bomber during an Election Rally in South India while former Sri Lankan President Mrs Chandrika Kumaranatunga was severely injured but survived a suicide attack during a Presidential Election Campaign. Tamil Tiger supporters have also been accused of vote rigging in Norway, Canada and the United Kingdom.

It is well known that the LTTE and its front organisations have often exaggerated their numbers in an attempt to mislead or coerce Australian politicians and Media. Therefore, in contrast to any percieved risk of losing the pro-LTTE voters, any Party or Candidate seen to be 'pandering' to an ethnic lobby with terrorist connections is far more likely to incur the wrath of the mainstream Australian public.

Like many Sri Lankan Australians, SPUR believes that the Liberal-National Coalition and the ALP should adopt a bipartisan stand towards Sri Lanka, and crackdown firmly on Tamil Tiger terrorism while extending support for a peaceful resolution of the conflict so that it satisfies the aspiration of all Sri Lankans.

Ranjith Soysa
(Spokesman, SPUR)