NZ Has a Part to Play Bringing Peace to Sri Lanka
16 July 2008
“New Zealand Has a Part to Play in Bringing Peace to Sri Lanka”
Friday 25 July is an important anniversary for the New Zealand Tamil Community. It marks the 25th anniversary of the pogrom which saw over three thousand Tamils killed, billions of dollars worth of property destroyed, industries abandoned and approximately one million Tamils leave Sri Lanka to find a refuge in other countries.
Twenty five years ago, New Zealand was one of a host of nations which accepted a number of Tamil families and allowed them to live in peace. Today, a thriving Tamil community suggests that New Zealand has an important part to play in bringing peace to Sri Lanka.
Today, you will find over one thousand Tamil families living in New Zealand where they make a significant contribution to New Zealand’s society and to the economy. Tamils place a high value on education and their presence is likely to be seen across a range of professions, including medicine, accountancy and the IT industry. The picture that this paints is that in New Zealand Tamils have established happy and fulfilling lives, but this is not the entire story. The reality for many is that they still carry deep emotional scars.
The events of 1983 so polarised the Sri Lankan people into violent factions, that the course of the nation’s history changed forever.
What happened 25 years ago was an acceleration of a political disintegration that started 60 years previously when the country gained independence. Since 1983, human rights abuses and a breakdown in law and order throughout Sri Lanka have taken the country into an abyss of civil chaos. The war between the Sri Lankan government and Tamil militants has been particularly brutal towards civilians. There are estimates of between 70,000 and 215,000 civilians killed, 95% of them Tamils and a smaller number of Sinhalese and Muslims. Today, living in Sri Lanka remains for many, unbearable.
Wellington-based Tamil Society President, Mani Maniparathy says, “We see the way in which New Zealand is able to accept its history and discuss how it wants the country to be shaped in the future. In being honest about past hurts, New Zealand is able to face the future with optimism and that, more than anything, is what we want for Sri Lanka. We know that in Sri Lanka, bad things still happen, but we also believe that great things are possible.”
To explore this further, the Wellington Tamil Society is organising a workshop on 25 July 2008 at Wellington calling the international community to play a role in bringing peace to the Tamils of Sri Lanka.
speakers in the workshop include:
• Marian Hobbs (MP Wellington Central),
• Rae Julian (former Executive Director of Council of International Development) and
• Pauline Horrill (formerly with Medicin Sans Frontiers).
The event will also include first-hand information from a number of New Zealand Tamils.
The Wellington Tamil Society is a community organisation that supports the language and cultural needs of Tamils living in the Wellington area.