A leading Australian human rights think-tank has expressed serious concern over the basis of investigations by Australia’s domestic intelligence organisation, ASIO, into Sri Lankan Tamil refugees. The Director of Deakin University’s Centre for Citizenship, Development and Human Rights, Professor Damien Kingsbury, has cast doubt on ASIO’s investigations. Professor Kingsbury said ASIO’s investigation bore the hallmarks of an anti-Tamil campaign being directed by the Sri Lanka government.
ASIO’s blacklisting of a pregnant ethnic Tamil mother, Ranjini, who had been granted Australian residency and married an Australian citizen, has led to her being detained without charge or trial.
It is believed that a further three ethnic Sri Lankan Tamils who had been granted refugee status have also since been detained as a result of ASIO’s blacklisting.
‘We know that the Sri Lankan government provided what was later shown to be unsubstantiated information to the Australian Federal Police against Australian citizens of an ethnic Tamil background,’ Professor Kingsbury said, in reference to a charge of terrorism against an ethnic Tamil Australian, which was eventually thrown out. ‘Based on the targeting of Ranjini and others, we believe that the Sri Lankan government is providing ASIO with similarly unsubstantiated information.’
While the ethnic Tamil woman, Ranjini, has been blacklisted by ASIO, the intelligence agency has not provided information in support of the blacklisting. ‘It appears that Ranjini has been blacklisted because of a presumed association with Sri Lanka’s now ended Tamil Tigers,’ Professor Kingsbury said.
‘The problem with this is presumption,’ he said, ‘is, at the time, it was a clear rule of the Tamil Tigers that its members could not be married and Ranjini had been married for many years, including having two children including a 10 year old. Ranjini was not a Tamil Tiger.’
‘Moreover, after the Sri Lankan government killed some 40,000 civilians in 2009, it detained Ranjini along with tens of thousands of other Tamils, but then cleared and released her,’ he said. ‘Clearly, Ranjini has not been targeted because of her own actions.’
Professor Kingsbury said that the Sri Lankan government continued to persecute its Tamil minority both at home and abroad, in particular by targeting anyone who advocated for political equality for Sri Lanka’s Tamils.
‘The Sri Lankan government has among the world’s worst human rights records and continues to oppress its Tamil minority,’ Professor Kingsbury said. ‘It appears as if it is again doing so via the agencies of other governments, in this case ASIO.’