SLankan govt denies use of banned weapons | Connect Asia

SLankan govt denies use of banned weapons

SLankan govt denies use of banned weapons

Updated 18 January 2012, 20:15 AEDT

Ethnic Tamils in Australia and around the world have been holding large demonstrations against the current Sri Lankan government offensive against Tamil Tiger rebels.

They accuse Colombo of killing innocent civilians caught in the cross-fire, and follows unverified reports that emerged earlier this week that the Sri Lankan military has used chemical weapons in its battle against separatist rebels.

The Sri Lankan government has reacted to news of the Melbourne rally and the allegations.

Presenter: Girish Sawlani

Speaker: Dr Palitha Kohona, Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary; Haran Thanabalasingam, rally organiser from Tamil Youth Organisation; Ponnampalam Kumaralingam, ex-Sri Lankan radio broadcaster and pro-Tamil protester; Kumaran Radhakrishnan

JOANNA McCARTHY: Ethnic Tamils in Australia and around the world have been holding large demonstrations against the current Sri Lankan Government offensive against Tamil Tiger rebels. They accuse Colombo of killing innocent civilians caught in the crossfire. It follows unverified reports that emerged earlier this week that the Sri Lankan military had used chemical weapons in its battle against separatist rebels. The Sri Lankan Government has reacted to news of the Melbourne rally and the allegations. Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary Dr Palitha Kohona says it's outrageous.

DR PALITHA KOHONA: My answer is very simple. This is absolute rubbish. From the beginning, the government has avoided, tried its best to avoid, civilian casualties. Now to come up with this very imaginative suggestion I think just simply is unbelievable. The Sri Lankan Government has no chemical weapons, and will never use chemical weapons even against LTP, leave alone against its own people.

JOANNA MCCARTHY: Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary, Dr Palitha Kohona.

Hundreds gathered outside the Victorian state parliament in Melbourne yesterday, calling on the Australian government to help secure a Sri Lankan ceasefire in a conflict that's claimed over 70-thousand lives since 1983.

Our reporter Girish Sawlani was at the rally and filed this report.

PROTESTER: ..stop using chemical weapons. Stop using human shields. Stop using your navy and army and all the air force to kill our people, rape our women, kill our children. This is totally unacceptable. Therefore I ask every Australian, every Australian to just help us so that we can say...

GIRISH SAWLANI: Their message was clear and it seems ethnic Tamils here in Australia have had enough. They're calling for the Australian Government to intervene in the Sri Lankan military's offensive against the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels. Some 500 pro-Tamil protesters began their demonstration outside the Victorian Parliament in Melbourne and moved through the CBD, finally ending their rally in front of the ABC's Southbank studio.

PROTESTORS: We want justice.

GIRISH SAWLANI: The rally by ethnic Tamil Sri Lankans was only organised late last night and was prompted by unverified reports that the Sri Lankan military used chemical weapons in its battle against the Tigers. Haran Thanabalasingam from the Tamil Youth Organisation is one of the rally's organisers.

HARAN THANABALASINGAM: We just started hearing from Sri Lanka that the Sri Lankan Government has actually started using chemical gas weapons on the civilians, the innocent civilians, and we have been hearing a lot of different news so our people are really concerned about the current situation at the moment and we just want to bring the awareness to the Australian population and also we wanted to just - desperately we need ceasefire in Sri Lanka, and we want to just ask the Australian Government and everyone here to force the Sri Lankan Government to bring a ceasefire, immediate ceasefire.

GIRISH SAWLANI: The protest was not just confined to the mature-aged. Kumaran Radhakrishnan was among several youngsters to tag along with family and lend his voice to the rally.

KUMARAN RADHAKRISHNAN: I just came to protest because yesterday I found out that 1,500 people died yesterday due to chemical warfare from the Sri Lankan army. Yeah, it's genocide and everyone just thinks that the Tamil Tigers are terrorists when they're not, they're mainly freedom fighters and just, you know, fighting for the peace with Tamils and Senegalese.

GIRISH SAWLANI: Over the past year, the Sri Lankan Government has embarked on an all-out pursuit against the Tamil Tiger rebels, reducing their strength significantly and gaining unprecedented rebel territory in the north, leaving the separatists cornered in the northern jungles. But Tamil supporters in Melbourne still believe the rebels' cause is just. Rally participant Ponnampalam Kumaralingam is a former Sri Lankan radio broadcaster.

PONNAMPALAM KUMARALINGAM: The LTT has been formed in order to protect our own people. At the same time they are for us and we are all for fighting and we all are for the good cause.

GIRISH SAWLANI: So do you support the Tigers' efforts?

PONNAMPALAM KUMARALINGAM: The Tigers' efforts, in the sense - you must understand why they come to the conclusion of carrying a weapon. We have been fighting for years in a peaceful manner and after 1993, the worst come worst only, our Tamil people have been compelled to carry their weapons. We have not wanted to do the weapons. We always want for the peace and you can see how nice they are behaving here.

GIRISH SAWLANI: On Tuesday, hundreds of ethnic Tamils demonstrated outside Britain's parliament while hundreds more rallied outside the Norwegian Prime Minister's office demanding help to stop the fighting. But with the conflict set to continue, so will similar rallies by ethnic Tamils overseas.

Contact the studio

Got something to say about what you're hearing on the radio right now?

Text/SMS
Send your texts to +61 427 72 72 72

Tweets
Add the hashtag #raonair to add your tweets to the conversation.

Email
Email us your thoughts on an issue. Messages may be used on air.