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Exhibition Exposes Sri Lankan Human Rights CrisisArticle by Garry Holliday
The exhibition was launched on April 30 with a public meeting attended by 100 people.
(COLOMBO) - A three-day photo exhibition at Fremantle's Victoria Hall brought the human rights crisis gripping Sri Lanka to a wider audience.
"Sri Lankan Genocide 2009" exhibits images taken by various photographers documenting the months before and after the massacre of more than 40,000 Tamil civilians by the Sri Lankan Army in May 2009.
Event organiser and co-convener of Action for Human Rights In Tamil Eelam and Sri Lanka Leonie Lundy said: "These were extremely confronting pictures, not just because some document the very massacres themselves, but because of the magnitude of human suffering they reveal. At a time when the Australian government insists that it's safe to return asylum seekers to Sri Lanka without even testing their claims, we need to expose the truth."
The exhibition was launched on April 30 with a public meeting attended by 100 people. Guest speakers included Australian Tamil Congress chairperson Professor Raj Rajeswaran, federal Labor member for Fremantle Melissa Parke, WA Greens Senator Scott Ludlam and Tamil Refugee Council spokesperson Aran Myalvaganam.
Chair of the event, Sam Wainwright asked speakers if covering up and collaborating in Sri Lankan human rights abuses was "the inevitable logic of stop the boats." The Australian government has publicly opposed the United Nations Human Rights Council's proposal for an independent investigation of human rights abuses and war crimes in the country.
Parke said she disagreed with former foreign affairs minister Bob Carr and his successor Julie Bishop, who claim there is no specific discrimination against Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka.
Rajeswaran summarised the history of Tamil persecution and emphasised the efforts of his organisation in lobbying federal MPs.
Ludlam encouraged people to see the documentary No Fire Zone, commenting that he had not fully grasped the magnitude of Tamil suffering until seeing the film.
Myalvaganam drew loud applause when he slammed the collaboration with the Sri Lankan government by both Labor and Liberal, and emphasised the need for a grassroots community campaign.
The exhibition also provided a platform for the newly founded Fremantle branch of the Refugee Rights Action Network. It helped promote the exhibition and held a public information session on May 1 drawing a crowd of new members. The group is organising the Refugee Welcome Fiesta at the Fremantle Esplanade on Sunday June 15 to mark the beginning of World Refugee Week.
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