Sri Lanka’s president has been turfed out. Now the Australian diaspora fears a decade of pain
“People have no choice, when the day-to-day routine is disturbed, what else [have] they got to do?”
“No one will ever wish to bring their country, a prosperous country, a beautiful country to that level ... on their knees.”
Mohan Seneviratne visited the country in February when power blackouts were becoming common and supermarket shelves were becoming bare.
Mohan Seneviratne from Save A Dream. Credit: SBS: Naveen RazikAs the situation worsened, he helped found the organisation Save a Dream in association with Rotary international to help deliver aid - with a focus on medicines for perinatal and neonatal care which are now scarce."Because Sri Lankan healthcare is free of charge, lack of revenue and lack of foreign exchange resulted in no medicines, even microscope slides," he said.
"I would take this opportunity to urge the Sri Lankan diaspora and those friends of Sri Lanka to open their wallets and contribute, donate whatever because the situation is so very, very dire."
“It was a great learning experience, which we can use now, but the situation is extremely difficult compared to then, because the stocks are not available.”
People wait to buy kerosene at a gas station amid a fuel shortage in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 11 April 2022. Source: EPA / CHAMILA KARUNARATHNE/EPAMany, like doctor Sajitha Perara, are balancing this challenge alongside full-time work, to help the “mother country”.“In such a resourceful country, it takes a lot of effort to put such a country in this situation,” he told SBS News.
“[But] the other resource we have is the supportive community and the diaspora. Every one of us needs to support the country out of the situation.”
Tamil-Australians sceptical of justiceIn addition to overseeing an economic catastrophe, the Rajapaksas have long stood accused of persecuting minorities, inflaming tensions between the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamil and Muslim groups.In 2009, with Mahinda Rajapaksa as president and Mr Rajapaksa as defence minister, the Sri Lankan military oversaw the country's 25-year civil war against the Tamil Tigers separatist group coming to a bloody end.
A UN panel has also found credible evidence of war crimes committed under their rule, with reportedly 40,000 Tamil civilians killed in those final offensives - many of them the victims of indiscriminate shelling.
“While the Rajapaksas are gone, I think the Tamils know that the fight will be harder, whoever will be in power."
Dr Niro Kandasamy and Renuga Inpakumar from the Tamil Refugee Council.More than a decade after the war, the north and east of Sri Lanka remain heavily militarised where Tamils make up a majority of the population.Dr Niro Kandasamy is a member of the Tamil Refugee Council, which has helped assist asylum seekers who have left Sri Lanka, many of whom faced persecution and torture under Rajapaksa rule."I think that what's needed is deep structural reform. And we're not seeing some of those demands in the protests that are taking place at the moment,” she said.
“The resignation of Gotabaya Rajapaksa is obviously significant. But we also want to make sure that the next government, whoever that is, listens to the needs and the aspirations, the political aspirations of minority Tamil communities."