Wednesday, 6 April 2022, 5:51 am
Press Release: Duality NZ
Joint Release from Duality NZ and Migrants Against Racism and Xenophobia (MARX)
In light of the worsening crisis in Sri Lanka, Kiwi-Lankans in New Zealand are calling on the government to take a stand.
A formal petition has been launched today, calling for the Minister of Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta and the New Zealand government to publicly condemn the actions of the Sri Lankan government, provide humanitarian assistance to the island nation and actively support the 16,000 New Zealanders of Sri Lankan heritage who call Aotearoa home.
The petition is driven by Duality NZ, on behalf of the wider Lankan community in New Zealand.
Protests have broken out across Sri Lanka as well as across diaspora communities worldwide demanding the removal of the current President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his entire government.
In New Zealand, over 1000+ Kiwi-Lankans took to Auckland streets on Sunday. A silent protest took place in Christchurch on Monday.
Duality NZ states that it is paramount for the safety of the people of Sri Lanka that the New Zealand government stands in the global community for democracy, and speaks against repression and brutality upon people in Sri Lanka.
Currently, Sri Lanka is running short on food, medicines, fuel, gas, electricity, paper, and other essential commodities. There are also power cuts which go as long as 15-hours occurring everyday. The crisis has been caused and exacerbated by the corrupt, repressive and undemocratic actions of the ruling Rajapaksha regime which have deepened inequality in Sri Lankan society.
“The New Zealand government must speak up for all New Zealanders, and that includes our ethnic minorities and issues that are critical for them and their whanau, whether that’s here or overseas.”
The group hopes to present the petition to Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon Nanaia Mahutaon 14th April 2022 in line with our collective Lankan Tamil and Sinhalese New Year known respectively as Puthandu and Sinhala Aluth Avurudda. These celebrations appropriately marking new beginnings for our communities.
Further Comments from Kiwi-Lankans
“Sri Lanka’s ruling Rajapakse Regime built its power through the systemic oppression of Tamil and Moor communities through a movement of Sinhalese Buddhist Supremacy, and that the situation in Sri Lanka is a fresh opportunity to start a path towards unity and redressing past wrongs.”
“Speaking as part of the Lankan Muslim community, it is difficult to go through Ramadan safely knowing our families back home aren’t awarded the same luxuries. During a month in which the process of fasting is to practice empathy for those who are suffering, it is incredibly upsetting that said suffering is so close to home”
“As migrants who have lived away from our homeland for so long, communication is a lifeline. So to watch my parents go from speaking to their siblings and family everyday to barely being able to make contact is heartbreaking”
“Ramadan is a month in which muslim increase ther normal goings to the mosque, as well as attend special prayers that only occur in this month. Due to issues around the fear of safety, power outages etc. Our families have been unable to do so. Fasting without access to healthy and inexpensive food for the two meals at sunrise and sunset is incredibly difficult. In a special month where we strive to focus on spirituality and virtuous behaviour, their days are plagued with fear and uncertainty. Watching all this from Aotearoa while we are still able to do all those basic things that they can’t is distressing to say the least. This situation has stolen the feeling of Ramadan from both Lankan muslims in Sri Lanka and in Aotearoa ”
Migrants Against Racism and Xenophobia (MARX) spokesperson Nishhza Thiruselvam says
Lankan Tamils are not unfamiliar with hardship under the Rajapaksa government.
“We have for decades called on the international community to hold this unscrupulous and genocidal government to account. In the last decade we have seen colonisation and systematic appropriation of our homelands and fisheries in the North and North East of the island. This is a government that is responsible for the second largest number of enforced disappearances in this world.
Being responsible for a genocide in 2009, this government ought to have long lost legitimacy. The Rajapaksa government is notorious for its nepotism, appointing family members into senior government positions. It was only a matter of time that such a government would lose support, exposing itself as illegitimate and inept. With this, we likewise hope that Tamil cries for justice also come closer to realisation.”
“Any movement in protest against the Rajapakse government we feel should include a push for charges for the War Crimes committed during the Civil War against the Tamil Community as well as having conversations around what does self determination and dignity mean for all communities within Lanka”
“Speaking as part of a Sinhalese majority growing up in Aotearoa I always wondered why we never held the Rajapaksa Government accountable for their war crimes against innocent Tamil citizens during the Civil War. The conversation always centered around love for mother Lanka but that clearly did not extend to all communities that called Lanka home”
“Seeing my homeland in distress and national emergency from a far western lens has brought a sense of discomfort and isolation to myself and my immediate family living in Aotearoa. This feeling is also worsened with the fact that we have temperamental to no contact with our whānau in Sri Lanka. With covid restricting our time to visit our whānau, being intentionally cut off by a corrupt government drives deep distress for myself and my family. Civil protest for as far as I know has always been frowned upon from the Governments of Sri Lanka in the last 30 years, it has always been met as a threat and in turn dealt with violence and inhumane custody holdings. Seeing my country erupt in protest and uniting in justice shows that the time for corruption and xenophobia is come to an end and is time for our country to come back to us. It is our time to reap the riches of Sri Lanka, not just a singular power hungry family”
About Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has a history of colonial oppression starting from the Portugese, Dutch and finally the British. Once Sri Lanka the nation state was created through the 1972 constitution, there are certain features that deserve to be highlighted.
Elimination of all clauses which safe guarded minorities against discrimnation
Tamil being excluded as an Official Language of Sri Lanka
As a Sinhalese community it is vital for us to acknowledge and understand this history as context to realise a vision of an inclusive nation for all communities of future generations of that call Lanka home.
Duality NZ strives to walk in the footsteps of Asians Supporting Tino Rangatiratanga, who show us the importance of grounding ourselves in the whakapapa of our complex histories as we engage in this political work. We attempt to start with understanding our postcolonial contexts both in Lanka and Aotearoa in order to navigate our actions towards a horizon of empowered belonging to our wide range of Lankan communities here in Aotearoa.
“This is a contentious time for migrant refugee communities from our island nation homeland. At this time, we think of the late Dr Moana Jackson who has been a mentor for us Asian Tauiwi. From him, we have come to understand solidarity as a foundational basis of our aspirations to see a just and free Sri Lanka. We hold his teachings in our hearts and minds as we navigate our journey of belonging in Aotearoa. In saying this, we iterate our solidarity with Tamil and Moor communities.”
MARX are a collective of friends who came together to organise against the alarming rise of global and local islamophobia, fascism and colonial violence. As tauiwi of colour, we work in principles of solidarity in our aspirations for collective liberation.