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Speech: The Tamil struggle for freedom, justice and a homeland

** Each year on Nov 27, the Tamils from Sri Lanka pay their respects all those that sacrificed their life in the 26 year long and ongoing struggle for freedom, justice and a homeland. This is the speech I delivered to about 2000 Tamils at the Sydney vigil. 

I do acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and pay tribute their history, their culture and their ongoing contribution to our communities.

Dear friends, it is good to be with you on this day. A day that is very sacred for Tamils all over the world.

I thank you again for welcoming me so warmly into your community and into your struggle for freedom, self-determination, justice and a homeland.

I pay my respects to the fallen heroes and to everyone that continues to survive the ongoing genocide in the Tamil homeland.

I pay my respects to the mothers and fathers who lost their children as a result of the war and pay my respects to the family members in the crowd who have lost their loved ones and to those who have had to flee Sri Lanka.

I apologise sincerely to everyone who has been incarcerated in Australia's immigration prisons. I hope that one day soon you will be reunited with your families and find peace and hope in your new home.

I spoke a few weeks ago in the Australian Parliament about the Tamil political prisoners who were on hunger strike. Yesterday I learned of an 18 year old student in Jaffna who tragically took his life in protest against the President's continuing incarceration of Tamil political detainees.

He left behind a letter for all of us. I will read you one sentence from his letter - "Not a single Tamil political prisoner can remain imprisoned any longer."

This young man, who wrote those words, is no longer with us. This is so very very sad.

We can honour his memory. We can act on his statement.

It is time to release all Tamil political prisoners.

We must achieve that.

We must ensure that such a tragedy - when a young man commits suicide because of the incarceration of political prisoners - never happens again.

No more Tamils must sacrifice their lives for freedom and justice. Your community has already lost too much.

Although these Tamil political prisoners in Sri Lanka have temporarily ended their hunger strike, their plight cannot be forgotten. They must be given a general amnesty and the Prevention of Terrorism Act must be abolished.

I will continue to speak in the Australian parliament and call for the release of all Tamil political prisoners.

Now more than ever we need to come together to honour the sacrifices your children, your brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers have made.

I feel your struggle is at a critical juncture. The defeat of the Rajapakse government has seen a shift in geopolitical interests. Understanding how to respond to the new complexities that you are facing is challenging.

If the new regime is genuine about reconciliation the military occupation of the Tamil homeland needs to end and all military forces removed immediately.

I urge you to continue to mobilize politically both domestically and internationally and to continue to be a strong, united and unwavering voice for justice. In your unity there is strength. With your youth there is strength, freedom and hope.

The resolve and commitment of your community can not be underestimated. You overcame the enormous stigma and difficulties you faced in 2009 to win broad based international recognition of the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against the Tamil people.

The strength of your community is why Canada's conservative Prime Minister did not attend an international conference and publicly advocated for a boycott. This is an enormous achievement and it is because of your courage and your hard work.

You have a lot to be proud of as you navigate through the next phase of your struggle.

As we remember today the tens of thousands of Tamils who have sacrificed their life in the 26-year-long struggle for freedom and a Tamil homeland I stand with you as a friend and a sister. Always.
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