26 September, 2023


Sri Lanka: The Smugglers’ Prey

By Eric Ellis –

Eric Ellis

Holding Australia’s domestic “stop the boats” politics to ransom, the Sri Lankan military is accused of grabbing land in traditional Tamil areas, ordering soldiers to marry Tamil women, even – as arrests this week show – fostering the people smuggling trade.

What does a Sri Lankan would-be asylum seeker look like? Many look like this man. His name is Gnanaseelan. He’s 32. He’s a Tamil, though never a Tiger. A father. A widower.

He lives in this desperate shanty outside the seaside hamlet of Mullaitivu, on Sri Lanka’s war-ravaged north-east coast, with nine relatives, six of them motherless children.

Gnanaseelan and his family were caught in the crossfire of the last murderous days of Sri Lanka’s civil war between the Tamil Tigers and the mostly Sinhalese government forces in Colombo, which ended in May 2009 on a blood-soaked spit of sand about three kilometres from here.

He was maimed when his leg was struck by a random shell. Four years on, Gnanaseelan is an itinerant, unskilled labourer, taking a day’s work whenever he can find one, which isn’t that often. His limp and his ethnicity are hard to disguise and the Sinhalese contractors building new roads around here, on deals from government friends in distant Colombo, prefer their labour to be able-bodied and of their own kind.

Read more in the The Globalmail

*Eric Ellis is an award-winning journalist who writes about the politics, economics and societies of South and South-East Asia. He has written for a range of international journals; Fortune Magazine, Forbes, the Financial Times, Time Magazine, The Times, The Bulletin/Newsweek, The Spectator,Institutional Investor, Euromoney, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Australian Financial Review and the International Herald Tribune.

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Latest comments

  • 0

    OMG I have never read such nonsense . this [Edited out] is supposedly an award winnig journo . who gave him the awards the mafia ?

    this [Edited out] is just a propaganda puppet of the diaspora , reports his opinions not facts .

    crap , like the army being ordered to marry tamils .. lmao . he should write to the comedy channel .
    The CPA’s Dr Saravanamuttu says the waters of the north-east are now so tightly controlled, it’s almost inconceivable that an unofficial vessel could leave Sri Lanka without being detected. “You cannot get out of territorial waters without the navy letting you out,” he says. “It just can’t be done.”
    Indeed, there are suspicions that the boat convoys are operated like a spigot, to be turned on and off by officials in Colombo at their political whim — the valve is opened whenever tiny Sri Lanka wants to punch above its international weight, and send a back-off message to Australia should it dare criticise Colombo.

    Seriously when the war was going on wonder how the tigers brought in weapons if the seas were so tightly controller . Dr Saravanamuttui must be a Dr of idiocy .

    • 0

      Please keep your eyes and ears shut…. The world would be a wonderful place. Yeah, Sri Lanka is the Miracle of Asia, as you know.

    • 0

      Many boats commenced their journey from Tangelle, between two navy camps. The Tamil men were taken there by busses in many many dozens. How often Tamils could travel in that big numbers through Sinhala areas?

  • 0

    He has forgotten the 300+ LTTE attacks and 375 LTTE suicide bomb attacks!


    The more they forget the better. SL can repeat the 2009 VICTORY once again. :)

    Smuggling people in boats is a good opportunity to send tens of thousands of unwanted people out of SL in unseaworthy boats that sink midway.

  • 0

    I hear papaua new gini is nice . there are economic refugees coming from Australia to the US now lol I was sitting next to a family on my flight from phoenix to detroit the other day . lol

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