Colombo Telegraph

Trevor Grant Stood With The Tamil People Until The End

By Usha S Sri-Skanda Rajah

Usha S Sri-Skanda-Rajah

A tribute to Trevor Grant: “the fine ethical journo” and “a true friend of Eelam Tamils”.   

Trevor Grant stood with the Tamil people until the end. He stood with them in their hour of need when their governments failed them and world governments had forsaken them.

Sadly, Trevor Grant succumbed to cancer on 5th March, his death deeply affecting the Tamil world – victims, refugees and activists alike – who owed him a deep debt of gratitude for his relentless campaign for justice on their behalf.

As such, although he first became famous as a great sports writerand broadcaster, his prolific writings, speeches and interviews, educating the world and the international community on the genocide perpetrated against the Tamil people living in the NorthEast of the island of Sri Lanka and the injustice caused to them after they had to flee their land, will go into the annals of history of the Tamil people and their struggle for freedom – as true evidence of their story as persecuted people in their own homeland and as forgotten and ill treated refugees in various parts of the world and in his own Australia.

Here was a man who was not reticent about calling the 2009 Mullivaikkaal massacre exactly what it was, a genocide and put the issue front and center without fear or favour. Listen to him here making the case for the Tamil genocide:

Through his book, ‘Sri Lanka’s secrets: How Rajapaksa Regime Gets Away with Murder‘, he revealed the exact intentions of the “corrupt and brutal Rajapaksa regime” and that of the Australian government which he said was complicit. 

As ‘convener’ of, and spokesperson for, the Tamil Refugee Council, he was a fearless and vocal defender of the rights of the Tamil people and an outspoken critic of both the Rajapaksa and the Sirisena governments until the very last.   

Trevor Grant

Even as a lover of sports he advocated for the boycott of the Sri Lankan Cricket Team on a matter of principle. Hear him explain how Rajapaksa, “a brutal dictator interfered with and used cricket to launder his own image”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qz-HE5IFgOw&t=157s He wrote about how Mike Atherton, former captain of the England cricket team, was horrified by what he saw in the documentary ‘Sri Lanka: Killing Fields’ – to make his point. 

If one checks his twitter handle his tweets were all about Tamil issues. His last retweet on 24th February 2016 a year ago under this handle, was a tweet from the journalist, academic and activist, Wendy Bacon who called him, “the fine ethical journo.”

Constantly exposing the Australian Government’s complicity he tweeted about, “how Australia had become an enabler for accused war criminals. In that tweet he shared his article in which he wrote, “he was not surprised,” by the Sri Lankan Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremaeinghe’s revelation, made to the ‘Australian’ newspaper, “that the Australian Government had kept silent on the human rights abuses of the brutal regime of Mahinda Rajapaksa in order to get his co-operation to stop asylum-seekers fleeing to Australia.”

Not once hesitating to expose even the Sirisena government, Trevor Grant wrote Sirisena was an “offshoot” of Mahinda Rajapaksa. His assessment of Sirisena written in January of 2016 can’t be further from the truth, a little more than a year on today as the 34th sessions of the UN Human Rights Council is taking place right at this moment:

I quote:

The extent of Sirisena’s duplicity knows no bounds, as we saw this week when, after casting doubt that any crimes took place at the end of the war when Sri Lankan Army bombs rained down on 300,000 trapped civilians, he also declared that he would “never allow international involvement” in any war crimes tribunal….On its own, this statement may sound like another routine reaction but when you add the fact that Sri Lanka co-sponsored a UN resolution last year aimed at setting up a war crimes tribunal, with international representation, you begin to appreciate the Sirisena government’s brazen disregard for honesty and decency….Despite all the lofty words about governing for all and righting the wrongs of the past, the degradation of the Tami continues in the north and east of the island, through a military occupation, mass incarceration and disappearance, brutal sexual abuse and rape, torture, permanent seizure of land and denial of job opportunities.

End quote.

Sharing this article he tweeted all in capital letters: S-LANKA HAS NEW PRESIDENT BUT OLD WAYS OF TORTURE, IMPUNITY AND DENIAL PERSIST…READ LATEST…

Writing about, “war criminals’ promotions reveal ugly truth about Sirisena,” Trevor Grant didn’t mince his words when it came to the hypocrisy of other governments who put geo-political interests before human rights either: “The elaborate public facade carefully constructed by new president Maithripala Sirisena, with the hidden assistance of India and the US, is crumbling by the day, revealing the discomforting truth that Sri Lanka remains a brutal regime dominated by a military mindset,” he wrote. This he wrote when he was condemning the promotion of Major General Jagath Dias and General Sarath Fonseka by the Sirisena government, men who presided over the Mullivaikkaal Genocide of Tamils, truly expressing his feelings thus: “Nothing could be more obvious after the recent elevation in the country’s public life of two men who, if the world was a place where justice served us all rather than a powerful elite, would be now be living off porridge in a cell at The Hague.” 

Tributes poured in on social networks, websites and journals upon his passing. “Trevor Grant who died on Sunday was brave in everything,” Gregory Martin Baum, Australian Sports Writer wrote of him. Journalist, Nick McCallum tweeted, “saddened by the death of veteran sports journo Trevor Grant. Always feisty and passionate, he was a tenacious advocate for asylum seekers.”  JDS Lanka tweeted, “Trevor Grant: A tireless fighter for Justice bids adieu.”

Most aptly, the tribute from Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam, (TGTE) to be read out at his Memorial Service, Friday in Victoria, told of his monumental work for the Tamil people: Captioned, ‘The World Lost a Great Sports Writer and a Champion for Human Rights – Eelam Tamils Lost a Friend’, the eulogy from TGTE echoed the sentiments of the Tamil people on what it was to lose him:

“The Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) is deeply saddened by the demise of veteran journalist and human rights activist, Trevor Grant. Following a decades- long career and recognized as one of the finest sports writers of his time in Australia, Trevor Grant took a keen interest in the plight of Tamil refugees arriving in Australia at the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka in May 2009. He thus became a passionate advocate for refugee rights and a campaigner and spokesman with the Tamil Refugee Council, while also taking care of the emotional and material needs of asylum seekers and refugees through working in several fronts within the wider Australian community in his home State of Victoria…Admirers of Trevor Grant have noted his commitment to principles and fair play and his determined stand in not letting authorities get away with power. It is, therefore, not surprising that he did not limit his concerns to the future of the disenfranchised and downtrodden refugees arriving in Australian shores. He also took a journalist’s interest and curiosity to dig into the causes for their fleeing from their native lands….Trevor Grant exhibited his moral anger over the Genocide perpetrated by the Sri Lankan State on the hapless Tamil civilians in Mullivaaikaal in May 2009. This resulted in the publication in 2014 of his book ’Sri Lanka’s Secrets: How the Rajapaksa Regime Gets Away with Murder’, a book which was described by analysts as ‘a determined and forceful portrayal of the nature of the Sri Lankan society and the corrupt regime that was running the country’. As part of his advocacy work, Trevor Grant has also been scathing in his criticism of successive Australian governments for their foreign policy obsession that was focused on turning back boats with refugees rather than on the human rights of the Tamil refugees….As a brave and compassionate man, Trevor Grant felt the necessity to bring out the truth as best as he could even through the period of his recent illness. He used his pen and his sharp and powerful style of writing to bring out some of the ugly truths of the new ‘good governance’ regime of President Maithripala Sirisena in Sri Lanka, and the complicity of  powerful members of the international community in allowing Sri Lanka ‘to keep its secrets’. Equally, he has been active in sharing details of the mesothelioma that has now taken him from us so prematurely. His honesty in telling us about the things that made him angry and those that made him sad through his illness is a measure of the caliber of the man he was….It is tragic that the voice of Trevor Grant is no more with us at this time when new forms of nativism and populism are emerging in the West, contributing to a hostile environment for refugees fleeing persecution, violence, and environmental degradation, and seeking safe haven. The craft of journalism that he much loved and practiced is facing new challenges at this time as well. Let us find solace in Trevor’s own words, as stated in his book, ‘You can kill thousands of people, but you can never kill the human spirit’…We, Tamils, shall remain in eternal gratitude for Trevor’s tireless work and unparalleled service to a vulnerable and oppressed people. Farewell, dear friend!”

Though not a Tamil, it would not be remiss to say Trevor Grant was a true Tamil in the real sense of the word. He is irreplaceable and will be sorely missed. The world is poorer for his loss.

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