Lankan refugee was LTTE ‘agent’

Lankan refugee was LTTE ‘agent’

March 9, 2010   08:07 am


A Sri Lankan refugee being held on Christmas Island with her two young children after ASIO declared her to be a security threat worked for the legal system run by the Tamil Tigers.


The Australian has learned that the woman, who was rescued by the Customs vessel Oceanic Viking in October, lived and worked in the Vanni district in Sri Lanka’s north, which was controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.


Speaking from Indonesia, the woman’s brother said his sister had been employed in the de facto justice system set up by the LTTE, which was described by the US State Department as “agents” of the Tamil Tigers.


“She was working in LTTE courts,” the man said. “She was working in the law office or court of the LTTE.”


The woman was one of 78 Sri Lankan refugees who for one month refused to leave the Oceanic Viking following their rescue. The stand-off ended only after the Rudd government offered them a special deal, guaranteeing their resettlement within four to 12 weeks.


The deal was condemned after it emerged that four of the passengers had been classified by ASIO as security threats before they were taken to Australia.


A fifth Tamil -- the woman’s husband, who was already on Christmas Island -- was also rejected by ASIO. The woman travelled to Australiawith her two young children as well as her mother and brother.


Sources contacted by The Australian have confirmed the woman worked as a legal officer in the LTTE-run courts. She co-operated with Australian security officials and did not seek to hide her background.


She is believed to be preparing a legal challenge against her adverse security assessment, which prohibits her and her husband from gaining visas.


Her mother and brother passed their security checks and are now living in Sydney.


Despite the family’s negative assessments, all have been deemed refugees by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.


The ruling poses a dilemma for the government, which cannot lawfully repatriate refugees to their country of origin if they are under threat of being harmed.


According to the woman’s brother, the family was separated in the mid-1990s due to Sri Lanka’s civil war.


He denied his sister was a threat to national security, despite her association with the Tamil Tigers, a declared terrorist group in most Western countries, although not in Australia.


“Maybe she worked in that court, but I don’t think she was part of the LTTE,” he said.


Before their defeat by the Sri Lankan government forces, the Tigers ran a civil infrastructure in the areas they controlled, effectively running a state within a state. “They had courts, they had everything there, they had separate police, military, courts,” the brother said.


He said that anyone who worked in the LTTE-controlled areas had no choice but to work with, or for, the LTTE command.


It is not clear if the woman’s legal background with the Tigers was the sole basis for her negative security assessment.


The Australian

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