60-Year-Old SL Refugee Struggles to Attend Son’s Last Rites in Australia

Published: 11th June 2014 07:41 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th June 2014 07:44 AM   |  A+A-

CHENNAI: A Sri Lankan refugee was made to run from pillar to post for attending the final rites of his son. Seemanpillai , who has been living in India as a refugee for the past 24 years.  visited the Australian Consulate General for a visa to go to Australia, where his 29-year-old son Leo committed suicide by self-immolation for fear of being deported back to  Lanka. While the Australians seemed willing, Seemanpillai’s efforts failed as he did not have a passport. Now, 60-year-old Seemanpillai seems set to miss his own son’s funeral, as neither Sri Lanka nor India are willing to bend.

Leo had left India about a year-and-a-half ago for Australia but his ship had sunk, forcing him to seek shelter in Indonesia. He had fled to Australia when Indonesian authorities indicated they would deport him to Lanka, according to activists. When he was faced with the same fate in Australia, he committed suicide on June 1. Pro-Tamil groups in Australia have arranged for his last rites to be held on June 13.

Seemanpillai visited the Australian Consulate General at Royapettah, with pro-Tamil activists.

Australia said there would be no problems with a visa, as long as he could produce his passport. As a Sri Lankan citizen, he then visited his country’s Deputy High Commission, where activists say he was grilled for two hours over how he had come into contact with the pro-Tamil activists.

The Sri Lankan authorities reportedly told Seemanpillai that they could not issue him a Sri Lankan passport here, and that he would have to go to island nation to get it.

“There is no time for all this. If Sri Lanka wills, he will be able to go to Australia,” says V Prabhakaran, chief co-ordinator of the Tamil Youths and Students Federation, who had accompanied Seemanpillai.

He said the   government of India too had the option of making Seemanpillai’s wish a reality.

“The Australians are ready to send Leo’s body here for the rites. But, the Indian government has refused, since he is not an Indian national.       

The government too has the power to let an old man be present at his son’s last rites,” Prabhakaran added.

He said Seemanpaillai, with the support of pro-Tamil activists, would petition the Chief Minister’s Special Cell on Wednesday, to seek support over the matter.


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