Australian Prime Minister Hon. Kevin Rudd made a life changing phone call to Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and informed him of a cargo boat carrying refugees, was passing through Indonesian waters and entering Australia. Under tremendous political pressure to reduce the number of asylum seekers, Rudd had desperately requested assistance from his neighboring countryman and friend in politics, to prevent further political drama from the opposition.
I understand the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is a practicing Christian and has written about showing compassion as a Christian towards refugees in the past (Faith in Politics, October 2006). I have also heard that the new Opposition Leader is also practicing Christian who once wanted to become a priest. We are praying that Mr. Rudd and Mr. Abbott will put politics aside and have the courage to show compassion to us, and accept us as refugees. We will follow the thousands of Tamils in Australia who are working as professionals and are not a burden to the Australian society. I understand there are Tamils in Australia who came as refugees and are now Neuro surgeons, Cardiologists, Engineers, etc.
Many mainstream Australians have shown sympathy to us and we really appreciate that. We want to make it clear to the Australians that the reason we fled Sri Lanka to come to Australia is only because of
the escalation of human rights violations in Sri Lanka and it has nothing to do with the Australian government policy in regard to asylum seekers. I heard that Mr Rudd raised the Sri Lankan human rights issue in the CHOGM meeting and I pray that he continues to advocate for Sri Lanka to be held accountable for the human rights violations. This would stop the need for Tamils to flee the country leaving behind their loved ones.”
As for the Hon. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, we would like to thank him from the depths of our hearts, for rescuing us from the intense waters, and bringing us ashore to allow us to recuperate from a journey through the thick jungles and the rough waters. His Government has showed compassion to us by initially providing basic needs to better the health of notoriously deprived children, and weakening men and women. Providing us with hot meals and mineral water, along with clothing, hygiene supplies, six thousand liters of fresh water per day, social workers for rehabilitation, are just some of the things that may be laying a heavy burden on the economic situation, yet provided without second thought.
The Indonesian government only obliged with the Australian PM to stop us in their waters. We are aware of the economic situation in the country, and the grateful of the fact that through the struggles of poverty, they continue to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to maintain us. The food might be lousy, but still it costs money. The government still continue to pay for their immigration and/or Navy personnel to ensure our safety as we are held in the boat. The port being used is depriving them from using it as it is a private business port for commercial purposes. Yet the Indonesian government has found its ways to accommodate our request of not being removed from the boat. We are grateful for Indonesia spending money and resources to provide basic necessities.
We thank Indonesia for being the only country which has shown some compassion towards us and allowed us to at least live without fear of death and for continually providing food and water, basic as it may be, for the past 60 days.
We will never forget the gentle kindness the Indonesian Navy had showed in regards to the sensitive issues we faced of fear. Colonel Irawan and his squad of highly trained Navy Seal were gentle from the beginning showing us the utmost respect and compassion from the beginning. My people and I miss his presence and would like to tell him that we had a sense of security when he was around, however we know he is elsewhere in the country doing what he does best, protecting his country and countrymen in the rough seas. His heroic speeches and gentle actions are still admired amongst us. Wherever he may be may God protect him and guide him.
In the beginning of our arrival the climate here was very hot and out on the port it feels like a dessert during the day, yet the compassion towards mankind and migrants in particular had enabled the International Organization for Migrants to endure the heat of the sun along with us. They did not request any special treatment for their staff as they slept on the concrete of the port’s parking lot laying down thin mats made of plastic straws. There was never a day that they ate anything different from what was served to us. The ordinary working men and women of the IOM should be recognized highly as people with a true heart towards us. There is always a bad apple in every basket, hence we do not want to discriminate the formidable consideration towards human care and needs. We are currently feeling very vulnerable without the presence of the IOM and humbly request your care once again.
I would like to apologize and acknowledge that I could have handled things better, in a more diplomatic manner. We would like to thank Indonesia as a whole bearing with us through our struggle for freedom as your patience is greatly appreciated. The only reason we don’t want to come off the boat is that we are concerned that no country will accept us, and the resettlement process can take up to 10 years. We don’t want to be in detention for that long as most of our lives have been held captive by the Sri Lankan government for the past three decades. We would like the chance to live freely to educate our children and employ ourselves according to our credentials. By being in Indonesia as a detained refugee will only be a burden to the government and its economic crisis.
In conclusion we would like to send our appreciation and utmost respect to the Indonesian Government, Navy, and the IOM for the way they handled such a sensitive issue in the most compassionate way allowing desperate refugees to take a breather from a precarious journey that may have cost them their lives. We plead with you to please allow UNHCR to assess those on board and determine whether we are genuine refugees or not.
Last, but not least, we once again plead with Hon. Kevin Rudd to please give us the same benefits given to those on the Oceanic Viking and give us refuge in Australia. Please give us a chance to start our lives in freedom and allow us to give back to society.
On behalf of the 254 Refugees
Sanjeev “Alex” Kuhendrarajah
Alex: + 62 813 877 80889
Sara Nathan + 61 412 236 703