The charges laid against Aruran Vinayagamoorthy and Sivarajah Yathavan for belonging to, funding and supporting the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) should draw attention once more to the extraordinary scope of Australia’s anti-terrorism laws.
Since 2005, it’s been an offence punishable by 25 years in prison to recklessly provide funds to terrorists, or a supporter of terrorists, even if they’re overseas. The new laws pose particularly difficult issues for migrants from strife-torn nations.
After all, in 2005, the Sri Lankan Government itself recognised the Tigers’ popular support when it struck a deal allowing the LTTE to administer funds for tsunami relief in Tamil areas. Should we be surprised, then, that some Tamils in Australia see the LTTE as their legitimate representative?
Or is the argument simply that any armed struggle, in any circumstances, in any country, amounts to terrorism? Well, had these laws been in place in the eighties, anyone who, say, attended an anti-apartheid fund-raiser would have become liable for some Mandela-style jail time of their own. Yes, the Tamil Tigers carry out assassinations, bombings and other brutalities. But, um, so did the ANC.
There are plenty of other ethnic minorities in Australia who face such repression at home that their political and cultural organisations inevitably maintain a connection with armed groups. Given that you can get done for collecting funds simply by being “reckless” about where your money’s going, the scope for future prosecutions seems vast.
Yet, the laws only apply to supporters of opposition groups, not the repressive regimes they oppose. It’s illegal, for instance, to support the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK). It’s perfectly OK to back the Turkish Government — even though, according to Amnesty, it imprisons Kurds simply for speaking their own language. If you were Kurdish, that might seems less like preventing terrorism — and more like taking sides.