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Sri Lankan Easter Attacks

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Tags: Condolence, Violence

Sri Lankan Easter Attacks Condolence Motion: Woodruff


Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Deputy Speaker, on behalf of the Tasmanian Greens I send my love and compassion to all the people who have suffered because of the mass murder that took place in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday where we know at least 253 people lost their life. Many hundreds more are physically suffering, and many thousands of people are immediately affected as family and friends.

This is an incredible toll on a small island. As an island, we in Tasmania share the pain of our own experience 22 years ago of the shock of a mass murder. We know as an island that we are still experiencing the repercussions of that. It is not long ago in our past. People live with the loss of people they loved in Port Arthur. They live with the physical wounds and mental trauma.

We have an experience with these three islands - Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Tasmania - and the terrible harm that has been caused by people, mass murders that have been perpetrated faith against faith, person against person. Terrorism, hatred and division all come from the same source which is not bringing people together, not understanding that we have a common humanity.

I want to mention the words of Ron Franks, CEO of the Multicultural Council of Tasmania. He wrote a letter to members and made an important point:

The failure to recognise that violence against another human being is an attack on life itself represents our failure to identify with each living human being on the planet, irrespective of religion or race.

These are not just attacks on religion. They are attacks against you, me and every other person who shares planet Earth. We are all in this together. We all have a role to play and cannot extricate ourselves from these tragic events. A failure to do so is a failure to engage and empower every living person against the mantra of hate and violence.

We need to acknowledge that the date of this orchestrated mass murder, which occurred across three churches and three hotels and other parts of Sri Lanka, were organised to occur on Easter Sunday, one of the most festive events in the Christian year that commemorates the resurrection from death of Jesus Christ. It is a most important celebration and one that is celebrated with great joy. It is a particularly cruel choice of a day of joyous celebration for a community of people who come together in spiritual community, in love, to choose that as a date to perpetrate such violence against other people.

Words fail all of us in this situation but things have stood out, and there are so many stories - 253 people cannot possibly capture the trauma that has rippled across Sri Lanka and of course to Tasmania. On behalf of the Greens I extend my sympathy, compassion and thoughts to the Sri Lankan community in Tasmania. They are a much-loved part of our island community. We value so much the energy and liveliness of the Sri Lankan people. I have never met a Sri Lankan person who has not been bubbly, joyous, open and friendly. They have a particular community which is very special.

Those of us who were able to attend the commemoration after the Christchurch shootings here in Hobart were struck by the number of communities that came together to support the Muslim people in Tasmania, and here we are today coming together to support the Christian people of Sri Lanka and the Christian people in Tasmania.

What does this say to us, Mr Deputy Speaker? That we are all the same and we must stop the division and the words that have established a world where these sorts of acts of terror can occur. We can change this. I am confident every person in this parliament will work towards changing that culture of division and hatred which, unfortunately, feels as though it is overwhelming. We know that good people win through.

I want to finish by mentioning some of the best of people who came out in the worst of situations. There is the story of Leslie Appuhami, 59, who lost his sister, a niece and a brother-in-law. His memory is clouded by the things he saw in the church but that is not all he remembers from the blast that occurred. What he remembers, he said, was '… how, like in the other churches, we teamed together, worked together to rush people out after the explosion'. He is an electrical engineer and he was back again the next day to see if he could help start with repairs. He had lost three members of his family. He said, 'I only wish that what happened here is never repeated in any church, mosque or temple anywhere in the world'.

There was also Channa Rejunjoyne, who has been making candles for St Sebastian's church all his life. He lost his wife and nine-year-old daughter. He said, 'I feel a deep sense of sorrow', having buried his wife and daughter, but when the priest asked if he would like to come and help with the clean up the next day, he said, 'There's no one at home, I may as well be with my community'.

On behalf of the Tasmanian Greens I extend my respects, thoughts and love to the people of Sri Lanka, the people of Sri Lanka who live in Tasmania, and to everyone who has been affected by this succession of mass murders. We strongly believe we need to have unity through faith and tolerance of faith. Tolerance in all forms of belief and love in a time of fear is what we all need to put first and foremost.

Members - Hear, hear.