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An open letter to ‘Shooty’

"Dear 'Shooty',

I've just watched our Prime Minister talking about shared Commonwealth values in Perth. My mind turned at once to you and your solitary, late-night death in Villawood detention centre last week.”

“At CHOGM, the high table of Commonwealth values, Sri Lanka went un-punished for atrocities against Tamils. But even when the Tamil human-shield civilians were being blasted at the end of the Sri Lankan war between the government and the Tigers, we all knew some people like you would inevitably come to Australia.

Good old John Dowd, who is head of our local chapter of the International Commission of Jurists, had already called for the trial of the Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Australia for war crimes against your people. This just cry, like most just cries these days, has penetrated the stratosphere and vanished into space.”

“Amnesty International has reported death and torture of those asylum seekers returned to Sri Lanka. Of course, none of those accusations made it to the high table of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Mateship.”

“If we could summon up your soul from that place, we would offer you our useless apologies. If we could summon up your soul, we would ask it to remain among us - the man who was on the brink of Australian-ness, led to water, not allowed to drink. But for now, mandatory detention rolls on, a wheel that crushes many and avails Australia nothing.”

- Tom Keneally, Officer of the Order of Australia, is the Booker prize-winning author of Schindler's Ark. The book, based on events during the Holocaust, was adapted to the Academy Award winning film Schindler’s List.

See his piece ‘Vaunted values too slow to save neglected son from fatal despair’ in the Sydney Morning Herald here.

Also see our earlier post: ‘Australian detention centre suicide sparks outrage’ (Oct 2011)