Home' The Wellingtonian : August 11th 2011 Contents 6 THE WELLINGTONIAN, AUGUST 11, 2011
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Sri Lankans in boats
not 'real' refugees
Survivor: Liya Liyanage survived the Sri Lankan civil
Photo: SHAWN McAVINUE
By SHAWN McAVINUE
A Tamil Tiger bomb blast in 1996 injured a Karori
man, but he says Sri Lanka has become a safe
country and that Sri Lankan refuges -- now
detained in Indonesia -- were coming to New Zea-
land for economic reasons.
Karori resident Liya Liyanage worked for a
bank in Sri Lanka s capital, Colombo, in 1996.
Sri Lanka was in the middle of a civil war
between a separatist militant organisation -- the
Tamil Tigers -- and the Sri Lankan military.
The Tigers had assassinated the Sri Lankan
president three years earlier.
When you went to work, you never knew
whether you were going to come home, Mr Liyan-
age said. They were killing everywhere -- quite
A road divided the bank s six towers of office
space -- three nine-storey towers on each side of
the road, facing each other.
Mr Liyanage was talking to two colleagues
when workers sitting at the roadside window
They said, It s Tigers and they re shooting .
They ran back. Then three of us wanted to go see.
We saw a lorry hit a barricade, and suddenly
realised something was wrong and ran.
The building blasted. I dropped -- like you d
drop an egg. It was a very powerful bomb. It
created an instant vacuum.
It pushed the air out of the place, and suddenly
air comes to fill the gap. I got cuts everywhere . . .
not just the glass; the force of the blast cut my
skin. I had so many cuts -- all down one side of my
A truck bomb had been driven into the main
building across the road and 80 people were killed
-- 40 workers and 40 customers -- and 1000
The Tigers were early users of suicide-belts. Mr
Liyanage never discovered the truck driver s fate.
I don t know if it was a suicide [bomber], I don t
know if they stayed or ran away, he said.
I don t think there is a reason. I m not against
Tamil [people]. Tamil is a unique identity. Not all
Tamils are terrorists.
My immediate boss, she was Tamil -- she died.
Sri Lanka has a population of 20 million and is
slightly smaller than Tasmania. The civil war
raged from 1983 until 2009.
Apart from the trouble, otherwise it is
a very nice place. A lot of scenery, a lot of
variety, he said. Now it is safe.
If there hadn t been that war, it could have
been much better, economy-wise, for everyone.
The Government was spending a huge amount
-- at least 25 per cent -- on defence.
Mr Liyanage came to New Zealand with his wife
and three daughters in 2004.
On arrival, he volunteered at Citizens Advice
Bureau and now leads a portfolio management
team at ANZ National.
The Sri Lankans, detained this month on a boat
in an Indonesian port, were economic migrants,
not refugees, he said. Real refugees could not
afford the $1250 to $3750 fee for the boat trip.
This is a business thing -- some people
organised this one. They pay money because if you
go as a refugee, it is more beneficial.
We came on a permanent resident basis, under
the merit scheme, so we don t get anything.
If you come under the refugee, you ll get hous-
ing -- a lot of things.
He never considered claiming refugee status to
gain financial benefit.
If it is a real [refugee] case then that s okay,
but otherwise, why are you doing this?
Twist in Wellywood saga
By CALLUM TOWNSEND
The future of the controversial
Wellywood sign is to be
decided by a public compe-
There was an outcry in May
when Wellington Airport
announced plans to place a
Wellywood sign on the hill
next to the Miramar Cutting.
A panel was formed to exam-
ine the issue. It comprises
Fran Wilde, Andy Boreham,
Dave Gibson, Liz Mellish, John
Milford, Allan Probert and
The Wellingtonian has
learned from various panelists
of plans for a public compe-
tition, which will involve two
stages of voting.
First, the panel will select
about a dozen options from the
submissions. They will be put
to a public vote through The
Dominion Post. Submissions
do not need to be signs. They
could be sculptures, etc.
The two winners will then be
involved in another vote, com-
peting against the Wellywood
concept and each other.
One panelist The
Wellingtonian spoke to con-
firmed some sort of artistic
work would be placed on the
hill, saying: Doing nothing is
not an option.
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