ORIGIN OF PHRE

The catalyst for PHRE was the rise of right-wing politics in Australia under the leadership of the One Nation Party in 1996 and the emergence of sharp ethnic divisions within the Sri Lankan community in Australia since the mid-1990s. The rise of "Hansonism" in the mid-1990s generated anxiety among few Sri Lankans in Australia. Sri Lankans have usually been content to stay aloof from mainstream Australian politics and it appeared that they were prepared to meet Pauline Hanson's assault on multiculturalism with their customary nonchalance. At the same time "Hansonist" tendencies were growing within the Sri Lankan community itself. Tension between the Sinhalese and Tamil ri Lankans have been simmering for a long time, fed by conflicting interpretations of the ethnic war in Sri Lanka. Interested parties were exploiting the situation to spread hatred and prejudice within the two communities keeping them apart.

PHRE was formed by a group of individuals deeply disturbed by these developments and who recognised the need to raise awareness about the values of multiculturalism and pluralism within the Sri Lankan community in Australia. The first act of the founders of PHREE was to participate in the mammoth rally held in Melbourne in 1996 to protest against Pauline Hanson's politics of intolerance. Remarkably, PHRE was the only group of Sri Lankans that participated in this rally.

Promoting the values of multiculturalism within he Sri Lankan community also made us aware of the potential Sri Lankans in Australia had for diffusing tension in Sri Lanka itself. It is remarkable that the tensions between the Sinhala and Tamil communities in Australia has resulted largely from the attempts by various groups to take advantage of the process of globalization to mobilise the Sri Lankan diaspora to promote and rationalise the perspectives and ideologies of the parties to the conflict n Sri Lanka. In this environment, we felt that a strong movement of expatriate Sri Lankans promoting a peaceful settlement and working closely with like-minded individuals and orgsanisations in Sri Lanka and Australia has great potential to make a positive impact on the conflict.