Tag Archives: asylum-seekers

“Alex” Kuhendrarajah and the Australian Media

Michael Roberts

Courtesy of SOUTH ASIA MASALA where it was inserted on 20 January 2010 http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/blogs/southasiamasala/home-2/

The waves of boat people in October 2008 made headline news in Australia. So did “Alex” of the Jaya Lestari. The Australian media stirred the pot: they ran with both the hares and hounds. They catered to the sympathy for these people among Australians of liberal disposition who regard all asylum-seekers as victims of intolerable situations. In the same breadth they promoted opposition to illegal migrants by underlining the surge in numbers of these “queue-jumpers.”

Alex is at the heart of this conundrum. He also underlines the “double act” performed quite deliberately by some arms of the media. Investigative reporters at Merak, where the Jaya Lestari is berthed, chose initially to present his voice without probing deeper. Alex became the face of the poor persecuted Sri Lankan Tamil people fleeing their homeland, victims of persecution. The details attached to this message  included: (a) they had embarked in Malaysia and were heading for Australia; (b) passages could have cost as much as 15,000$; (c) Alex himself, as befitting his Canadian accent, had been educated abroad, but was deploying a pseudonym because his wife and children would be in danger from the Sri Lankan government.

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