The Power of Good People
The Power of Good People

SURVIVING SRI LANKA’S CIVIL WAR

By Para Paheer and Alison Corke

Born in 1979 to a poor Tamil farming family, Para was barely five years old when civil war erupted in Sri Lanka.
Nearly three decades later it ended in appalling horror and bloodshed.
Tens of thousands of innocent civilians died. Survival required courage, ingenuity – and the kindness of strangers.

”Every Australian should read this book, so they can understand the horrors which cause people to flee...”

JULIAN BURNSIDE QC, Refugee Advocate.

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All profits from sales of the book are directed to Yarl Aid, a charity in Sri Lanka helping people affected by the long civil war.

Watch the video

Para and 26 others were rescued by the LNG Pioneer, a gas tanker operated by MOL LNG Transport (Europe) Ltd., a Mitsui O.S.K Lines Ltd company. In 2017 Para finally fulfilled his dream - to meet and to thank the Captain and some of the crew members involved in the rescue. Contacted for comment on this website Andy Hill, MOL LNG Transport (Europe) Ltd., the company’s General Manager at the time, observed:

‘You may find us just a little humble and matter of fact in our discussions on this event. Whilst saving life at sea is a legal obligation on a Master, we learn at an early age to respect the sea itself … we look out for and look after each other regardless of our origins, faith or beliefs. It is what we do. We go about it daily and without accolade, and neither do we seek it.
We were lucky to be passing near the casualty at the time of the distress and proud to be able to contribute significantly in the search and rescue activities supported by the Australian authorities. It is even more pleasing to have been kept informed of the progress of recovery, and the re-uniting of Para and his family as they start their new journey and life together as Australian citizens.’

Video by Australian Human Rights Commission

Paheertharan Pararasasingam (Para Paheer)

During the Sri Lankan civil war, Para Paheer was arrested, beaten and imprisoned because he stood up to the military. The final arrest was followed by weeks in secret detention, undergoing extreme abuse and torture. Although all charges against him were subsequently dismissed, Para knew that, as a minority Tamil, he was targeted. Thanks to the bravery and generosity of friends, he managed to escape to India and then at the end of the civil war, when the Indian government started to arrest Tamils who they suspected were sympathetic towards the Tamils’ cause, Para realised the only way to safety lay in seeking asylum in Australia.

After 30 days at sea, the flimsy fishing vessel broke apart and sank in a huge storm. Para and 26 others survived a night in the Indian Ocean, facing sharks and mountainous seas before being rescued, in an extraordinary feat of bravery and professionalism, by the gas tanker LNG Pioneer. After two years in Christmas Island Detention Centre, Para was released into the community and in 2017 he became a proud Australian citizen.

Alison Corke

Alison Corke is a freelance writer, living in Apollo Bay, Victoria. The plight of refugees and the increasing demonisation of innocent asylum seekers led Ali to join Rural Australians for Refugees and later to establish the Apollo Bay branch. In 2009, Ali heard that a tiny fishing boat carrying asylum seekers had sunk in the Indian Ocean. Extremely affected by the human tragedy of this event, Ali had no idea that soon she would become pen friends with Para, one of the refugees from that boat. On his release from detention in 2011, Para was invited to live with the Corke family.

Ali and her family believe that we all have a responsibility to care for each other’s children.

‘This is Para’s story of survival against all odds. Para Paheer’s lived experience combines conflict, suffering, courage, tragedy, compassion, and hope. It depicts events that are predatory and abominable, even as it celebrates the humane and good. It must be read, precisely because it is heart-wrenching; because the discomfort it elicits may goad us to abandon apathy, embrace sympathy, and thereby discover our common humanity.’

Professor Neil DeVotta, Department of Politics and International Affairs, Wake Forest University, USA