Posted on December 6, 2004

Author Hungers With Poet Detainee

Kirsten Fogg, Washington Times, Dec. 5

BRISBANE, Australia — Thomas Keneally, the Australian author whose book inspired the movie “Schindler’s List,” led a protest in Sydney Wednesday to win the release of Sri Lankan asylum seekers held in detention for up to three years.

Mr. Keneally, who won the Booker Prize for the novel originally titled “Schindler’s Ark,” began his peaceful demonstration with members of the Sydney PEN Center, an association of literary writers and editors, against the detention of a Sri Lankan businessman and poet, Sarath Amarasinghe, and several of his compatriots, who are on a hunger strike.

Mr. Keneally sat outside Sydney’s Immigration Department all night with writer Rosie Scott and another colleague to show solidarity with Mr. Amarasinghe.

The last time Mr. Keneally led a similar protest, 500 people turned out. That was in 2002, when he taped his mouth shut in support of detainees at the now-closed Woomera detention center. The detainees had sewn their lips together as part of a failed hunger strike.


“We began as a great outdoor penal colony and now we’re re-creating a penal colony for people who’ve had the gall to seek asylum with us.”

The government, however, maintains that after assessments by the Department of Immigration, none of those involved in the hunger strike has been deemed to be a refugee in need of protection.