Tamil man recovering from self-immolation in Sydney

A Tamil asylum-seeker is recovering in a Sydney hospital from burns to 70 per cent of his body after setting himself alight last week.

A member of the Sydney Tamil community, Balasingham Prabhakaran, said today that 29-year-old Janarthanan began showing signs of recovery at the weekend when he came out of an induced coma.

“He opened his eyes and looked around a bit. He can’t talk because of all the tubes in his mouth but the signs are a lot better than they were. Nobody can be certain about his long-term health but it’s good news that he will survive,” he said.

Janarthanan, from Jaffna, (pictured above) is in the burns unit of the Concord Hospital, where he is expected to remain for at least three months. He has undergone several operations. His 65-year-old mother and brother are expected to arrive at his bedside later this week once visas are arranged by the Sri Lankan and Australian authorities.

Janarthanan, 29, received notice from the Immigration department last Tuesday that his application for a protection visa had been refused and he would have to return to Sri Lanka, where he insists he will face persecution, including jail and torture.

After he finished his shift as a cleaner in a building in Balmain last Wednesday, he poured petrol over himself and set himself alight. Several men working in a nearby shipyard ran to his aid and doused the flames. Paul Garrett, a member of the Maritime Union of Australia, was at the scene soon after it happened. “We are all in a state of shock. It was a hellish thing to witness. The men who helped him are devastated. It will be comfort to them to know he has survived,” he said.