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Sri Lanka’s rights violations compel investigations, says Australian MP

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 2 March 2011 10:19 No Comment]

Laurie Ferguson, Member of Australian Parliament for Werriwa and Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs and Settlement Services, in his statement following submitting a private members bill for debate on "Humanitarian Issues During the War in Sri Lanka," Monday detailed the egregious violations of human rights in Sri Lanka and said he supported eminent personalities, Governments, and premier Rights organizations around the world in demanding an independent, international investigations into Sri Lanka’s rights violations.

pdf: Hansard: Humanitarian Issues During the War in Sri Lanka

Laurie-Ferguson_01x100 Australian MPs Ferguson, Randall, Bandt, and Alexander spoke during the debate of the private bill for debate submitted by Ferguson.

"I believe there is a need for international oversight of the concluding period of the civil war in Sri Lanka. When I look at the phalanx of people around the world who see a need for this—and I do not agree with the Sri Lankan government or the more chauvinistic Sinhalese elements—I do not think we can say that David Cameron is a fool or that he has not examined the issue when he talks about the need for an inquiry. I do not think we can accuse the European community of that either, when they have basically taken away Sri Lanka’s trade advantages on the issue of human rights," Ferguson said.

"I do not think that the United States Department of State’s ambassador, Patricia Butenis, quoted in WikiLeaks exposes, is necessarily a simpleton. She noted that there is no historical precedent for a government looking at the actions of its own troops and went on to say that the difficulty in Sri Lanka was exacerbated—this is her view; I am not necessarily her mouthpiece but I will just quote her view in WikiLeaks—by the involvement of President Rajapakse and the elite in Sri Lanka in the conclusion of the civil war, which made it even more difficult to avoid the need for outside oversight. Desmond Tutu talked of:… a determined effort for accountability for past crimes by all parties to the conflict, " Ferguson added.

Noting that "the evidence is there that the Sri Lankan regime, unfortunately, cannot be trusted to engage in a genuine process of examination of military action that resulted in the killing of innocent civilians in the final period of the war," Ferguson said, "[o]bviously some totally innocent civilians were murdered in those last few days. There needs to be an examination of these matters."

Adam Bandt, a barristor, a first time parliamentarian, and the only Green party member in parliament said, Colombo "continues to subject people to enforced disappearances and torture and other ill-treatment. Thousands of people suspected of ties with the (LTTE) remain in detention without charge," and added "some officials still claim publicly that there were no civilian casualties at all."

Bandt added, "Australia must take some responsibility for this situation in Sri Lanka, one of our nearest neighbours, because we have failed to put any substantial pressure on Sri Lanka, either directly or in international forums. The Australian government’s failure so far to reject the former head of Sri Lanka’s navy, Thisara Samarasinghe, as a possible new ambassador to Australia is symptomatic of the weak way in which our country has historically responded to the Sri Lankan government’s violation of human rights," and said, "[a]t the very least, we owe them [Tamils] now a full and independent investigation into the allegations [of war crimes.]"

Mr Alexander took a largely neutral position and said, "[a] political solution is essential for long-term peace to be developed in this long-suffering nation. And whilst serious allegations of human rights abuse anywhere in the world deserve to be aired and investigated, Sri Lanka is at a point in their development where they need the support of the international community to forge a real political solution to continue their process of reconciliation and rehabilitation."

Mr. Randall, the deputy chair of the Sri Lanka friendship group in the current parliament, said both sides in the war committed atrocities but disputed if the camps which held Tamils "trapped under LTTE control" were indeed "concentration camps," and said the unremoved landmines is the reason why some of the detainees in the camps have not been released.

Randall was critical of Nober laureate Desmond Tutu for going after "the easy target" Sri Lanka while not condemning Zimbabwe, and added that while there are issues with Sri Lanka’s democracy, Australia is a great friend of Sri Lanka and "a bad democracy is better than any other choice."

[Full Coverage]

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