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Gillard questions Sri Lankas investigation of war crimes

[ABC, Thursday, 27 October 2011 07:43 No Comment]

The Queen has arrived in Perth to officially open CHOGM, where Julia Gillard has quizzed the Sri Lankan president about progress in post-war reconciliation.


TONY JONES, PRESENTER: In Perth at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting Prime Minister Julia Gillard has quizzed the Sri Lankan president about progress in his nation’s post-war reconciliation process.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has been accused of war crimes during his Government’s final assault on Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009.

Well we’re joined from Perth now by our political correspondent, Tom Iggulden.

Tom, what was said by the two leaders at this meeting?

TOM IGGULDEN, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well the short answer, Tony, is we don’t really know that much about what was said. We know the issue was raised. The Prime Minister asked president Rajapaksa for a progress report on how Sri Lanka’s reconciliation commission is dealing with these accusations.

We don’t know what he said in response to that. Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister did highlight that Australia has been a longstanding – had a longstanding communication with Sri Lanka about these issues and has asked the president to look into some of the accusations and evidence that the UN’s put forward.

TONY JONES: Now Tom, the Canadians have said they may boycott the next CHOGM in Sri Lanka if these allegations are not properly dealt with. So, do we know what the – we know what the Prime Minister’s publicly said about this. Do you know whether this was part of their conversation as well?

TOM IGGULDEN: Look, all we have to go on here, Tony, is a statement from the Prime Minister’s office which is pretty broad.

It mentions a number of things that they spoke with including development assistance and some of the forum item agenda – agenda items here, rather, in CHOGM. So we don’t really know whether that was raised directly with president Rajapaksa.

But we do know that Prime Minister Gillard has ruled out it being talked about here in CHOGM. She says it’s not going to be on the agenda, moving the 2013 CHOGM meeting planned for Sri Lanka to another country because of the concerns raised by Canada.

TONY JONES: Tom, what about this Foreign ministers’ forum which seems to have the notion of stepping in to troubled nations?

TOM IGGULDEN: Yeah, look, Kevin Rudd spoke about that a little bit this afternoon. He says – look, there’s been a two-day meeting leading up to CHOGM. This is the second day. He says it’s been edging toward a sort of a – an early intervention-type system for CHOGM member states who appear to be sort of struggling with their democracy.

I think that’s a short-hand way of saying heading towards like a coup or something like that. He wants CHOGM to get in early and start putting pressure on countries that appear to be headed down that road before anything drastic happens like a coup or anything else that threatens democracy.

TONY JONES: And finally Tom, the Queen – sorry, go ahead.

TOM IGGULDEN: Oh, and it appears from what Kevin Rudd said this afternoon that they may actually be getting close to an agreement for something like that to go forward.

TONY JONES: OK. Finally Tom, the Queen has landed in Perth. What’s on her schedule?

TOM IGGULDEN: Well tonight not much. Look, she landed in the airport a couple of hours ago here in Perth. She was greeted by the Defence Minister, the Western Australian Premier and the Western Australian Governor.

She’s spending tonight having a quiet night at Government House. Tomorrow, I guess in keeping with what’s been a pretty low-key schedule for her visit to Australia, she’s going to visit the Clontarf Aboriginal College.

And then on Friday I suppose is the main event in terms of her visit here which will be the official opening of CHOGM. There’ll be a reception for her, a royal reception later on that evening, Tony.

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