Sri Lanka’s war-crimes culpability raised in Australian Parliament
Lee Rhiannon, a Greens Party Senator from New South Wales, during a debate in the Australian parliament following her return from Sri Lanka on the eve of the Commonwealth meeting [CHOGM], said that the situation in the NorthEast under Mahinda Rajapakse regime is dire, that the Sri Lanka army’s involvement in civilian life is pervasive and Australia is turning a blind eye to credible allegations of continuing torture, rape and crimes against humanity reported by respected Rights groups and by several video documentaries from Channel-4. Rhiannon pointed out the increasingly voiced broad consensus from several countries for an international investigations into the war-crimes by the Rajapakse regime, and praised the CHOGM boycott of several Prime Ministers in spotlighting the Sri Lanka’s continuing dismal rights record and lack of accountabililty for war-crimes.
Rhiannon described the boycott of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Mauritius Prime Minister, Dr Navinchandra Ramgoolam, and also Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, were brave acts that have exposed the inevitability of Sri Lanka having to account for the committed crimes during the war.
Rhiannon said she visited Sri Lanka as she wanted "to be the voice the Australian government has refused to be to help amplify the voice that speaks of the horrendous human rights abuses that the Sri Lankan government is involved in—the voice that is part of a growing international call for an independent investigation into the war crimes committed during the brutal civil war in which more than 40,000 Tamils were killed in just five months in 2009.
"I have campaigned on these issues for many years now, but seeing them firsthand elevated my concerns about the worrying situation so many people live in in that country, particularly the women. I traveled widely and met a range of people, particularly members of parliament, members of provincial councils, religious leaders and community leaders. I am not giving the names of all these people, because after I was detained I became more concerned about people’s safety, even though many of the people said they were happy for me to use their names, Rhiannon said.
She added a Catholic father who has documented the details of more than 2000 people disappeared after being arrested alive had told her that crimes that have been committed and those that continue to be perpetrated amount to genocide against the Tamils.
The Senator said that she is astonished that Australia continues to defend the Sri Lankan government’s line that there are no human rights and legal rights abuses taking place in Sri Lanka.
She added that the relationship between Australia and Sri Lanka is unhealthy, and added that there is perception that there might be a deal between the two governments where the Australian government does not criticize the Sri Lankan human rights record, and in return Australian officials like those in the Australian Federal Police and ASIO work out of the high commission assisting the Sri Lankan government to stop the boats.
In a recent trip to Sri Lanka, Rhiannon and New Zealand MP, Jan Logie, were detained in Sri Lanka, interrogated, and released on condition that they do not talk to journalists.