Australian War Crimes motion illustrates paradigm shift

Australia is expected to back international calls for a war crimes probe in Sri Lanka after a motion urging national support was passed in parliament on Thursday. The motion, put forward by Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, comes amid a significant paradigm shift in the orientation of Australia’s Tamil Diaspora, many who have looked to the Greens Party, seen as the “3rd force” in a two-party preferred political system. The formation of Australian “Tamils for Greens” (TFG), a largely voting youth initiated advocacy group, illustrates shifting alliances and growing disenchantment towards the Labor and Liberal parties, whom, despite harbouring sympathetic parliamentarians towards the plight of Eezham Tamils, have remained largely nonchalant in their orientation towards the social and political struggle of Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka.

lee-rhiannon The motion, passed through the chamber on the same day Kevin Rudd was ousted from his position of Prime Minister and replaced by deputy Julia Gillard, marks the first expression of concern by the Australian Government towards the conduct of its Sri Lankan counterparts.

“For the large part of the last year and a half, the world, and in particular Australia, as a leader of the Asia Pacific region has watched in silence as many atrocities were blatantly committed against the Tamil people” said Tamils For Greens spokesperson Nathan Sri, citing the current Labor Goverment’s refusal to speak out against the unfolding humanitarian crisis during the latter stages of armed conflict, despite pleas from the wider community.

sarah1_small “In pursuit of economic interests and bi-lateral relations, countries such as Australia are willing to place the essence of human life on the back burner in return for more favourable economic relations. The Australian Labor party decided to take a softly approach to diplomacy at the cost of 40,000 lives, at the cost of continued human rights violations that still happen today” Sri said.

With a federal election fast approaching and amid a spate of inhumane policies announced by the ruling and opposition parties concerning refugees, the continued commitment of various members of the Greens Party in advocating for the rights of Tamils has led to a groundswell towards key Greens figures including party leader Senator Bob Brown and Sarah Hanson-Young, who has been vocal in her outrage over the Australian Government’s decision to reject all claims of asylum by Tamil and Afghan refugees.

“The Federal Government enforced a freeze on processing asylum claims from Sri Lanka, so we have a government that refused to condemn the atrocities, and is now happy to wash its hands of the repercussions for such gross violations” Sri observed.

“The passing of this motion will do much to restore faith in the very system that should be preventing such atrocities to be committed in the first place. But we still have a long way to go”.

Tamil circles and human rights advocates have also been quick to applaud NSW Greens MP Lee Rhiannon, who has been instrumental in raising awareness over the plight of Tamil refugees languishing in several of Australia’s detention facilitates and has forged a close bond with sections of the Tamil community, attending several memorial events and community meetings held in the past year.

Currently vying for a seat in the Federal Senate, Rhiannon’s possible ascension into the highest echelons of Australian politics is being touted as a voice of compassion amid a game of “political football” being played by the Ruling and Opposition parties, using refugees and the issue of border control to generate a wave of xenophobic sentiment in the pursuit of an election victory.

With Federal Elections expected to be held in August or October and amid a tumultuous week in Australian politics, the Government has yet to announce its plan of action regarding the motion.

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