Paper blasts Australia’s Sri Lanka asylum policy

"The British court gets it; Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper gets it; Amnesty International and the Australian Greens get it. But it seems the major political parties in Australia won’t allow themselves to accept that human rights abuse in Sri Lanka should significantly influence asylum seeker policy here," said an opinion piece in the Age, commenting on the return of Australia’s Immigration Minister, Brendon O’Connor from a visit to Sri Lanka as part of ‘Gillard government’s commitment to deepening Australia’s relationship with Sri Lanka.”

PDF: Amnesty: Sri Lanka’s Assault on Dissent

Referring to Amnesty International’s recent report on the human rights abuses inflicted by the Rajapakse regime on its citizens, the article said, "since taking office in 2005, the Rajapaksa government has tightened its grip on power by targeting people in civil society at all levels who the regime believes can influence certain communities or hold sway with particular institutions," and added that "the end of the war in 2009 has not resulted in the end of conflict, and ordinary Tamils are being horrifically persecuted by victorious government forces."

The paper quoted Amnesty report which said, "Sri Lankan officials and those working at their behest assault, jail, abduct and even kill those who challenge their authority.

Criticizing Foreign Minister Carr for defending Sri Lanka, the paper said that the reason Australia’s reluctance to highlight Sri Lanka’s rights violations is because "the government could hardly justify sending asylum seekers back there if it did."

On Australian Government and oppositions policy of Sri Lanka, the Age pointed out that "Carr has taken to defending Sri Lanka and even belittling Canada’s bold stand. The Coalition has done the same, with shadow ministers publicly pretending that things have markedly improved. It’s simple – both the Australian government and the Opposition have made political decisions to send asylum seekers back to Sri Lanka. To criticize that country’s human rights record would only highlight the flaws in both sides’ policies," the Age article said.

Carr came under more direct criticism for "foolishly" raising the idea of sanctions against Papua New Guinea over the simple timing of an election last year. "It would not be foolish this year, however, for him [Carr] to consider expressing a little more outrage than he has over continuing human rights violations by a nation destined to chair the Commonwealth," the paper said.

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