CHOGM presence shows Australia is blind to Sri Lanka’s rights abuses – SMH

Scoffing at Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s comment that Canadian Premier Stephen Harper’s decision to boycott CHOGM was regrettable, Australia’s popular daily, Sydney Morning Herald said, "[w]hat is more regrettable is Australia’s blindness to Sri Lanka’s human rights concerns," adding, "Australia seems to be reluctant to admit human rights violations as a means of deflecting asylum claims of Sri Lankan Tamils coming to Australia by boat." Bishop after a visit to Sri Lanka earlier this year said there wree no rights abuses in Sri Lanka, while UN human rights chief Navi Pillay, in contrast, was damagingly critical of Colombo’s rights record and of Sri Lanka’s movement towards an authoritarian state.

Navi Pillay said on Sri Lanka, ”surveillance and harassment appears to be getting worse in Sri Lanka, which is a country where critical voices are quite often attacked or even permanently silenced … The war may have ended, but in the meantime democracy has been undermined and the rule of law eroded," the Sydney paper said.

"Australia can either choose to look the other way, implicitly endorsing Sri Lankan abuses, or it can use this opportunity to support efforts for accountability and democracy in Sri Lanka. British Prime Minister David Cameron will attend, but his government has said he will deliver a ”tough message”. At a minimum, Abbott and Bishop should do the same," the paper further said.

While Australia supported the UN Human Rights Council resolutions calling on Sri Lanka to take concrete steps towards investigating these allegations of rights violations, Australia stopped short of calling for an international investigation into war crimes should the government fail to make progress.

Sri Lanka’s denial of wartime atrocities has been matched by a deterioration in the human rights situation, SMH article said. "The present government of Mahinda Rajapaksa has taken Sri Lanka in a disturbing authoritarian direction. Top ranks of the government are held by his brothers. The chief justice was impeached after ruling against a bill introduced by one of the president’s brothers. Independent commissions have been rendered toothless. The media and human rights groups have less and less freedom to speak out," the paper wrote.

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