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Former DFAT official in report which furthers case for Sri Lanka's war crimes

Media Release
Lee Rhiannon 19 May 2014

19 May 2014

Former DFAT official in report which furthers case for Sri Lanka's war crimes

The Australian Greens are calling on Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to reveal Australia's relationship with former Sri Lankan Foreign Minister and Australian dual citizen Palitha Kohona in light of a new report on the final days of the White Flag massacre.

Human rights lawyer Yasmin Sooka, a member of the Sri Lanka panel of experts appointed by the UN Secretary General, has documented the final days of the ‘the White Flag incident' in which senior members of the Tamil Tigers were massacred after a negotiated surrender

Included in the Sri Lankan Government's negotiating party is former Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Dr Palitha Kohona, who held dual Sri Lankan-Australian citizenship during the war and is also a former Australian diplomat.

"This harrowing ‘White-Flag' report throws further light on the war-crimes of the Government of Sri Lanka, which Australia continues to be silent on", Senator Rhiannon said.

"The failure of successive Coalition and Labor governments to publicly condemn these war crimes has been linked to Australia's desire to retain the Sri Lankan government's cooperation to stop refugees who are fleeing ongoing persecution.

"Once again the role of former senior DFAT official Palitha Kohona who is now the Permanent Representative to the UN mission has been called into question with details of the texts he sent regarding a negotiated surrender of Tamil Tiger officials.

Mobile phone texts from Mr Kohona on 17 May 2009:
0846: "Just walk across to the troops, slowly! And comply with instructions carefully. The soldiers are nervous about suicide bombers."
1529: "white flag, hands up, walk slowly".

"Foreign Minister Julie Bishop should come clean about Australia's relationship with current and former Sri Lankan officials who are implicated in war crimes.

"We know there is a close working relationship between Australia and Sri Lanka. A number of Tamils have been tortured in Sri Lanka upon their deportation from Australia. This is unacceptable and shameful.

"France, Germany, Britain, US and Canada are pursuing accountability through a war crimes investigation.

"Meanwhile Labor and Coalition leaders are building a legacy of complicity with the Sri Lankan government over their abuses," Senator Rhiannon said.

For more details on Mr Kohona see:

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