On the day of a significant international conference exploring issues of human rights and accountability in Sri Lanka, Greens Senator for NSW Lee Rhiannon says the selection committee deciding on the host for the 2018 Commonwealth Games should think carefully about choosing Sri Lanka’s Hambantota, which is competing against the Gold Coast.
“Events such as CHOGM and selection of a host of the Commonwealth Games are powerful levers that can be used by world leaders to achieve human rights and justice for the people of Commonwealth countries,” Senator Rhiannon said.
“The growing calls within Australia and internationally for an independent war crimes investigation into the atrocities committed by both the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE during the last years of the country’s civil war cast a dark shadow over Sri Lanka’s bid.
“With CHOGM in Perth next week, pressure is now on the Australian government to join the international community and demand the Government of Sri Lanka agrees to an independent war crimes investigation.
“Unlike the Canadian and British Prime Minister, Julia Gillard is yet to show leadership on the allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity that took place in our region.
“The allegations of war crimes made against the Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Australia, Thisara Samarasinghe also needs to be addressed.
“The Greens are calling for Sri Lanka to be suspended from the Councils of the Commonwealth until the Government of Sri Lanka agrees to an independent war crimes tribunal.
“I am still waiting to hear back from the head of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s department of whether the Department briefed the Prime Minister about allegations surrounding the High Commissioner concerning his naval career that existed before his appointment to the position was made, following my questioning of the Department during Senate estimates earlier this week,” Senator Rhiannon said.
Members of Parliament from Commonwealth nations including Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Africa, representatives from international human rights organisations, journalists and academics will be attending today’s international conference ‘Accountability in Sri Lanka’.
Full Hansard of the exchange between Senator Rhiannon and Dr Margot McCarthy from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet below.
Hansard Senate Estimates, 17 October 2011
Senator RHIANNON: I would like to now move to the current situation. There was a report on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald today with regard to the current Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Australia. These allegations are now the subject of a submission from the International Commission of Jurists—Australian Section, and of the Federal Police. Those allegations had been made prior to the appointment. So I wish to understand what attention the department gave to this matter, considering it has been in the public domain for a long period, and what advice was provided to the Prime Minister.
Dr McCarthy: I can say that advice on that matter was provided, but we obviously do not go into the question of the advice that was provided.
Senator RHIANNON: So the advice was provided prior to the current Sri Lankan High Commissioner taking up the post?
Dr McCarthy: I do not have the detail with me.
Senator RHIANNON: That is what I understood your response indicated, but I just want to confirm that my understanding was correct.
Dr McCarthy: Advice has been provided on that matter.
Senator RHIANNON: I just want to get the time right. That was prior to the acceptance of the current Sri Lankan high commissioner in that role?
Dr McCarthy: I will take on notice questions about timing.