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Will the Australian Government finally raise its voice for the Tamil people?

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Lee Rhiannon 27 May 2011

Standing among the 1000 plus Australian Tamils at Martin Place last week (18th May) to remember the Tamils massacred in the 2009 war in Sri Lanka, it was very obvious that the trauma for the community is still so deeply devastating. 

What has become clear to me is that the Australian Government's silence during and since the 2009 war adds to the pain the community is enduring. 

My Greens colleague in NSW Parliament David Shoebridge in an adjournment speech last night addressed this point. While the UK, US and European countries are taking a stand against the human rights abuses committed under the Rajapakse Government, the Australian Government's concern regarding Sri Lanka is minimal. 

It was encouraging to see that at the recent forum organised by the The Australian Human Rights Commission the issue of Australia's voice on Sri Lanka's war crimes was discussed. 

The question submitted by Dr Sam Pari from the Australian Tamil Congress was: "With war crimes and human rights violations forcing thousands of Tamils to jump on boats and come to Australia seeking asylum, should Australia be more vocal on the issue of war crimes?". 

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay responded saying: "In this region Australia has a crucial responsibility to urge respect for rule of law and urge a end to impunity for serious crimes. Australia has ratified the Rome Statute which set up the ICC and in the preamble to the Rome Statute is that there has to be a determination to end impunity for serious crimes. So on one level you have countries like Australia ratifying and committing to ending impunity. There is a responsibility then for it to speak up and call for accountability in this region."

As my colleague David Shoebridge said: 

"A generation of Tamils have been killed, brutalised and marginalised right under the gaze of the world, including Australia, and those who have been left behind are subject to a brutal military rule ... I hope that soon the survivors are respected and remembered by the Australian Government as it belatedly raises its voice for justice for the Tamil people".

When I enter Federal Parliament on July 1 I will continue advocating for the equal rights of the Tamils and all those living in Sri Lanka. The Greens have a deep commitment to speak up for those who suffer the injustice of discrimination, marginalisation and state sponsored terror. 

Photo - Lee addressing the Australian Tamil community at Martin Place on May 19th 2011Upto 40 000 Tamils were massacred in the 5 month war and another 300 000 Tamils imprisoned in Sri Lankan Government run camps in the aftermath, some for more than a year. 


Photo - More than 1000 Australian Tamil community members gathered to remember their loved ones who had perished during the Sri Lankan Government's offensive in 2009. 

Recommended Links:

Press Release - Sri Lanka envoy wrong man for the job: Bandt

Report of the Secretary-General's Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice

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