Shock as Aust PM continues to cover for Sri Lanka

May 9, 2011 Comments Off on Shock as Aust PM continues to cover for Sri Lanka

The Age – Tamil anger at new envoy

 

Australian Tamil Congress – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE on 9 May 2011 – www.australiantamilcongress.com

Tamils Hurt by Appointment of Alleged War Criminal as Diplomat,

Shocked at Government’s Continuing Silence on Sri Lankan War Crimes

 

The Australian Tamil community is shocked to hear that the appointment of an alleged war criminal as Sri Lanka’s high commissioner has been approved by the Australian government.

Admiral Samarasinghe was a former Sri Lankan Navy commander. A report released a fortnight ago by a UN Expert Advisory Panel found allegations of war crimes in Sri Lanka to be credible, and called for an independent international investigation into war crimes in the island. Sri Lanka however has vehemently opposed such an investigation. A fortnight later, Australia is yet to comment on the report.

The UN Expert Advisory Panel report outlines several war crimes, one of which includes the deliberate shelling near ICRC ships that were attempting to rescue injured civilians.

Despite their counterparts in other western nations welcoming the findings of the report and backing the Panel’s recommendations, to date neither Prime Minister Julia Gillard nor Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd have commented on the report.

“We are hurt and disappointed at Australia’s position on the issue of war crimes in Sri Lanka,” says Dr Sam Pari, spokesperson for the Australian Tamil Congress. “Sri Lanka’s human rights abuses are resulting in a humanitarian crisis at our doorstep with thousands of refugees arriving on our shores. If the US, UK and other western nations can comment on the Panel’s report, then why after a fortnight is our government silent when this issue affects us the most?” she asks.

Since the war ended in May 2009, Admiral Samarsinghe is the third former military officer to be posted overseas on a diplomatic mission.

Media contact:

Dr. Sam Pari, Australian Tamil Congress – 0433 428 967

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ATC – Aust should call for war crimes investigation in SL

April 26, 2011 Comments Off on ATC – Aust should call for war crimes investigation in SL

ATC –  Australian Tamils Urge PM to Call for Independent International Inquiry into War Crimes in Sri Lanka

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE on 26 April 2011 – www.australiantamilcongress.com

The Australian Tamil Congress is calling on the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard to openly call for an independent international investigation into war crimes in Sri Lanka, after a report on the issue submitted to the United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki Moon by a UN Expert Advisory Panel was officially released today.

The Expert Panel found allegations of war crimes in Sri Lanka to be credible and admits that the UN had failed to act to protect Tamil civilians despite having knowledge of the high civilian casualty rate. The panel also recommended an international independent inquiry into war crimes in Sri Lanka, stating Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse’s own internal inquiry, the ‘Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’, was “deeply flawed” and failed to “satisfy key international standards”.

Sri Lanka was quick to denounce the findings of the report with President openly calling for mass protests against the UN. Since the panel’s establishment in 2010, Sri Lanka has repeatedly refused visas to the Expert Panel, blocking their visit to the island and has to date been defiant against any international independent inquiry into war crimes in the island.

“The international community, including Australia, failed to protect Tamil civilians who were victims of war crimes,” said Dr Sam Pari, spokesperson for the Australian Tamil Congress. “It is now time for Australia to step away from the soft diplomacy it practices with Sri Lanka and openly call for an international independent inquiry into war crimes that were committed in the island, with trade sanctions and travel bans for government officials being imposed if Sri Lanka fails to follow,” she added.

Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapakse will be visiting Perth later this year to participate in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

Media contact: Dr. Sam Pari, Australian Tamil Congress – 0433 428 967


ATC in the media

January 25, 2011 Comments Off on ATC in the media

ABC Radio Asia Pacific Program – Abuse concerns over Sri Lanka envoy nominee

There is pressure on Australia to reject Sri Lanka’s nominee for its top diplomatic post in Australia because the candidate could be implicated in war crimes during the 2009 offensive that ended the war with Tamil separatists. Neither Sri Lanka’s high commission in Canberra nor the Australian government will discuss the issue. But Sri Lankan news reports say the nominee is the former head of Sri Lanka’s navy, Thisara Samarasinghe. Observers are concerned – this comes at the same time as Sri Lanka’s government has cut off direct talks with a United Nations panel on accountability for war crimes on both sides.

Presenter: Linda Mottram, Canberra correspondent
Speakers: Sam Pari, spokeswoman, Australian Tamil Congress; John Dowd QC, president, International Commission of Jurists (Australia); Bruce Haig, former Australian diplomat


Click here to read transcript from source
Click here to listen to audio from source

Australia Network News  – Envoy anger

ABC Radio Australia News – Sri Lankan admiral in Australian storm

ABC News – Tamils urge Australia to reject diplomatic nominee

The Age – Concern over Sri Lankan envoy

AAP – Tamils urge govt to reject Sri Lanka envoy

Canberra Times – War crimes cloud over envoy choice

Will Aust give diplomatic immunity to an alleged war criminal?

January 25, 2011 Comments Off on Will Aust give diplomatic immunity to an alleged war criminal?

The Age – Concern over Sri Lankan envoy

AUSTRALIA is under pressure to reject Sri Lanka’s choice of a senior military commander as its next top envoy in Canberra over a war crimes controversy dating from Sri Lanka’s grisly civil war with Tamil separatists.

Former Sri Lankan navy chief Thisara Samarasinghe has reportedly been nominated to fill the vacant position of high commissioner to Australia.

But The Age understands the Foreign Affairs Department – which must decide if it will accept the nomination – sees the appointment as ”problematic” for Australia amid calls for a United Nations investigation into human rights violations in Sri Lanka.

No specific allegation of war crimes arising from the conflict have been made against Vice-Admiral Samarasinghe, who took over as chief of the Sri Lankan Navy in July 2009 after the end of the civil war.

But Tamil community leaders in Australia have demanded that Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd reject the nomination in protest at Sri Lanka’s refusal to allow an international war crimes tribunal.

Plans to send another senior military commander as Sri Lanka’s envoy to Britain were reportedly scotched by Colombo after protests in London.

”It clearly shows that Sri Lanka is slowly becoming a military state,” said Sam Pari of the Australian Tamil Congress. ”Their diplomatic posts are being taken over by military or former military personnel and I think that’s a very, very worrying sign.”

The Foreign Affairs department and the Sri Lankan High Commission in Canberra both declined to discuss the nomination.

The bitter 26-year conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam – who demanded a homeland for Sri Lanka’s Tamil ethnic minority – ended in May 2009 after government troops finally crushed the insurgents.

Thousands of civilians were trapped inside a military cordon in the island nation’s north-east in the closing phase of the conflict as government troops hemmed in remnants of the militants and pounded the area with heavy artillery, mortars and combat aircraft.

Aid groups complained that Sri Lankan forces deliberately targeted civilians during the fighting, especially in the province of Mullaitivu, while the government accused the Tamil Tigers of imprisoning locals for use as human shields.

UN estimates at the time put the civilian death toll at more than 6500 in the four months before Mullaitivu was finally overrun. About 300,000 Tamils were forced to flee the violence to emergency camps.

The fighting sparked the 2009 exodus of asylum seekers from Sri Lanka, many of them later attempting to reach Australia by boat from Indonesia.

Admiral Samarasinghe commanded operations in the country’s eastern and northern waters during the final three years of the fighting. Earlier, he was a base commander on the Jaffna peninsula, a one-time Tiger stronghold.

He retired from the navy 10 days ago and Sri Lankan media report he is expected to be Colombo’s next representative in Canberra, following the departure of the previous high commissioner in December.

But former NSW Attorney-General and Supreme Court justice John Dowd – who is collecting evidence for the International Commission of Jurists to present to an eventual war crimes tribunal in Sri Lanka – said the nomination raised concerns.

”The nature of a war crime, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the person who fires the shot or gives the order,” he said. ”The person in charge can be responsible for a war crime and commit a war crime by not stopping it.

”It’s very difficult to see how anyone in a senior command position – army, navy or air force – is not going to have a likelihood of allegations of war crimes, and indeed evidence of war crimes.”

Mr Dowd said he had recorded stories of shelling of civilians from naval vessels offshore during the war in Sri Lanka.

It is not the first time a proposed appointment of an ex-military figure has complicated Australia’s ties with Sri Lanka. Retired general Janaka Perera’s posting to Australia in 2001 sparked local community protests but he remained as high commissioner until 2005.

Australia’s relations with Indonesia were also poisoned in 1995 after Canberra was forced to reject the nomination of a former Indonesian general, Herman Mantiri, who had earlier excused a military crackdown in occupied East Timor.

Diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks in recent weeks show the US believes a war crimes tribunal in Sri Lanka will not occur as President Mahinda Rajapaksa bears much of the responsibility for the abuses.

The civil war in Sri Lanka is thought to have cost up to 100,000 lives.

ATC hosts fundraiser for QLD flood victims

January 20, 2011 Comments Off on ATC hosts fundraiser for QLD flood victims

This email was sent to us by the Australian Tamil Congress

______________________

Dear valued member,

As a community devastated by tsunami and civil conflicts, the Australian Tamil community can relate to the pain and suffering endured by our fellow Australians. It is our duty to help these people in whatever way we are able to.

Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) NSW Chapter is hosting a lunch to raise funds for the Queensland Premier’s Disaster Relief Appeal.

We would like to invite you and your friends to come down and enjoy the spicy taste of our traditional Tamil rice and curries.

All proceeds will be donated to Premier’s Disaster Relief.

Date: Saturday,  22nd January 2011
Venue: Church Street Mall, Parramatta
Time : 11am onwards

ATC is an authorised promoter of Premier’s Disaster Relief Appeal.

Kind regards
NSW Team
Australian Tamil Congress

ATC in the media – Tamil voices heard

July 16, 2010 Comments Off on ATC in the media – Tamil voices heard

In contrast to their initial article, The Australian has published a second article that has incorporated the opinions of Tamil community representatives and non-Tamil independent experts to give the Australian public a much more balanced approach to the topic. We thank The Australian for listening to the views expressed by many who were concerned with the approach The Australian had initially taken on this issue.

The Australian – Tamil Tigers at the front door

SRI Lankan asylum-seekers with links to Tamil terrorists pose a dilemma for Canberra.

IN October last year a Sri Lankan mother packed up her two small children and a few belongings, paid her savings to a people-smuggler and boarded an unseaworthy boat in Indonesia, bound for Australia.

Shayana (not her real name) hoped it would be the final leg of her family’s long journey to escape the bloodshed and tumult still wracking their homeland after 26 years of civil war.

But it was not to be. More

The Australian – Tamil Tiger is extinct, and regime knows it

LEADERS slander Tamil refugees because they don’t want them to reach our shores, says Gordon Weiss.

SRI Lankan government warnings that half the Tamils seeking asylum in Australia have links to terrorists are dangerous, mendacious and self-serving. More

ATC in the media – Counteraction to SL gov smear campaign

July 15, 2010 Comments Off on ATC in the media – Counteraction to SL gov smear campaign

We urge you to write a few words to the editor in support of the balanced journalism in this article, which includes comments from independent experts as well as community groups. Please email: letters@theage.com.au

The Age – Most Tamils real refugees, say experts

THE majority of Tamil asylum seekers are genuine refugees and claims they are radicals and terrorist sympathisers are a fiction being pushed by the Sri Lankan government, experts say.

The response comes after claims were aired that as many as half of the more than 1000 Tamil asylum seekers who have arrived in Australia since 2008 are either former Tamil Tigers or their supporters.

Terrorism expert at the Australian National University, Clive Williams, said most Tamils would, as a necessity, have contact with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), given the group ruled a large swath of northern Sri Lanka, but that did not make them potential terrorists.

”It’s one thing to be actually engaged in actually killing people and quite another to be simply living in the same area or maybe donating a bit of money because you’re pressured to do so,” Professor Williams said.

”If somebody had blood on their hands, then clearly I have reservations about them coming to Australia, but the chances are that about 99 per cent of the [Tamils] coming here don’t have any association like that.”

The claims that between 25 and 50 per cent of Tamil asylum seekers were either terrorists or terrorist sympathisers were made by a postgraduate university student and defence analyst, Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe, in yesterday’s Australian.

”You’ve got people here who’ve essentially been radicalised, who’ve fought and (may have) committed acts of terrorism, and they’ve come here without any sense of being rehabilitated,” he said.

A representative of the Australian Tamil association, Dr Sam Pari, said Mr DeSilva-Ranasinghe’s comments were part of a ”smear campaign”.

”The Sri Lankan government, now facing a potential war crimes investigation, has systemically sought to label Tamils as Tigers or potential terrorists in order to justify their collective punishment,” she said.

Sources within the intelligence and law enforcement community also said Sri Lankans did not rank highly – in fact barely ranked at all – on the list of groups that posed a threat.

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