Perth Tamils draw attention of Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister to IDPs plight
[TamilNet, Sunday, 09 November 2008, 21:58 GMT]
More than two hundred Australian Tamils held a vigil in Perth, Western Australia on Friday between 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., in front of the electorate office of Minister for Foreign Affairs Stephen Smith, to create an awareness among the Australian public and inform the Australian government about the plight of the displaced people in Wanni. This is the fourth in a series of protest vigils, being organised by the Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations (AFTA).
Letter from Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith to the Tamil activists
Smith’s office was briefed in advance about the vigil, an AFTA delegation was invited by the Minister’s office at the beginning of the Vigil to have a meeting with the Minister’s Senior Advisor Mr David Hatt. During the meeting the delegation was informed that the Minister was away from the electorate, Minister has been following the situation in the North East very closely, and that the Minister was well aware and concerned on the plight of Tamil displaced.
At the end of this meeting when Mr. Hatt stepped out of the office to meet the Tamils participating in the vigil, he was garlanded and welcomed by the Vice Chair of AFTA. Mr Hatt brought with him a special message from the Minister to the participants of the vigil and read it out.
In return AFTA vice Chair handed in a submission from AFTA to the Minister. In this submission the Australian government was requested to:
- Persuade the Sri Lankan Government to comply with the Geneva Conventions
governing armed conflicts and call for the continued presence of the NGOs in the
conflict zone to provide emergency relief, to offer increased humanitarian
assistance to the needy, and to provide clean water, sanitation, medicine and
shelter to the displaced Tamil people in the North and East.
- Exert diplomatic pressure and economic sanctions on the Sri Lankan Government
to immediately stop human rights violations committed by the Sri Lankan
Government and its armed forces on the Tamil civilians, journalists and
democratically elected Tamil Parliamentarians. This includes stopping the bombing
and shelling of civilian residential areas, places of worships, schools and hospitals
and the killing of journalists and elected parliamentarians and the indiscriminate
killing of civilians.
- Immediately send humanitarian aid, such as food and medicine, to reach the
internally displaced people in the North-East through the International Red Cross.
- Request the Sri Lankan government to stop using the embargo of basic essentials,
such as food and medicine, as a way of punishing civilians in the North. It is
necessary to immediately remove all obstacles to any humanitarian relief provided
to the civilians in the North and East of Sri Lanka, who have been subjected to
severe economic blockade and human rights abuse for a number of years.
- Take necessary diplomatic action to persuade the Sri Lankan State to end its
military approach, go back to the negotiating table to continue with the Norway
initiated peace process and negotiate with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
(LTTE), using the ISGA as a starting point of negotiations, to find a political solution
to the conflict in order to restore normalcy in the Tamil homeland.
- Request the Sri Lankan Government to allow international media personnel to
independently visit the conflict zone in the North and East of Sri Lanka to report the
truth to the outside world.
- Support the call made by Ms. Louise Arbour, the United Nations High
Commissioner for Human Rights, to the Human Rights Council (on 10 December
2007) and request the Sri Lankan Government to allow an independent United Nations Human Rights Commission to operate in Sri Lanka.
- Appoint an all-party Australian parliamentarians/senators for Tamils, similar to the
British All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Tamils, to discuss the Sri Lankan
ethnic problem and provide suggestions to the Australian Government to revise
policies towards Sri Lanka.
- Invite a delegation from the democratically elected Tamil parliamentarians from the
Tamil National Alliance (TNA) to discuss with the Australian government the
- The Tamil people have the right to live in peace and dignity after more than 60
years of discrimination and human rights abuses by successive Sri Lankan
governments. We request the Australian Government to recognise the Tamils’ right
to self-determination, so that they can live in peace with dignity.