Tamils say Sri Lanka's new envoy to Australia, a war-criminal
[TamilNet, Friday, 25 February 2011, 00:49 GMT]
Australian Tamils held a protest rally in front of the Parliament House, Canberra, Thursday urging the Australian Government to reject the nomination of retired Sri Lankan Navy Commander Admiral Thisara S.G. Samarasinghe as the new High Commissioner to Australia. The rally was jointly organised by two of the member organisations of Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations (AFTA), the Eelam Thamizh Association of Sydney and the Canberra Tamil Association. The protesters also demanded independent international investigations into war crimes committed in Sri Lanka during the last phases of war, and particularly the crimes of Dr Palitha Kohona, an Australian citizen and a current Sri Lanka diplomat at the UN.
Amanda Bresnan MLA of the ACT Greens
Dr Rajakulendran, Michelle Rowland, Laurie Ferguson, John Murphy, and Prof. Selvanathan
Adm. Samarasinghe was the former Commander of the Sri Lankan Navy (SLN) from July 2009 to January 2011, and led the Sri Lanka Navy during the last phases of the war, duirng which, the Sri Lanka military is accused of slaughtering more than 40,000 unarmed Tamil civilians.
SLN was accused of shelling the no fire zone from the sea, and of preventing ships conducting humanitarian operations to dock near the beach where more than 350,000 Tamils were packed within a demarcated safe zone.
Placards carried by protesters had slogans including, “If Minister Evans rejected General Mantiri Minister Rudd can reject Admiral Samarasinghe too”, “No Sri Lankan war criminal as diplomat in Canberra” and “Palitha Kohona a War Criminal?"
Indonesian General Herman Mantiri, was first accepted by Australia as Jakarta’s High Commissioner, but later under pressure from human rights activists for his involvement in Dilli massacre in East Timor, he was recalled by Jakarta.
Three popular government MPs came out to the lawns together and gave enough hope to the protestors by explaining their government stand on these issues.
John Murphy, labour MP for the electorate of Reid said that he was well aware that the Tamils were not well treated by the successive Sri Lankan governments and will continue to support the Tamils in finding a lasting peace in Sri Lanka with dignity.
Murphy also revealed that Laurie Ferguson MP will be submitting a private members bill on Monday the 28th of February to initiate a debate in parliament and that Murray will be supporting the motion.
Laurie Ferguson said the regime in Sri Lanka brutal, and he will support an Independent International Investigation. He added that he does not trust the Lesson Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) and that LLRC does not have the mandate to look into war crimes. He also said that if this Admiral is found to be involved in war crimes he will oppose the Admiral's appointment.
Michelle Rowland, MP for the electorate of Greenway in her speech stated that her electorate has the largest Tamil population in Australia and she will support all the efforts her Tamil constituents put to help their kith and kin they have left behind in Sri Lanka. She also said that she will support Laurie Ferguson during his submission of the Private Member’s Bill in parliament next week.
Amanda Bresnan MLA of the ACT Greens, Member for Brindabella, said that it is high time the Australian government did something about the war crimes alleged to have been committed during the last phase of the war and called upon everyone to demand this from Julia Gillard government.