Feature Article

Prime Minister criticized in New Zealand’s parliament over Tamil refugees

[TamilNet, Saturday, 16 July 2011, 08:38 GMT]
Green Party MP, Keith Locke was furious at New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key in the parliament on Thursday, over the latter’s recent remarks on Eezham Tamil boat refugees. On the question of the 87 asylum seekers, the New Zealand Prime Minister on Monday had said, "Our very simple message to them is they are not welcome here." Citing the PM’s statement, Keith Locke said, “Good-hearted New Zealanders were shocked when their Prime Minister so bluntly rejected the appeals of Tamil boat people who had arrived in Indonesia on the Elysia to come to New Zealand.” Locke pointed out that John Key's own mother was an asylum seeker, who fled from Nazi Germany to Britain in 1939.

Keith Locke
Keith Locke
Locke said that the NZ Prime Minister’s attack on the boat people as “queue jumpers” was adding insult to injury. “This was odd, because John Key's own mother was an asylum seeker, who fled from Nazi Germany to Britain in 1939. For Jewish refugees like her, there was no queue to join. They simply took their chances and fled, often crossing borders illegally and without passports, to seek refuge in places like Britain,” Locke said in the parliament.

“There is room in our country for more Sri Lankan asylum seekers. In the last 3 years we have not even filled our 750 annual refugee quota. We took in 700 in 2008-09, 709 in 2009-10, and 527 in 2010-11. Why not do it? We can arrange it through the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,” Keith Locke said.

“John Key—and he may not be conscious of this—is in effect playing up to a redneck gallery of xenophobes who see refugees and sometimes all people of other cultures as a threat to our society. The truth is the opposite: refugees starting a new life in New Zealand are highly motivated to achieve and to have their kids achieve. The Sri Lankan Tamil community, which has a significant portion of refugees, is one of the highest-achieving communities in New Zealand,” the Green Party MP pointed out.

Meanwhile, writing an editorial last week, New Zealand Herald, said, “Boat-people not yet a threat to NZ.” The media cautioned the NZ Prime Minister not to couple the policies of NZ with that of Australia, which has recently proposed to open a refugee-processing centre at East Timor, even without consulting the East Timorese.

Another NZ media, Stuff, on Tuesday cited Amnesty International’s New Zealand chief executive Patrick Holmes saying that Key was talking "nonsense" and was just "scaremongering".

Twenty-four year old Abdul Zullal of Auckland, who was one of the 433 Afghan asylum seekers rescued from the sinking fishing boat “Tampa” in which they had arrived 10 years ago, told Stuff on Tuesday that the country should be careful about condemning a group of Sri Lankans apparently trying to head here from Indonesia in a boat.

Discrediting even the belated media exposures on Sri Lanka’s genocide, Colombo’s officials say in recent days that documentaries such as the Channel 4’s “Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields” are just products of the asylum seekers.

Tamil groups in New Zealand say that agents of Sri Lanka misdirect the NZ Prime Minister.

In a press release on Friday, Mr. A. Mahasivam, President of the New Zealand Tamil Forum, Dr. Siva Vasanthan, President of New Zealand Tamil Society and Mr A Theva Rajan, President of the New Zealand Tamil Senior Citizens Association have said that the Prime Minister was probably misdirected by poor advice and/ or hostile propaganda let loose globally by the agents of the Government of Sri Lanka specially planted in all countries.

While there is so much coverage on events in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria etc., it is a pity that there has been negligible scan or no coverage of the war crimes of Sri Lanka in this country. It is therefore no surprise that the public reaction to this news about the boat refugees is not sympathetic here, the NZ Tamil organisations said.

Tamils in the island are currently under the military dictatorship of Sri Lanka in which even canvassing for civic elections is not possible for them, the Tamil organizations pointed out.

Eezham Tamil political circles in the island and in the diaspora accuse the International Community for the situation.

No one of us is happy about the exodus of Eezham Tamils. There would have been a reverse trend resulting in the influx of the diaspora into the island had the IC dealt with the national question in the island as a national question. But the establishments of the world abetted a genocidal war and even after more than two years of the war they have not made any effort to resolve the national question, allowing Eezham Tamils to lead a life of self-respect. Instead, they continue to leave them subjugated in the hands of an occupying regime that has further genocidal intentions, Eezham Tamil political circles said.


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