Political complacency will hasten plunge into autocracy: Australian media

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 17 February 2010, 01:58 GMT]
Australia’s nonchalant approach to Sri Lanka’s rapid decline into a full-blown autocracy would be a betrayal of the inhabitants of the land “should Australia be seen to abandon support for democracy in order to preserve relations with an increasingly authoritarian ruler” warned The Age in an editorial on Friday. Citing the alleged slaughter of thousands of Tamil civilians, the abduction of journalists and the recent arrest of presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka, all under the gaze of the current administration, the paper urged the Rudd Government to take a pro-active stance as it has done to sanction other pacific nations that have defied the frameworks of democracy or risk failing its vested responsibilities as a regional power.

Describing the arrest of Sarath Fonseka by Sri Lankan president Rajapakse as an act of “authoritarianism”, the conflict between the two men, both “undeterred by allegations of human rights abuses in the final days of the conflict” has illustrated a willingness to by the current Government to “crush any future opposition” and move closer from the frameworks of democracy to a violent and dangerous dictatorship, one that Australia must pay attention to.

“The war and instability in Sri Lanka affect all the countries of South Asia - and by extension, Australia, as an Indian Ocean power. If the Rudd government genuinely seeks a reputation for an ’activist' foreign policy, Australia should take a stand against Sri Lanka's slide from democracy” the editorial warned.

Attempts by the Australian Government to curb the steady influx of Tamil refugees seeking asylum in Australia has seen close co-operation between the two Governments in recent months, building upon an important trade and foreign relationship that has often taken ascendency over humanitarian issues, visible during the latter stages of the armed conflict when Prime Minister Rudd refused to comment on the unfolding humanitarian disaster in the North East despite continued pressure from activists.

“Australia has so far merely said it was watching developments closely. This passive attitude could be easily confused with a willingness to pander to Colombo out of fear that any criticism could jeopardise Sri Lankan co-operation with Australia on immigration matters. It would be a greater betrayal of the Sri Lankan people should Australia be seen to abandon support for democracy in order to preserve relations with an increasingly authoritarian ruler”.

“For a different island nation in the Pacific, Australia did take a strong stand. After Fiji broke from democracy, Australia was at the spearhead of moves to suspend the country from the Commonwealth. Sri Lanka is also a member of the Commonwealth, and should be put on notice that it risks a similar penalty” the editorial urged.

 

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