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Australian Government plays double game

May 13, 2009

While Foreign Minister Stephen Smith’s comments in Federal Parliament on 13 May 2009 showed some change in the Rudd government’s choice to keep silent on the bloodbath of Tamils in Sri Lanka, it was revealed today that a motion was passed in the Senate by Senator Bob Brown (Member of Greens Party) with the support of the Liberal Party while the Rudd Government opposed it!!!

Yesterday, Mr Smith had said, “Australia supports the call by the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, for a humanitarian pause in fighting.”
Read full transcript of Mr Stephen Smith’s speech in Federal Parliament here.
Read full transcript of Deputy Leader of the Opposition Ms Julie Bishop’s speech.

But the Labor Government opposed the below statement moved by Senator Bob Brown on 12 May 2009 and passed in Federal Parliament on 13 May 2009:
Regarding the massacre of civilians, including hundreds of children, in the Tamil homelands of northern Sri Lanka, the Senate calls on the government to take decisive action commensurate with the need to immediately halt the unnecessary bloodshed.

Now why would the Rudd Government be playing such games??!! Decipher this for us!! Your comments are most welcome!

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. fastuntoactionaust permalink
    May 13, 2009 5:31 pm

    House of Representatives, Canberra
    Humanitarian Crisis in Sri Lanka
    12 May 2009

    Madam Deputy Speaker, I wish to update the House about the grave humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka.

    As members would recall, I delivered a Ministerial Statement on Sri Lanka on 5 February.

    At that time, I said that the long-term security and prosperity of Sri Lanka would only be achieved through a political solution or settlement that met the legitimate aspirations of all Sri Lankans.

    For Sri Lanka to achieve a lasting settlement and an enduring peace, political reform and rapprochement between all parties and communities is clearly required.

    That remains Australia’s view and the basis of Australia’s policy on Sri Lanka.

    It is a view I have continued to relay to the Sri Lankan Government, including when I spoke to Sri Lankan Foreign Minister, Rohitha Bogollagama, on 30 April.

    I also relayed to him our profound concern at the worsening humanitarian situation in the north of Sri Lanka.

    The safety and protection of civilians must be the absolute priority for all sides fighting in northern Sri Lanka.

    Tragically, many civilians have been killed and further loss of life is inevitable unless both sides cease hostilities to allow civilians to leave the conflict zone.

    It is essential that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) allow civilians to leave the conflict zone.

    Madam Deputy Speaker, there can be no doubt that the military advance of the Sri Lankan Government has been rapid.

    Having at one stage reportedly controlled about a third of Sri Lanka’s territory, the LTTE leadership is now confined to a small strip of land, less than five square kilometres.

    It is clear that a military victory by the Sri Lankan Government is imminent, irrevocably changing the situation on the ground after decades of conflict.

    All of us in the House and in the Australian community must now recognise the qualitatively changed situation in Sri Lanka.

    Recognising these new circumstances and motivated by our concern for the safety and welfare of civilians, Australia supports the call by the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, for a humanitarian pause in fighting.

    In my 30 April conversation with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Bogollagama, I welcomed the Sri Lanka Government’s announcement that combat operations using heavy calibre weapons, aerial weapons and combat aircraft, which could cause civilian casualties, would cease.

    Noting that then, as now, there were reports of such operations continuing, I told him that it was vital that these commitments were implemented in full.

    Mr Bogollagama re-assured me this commitment was being met.

    I note with deep concern, however, that fighting is continuing in this area and I am aware of reports over the weekend of many civilian deaths as a result of shelling within the conflict zone.

    Further offensive action will inevitably cause further civilian suffering.

    As the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes, has said, there are now ‘twin’ emergencies in northern Sri Lanka.

    The first emergency involves tens of thousands of civilians still trapped in the conflict zone.

    These people need safety from the fighting. We can be certain that they desperately need food and medical assistance. Their plight deteriorates with each passing day.

    The second emergency is the situation of those who have recently escaped the conflict zone.

    Nearly 200,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) are living in camps in northern Sri Lanka.

    The United Nations has the full support of the Australian Government as it works with the Sri Lankan authorities to address the worsening humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka.

    Australia commends the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross, international and Australian NGOs and the Sri Lankan Government for their efforts in meeting the critical needs of civilians in the camps.

    UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has repeated his call for UN humanitarian teams to gain access to the conflict zone to assess the full extent of the civilians’ situation in the area.

    Australia strongly supports this call. There is no justification for refusing to allow the UN and key humanitarian aid agencies full access to adversely affected areas.

    Australia also urges the Sri Lankan Government to ensure as a matter of urgency that the process of evacuation from the conflict zone is open to monitoring by the International Committee of the Red Cross and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other UN officials.

    Such access would underline the Sri Lankan Government’s commitment to the protection of its civilians and build confidence in its management of this difficult issue.

    With the growing crisis, the Australian Government has responded to assist affected civilians in Sri Lanka.

    I announced last week that, following an urgent UN appeal for emergency international assistance, Australia would provide a further $10 million in humanitarian assistance to meet the needs of civilians adversely affected by the conflict, particularly those in displaced people’s camps or those near the conflict zone.

    The additional funds will be provided through United Nations agencies, including UNICEF and the World Food Programme, as well as Australian NGOs.

    Australian assistance will provide water, sanitation, shelter, food and health care to civilians in need.

    Australia’s contribution to assist the victims of the conflict in Sri Lanka since December 2008 now stands at $23.5 million.

    Australia also welcomes the commitment and efforts of its international partners.

    Recent international missions to Sri Lanka have included that of UK Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, and French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner.

    I have spoken to both Ministers about their visit. I support their call overnight for the UN Security Council to address the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka.

    Foreign Secretary Miliband’s account of his visit to Sri Lanka, along with reports from others, reveals that there remains much human suffering among the civilians trapped in the conflict zone.

    Reports of abuses from within the conflict zone include accounts of civilians forced by the LTTE to stay in its territory, of forced recruitment of children and adults by the LTTE, deaths and injuries from bombs and artillery, and families desperately seeking news of their loved ones.

    There are also reports of anxieties amongst Tamil civilians about their future in government-held areas.

    Madam Deputy Speaker, Australia continues to condemn the terrorist tactics of the LTTE.

    Australia urges the LTTE to allow civilians caught in the conflict zone to leave, to end its practice of forced recruitment and to renounce terrorism.

    Australia continues to urge the LTTE to lay down arms. Australia again condemns the LTTE’s targeting of civilians in or departing the conflict zone and the completely unacceptable use of civilians as human shields.

    The Government further urges the Sri Lankan community in Australia to add its weight to help ensure that civilian life is protected in the north of Sri Lanka.

    Madam Deputy Speaker, many members of the Sri Lankan Tamil community in Australia have written to me concerning loved ones in Sri Lanka.

    They have recounted stories of their own, often tragic, personal and family experiences.

    Many others have conveyed their concerns about the humanitarian crisis, including through peaceful demonstrations, letters and dialogue with Members and Senators on all sides.

    I have also heard from leaders of Australia’s religious communities, including most recently Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn, Pat Power.

    They have let me know their distress at the grave humanitarian situation for civilians in this conflict.

    The Australian Government shares fully these concerns. We will continue to convey them forcefully to the Sri Lankan Government.

    There is no military solution to Sri Lanka’s civil conflict.

    Australia, a longstanding friend of Sri Lanka, urges its Government to ensure its civilians have confidence in the Government’s commitment to their protection.

    As my French and UK Foreign Ministerial colleagues have made clear, in the Sri Lankan Government’s moment of military victory it must show the humanity and self-interest to win the peace.

    I thank the House.

  2. Rudd is No fool permalink
    May 14, 2009 12:25 am

    Rudd is no fool to do a terrorist sing song

  3. May 14, 2009 1:35 pm

    This article shows the two-faced, spinless nature of the Australian Government.

    It is pitiful that the Australian Government cannot make a REAL demand for a ceasfire instead of hte piss-weak one they have made.

    Antony Lowenstein hit the nail right in the head! NO BALLS!

  4. May 14, 2009 7:27 pm

    Australian government has no heart – it has a dollar sign where its heart should be.

    The world is divided and controlled by the powerful nations that don’t want to see the oppressed win their freedom if it risks upsettingthe status quo. The powerful would rather deal with a strong Sri Lankan dictatorship for trade and other agreements than also have to deal with an independent Tamil Eelam.

    Australian government is part of that system. It is easier for the Liberals to support the statement put by the Greens because they are not in government.

    Unless forced to from mass pressure by ordinary people, the government will prefer not to upset the Sri Lankan regime. It doesn’t want to rock the boat of a system where the weak get sacrificed so deals among the powerful can be made.

    Australia, including Labor governments, totally backed the horrendous genocide by Indonesia in East Timor because Indonesia gave Australia access to Timorese oil- until ordinary people forced the government to change its position through mass protests and trade union action etc. Australia still uses its weight against independent East Timor, but the terrible Indonesian occupation has ended.

    It may be easier to get a change of position by Australia on Sri Lanka, as Australia probably has less direct economic interests at stake. But it will take pressure by ordinary people – the protests with support of the Stop the War Coalition on May 23 is one way to build such pressure. along with all the other activism going on.

  5. fastuntoactionaust permalink
    May 15, 2009 12:04 pm

    HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
    PROOF
    MINISTERIAL STATEMENTS
    Humanitarian Crisis in Sri Lanka
    SPEECH
    Tuesday, 12 May 2009
    BY AUTHORITY OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

    Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (4.07 pm)—The coalition supports the efforts announced by the Minister for Foreign Affairs to help civilians caught up in the humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka’s north. We welcome the minister’s announcement last Friday, 8 May of a further $10 million in humanitarian assistance to meet the critical needs of civilians affected terribly by this conflict, particularly those in displaced people’s camps or those near the conflict zone.

    The minister has responded to the launch on 4 May of an urgent United Nations appeal for emergency international assistance. The United Nations estimates that 6,500 civilians have been killed this year and
    tens of thousands of civilians have fled their homes. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or LTTE—the
    Tamil Tigers, the separatist militant organisation that has fought for independent homeland for Sri Lanka’s
    Tamil minority since 1983—have been pushed back by government forces into a tiny pocket of territory.

    It is estimated that, over the 26 years of this conflict between the government and the LTTE, more than
    70,000 people have been killed and over 400,000 people have been displaced from their homes.

    The United Nations continues to plead for access to the conflict zone so that people can be evacuated
    and the sick and wounded be attended to. But, with an estimated 50,000 civilians still trapped in this zone
    just three square kilometres in size, over last weekend the situation has become dire. According to the United
    Nations spokesman in Colombo, Gordon Weiss, more than 100 children were among a large number of Tamil
    civilians killed in a weekend.

    A doctor inside the zone reportedly estimated that up to 1,400 people may have been killed in two days
    of air and artillery attacks. Colombo has denied using artillery or aircraft and has accused the LTTE of using
    mortars to fire on civilians for propaganda purposes.

    There is little opportunity to verify these claims or casualty figures, particularly because independent
    journalists are denied access to the conflict zone. While the government describes the conflict zone as
    a government designated safe area, the United Nations has described the situation inside that area or zone as
    a bloodbath. Sri Lanka has objected to the remark and intends to formally complain. However, a statement
    issued today by the United Nations Secretary-General,

    Ban Ki-moon, reiterated that he is:
    … appalled at the killing of hundreds of civilians in Sri Lanka over the weekend. Thousands of Sri Lankans have already died in the past several months due to the conflict, and more still remain in grave danger.

    He went on to say he was:

    … deeply concerned by the continued use of heavy weapons in this situation. The reckless disrespect shown by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for the safety of civilians has led to thousands of people remaining trapped in the area. The Secretary-General called once again in the strongest terms possible for both sides to adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law and has demanded that the LTTE allow the estimated 50,000 civilians remaining in the conflict zone to leave immediately. He urged the government to bring
    the conflict to an end without further bloodshed. The government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE have blamed
    each other for causing the deaths through each side’s artillery bombardments.

    The world is watching events in Sri Lanka closely and is greatly disturbed at the further violations of
    international law. Mr Ian Kelly, United States State Department spokesman, said overnight that the United
    States was deeply concerned at the unacceptably high level of civilian casualties. He confirmed that the
    United States has repeatedly urged the Tamil Tigers to lay down its arms and allow the civilians to leave the
    safe zone. He went on to say:

    The government of Sri Lanka should abide by its April 27th statement that combat operations have concluded and security forces should end the use of heavy weapons which of course could cause civilian casualties.

    Back in March, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton expressed to the Sri Lankan government the United
    States deep concern over the deteriorating conditions and increasing loss of life. Secretary Clinton said:

    … a durable and lasting peace will only be achieved through a political solution that addresses the legitimate aspirations of all of Sri Lanka’s communities

    Secretary Clinton called on the Sri Lankan government to put forward a proposal to engage Tamils who
    do not espouse violence or terrorism and to develop power-sharing arrangements to achieve a lasting peace
    and reconciliation. We join with the government of Australia in strongly supporting this stance of the
    United States. We note that United Kingdom foreign secretary David Miliband has also demanded an end to the
    killing. Mr Miliband has called on the United Nations Security Council to take up this crisis and for all
    levels of the United Nations to hold discussions on the conditions facing Sri Lankan civilians trapped by the
    conflict. The coalition notes the efforts made by the two representatives of two Security Council member
    countries to resolve the crisis—the United Kingdom and France. It is with regret that the international
    community notes that the visit to Sri Lanka on 29 April of Mr Miliband with French Foreign Minister
    Kouchner did not result pacifying the situation.

    While we welcome the Australian government’s humanitarian assistance to date to help alleviate
    suffering in northern Sri Lanka, we also join with the government in its view that Sri Lanka’s conflict
    cannot be resolved through military means alone. We consider a political solution to be essential for longterm
    peace in this long-suffering nation. The coalition will welcome further announcements of assistance by
    the government to the thousands of people who remain trapped in the conflict zone. We join international calls
    for both sides to cease hostilities and allow innocent civilians to leave harm’s way. The coalition believes
    that there should be a ceasefire to enable urgent humanitarian assistance to reach civilians trapped in
    the conflict zone and for civilians to safely leave the conflict area. We call for greater access for
    international humanitarian agencies to the Sri Lankan government temporary camps in order to treat the sick,
    monitor the activities of both sides of the conflict and to evacuate innocent civilians.

    The coalition is saddened to hear of reports today that a shell has killed a local staff member of Caritas
    Australia who was working in one of the troubled regions in Sri Lanka’s north. Caritas Australia’s CEO,
    Jack de Groot, said that the tragic death adds to the growing number of innocent victims caught in the
    brutal conflict. Without an urgent ceasefire, many more innocent lives will be lost.

    We consider that the Australian government should raise with the International Monetary Fund the
    possibility of linking progress on these urgent humanitarian issues to the requests of the Sri Lankan
    government for a US$1.9 billion loan. Sri Lanka is a country with a rich cultural history and a great natural
    beauty. It was once described by explorer Marco Polo as ‘one of the finest islands’. It has been the subject of a
    great body of art and literature and its beauty captured gloriously in a long poem by a Mrs Dent written in
    1886:

    Here, the proud ocean basks beneath his rays, As pearl-entangled fringe the golden sands
    Caress with murmurs soft, while fitful plays The diamond spray, whose jewelled and glitt’ring bands
    Encircle thee, Queen of the Indian Sea. Ceylon! what land can e’er compare with thee? The whole world urges Sri Lanka to again ensure that its citizens can live peacefully on this island of great beauty and serenity. Its citizens deserve no less.

Trackbacks

  1. Finding balls somewhere would be nice | Antony Loewenstein
  2. Australian Government plays double game – Part II « Australian Tamils ‘Fast unto Action’ to call for a Ceasefire in Sri Lanka
  3. Stuart Munckton from Green Left Weekly writes ….. « Australian Tamils ‘Fast unto Action’ to call for a Ceasefire in Sri Lanka
  4. Stuart Munckton from Green Left Weekly writes ….. « Australian Tamils ‘Fast unto Action’ to call for a Ceasefire in Sri Lanka

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