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NSW MP says Australia’s “aid” to SL will allow SL to spend more money on weapons

May 13, 2009

In a speech to NSW Parliament on 12 May 2009, MP Ms Lee Rhiannon said:
The AusAID budget to Sri Lanka for 2008-09 has a country program estimate of $10.93 million, while the total overseas development aid estimate for 2008-09 is $27 million. That sounds good but there is now a cloud over this aid and it needs to be reassessed. I say that because Sri Lanka’s dependence on foreign aid means it has more money to spend on war. While we want to give these communities assistance, if heavy dependence on foreign aid means the government of Sri Lanka has more money to divert to war, then clearly there should be a reassessment.

Sri Lanka’s military expenditure increased from 0.75 billion Sri Lanka rupees in 1977 to 139.6 billion for the year 2007—an almost 200-fold increase over 30 years. During the same period, foreign aid to Sri Lanka has kept pace with Sri Lanka’s increasing military expenditure. It is not simply that Sri Lanka’s economy is structurally dependent on foreign aid; it is also that that dependency shows a clear, inbuilt increasing trend. More people are asking: Would it have been possible for Sri Lanka to continue the war against the Tamil people if they did not have this level of foreign aid? It is a troubling question but it does highlight the need for reassessment.

…That is why the Greens urge a reassessment of the aid budget. We should not draw comfort that because we give millions of dollars to Sri Lanka we are undertaking humanitarian work. In fact, the opposite could be the case.

Read full transcript here.

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  1. fastuntoactionaust permalink
    May 13, 2009 8:39 pm

    Full Day Hansard Transcript (Legislative Council, 12 May 2009, Proof)
    Proof

    Extract from NSW Legislative Council Hansard and Papers Tuesday, 12 May 2009 (Proof).

    SRI LANKAN CONFLICT

    Ms LEE RHIANNON [6.26 p.m.]: A Tamil protester, 27-year-old Sudha Suthaharam, who had been staging a hunger strike in Parramatta, was arrested in early May together with two other men. The Greens call on the authorities to respect the right to protest of the Tamil community. My colleagues Ian Cohen and John Kaye are working closely with the Tamil community.

    On 5 May 2009 a Parramatta Advertiser reporter was present when that arrest was carried out. Councillor Issa, the Lord Mayor of Parramatta, attended and argued with the protesters. He told the protesters to go back to Sri Lanka. I understand that the lord mayor’s actions were caught on video. I am disturbed and shocked that Councillor Issa spoke in that way to people who have a legitimate right to protest in this country. The Greens call for the release of the video material. We understand it may also show inappropriate actions of New South Wales police. I have received one report of police violence. The Greens also call on police to drop the charges against the three young men and to provide a permit for these protests to be held. Sudha Suthaharam has lost most of his direct family as the result of the Sri Lankan Army shelling and aerial attacks. This young man should be shown compassion rather then be arrested.

    The AusAID budget to Sri Lanka for 2008-09 has a country program estimate of $10.93 million, while the total overseas development aid estimate for 2008-09 is $27 million. That sounds good but there is now a cloud over this aid and it needs to be reassessed. I say that because Sri Lanka’s dependence on foreign aid means it has more money to spend on war. While we want to give these communities assistance, if heavy dependence on foreign aid means the government of Sri Lanka has more money to divert to war, then clearly there should be a reassessment.

    Sri Lanka’s military expenditure increased from 0.75 billion Sri Lanka rupees in 1977 to 139.6 billion for the year 2007—an almost 200-fold increase over 30 years. During the same period, foreign aid to Sri Lanka has kept pace with Sri Lanka’s increasing military expenditure. It is not simply that Sri Lanka’s economy is structurally dependent on foreign aid; it is also that that dependency shows a clear, inbuilt increasing trend. More people are asking: Would it have been possible for Sri Lanka to continue the war against the Tamil people if they did not have this level of foreign aid? It is a troubling question but it does highlight the need for reassessment.

    Foreign aid has been forthcoming because each aid donor—I am speaking here of the United States of America, the European Union, India and China—is securing its own strategic interests in the Indian Ocean largely by being an aid donor to Sri Lanka.

    Sri Lanka has positioned itself to use the strategic interests of the USA, India and China in the Indian Ocean to advance its own interests and acquire the military capability that is now being used against the Tamil community. This is deeply troubling and highlights the need for reassessment.

    In the United Kingdom, the channel 4 news program has televised reports on this issue. I was prompted to make this speech after seeing those reports on television last night from a camp in the northern Sri Lankan city of Vavuniya where Tamil refugees have been taken. There are shocking claims of shortages of food and water, dead bodies left where they have fallen, women separated from their families and sexual abuse. The program has obtained the first independently filmed pictures from the internment camps set up by the Sri Lankan Government to house Tamils who have fled the country’s civil war. It is deeply shocking. I urge members to view it as soon as possible.

    The Guardian newspaper has published commentary from John Holmes, the United Nation Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs. He wrote on Wednesday 8 April 2009 that “a bloodbath on the beaches of northern Sri Lanka seems an increasingly real possibility”.

    That is why the Greens urge a reassessment of the aid budget. We should not draw comfort that because we give millions of dollars to Sri Lanka we are undertaking humanitarian work. In fact, the opposite could be the case.

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