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Australian FM asked ‘Has Australia protested about James Elder being kicked out of SL?’

September 17, 2009

Channel 10 : Meet the Press

PAUL BONGIORNO: Minister, just briefly before we go – Sri Lanka is about to throw out James Elder, an Australian who works for the United Nations. They don’t like the fact that Mr Elder has concerns over the treatment of Tamil children in camps. Has Australia protested about this?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well, we have spoken – our officials have spoken to Mr Elder, because he’s an Australian citizen. He doesn’t require our assistance at the moment. We’ve also spoken at official levels to UN officials and they don’t require our intervention. The UN is, in a sense, primarily responsible for those visa issues. I’ve had a look at Mr Elder’s reported remarks and I don’t see any difficulty with those. He’s been making the point, as has the Australian Government, that we need to see access by the international agencies – whether it is UNICEF or other international agencies, the Red Cross – to the displaced people’s camps and indeed we need to see the Sri Lankan Government now resettling the nearly 250,000 people in those camps and to assist with that. I’m today announcing a further $2 million contribution by Australia to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organisation for Migration to help resettle those very large number of people in those camps, but access by the international organisations is very important and that’s the point that Mr Elder has been making on behalf of UNICEF.

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