Senator Rhiannon blasts Sri Lanka after being evicted in insurrectionary triumph

Lee Rhiannon, courtesy of the Guardian, where the title is “My detention highlights why Australia should boycott CHOGM”

SENATOR RHIANNON “I went to Sri Lanka to be the voice the Australian government has refused to be. The voice that speaks of the human rights abuses that the Sri Lankan government is allegedly involved in. The voice that is part of a growing international call for an independent investigation into war crimes allegations following a brutal civil war in which more than approximately 40,000 Tamils were killed over five months in 2009. The voice of leadership that says Australia will not reward Sri Lanka for cracking down on journalistshuman rights activistsminority ethnic and religious groups. What I saw in Sri Lanka has convinced me that Australia needs to show courage and boycott the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm), as the prime ministers of Canada and India are doing.

The determination of the Australian government, first under Labor and now the Coalition, to defend the Sri Lankan government’s line – that there are no human and legal rights abuses taking place in the country – motivated me to go and learn first-hand about the reality on the ground. I was very pleased to be able to travel with New Zealand Green MP Jan Logie. We had hoped to travel with a Malaysian MP, however Sri Lanka did not grant him a visa in time. I notified the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of my intention to travel, and they had informed the government of Sri Lanka of my trip.

We arrived on Friday after midnight and were taken straight to Vavuniya, a town in the north, roughly a five hour drive. We then had a series of meetings with elected representatives including ministers, MPs and members of the Provincial Council as we continued north to Jaffna. We also visited a newspaper office, where we learnt of shootings and intimidation of local journalists reporting on human rights issues. On several occasions, the extent of the sexual abuse of Tamil women by Sri Lankan soldiers was brought to our attention. We met a lawyer who described to us the evidence collected about these horrendous crimes. Large areas of Tamil land are now occupied by the military. The level of hardship for women and their dependents is shocking. More than 40,000 households in the north and east of the country are now female -headed, and few of them receive any government assistance if they cannot find work.

Our subsequent detention, which has received extraordinary media attention in Australia and overseas, occurred on the last day of our visit. We had begun a series of meetings with representatives of various civil society organisations at 8am, and were planning to hold a press conference at 10.30am. At 9.45am, two immigration officers interrupted our meetings and requested our passports, which we handed over. A further two immigration officers arrived and we were told to go back to our hotel. No reason for our detention was provided – the immigration officials simply stated they had wide discretionary powers.

At the hotel they attempted to separate Jan and myself and take us to different rooms for questioning, but we refused to cooperate. Journalists had arrived by then, but were prohibited from speaking to us. In the meantime, more immigration officers arrived. About three hours later we were told we could leave on the condition that we did not talk to the media without permission from Sri Lanka’s foreign affairs department. Their initial condition was that they would not release us without some kind of statement from us, which we refused to do.

While I did not fear for my personal safety, I was very aware that my lack of fear was largely due to my foreign passport and the fact that I am an Australian senator. Now I am back safe in Australia with my family and loved ones. By tomorrow, what happened to Jan and I will be old news. However the suffering of the Tamils, human rights activists and journalists at the hands of the government of Sri Lanka will continue. We have a responsibility to ensure they are not forgotten.

The findings of my visit to Sri Lanka trip and my detention has highlighted to me the reasons why Australia must not attend Chogm. If the conservative Canadian prime minister and the Indian prime ministercan boycott the meeting while citing concerns regarding alleged war crimes and human rights abuses, Australia can too. If prime minister Abbott refuses to downgrade our delegation and attends Chogm, he should demand a full and independent investigation into war crimes – a call supported by British prime minister David Cameron.

If Chogm goes ahead with Australia’s full participation and Sri Lanka is made chair of organisation, the Commonwealth will have failed the people of Sri Lanka and damaged its own high standing with the international community.”

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ALSO NOTE: Media release from the Australian Tamil Congress

Dear members,

Australian Tamil Congress salutes Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon and New Zealand Green MP Jan Logie for their courages decision to visit Sri Lanka on a fact finding mission prior to Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting (CHOGM) on Friday 8 November 2013. Senator Rhiannon and Jan Logie MP visited Vavuniya, Kilinochchi , Jaffna and Colombo meeting with several elected representatives including ministers, MPs and members of the Provincial Council, members from civil society, journalist and human rights activist.  Both returned home after being detained by Sri Lankan Immigration Officials prior to a press conference to be held in Colombo on Monday 11 November 2013.

Senator Rhiannon after her return from Sri Lanka has called on the Australian Government to boycott the CHOGM. Please click here to read the article written by Senaor Rhiannon on her return.
The visit gained extraordinary media attention in Australia and overseas. Many leading news channels reported on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka.

ATC representatives received her at the airport to thank her on behalf of the Tamil Community for her decision to take the journey to highlight the continuing human rights abuses and the situation faced by the Tamil people, journalist and human rights activist in Sri Lanka.

To thank Senator Rhiannon please email – senator.rhiannon@aph.gov.au

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ALSO SEE Open Letter to Senator Rhiannon, from Raj Sivanathan of Melbourne, 26 August 2012, responding to one of her speeches in the Senate …. http://www.lankaweb.com/news/items/2012/08/26/reply-to-senator-lee-rhiannons-speech-in-australian-senate/

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Filed under accountability, asylum-seekers, atrocities, Australian culture, australian media, authoritarian regimes, disparagement, Eelam, female empowerment, fundamentalism, governance, historical interpretation, legal issues, life stories, LTTE, politIcal discourse, power politics, Rajapaksa regime, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, slanted reportage, sri lankan society, Tamil civilians, Tamil migration, the imaginary and the real, truth as casualty of war, women in ethnic conflcits, world affairs

3 responses to “Senator Rhiannon blasts Sri Lanka after being evicted in insurrectionary triumph

  1. Lee Rhiannon, ex-CPA (Communist Party of Australia) editor. Blindly supported the totalitarian Soviet Union up until it collapsed.

    There is a very big credibility gap in her version of the truth.

  2. Nuwan

    ‘ thank her on behalf of the Tamil Community please e mail her’ ENOUGH SAID about her true representations.. DURING THE WAR AND THE MENACE OF LTTE TERRORISM. THESE INT GROUPS AND NGO’S ENGAGED THE LTTE AND MADE THEM INTO THE STATE, and all those who oppose them as criminals. They never put any conditions on the Brutal LTTE when they met with them and introduced them to world players. They did not even ask them to stop their brutal methods of killing and suicide bombings, before they Engaged with them And today we see a world project led by the INT LTTE emigres and these groups to strip the LTTE of its Brutal nature and make them the Tamil people..The very LTTE which Brutalised the Tamils in sri Lanka, and there is a reason why the FBI put the LTTE on its worlds Number 1 Terrorist group and note even Al qaeda.. Yet today these Groups have Ignored and white washed the LTTE of these crimes. and Punishes those who opposed them. Absolved the INT LTTE groups who funded terrorism to kill citizens of another nation.. This is the reality.

  3. Nuwan

    The British FM said..Government to investigate these cases as they
    deserve’ THE kEY WORD ‘DESERVE’… EVEN HE KNOWS THAT THE PROPAGANDA of the LTTE and INT LTTE emigres have blured the lines of real victims on both sides, as to seek justice for destroying a Ruthless Terrorist Group the LTTE.. Which is the only justice they care about.. Today the LTTE ground network here is working overtime to send families of LTTE fighters for so called justice. I mean when these people joined the LTTE, they were not joining a Human rights Group, a Boy scout.. They were Joining a ruthless Terrorist Group that Terrorised sri Lanka, Took on the Lankan and Indian army, Created suicide squads( Black Tigers.. A secret process of recruitment Even the families were not told).. what did they think ,these combat fighters will come back with flowers???? we can send families of our soldiers, IPKF, Victims of the LTTE suicide bombings to Jaffna asking for justice… Those who live by the Gun will dies by the GUN. so only Genuine cases that ‘deserve’ to be looked into must be.. But not every joker who cries for COMBAT FIGHTERS OF THE LTTE. Where were these Clowns when the LTTE broke many Peace Process since 85 to 2006 which could have ended the war, WHY didn’t these Green party, NGO’s, LTTE Rich Emigres come to sri lanka when the LTTE took the Tamil civilians as Humans shields, A Historic fighting pattern since 1987, IPKF, 1995, and 2009 (when they were in combat defeat).. How we wish they offered themselves as hostages instead in exchange of the Tamil civilians held at LTTE GUN barrel. How we wish…

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