Written by Staff Writer
23 Feb, 2015 | 9:43 pm
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, claims the Australian government’s silence on alleged human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, was the price it paid to secure co-operation from the former government on stopping asylum-seeker boats.
He made this statement in an interview with The Australian newspaper.
Meanwhile, Australia’s Greens Party alleged on Monday that there may have been corruption in the handling of asylum seekers.
In the interview, Wickremesinghe is reported to have said that Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott’s close relationship with the Rajapaksa’s was “a mystery” to Sri Lankans, and that Australia’s new Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, would be unlikely to get the warm welcome received under the previous government.
The Australian reports that during the interview, held over the weekend at the Prime Minister’s Office in Colombo, Wickremesinghe confirmed the involvement of “people connected to the previous government” in people-smuggling operations.
The Australian, quoted the Prime Minister saying “It was being done by people with Rajapaksa connections, but once this deal was done between Australia and the Rajapaksa government, where you looked the other way , then secretary of defence got the navy to patrol.”
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe had reportedly to The Australian newspaper – “I am not against the Australian government, but I think you must learn from your experiences. Some other countries must also that fully backed the Rajapaksa regime. When human rights were being trampled, and democracy was at bay, these countries were silent. That is an issue for Sri Lanka.”
At a press conference held on Monday, Greens Party senator Christine Milne, expressed the following view on the Prime Minister’s comments.
[quote]Today news has come from Sri Lanka that it was not just a loose connection, but that it was a clear understanding that the Australian government would look the other way and ignore human rights abuses, under the Rajapaksa regime in order to have co-operation about the handling of asylum seekers, it’s also very clear, that people high up in the Rajapaksa administration, were involved in corruption when it comes to the handling of asylum seekers. And now we have confirmation from the new government in Sri Lanka, that Australia chose to look the other way. What an indictment of a country like Australia where we always stood up for human rights, that we made a deliberate decision on the basis of domestic political popularity, to look the other way and allow a disgraceful regime like the Rajapaksas to continue to torture people, to disappear people, to take away their land, it is absolutely appalling. We really need to reflect on what does Australia stand for in the world. And what we should stand for is human rights, international law and common human decency, that’s got to be where we start.
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