Senator Lee Rhiannon misinforms the Australian Parliament & People
On 14th August 2012 at the Australian Senate, the Australian Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon once again took upon herself to vilify Sri Lanka based on highly biased information in keeping with the traditions of the Greens Party which has a tendency to adopt any means to justify their highly theoretical policy platform.
In this instance, Senator Rhiannon cited a report issued by the Catholic Diocese of Jaffna on the current situation prevailing in Sri Lanka. Senator Lee Rhiannon, whose website is full of anti-Sri Lankan and pro-separatist propaganda even bordering on pro-Tamil Tiger (LTTE), misinformed the House and the Australian public by repeating the views expressed by the Jaffna Diocese and paying tribute to the organization’s ‘honesty and integrity‘ while referring to the SL govt as “a brutal regime”. The Senator’s emotional links with the LTTE fronts in Australia are revealed by her denigration of the elected Sri Lankan government using the same terminology as the LTTE (the Tamil Tiger terrorist group which brutalized the Tamil society, killed a large number of Tamil civilians and politicians as well as the Indian Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi). One can of course discern how the Greens in Australia act and question their intellectual honesty given that they purposely select the extreme corners for their comfort. Perhaps, it is related to their narrow supporting groups and the funding base of fringe sections.
Be that as it may, the Senator Rhiannon did not want to know the agenda of the Catholic Diocese of Jaffna or their activities during the past as her party does not question or probe information available, if their affiliations are strong to their favoured sources of information. But, it is incumbent on a peoples’ representative in the Senate to check and analyse the information and try to submit a balanced report even on a subject where one is emotionally linked as otherwise it is a case of wasting the time of the colleagues and the Australian people.
At the outset, it has to be clearly mentioned that the Catholic Church of Sri Lanka and the Jaffna Diocese are two different organizations and the Diocese of Jaffna’s views does not represent the views of the Catholic‘s of Sri Lanka. In the past the Diocese of Jaffna never expressed its views when the Tamil Tiger chief compelled tens of thousands of civilian Tamils to accompany his fighters and withdraw to the Kilinochchi jungles or the Nandi Kadal lagoon leaving their traditional habitats or when thousands of Tamil children were forcibly enlisted by the LTTE as child soldiers. They even worked hand in glove with the LTTE when the sacred Catholic statue of Virgin Mary was forcibly taken by the LTTE from the historic Madhu church to the LTTE controlled areas to give ‘legitimacy ‘to the LTTE. However, when the Government was compelled to declare war on intransigent Tamil Tigers who ignored the international community facilitated peace process and at the end when the LTTE was militarily defeated, the Diocese of Jaffna begun to voice in parallel to the extreme separatists and pro-LTTE groups in Sri Lanka as well as the affiliates of the Greens party who neither see or hear anything good in post-war Sri Lanka.
The Senator refers to Tamil land whereas there are no such ethnically segregated areas in Sri Lanka. As a case in point, one can educate the Senator that over 60% of the Tamils live in areas outside Jaffna and the Northern Province of Sri Lanka. Then the Senator proceeds to repeat the post war issues faced especially faced by the Tamil people ignoring altogether the challenges faced by the Sri Lankan people and the Government. As a prelude, the effective action taken by the Sri Lankan government to resettle, rehabilitate and reconstruct the economy of post-war Sri Lanka, we would like to refer to the Senator the statement of John Ging, Director, Coordination and Response Division, UN office (OCHA). He said after VISITING Sri Lanka…” I have travelled to many countries with similar problems as it is my duty. But, I can definitely say that Sri Lanka‘s progress, in every sense after the end of the conflict is tremendous. Northern and Eastern provinces are enjoying normalcy. People are benefiting from the Peace. Tourism is booming .Economy is progressing well. You could achieve all things within a short period of time because of the country’s able leadership. ,,, Sri Lanka has achieved excellent results in its Northern and Eastern rehabilitation and resettlement program and post- conflict economic development drive. Other countries with similar problems can learn a lot from Sri Lankly on these issues. Therefore, Sri Lanka should share its experience with other countries…” The Senator should have taken her time or should have requested her staff to advise her the issues faced by Sri Lanka when the LTTE was dictating the terms to the Tamil people, when and how the LTTE decided to lay down its terms to the international community of peace facilitators of Sri Lanka and the dynamic results achieved in post –war Sri Lanka, The comments of the visiting Parliamentarians of Australia, India, the EU , Japan and the international organizations such as the OHCA /UN should have been studied by ‘responsible’ peoples’ representatives rather than loading their arguments from a report circulated by pro-LTTE groups and authored by an organization with pitiful record of supporting the Tamil Tigers,, the world most brutal terrorist organization as identified by the New York Times.
The Senator nurtures her arguments against the present ‘brutal regime’ of Sri Lanka ignoring completely the ‘brutal regime of the LTTE’ in some parts of the Northern Sri Lanka by stating “militarization of the “Tamil Land ‘(sic) “, eradication of the historical sites and renaming of sites to erase Tamil names, resettlement of army personnel and Sinhalese families in Tamil areas, the abduction of Tamils and fear of women and girls in the North.” .The Sri Lankan Government has completely rejected the allegations while providing details how the war torn areas and its people are enjoying the benefits of the services provided to the people. The allegations levelled by the Senator Rhiannon in the Senate are mere statements without any authenticity whereas the progress and development ushered in the post-war Sri Lanka can be experienced and measured. Let us also point out to the fact that in Sri Lanka the land is common to all ethnic groups living in the island and also that tens of thousands of Sinhalese and Muslim were driven out of the North by the LTTE in their policy of ethnic cleansing,
The Senator Rhiannon and the Greens party will prefer, not to recall that nearly 300,000 Tamil civilians sought the refuge of Sri Lankan government when they had the opportunity to get away from the LTTE military wing in May 2009. The Government’s methodical approach in accommodating these IDPs in temporary refugee camps while demining/clearing the mines laid by the LTTE and then resettling and rebuilding the economy using Sri Lankan and foreign resources (including Australian) with the direct help of the Sri Lankan armed forces are of no consequence to the Senator and her party as they obviously suffer from selective amnesia.
The critical issues faced by the Sri Lankan Government and the remarkable achievements of the Government assisted by her friends in the international community are given below for the
attention of the Senator Rhiannon and her party members. These can be verified by the Greens party from Australian and other international sources.
a) At the end of the war there were 295,873 IDPs
b) They had to be accommodated in Welfare villages which were maintained at UN accepted standards.
c) Five thousand square kilometres of land were full of mines laid down by the LTTE. These had to be cleared to settle the IDPs in their villages. As at 31st May 2012, 97%of the mined areas were cleared. More than 434,679 anti-personal mines, 1400 anti-tank mines and nearly 369,311 unexplored ordnance devices were demined.
d) Only 6034 IDPs remain in camps as at June 2012.
e) Out of the 11989 LTTE cadres who surrendered, all except 403 were rehabilitated and freed. Special arrangements were made to rehabilitate the women and the children who were in LTTE fighting cadres and who surrendered.
f) All major roads, schools, hospitals and major infra-structure facilities were re-built.
g) Agriculture, small industries and fishing have been revived.
The Senator Rhiannon is welcome to recheck the information provided above with responsible organizations and compare same with the misinformation presented by her to the Senate.
Senator Rhiannon further referred to a statement forwarded to the LLRC commission by the Bishop Rayappu Jospeh about 146,000 people still not accounted for after the war.(LLRC was set up in May 201 1). The Sri Lanka government’s Department of census and statistics conducted enumeration of vital events in the Northern Province commencing on 10th June to 15TH Aug 2011. The details are published and are available to the interested persons. According to the census conducted there had been an outward movement of 83,274 from the Northern Province between 1982 and 2011, Further, total deaths in the province in this period was 71,201. The untraceable figure is 6352 and cause ‘not stated’ figure is 3198. The total death figure in the Northern province from 2005-2009 is 22329 and 50% of the deaths have taken place in 2009. We are of the view that the concerns raised by the Bishop Joseph in regard to ‘missing persons’ have been adequately addressed by the enumeration conducted in accordance with the international practice .Yet, if one is interested in thriving in exaggerations to prove one’s stance like the Senator Rhiannon, information provided was like casting pearls before a swine.
The Senator’s comments regarding the fishermen and the fishing industry in the North are completely off the target when the latest available figures pertaining to the rebuilding of the fishing harbours, boats and implements supplied including the credit provided to them are taken into consideration. In fact, according to the Government statistics and the information provided by the community organizations there is a remarkable progress in the fishing industry in the Northern Province in Sri Lanka. If the Senator and her party is interested at least to comprehend the issues faced by the fishermen in the North of Sri Lanka and how they have overcome and how they are planning to strengthen themselves the information is available in the website of Sri Lanka Fisheries Department in which a separate section is allocated to the Fisheries in the North.
With regard to the Senator’s absurd comments of the plight of the people in Mullikulam in Mannar district in Sri Lanka ,the shortest answer we can provide is that as in August 2012-when she misled the Senate- houses have been built , the Church in Mullikulam had been renovated and the people go about freely engaged in their daily chores. Only factor missing is the LTTE boatmen who used to smuggle weapons into Mannar through Mullikulam. The LTTE sea –Tigers were chased away in 2009 and I am sure that the Senator and her friendly LTTE fronts in Australia
along with the authors of the Jaffna Diocese report are in fact shedding tears for the LTTE cadres who ‘ruled’ Mullikulam.
The Senator’s blind acceptance of everything discussed in the said report tends to be further exemplified when she repeats the charges of ‘Buddhishization of the North’. As the Senator should know the Buddhists are the majority in Sri Lanka and all other major religions co-exist in Sri Lanka unlike in very many countries in the world. The Buddhism has never attempted to increase her followers through force. Hence, the word ‘Buddhishization’ is unheard of, unlike the term Christianisation.In the North as well as in other parts of Sri Lanka, the historical and archeologically important sites of all religions are protected and preserved. This includes religious and other buildings built in modern times by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British colonial rulers. There are much older Buddhist and Hindu temples and buildings which are renovated in post-war period. If at all there are new Buddha statues they are built in the Government lands close to the camps of the security forces to enable their members to attend to their religious needs. Not a single place of importance to the Tamil people in the country had been destroyed in the post–war period unlike in the LTTE ‘s salad days when a number of ancient Buddhist temples- some with a history going back to 2200 years were demolished.
Unlike Senator Rhiannon and the Greens Party in Australia who are in the habit of attempting to market a highly theoretical agenda without any governing responsibility, Sri Lankan Government is engaged in the task of rebuilding a nation of 21 million people of many ethnic and religious groups after a war waged by the Tamil Tigers for three decades In the process some mistakes can occur as the internal dynamics and the vagaries of the international economic situation continue to have its effects on this country of 25,000 square miles – smaller than Tasmania. We wish to refer to her the current scenario in post-war Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya etc. and the responses to challenges faced by their governing parties and compare their record with the achievements of Sri Lanka.. Finally, let us reiterate that the report of the Catholic Diocese of Jaffna is full of misinformation to denigrate Sri Lankan people and her Government because they were able to overcome the LTTE /Tamil Tigers and establish the Government writ on the areas held by the LTTE. This is a defeatist and destructive approach. Some even question the authenticity of the report as the Bishops have not approved it.
We all appreciate the important role played by the politicians in the world affairs. However, this role is complex, demanding and needs to be responsible and relevant to the country and the members of the international community.
We regret to mention that Senator Rhiannon speech based on dubious, extremely biased reports does not measure up to the standard expected from a responsible politician. However, when one peruses the Senator’s website it becomes clear that the information therein on Sri Lanka is wholly supportive of the marginalized separatist terrorist forces and definitely not of the majority democratic entities. In any event, the people of Sri Lanka and their friends spread across the world including Australia, will never allow the dream of the Australian Greens to divide Sri Lanka into ethnic enclaves. The hostility of the Australian Greens towards Sri Lanka should be borne in mind by all the Australians of Sri Lnkan origin at any forthcoming elections.
By Ranjith Soysa SPUR (Society for Peace, Unity and Human Rights for Sri Lanka Inc) Australia