Human smuggling: Australian MP backs GoSL operation

Australian MP Don Randall has praised Sri Lanka’s efforts to tackle what he called the evil trade in people, while urging the Australian government to throw its weight behind GoSL. MP Randall, in a special statement to ‘The Island’, congratulated GoSL for setting an example of how to deal with the evil trade in people.

“Australia needs to get behind GoSL with equipment, intelligence sharing and financial help in support of ongoing operations,” the MP said. The parliamentarian assured his support for GoSL efforts to counter critics and criminal elements both at home and abroad.

MP Randall has sent the following statement to The Island: ” I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate the Government of Sri Lanka on its leadership with the asylum seeker debate, where the current focus is on Sri Lankan citizens seeking refuge in Australia and do so by using fragile boats to travel to Australian territorial waters. There is so much argument and counter-claim on this issue, I will not canvas the merits or otherwise of this issue at this stage.

As your readers may know, many Sri Lankan citizens (mainly from the Tamil community) target Australia as a destination, claim that they must do so because they fear for their safety in your country and many make allegations of human rights abuses. No nation is perfect and as the good book says, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. However, it is my educated belief that since the cessation of the civil war which concluded in 2009, much has been gained in a move towards peace, civil order and reconciliation. The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission is one such positive measure taken towards the reconciliation process. I understand there is always more to be done and the healing process could go on for many years to come.

In my most recent visit to Sri Lanka, I was able to observe first-hand the steps being taken to rebuild a shattered nation in the aftermath of the war. Internal refugees are being resettled and civil order, community development and law and order is being administered at a local level.

I have visited Manik Farm where only 6000 people remain at the camp. I understand that this camp is about to be decommissioned as displaced people return to their homes and villages. Australia is playing its role by providing the 5,000 houses that it promised in the reconstruction aftermath. I only wish India would honour its promise of 50,000 reconstructed homes that it also promised.

Returning to the issue of those seeking asylum, I will make the observation that Indonesia, to the north of Australia, seems unable or unwilling to help stem the tide of asylum seekers to Australia. This is after Australia provided millions of dollars to help them do so. Recently, Australia gave Indonesia three patrol boats and four C130 Hercules military aircraft to assist them in policing their territorial waters. We also pay for their upkeep and ongoing costs. Yet the people smugglers continue to ply their evil trade of human cargo from Indonesia and other countries in the region, such as Malaysia.

Unfortunately, the people smugglers and criminal elements along with vested interests are now seeing an increase in Sri Lankans seeking a direct route from your country to the Australian territory of the Cocos Islands. To the credit of your Government and in particular the good men and women of your Navy, Sri Lanka is proactively trying to stop this evil trade onshore and the sea. Your service personnel must be applauded for stopping those destined for Australia in your territorial waters and in the Indian Ocean region.

While some Australian politicians say it is too dangerous to board boats at sea and while the Indonesians say they can’t, you have shown in a practical manner that boats can be stopped and turned back to their points of embarkation.

While left-wing politicians and commentators allege that those returned will be persecuted, beaten and jailed, your Government has demonstrated transparency by allowing international welfare and care groups to monitor so-called asylum seekers that have been stopped at sea or returned from Australia. Those returned do so after receiving an adverse assessment for an Australian visa because their claims for asylum have not been supported in the opinion of the UNHCR monitors and assessors. I would boldly suggest that those of Tamil decent may wish to seek safe haven in Tamil Nadu in India before considering Australia. This is of course unless they are not genuine refugees seeking asylum because of human rights abuses but rather economic refugees willing to pay a people smuggler $10,000-$20,000. The motive is obvious.

Finally, for those critics that target the democratically elected Government of Sri Lanka, I must ask where is their balanced criticism of Malaysia and Indonesia who acquiesce to this trade in human cargo. Sri Lanka should receive praise from Australia for saving our country $80,000 per detainee when they reach Australia. Your Government should also be praised for stopping people smugglers from casting a slur on your country, as a nation who does not care for the welfare of those who seek a different outcome. Remember, many who try to get to Australia by boat unfortunately perish at sea.

Those who push a political agenda and claim that Sri Lanka is not doing enough and should do more fall very short of a proper comparative analysis of other countries in our region. The facts do not support this spurious allegation. In fact the contrary is the reality.

Once again congratulations Sri Lanka for setting an example of how to deal with the evil trade in people. Countries, like my Australia, need to get behind you with equipment, intelligence sharing and financial support to assist you in your positive outcomes. For my part, as a Member of the Australian Parliament, I will continue to advocate for and support you in taking on your critics and the criminal elements both at home and abroad.”

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