ATC in the media

Australian Tamils Urge Foreign Minister Hon Bob Carr to Reconsider Support for CHOGM 2013 in Sri Lanka

Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) notes with grave concern about the highly controversial and unconstitutional impeachment of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake of the Sri Lankan Supreme Court.

Sri lankan President Rajapakse has dismissed the Chief Justice by ratifying parliament's recent vote to impeach her. The vote in Parliament took place despite rulings from the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court stating that a move to impeach the chief justice would be illegal. The act to impeach the nation's chief justice, a significant step in a worsening showdown between the legislature and the judiciary, has alarmed democracy advocates and many governments globally.

" The lack of due process and continued attack on the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law are deeply troubling. They are part of a continuing deterioration of democracy in Sri Lanka and directly violate the Commonwealth's fundamental values. How can Sri Lankan Tamil war survivors expect justice from the legal system when the country's top judge is being deprived of it? Said Varuni Bala of ATC.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma has stated that The Commonwealth is collectively and profoundly concerned about the impeachment motion in Sri Lankan parliament against the Chief Justice of Sri Lanka and is conscious of the shared Commonwealth values and principles, to which Sri Lanka and all member governments have subscribed.

United States, Canada and the UK have taken a principled stance on this matter and expressed their concerns and called upon Sri Lanka to uphold democratic principles.

"In stark contrast Australia is openly engaging with the Government of Sri l Lanka and promoting CHOGM 2013 to be held there this year, thus supporting a government that blatantly oppresses its citizens under the guise of being elected democratically. Australian Tamil Community calls upon the Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon Bob Carr to reconsider his unconditional support to Sri Lanka for CHOGM 2013. Australia as a member of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), whose mandate includes the disciplining of countries that violate the association's basic principle should along with other CMAG members pursue a process which leads, if there is no improvement, to Sri Lanka's suspension from the Commonwealth" Varuni Bala added further.

Media Contact: Varuni Bala, Australian Tamil Congress 1300 660 629

ATC Supports Calls for Cricket Boycott

The end of military conflict in Sri Lanka in 2009 gave immense hope for its citizens and the international community that this country will finally enter a peaceful and democratic era and will join the respected nations of the world. Against all hope, Sri Lanka is rapidly descending towards a lawless state with atrocious human rights record and consistent rule of law violations.

The Government of Sri Lanka has so far totally failed to reconcile different communities, provide accountability for the deaths of tens of thousands of Tamil civilians and build a sustainable peace. Continuing disappearances of political activists, consistent threats to journalists, recent arrests and arbitrary detention of Jaffna University students and the current ongoing attempts to impeach the Chief Justice are clear indications of the emergence of a dictatorial regime and a country prone to further instability in our region.

The absolute disregard shown by the Sri Lankan government towards accountability, rule of law and good governance, and its consistent refusal to constructively engage with the international community and relevant international institutions has led to calls for boycotting Sri Lankan cricket, and it is satisfying to note that this call has been endorsed by several eminent Australians including well-known writers, political leaders, academics and legal professionals.

For decades, Sri Lanka has used cricket to cover up its sins of war. The enormous success this tiny island enjoyed in cricket has helped the government to hide the atrocities it has committed and continuing to commit against its own citizens to the outside world. Sri Lanka is also fortunate to have principled cricketers such as Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayewardene who not only excel in the game, but have also espoused and practiced high ideals. The former famously castigated Sri Lankan cricket administration for its corrupt practices during his Sprit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture, while the later made special effort to raise funds for a cancer hospital in the impoverished Northern Sri Lanka.

Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) believes when there is a government abiding by human rights and international norms, the argument that sports will bring communities together is prudent. However, the reality in Sri Lanka with its continuing persecution and the oppression of its Tamil inhabitants does not allow sports to act as a bridge between communities and satisfy their needs and a sense of belonging.

"We as Tamil Australians enjoy a good game of cricket and appreciate that Boxing Day cricket is a great Australian tradition that we all cherish. We reiterate that any support for boycott call is neither against the players of the Sri Lankan team nor against any Australian interest in this great game, but to highlight the fact that the attempted engagement by the international community to bring peace and reconciliation to the nation has not brought about any tangible changes to the dismal rule of law, good governance and the practice of true democracy in Sri Lanka and that the country is dangerously sliding towards a lawless state" said ATC spokesperson Dr Bala Vigneswaran.

Dr Bala Vigneswaran further stated "We sincerely hope the boycott message will raise the conscience of the Australian nation, and send a clear message "cricket is all too important that countries that want to be part of this international sport must first abide by the international norms of basic human rights and good governance".

This is a historic opportunity to set things right in a friendly country whose leaders pay scant respect for the value of human life, equality and good governance of its people. It worked in South Africa 25 years ago and in Zimbabwe recently and it will work in Sri Lanka too.

Media Contact

Dr Bala Vigneswaran

Australian Tamil Congress

0404 404 777

Australian Tamils disappointed “Boats” determine Foreign Policy on Sri Lanka

The Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) is deeply concerned regarding reports that Australia has given unconditional assurance of support for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) to be held in Sri Lanka next year. Media quoted our Foreign Minister as stating, "Australia will be at the Commonwealth Summit next year and will provide Sri Lanka with the technical assistance necessary for a successful summit."

"Sri Lanka is under constant scrutiny of the International Community due to its atrocious human rights record, and the ruling regime there has shown repeatedly that it was incapable of serious reform without constant and coordinated international pressure. The CHOGM summit provided an extremely valuable leverage to extract better human rights outcomes from the Sri Lankan government, and it appears, unlike other Western Nations which are taking a consistent position on this issue, our government has taken a path of political expediency with public opinion polls in mind," said Varuni Bala from Australian Tamil Congress.

She further added, "The Tamil Community in Australia and the larger human rights groups are disappointed that Foreign Minister Hon Carr has announced Australia’s stance on CHOGM prior to the critical UN Human Rights Council review on Sri Lanka to be held in March 2013. Australia being a member of the UN Security Council should display stronger commitment towards promoting peace and protecting human rights in our region."

Media contact:

Ms Varuni Bala Australian Tamil Congress 0433 428 967

SBS Interview with Dr Sam Pari - ATC Spokeswomen

Tuesday 6 October 6.30PM : SBS Evening News

ABC Radio AM : Asylum seekers issue personal plea to PM

As Australian Government sources say they’re monitoring as many as six more boats, 255 Sri Lankans moored in western Java have made a desperate plea to Australia and other countries to consider their bids for asylum. The group was intercepted in Indonesian waters on the weekend after a phone call from the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to Indonesia’s President. Last night, AM’s Geoff Thompson went onboard the vessel and spoke to the asylum seekers.

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