MP calls for independent war crimes investigation and acknowledges work of ATC

Greenway Electorate: Tamil Community

The Tamil population in Greenway is one of the largest in the country and one that is a great contributor to the multicultural fabric of our wider community. In recent times, the Tamil people have come into the consciousness of the Western world due to the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka. This conflict has been documented in great depth and is now beginning to receive the real acknowledgement it deserves around the world.

Ms ROWLAND (Greenway) (16:14): I rise today to acknowledge and affirm my respect for the Tamil population living in my electorate of Greenway and to mention a number of very important issues surrounding the Australian Tamil community. The electorate of Greenway is an extremely diverse and vibrant place and one that I am very privileged to represent. A large part of this diversity is the some 3,000 strong Tamil community. I say '3,000' but—as I have been told by Tamil community leaders, and I have no doubt as to this—this number is, in fact, far higher in reality.

People in this place were afforded the opportunity last week to visit the Sound of Silence photo exhibition, which I was privileged to host, thanks to the Australian Tamil Congress. This exhibit displayed a collection of photographs taken by Melbourne documentary photographer Shelly Morris during her visit to the northern parts of Sri Lanka in late 2010. This powerful and shocking exhibit allowed a rare insight into the human face of the civil war in Sri Lanka, and I thank members from all sides for taking the time out of their busy schedules in this place to visit this exhibit, including the Special Minister of State.

Recently, the UK's Channel 4 News continued this awareness raising regarding the Sri Lankan civil war when it screened extended footage of executions of Tamils by the Sri Lankan military and other crimes against humanity. This footage was shown during the most recent United Nations Human Rights Council session with the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Christof Heyns, announcing that the evidence in the footage amounted to 'definitive war crimes'. In light of this we must look to move Tamil relations—and justice for Tamils—forward in a constructive and meaningful way. The federal government has consistently maintained that accountability will be a crucial part of reconciliation and lasting peace in Sri Lanka.

While the Sri Lankan government has commenced some initiatives to improve conditions in parts of the country, there must be an external examination of atrocities committed by military forces on both sides. Australia must now join other Western nations in pushing for an international independent investigation into war crimes in Sri Lanka. With the persecution of people in Sri Lanka causing thousands of people to flock to Australia in search of asylum, peace and stability in the island of Sri Lanka will also benefit Australia.

I would like to commend the work of individuals such as Ms Varuni Balachandar of the Australian Tamil Congress and Dr Mano Mohan and Mr P Sivasubramaniam of the Australian Tamil Electoral Lobby for their hard work and dedication to achieving and ensuring a peaceful outcome for all Sri Lankan people. I particularly acknowledge their ongoing volunteer work within my community of Greenway.