Western Australia human rights group Project Safecom released a statement yesterday that captured the hypocrisy at the heart of Australia’s foreign policy. We care about human rights until we don’t. In other words, human rights is far less important than keeping rogue states on side for trade or diplomatic benefits. Maybe the government should just admit it:
The aggressive treatment by Sri Lankan authorities of asylum seekers departing for the UN protection and safety of Australia, where a boarding asylum seeker was shot dead this weekend (Sri Lankan media report), points straight back to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, who have been pressuring Sri Lanka to ‘stop the boats’ “, WA Human Rights group Project SafeCom said this morning.
“We now have the extraordinary situation, where the rest of the world considers sanctions against Sri Lanka, while Australia sends volleyball nets to more than 60 Sri Lankan NGO’s with the message to not try to leave for Australia to seek asylum; while Australia funds the installation of CCTV cameras on Colombo airport and funding Australian immigration officials in Sri Lanka to stop asylum seekers from departing, while the European Union, the US State Department, and where the world’s Elders such as Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu condemn the Sri Lankan authorities over their treatment of Tamils”, spokesman Jack H Smit said.
“The US State Department has reported on human rights abuses and possible war crimes by Sri Lanka in its relentless war, a war not just on the LTTE but on all Tamils, and the European Union imposes sanctions, while Kevin Rudd and Stephen Smith are engaging in gross and gutless pandering to Sri Lanka’s authorities who are under question by the international community. Regrettably, all of this happens because Rudd and Smith are too chicken to stick up for the international right to seek asylum by Tamils in the face of political flack in Australia when boats may arrive on our shores.”
“Kevin Rudd is happy to engage in questionable acts and in brazen undermining of Australia’s obligations under the UN Refugee Convention: disrupting the departure from source countries is a nasty way of undermining that Convention, and for Rudd, who likes to preach the high moral ground of his Christianity, it is a ghastly attitude towards the world’s most vulnerable population group. Regrettable, Australia’s reluctance to face the facts while the rest of the world is awake to what happens in Sri Lanka is now costing lives.”