Tag Archives: Tamils

Commission Joins in Call for Tough Action on Sri Lanka

Monday 3 October 2011

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission joined in a call for the Commonwealth of Nations to take tough action against Sri Lanka unless it agrees to an independent investigation into war crimes and human rights violations committed during the civil war which ended in 2009.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, recently attended a Parliament House round table in Canberra with representatives from the Australian Tamil community, the International Commission of Jurists, the University of Sydney and the Australian Greens where the call for action against Sri Lanka was made.  The call was made in the lead-up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) which will take place in Perth in a few weeks.

Participants at the round table discussed the Sri Lankan Government’s refusal to accept the findings and recommendations of an independent expert panel appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and evidence of the Government’s on-going failure to respect the human rights of Tamil people.

Mr Arndt joined with the other participants in calling for the Federal Government and the Opposition to:

 

  • Support calls for the suspension of Sri Lanka from the Councils of the Commonwealth until the Government of Sri Lanka agrees to an international independent investigation into war crimes, restoration of human rights and the rule of law and implementation of all the recommendations of the UN expert panel report on war crimes in Sri Lanka
  • Oppose Sri Lanka hosting CHOGM in 2013.

 The  participants also called on Prime Minister Gillard to join Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, in saying she would not go to CHOGM in Sri Lanka in 2013 unless there is progress in Sri Lanka’s human rights record and in the establishment of an independent war crimes investigation.

MrArndt said that the Sri Lankan Government has shown no commitment to respecting the human rights of Tamils since the end of the civil war in 2009.

“The Sri Lankan Government established its own Commission after the war but has ignored its interim recommendations,” Mr Arndt said.

The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission recommended over a year ago that the Government should release the names of those it has in detention, expedite the charging or discharging of detainees, disarm illegal militias in Tamil areas and make a clear policy statement about acquisition of land in Tamil areas,” he said.

“None of these recommendations have been acted on in whole or in part,” he said.

“It has told both Tamil Parliamentarians and foreign government representatives that it has published a list of detainees, but no-one can find it,” he said.

“The Sri Lankan Government is not only treating the Tamil people dreadfully, but it insults other nations with its false claims,” he said.

“The Sri Lankan Government recently ended its State of Emergency in order to give the impression that things are returning to normal, but it used its Prevention of Terrorism Act to promptly re-introduce extraordinary regulations which applied under the State of Emergency,” he said.

“When we also hear that security forces are doing appalling things like assaulting Tamil MPs at public meetings, we cannot accept that the Sri Lankan Government has any respect for human rights or the rule of law,” he said.

“The BBC’s documentary Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields showed how dreadfully both the Sri Lankan Government and the Tamil Tigers behaved during the war,” he said.

“The BBC has also released interviews with Sri Lankan military officials who said they were told to mutilate, rape and kill Tamil civilians,” he said.

“The Sri Lankan Government must be held accountable for its actions,” he said.

“It is an obscene joke on the part of the Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Australia to tell Australian MPs that Tamil injury and death was accidental and ‘collateral damage’” he said.

“Australia must take a strong stand on Sri Lanka’s human rights record at CHOGM and we will continue to advocate this approach vigorously,” he said.

“As the theme of the CHOGM in Perth this year is human rights, it is imperative that Australia and the other Commonwealth countries tell the Government of Sri Lanka that its behaviour has been appalling,” he said.

“At the same time, in fairness, we believe that Australia’s human rights record in relation to asylum seekers and Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory should be fully scrutinised,” he added.

Participants at the round table were:

The Hon John Dowd AO QC (President of the International Commission of Jurists Australia)

Dr Sam Pari (Australian Tamil Congress)

Associate Professor Jake Lynch (Director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, Sydney University)

Dr Ben Saul (Professor of International Law and Director of the Sydney Centre for International Law at Sydney University)

Peter Arndt (Executive Officer of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission of Brisbane)

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon.

For further information, please contact Peter Arndt on (07) 3336 9173 or 0409 265 476.

 NB  This release is issued with the approval of the Commission or its Executive under the provision of its Mandate which enables it to speak in its own right.  The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.

Commission Calls for Consistent Australian Position on Human Rights

Monday 22 November 2010

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission has urged the Prime Minister to adopt a consistent approach to promoting human rights and democracy in the Asia/Pacific region.

The Commission’s call comes in response to Prime Minister Gillard’s comments on the release of Burmese political leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that Australia should seek to apply the same human rights standards to all its neighbours including Sri Lanka and Indonesia.

“The Prime Minister welcomed the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, but called on Burma’s authorities to release other political prisoners and work towards free and fair elections and political reconciliation,” Mr Arndt said.

“We support those calls as they are consistent with a respect for the human rights of the people of Burma,” he said.

“However, we are concerned that Australia is not as strong an advocate of these values when it comes to other countries in the region,” he said.

“Why isn’t the Prime Minister publicly calling on Indonesia to release people in West Papua who have been jailed for flying flags and peacefully protesting?” he said.

“Why is there no decisive intervention to put an end to the brutal repression of Papuans who are not happy with the way they have been treated since Indonesia took control of the province in the 1960s?” he said.

“It seems to us that the Australian Government is equally reluctant to challenge the Sri Lankan Government’s treatment of the Tamil minority and its political opponents,” he said.

“There are long-standing concerns, both from inside and outside Sri Lanka, about the Government’s level of respect for human rights and democracy, but Australia seems more concerned with maintaining the on-going cooperation of the Sri Lankan Government in relation to stopping boat people coming to Australia,” he said.

“The legitimate concerns of indigenous West Papuans and Tamils should not be ignored if we are genuinely committed to human rights,” he said.

“People who are locked up or mistreated because of their political views in Sri Lanka or West Papua deserve the same strong advocacy as is being given to Aung San Suu Kyi and the Burmese people,” he said.

“At the same time, we should always be looking at our own human rights record and seek to address those issues where we have failed to respect the dignity of vulnerable people in our own land,” he said.

Mr Arndt said the Commission would continue to speak to the Government and local MPs and Senators about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, West Papua and in our region.

For further information, please contact Peter Arndt on (07) 3336 9173 or 0409 265 476.

NB  This release is issued with the approval of the Commission or its Executive under the provision of its Mandate which enables it to speak in its own right.  The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.

World Refugee Week 2010

World Refugee Week 2010 k theme was  Freedom from Fear.  The Refugee Council of Australia produced a series of resources for the Week including a poster, facts and figures about refugees, an event planning guide and teacher materials.
Fr Pan Jordan op and Sr Wendy Flannery rsm at World Refugee Rally , Brisbane June 20 2010

Fr Pan Jordan op and Sr Wendy Flannery rsm at World Refugee Rally , Brisbane June 20 2010

Among the more than 200 people who gathered in Reddacliff Square, Brisbane  on World Refugee Day, June 20, were representatives from parishes, religious communities and  the Brisbane Catholic  Justice and Peace Commission.

Fr Pan Jordan OP was one of the speakers and spoke of  the plight of Tamil refugees.Fr Jordan quoted the report from the International Crisis Group which has gathered evidence of the ongoing human rights abuses among Tamils. He also called on the Federal Government to lift the suspension of processing of refugee claims by people from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.

In a recent statement the Brisbane Catholic Justice and Peace Commission noted that many significant international organisations and some major Sri Lankan bodies such as the Superiors of Major Religious Congregations have expressed serious concerns about the Sri Lankan Government’s lack of commitment to the rule of law, democracy, proper governance, human rights and freedom of the media.They also have doubts about the Sri Lankan Government’s commitment to political reconciliation which will see minorities such as the Tamils freed from discrimination and oppression.

Commission Calls on Australia to Back Sri Lankan War Crimes Report

Monday 24 May 2010

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission has called on the Australian Government to support the recommendations of the International Crisis Group’s (ICG) report on possible war crimes in the last year of the Sri Lankan civil war which ended a year ago.

The ICG report says there is compelling evidence to suggest the Sri Lankan military intentionally shelled civilians, hospitals and humanitarian operations and that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) intentionally shot civilians and caused them suffering.

It says that it has collected a compelling case to warrant an international inquiry into possible war crimes on both sides of the conflict.

The ICG has put together its report with the help of eyewitness reports, photographs, videos, satellite images, electronic communications and documentary evidence.

Apart from calling on the United Nations to undertake an international inquiry into possible war crimes during the last year of the conflict, the report makes recommendations for action to a number of countries including Australia.

Among these recommendations, the report calls for targeted sanctions such as the imposition of travel restrictions on Sri Lankan officials and their families.

The Justice and Peace Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the ICG report criticizes countries like Australia for turning a blind eye to the evidence of human rights violations during the conflict.

“It is important that those responsible for human rights violations be held accountable for their actions,” Mr Arndt said.

“Many governments like the Australian Government want to forget all about the dreadful things which were done both by the Sri Lankan military and the Tamil Tigers, but this is a grave injustice to the thousands of Tamil civilians who were killed and maimed in the conflict,” he said.

“There is no hope for political reconciliation and peace in Sri Lanka if those responsible for these injustices are not held accountable for them,” he said.

“Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II often said there is ‘no peace without justice’,” he said.

“In a petition with over two thousand signatures which we submitted to the Senate last year, we called for a credible investigation into human rights violations in Sri Lanka and we continue to urge the Australian Government to support this,” he said.

”If we believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we must believe that the lives of the individual Tamil civilians who suffered at the hands of the Sri Lankan military and the Tamil Tigers mean something,” he said.

“They are the mothers and fathers and sons and daughters of human beings just like us and they deserve justice,” he said.

“We hope Catholics will read the ICG report and tell their local MP that they want Australia to take strong action for the sake of all those who have suffered in Sri Lanka,” he said.

For further information, please contact Peter Arndt on (07) 3336 9173 or 0409 265 476.

NB:This release is issued with the approval of the Commission or its Executive under the provision of its Mandate which enables it to speak in its own right.  The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.

Australia Should Challenge Sri Lankan Human Rights Record

Tamil Support Brisbane Australia

Justice in Sri Lanka Support Brisbane Australia

Monday 1 March 2010

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission urged the Federal Government to take a stronger position on human rights violations in Sri Lanka in the wake of the European Union’s announcement of its plan to withdraw preferential trade benefits to the South Asian country in six months unless human rights concerns are addressed.

Sri Lanka benefits from trade concessions in the EU’s Generalised System of Preferences Plus (GSP+), an incentive scheme tied to the improvement of human rights and good governance.  The scheme provides tariff cuts to support vulnerable developing countries.

The European Union has repeatedly warned Sri Lanka that it must meet 27 international human rights conventions to retain its GSP Plus status.

Sri Lanka’s textile and clothing industry earned $3.47 billion in export income from the European Union in 2008.  Suspension of the tariff benefit foreshadowed by the February 16 announcement by the European Union could seriously affect the industry.

The Justice and Peace Commission’s Executive officer, Peter Arndt, said that the Australian Government should add its voice to those of many other Western nations who have expressed serious concerns about the treatment of Tamils during and since the final stages of the conflict between the Sri Lankan military and the Tamil Tigers last year.

“The treatment of Tamil civilians by both the Tigers and the military during the final stages of the conflict last year was appalling,” Mr Arndt said.

“Tamil civilians were killed and injured in great numbers by actions on both sides,” he said.

“Since the end of the conflict, the Sri Lankan Government received repeated criticisms from many quarters for its treatment of the hundreds of thousands of Tamils it detained in camps in the north of the country,” he said.

“Under pressure from the international community, the Sri Lankan Government accelerated the release of detainees late last year, but over 100000 people are still in the camps,” he said.

“Credible reports indicate that camp conditions are squalid,” he said.

“Despite claims of freedom of movement for those in camps, the truth is that people cannot leave without gaining approval and they must report regularly to police,” he said.

“For those who have returned to their home area, there appears to be little support or income,” he said.

“Throughout the whole of this period, the Government has restricted the capacity of international aid and human rights organisations to monitor the treatment of Tamil civilians,” he said.

“Journalists and critics of the Government, including Serath Fonseka who ran in the recent presidential elections, are arrested on what appear to be trumped up charges, are killed or simply disappear,” he said.

The International Crisis Group is one of many respected international organisations which have released reports and statements expressing grave concerns about the treatment of Tamils and critics of the Government,” he said.

“The International Crisis Group issued a report recently calling for the Sri Lankan Government to address the legitimate Tamil concerns about systematic discrimination against them,” he said.

“The European Union’s threat of removal of trade benefits is part of a very loud and prolonged chorus of concerns about human rights in Sri Lanka and Australia must join efforts to put an end to this dreadful state of affairs,” he said.

“We in the Church in Australia should also heed the cries of those who suffer in Sri Lanka and the concerns expressed by the Church in that country,” he said.

“On the same day as the European Union announcement, the Conference of Major Religious Superiors in Sri Lanka said there was a loss of faith in the democratic process and just governance,” he said.

“They called for the country’s political leaders to respect the rule of law and human rights and to uphold the principles of reconciliation, forgiveness, freedom of media, freedom of speech and the right to dissent,” he said.

For further information, please contact Peter Arndt on (07) 3336 9173 or 0409 265 476.

NB  This release is issued with the approval of the Commission or its Executive under the provision of its Mandate which enables it to speak in its own right.  The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.

Other CJPC Statements on Sri Lanka

Commission Urges Continued Pressure on Sri Lanka

Monday 30 November 2009

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission welcomed the recent announcement by the Sri Lankan Government of the lifting of restrictions on movement in the country, but urged continued pressure on the Sri Lankan Government in relation to the treatment of Tamils.

The Commission’s Executive officer, peter Arndt, said that some reports indicate that there is continuing harassment of Tamils despite the announcement.

“We understand that Tamils seeking to travel from the north of the country to Colombo must register at the local police station when they arrive,” Mr Arndt said.

“There are also police and military checks being carried out on Tamils as they travel through the country,” he said.

“It is one thing to announce that Tamils can move freely through the country, but it is another thing altogether for that to be happening on the ground,” he said.

“No-one should be rushing to close the book on Sri Lanka just yet,” he said.

“We have a lot of credible evidence of the complete disregard for the human rights of Tamil civilians by both the military and the Tigers during the recent conflict,” he said.

“Thousands of Tamil civilians were killed by appalling actions on both sides and there must be accountability for this,” he said.

“The homes and infrastructure of many Tamil communities was devastated by the Government’s military onslaught and we need to ensure that Tamils will be given all the help they need to re-build their communities,” he said.

“And we must never forget that the long-running conflict is linked to Tamil discontent at their treatment by the Government,” he said.

“Unless there is a genuine commitment by the Government to enter into a process of reconciliation, the bitterness will continue to simmer,” he said.

“Sustained pressure from the international community has pushed the Sri Lankan Government to this point today and it must continue to be applied if the Tamil minority is to be treated with dignity and fairness,” he said.

“The repeated criticism of many Governments and the UN and the threat of economic action by Europe have forced the Sri Lankan Government to improve the situation for Tamils,” he said.

“This pressure must continue so that the Tamils can live in Sri Lanka without discrimination and fear and so that all Sri Lankans can live in peace and security,” he said.

“Some dreadful things have been done to people on both sides in this conflict and efforts must be made to address the root causes if the country is to know peace,” he said.

For further information, please contact Peter Arndt on (07) 3336 9173 or 0409 265 476.
NB  This release is issued with the approval of the Commission or its Executive under the provision of its Charter which enables it to speak in its own right.  The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.

Sri Lanka Petition Handed Over

Media Release

Friday 9 October 2009

Sri Lanka Petition Handover October 8 2009

Sri Lanka Petition Handover October 8 2009


A petition calling on the Federal Government to pressure the Sri Lankan Government to release Tamil civilians detained in camps in the north of the country was handed over to Queensland Senator Claire Moore on Thursday evening during a prayer service.

The petition was organised by Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission and attracted over 2400 signatures.

Over 50 people, including a number of Tamils living in Brisbane, attended the service which was held at St Oliver Plunkett Catholic Church at Cannon Hill.

The Chair of the Commission, Mr Rick Sheehan, presented the petition to Senator Moore who said that the petition would be lodged in the Senate at its next sitting at the end of October.

Mr Sheehan said that, despite claims to the contrary by the Sri Lankan Government, conditions for those detained in the camps were still very por.

Senator Moore said that it was clear that the human rights of people detained in the camps were not being respected.

“I cannot promise you that we will be able to change the situation in Sri Lanka,” Senator Moore said.

“However, if our Government is to continue to act on this dreadful situation, it is vital that people continue to let their local Members of Parliament and Senators know that they are concerned,” she said.

The Commission’s Executive officer, Peter Arndt, said that United Nations officials continue to express grave concerns about conditions in the camps.

“With the onset of the monsoon season, things are likely to get even worse,” Mr Arndt said.

“These people should be released quickly and we hope that Catholics will continue to pray for them and to also tell their MPs that things must change in Sri Lanka,” he said.

The Commission is committed to continuing action on the issue until Tamil detainees are released and a genuine reconciliation process is in place.

For further information, please contact Peter Arndt on (07) 3336 9173 or 0409 265 476.
NB  This release is issued with the approval of the Commission or its Executive under the provision of its Charter which enables it to speak in its own right.  The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.

Prayer and Presentation of Tamil Petition October 8 2009

CJPC Logo

CJPC Logo

Support for Tamils
Hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians are still detained in camps in Sri Lanka almost 5 months after the bloody conflict between the Sri Lankan military and the Tamil Tigers. The United Nations has repeatedly expressed concerns about the camp conditions and the arrival of the monsoon season is likely to make those conditions much worse.The Brisbane Catholic Justice and Peace  Commission will hold a special service to pray for those still detained in the camps and for justice and peace in Sri Lanka.

During the service, the petitions calling for Australian Government action on the Sri Lankan situation will be handed over to Senator Claire Moore for lodgement in the Senate at its next sitting.

The service will be held this Thursday 8 October at 6.30 pm. At St Oliver Plunkett Church, 21 Beauvardia Street, Cannon Hill. All are welcome.