Playing politics over human life


Tony Abbott says the Coalition would reinstate temporary protection visas if returned to government. He said on Q&A this week it was appropriate to send asylum seekers back to their original country when danger passed. Anyone who watched the documentary A Well Founded Fear in November 2008 would be horrified at the prospect. The film documented the deaths, disappearances, imprisonment and torture of asylum seekers returned to Afghanistan by the Howard government because the danger had supposedly passed. Mr Abbott and his immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, should watch it. Perhaps then they might begin to show some compassion rather than playing grubby politics with the lives of unfortunate humans. Dave Bridges, Oyster Bay.

Panglossian picture
What extraordinary efforts are underway to airbrush the grim realities of post-war Sri Lanka. Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe (“Beware of asylum-seekers bearing tales of woe”, Commentary, 7/4) makes a series of misleading claims, distorting evidence or withholding chunks that do not fit his Panglossian picture.
More than 76,000 internally displaced people languish in illegal internment camps where even the country’s own oppressed media regularly report complaints of rape, mysterious “disappearances” and extra-judicial killings. Where reporters have managed to gather evidence from on the ground, it directly contradicts DeSilva-Ranasinghe’s account. And, of course, he ignores the Sinhala colonisation of Tamil areas, as new Buddhist shrines and permanent garrisons spring up on sites flattened by government bombing.
Far more Sri Lankan Tamils have sought refuge in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu than come to Australia, but the Indian government, which is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention, has no international obligations towards them, so restricts their movements and access to proper housing. Above all, there is no meaningful move towards prosecuting those responsible for war crimes.
A defeated population, cowering in fear, would recognise no part of DeSilva-Ranasinghe’s travesty.

Jake Lynch and Gobie Rajalingam, Co-conveners, Sri Lanka Human Rights Project, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney