Senate debates

Tuesday, 18 March 2014


Human Rights: Sri Lanka

3:57 pm

Photo of Christine MilneChristine Milne (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate—

(a) expresses concern:

(i) at the arrest and subsequent detention of Ms Balendra Jeyakumari, an advocate for families of the disappeared, and the arrest of her 13 year old daughter Vidushika, by the Sri Lankan police on Thursday, 13 March 2014, and

(ii) that these arrests followed both Balendra and Vidushika Jeyakumari being featured in media photographs and videos when British Prime Minister Mr David Cameron visited northern Sri Lanka during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2013;

(b) notes, with concern, reports that Australia is working to actively undermine the United States (US) resolution, entitled 'Promoting reconciliation, accountability, and human rights in Sri Lanka', to be voted on at the upcoming meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC); and

(c) calls on the Australian Government to:

(i) intervene and call for the release of Ms Balendra Jeyakumari and for her to be reunited with her daughter, and

(ii) desist from watering down the resolution proposed by the US at the upcoming meeting of the UNHRC.

Question negatived.

3:58 pm

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

I seek leave to make a short statement.

Photo of Gavin MarshallGavin Marshall (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Leave is granted for one minute.

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

The Australian government is aware that on 13 March 2014 the Sri Lankan police arrested a Tamil widow, Ms Balendra Jeyakumari, and her 13-year-old daughter for allegedly harbouring a former cadre of the banned terrorist organisation the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam accused of shooting and injuring a policeman. We are now aware that Ms Jeyakumari has been detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and her daughter has been released on probation. At this stage, the facts remain unclear and the Australian High Commission in Colombo continues to seek clarification.

Reports that Australia is actively working to undermine the US-led resolution on Sri Lanka on the Human Rights Council are completely unfounded. The decision on whether Australia will co-sponsor the resolution will be made after due consideration of the final text and the balance of issues it raises. The Australian government remain in regular contact with the full range of Sri Lankan political officials and community figures and other interested parties, including the US and UK governments and Australian NGOs, ensuring that we are well informed of the spread of views.