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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2956

Australian MP blasts LTTE and its chief political agent in Federal Parliament

Canberra, 23 May, ( Don Randall, the Liberal Party MP for Canning, and Chairman of the Australia-Sri Lanka Friendship Group in parliament, blasted the LTTE's spokesperson in the Australian Federal parliament, John Murphy (Labour – MP for Lowe) for making allegations against the democratically elected Sri Lankan government and aligning himself with a terrorist organization.

Here is the full text of his speech made in the House of Representatives on May 22, 2006:

Sri Lanka: Tamil Tigers

Mr RANDALL (Canning) (4.29 pm)-Today I wish to raise the issue of the group that is often known as the Tamil Tigers or the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, LTTE. I am confirming my support for Australia listing this organization as a terrorist organization, as many other countries have done. I will come to that shortly.

The LTTE is one of the most voracious, brutal and militant groups in existence. The vast majority of Tamil people are good law-abiding citizens who prefer to distance themselves from the LTTE and its actions. Having traveled to Sri Lanka several years ago, I can confirm that the majority of Tamils, who are the minority ethnic group in the nation of Sri Lanka, reside outside the known LTTE zones, largely in the south, living in harmony with the majority ethnic group, the Sinhalese.

To demonstrate this further, let me add this. Recently in Australia we have had a number of visits from parliamentary representatives from Sri Lanka-none less than Mr Lokubandara, the Speaker of the Sri Lankan parliament. We have hosted him on at least two occasions; he is a very popular figure in the parliament. Mr Mahinda Samarasinghe, who is the Chief Opposition Whip, recently led a delegation here to learn from Australia about crisis management. He was educated in Australia. With him was the venerable Athuraliye Rathana Thero, who is the parliamentary group leader of the Buddhist party in the Sri Lankan parliament.

Interestingly, the Buddhist party holds the balance of power in the Sri Lankan parliament. That is why Mr Lokubandara, who is not a representative of the majority party, is the Speaker: the balance of power delivered Mr Lokubandara from the Buddhist monks, of whom I believe there are nine in the parliament. But that is an aside. This was a mixed delegation, and people live in harmony generally.

We know that there is a big nationalist movement by the LTTE-and there has been for some time-to have their own independent state both in the north, located around Jaffna, and in the east, located around Trincomalee. However, there is now a split amongst the LTTE. In the east, a group led by Karuna, as he is affectionately known-he has a far longer surname, but Karuna is the name he is known by-has broken away from the main Tamil Tiger group. They are fighting amongst themselves, and the fights amongst themselves have been far more bloody than anything else that has gone on in recent times.

Recently I attended Sinhala-Hindu New Year celebrations. Sinhalese and Tamil people were in attendance. It was a fantastic event and both groups were in harmony over a long period that evening.

Last week, the European Union said it would join with the United States, Canada and Britain by listing the Tamil Tigers as a terrorist group. The ban would outlaw, in EU countries, the Tamil Tiger group and followers. This would affect a vast number of countries. The ban would ensure that the Tamil Tigers' premises were shut down, and its assets would be frozen.

In September last year, the EU imposed travel restrictions on the LTTE and warned of a full ban unless the group gave up the use of violence to achieve political objectives. The violence did not cease. Sadly, in fact, Sri Lanka has just witnessed one of the bloodiest months since the Norwegian sponsored ceasefire agreement of February 2002. In April, 191 deaths were recorded. Government troops, Tamil Tigers and civilians were killed in this bloody month.

As chair of the Australia-Sri Lanka friendship group in this parliament, I have a particular interest in this matter. I have been approached by members of the Sri Lankan community as well as my own constituency, advocating the listing of this group. The Australian government is considering listing the LTTE as a terrorist organization; however, it is also mindful of the negative effects this listing may create. In today's Australian there is a very good article which says that listing is an option but that if the LTTE is listed it may have a negative impact by actually dislocating the LTTE from any further peace talks.

Last Sunday, the chief negotiator for the LTTE, Anton Balasingham, warned that the imminent European ban on the group could ruin future peace negotiations. By listing the group as a terrorist organization, the EU plans to isolate the LTTE, forcing them back to the stalled ceasefire talks and negotiations on a formal peace process that have been on hold since 2003.

One of the alarming things about the LTTE, as with any other terrorist group, is that their fingers creep throughout the world. As I said, we know that here in Australia the majority of Tamils are marvelous peace-loving people who love their country of Sri Lanka. However, there are also infiltrators. They are here. I am informed that in certain parts of Australia they are vigorously collecting money and funds on behalf of the LTTE. This money is going back to fund terrorist activities in various parts of Sri Lanka.

Many members are aware of LTTE members who might be in their electorates. I make particular mention of the member for Lowe, who last rose in the House to speak on this subject prior to the Australian general elections in 2004. The member for Lowe acknowledged that a large number of Tamils reside in his electorate. By suggesting that his constituents were concerned about the Tamils' right to vote, he exposed his own position, which was the endorsement of the Tamils who accuse the Sri Lankan government of not allowing them to vote.

What happened was that the member for Lowe accused the national government of Sri Lanka of stopping the Tamils from voting in the north and east.

Actually, it was the Tamil Tigers who were not only stopping them from voting but killing any candidates who were opponents of their party. Anyone who was put up as a candidate was duly either dealt with or shot. No wonder people did not want to turn out at the polls to vote: they knew that would be their end. The member for Lowe was quite wrong in what he said, and I have advised him that it is very dangerous to make these allegations against the Sri Lankan government and to directly align himself with such a proscribed terrorist organization.

It seems that not much has changed since then. In fact, if anything, the member for Lowe has strengthened his support for the organization. In a media release dated 5 May 2006, the member makes inaccurate statements which clearly reflect his close association with the LTTE supporters in his electorate. I have been contacted by the Acting High Commissioner of Sri Lanka, Asoka Girihagama, who was horrified at the raft of inaccurate information contained within the member's statement. Mr Girihagama has written directly, refuting the member for Lowe's statements, and asked me to promote the Sri Lankan government's perspective.

The member states that Sri Lanka does not regard the Tamil people as part of its population, when in fact 85 per cent of the Tamil community still lives in the south in cohabitation with the Sinhalese and Muslim communities. The Sri Lankan government has never targeted civilians in its fight against terrorism, whereas the LTTE has used civilians as human shields-and, in fact, young children as soldiers-bringing criticism from the international community. The LTTE recruit children, as I said, which is a deplorable violation of children's rights and a major concern of the Sri Lankan government.

After my comments in an adjournment speech in March 2004, I was approached by my colleague and then member for Parramatta, Mr Ross Cameron, who stated that LTTE sympathizers had visited his electorate office.

Apparently they were unhappy with my comments and told Mr Cameron that, unless he distanced himself from my views on the LTTE, they would work against him at the 2004 election. We know that Mr Cameron did not retain his seat. It probably did not have a lot to do with the Tamil Tiger's threats; however, you can see how proactive they are in the electorates of Parramatta and Lowe. That is one of the reasons for my suggested line of action. By listing the group, Australia would be helping the peace process.

The member for Lowe's overt, covert and implied behavior is already inflaming the situation. In fact, this press release that I refer to and that I intend to table says: ... targeting Tamil civilians by the Sri Lankan Government clearly demonstrates that it does not regard the Tamil people to be part of its population. How inflammatory is that statement by the member for Lowe?

Interestingly, the member for Lowe is not a member of the Sri Lankan Friendship Group in this House. I wonder why-it is very easy to answer that question. I support the sentiments expressed by the Acting High Commissioner in his letter to the member for Lowe. He said: We expect you as responsible politicians in Australia to look at the complexity of the issue, without supporting terrorists to win their separate state dream and urge them to come to a negotiated settlement to the issue that affected the island over two decades. With the continuing violence that I have already mentioned and the EU so close to listing the group as a terrorist organization, does the holder of a 3.4 per cent marginal seat, the member for Lowe, wish to change his position? I suggest he should. He should not be out there in his electorate giving tantamount support to what can be described as a terrorist organization, and he should desist from it. (Time expired)

- Asian Tribune -

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