Project Description


31 January 2014

A shocked Tamil community has condemned three Victorian Labor MPs for sacrificing basic human decency for a free trip and a blinkered ride to an audience with one of the world’s most notorious war criminals, Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The MPs – John Pandazopoulos, Liz Beattie and Marsha Thomson – obviously didn’t bother to look this gift horse in the mouth.

If they had done so, they would have found a multitude of sins that include, according to the UN, murdering between 40,000 and 70,000 innocent Tamil civilians at the end of the war in 2009, running a military occupation that seizes land, rapes and sexually assaults women at will, disappears, jails and
tortures youths and commits young and old to a life of dispossession and despair.

“It was staggering to read that Beattie and her colleagues had ignored a log of war crimes piled high at the United Nations and described Rajapaksa as ’man of courage.’,” said Tamil Refugee Council spokesman Aran Mylvaganam.

“With this statement, they descended into the swamp of genocide and human rights’ abuse complicity currently occupied by such luminaries as Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. It was Abbott who isolated Australia and himself from the rest of the world when he condoned Rajapaksa’s torture chambers at the recent CHOGM conference in Colombo, saying that ‘difficult things happen in difficult circumstances.’

“What is even more confounding is that Beattie is a founding member of Emily’s List in Australia, a group that claims on its website that ‘we strongly believe in the right of every woman to enjoy equal rights and privileges before the law…..’

“I presume Beattie would include ALL woman in this category. If she does, how can she explain her support for a man responsible for systematic rape and abuse of women, as documented by Human Rights Watch and many other well-credentialled agencies, and discussed publicly only recently by the
UN Human Rights Commissioner, Navi Pillay, after a trip to Sri Lanka?

“As representatives of working-class people and values, it is staggering that these Labor MPs from Dandenong, Footscray and Yuroke would make such statements siding with a vicious oppressor of some of the most disadvantaged and persecuted people in the world.

“As they travelled in their first-class limousines down newly-built highways, did they bother to consider the recent survey that shows 59 per cent of Tamils in the north of Sri Lanka live below the poverty line and the malnutrition rate is 50 per cent, compared with a rate of 29 per cent across the entire island?

“What Pandazapoulos, Beattie and Thomson should also know is that the airport through which they arrived is a place of fear and horror to many Tamils. While this trio were whisked off to five-star hotels and meet-and-greet sessions with the Rajapaksa regime, forcibly-returned Tamil refugees go out
another door, to a jail and court-room, and often to torture, rape and beatings.

“If they were unaware of these things they should apologise immediately, If they knew it, they should do the honest thing and ditch their pretence about representing the downtrodden people of this world.”

For further information, contact the Tamil Refugee Council 0400 597 351 or 0410 197 814.

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