Secret Indonesia meeting would have risked Sri Lanka asylum seeker safety

Project SafeCom Inc.
P.O. Box 364
Narrogin
Western Australia 6312
Phone: 0417 090 130
Web: http://www.safecom.org.au/

Secret Indonesia meeting would have risked Sri Lanka asylum seeker safety

Media Release
Sunday February 25, 2007 10:30am WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes

Bill Farmer, former Sri Lankan, Major-General Janaka Perera parties to the meetings?

"The secret meetings in Indonesia last week, dealing with the situation of the 83 Sri Lankan boatpeople who arrived in Australian waters this week, the meetings that since Saturday 24 February have been confirmed as haven taken place in media announcements by Australia's Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews, may have already endangered the lives of the Sri Lankan boat people now held on Christmas Island, if Australia had shown the passenger list to those present at the meeting," WA Rights group Project SafeCom said this morning.

"Yesterday Project SafeCom stated that if criminal charges would be attached to serious breaches of the UN Refugee Convention, John Howard, by trying to return asylum seekers to Indonesia - who then in turn would have forcibly shipped them back to Sri Lanka - may well be declared as UNHCR's most wanted criminal," spokesman Jack H Smit said, "but today, on consideration who is likely to have been party to these negotiations, the picture does not make the situation created by John Howard any less grim."

"If we just speculate which diplomats would have been party to these meetings in Indonesia, we have immediately a line-up of individuals that arouses serious concern in view of Australia's international protection obligations," Mr Smit said.

"First, we have the Australian Ambassador to Indonesia, former DIMA Secretary Bill Farmer, who presided over a department that endangered the lives, well-being and due process of claim assessments for hundreds of asylum seekers in a period, where he let the Department of Immigration slide into the most serious period of process decay, with hundreds of examples of mal-administration in the history of this Department having been reported by Mick Palmer, and the Immigration Ombudsman. Under Bill Farmer Australia saw hundreds of people wrongly imprisoned in Australian detention centres as well as wrongfully deported from our country," Mr Smit said.

"Bill Farmer constitutes the first example of an individual with highly dubious credentials, who should not deal with considerations concerning the safety of refugee claimants or would-be claimants."

"Secondly, if the meeting also included the former Sri Lankan army Major-General Janaka Perera, who apparently now is part of the Sri Lankan High Commission to Indonesia, the Howard government stands accused of inviting the arch-enemy of those who are part of oppressed minority groups in Sri Lanka to a meeting dealing with the safety of these oppressed groups."

"There are hundreds of references to Major-General Janaka Perera's past on internet websites, and they confirm that he acted like an inhuman hardliner while part of the Sri Lankan army. One website, calling Janaka Perera "another Adolf Eichmann of Asia" alleges that he gave orders to kill and burn or bury more than 500 innocent Tamil people in the north and east of Sri Lanka.

"See http://www.sangam.org/JANAKA/Eichmann.htm

"... while another website owned by a Tamil group who fled for protection to Canada, proposes that Perera should be arraigned for War Crimes before the Brussels Courts, while it shows how he was at the time of writing the Sri Lankan High Commissioner designate to Australia.

"The [undated] website article starts with the paragraph: "This week the Australian Federation of Tamil Associations (AFTA) mounted an impressive campaign in the print and electronic media coupled with mass demonstration against the appointment of former Major General Janaka Perera as Sri Lankan High Commissioner designate to Australia. AFTA has accused Janaka Perera ,who commanded the Sinhala army in Jaffna, being responsible for disappearances, torture and summary-executions of Tamil youths."

And then goes on to state: "Amnesty International told Sunday (Channel 9, Australian National TV) that until human rights allegations against Janaka Perera are fully investigated he should not be accepted by the Australian Government."

"See http://www.tamilcanadian.com/page.php?cat=63&id=386

"Internet Reports also state that Janaka Perera was responsible for the extra-judicial killing of 680 Tamils while in charge in the Jaffna province in Sri Lanka."

"UNHCR has expressed serious concern in a recent report on the situation in Sri Lanka, and has expressed the need for protection of several minority groups in various parts of the country. The UNHCR Report also urges non-member States to not forcibly return Sri Lankans who have fled the country. It concludes with:

"Where states are not parties to the 1951 Convention and do not have refugee status determination systems, individuals originating from Sri Lanka and who are in need of international protection, as indicated above, either because of a wellfounded fear of persecution in the meaning of Article I(A)2 of the 1951 Convention, or because of a situation of generalized violence with no internal flight alternative, should be protected against forcible return, and be permitted lawful stay as well as possibilities to exercise their basic rights under relevant national laws until the situation in Sri Lanka improves substantially."

http://www.unhcr.org/home/RSDLEGAL/4590f12a4.pdf

For more information:

Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]

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