Australia's violence vs Indonesia's decency soon on show?

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Australia's violence vs Indonesia's decency soon on show?

Media Release
Thursday October 29, 2009 7:00am WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes

ALSO:

• The only home for a refugee is a UN Convention country
• Australia should clear Indonesian backlog created by increasing 'push-factors'
• Advocates and activists re-group for action and protests

"The decency shown by Indonesia's Foreign Minster Marty Natalegawa, who declared yesterday on ABC Lateline that his country refuses to be in breach of International law by applying force or violence to remove the 78 Sri Lankans from the Oceanic Viking, instead expressing that there is an "abundance of patience" and an acknowledgment that the asylum seekers have gone through much suffering already, stands in stark contrast to the cold and calculated bureaucratic spin coming from Australia's Foreign Minister Stephen Smith throughout the week," WA Rights group Project SafeCom said this morning.

"Any foreign observer who does not know which country is a signatory to any UN Convention, would conclude from comments and developments this week and the remarks by the Mr Natalegawa, that Indonesia is the country that has signed United Nations Conventions, while Australia is the country that is not interested in a humane approach to the issue of the Oceanic Viking standoff," spokesman Jack H Smit said.

• The only home for a refugee is a UN Convention country

The remarks by Australia's foreign Minister Stephen Smith, where he snapped at the asylum seekers on board the Oceanic Viking, saying that 'they cannot choose in which country they apply for asylum' in response to the Sri Lankans' demand to be taken to Australia, are extremely nasty, hideous, cold and calculated. In these remarks Stephen Smith applies a 'Ruddockesque semantic solution' in a covert and disgusting way, by opening up the allusion that the asylum seekers are "forum shoppers". Stephen Smith is showing himself to be the Phil Ruddock of the Rudd government in all its nastiness in this political game."

"The asylum seekers from Sri Lanka are not forum shoppers, they want to come to Australia because it's the only country that they assume will accord them safety from persecution under International law - it's the only country that has signed the UN Convention."

• Australia should clear Indonesia's backlog created by increasing 'push-factors'

"The increasing number of asylum seekers - including a great number of UNHCR registered and approved refugees - in Indonesia who, as we have seen this week through various media outlets, are held in often appalling situations, is clearly due to the increasing push factors in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, but Australia is not acting as a good citizen by ignoring this build-up and failing to take its fair share from UNHCR's resettlement load," Mr Smit said.

"It will not raise a finger of protest around Australia if the Rudd government increases its already falling refugee share of the annual immigration intake, and right now the government should do just that. By increasing its refugee intake by a few thousand right now, Australia can assist UNHCR in Jakarta. The government may pay lip service to the UN, but its practical cooperation around the Indonesian pressure point is less than glamorous - and it can be fixed right now," Mr Smit said.

• Advocates and activists re-group for action and protests

The last week has seen a flurry of organising and planning meetings, teleconferences and the establishment of Facebook groups by advocates and activists alike, in Perth, Canberra, Brisbane and Sydney.

"The Rudd government may not be the Howard government with its associated cruelties, but the last fortnight it has shown to be willing to be on the record of the "Howard Lite" party. If the Rudd government wants to breach international law, if it wants to commit gross indecencies in the region by failing to act as a leader in the context of being the only UN Refugee Convention country by taking a hardline attitude towards the thousands of refugees and asylum seekers in the region, all of whom have an international right to reach Australia as the only Convention country in this area of the globe, then the government needs to expect a backlash from decent Australians," Mr Smit said.

"Activists and advocates have learnt their lesson since the draconian days of the Tampa stand-off. We are prepared, willing and keen to do our national duty to uphold the highest moral and decency standards," Mr Smit concluded.

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

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