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Monday, 18 March 2013
Page: 2545

Mr SIMPKINS (Cowan) (20:40): I welcome this opportunity to speak to the motion as amended. Having undertaken some study of the history of the subcontinent, I can understand that the same dramas and the same conflicts that have afflicted the entire subcontinent have come to exact a terrible toll on Bangladesh. The partition of India and Pakistan, which originally included an East Pakistan, resulted in lots of enmity. In particular, post partition the way in which so much of the political power and resources were centred in the west of Pakistan gave rise to dramas, problems and resentment from the east. That is a short synopsis of how in 1971 there was a war of independence.

What resulted from that war and the subsequent instability between 1971 and 1991, when democracy was restored, was great enmity between the sides: the Awami League, which is the current government of Bangladesh, and the Jamaat-e-Islami. The current government has established an international crimes tribunal. It is no great surprise that people are keen to see someone held to account for the excesses and the terrible things that occurred, even though it has been many years since they occurred in the liberation war in 1971. What we have seen are allegations of great violence enacted by the security forces, suggestions that the Awami League has been involved as well, and the counter allegations that Jamaat-e-Islami has reacted or at least egged on its supporters to push back.

The reason there has been a lack of confidence in the international crimes tribunal set up by the Awami League is that it has been alleged that when the Awami League has been faced with results that it did not agree with it put forward amendments within the parliament for the ICT law to be changed to allow prosecution to appeal for sentences that have been passed and to decrease the time for an appeal to be completed. So they have changed the rules, after having originally come up with the laws to support the International Crimes Tribunal. But, faced with verdicts they did not agree with, the government party has then decided to change; to appease their supporters and to support their version of events, they decided to bring forward these amendments.

That of course has received widespread international criticism. It is important that, when faced with these fairly young democracies, they realise that there is a need for the rule of law to be upheld and that if indeed you do not like the result then you have to live with the fact that the judiciary has been given the opportunity to pass judgement on these matters. Once the judgement has been passed, it is not right that it be revisited in an attempt to get a result that they think is politically desirable.