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Thursday, 15 September 1983
Page: 895


Mr HOLLIS —Can the Minister for Foreign Affairs report to the House on the current situation in Sri Lanka, especially in relation to the minority Tamil population? In view of the significant amount of relief aid given by the Australian Government to Sri Lanka following the recent communal violence, what steps has the Government taken to ensure that the aid is used to assist the victims of the violence? Are representatives of the Australian Government monitoring the programs?


Mr HAYDEN —Several weeks ago there was serious conflict of a communal nature in Sri Lanka. It was widely publicised. More recently, fortunately, the Government of Sri Lanka has been successful in bringing about a better semblance of order. I understand that it is taking a number of policy initiatives which are designed -and hopefully they will be successful-to break down communal tensions. We should be under no illusion, however, as to the depth of feeling of some of the Tamil people who have been promoting the cause of separation for the Tamil people within Sri Lanka. That is a principle which the Sri Lankan Government has declared that it will not concede. The most recent report I have received on the matter suggests that the Tamil Tigers, a revolutionary group, has engaged in some violent activity within Sri Lanka. I sincerely trust that it is short lived and by now terminated and that the Government is able to get on with the task of bringing about a more stable situation.

Finally, in relation to aid, the Australian Government provided $100,000 to the Government of Sri Lanka, $50,000 to the International Red Cross and $25,000 to the Save the Children Fund for the purposes of emergency humanitarian relief in the wake of communal disorders. The High Commissioner in Sri Lanka has been charged with and, I believe, has been discharging the responsibility of ensuring that the aid is appropriately applied for the benefit of those most seriously disadvantaged by the disorder, and that means very largely the Tamil people. There is a general aid program, this year of the order of $7m, provided on a bilateral basis and according to guidelines which are set down and followed.