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Wednesday, 26 November 1986
Page: 3811

Mr HOLLIS(7.22) —I believe the Queensland Association for Sri Lankan Unity has again circulated a document about me to honourable members. This time it did not have the courtesy to send me a copy. I can only assume that Griffith University has tightened up on who uses its postal facilities. The group has taken exception to a speech made by me on 19 September. I stand by everything I said in that speech. The group also appears upset that I identified the analyst of my speeches. The problems with groups such as the Queensland Association for Sri Lankan Unity is that they are so unsure of themselves that they will not identify themselves. This is different from, say, the Tamil groups who always identify themselves by signing their letters. While the Queensland Association for Sri Lankan Unity continues to operate in its underhand, shadowy way, it must accept that it and its publications will be treated as apologists for the Sri Lankan Government.

I now turn to another matter. More than 30 Sri Lankans have been reported missing since Amnesty International called on the Sri Lankan Government in September to set up an inquiry into alleged atrocities and abductions by the country's security forces. In a letter to the Sri Lankan Minister for National Security, the human rights organisation said it was gravely concerned that the Government appeared to have taken no action to clarify the fate of 272 cases already submitted to it by Amnesty International. The six page letter sent to the Minister said the Government should now consider inviting the United Nations Working Group on Disappearances to visit Sri Lanka to examine such cases in the country. Amnesty International said it was reacting to an earlier public government invitation for it to file legal action on such cases before the Sri Lankan courts so that witnesses to the arrests of people who have disappeared could be examined. Although the Government, in a statement issued by its Media Centre on 29 September, had offered to guarantee the safety of witnesses filing petitions in the Sri Lankan courts, Amnesty International said nearly all relatives or other witnesses who had contacted it in such cases had expressed fears of reprisals if their identities were disclosed.

In a report issued on 10 September, Amnesty International said that existing legal measures available in the Sri Lankan courts could not give effective relief to relatives searching for the disappeared. It said independent, impartial machinery was needed to investigate the cases, with powers to protect witnesses. Amnesty International said the Government had an internationally recognised obligation to take effective measures to clarify disappearances. A letter to the Minister of National Security said that, by inviting the United Nations Working Group on Disappearances to visit Sri Lanka, the Government could `substantially alleviate the sorrow and anguish of the families who, till now, have searched in vain for their relatives who have disappeared'.

The Government's earlier statement criticised Amnesty International for not referring in its report to information on disappearances that the Sri Lankan authorities had already submitted to the United Nations, but Amnesty International said it had never been sent the information by the Government and its three most recent urgent requests for this information had received no government reply. I call on the Sri Lankan Government to respond to the report by Amnesty International on disappearances in Sri Lanka. I appeal to the Sri Lankan Government to reply as quickly as possible. Amnesty International has already waited for two months for the Sri Lankan Government to reply to this document. It has not replied. For it to maintain its standing in the international community there is an obligation on it to reply to the report. I think the families of the almost 300 disappeared Sri Lankans deserve an explanation from the Sri Lankan Government.