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Wednesday, 18 March 1987
Page: 1026

Mr HOLLIS —Has the attention of the Minister for Foreign Affairs been drawn to recent Sri Lankan security force activities on the Jaffna Peninsula? Can the Minister advise the House of Australia's position in regard to this activity?

Mr HAYDEN —I compliment the honourable member on the manner in which he has maintained consistently a deep concern on this very serious matter. He has made many representations to me on it. The Australian Government remains concerned about the continuing communal violence in Sri Lanka, including claims that the Government is launching a major military offensive against insurgent strongholds on the Jaffna Peninsula of the northern province. Indications are that clashes between Tamil militants and Government security forces are occurring, but there is not a major offensive under way. There are reports of some civilians being killed or wounded in the crossfire and of limited property damage. We are continuing to monitor developments as closely as possible, given the difficulty of securing reliable first-hand evidence. We strongly urge both the Sri Lankan Government and representatives of Tamil militants to disavow violence and exercise restraint in their approach to resolving the communal problem.

Australia firmly supports efforts involving India to renew negotiation between the Sri Lankan Government and Tamil representatives. Discussions between President Jayawardene and Prime Minister Gandhi at Bangalore in November 1986 seem to have generated a package of proposals which could form the basis of serious negotiation. We urge the Sri Lankan Government to stand behind these proposals, despite the apparent unwillingness to date of the Tamil militants to enter into negotiations. The Australian Government has made clear to the Sri Lankan Government at the highest levels and on many occasions the need to find an early political solution to the communal conflict.