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Tuesday, 28 April 1987
Page: 2138


Mr HOLLIS(10.51) —Recent events in Sri Lanka must fill every member of this chamber not only with horror but with profound sadness as the Government of that country carries out its murderous raids on the Jaffna Peninsula in retaliation, it is claimed, for a recent bomb outrage at a bus station in Colombo. The Tamil people have denied any connection with this outrage-and why should they carry out this unnecessary act of violence when they would be the ones to suffer most? Let me make my position perfectly clear. I deplore all violence. I especially condemn and deplore the cruel and inhuman massacre of these innocent Sri Lankan citizens, of whatever race, and offer my sincere sympathy to all the relatives.

Violence, whoever commits it, is always to be deplored and condemned-and I will always do so. But there are many complex questions to be answered about this latest bombing outrage. Who did indeed place the bomb, and for what sinister reason? Interestingly, I have been receiving reports during the past month of troop buildups towards the Jaffna Peninsula. It has been put to me many times that the Sri Lankan Government was working towards a major military push. Sadly, this is now happening.

Of course, that shadowy group, whose members are too embarrassed to identify themselves by name-the Queensland Association for Sri Lankan Unity-has been busy telexing members of parliament putting the Sri Lankan Government's line. So much for the High Commissioner's recent statement that the Sri Lankan problem should not be brought to Australia. How can it be otherwise when groups such as the Queensland Association for Sri Lankan Unity continue to propagate in this country their hatred of the Tamil people? It is a pity that they do not work for a peaceful and just settlement of the complex problems facing Sri Lanka.

I believe that today Senator Jessop put out a Press release which claimed that the Australian Council of Churches was funding Tamil refugees in Madras and that this money was being used by Tamils to perpetrate violence in Sri Lanka. He called for an investigation into the ACC. The ACC would welcome such an investigation. It has written to Senator Jessop asking him to substantiate his claims. It has also written to the Sri Lankan High Commissioner asking him to substantiate some of his recent statements about the Tamils. The ACC does give support to two groups of refugees in camps in Madras. They are the Offer group and the Appeal group. I have visited the Tamil refugee camps in Madras. I have seen the conditions under which the people live and I have talked to the people there. The assistance that the ACC gives is for humanitarian purposes.

India, unfortunately, does not have the capacity to assist the refugees fully. So it is up to groups, not only from Australia but throughout the world, to assist these people. The churches in India support the assistance to the refugees. In fact, ACC works through the local church groups. These two groups are most creditable. They have records of how any aid money is spent and these records are kept and can be verified.

If peace prevailed in Sri Lanka, if the Sri Lankan Government sought a political instead of a military solution, there would be no Tamil refugees in India or anywhere else. These people have been forced not only from their homes but from their country by the atrocities and actions of the Sri Lankan Government. It is a sad day for this country when a member of parliament makes such an unfounded attack-as Senator Jessop did-on a body such as the ACC. The ACC has nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of. It would welcome an inquiry. It is time that those making outrageous statements about the Tamil people produced their evidence instead of mouthing the statements of the Sri Lankan Government whose actions have brought on the tragic situation that now unfortunately exists in Sri Lanka.