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Wednesday, 29 April 1987
Page: 2230


Mr GOODLUCK(7.25) —I visited Sri Lanka in 1978 with a delegation on population and development. At that time one could only be impressed by the people in Sri Lanka. Of course, they have experienced problems with poverty. Two-thirds of the world's people live in developing countries and about two-thirds of that number live in absolute poverty. I visited Sri Lanka as a young politician who had not previously left Australia. Of course, when I saw poverty, it hit home to me that we have to overcome massive problems in the world. The increasing population will create more problems.

I want to speak tonight about the problems in Sri Lanka. I do not know all the answers and I do not know very much about the political scene there, but I do know about the reports of the atrocities that are occurring there. The word `terrorism', of course, puts fear in the hearts of everyone in this Parliament. Of course, when one reads that Michael Mansell from Tasmania sought assistance from Gaddafi, one can only be disgusted that he would hold the Federal Government to ransom and create what I would call a terrorist situation that everybody in this House would find appalling.

I would like to say a few words about the tragic situation that has occurred in Sri Lanka during the past 10 days, starting on Good Friday, 17 April. Terrorists who are fighting for a separate state were, I assume, the people who on Good Friday massacred over 120 innocent people who were travelling in three buses in the eastern part of the island. They stopped the buses, herded passengers together and brutally shot them. The passengers included women and children. The killings were atrocious. News reports from foreign correspondents stated that the terrorists had broken the arms and legs of some of the passengers before they shot them, in order to instil more fear into the minds of the average person in Sri Lanka as to how brutal terrorists could be.

Two days later, on Easter Sunday, the terrorists-and I assume that they are terrorists-attacked a small village, also in the eastern province of the island, and killed 15 sleeping farming families, including small children and women. They were brutally hacked to death. Human life should not be measured in numbers or in the magnitude of a massacre, but what is worse is that on Monday, 20 April, the terrorists exploded a huge car bomb in the heart of the capital city of Colombo at the most familiar bus and railway centre, from which workers and their families leave for their homes every evening after working in the city. This was the biggest single terrorist atrocity committed since the ethnic problems escalated in Sri Lanka in 1983. As a result of this bomb, over 120 persons, all innocent civilians and breadwinners of families, died instantly. Over 280 are still seriously injured in hospitals. Another 60 bodies still cannot be identified.

We often talk of the Sri Lankan crisis in the Parliament. Quite rightly, we have criticised the Government of Sri Lanka for not taking sufficient steps to solve this crisis by reaching a peaceful political settlement. We have also criticised the Sri Lankan security forces for excesses and human rights violations. But, to be impartial, we must also condemn the atrocities committed by the terrorists, especially the recent atrocities committed between Good Friday, 17 April, and Monday, 20 April, when nearly 300 innocent civilians were killed by them. It is a huge toll in human lives-perhaps the largest number of deaths in any one country during the space of three or four days.

We recall the bomb that was exploded at Russell Street police headquarters on Good Friday in March 1986 when a police woman was killed. We can also recall other atrocities. I believe that the world should try to overcome these problems; that people should work in harmony. I know it is asking for the impossible, but when we hear the word `terrorist', and when we hear of these atrocities, surely something must be done.