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Wednesday, 29 April 1987
Page: 2232


Mr DUNCAN(7.40) —Tonight I had intended to speak about the need for a greater percentage of Australia's foreign trade to be carried in Australian ships. However, in the light of the earlier comments about Sri Lanka by the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Campbell) and the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) and particularly in the light of the fact that I had an opportunity to visit Sri Lanka late last year as part of a parliamentary delegation, I thought I would say something on that subject because I thought that some of the comments made by those two honourable members were made from a position of lack of information-to put it kindly. I make it clear that I have a long history of abhoring violence. I have been a pacifist for many years and I certainly condemn violence wherever in the world it might occur.

I wish to make a couple of points about Sri Lanka. First, the situation in that country is a great tragedy. There are enormous forces at work which will make it tremendously difficult for an adequate and satisfactory solution to be found to the problems of that country and the simplistic sorts of analyses that we have heard tonight do not help particularly. It is true that the Sinhalese people feel under a great threat because they see themselves as a tiny minority in south Asia. For that reason the Sri Lankan Government is, to some extent, in a quite difficult position. It does not have much room for manoeuvre in trying to seek solutions to this problem. Some of the Ministers in the Sri Lankan Government are people of goodwill who would seek a negotiated settlement to the problem. However, it must be said that other Ministers are well known as hawks who would seek to get involved in action against the Tamil minority which would quite possibly amount almost to genocide. One thing needs to be said: In the last few weeks we have seen some gross acts of terrorism in Sri Lanka--


Mr Tim Fischer —On both sides.


Mr DUNCAN —I will come to that. There have been some gross acts of terrorism. On the one side the so-called Tamil militants-and I do not care whether people call them terrorists; we all know who we are talking about, and it is not as if this debate is being broadcast and we need to be specific about it-have not only not admitted responsibility for those acts of terrorism, but they have actually denied it. It is not the normal practice for terrorist groups to deny acts of terror. Usually one finds-particularly in Northern Ireland or in the Middle East-that there is always someone around the place who will claim responsibility. In fact, the problem in the Middle East is to determine which group has actually committed the terrorism because every time there is a terrorist act, three or four groups jump up and claim responsibility. That certainly has not been the case in Sri Lanka. On the evidence before us all we can say is that no proof exists as to who undertook these terrorist acts.

If these acts were committed by the Tamil militants, then they have been enormously counter-productive and an incredible disaster for the future of their activities and their struggle. On the other hand, some elements of the Government have gained considerably from these acts. I am not attributing blame and I make that clear. However, I do not think that the House should rush to conclusions about this matter. One cannot reach conclusions as easily as that. Anyone who read the Age this morning and saw the proposals of MI5 to try to assassinate Paisley would recognise the fact that state terror is not simply a matter for the Third World or even the Second World. It can be a matter for the First World.


Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.