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Wednesday, 22 August 1984
Page: 134

Senator CHILDS —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. My question concerns the continuing civil strife in Sri Lanka and has been prompted by representations from the Ealam Tamil Association of Australasia. Is the Minister aware of the violent actions of Sri Lankan soldiers on Sunday, 12 August in the town of Mannar? Has the Minister made any statement in response to that flagrant and well-publicised breach of human rights? Will the Minister condemn the Sri Lankan Government for its failure to control its troops? Will the Minister exert diplomatic pressure on the Sri Lankan Government to ensure that there is no repetition of such actions?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The Government is certainly aware of the recent deterioration in communal relations in Sri Lanka and the concomitant increase in violence there. We are most concerned at the situation that continues to develop .

The present crisis seems to have been precipitated by terrorist attacks in northern Sri Lanka. Those attacks have been met by what might be described as firm action by the Government. It is clear that the Government's security forces have, on several occasions at least, gone well beyond the bounds of acceptable behaviour. Reprisals have been directed at innocent Tamil civilians and numbers of Tamils have been killed, including in Mannar.

I am advised by the Minister for Foreign Affairs that we have registered our concern about the communal situation many times with the Sri Lankan Government. Most recently, on 14 August, our High Commissioner in Colombo spoke with Sri Lankan President Jayawardene, the Foreign Minister, the National Security Minister and several officials. Since then, the Minister for Foreign Affairs has written to his Sri Lankan counterpart. In that letter, he again expressed our Government's concern over the state of communal relations and reiterated our hope that all groups in Sri Lanka will eschew violence and will work together to achieve a lasting solution to Sri Lanka's communal difficulties.