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Thursday, 5 February 2009
Page: 625

Mr ROBB (5:28 PM) —I rise in response to the ministerial statement on the ongoing conflict in Sri Lanka. In my previous role as shadow minister for foreign affairs for the coalition I became acutely aware of this ongoing conflict taking place in Sri Lanka, a civil conflict which has been raging since July 1983 following the most destructive explosion of communal rioting in the history of that island nation—a period in Sri Lanka’s history commonly referred to as ‘Black July’.

This conflict has taken the lives of over 70,000 people and displaced some 400,000 people, who are now living in refugee camps. The coalition welcomes any well-targeted measures that extend humanitarian assistance to those innocent victims of this conflict and helps facilitate both parties following the path of a sustainable peace agreement. Under former Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Downer, the previous government provided more than $30 million between 2005 and 2007 to experienced and reputable multilateral organisations to provide humanitarian relief across a range of areas to those affected civilians in Sri Lanka.

We also welcome multilateral actions such as the statement by the so-called Tokyo Co-Chairs—Norway, Japan, United States and the European Union—urging the Tamil Tigers to discuss with the government of Sri Lanka ways to end the hostilities, including the laying down of arms and the renunciation of violence and to assist those desperate civilians caught up in the conflict and unable to leave the area. The coalition strongly urges the Tamil Tigers to free civilians currently trapped within the conflict. The lessons of history confirm that a political solution is the only effective way to end the violence, resolve the conflict and provide a durable peace in Sri Lanka. The coalition joins the Australian government in calling for peaceful resolution to this conflict as soon as possible for the sake of all the citizens of Sri Lanka.