Australia fully supports reconciliation efforts - Lankan High
Don Randall, M.P. Vice Chair of the Australia – Sri Lanka
Parliamentary Group, David Jonston, M.P., Shadow Minister of
Defence and Senator Catryna Bilyk, Senator for Tasmania at the
When the pro-LTTE Tamil diaspora backed by the international media is
still spreading mythical stories about the humanitarian operation of the
Security Forces Sri Lanka cannot remain silent.
If Sri Lanka remains silent on the Britains Channel 4 video clips
which are detrimental to the country’s image, the entire international
community will believe in all these mythical stories as gospel truth.
Therefore, the High Commissions and Embassies of Sri Lanka have been
vested with the task of countering all false propaganda by pro-LTTE
The Sri Lankan High Commissioner in Australia, Admiral Thisara
Samarasinghe who was involved in the humanitarian operations as the
Director General of Naval Operations and the former Navy Commander, is
engage in an aggressive campaign along with the Sri Lankan community in
Australia to counter false propaganda against Sri Lanka.
High Commission made a presentation on the humanitarian operation and
reconciliation efforts to the Human Rights Sub Committee of the Joint
Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade of the
Australian Federal Parliament. The High Commissioner’s interaction with
the Australian MPs and media was appreciated by many including the MPs
and the media.
He called over 25 Heads of Mission of relevant countries in Canberra
and explained in detail the factual position and handed over government
publications. In an interview with the Sunday Observer regarding his
mission in Australia, the High Commissioner said that there are many Sri
Lankan community organisations and individuals who have taken numerous
steps by way of letters, officials complaints to authorities and
participation in fora to counter the channel 4 propaganda.
“The enthusiasm of these organisations and individuals is
encouraging”, he said. Steps have been taken to educate university
students by way of seminars and workshops.
Sri Lankan expatriate community at the Cherrybrook Community
Centre in NSW
A seminar on “Sri Lankan Youth Unite and Lead” will be held on
September 10, in Melbourne organised by the Sri Lankan community.
Following is the excerpts of the interview:
Q: There were protests from some communities and organisations
especially from the Tamil Diaspora when you were nominated as the Sri
Lanka High Commissioner to Australia. Was there any impact on your
appointment from those protests and how did the Australian government
react to the situation?
A: There was no impact on my appointment of such protests and
the Australian Government reacted very positively towards the Sri Lanka
Government in accepting my appointment.
Q: What sort of image is Sri Lanka having among the Australian
Government and its citizens after completion of the humanitarian
operation? Have you initiated a dialogue with sections of the Australian
political system (MPs etc) who may have been sympathetic to pro-LTTE
The High Commissioner, Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe addressing
the Sri Lankan expatriate community
A: The Australian Government and the citizens of Australia are
pleased that terrorism has been eradicated from Sri Lanka and peace has
dawned in the country.Yes. I have initiated a dialogue through the
Australia-Sri Lanka Parliamentary Group to explain true facts related to
the humanitarian operation. In one such initiative I addressed the
Australian Members of Parliament from the Government and the Opposition
in the Parliament House and explained the contents of recent reports on
Sri Lanka’s humanitarian effort, factual analysis of the humanitarian
operation and the experience of the past two years of financial
inclusiveness in the North and East and the critical response of the
government to accusations contained in the Channel 4 video by way of the
documentary “Lies Agreed Upon”:
The interaction progressed for almost two and half hours with an
audience which also included officials of the Department of Foreign
Affairs and Trade, Australian print and electronic media and other
representatives of other line ministries in Australia. I also shared my
perspectives on post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation efforts
of the Government.
In my presentation I emphasized that training in IHL, Rules of
Engagement in Armed Conflict and Human Rights Laws was an integral part
of the training given to Sri Lankan armed forces personnel and this
moulded their conduct in the final phase of the conflict. I also
highlighted the measures taken by all armed forces personnel to prevent
civilian casualties throughout the conflict. I drew the attention of the
audience to the fact that the Sri Lankan armed forces had received
military training alongside the best in the world at different stages of
their careers and highlighted the investment made by the country in
sophisticated radar and other equipment to identify terrorist targets
and to take maximum precautions to save civilian lives in all combat
In my address I elaborated, on the allegations made regarding the
denial of humanitarian assistance to civilians and my involvement in the
coordination of the delivery of assistance during the final phases of
I also pointed out that the alleged civilian casualty figure of
40,000 was completely false and explained the supreme sacrifices made by
armed force and police in rescuing civilians and the exemplary conduct
of the military.
A part of the video documentary “Lies Agreed Upon” was screened
during this interaction and I responded to questions raised by the media
who were present at the event.
Q: What is the impact the Channel 4 video could have against
Sri Lanka and what was the reaction of Australian citizens and the
Government after the telecast of this video footage in ABC’s Four
A: There was a certain degree of negative impact following the
telecasting of the Channel 4 video on ABC’s Four Corners program
initially among a smaller section of the Australian public. However, the
efforts of the Government of Sri Lanka and the High Commission has
helped to put the record straight.
Q: Was there any effort on the part of the Sri Lanka High
Commission to counter the Channel 4 video and the myth about the war
crime allegations on Sri Lankan security forces?
A: However, the timely action taken by the Sri Lanka High
Commission in protesting to the ABC in writing prior to the telecast as
well as my personal communication with the Executive Producer of the
program helped showing that the allegations made in the video are
unsubstantiated and baseless.
The release of the Defence Ministry Report “Humanitarian Operation
Factual Analysis” and the documentary “Lies Agreed Upon” have countered
the myth about war crimes allegations on Sri Lankan security forces.
Copies of this Government publication and video were distributed at
the event held at the Australian Federal Parliament on the August 16,
and made available to all Diplomatic Missions, electronic broadcasting
channels and print media.
They were also distributed to state officials and media through the
Consul General in Sydney and Sri Lankan Honorary Consuls elsewhere in
Australia.During my visits to Perth, Sydney and Melbourne I took the
opportunity to address a large section of the Sri Lankan community and
explained the factual position of the humanitarian operation and the
reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation process of the
Q: How successful are the efforts made by you to counter false
propaganda and how do the Australian Government and citizens react to
campaigns launched by the Sri Lankan Government?
A: I consider that the efforts of the Government and the High
Commission are having the desired effects of neutralising the negative
image amongst the general and right thinking public. However, there are
elements which are still supporting terrorist fronts attempting to paint
a false picture of Sri Lanka on foreign soil.
A recent response by me to an adverse article on President Mahinda
Rajapaksa which appeared in The Sunday Times (WA) of 21st August was
published the following week in the same newspaper neutralising the
negative impact of the original article. You can refer to the Sri Lanka
High Commission website for details (www.slhcaust.org).In addition to
Federal parliamentarians and Government officials I have taken
particular efforts to appraise ministers, parliamentarians during my
visits to states.
I had the opportunity to meet the Governor General of Australia and
Governor of New South Wales and briefed them on current situation in the
The Australian Government authorities in the Capital as well as
states are supporting the efforts of the Sri Lanka High Commission in
reconciliation and reconstruction efforts following the end of the
conflict. This effort is also supported by the Australian High
Commission in Colombo.
I will be making a presentation at the ACT branch of the Australian
Institute of International Affairs on September 5, on “Sri Lanka:
Internal Conflict, Humanitarian Operation and Post-Conflict
Reconstruction and Reconciliation”.
I have also requested an opportunity to speak at the National Press
Club and for an interview from the ABC.
Q: Illegal immigrants from Sri Lanka and other Asian countries
is a major problem to the Australian Government. Were there any
discussions between you and the Australian Government in this regard and
what was the outcome?
A: There were no specific discussions on this matter. However,
during discussions with senior officials of the Department of Foreign
Affairs and Trade and members of parliament it was expressed that the
Australian Government was grateful to the Sri Lankan government for
preventing illegal boat movements from Sri Lankan shores during the past
The Australian Government is taking numerous steps in preventing such
illegal boats reaching their shores especially to prevent human
smuggling racketeers from exploiting the Australian Government’s
Q: Within the short span in office how could you convince the
Australian business community and tourists to visit Sri Lanka and
promote Sri Lanka as a tourist destination?
A: The dawn of peace has set the course for tourists to
peacefully and happily look forward to a fruitful holiday in Sri Lanka.
Due to the long-standing ties between Australia and Sri Lanka and the
pacific islands, the number of visitors from this region is bound to
It was evident in the test match played between Australia and Sri
Lanka in Galle where a large number of Australians were present.
I intend to launch tourist and business promotion activities.
During my visits to Sydney, Perth and Melbourne I spoke to the travel
agents and business communities about the opportunities available in Sri
President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s vision to make Sri Lanka the Wonder of
Asia has been emphasised by the Sri Lanka High Commission officials.
Economic growth achieved during the past two years is bound to give
confidence to the investors and tourists.
The Australian economy amidst European downturns must be made use by
Q: What are your future plans for the betterment of the Sri
Lankan community in Australia and improving the bilateral relationship
between the two countries ? Have you initiated a dialogue with the
moderate sections of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora so that they could
make a contribution to the home country, especially the welfare of
conflict-hit Tamil civilians?
A: I have initiated the setting up of umbrella organisations
in respective states coordinating the work of many associations and
groups that have been in existence for a long period. Such fora have
already been formed and they include members of all communities. It is
encouraging to note that the moderate and right-thinking Tamil and
Muslim diaspora has volunteered to initiate business ventures and
reconciliation efforts amongst themselves in Australia and also in Sri
Lanka. I contacted the Governor of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province to
promote a reconstruction program in Mullaitivu through an Australian
citizen who happens to be a Sri Lankan Tamil. I will continue this
effort to improve the engagement amongst all Sri Lankan communities in
Q: Australia is a well known education destination. Is there
any possibility of providing more opportunities for Sri Lankan students
to study there?
A: There are ample opportunities not only for Sri Lankans to
study in Australia but also for Australians to have interaction with the
Sri Lankan education system by way of studying as well as teaching. In
this regard, the recent visit of Minister of Higher Education S.B.
Dissanayaka, to Melbourne helped strengthen ties in the higher education
sector between the two countries. I have already met officials of the
University of Canberra, Australian National University (Canberra),
Monash University, University of Melbourne and the Sri Lankan students
of all the universities. The Sri Lanka High Commission has also taken
steps to raise the level of University entry prerequisite financial
deposit from level 4 to level 3 so that the financial guarantees needed
for Sri Lankan students to study in Australia would be reasonable. This
I have done in close coordination with authorised Sri Lankan agencies
who are channelling these students to Australia.
Q: Sri Lanka and Australia enjoy a fruitful trade
relationship. What are the steps taken to develop trade between the two
A: The current progress of Sri Lankan foreign trade in imports
and exports need to be capitalised to improve the Sri Lanka-Australia
Although the balance of trade is in favour of Australia strategic
marketing and quality products would improve exports to Australia. Sri
Lankan exporters led by the tea industry are participating in the Fine
Food Festival which is due to open in Sydney on September 5. Steps have
been taken to encourage maximum Australian participation at Sri Lanka
The peaceful environment in Sri Lanka and the numerous opportunities
available are bound to create interest amongst Australian businesses.