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Chris Ford: Shame on Sri Lanka for detaining Jan Logie and Lee Rhiannon!

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Chris Ford
Chris Ford

Shame on Sri Lanka for temporarily detaining New Zealand Green MP Jan Logie and Green Australian Senator Lee Rhiannon!

It's clear that the Sri Lankan Government didn't want Logie and Rhiannon to see the appalling human rights situation in Tamil-dominated Northern Sri Lanka. They at least, in a week when the world's focus is on Sri Lanka due to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, stood witness to the terribly brutal nature of that country's ruling regime to which they themselves were given only a mere taste of.

As Logie rightly pointed out in a television interview and later in a Facebook posting, the intimidation she and her Australian colleague experienced at the hands of the Sri Lankan authorities was not on the same scale as that experienced by ordinary Sri Lankan Tamils (and other opponents of the ruling Rajapaska brothers) who are disappeared, tortured and imprisoned almost everyday. At least, as Logie pointed out, she along with Senator Rhiannon had the comparative protection afforded members of parliament and the ability to attract media attention to their plight. After all, as they recognised, ordinary Sri Lankans don't have this level of attention or protection. Nonetheless, Logie and Rhiannon both felt frightened but still strengthened by their experience in that South Asian island nation.

So, if the Sri Lankan Government can do this to two MPs from a Western nation, then they need to be held accountable for their treatment of ordinary Sri Lankans. This means that they should be suspended - as Fiji and Zimbabwe have been - from the Commonwealth. While some people might think that membership of the British Commwealth is a joke in this post-colonial day in age, many ex-British colonies take their membership seriously, not least Third World member nations who enjoy numerous UK, New Zealand, Australian and Canadian aid largesse as a result. That's why Sri Lanka would no doubt fear being given the boot from the Commonwealth as a sign of displeasure at the ongoing abuse of its own people.

Besides, Senator Rhiannon was also doing a service in promoting to the Australian Government the need to be more humane and just in its treatment of refugees given that many of them are Sri Lankan Tamils. I find it abhorrent that Tamils, who face discrimination and racism in their own homeland, are then subjected to a double dose of racism by the Australian Government in the form of their asylum seeker policy!

Therefore, given these factors, John Key should re-consider his attendance at this year's CHOGM. Two significant Commonwealth PMs, namely, Canada's Stephen Harper (a close friend of Key's) and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have already said they won't be coming and are sending lesser ranked ministers in their place. It's now time for Key to do the same thing as only then will the Sri Lankans get the message - no more human rights abuses thanks!

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