Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Patrol boat diplomacy with Sri Lanka

The article below has the Leftist slant that one expects from the Sydney Morning Herald.  The unfortunate people of Sri Lanka have only recently freed themselves from a grisly terrorist insurgency by Tamil communists but somehow that makes them the villains.  For balance, below is what champion  cricketer Muralitharan said recently about the Tamil North:
Mr Cameron is in Colombo to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, and was also given a working over on politics by the sportsman.

Muralitharan suggested the Prime Minister had been 'misled' about the latest situation in the war-scarred north of the island.

Mr Cameron is pressing the Sri Lankan regime to do more to improve conditions for the minority Tamil population still suffering the effects of a 26-year civil war which ended in 2009.

But asked about the politician's calls for more action from the government of Mr Rajapaksa - which has been criticised internationally over human rights abuses - Muralitharan, a Tamil, said Mr Cameron was underestimating the improvements already made.

'I'm a sportsman and we don't think about politics,' he told reporters. 'My opinion is, there were problems in the last 30 years in those areas.

'Nobody could move there. In wartime I went with the UN, I saw the place, how it was. Now I regularly go and I see the place and it is about a 1,000 per cent improvement in facilities.

'Cricket is the main game to narrow the bridge between the people. But facilities-wise, schools are built, roads are built. Businesses are started. So many things have happened. It is improving.

'Thanks to the Sri Lankan army, they are putting a lot of effort there. This country is 20-odd million people. In the north there are only one million people. They are getting more attention than the south at the moment.'

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has defended giving military hardware to a country the United Nations has accused of war crimes, praising Sri Lanka as now freer and more prosperous.

His laudatory assessment of the nation's human rights progress since the end of its civil war was in stark contrast to that of British Prime Minister David Cameron, who infuriated the regime by visiting displaced families in the formerly war-affected north, and demanding an international inquiry into war crimes.

At a Colombo dock on Sunday, Mr Abbott announced Australia would give two Bay-class patrol boats, recently retired from surveillance service in Australia, to the Sri Lankan navy to capture asylum seeker boats before they leave Sri Lankan waters.

"People smuggling is a curse. It is an evil trade … the promises that people smugglers offer are promises of death, not life," he said.

Critics have condemned the gift, which will cost Australia about $2 million. Greens leader Christine Milne said: "The Prime Minister's silence on human rights abuses in Sri Lanka was inexcusable complicity but this is nothing less than collaboration and it is abhorrent.

"I am devastated and heartbroken at the thought of Australia assisting a disgraced government to suppress and control its citizens."

Labor frontbencher Tony Burke said he wanted to see the detail of the agreement on the use of the ships at sea. Speaking on the ABC's Insiders he said: "I'm not sure how it works … because you are not dealing with a transit country. There may be some people who claim to be directly seeking asylum."

The details of the agreement, what materiel the ships could carry, and how they could be deployed, has not been made public, and on Monday, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison refused to say what, if any, limitations Australia had placed on the use of the boats.

"We'll work through those arrangements with the Sri Lanka government," he told ABC Radio.  "That is the appropriate place to have those discussions.

"I make no apologies for the fact that we are endeavouring to work with the Sri Lankan Government to stop boats coming to Australia. That is the point."

Mr Morrison said on a visit to Sri Lanka in December last year, then foreign minister Bob Carr gifted surveillance equipment to the Sri Lankan government to monitor people smuggling activity.  He said Senator Carr had discussed providing other assistance, including the kind of patrol boats the Abbott government was providing.

"I don’t recall any great hubbub about that at the time from the government and members of the Labor Party. We’re continuing that approach,’’ he said.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said he was not "specifically aware" of the outcome of the former Labor government's discussions with Sri Lanka.

Responding to Greens criticism that the gift represents Australian collaboration in Sri Lankan human rights abuses, Mr Morrison said he would not take advice from the party.

"The Greens' approach was tried by the previous government. The softening of our borders and all of that, they tried it all and over 1100 people ended up dead. I am not going to repeat the mistake of the previous government in being led around by the Greens," he said.

Opposition immigration spokesman Richard Marles said on Monday that Labor supported co-operation with neighbours, but it was "deeply concerning" that there appeared to have been no limits placed on how Sri Lanka used the vessels.

While acknowledging "progress" on human rights in the country, Mr Marles said the boats must be used only to combat people smuggling.  "There needs to be a clear understanding with the Sri Lankan government about the terms on which these vessels will be used," he said.

The chief of Sri Lanka's Navy, Vice-Admiral Jayanth Colombage, said the ships would improve its surveillance capabilities.  "The ships will be put into good use to maintain the freedom of the Indian Ocean from any kind of maritime crime," he said.

Mr Abbott dismissed concerns that Sri Lanka could not be trusted as a partner in stopping people smuggling.

Four Sri Lankan sailors including a senior officer are under arrest on suspicion of being key players in the country's largest - and most profitable - smuggling racket. More are being investigated.

Sri Lanka, as host of the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting at the weekend, has faced intense scrutiny over its human rights record, particularly allegations of war crimes committed by government forces at the end of its civil war in 2009, and of continuing abuses, including abductions, torture and extrajudicial killings by state forces, land seizures and repression of political dissent.

A report by the United Nations found in the final months of fighting credible allegations of violations, "some of which would amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity", committed by Sri Lankan government forces and the rebel Tamil Tigers.

And Australia told Sri Lanka at the UN last year that it must "take action to reduce and eliminate all cases of abuse, torture or mistreatment by police and security forces … and eliminate abductions and disappearances".

But Mr Abbott said he had come to Sri Lanka "to praise as much as to judge" and that significant progress had been made since the conflict. "I welcome the opportunity that Sri Lanka has had to showcase itself to the world.

"Sri Lanka has come through many troubles but today there is more freedom and more prosperity. I'm here as a friend, I'm here as the representative of the country that wants to do the right thing by Sri Lanka."

By contrast, Mr Cameron criticised reconciliation efforts and continuing abuses, allegedly at the hands of state security forces.  He infuriated President Mahinda Rajapakse by visiting the former war zone city of Jaffna, meeting the families of people who had disappeared, and those whose land the military had seized.

Mr Cameron said Sri Lanka had enormous potential but the Commonwealth had a responsibility to speak frankly to its members.


Senator slams ABC's objectivity

A FEDERAL politician has taken a swipe at the objectivity of ABC journalists, questioning whether taxpayers should continue to fund the national broadcaster.

Queensland Liberal senator Ian Macdonald told the upper house on Thursday he faces an increasing number of queries from constituents about when the ABC will be privatised.

"Quite clearly the ABC ... its news broadcasts, its television broadcasts, are no longer in the way of dissemination of fact," Senator Macdonald said.

Presenters are offering their own opinions to viewers, he said.

"You've only got to look at any of their current affairs programs and it's always the Green-type agenda that comes up, or the ultra left-wing social agenda."

Senator Macdonald conceded same-sex marriage is an important issue but questioned why it dominates the broadcaster's news agenda.  "The ABC seems fixated on it."

The Senate is considering the broadcaster's latest annual report ahead of an estimates hearing next week when ABC managing director Mark Scott will face the scrutiny of parliamentarians.

Senator Macdonald said people were asking why the public purse should pay for the ABC when it is doesn't appear to be a balanced provider of news.

"There are a lot of lovely people in the ABC and I'm sure very good at their work," he said, adding that regional ABC radio always gives everyone a say.

"But I'm sorry that I can't say the same for the capital city disseminators."


NSW: New laws will see babies taken from addicted or abused mothers who refuse to seek help

BABIES will be taken away at birth from drug-addicted or abused mothers who refuse to seek help, under new state laws that will kick in while the child is still in the womb.

Pregnant women who abuse drugs or alcohol will be made to sign a Parental Responsibility Contract ordering them to undergo treatment for the sake of their baby.

If they refuse or show no intention of complying, the government will be able to remove the child the moment it is born and use the broken PRC to immediately start formal proceedings to place the baby in the Minister's care.

The new legislation will also extend to pregnant woman who suffer domestic violence. In those cases, the women will be asked to sign a PRC ordering them to either leave their partner, move in with a relative or seek help through domestic violence counselling.


While the PRC process has been operating for several years, current laws state they can only be applied to a parent after their child is born rather than while it is still in the womb. This means expectant mothers with a drug addiction can continue feeding their habit up until birth.

It is hoped that under the new scheme that will no longer happen and, in best case scenarios, the pregnant women will seek treatment and immediately cease their drug habit.

Babies born with a substance addictions cry in pain for hours, suffer tremors, respiratory problems and have low birth weight.

Family and Community Services Minister Pru Goward said the changes were designed to put the child first and provide the strongest possible incentive for troubled mothers to turn their lives around.

"I make no apologies for taking this bold new approach to child protection, which ensures we are putting the best interests of the child at the centre of every decision we make," Ms Goward said.

The new laws are awaiting final approval from Cabinet before they are submitted to parliament.

"Whether it is raising the stakes on early intervention or improving access to open adoption, these reforms are about providing families and caseworkers with the support and tools they need to ensure vulnerable children have a safe home for life," Ms Goward said.

While it will be a magistrate's decision on whether to place the child in the minister's care, the legislation will state that a broken contract should be viewed as a strong case for a child to be placed in foster care.

NSW Health does not record the number of babies born with drug addictions, however in the three years to 2011 John Hunter Hospital on the Central Coast recorded 238 babies born with an addiction to substances including heroin, cannabis and amphetamines.


Tony Abbott rejects Commonwealth climate change fund

Colombo, Sri Lanka: Prime Minister Tony Abbott has rejected a proposal from the 53-nation Commonwealth to establish a new fund to help poor and island countries to combat climate change.

As an extraordinary Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting concluded in Colombo, Mr Abbott joined with Canada in rejecting a decision by the summit to push for a Green Capital Fund to help vulnerable island states and poor African countries address the effects of rising sea levels, prolonged droughts, or catastrophic weather incidents, caused by climate change.

The proposal is for Commonwealth countries to work within the UN climate change network to build the fund for small and poor countries to access.

But the final agreement from the 53 members of the Anglosphere Commonwealth noted that “Australia and Canada… indicated they could not support a Green Capital Fund at this time”.

One of the key themes of the summit was the plight of low-lying, and poor states who are especially vulnerable to climate change, but don't have the money for adaptation.

Malta will host the 2015 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, offering to stage the event after Mauritius withdrew in protest over Sri Lanka hosting this year's forum.

Prime Minister of Mauritius Navin Ramgoolam did not attend the Colombo meeting in protest at Sri Lanka's human rights record, and said his country would not be prepared to present the next one.

The issue of human rights violations dominated the final day of CHOGM 2013. Under questioning from foreign journalists, and in response to spirited defences from local reporters, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse asked the international community to give his country time to reconcile after 30 years of civil war.

“This is not something you can do overnight. You must also respect our own views without trying to push us into a corner, so please be fair.”

Four years since the war's end, relations between Sri Lanka's Sinhalese, Tamil, and Muslim communities remain strained. But Mr Rajapakse said he felt responsible for the welfare of all citizens of the island nation.

“They are all my people, my citizens, I will look after them, it is my responsibility… I will do it.”


The chickens are coming home to roost

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