Australia’s man in Delhi to negotiate ‘refugee’ issue with Lanka

Australia, reeling under an influx of bogus Sri Lankan refugees has now appointed their top diplomat based in New Delhi to negotiate with Sri Lanka and explore ways and means of tackling the issue.

Well informed sources told The Island that Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd Monday night had briefed Parliament of his move as tragedy hit another boatload of Sri Lankans trying to reach Australia. Sources said that it was not clear why Australia had to involve their High Commissioner in New Delhi despite having a fully fledged mission in Colombo.

The move came just over a week after Australia reached an unprecedented bilateral agreement with Indonesia to intern Sri Lankan asylum seekers in Indonesia at Australia’s expense only to find that the vast majority of them had been living in Indonesia and Malaysia for some time. Initially a section of international press as well as some governments said that Sri Lankan Tamils were fleeing Sri Lanka after the defeat of the LTTE.

An authoritative intelligence official told The Island that contrary to reports, the entire operation had been launched by the Tamil Diaspora taking advantage of Australia’s commitment to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 protocol which assured protection to people fleeing countries which could nit guarantee protection against persecution to their citizens.

He said that Australia could not be unaware that this was a show staged by the Tamil Diaspora to resurrect the LTTE in the wake of its crushing battlefield defeat last May.

Government sources said that Sri Lanka was ready to cooperate with Australia to stem the refugee flow. Responding to our queries, sources said that first of all Australia should realise that the recent wave of boats carrying Sri Lankans had not been launched from Sri Lanka.

Almost all of them held in Indonesia and Australia had been living outside Sri Lanka for some time, sources said adding that the Australian government was heading for a major crisis unless it called Tamil Diaspora’s bluff.

Government sources said that Australia’s bilateral agreement with Indonesia would be enough to save the Rudd government now under heavy flak over the refugee issue. Sources said that the two countries could easily work out an agreement to repatriate all bogus asylum seekers but they would not experience legal action unless found guilty of LTTE terrorism and criminal activity.

The Sri Lanka navy has stepped up patrols on the north-eastern and western coast to stop boats carrying would be illegal immigrants leaving the country. A senior spokesman told The Island that action had been taken to thwart them leaving in fishing boats boarding bigger vessels in mid sea.

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