Canadian Mother Urges Son, Other Tamils To Abandon Boat In Indonesia

Canadian mother urges son, other Tamils to abandon boat in Indonesia

December 2, 2009

JAKARTA, Indonesia—The Canadian mother of a Sri Lankan asylum seeker has urged her son and his 246 fellow Tamil shipmates to abandon hopes of reaching Australia and to disembark in Indonesia from the moored freighter where they have languished for almost two months.

The Tamils' bid to reach Australia by sea was thwarted in October when Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd personally telephoned Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and asked him to stop them.

They would have been one of the largest shipments of asylum seekers to ever reach Australian waters, heaping political pressure on Rudd's government to stem a growing flow of refugees.

Most of the Tamils have capitalized on their public profile by refusing to leave their wooden ship at the port of Merak, 120 kilometres west of Jakarta, unless Australia accepts them. Australia denies any responsibility.

Sathia Rajaratnam, a 46-year-old electronics businesswoman from Vancouver, said Thursday that she came to Indonesia just over a week ago in the hope of ending the stalemate.

After failing to broker a deal for her son, 27-year-old Sanjeev “Alex” Kuhendrarajah, during meetings with officials from the Indonesian government, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Canadian Embassy, Rajaratnam said she had urged him to leave the boat unconditionally.

“I'm very sad and very upset, but there's nothing we can do,” Rajaratnam told The Associated Press by phone from Merak.

“If someone guaranteed them that they are allowed to access communication tools and live in a decent place, then they will consider that, but no one will” give such guarantees, she added.

Her son, who was raised in Canada but deported in 2003 after serving a prison sentence, said the asylum seekers would reject any deal offered by the Indonesians to leave the boat.

“The Indonesian government is not trustworthy,” Kuhendrarajah told AP by phone.

Merak immigration official Harry Purwanto said that the local detention centre was full, but the government would confine them to rented accommodation if they left the boat.

“We won't force them to leave,” Purwanto said.


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