Tamils Say They Won’t Resist Removal

Tamils say they won't resist removal

January 14, 2010

Indonesia has denied it is planning to force ashore 240 Sri Lankan asylum seekers who have spent the past three months holed up on their boat in a Javan port.

While some senior officials are losing patience with the Tamils, Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah on Thursday disputed reports Indonesia was planning to force them into immigration detention by the end of next week.

“We are focusing on how to get them to leave the boat with persuasion,” Faizasyah told AAP.

A Foreign Ministry-led taskforce set up to deal with the crisis had not made any decision to abandon the “persuasion approach” in favour of force, he said.

The Tamils, intercepted by the Indonesian navy at Australia's request and taken to the Javan port of Merak in October, do not want to come ashore because they fear they will be forced to wait years for resettlement.

They want instead to be given a rapid resettlement deal like that given to the 78 Sri Lankans who spent a month aboard Australia's Oceanic Viking vessel.

The Tamils' spokesman, Sanjeev “Alex” Kuhendrarajah, pleaded with Indonesia for continued patience but said his people would not resist if they were forced ashore.

“We will not resist, we will not be violent in any way,” he said.

“We are very peaceful citizens and we will show that.”

Some Indonesian officials are increasingly concerned that some of the asylum seekers are Tamil Tigers.

Senior immigration official Harry Purwanto believes that possibility is one reason that force should be used to end the stand-off.

“For me, using force is the only possible way to end this.

“The nice way has not been effective, it has not worked.”

But Purwanto conceded the taskforce would have the final say on how to resolve the stand-off.

A senior Navy official, who did not want to be named, also expressed impatience with the Tamils.

“One way or another, they have to get off the boat,” he said.

“They shouldn't be permitted to stay there any longer.

“We have a lot of other things to do.”

Conditions aboard the boat have worsened in recent weeks as it has been lashed by strong monsoonal wind and rain.

Meanwhile, a boat bound for Australia carrying about 50 Afghan asylum seekers was found stranded off the eastern Indonesian island of Sabu on Wednesday.

Local police say most of the Afghans are now in custody but they are still looking for six who fled inland.